Is it too dramatic to say my life is forever improved, with just one simple lifestyle change? Because it certainly feels that way, and I've been telling anyone who will listen!
Last June, I was feeling frustrated. Something was "off" and I couldn't figure out what was going on. Unexplained weight gain and bloating that after 6 months of eating (what I thought was) super healthy and working out a ton, and my body wasn't responding. I felt sluggish, I felt swollen and I really didn't like being so out of tune with my body - something was wrong. Not knowing what else to do, I reached out to a friend and health expert for some recipes. The meal plan she sent me followed essentially one rule: only eat 50 carbs per day. A banana has approx. 27 carbs, the tortillas I had been eating have 55, a cup of black beans has 116. So in order to meet my allowance, I cut ALL grains, bread, oats, rice and legumes. (I only eat meat, dairy, veggies and some fruits) The diet is similar to "keto" (which is super popular right now), it just has a slightly higher carb allowance.
If it sounds like torture, I totally hear you. Bread has always been my favorite. But honestly I like the food I eat now so much better! Things I normally would've considered "off limits" I can eat all I want, and my cravings for bread totally went away. But here's the important thing: bread is not worth how sick I was before. And not eating it healed my body in some seriously intense - and unexpected - ways:
1. Healed hypoglycemia
Thanks to genetics, I've been chronically hypoglycemic since childhood. It's similar to diabetes in that your body can't manage it's own blood sugar (mine constantly crashed, I couldn't go 2 hours without desperately needing a snack), but it's also the opposite because you produce too much insulin, versus not enough. Hypoglycemia is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes, and to put it in perspective: after just 2 weeks on a trip in 2012 without access to healthy foods, I developed diabetes. (Which thankfully went away when I returned home to my usual diet.)
I won't lie, the first two weeks of keto were terrible. I had the "low carb flu," and felt super weak like a deflated balloon. And then after that... the fog lifted. My sugar crashes went completely away! I felt like a new human, and was sure I must have diabetes because I felt so good (diabetes has serious long term affects but you can't feel it moment-to-moment the way you can hypoglycemia). A visit to my doctor and blood work confirmed that my blood sugar was in fact perfect and I had accidentally healed the #1 thing that ailed me everyday. I will always be at high risk for diabetes thanks to genetics, but keeping your blood sugar steady is healthy for everyone, and is the best way to ensure it never happens to me again!
2. No more migraines
I was taking Aleve almost daily for migraines, which I always believed to be linked to hypoglycemia. Turns out "heal the blood sugar crashes, heal the migraines" because I've barely had any since I switched!
3. Discovered a gluten allergy/intolerance
During the holidays I cheated on my diet twice. And while I haven't been tested yet, I'm 99% sure I have an allergy or at least an intolerance to gluten. A handful of non-digestive symptoms (sore throat, fatigue, canker sores that won't heal) have been plaguing me off and on for three years. Symptoms appeared within hours of eating flour, and went away with healthy eating. So relieved to have solved this mystery! (My canker sores would get so bad that it felt like a toothache, and the pain would spread up my face.)
4. Lost weight
Healing my health was numero uno, but there has been another unexpected benefit: it changed the appearance of my body. I have not worked out since I changed my diet (something I'm adding back in in 2018), but I lost a lot of weight. A lot of that was a constantly bloated stomach from eating gluten, but some was body fat, too. If you are looking for a weight management diet, keto seems to be a good solution for that as well!
The moral of the story: listen to your body. I never realized how much what we eat is manifested in our daily health! And find out what works specifically for you. My diet definitely may not be the right formula for what your body needs, or be your cup of tea. That's okay. Just please don't try a new diet without the supervision of a doctor. And if something is ailing you, it just might be food-related! You never know!
My Keto Survival Tips
- Make a double batch of this zucchini lasagna to get through the initial low-carb flu
- Fast food picks: Five Guys lettuce wrap burgers or Jimmy John's Unwhich. YUM!
- When you want dessert: make your own ice cream with just one ingredient, bananas!
- Homemade marinara, because store bought is loaded with carbs, and homemade is SO much better, I'm never going back!
- No one will ever know these gooey chocolate peppermint cookies are gluten-free
- When you are seriously craving bread: these bacon cheddar biscuits
- Roast some cauliflower and then use it as a base instead of carbs - think loaded baked potato, nachos, you name it. You can indulge in all the toppings, and cauliflower is a good base!
- Another good base is zoodles - zucchini noodles. Buy a spiralizer and go to town!
- Just keep reminding yourself: bread might be off-limits, but you can have all the bacon and cheese you want! That's all this girl needs.
What are your keto recipes or tricks? Please share them in comments below!!