This article was originally posted on Medium.com, where I share short posts on health, life, and self-improvement.
I swear the bag of Kettle chips were talking to me.
“Just open me up, Aron. I will make you feel so good!” The rustling of the salty, crunchy goodness was a siren song I could not resist.
During medical school, mindless eating started to creep in to my daily routine.
Go to the gym.
Walk to the grocery store next door.
Buy a family-size bag of Kettle chips.
Open bag and place it in the passenger seat.
Reach over and grab a few chips at stoplights.
Find the bag empty.
Other times, it was a late night after a way-too-long day.
Feel stressed out.
Turn on TV.
Start watching The Walking Dead.
Open bag of chips.
Tell myself I will only have a few.
Continue to mindlessly eat all of the chips.
Find the bag empty.
If someone looked at me, they would never say I had a weight issue. For me, my issue with how I was eating affected my focus and ability to engage with people and life. I ate food that was supposed to be healthy or at least benign, but I often felt like I was walking through life in a fog. This was the first sign that the way I was eating was not working for me.
For most of my life, I was not that worried about what I ate. It became a point of pride that I could eat a lot and eat freely. Even my friends and family began to notice that I could consume an entire bag of chips before anyone else could get to them. My younger brother started hiding chips from me because I would eat them before he got home.
I rationalized that I could eat whatever I wanted because I have always been pretty active.
Who needs a diet when I could “cancel” it out with working out? I would burn it off anyway. Everything in moderation, right?
Well, if moderation meant consuming a party-sized bag of chips every few days, I was doing a great job.
It took me years to make the connection between food and how it made me feel. I appeared healthy by most standards, but it was only after experimenting with different ways of eating did the light bulbs go off.
I can choose how I eat to ultimately determine how I want to feel.
Food is Not the Enemy
As I experimented with different diets— vegan, juicing, paleo, keto, anti-inflammatory — I found that each creates an “enemy,” intentionally or unintentionally.
No matter which diet approach I followed, it always seemed like there were some foods that were labelled as bad or unacceptable.
Each diet declared an opponent…an enemy to be vanquished from your food life. Each diet promised that if you slay the enemy, you will have that body you want, the health and energy you deserve, and the promise of a better life.
However, declaring an enemy creates a mentality that you have to wage war. With every war, there are casualties.
“If I slip up or cheat, I should feel guilty.”
“If I do not follow the plan to perfection, I am a failure.”
“If I do not meet my macros or if I am not in ketosis, I will not lose weight/gain muscle/be healthy.”
“If someone notices me eating a ‘forbidden’ food, they will call me a hypocrite.”
“That’s not [keto, paleo, vegan, etc.],” says your judgmental friend.
Maybe you are the one judging yourself and doing the self-admonishment.
Following a “Diet” risks starting a war against food that only leaves you and those around you worse off than before.
Food Goes Deeper Than What We Eat
At first, it is hard and scary to change because either it feels like you have to abandon the foods that give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside or food has become an emotional trigger for you.
“Do I have to give up my aunt’s famous sherry pound cake?”
“Do I have to give up the Chinese pineapple buns with the sugary, crunchy top that remind me of trips to Chinatown with my grandparents and younger brothers?”
“What if I try this diet and it does not work? Nothing ever works for me.”
Changing how you eat can make it feel like you are abandoning a piece of yourself and your identity.
It makes me sad when I see someone agonize about exceeding their carb or calorie count for the day or struggling to find that perfect supplement or product that is diet compliant.
Is it worth hitting your “Diet” goals if you end up feeling frustrated, guilty, and miserable when it does not go as planned?
It does not have to be this way.
Food is not a religion. Food is not one-size-fits-all. Food is more than just what you eat.
The Keto Lifestyle Manifesto
My friend, Chef Heidi, and I decided if we are going to help people with low carb/high fat way of eating, it is going to be a lifestyle approach and not a “Diet.”
A ketogenic diet typically involves a drastic reduction of carbohydrates and an drastic increase in fats to stimulate the body’s preference to burn fat and produce ketones.
There are potential health benefits for conditions like epilepsy, obesity, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. A ketogenic diet can reduce the risk and impact of these conditions and are being used to optimize physical and mental performance.
However, like any diet, there is no one-size-fits all protocol, and this is where I find that the diet can be taken to an unhealthy extreme.
Instead, we believe that healthy habits based on whole foods and a low carb/high fat lifestyle will help you feel great in your body without the extreme yo-yo dieting, the guilt, and the self-loathing.
We believe in a low carb/high fat way of eating that does not make one macronutrient better than another. Good and bad is all relative depending on your goals, your dreams, and your individual biochemistry.
We believe food does not have to fit into one box. Healthy eating is about being more intentional. When you are clear with your intentions, you will be free to make the best decision for you.
We believe that the goal of keto is to be healthier and happier. The numbers are a guide, not the destination.
We believe that when you do keto right, you automatically eat healthier without agonizing over the minutiae.
We believe that healthy eating lasts beyond a 30 day cleanse or reset. Slow and steady wins the race.
We believe that real food is a source of joy. There is joy in dreaming about mouth-watering, real food and deep satisfaction in creating nourishing meals.
We believe in food that gives you vitality to do the things you love doing.
We believe food brings people together — during the holidays, to share ideas, and to celebrate life’s milestones. Food is kindling for adventure and experiences.
We believe food is vital information for our bodies. How you eat instructs your body how to respond to your environment — abundance or scarcity, stress or joy, balance or imbalance.
We believe you become what you eat. Quality is just as important as quantity.
We believe in being kind. Food is a reflection about what you think and feel about yourself. Let food nourish you so you can be the best mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, or friend you can be.
We believe in keeping it simple through habits. Making fewer decisions about food conserves precious willpower. A healthy habit becomes discipline and discipline creates freedom.
We believe in the process rather than achieving perfection. There will be exceptions to the rules.
We believe in your ability to interpret the messages of your body and to make the best choice for what you need.
This is what we believe food can be. This is how we choose to approach food and how we want to help others approach food.
What rings true for you? What do you disagree with? Let me know in the comments below.
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Are you looking into the keto lifestyle but don’t know where to start?
Join us in the free 7-day Keto Breakfast Challenge. Chef Heidi and I share 3 easy recipes to get your day started with keto-friendly breakfasts.