First, there were calories…
We were told it was a simple equation, calories in vs calories out, and this was the way to go for weight loss and healthy weight management.
Calories in < calories out = weight loss
Calories in > calories out = weight gain
But they were WRONG!
More about that later…
One of the latest diet trends is Keto, burning ketones and keeping the body in “Ketosis”, to turn our bodies into fat burning machines.
Ketones are a special type of fat that can stimulate the pathways that enhance the growth of new neural networks in the brain. They also increase glutathione, a powerful, brain-protective antioxidant. Ketones facilitate the production of mitochondria which are the power plants of your cells.
The question is, is this a new numbers game?
Are we once again being driven by numbers vs intuitive awareness?
Our ancestors ate when foods were in season. A natural flow of foods that over time created balance for the body and optimal health.
Today we can generally eat all food, all year round, and in plentiful supply.
Does that mean eating fat day in and day out is good for long-term health or only for short periods?
Does that mean eating meat daily is also good for long-term health?
How does the “natural flow of seasonal food creating balance over time” fit with the modern convenience of being to enjoy anything we like all the time?
Just as it’s not about calories, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the quality of our food. JJ Virgin shares, “Everything you’re eating is telling your body something. You want to make sure that your food is telling your body to balance your blood sugar, balanced blood sugar is everything to lower your inflammation to have great energy, to have better focus, and to burn off stored body fat.”
No carbs, very low carbs (Keto), or low carbs (Paleo), it all comes down to the quality of carbohydrates.
It is vital to remember that it’s different for everybody. Some people will thrive on Keto, others will do really well initially then struggle and others will struggle from the start. JJ Virgin shares “I find most women suck on keto. It’s difficult if you’ve got thyroid conditions, adrenal problems, and fertility issues.”
Keto is a drastic change in most people’s diets and if you make the change straight out you could be setting yourself up for failure. Without due attention, Keto can stress the body which will hinder the success you are chasing. Adjust your body first by transitioning your diet so your body has time to shift from a sugar burner to a fat burner.
My concern as a health professional is if we are so focused on keeping our Ketone number “right” are we really learning to eat intuitively to help our body thrive?
Ideally what we need to be working towards are sustainable strategies. “We don’t really want to live our life peeing on a stick every day. What we really need is to become more aware of our body signals and signs.”
- The length between meals or do you need to snack often
- Can you exercise whilst fasted?
- Bloating or other discomforts
- Constipation or diarrhea
We want to work towards feeling empowered; a diet shouldn’t be a set of rules, we need to learn to listen to our body and how it reacts to certain foods and certain levels of foods. We need to not be scared of experimenting with ourselves, so we really understand what is OUR optimal diet.
If we develop a broader understanding of the impact certain foods have on the body rather than a rule-based approach which comes with most diet trends, then people can start to make informed choices.
Intuitive eating is paying attention to how foods affect you. Look for new symptoms or worsened symptoms, anything uncomfortable sensations in your body. It is not always easy to develop this sense of awareness, in fact, it can be easier to follow a set of rules or a prescribed way of eating rather than learning to pay attention.
Something to consider is that being fat adapted, in other words, our body is using fat for fuel, means that ketones are being used therefore they are not available to be measured. If this is the case then what do our “numbers” really tell us?
In regard to Keto, as with many of the diet protocols, there are more questions than there are answers, some reports say Keto is a therapeutic diet not recommended as a starting out strategy, or a long-term way of eating. Others say extremely low carb diets can interfere with hormones and so are not good long-term for women or those with fertility issues. And others will swear by them as the answer to all our ills.
As I study health and wellbeing the one point I keep coming back to is Bio-individuality. If we stay committed to a diet protocol instead of learning to listen to our body we can miss the point and put the body into stress which will work against us. This is where many set themselves up for failure because the “Rules” take precedence over their own body. The key is flexibility within a general routine of a healthy Low Carb: High Fat: Quality protein eating regime.
How low your carbs need to be, eg Keto and for how long, needs to be monitored. Start in one place, some will respond to more others less, only you know your body.
A Paleo style diet which is Low Carb High Fat is a good place to start and can address many health conditions, including weight loss, without having to go too extreme with Keto.
In conclusion, there is no one diet that works well for everybody, we are all uniquely bio-individual and the sooner we learn how food makes OUR body feel will be the beginning of working out what foods we need to eat. As our body changes with time, these tools, this awareness continues to empower our choices. No-one knows your body better than you do! Diet protocols can be a helpful guide only when viewed as a journey of discovery to what helps you feel full of energy and what doesn’t.
No-one knows your body better than you do!
Please note that these are my personal thoughts, based on my own research and understanding, for your consideration. As always you should seek medical advice before starting any new dietary regime and consider your own bodies physical needs. We are all bio-individual and what works for one person may not work for another. Awareness of your own body will be a key factor in learning what fuels your body for optimal performance and health and what doesn’t.