My Keto Experience
This week as we continue our Keto journey we're joined by friend of Nourish, Benjamin Richardson, sharing, 'My Keto experience'. We've loved finding out more about how someone busy and energetic manages their own Keto lifestyle. Especially as this week Ineke and I start our own Keto journey. We'll be diarising that over the next few weeks on Instagram and here on the blog, Join us and find out how we get on.
I am a 40 something guy, London-based professional worker, nutritional therapy student, keen exerciser and incurable foodie. I follow a cyclical ketogenic diet. Why? Get ready for shock and awe . . . not for weight loss!
Why keto for me?
Yes, I do find ketosis very helpful for weight control and body composition but even those are not my reasons. As a keen healthspan optimiser ketosis is a tool I use for potential health benefits. One is mitigation against the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, the term for the combination of insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity & coronary heart disease. Another, combined with fasting, is to give my body an opportunity to perform some ‘clean up’ in the form of cellular regeneration. Key word autophagy. Greek for “self-eating”. Love it. Bring it on.
Further, a huge lifestyle benefit from following a ketogenic diet pattern is freedom from hunger and ever feeling the urge to eat junk food or even eat at all. I feel enabled to choose only to eat when I can savour the experience and the food.
State of the Keto tribe.
In the 21st century it feels like the diet you follow defines which tribe you belong to. Keto vs gluten-free vs vegan vs carnivore vs many others. There are surely some negative aspects to this yet there are positives too.
Whatever its virtues the keto diet presents a fair level of challenge to begin and stick to well. One needs to know the macronutrient content of foods, your personal carb tolerance and other foods that may knock you out of ketosis temporarily. Apps and gadgets, such as a ketone meter, can be helpful but also add their own initial learning curve. This is where a supportive community can help a lot.
London has a popular and active Keto London Meetup club that was meeting up monthly prior to COVID restrictions. There are also two active nationwide keto community Facebook groups (1, 2) that offer a lot of sharing and guidance that can help welcome new folks and provide inspiration for time-served vets. Hey, if there is not a keto meetup club in your area . . . maybe start one? Once restrictions lift, celebrate with a keto feast!
London now has a dedicated “Keto Restaurant” called exactly that serving only keto friendly meals. Within 2019 ‘Cut + Grind’ claimed to launch the first London Keto burger. To me this feels like a repeat of the growth of gluten-free options. First there were few, then many, then it almost became normal. Caveat that I know that I am very lucky to be in London where these things happen first and fast.
Most eateries including most high street chains continue to favour higher carb options and macronutrient info is rarely available for menu items. Regardless I find it rather easy to eat out so long as I can order ‘off menu’. Burger in a bun with fries? Sure, but please skip the bun and swap the fries for extra veggies and mayonnaise please? Many places are happy to accommodate this kind of request.
My approach is to respectfully share that I am on a keto diet, and ask would the chef very kindly be willing to make a few swaps? I am careful to be respectful rather than assume as I have respect for the effort and skill that has gone into the regular menu and the challenge for a kitchen of making lots of adjustments.
So with a bit of advance planning, and nutritional know-how, and ordering off-menu, it is now entirely possible to enjoy eating out. In theory at least. I write this during Tier IV covid lockdown!
In 2019 Planet Organic stores began featuring an ‘Easy Keto’ stand stocking only keto friendly foods like coconut oil, MCT oil, fat bombs and low carb snacks. There are dedicated online shops stocking only keto friendly food such as lowcarbfood.co and ketosource. In 2020 Ocado introduced Keto as a keyword and added a dedicated “The Keto Way” banner for a section of their store. It is delightfully eclectic. It has cauliflower and broccoli right alongside Atkins bars and Avocado Oil Mayonnaise. Love it.
For sure, dedicated “keto friendly” products are enjoying a sustained boom. This includes lots of keto-friendly snacks. Ironically, given their popularity, I find keto snacks are really not necessary. Once you are in regular ketosis and out of the blood glucose rollercoaster ride the need to ‘snack’ really vanishes. In place you have a constant supply of energy from your fat stores and do not need to “top up” with carby sugary drinks and snacks.
Still, if someone makes something that is delicious *and* keto-friendly I am very happy to sample. On this I simply *must* give tribute to the Nourish Coconutty bars. They are so freaking delicious that they just might be dangerous. Thankfully they are highly satiating too. Unlike say, Pringles, you can absolutely stop at one. Or even half. Mmmmm . . . <Coconutty Bar daydream, back in 5 minutes . . . . >
Most of the time though I follow a well formulated keto diet. This means using my daily carb allowance with as many cruciferous veggies, roots and alliums and colourful plants as I can. I think of it as a pact I am making with my gut bacteria. I will take care of them and they take care of me. Good deal little bacteria people!
Future for Keto?
2019 provided a fist pump worthy milestone of the NHS giving backing to a low-carb diet program intended for treatment of type 2 diabetes. Virta Health are using a carbohydrate restricted diet as a treatment to even reverse diabetes.
More and more evidence arrives supporting the use of ketogenic diets for multiple health benefits and not just short term weight loss. Hopefully this will help embed keto as a sustained trend rather than a shorter term fad.
I have other hopes for 2021 and beyond too. Allow me three wishes . . .
. . . well formulated ketogenic diets, stuffed with as many veggies as possible, becoming recognised as the benchmark to use when comparing to other diets
. . . growing recognition from government, medical and patient support charities that a ketogenic diet may offer an effective and sustainable template for some people to enjoy better health
. . . and not kidding, if Nourish like to bring out new keto-friendly companions to the Coconutty bar, I am absolutely at the front of the queue to taste-test them. At least once. For science.
Ending with a caution and an advert for my future self as a Nutritional Therapist. The one thing I would not suggest anyone do is begin a keto diet without support, knowledge and confidence. If you are thinking about it for the first time I absolutely encourage you to engage some expert help. Help to check whether it is right for you and if so how to do it well. It is not for everyone and there are better and worse ways to follow keto.
Wishing you wellness.