Ketosis: A Story of Accidental Love
I’ve been hearing about ketosis for many years; first by way of the (in)famous Atkins diet, and then via other avenues. Even though I did not read about it deeply, I stayed largely skeptical. Like many others, I thought that getting into ketosis required restricting one’s diet to butter layered with cream over huge pieces of steak. To me, that was decidedly unappetizing. Then recently, a few months after I started following my “Japanese Diet”, which involved no steaks or cream, but lots of fish, green vegetables and (yes) butter, I accidently stumbled into ketosis. I realized two important things: (1) I LOVE how it makes me feel, (2) I could get into it WITHOUT huge dietary restrictions that most people think it requires. Here is my story.
As part of my “Japanese Diet”, I was eating mostly fish, green vegetables, brown rice and other whole grains, and some fruit. After a few months of this delicious eating, I made two changes: (1) I started doing intermittent fasting (15–16 hours 3–4 times a week) and (2) I reduced rice, bread and fruit to very small quantities (1 serving of either per day). I have done this, because I wanted to feel better, less tired. In fact, my Japanese hairdresser told me he could not do anything about my meek-looking hair unless I started eating better. So (thank you, Hiroshi), this was my attempt to eat more nutritionally dense food. By reducing consumption of things like bread and rice, I was planning to make more room for things like green vegetables (kale, asparagus, Brussels sprouts) and fatty fish (like these delicious sardines).
And then… interesting things started happening. First, I realized that I was not hungry for lunch. That was unusual. Before, lunch was essential. I could not focus on work unless I ate lunch. Now I simply did not need it.
Then, I experienced amazing mental clarity. I can’t say my brain was foggy before, but this was clarity on a whole new level. Others started noticing too. Unexpectedly for a sleep-deprived mother of a one-year-old, I began receiving comments like “good eye” or “great job catching that”.
As a lucky coincidence, at around the same time I heard several of Joe Rogan’s podcasts that mentioned reduced hunger and increased mental clarity as results of ketosis. I was hooked.
After reading a bit more about ketosis, I strongly suspected that this was the reason for the sensations I experienced, but I had to know for sure. So I got this device on Amazon that measures ketones in breath, and that (according to users who also used a blood meter) is as accurate as the conventional device that requires drawing blood. The measurements confirmed my suspicion: I was in full-blown ketosis. My typical ketone measurements ranged from 0.8 to 1.9, only occasionally falling below 0.5 (ketosis begins at 0.5 and above).
There are many stories on the Internet from people who experienced ketosis and the benefits they derived. The reason why I share my story is that there is a slightly different twist to it: getting into ketosis, for me, did not require making hard or unhealthy sacrifices. Most ketosis protocols suggest restricting carbohydrates to only 20 grams a day. This leaves little room for eating vegetables, let alone fruit. In contrast, I eat more than 50 grams of carbs on most days. A typical day is 70–80 grams of carbohydrates, and one day a week I may consume more than 100. I am a small person, so this ends up being 1.5–2 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight.
In addition to fish, cheese and other “keto-safe” items, my diet includes green vegetables (asparagus, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts) consumed in large quantities, colored vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers, and occasional fruit, bread and dark chocolate. In other words, contrary to popular belief, my diet does not feel very restricted or unhealthy.
I think one reason ketosis was possible for me without harsh restrictions is intermittent fasting (or time-restricted eating). I now eat during a 5-hour window (19 hours between meals). I tried skipping dinner, but found this socially difficult, so now I skip breakfast and lunch and eat dinner (and a snack before it). This is easy, since I am in ketosis. I found there was a positive cycle: eating less often helped me get into ketosis, and being in ketosis made it easier to restrict eating to a small number of hours per day.
The idea that there is more than one way to achieve ketosis is not new, and was explained before by the author of Keto Clarity. Having experienced this first-hand, I consider myself very lucky. If only the promise of ketosis-induced eternal youth came to be real…