Last Thursday, I ate…dessert!
How could I? Did I knock myself out of ketosis?
Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. In the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter.
This was a birthday celebration for a friend, so I made a decision to make an exception.
At the macro level, I am following a keto diet. At that moment, I may not have been.
After experimenting with a ketogenic diet for 30 days, I’ve discovered that there’s a lot to dissect with why’s and how’s of the ketogenic diet. This is something that is in some ways not as complicated and in some ways more complicated than I could have imagined.
Here are the top 3 lessons I’ve learned so far.
Pleasure vs. Fulfillment
There are a lot of different messages floating around on the internet when it comes to ketogenic diets.
“Track your macros!” vs. “Tracking macros will drive you crazy!”
“You have to keep your carbs low and stay ketosis all the time!” vs. “Cycle your carbs!”
“It’s all about the carbs and insulin” vs. “It’s MORE than just carbs and insulin.”
No wonder there’s so much confusion around the ketogenic diet. What I know for sure is that no matter what way of eating you subscribe to, or don’t subscribe to, eating can be a very personal subject.
Food can comfort us when we feel stressed out or down. We have fond memories or traumatizing memories that have connections deep into our psyche.
I grew up in a Chinese Cantonese household with very Cantonese grandparents. My grandparents would bring my brothers and I to Chinatown in San Francisco, and we would eat Chinese “bao” (buns) and drink Vitasoy soy milk while watching Keno on the TV monitors.
Eating bao brings me back to a time and place in my life where I felt loved by my grandparents.
Bao is not ketogenic! It’s often made of flour, sugar, and deliciousness.
The thing is, there’s a difference between pleasure and true fulfillment and satisfaction.
Pleasure is fleeting. Fulfillment is lasting.
I choose fulfillment. A keto style of eating just makes me feel better to the core. There is satisfaction knowing and feeling that I can choose between pleasure and deep satisfaction instead of letting my cravings control me.
Food is a very personal decision, and keto has been a decision to take care of myself.
There is a spectrum of the ketogenic diet, depending on your needs and goals. There are some situations where a strict ketogenic diet is necessary (e.g. children with epilepsy or congenital G-6-PD deficiency, which is diagnosed VERY early in life…so you’ll know if you have this).
For these people, it is important to track macros and measure ketones levels. It’s a medical necessity.
Whereas, if you are in generally good health, following low carbohydrate, high fat principles is probably good enough to feel more energetic and lose a few pounds.
You can get 80% of the benefits by following a few key principles, but it will take more effort to get the last 20% of the benefits.
If we consider professional basketball, if you’ve made it to the NBA, you are better than 99.99999% of the people in the world at basketball. However, it’s that last 0.0000001% of potential that is the hardest to achieve to be considered the greatest.
For the top level athletes wanting to squeeze every last drop of potential out of themselves, they will have to pay a lot more attention to the tiniest details.
For the average person, maybe you like playing basketball on evenings and weekends, so good enough might be good enough.
Following a ketogenic diet can range from good enough to all-encompassing.
You get to decide what will get you closer to your goals.
Guidelines make life easier
Have you ever stared at a menu at a restaurant, passing over your turn to order, and waiting till the very last minute to pick something from the menu?
This happens because there is an overwhelming paradox of choice—the more options we have available to us, the harder it is to make a decision.
Whenever I go to In N’ Out burger (it’s been a long time, I swear), it’s relieving to see so few options on the menu. Hamburger. Cheeseburger. Double Double. Fries. A few options for beverages.
The same happens when you have guidelines for how to eat.
Following guidelines has made my life easier, not more restrictive. I still find the idea of doughnuts and chips appealing, but I no longer CRAVE them. Plus, I don’t have to decide whether or not to give in to a craving.
The rules are in place to help me reach a goal, and the benefit is that it has removed a lot of the decision making around what to eat.
Willpower is limited resource and for every decision we don’t make, we can apply that energy to things that matter more.
A ketogenic diet is not as restrictive as I imagined, and if anything, I have found that it is a lifestyle change that can be designed based on your goals. This is something I will be experimenting with for the foreseeable future and posting more information as I come across it.
Since it takes on average 66 days for something to become a habit, I will continue to challenge myself to maintain a keto style diet through the holidays. At this point, I feel generally more energetic and balanced. It will be hard to go back to a carbohydrate-heavy way of eating. This will be more a way of life with carbohydrates being the exception rather than the rule.