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My life on Keto

At the beginning of this year, I ventured into the world of Keto. Now there's been much buzz going around this new nutritional diet/lifestyle/major life change...however you want to look at it, it is all the rage. Literally every second article on my Google homepage is about Keto, easy Keto recipes, the raging war between a Keto and a vegan diet, the latest celebrities to jump on the Keto bandwagon, fearmongerers bashing Keto, advocates promoting it, dirty versus clean Keto etc. You get the gist of it.

So what is a Ketogenic diet? At its most basic, it is an extremely low-carb, high-protein, high-fat diet, where the majority of calories come from protein and fat sources. Once you severely cut back on carbohydrates, your body will run out of blood sugar that it can use quickly and will therefore enter a state of Ketosis, whereby your body starts burning stored fat for fuel and you lose weight instantly.

My introduction to Keto was through my very good friend and neighbor, Shirley D'Souza, a certified Ketogenic & Primal Living Coach for Keto, Paleo, Primal and whole 30 ways of living. She is certified under the Canfitpro & Primal Living certifications, as well as accredited by a host of other academies and associations. Shirley has been a coach for almost 3 years, having lost 30kg and healed many gut and health issues while following a nutiritional Ketogenic lifestyle. Her area of expertise extends beyond just helping people shed unwanted weight to treating chronic health issues such as diabetes, auto immune disease, cholesterol, and specifically PCOS in women trying to get pregnant. Her approach is to understand a person's biochemistry and develop a nutritional plan that is suited to it without compromising taste. Being the amazing friend that she is, she offered to coach me for free. When I first came to Dubai, in February of 2019, I was perhaps at my heaviest weight (75kg). Not to mention, I had fled Ireland and come to Dubai under less than desirable circumstances, so my mental health needed a boost like the sight of a much fitter image in the mirror.

So what happened when I started following a Ketogenic diet? Well, the most difficult adjustment for me was cutting out carbs from my life. And I mean all carbs: no rice, no pasta, no bread etc. After the first few days where I suffered from withdrawal headaches, my body started adjusting. As the weeks went on, I started seeing pounds and inches drop, I started enjoying the fact that I could eat as much as I want and have cream in my coffee, no less. My moods were regulated, I drank a lot of water and took my salts regularly to ward off those headaches, and noticed that I was more focused, more energetic. I felt lighter, less lethargic. There were many cheat days, of course. But I noticed that beyond the first few moments of gratification following a cheat meal, I only felt nausea and indigestion. I even got into the habit of drinking soda water regularly to ward off heartburn.

I was on a Keto diet for only a few months, but I lost around 10 kg. Admittedly, the month of Ramadan in May was when I lost the most amount of weight, what with the fasting all day and eating only protein and fats at sunset. However, I soon abandoned the Keto diet, as I felt I got all I could out of it. Despite it being restrictive, I needed that discipline during those first few months in Dubai, as the benefits far outweighed the negatives. Its effect on my moods was akin to that of an anti-depressant. I was able to manage the aftermath of certain events in my life much better when I was on Keto.

Having said that, the Keto diet is heavily meat-based, so for omnivores it is the perfect diet. I am more of a flexitarian (that is, I don't need to have meat or chicken every single day). Keto required me, however, to eat meat daily. Even months after I got off it, I noticed a tendency to eat meat on a daily basis, something I hope to change soon. Furthermore, I love my carbs too much to ever give them up. In fact, I am someone who can go without meat for long stretches of time but not without rice or bread. I'm a pasta lover, through and through. Also, I don't necessarily have a sweet tooth, except for that time of the month, which again makes me more inclined towards savory carb-filled meals. A ketogenic diet also severely limits fruit intake due to the sugar content. In fact, the only fruits allowed are berries. Now while I love my berries, I don't think I can live without my bananas, which are the base of every smoothie I make.

While being on Keto enabled me to lose the extra pounds I had gained over the past couple of years, I did not continue with it. That is not to say that it is unsustainable. I have seen people sustain a ketogenic lifestyle for years, espousing its benefits with glowing testimonials. But speaking for myself, I felt that despite its benefits, I am not a natural carnivore, and that perhaps another nutritional plan favoring more plant-based foods would be more suitable for me.

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