9 months on a ketogenic diet. Wow. In some ways, it feels like just yesterday I started this way of eating. In other ways, it seems like forever ago that I was in that old body with all those debilitating symptoms. In the beginning, I mentally committed to at least 90 days because I knew it takes at least that long to become very well adapted to a ketogenic diet. The results have been so dramatic that I’ve gone three times as long as my original commitment with no plans of stopping.
So what’s new?
A lot is new: weight lifting, podcast interview, thoughts on cravings, hair regrowth, and more. And a lot is the same: weight loss maintained, normalized blood pressure and blood sugar, all the other health improvements, and my 90 Day keto challenge programs.
Ongoing Health and Symptom Improvements
Here is a recap of the health improvements I’ve experienced over the last 9 months:
- Normalized blood pressure
- No more metabolic syndrome
- Normalized liver function
- Normal fasting blood glucose (went from 96 to 70)
- 70% drop in inflammation (C-reactive protein)
- Only one migraine headache in the last 9 months (before keto I was having multiple migraines each month that lasted 6 days each)
- Chronic leg pain is almost completely gone
- Leg swelling almost complete gone
- Memory and mental acuity are at pre-accident level
- Energy is fantastic (one year ago I was bedridden from extreme fatigue)
- Sleep has dramatically improved, both in quality and circadian rhythm
- Urinary incontinence is gone
- Athlete’s foot is nearly gone
- Toe nail fungus is dying
- Sugar, carb, and fast food cravings are gone
- Depression and mood is greatly improved
- Skin appearance and texture is so soft and smooth
- Cardiovascular exercise endurance is unbelievable
- Resting heart rate has dropped from high 80s to 60s
- Heat intolerance is gone
- Physical clumsiness and dropping things is almost gone
- Motivation is through the roof
- Light and noise intolerance is gone
- Sense of ease, calm, peace (lack of anxiety)
- Obesity is gone
- Central abdominal obesity gone
- Ability to return to work full-time
- TMJ gone!
My diet remains pretty much the same and you can see what I eat by following me on Instagram here. For the most part, I don’t weigh or measure my food at this point because I’ve learned what foods and portions fit my keto macros. I did decide to do a dairy-free month, however.
Dairy-free month. Personally, I started to notice my consumption of heavy whipping cream was increasing over time and that each time I had some, it never felt like it was enough. I started having obsessive thoughts about how I could get more, so I decided it was time to take a break from it. This coincided with my 20 year old son (he’s keto, too) expressing his desire to do a dairy-free month, as well. He tends toward cystic acne that he has identified in the past was triggered by dairy, so prior to keto he mostly avoided it. He decided to try dairy again when he went keto about 7 months ago, to see if the tendency for keto to dramatically reduce inflammation would mediate or prevent his normal reaction to dairy. At first, he did not seem to have his normal cystic acne breakouts, and he still doesn’t. However he wants to take his keto diet to the next level and cut out dairy to see if it will completely eliminate all acne (and my guess is that it likely will).
Keto without dairy is a challenge, however it is not impossible. I’m exploring dairy-free keto friendly foods, like Kite Hill cheese, Go Veggie cream cheese, and Epic Bars, plus some homemade recipes, so stay tuned for updates, new recipes, and product reviews.
Hiking and Lifting Weights
A few weeks ago, I was able to go hiking for the first time since the car accident. It had been 2.5 years since I’d gone hiking. It was a milestone, for sure. What was most impressive for me was my level of cardiovascular endurance. Previously, any time I’d go hiking, I would experience pretty significant hypoglycemia symptoms (like feeling delirious and lightheaded at the end) if I didn’t have a high carb snack along the way. This time I not only didn’t need a snack at all, but I also hadn’t even eaten breakfast. And we hiking for over 2 hours. I felt strong and energetic. And after the hike was over, I had thoughts of going for another walk. It was the feeling of tapping into my body’s ample supply of fat energy. It was glorious!
I also decided to start lifting weights and settled on the 5×5 stronglifts program. I joined my local no-frills gym and really enjoyed the feeling of challenging my muscles. Soon I noticed though that lifting weights three times per week suddenly brought my appetite roaring back. This freaked me out a bit, so I took a break from the gym to do a little investigation. After all I could from /ketogains on Reddit and Facebook, I came to the conclusion that I was dramatically under-eating calories (even when following my appetite) for the workouts I was doing and would actually need to go back to monitoring my intake to ensure I was getting enough calories on workout days. Since I have a trip to Phoenix planned a couple of weeks, I decided to hold off on my 5X5 workouts until I return and can adequately monitor my food intake.
Guest on Ketovangelist Podcast
A few weeks ago I had the honor of being a guest on The Ketovangelist podcast. It was really fun talking to Brian and sharing the story of my health transformation, plus some insight into what it is like working as a nutritionist while following a diet that goes against what mainstream nutrition says is health. Take a listen if you haven’t yet.
Over the last 3 months, my weight has been fairly stable, as well as my body fat percentage and measurements. There is a theory that your body remembers past weights that it was at for any significant period of time and tries to maintain that weight, which can result in plateaus. My body may just really like this weight (mid to low 160s). Or I might be consuming too much dairy, which equates to too many calories and/or extra inflammation. I shall continue to watch and see what happens. This does show that this way of eating is sustainable, however, since I don’t really track or measure my food any more.
September to February. Comparing measurements from September (pictured top right) to February (bottom right) I’ve lost nearly 1 inch on some measurements (chest, calf, bicep), almost nothing on my hips, but almost 2 inches on my waist.
December to February. My body’s measurements were pretty much the same when comparing December (middle picture on bottom; last time I took measurements) to February (picture on bottom right), which confirms that my body is in a holding pattern of weight maintenance.
Health Issues Improving
No more TMJ?!? So I hadn’t even reported on this in the past, but I just noticed two days ago that the former popping in my jaw is gone. I can open and close my jaw with ease, without any popping or locking. While this wasn’t something that I experienced any pain with, it was a sign of something not working correctly in my body. Another keto surprise benefit.
Hair regrowth. During the time that I was losing weight, my head shed a lot of hair. After researching this, I found that it is quite common on ANY diet where a person losing a significant amount of weight. I also found that there weren’t any supplements that counteracted this (research showed biotin supplementation, for example, was no more effective than waiting it out). It seems that weight loss is a significant stressor on the body in what ever form it takes. So it seems that as my weight loss has stopped, my hair has begun to regrow. I have about 1.5 – 2 inches of regrowth everywhere on my head. It makes for interesting extra fluff to style, but I’m happy to report that keto doesn’t make your hair fall out long term.
Athlete’s foot and nail fungus update. At one point I reported that my athlete’s foot of 10 years had gone away, but it seems to be dying a slow death. It is no longer occupying the bottom of my foot (no scaly, peeling skin there at all), but I have a small patch that has moved up onto the top of my foot and my little toes. It’s quite odd, as it seems to be moving in a wave, trying to run away from the ketone bodies, but it can’t escape. Athlete’s foot fungus is notoriously hard to kill, even with the strongest pharmaceuticals, so it is interesting to see how it is dying off with keto. And my nail fungus (which I think I also erroneously declared gone after a month) has grown out about one quarter of the length of my nail, so it too is dying a very slow death. I hope it’s painful, too. Well, not painful for me (which it’s not), but a slow, painful death for fungus just sounds like the stuff of a B horror movie.
No gas. This may be TMI, but I never fart. OK, almost never: when I add a lot of high-fiber seeds like chia, that can cause a little gas the next day, but a very small amount. And when I tried out Quest’s powdered MCT oil for travel last month, it caused a little gas and bloating initially, which I’m attributing to the small amount of corn fiber it contains. All of this “no gas” stuff is actually old news, but something I just realized that I hadn’t mentioned here. Keto is really great for getting rid of bacterial overgrowth (the wrong kinds in the wrong place, and too much of the wrong kind) in intestines.
Normal resting heart rate. A year ago, and for a very long time before that, my resting heart rate had always been in the high 80s. I’ve never been a super fit person aerobically, but even when I was in “better shape” my heart rate always remained in the mid- to high-80s. While at my endocrinologists office, I discovered that my resting heart rate is now about 68 – 70 beats per minute. Wow! It dropped about 20 points over last year. Now some might jump on this and say, “Well, you lost all that weight. Of course your heart rate dropped.” And to that I would say, no, I’ve been this weight in the past and even then my heart rate was in the 80s.
And others may say, “Oh, well you’re working out now, so you’re in better cardiovascular shape.” No, no, I’m not doing much “cardio” at all, so the drop in heart rate has nothing to do with being in better cardiovascular shape. At least by the standard idea of training hard, doing lots of exercises that make you breath hard so your body gets more efficient at carrying oxygen to your tissues idea of cardiovascular shape.
And still others may say, “Aha! That keto diet slowed down your metabolism!” Which may be partially true. However, since I’m not constantly freezing (in fact I still run warmer than most people around me), I would disagree that my drop in heart rate is due primarily to slowed metabolism. I would argue that since my body is using fuel more efficiently, as evidenced by the anecdote I shared above about hiking and treadmill walking, my heart does not need to pump as furiously to get oxygen and nutrients to my tissues.
Chronic Leg Pain
The chronic leg pain (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS) that I was suffering from after my car accident of 2014 did lift pretty quickly after I started keto. However, most recently as I’ve become more physically active with hiking and weight training, I am being reminded that there is still damage and scar tissue in my legs. Whereas before keto, if I would do ANY increased activity, like even sitting without my legs elevated, I would have extreme swelling and pain to the point that it would interfere with my sleep. Now as I resume hiking and begin lifting weights, I notice after that my legs feel tight (instead of swollen) and tender to the touch (allodynia, which means pain upon non-painful stimulus to the skin, which is a remnant of CRPS and sign of nerve damage). And when my massage therapist has worked my leg muscles, there is considerable pain with deeper work. But knowing where I was almost 2 years ago, I am very grateful I’m not back there!
I continue to have issues with sleep (central apnea) as I reported a few months ago. I’ve been working with a wonderful chiropractor as well as a massage therapist to properly align my neck and spine, and it has been helping. My sleep is improving, but I still continue to have issues with hypnoapnea early in the morning, which prevents me from getting optimal sleep. All of my doctors have said that central apnea is hard to treat, which is similar to what I was told about my neuro and endocrine symptoms after my car accident. And since I found a solutions for that (yay, keto!), I’m not giving up hope on resolving my central apnea. I’ve added chlorophyll with the idea that increasing my blood’s oxygen carrying capacity may help. And I continue to work with my primary Naturopathic Doctor as well as my Naturopathic Endocrinologist as we delve into the genetic medicine and nutrition of methylation defects.
How about you?
What health improvements have you noticed after following a ketogenic diet?