Since May 2017, I have been following a ketogenic diet. Beginning in July 2017, I started practicing intermittent fasting (fasting either 16-20 hours daily most business days, when I felt like it). I stopped eating after a 5 or 6 PM dinner on intermittent fasting days, and did not eat until noon-2 PM the next day. I drank black coffee and water. I am not rigid about fasting. I listen to my body, and I am kind to myself. Most recently, in July of 2018, I added extended or therapeutic fasting to help reset my body’s set point and to help improve some other health concerns I have due to a family history.
All of this has resulted in nearly 50 pounds of weight loss.
Why did I start keto?
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Though I was just slightly overweight at the time, I worked out several days a week with a trainer and ate a vegetarian diet. I was always hungry. It was a lot of work to stay at that slightly overweight weight.
My doctor initially did not want to test me for PCOS because, as he said, “You are not obese. Women with PCOS are usually really obese.” I insisted he test me because I had many of the other symptoms. Sure enough, he said my test results were textbook PCOS.
Over time, I gained weight. A lot of weight. I became obese. Though I was confident in my own skin, that excess weight started to contribute to some scary symptoms. Most of my weight was the most dangerous kind – all around my tummy. In fact, my waist circumfrence was more than twice my height in inches. A huge risk factor.
I was on two blood pressure medications. I developed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I was insulin resistant. I was pre-diabetic. I was on the fast-track to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in my thirties. I had 15-20 migraines per month. I had a chronic rash/hives on my face. My dad, a physician, had a frank conversation with me about my health and his exact words were, “You need to lose a significant amount of weight.” Not for vanity reasons, but for my health. His words were informed and frank. He explained what all of these things were setting me up for. Lots of health problems.
I remember saying, “But I have PCOS! I already eat healthily. I can’t lose weight.” I remember him saying something like I had to change the excuse and I might need to try another way of eating to lose weight for my PCOS. I also remember him saying to stop feeling sorry for myself.
I did not do this for vanity. I did this because my health literally depended on it. The inconvenience of changing my diet paled in comparison to the prognosis if I continued down the path I was going.
So I did what I do: I looked at the scholarly literature. I found a couple of articles about the efficacy of a ketogenic diet for women with PCOS. I personally think for people without metabolic syndromes, there are a variety of ways to lose weight effectively. I think for people with metabolic syndromes like PCOS, ketogenic and fasting are the most effective. My friend Casey helped me find some resources to study and learn about keto.
A lot of people tell me they wish they could have my self-discipline. I think they need to reframe their statement. For me, it was not about self-discipline, it was about liking myself. I like myself enough, that each time I picked up my fork, I had to make a choice. Did I like myself enough to eat food that would nourish my body? Or was I eating comfort food instead of going to people for comfort? Often, my relationship with food was unhealthy because I was sad, stressed, or lonely. I had to change the inner dialogue. Each time I pick up my fork, I have to make a conscious decision that I am valuable and must take care of myself. I think a lot of people don’t like themselves. I think a lot of people don’t think they are valuable. But they are!
What were my results?
It is the first diet where I did not feel hungry all of the time.
I no longer have fatty liver disease (confirmed by an ultrasound and lab work). I am no longer on blood pressure meds (was able to stop those two months in). My chronic neck, back, and knee pain are so much better. Instead of 15-20 migraines per month, I have about two migraines per month. Since adding extended fasting, I have noticed that my luteal phase defect is improving. My cycle is predictable. That painful rash on my face is completely gone. My keloids are gone! Fasting also seems to calm my interstitial cystitis flare-ups. And, I have lost 46 pounds. I was obese and now I am not. Today, I can run without knee pain. My skin has fewer wrinkles. I’ve gone from a tight size 12 to a size 6.
Cognitively, I am no longer in a fog. I have a ton more energy and stamina than before. My mood is evener.
I no longer deal with stress by eating. I don’t feel the urge to go to food when I am lonely or sad. And instead of rewarding myself with a cupcake, I reward myself with things like running shoes.
About 10 times per week, I get asked for keto resources. Next up, I’ll write about my favorite keto resources.