Keto...where do I start? Pauline Cox

Keto…where do I start?

Thank you to Pauline Cox BSc MSc from Sow & Arrow for this super blog, Keto…where do I start? Over to you Pauline!

You’ve heard the buzz around keto, you’ve seen friends who have shrunk before your very eyes, proclaiming the brilliance of butter and the lavishing praise on lard…but really, is it safe? Where do you start?! Is this fat-fest all it’s cracked up to be. Or is it just another Atkins dressed up with a little science.

Keto for weight loss

Let’s be frank, most people want a way of eating that allows them to have their cake and still fit into their super skinnies…well, when we work with the principles of the body that govern our cellular physiology, having your cake and eating it becomes a way of life.

Whilst weight loss is a focus for many individuals, it becomes a by-product, a symptom of eating well (if you have weight to lose). It no longer becomes the focus but the added bonus!

How does your body lose weight with Keto?

Your body will use two forms of fuel to create energy, carbohydrates and fat.

Fat for Fuel

Energy is needed by the body for two functions. To drive cellular function and to repair and replenish cells. Poor energy production will therefore result in either poor cellular function (sluggish, lacking in energy) and premature aging (cells cannot replenish or replicate appropriately and become damaged) or both.

‘The quality of your life comes down to the amount of sugar versus the amount of fat you burn over a lifetime. The more fat you burn as fuel, the healthier you will be. The more sugar you burn as fuel, the more disease-ridden you will be and the shorter your life will likely be.’ Dr. Ron Rosedale MD

Oh sweetie, choose me!

Your body will always choose to burn sugar over fat when both carbs and fat are present in a meal. We don’t have a sound understanding of why. But some scientists have hypothesised that it to ensure that the damaging effects of sugar are removed from the body as rapidly as possible. The body is far happier and works much more effectively using fat for fuel, with sugar being our back up, emergency choice of fuel, more of an occasional source of fuel. The problem is, we don’t use glucose as an occasional fuel…we eat it as our primary source of fuel. We are carb-junkies of the highest calibre. Eating more carbs now that in any other time in history and our health is reflective of that. This dominance of carbohydrates for fuel has turned us into expert sugar-burners. We have become dependent on glucose for fuel. Because glucose burns hot and fast, we need a continuous supply of it! Sugar-burners feel ‘hangry’ when you don’t eat, your glucose supply is running low and since your fat-burning machinery is rarely used your body demands that you give it more sugar, NOW!

As a sugar-burner you can feel dizzy, grumpy and lethargic without the sugar hit your body is demanding. Your body becomes so dependent on sugar for fuel, that without it you can feel like your mental wellbeing and physical energy just can’t function without it. You are an Olympic sugar-burner. One of the best. As a sugar-burner waking at night can be a regular occurrence (usually around 2-3am). Your blood sugar levels will be up and down even as you sleep because your body is seeking out its constant need for more sugar. It then turns to your muscles and bone to breakdown for fuel. Despite having plenty of fat to burn, your body is such an expert at burning sugar that it will breakdown lean muscle mass and ask it’s good friend the liver to turn it into glucose (which the obliging and very hard working liver does).

Fat burner

‘I want to lose weight.’ When you’re a sugar-burner, your body can breakdown muscle and the scales will approvingly tell you that yes, you’ve lost weight, especially if you’re on a ‘diet’ forcing your body to lose weight such as major calorie restriction or a ‘cabbage soup’ diet. We can shrink in size and yet remain quite flabby due to loss of our lean muscle mass. In losing muscle mass we reduce our metabolic rate, lose strength, stability and we become very prone to yo-yo weight gain. This is why losing weight is not a great objective! Losing fat and retaining muscle…now there’s a great goal!

Becoming a fat-burning machine, where you aren’t a slave to your metabolism, where you’re not at the mercy of plummeting blood sugars because you haven’t eaten for two hours. Eating in a way that doesn’t age you prematurely, that keeps your body energised, free from chronic illness, that supports mental wellbeing. A strong, muscular, flexible body that serves you well into your later years of life. In order to achieve this, we need to ditch the sugar-burning status and balance the metabolic hormones that govern our fat-storing, fat-burning capacity. This involves change. A new approach to fuelling ourselves and creating new habits. Eating becomes enjoyable but not a predominant force in your life. It doesn’t dictate your thoughts. You are free from the shackles of obsessing about food and its daily presence in your life. Food becomes a source of pleasure, true pleasure and not a source of lust and pain. Our relationship with food is complex, however, once we start working with our physiology, it can create a cascade of positive changes.

Chronic Carb-ivore

When we consume any carbohydrates- potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, oats, strawberry cheesecake, our body will very quickly dump the resultant glucose from the breakdown of that carbohydrate into the bloodstream. The potentially damaging glucose is enthusiastically mopped up from the bloodstream. Presented to the cells of the body to use for fuel. This sees us going from the dizzying heights our sugar high, to the plummeting lows of DON’T. TALK. TO. ME. UNTIL. I’VE EATEN.

After the glucose is ushered out of the bloodstream, any excess not taken into the cells to be used for energy or stored as glycogen is stored as fat. Yes, the excess sugar is stored as fat. Those wholegrain oats, the wholemeal toast, the browns bagels are all lumped into the same category, sugar. The left-overs of this carb-fest (of which there is plenty!) are conveniently packaged up for us to store as fat in our liver, around our organs, belly, hips, thighs and as circulating blood fats. The brain in the meantime receives a heady dose of bliss-inducing dopamine from this sugar high hit, hardwiring carbs as a rewarding way to eat.

It is not the fat in our diet that is making us fat…it is the carbohydrates. Don’t blame the fat for what carbs did!

High blood sugars are hugely damaging and toxic to the body. Keeping blood sugars regulated is a critical job. Orchestrated harmoniously by the liver, pancreas, thyroid, anterior pituitary gland and a series of hormones. Together they work interdependently in a systematic way that results in efficiently fuelling the body, with minimal damage and maximum efficiency. This system is not however a fail-safe system. This system was not designed to cope with the deluge of sugar that rushes into our bloodstream. Creating a tsunami of sugar highs on an almost hourly basis.

Fat-burner vs sugar burner

We have, at any given average time, one teaspoon of circulating blood sugars within our bloodstream. Keeping blood sugar levels steady is critical. Increases in blood sugar levels can have very damaging effects on the body. Clinical manifestations of this damage are seen through vascular damage, damage to nerves, poor wound healing, damage to the eyes, coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease and kidney disease.

Insulin, an extremely important hormone, plays a crucial role in the regulation of blood sugars. Produced by the pancreas, it will work diligently under acceptable working conditions. Mopping up rising levels of blood sugars and ushering it into cells to be used as fuel. This works well when we encounter the occasional blood sugar surge, however, this efficient system can fall foul to the continuous deluge of sugar experienced with our carb-laden diets.

Keto…where do i start?

As chronic carb eaters, the working conditions for insulin become unacceptable and like a disgruntled employee, insulin becomes resistant, it stops being as efficient at ushering blood sugar out of the bloodstream and into cells. More and more insulin is required in order to achieve the same outcome. The cells become less accepting of the increasing amounts of glucose being presented to them. The once efficient system of mopping up surges of blood sugar, finds insulin becoming increasingly resistant and the cells less sensitive to insulin uptake. This insulin-resistant stage is the stage preceding type II diabetes. The result of which is more glucose becoming available to be stored as fat. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone, so when insulin levels are high, the body is encouraged to store fat and not burn fat. Insulin is a roadblock to becoming a fat-burner. Let me say that again, in the presence of insulin, fat burning is put on the back burner, you remain a sugar burner.

What adds insult to injury is the fact that we are being advised to eat so many carbohydrates as part of a healthy, ‘balanced’ diet.

Balancing out our metabolic hormones is absolutely key in order to restore normal blood sugars, insulin sensitivity, hunger levels, burn body fat and improve physiological function at a cellular, organ and individual level.

Your fat-burning buddy

Not being able to burn fat…now that will make fat.

Eating a diet rich in good fats and low in carbohydrates is key for normalising leptin (our hunger hormone) and insulin sensitivity. Eating fat will not produce a spike in insulin, neither will it produce a spike in leptin, in fact is will supress it. Eating fat will help you burn fat.

So where do I start?

Swapping carb-heavy foods such as pasta, for low carb, healthy options such as courgetti, soya bean pasta, Bare Naked Pasta or cauli-rice, swapping bread for healthy keto breads and gluten-free, low carb breads…and dropping the sugar!! Creating a Primal Pantry and a Primal Fridge bursting with and delicious and healthy foods that will satisfy as well as drive your fat-burning mechanics!

For more information on how and why to follow a healthy ketogenic diet, one that will improve liver function, restore gut health and improve brain function as well as boosting fat-burning, order a copy of Primal Living in a Modern World. or join one of the courses at Sow & Arrow with Pauline – courses.

Have you enjoyed finding out more about Keto….where do I start? Leave us a comment below.

We have some delicious keto snacks that can keep you going, yummy Organic Hazelnut Praline Bars.

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Keto, getting started on keto


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