You did it.
You finally got over the fear of never eating bread again and jumped on the keto bandwagon. You’ve white-knuckled it through the dreaded carb-flu and now the fog has cleared. Suddenly the weight is coming off effortlessly and you feel free for the first time ever from needing to carry an emergency granola bar in your purse at all times. There are so many mixed feelings; the pure joy of having found something that finally works, the superiority over your co-workers who are still shackled to their sugary pumpkin spice latte habits and the legitimate anger that we’ve all been lied to about what an optimal human diet actually looks like.
If you’re intentional about it, the keto diet can become
a robust lifestyle that maximizes your health.
You’re completely sold. This is not only a diet, it’s a lifestyle. It’s no longer just about dropping weight, it’s about reversing insulin resistance and reducing the risk of ever developing diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. Despite your obvious success, your friends and family may not have bought into this diet craze yet, because keto has a bad rap. It’s important for people to understand that it’s so much more than living on bacon and chugging straight whipping cream. If you’re intentional about it, the keto diet can become a robust lifestyle that maximizes your health and keeps you looking and feeling young well into old age.
Here are 5 important areas where you can optimize your keto lifestyle:
It can be tempting to avoid vegetables in an effort to keep your carb counts low, but you want to make sure you’re getting them in daily. Even if you’re eating a lot of food, your body can still be starving for micro-nutrients. When this occurs, your body will signal you to eat more (even if you’ve eaten) in the hopes of obtaining the missing vitamins and minerals. Green leafy veg like spinach or cruciferous veg like broccoli are great low carb options and taste fantastic sautéed in bacon grease. It’s also a great idea to supplement with a high quality food-based multi-vitamin (like THIS) or even add in an occasional keto green smoothie.
Eliminating bread on a regular basis (and the gluten it contains) will go far in helping your body maintain a healthy gut lining, but you also want to make sure that you are replenishing the good gut bacteria living in there. Adding in fermented foods like sauerkraut (I’m in love with THIS BRAND), kimchi, unsweetened greek yogurt, and low sugar kombucha (you don’t have to drink the whole bottle, a daily shot will do) are great ways to keep your good bugs flourishing and are actually a lot more effective (and WAY cheaper) than probiotic supplements. To keep those good bugs fed once they’re in there, make sure they’re getting some prebiotic fiber. Good keto choices are vegetables like cabbage, asparagus, brussel sprouts and artichokes or nuts, hemp hearts, chia seeds and flax seeds. You can also use glucomannan powder to thicken smoothies and sauces and there are even low carb sweeteners like THIS ONE that are fiber-based.
One of the great benefits of the keto diet is you’re no longer hungry all the time. You don’t have to spend the time between meals planning what you’ll eat for the next one, and the “hangry” episodes are a thing of the past. When you start to realize that feeling hungry is no longer an emergency, it’s a great time to begin incorporating intermittent fasting into your keto lifestyle. There are plenty of infographics about its benefits on Pinterest, but why should YOU give up your morning bacon and eggs? When your body isn’t busy digesting food—it can focus on house-keeping. This means bolstering your immune system during flu season, dealing with toxins your liver has been storing, recycling that sagging skin left after weight loss and generally keeping your body in fine form. Once your body has become adept at burning its own fat stores for fuel you can skip breakfast (or even lunch if you feel like it) and enjoy increased focus and sustained energy all day long. If you want to begin fasting intermittently, try drinking a bulletproof coffee when hunger pangs hit instead of eating. Then, over time, you can push that bulletproof coffee further into the day to prolong your fasting window.
What? Carbs?! Carbs are the enemy!
Yes, I know – but if we’re smart about it we can use them in our favor. There are still many diehard keto camps out there that will never get on-board with incorporating carbs, but more and more keto proponents are advocating cycling in and out of ketosis. The ability to metabolically adapt based on the type of food available is what has enabled humans to thrive in a multitude of climates throughout history. Before grocery stores and refrigerators, our ancestors would have gone into ketosis to survive lean winters and then ate a higher carb diet over the summer and fall. Dr. Dan Pompa also posits (HERE) that the forced adaptation that comes with regularly changing up our eating habits (through fasting and alternating macronutrients) leads to hormone optimization. Hormone balance is especially delicate for women, and the body does require carbohydrates for optimal thyroid health. So what’s a girl to do? Try incorporating some beneficial carbohydrates in one evening meal per week – things like rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa and fruit. See how your body responds and then include them more or less often based on your goals. Healthfulpursuit.com is a fantastic resource for women who want to optimize their keto diet for hormone health.
This is my big caveat to every other section in this post. We live in a culture that has elevated health and dieting to religious levels (as in drinking a Unicorn Frappuccino makes you a bad person). There is absolutely nothing morally right or wrong about food in and of itself.
“Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.”
We don’t need to treat eating like a religion, and we certainly shouldn’t force our own convictions about what’s right or wrong for our bodies on other people. Everyone is on their own journey. And you’re on a journey! You don’t need to be perfect to make big strides in your health. I have news for you: THERE IS NO WAGON to fall off of. This journey is going to last the rest of your life, it’s not some wagon train that’s going to leave you in the dust. Sometimes you’ll eat food that isn’t keto—and the world won’t end. Do yourself a favor and don’t entertain guilt for even a moment, it never leads to positive change. Guilt is stress and stress = cortisol. Excess cortisol is only going to undo your positive efforts. Instead, focus on the things that inspire you and think of ways to add in more of what makes you feel good about yourself, whether it’s kale or bubble baths.
What about you? In what ways have you optimized your keto lifestyle? Share with us in the comments below!