In our last post, we spoke about the importance of learning from each other’s experience. In today’s post, Lisa and Oli, two of the coaches at The Newer You, will be talking about their experience making the switch to low carb high fat. They’ll be describing how they felt directly after adopting this diet, and what they felt as their bodies began to adapt.
It takes effort and determination to improve our health. Oli and Lisa didn’t wake up healthier overnight. In this post they talk about some of the difficult days on the road to better health. While it’s not always sunshine and roses, the feeling of improvement is there and the results follow soon after.
What Led To The Switch
Before I personally began this process, I was totally frustrated.
At the time, I was preparing for a fitness competition and I had hired an expensive coach that I believed could get me where I wanted to be. I followed the diet I was given, and lost some weight. But I felt terrible, and progress was slow. I wasn’t making the gains I had hoped I would.
The diet became even more strict and my health was going down the tubes. I had no energy except from drinking 3 to 4 energy drinks a day. I worked out a lot, at least twice a day, almost obsessively. I was foggy and had no energy. My digestive tract was horrible, and I just didn’t feel well.
I tried to discuss this with my coach, and she said that it was normal. What?! Normal? How could feeling so tired and ill, so out of tune with my body, possibly be a standard and acceptable occurrence? How could it be anything but a signal that something was very wrong?
Some of you may have heard the same thing when speaking to professionals about how you feel following conventional dietary advice. They claim you just have to deal with it, while in the meantime you are being pushed to the edge. The only thing normal about it is the feeling of helplessness that it evokes!
After she said that, I quit and decided that I would go back to my status quo. It was better than what I was experiencing. Many of my clients have done the same thing before coming to me, victims of bad advice. They just don’t know what to do anymore, and give up, just as I did.
It was finding low-carb/high-fat that changed things for me. It took me far too long to find it, but I try not to be critical of myself. We all have to start somewhere.
Try and shake off the feelings of failure or frustration from the past as you prepare to move into this way of living.
My experiences with introducing people to Low-Carb/High-Fat eating has come down to one thing: fear.
Fear of eating what they have been told for years is a fad diet.
Fear of fat causing heart disease.
Fear of salt causing high blood pressure.
Fear of giving up carbs when they are literally everywhere.
Fear of everything related to this lifestyle.
I was not immune to that resistance by a long shot. For more than a year I studied up on LCHF. I read everything there was to know on how they were used as a weight loss tool, and as a medical intervention method for various diseases like diabetes and epilepsy.
My obsessive following of ketogenic focused Reddit boards and forums showed me that it was working for thousands of regular posters. Watching the results in real time was fascinating. People were changing their lives.
Yet, I continued eating the 50% “healthy” carb, low-fat diet I was being instructed to.
This continued even as I was making myself sick, cutting calories lower and lower, and seeing fewer and fewer results. As my skin started to break out and look grey, my hair started falling out, and my brittle nails kept breaking. As my brain refused to properly function, and I become tired all the time. Even as my mood took a major plunge and I had no control over my temper.
My story is not an uncommon one. I have encountered it many times from others, and still they are terrified to try something new. That is how ingrained the fear of fat and reliance on carbs has become in our society.
Taking baby steps to get over that fear is, in my experience, necessary to overcome it. The further you go, the less you will feel that anxiety, and the more wholeheartedly you will throw yourself into the exciting new change you have embraced.
Any nervousness you feel before getting started is pretty much a universal experience. Don’t let it put you off.
Week One: Eating Fat
The first week was tough as I grew accustomed to the changes I had made. But slowly I started to feel better. My mood lifted, my energy returned, my focus sharpened, and I no longer felt starved and deprived. This is something my clients also experience, and the difference is miraculous. It just takes a couple of days to adjust.
During this time, I would encourage you to do more research and educate yourself. I did, grabbing every article and book I could lay my hands on. I started cooking a lot, discovering delicious recipes on Pinterest and across the web. I read from people who had already been through the fogginess that comes in the beginning.
Knowing that my past experiences, as well as what I was currently feeling, were common really helped get me over the initial hump and stick with my new lifestyle. I’m so glad I did. The improvements that come once the discomfort passes are so worth it.
When the fog cleared, I couldn’t believe the energy that I had, especially as a woman in her 40’s. I couldn’t believe the mental clarity I gained. I didn’t know that I could feel that good. I even gave up all those energy drinks, even though I didn’t originally intend to do so.
Expect a couple of difficult days, followed by the biggest rush of positive benefits you could ever imagine.
I don’t think I have met anyone who has told me in the first few days, “Oh yeah, I feel great!” Actually, they feel awful, sick, and lethargic. They are irritable, are having digestive issues, maybe even headaches and joint pain. Constant hunger wars with nausea, and there is a brain fog that makes it hard to focus. All they want to do is sleep.
Welcome to the phenomenon known by many in the community as “Keto Flu”. It happens to pretty much everyone when they first begin, and it is totally normal. Your body is quickly burning through the glucose that it relies on for energy, while adjusting to a sudden surge in the amount of fat you are consuming. And it doesn’t like it.
When you hear people say they tried Low-Carb/High-Fat eating and it made them sick, this is almost always why. The Keto Flu can last anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks. It depends on the person who is experiencing it. But the average seems to be 3 – 5 days, and anything longer is usually a sign of salt, magnesium or potassium deficiency, all easily fixed.
I would recommend anyone facing symptoms to treat it like the regular flu. Get plenty of rest, don’t worry about exercising until it passes, and drink plenty of fluids. Use an over the counter painkiller as needed. Drink bone broth for headaches and energy, as your electrolytes can plummet (don’t drink sports drinks).
Most importantly, if you feel hungry, eat! Don’t worry about the calories, just make sure you are keeping your carbs low, protein moderate, and having plenty of fat. Your appetite will regulate itself as your body gets used to your new diet.
Weeks Two – Three: Burning Fat
This is the ‘getting to know your body’ portion of the process, which includes the days mentioned in the section above. You may feel a bit sluggish at the start, until that breakthrough we talked about.
I drank a ton of water, and I advise all of my clients to do the same. I also suggest the increased consumption of salt, either by adding it to food, taking tablets, or drinking bone broth. You don’t realize how much salt you need, which you usually get from processed foods like bread and pasta.
Look at anything in your kitchen that is processed. If you haven’t thrown it all in the trash yet, do it. As a comfort when I don’t feel well, I’ve always liked soup. I bought miso soup from Trader Joe’s, and drank a lot of it. It helped so much, and is a simple way to get past the headaches, fatigue and queasiness that come in the beginning.
Use the first week or two to introduce yourself to new recipes. Or just enjoy the many foods now open to you that weren’t before. For example, have some bacon, eat eggs fried in butter, and get used to cooking with coconut oil.
By now, the Keto Flu should have lifted, and you should feel yourself coming out the other side. More energy is common, as is a slowly decreasing appetite. The food you eat fills you up faster and longer, due to the higher fat content. Your cravings for sugar should also be going away, but maybe not entirely.
If you find yourself wanting to cheat, resist it. You are entering into nutritional ketosis, and anything you eat with high carbs is going to reverse the process. That means you will have to go through that whole icky period all over again.
Hopefully by now, you will also be seeing some changes in your body. Less bloating, your skin will begin improving, your hair becoming more shiny, your nails more thick. You may also see a serious drop in weight as the water is released from your body, though the scale is not a great indicator of progress.
Weeks Four and Beyond: Becoming The Newer You
WOW! You won’t believe how good feel at this point. The benefits that started in the first couple of weeks will have increased now, and become common place. Your energy will be through the roof, without energy drinks or caffeine. It’s your natural state, now. It’s mental clarity and focus all day, every day.
This was all so new for me when it happened that I didn’t even know how to process it. I had chased diet strategies for years, but it was unsatisfying and uneffective. I didn’t feel well, or enjoy food. Once I switched to low-carb/high-fat I was loving my meals again, listening to my body, and finally living the way I wanted to.
I was working out a lot at that point, as I was training for a competition. But it was far less than my previous coach had advised, and I was still losing body fat and lifting weights like never before. I was stronger, and felt amazing.
Suffice to say, I really broke all the rules that fitness experts have been swearing by. But I am never going back to my old ways. I just feel too good, and I am happy to say that even my most active clients feel the same way.
This is the period where you should be getting fat adapted, which means your body is growing accustomed to running on fat. You should feel more energetic, more clear headed, and just better. It is usually about now people start to really notice the changes in their body becoming evident.
You may also start to notice sudden spikes and drops in appetite. Some days you don’t feel like eating more than a meal. Other days you will be ravenous, and will want to eat more. Follow those instincts. Remember that you are eating intuitively now. Your body knows what it needs, and you should listen.
I recommend that my clients track carbs, fat and protein in the first six weeks to get accustomed to what meals should look like, and balancing it all properly. Once that has become second nature, the tracking can be dropped. Calorie tracking is optional; while I don’t believe it is necessary, some people will feel more comfortable seeing that the boost in fat consumption doesn’t impact their calories negatively,
You can increase your vegetable intake to give you more filling fiber, but make sure you are eating low carb veggies like spinach, broccoli, lettuce and kale. Don’t neglect those fats! Butter, olive oil, eggs, full fat cheeses, coconut oil, avocado, heavy cream, fatty meats…all of these are perfect for your hungry days.
Don’t Give Up!
As you can see, the process takes some time and patience. You may feel ill in the beginning, and learning to both eat properly and listen to your body will take some effort. You might make mistakes, and have to readjust to find what works for you.
Just keep moving forward! It is worth it, and the way you will feel once you have adapted to burning fat will be better than you ever thought possible.