Stop Letting Your Schedule F*ck Up Your Keto Diet

A friend of mine is a firefighter. He works 24 hours straight, followed by 72 hours off. He’s also the president of an insurance brokerage. He’s also married. Needless to say, he’s got a crazy schedule to keep up with.

Recently, he told me he used to eat ketogenically and lost 45 pounds, but hasn’t been able to keep it up. To make matters more challenging, he’s also lactose intolerant. I told him I’d help him problem solve so he can stay keto in spite of his busy life.

What follows is our conversation about his personal experience and my suggestions. I hope you’ll find it helpful in your own keto journey. 


What does keto mean to you? How do you define “I am eating a successful keto diet”?

“I was able to completely cut out sugar and did ideal protein diet for about 6 months. I lost about 45lbs which was awesome. I have been creeping back the other way.”

You mentioned “ideal protein diet” in your answer. I want to clarify what I’ve learned about high protein/low carb diets (think Atkins) vs. keto diets.

There are tons of sites that explain the science, so I’m going to keep it simple.

Simply put, the goal of eating keto for weight loss is to keep your blood sugar low so your body will produce ketones as an alternate energy source. Ketones cause your body to burn fat for fuel instead of sugar. 

The way to do this is to only eat foods that don’t spike your blood sugar. Limiting carb intake is one way, however moderating protein is also important.

In a high protein diet, your body is still producing glucose. The excess protein triggers a glucose response. You’ll lose weight, but you likely will not be in ketosis. This makes it much harder to maintain (because you may still battle hunger, for example) and you’ll miss out on the health benefits of eating ketogenically.

In general, a keto diet should be 70% calories from fat, moderate protein (70-100 grams) and 20 net carbs per day. In addition, you eat no sugars (natural sugar is sugar too), grains or starches. Fruit should only be berries in moderation and veggies should be the above the ground type. Here’s a list of keto foods from DietDoctor.com.

Having said that, you may have been eating high protein/low carb and not ketogenically. FATS being the most important differentiator.

Q. What is your #1 REASON for eating ketogenically?

“Weight loss & more energy”

Perfect! That’s the reason a lot of people start keto. Unfortunately, it’s also the reason a lot of people quit keto. They lose weight and go back to eating like they were before.

Your reason is what will keep you motivated

…when your weight loss slows

…when you want to have the margarita

…when your friends make fun of you

…when you have to go to a summer potluck or birthday party…

You’ll stay on track because your reason is far more important than those things.

Without a compelling reason, it’s far too easy to cheat or quit. You reason should be so big, so emotionally powerful that you know there is no alternative.

I challenge you to ask yourself, “WHY do I want to lose weight and have more energy?” That may seem like a silly question, but it’s the most important one to answer.

I’ll give you a personal example. My husband didn’t want to eat this way. He loves his pasta and rice. Pretty sure his answer was “fuck no!” for months. He’s diabetic and quite a few years my senior.

I finally got through to him when I said “You married a younger woman. You owe it to me to take the best care of your health, so you can live longer.”

It’s true he wanted his diabetes to be under control. It’s true he wanted to lose weight, but until he thought about it in terms of his relationship with me, he wasn’t motivated. Incidentally, he was off his insulin within a week and has lost 8 pounds in about 2 months.

My reason? I’m eating keto so my breast cancer doesn’t come back. It’s been 9 years now and I used to dread each passing year, just waiting for it to come back. Now, I have a powerful tool to improve my chances of living cancer free for the rest of my life. That’s my reason and it’s a powerful motivator. I’ve been able to stay on track with ketogenic eating for nearly a year now.

I encourage you to go deeper and remind yourself of your REASON every time you feel challenged. The challenges grow less and less over time, but those first few weeks may be tough.

Q: What is your BIGGEST struggle maintaining a keto diet with your current life schedule?

“Sleep deprivation. Being up all night, going to fires etc and being starving at 3am after fighting a fire I’d reach for bread, bagels, any carbs because they are quick and easy. When we are at work we eat when we can there are no set times to eat due to unpredictable timing which tends to cause bigger meals and they tend to be eaten on the go.”

Preparation is going to be key here. Plus, if you were not eating high fat before and start now, you are going to find you’ll be able to sustain energy during your 24 hour shift much more easily.

You’ll need to stock the station with quick, easy to grab foods so you ALWAYS have something keto friendly available when you have the chance to eat or are stuck with hunger.

Here are some dairy free suggestions that don’t require cooking:

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Precooked bacon (meaning, you cook it and keep it in the fridge) 
  • Avocado (kept in the fridge once they are ripe they’ll keep several days)
  • Canned tuna in water. The oil used is soybean and you want to stay away from soybean or vegetable oil.  (add fat with sugar free mayo or olive oil)
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Sugar free peanut or almond butter on celery
  • Porkrinds (make sure they don’t have sugar in them)
  • Rotisserie chicken (the kind grocery stores pre-cook)
  • Sogo Meat Sticks (these are so good!) Get the flavors with no sugar, like jalapeno, original and chimichurri
  • Bagged salad with a high fat (no sugar) dressing
  • Cucumbers in oil and vinegar
  • Dill pickles
  • Black or green olives
  • Deli meat with no added sugar (Go for beef over chicken or turkey for more fat content)

You might even decide start fasting during your shift. When I first started keto I thought fasting was crazy. “What? You are purposely NOT eating? That can’t be healthy.”

I’ve spent the past 2 months studying it and have now done a few fasts myself. It’s actually pretty easy when you’re already in ketosis and the health benefits are DRAMATIC. I’ll spare you the details right now, but keep it in the back of your mind. Having a 24 hour fast one shift a week could make things simple and improve your health and energy (as crazy as that sounds).

Q. Describe a typical week of eating when you are NOT keto.

“I will normally do a protein shake for breakfast and lunch and then do a family dinner with the kids at night. I try to eat proteins when I’m at the firehouse for lunch and dinner. I get in trouble at night when I’m hungry and will snack.”

This brings me back to my point about fat. Protein is going to leave you hungry, fat will satiate you. If you are grabbing the shake because it’s easy, I’ll give you an easy, high fat keto drink instead.

Since you can’t eat dairy, I’d suggest full fat coconut milk 1:1 with ice and add water as needed to adjust the thickness. Add vanilla, and Truvia or liquid stevia to taste. Blend it in the blender or with a stick blender.

For flavor use 2-3 strawberries or a handful of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. You could use unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolate version. There are a ton of flavored stevia drops on the market. If your mornings are rushed, make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. Then, in the morning, just pour and go.

If you are using shakes because you don’t have to think about it and you do have time to make a quick breakfast, you can’t go wrong with eggs and bacon or sausage. Just watch for sugar in the meats. Costco has Kirkland brand lower sodium bacon that doesn’t have sugar in it. Omelettes are pretty quick too. Make in some oil (or bacon fat, mmmm) for added fat, throw a few veggies in there and bam, breakfast

Q. Do you cook?

“Both my wife and I share in the cooking. I tend to do a lot of the grilling.”

Grill your heart out, just stick to fattier meats. Marbled cuts of beef, higher fat ground beef, dark meat chicken, salmon. Limit yourself to about 4 oz (if you can!) of protein at a meal. Remember, if you eat too much protein, your body is going to start converting that into glucose, which will slow down your progress.

Having low carb veggies with dinner? Cook them with fat, drizzle olive oil on them, add bacon crumbles, you get the idea.

There are a lot of keto breads you can make that are all high fat and a good way to add to your meals. They are mostly comprised of eggs, cream cheese and almond flour. In fact, here’s a 90 second keto bread recipe. Just sub the butter for an equal amount of coconut oil to keep it dairy free. It’s pretty great!

If you are inclined, beef broth is another great keto hack. I make my own beef broth. It makes a good “snack” on the go. In fact, I just made cheese soup in less than 2 minutes using broth, cream and cheddar cheese. It’s super easy to make the broth it’s so rich and full of flavor. I use it in my meals as much as possible.

Conclusion

With a compelling WHY and a little creativity, you can find simple ways to make a keto diet work for your lifestyle and schedule. Once you find your reason, everything else becomes easier. Planning ahead makes all the difference. Keto can be simple. I promise! And, it gets easier over time.

I have a lot of suggestions in my “How To Get Started With Keto” blog post here which I would like you to read as a refresher. Don’t worry, it’s a fast read and will give you even more tools to make your keto adventure easy!


What are some of your challenges with your keto lifestyle? Leave a comment and let’s brainstorm solutions together!

 

I’ve been doing keto & haven’t lost (enough) weight!

If you are concerned because you haven’t lost weight while eating keto, here are 6 Simple Tips from a fellow ketonian.

First things first, I am new to keto myself. As of this blog post, I’ve been eating ketogenically for 7 months. I’ve “only” lost 25 pounds in that time. (Side note: I’m damn happy about those 25 pounds. I’m wearing a belt people! A belt. I haven’t been this weight/size in 20+ years. That’s amazing)

Even though I’m not an “expert” I’ve helped dozens of friends and have tried to learn everything I can about ketogenic eating so I can help as many friends and family as possible. 

People can sometimes have unrealistic expectations of weight loss on a ketogenic “diet” because some people see really big losses in short amounts of time. Guess what? Not everyone loses 3 or 4 pounds a week.

If you are eating a ketogenic diet for weight loss…you are missing the bigger picture. Don’t get me wrong, weight loss is wonderful. But it’s important to realize the weight is not the problem, it’s a symptom of underlying health issues like insulin resistance.

Let me repeat – excess weight is the symptom of underlying health issues.

Eating a keto diet will help solve many health issues and will lead to weight loss in those of us with excess fat to lose. Even when you don’t see changes in the scale and you are eating correctly for the keto diet, you are providing amazing changes in your whole body that have long lasting health benefits.

That said, there is a lot of information and mis-information out there about eating keto. Sometimes we really need to take a look at our eating to make sure we aren’t missing something and accidentally sabotaging our efforts. Here are my tips on what to look for if you aren’t seeing the weight loss you wanted:

  1. Have a realistic goal. Based on my personal experience and that of friends, a pound a week is “realistic”. It might not be what we want to hear, but it’s the truth. Some may lose 2 or even 3 pounds a week but everyone is different. Having a goal of 1 pound (on average) a week will help keep you from going crazy.
  2. Look at the big picture. What is your overall weight loss been averaging? Look at the big picture even if you haven’t lost in a week/month. I’ve had 4 or 5 week stretches of time where I didn’t lose a pound, but when I looked at my overall loss, I was still on track with the 1 pound a week average.
  3. Measure, don’t weigh. I realize you’ll probably still weigh. I weigh every day so who am I to preach? BUT, measuring will help you through your stalls. You’ll be able to see if you are losing inches even if it’s not showing on the scale. I know this sounds like cliche bullshit, but it’s actually helpful. I never believed the “but you are losing inches” conversation…until now. During that month I didn’t lose a pound, I lost 1.5 inches off my waist. THAT is motivating.
  4. Read ALL the labels and examine all your food choices. Even foods we think are keto friendly can be sabotaging our results. Especially look at foods you eat frequently. A few personal examples. Lemons. I freakin’ love lemons. Apparently they can stall weight loss because they are a fruit. My big ass bottle of lemon juice from Costco says 0 carbs, but 1 whole lemon has 5 grams of carbs. Real Lemon can get away with that because a “serving” has only .85 grams so they round down to zero. Don’t blindly trust the food label. I examined the foods I ate most often and found more than one culprit. I was eating a homemade salad dressing (a lot of it!) that had soy sauce. I didn’t realize soy sauce had wheat in it. It’s a learning curve for all of us. Some of us have better nutritional education than others. Take time to examine what you are eating every day. Here is the USDA Food Composition list. It could be very enlightening.
  5. Measure your macros. When I got started with keto, I said “I am not going to measure anything because it will keep me from starting”. That worked for me. I got started. I eased in and after about 6 weeks I started to measure my macros. I discovered I should be eating more fat to meet my goal of 75-80% calories from fat. I adjusted my eating and boom…started to lose weight again. (side note: my fat macros are higher because I’m eating this way, in part, to keep cancer from coming back. For cancer survivors, the fat macros are recommended closer to 80% than the standard 70% of most LCHF diets) I don’t measure mine every day, but if I see a stall in my weight loss, I will measure, examine to make sure I’m not off track.
  6. Why? Most of all, examine your reason for eating a keto diet. If you just thought of it as a weight loss diet, take some time to learn about the health benefits of eating this way. Personally, I’m a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer at age 34 in 2009.  Chance of recurrence is 50%. With each year that passed, I didn’t feel better. I felt like I was one year closer to “when it comes back”. Learning about ketogenic eating gave me hope. Hope that I could actually turn the odds in my favor.

If you have questions, leave them in the comments. We’ll find the answers together! If you have tips about solving your own weight loss challenges on keto, share! The more information there is out there, the better for everyone!

How To Get Started With Keto

How To Get Started With Keto In 5 Easy Steps

“How do I get started with keto. What EXACTLY do I need to do?”

When I was thirteen, I remember standing on the edge of the high dive at the community pool. I was not an avid swimmer, nor did I really know how to dive properly. I had this vague sense of how I was supposed to position my arms and which direction my head was supposed to be pointed as when I left the diving board.

I stood at the end of that board for several minutes. I placed my hands over my head in the right position. I edged my feet toward the end of the board. I’d give a little bounce…and then freeze.

Heart pounding.

Adrenaline pumping.

I’d take a deep breath and start the process all over.

I never did dive that day. I did manage a cannon ball though. 🙂

Getting started with keto is like that. You need to jump, even if you turn a dive into a cannon ball.

The hardest part of any new way of eating is getting started. For this post, I’m assuming you know a little about keto. Maybe you’ve got a friend or medical professional who recommended keto. Maybe you’ve been lurking in Facebook groups for weeks but still don’t feel like you know what to do.

People are talking about macros, MCT oil, ketones, electrolytes, keto flu? What the heck is keto flu? When I got started I didn’t even know what a macro was.

First, breathe. Relax. Don’t worry if you don’t understand it all yet. It’s much more important to GET STARTED.

My Simple Definition of Keto

At the most basic level, keto is a way of eating that switches your body from burning glucose to using fat for fuel. This is what nature intended. This means high fat, low carb, moderate protein.

Don’t get hung up on the details if its going to keep you from starting, however the usual ‘macros’ (macro-nutrients) are 70% of calories from healthy fats, about 70-115 grams of protein per day and less than 20 grams of net carbs from veggies per day. Eliminate all sugar (it’s easier than you think, I promise!), grains and starches. Boom. That’s it in a nutshell.

When I first heard this 70% fats recommendation, I thought “there is no way I’ll be able to eat that much fat!” Fat contains more calories per gram than protein and carbs. It’s not as crazy or hard to accomplish as it sounds.

I’m not here to dive into all the science.If you want to learn more about how keto works, there are a lot of websites to consult. Two sites I trust to provide accurate information are ketovangelist.com, ketodietapp.com, ruled.me.

Step 1

Decide WHY you are going to start eating a high fat, low carb, keto diet. I can give you a list of dozens of health benefits, but your WHY is the only one that matters. Your WHY will be the driving force on days you wish you could be eating that pile of mashed potatoes your friend is eating.

Note: Physical cravings rapidly diminish once you are in a ketogenic state. It’s your head that will mess with you. When your WHY is important enough to you, you’ll find it easy to stick to it.

Step 2

Stop eating sugar, starch, grains. Instead eat minimally processed fatty meats (not lean meats), lots of healthy fats and low carb veggies. KetoDietApp has a great list of keto foods, including a food pyramid here.

Don’t get hung up on “traditional” meals or meal times. If you want an sliced steak, sauteed mushrooms and sour cream for breakfast, eat it. Eventually you’ll find you aren’t hungry at the usual times. If you aren’t hungry. Don’t eat. If you are hungry, eat. If you find yourself unusually hungry, eat more fat.

At first, this is going to seem counter-intuitive. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking fatty foods are bad. You’ll have to operate on faith at first. Commit to 3 weeks. If you are doing keto for weight loss, you’ll see results by then. That’ll be your reinforcement. On my fourth month of eating 100% ketogenically, I didn’t lose a single pound, but I lost 1.5 inches off my waist. At the start of my fifth month, the weight started coming off again. By then I’d lost a total of 17 pounds and two dress sizes.

If you are overwhelmed by the “macros” aspect of ketogenic eating, just start by quitting sugar, starch and grains. Don’t worry about tracking your fats, proteins and carbs yet. This is how I started. I didn’t start measuring my macros for the first six weeks. I knew if I did, it would make it seem too complicated and keep me from starting. I lost a whole dress size in that first six weeks. So, not tracking macros didn’t hurt me.

When I did start tracking macros, I found areas to improve and I made adjustments. I tracked my macros for a few weeks. I stopped tracking when I felt I had a good sense of what I needed to be eating each day. When you are ready to track macros, just download a free app, like MyFittnessPal. It makes tracking very easy.

Step 3

Insure yourself against “keto flu”. I hate that people refer to it by this name. Basically, keto flu is just the body detoxing and is often a symptom of an electrolyte imbalance. Some people don’t experience it at all. My mom, who started eating keto at age 72, never had an issue. My daughter at age 25 experienced symptoms for several weeks.

I prepared with a Magnesium Glycinate supplement recommended by a keto veteran. This friend also suggested I use Nu-Salt instead of taking a potassium supplement and it made all the difference. You can use it just as you would table salt. I’m a salt lover and I was shocked how much this tastes just like salt. If you want to learn more, Martina, at KetoDietApp has a great post about keto flu here.

Ketogenic eating will change your bowel habits. I hear people complain about being constipated. I’ve never experienced constipation, though I did have a few days of zero bathroom activity. Your body is making serious adjustments, balancing out and resetting to a more healthy way of processing food. I find my bathroom habits are far more regular and “healthy” than they were before keto.

Step 4

Read labels and purge your kitchen, refrigerator and freezer of non-keto friendly foods. I realize this may not be entirely possible for those of you with families, but the more you can eliminate the better.

I’m married and my husband (even though he’s diabetic) isn’t ready to become ketogenic. He and I made compromises and I was able to remove 11 bags of sugared, high carb foods from my house. I donated them to a family in need. Knowing the items in your kitchen are keto friendly is a huge benefit.

Step 5

Keep learning at a pace you feel comfortable with. The more people learn about the health benefits of keto, the more we can combat the misinformation being disseminated by big government agencies. I’m not a crusader, but I’ve never been more angry to know how agencies like the ADA and USDA are recommending diets that are in direct conflict with the science of a healthy human diet. Healthy humans aren’t going to take expensive drugs fo a lifetime.

While you are learning, know there is a lot of misinformation about ketogenic eating out there. I’ve seen posts claiming a keto friendly recipe that include sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain 23 net carbs per cup. That’s 3 more carbs than you should have in a day. If something seems off, question it. Don’t blindly follow anything that claims to be “ketogenic”.

A Note About Meal Plans And Cookbooks

Keto meal plans can be a useful guide, but if they overwhelm you or make you feel like “I can’t do this”, then don’t use a meal plan. Everyone has different tastes, budgets, schedules, and culinary expertise.

I ordered The 30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse by Maria Emmerich after about 3 weeks of eating keto. She was one of the speakers at the keto conference I attended that started me on this journey. At first, I just used a handful of recipes. Now that I’m several months in, I’ve gotten more comfortable with additional recipes in this book.

Confession: This is a diary free recipe book, but I haven’t given up dairy. Many of the recipes call for non-dairy fats, but I just replaced those items with their dairy equivalents. Probably not what Maria had in mind when she published the book! I only mention it to show you you can take all this info and make it fit your needs.

Staples You Might Need

 

When I started, I told myself I would not buy any special products to “do this diet”. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money. When I was at the keto convention where I learned about keto, there were many supplements and most weren’t cheap. I knew that would keep me from moving forward. I’m sure there are healthy benefits to many of them – but I’m not ready to add expensive supplements to my plan. I’ve found there are a few staples I’ve purchased and I’d recommend as you get started. I found Costco to be the best value for most of these items.

  • Avocado or Olive Oil
  • Heavy Cream
  • Pork Rinds (no added flavor. The flavored ones have sugar in them)
  • Sour Cream (make sure it’s only cream. Some brands add starch)
  • Sugar Free Mayo (or make your own. This a ridiculously easy recipe.)
  • No Sugar Added Stevia Ketchup and BBQ (I use AlternaSweets)
  • Sugar Free Salsa (I use Pace Picante Sauce, Medium)
  • Eggs (very handy for many recipes)
  • Almond Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Stevia (I use Truvia. Not a blend or “in the raw”. Get a free sample.)

There you have it! Those are the basics of getting started. You can do it! The more you learn, the more you’ll come to understand just how important changing our fuel source from glucose to fats benefits our health. Here’s to your high dive (or cannon ball!) into the pool of keto living.

Life Changing Weekend

Life Changing Weekend

In 2017 I was invited to KetoCon by Jared and Misti, owners of AlternaSweets. Ketowhat?

I didn’t know anything about what “eating keto” meant. KetoCon was three days of immersion in all things keto. I heard doctors, scientists and real people talk about health benefits and strategies for a successful keto way of life. When I returned home, I immediately began eating keto and haven’t looked back.

Keto is a way of life. It’s not a diet. It’s not for weight loss, though most people with weight to lose, DO lose weight. It’s a way to reverse the damage of the standard American diet for better physical and mental health. I am not a doctor or scientist, but the evidence is compelling.

As a cancer survivor, eating keto gave me hope. I now have tools that will help me reduce the chances of my cancer coming back. I have tools to help me lower my high blood pressure, reduce my risk for heart disease and diabetes.

I. Can’t. Stop. Talking. About. It.

Many personal friends have now starting living the keto life. I have other friends who say things like:

“I can’t cook well (or at all)”

“I can’t do keto because I have a picky family” to feed too”

“I have no idea what I’d eat on keto”

“Keto sounds hard. There’s no way I can give up _____ (insert favorite carb loaded food)”

I know anyone can eat keto. There just isn’t a lot of real world guidance out there yet. I started compiling a list of keto basics, including meal ideas that need little to no cooking or time and posting on Facebook. I wanted to expand the conversation. This is how 5 Minute Keto was born.