Summer can bring up a lot of negative feelings towards our bodies. This is the prime time to be targeted by ad campaigns that shame us into feeling like we need a certain body type to wear certain summer clothes. Which we know is bulls^&*.
In light of this, I want to give you a little reminder to you that you should celebrate your body, no matter what it looks like, regardless of whatever anyone tries to shame you into feeling. Your body is your home, and with your mind body connection, you are a fearless, powerful women.
Can we please keep pushing momentum towards the women empowerment movement? A huge part of this is being respected and treated equally as others, but another important part of it is also to not let others dictate what we should think of ourselves or what we should and shouldn’t look like.
I am asking you to challenge yourself and your thoughts on this topic. Put on that dress, outfit, bikini whatever, and OWN IT. Don’t put it back in the closet and say “I will wear it someday”. Wear it today.
Let’s celebrate ourselves and our bodies and minds because we are kickass! Let’s stop denying that of ourselves, it is truly an empowering and inspiring feeling to be on your own side.
Here are a few ways to start:
Where a bikini or whatever swimsuit you want – If you want to wear the bikini, wear it! If you want to wear the one piece, wear it and wear it with confidence! It is hot out there woman, let yourself enjoy some sun in whatever you want to wear, just remember to put on sunscreen. Have y’all seen Ashley Graham’s swimsuit campaign? It gives me all the feels. Check it out here.
Hula Hoop in the Rain – Hula hooping is an awesome, full body low impact workout (insert link to last weeks blog) that is a ton of fun. There is something about the connection we form with our body while being able to keep a hoop in the air in unison with our bodies movements. Try in the rain for a spiritual-like experience, or just throw on your favorite music and hoop it up! They also make weighted hula hoops if you are looking to modify this into an even more intense workout.
Meditate in the Sunshine – Meditating is crucial. Elevate this experience by sitting in the sunshine, or on a bench in the middle of the woods. Focus on feeling your breath through your entire body to really engage the mind-body connection. This is a great way to increase your Vitamin D and gain peace of mind after a long workday.
Walk in the Sun – Movement + sunshine is a great way to take care of your body: Vitamin D! Bonus; a connection with nature! I find that sunshine strolls are a great time to practice gratitude, not only for the things in my life but for my bodies ability to move and carry me throughout these strolls.
Exercising – Exercising is basically giving our body positive fuel to maintain itself. By giving our body exercise, we are increasing our mental strength and are able to see in action our bodies capabilities which is so fulfilling. Don’t look at it as a punishment but as a reward for your body.
Have a Photoshoot – Boudoir shoots are becoming more mainstream since the explosion of the body positive movement. I seriously recommend this as a way to view your body in a new light. Photographers are talented people, and with their help and your body, you can be exposed and forced to look at your body in a different way. This can also help you become more confident in your poses and physical body.
Look in the Mirror – Check yourself out! I went so many years without looking in a mirror if I was passing by because I was scared to see something I didn’t like, and I didn’t feel confident catching my appearance off guard like that. Don’t be afraid to check yourself out, take a moment to reflect on the things (try identifying at least 3) about your body that you love versus what you don’t like.
Be Positive Towards Other Women – We are in a culture that makes us believe we can only feel good about ourselves by putting another person down. Don’t post that negative comment on someone’s instagram or gossip about another body. Give a compliment to a stranger and watch your own self-esteem rise. If we identify positive things about others it becomes easier to see them within ourselves.
Take a second and give yourself a hug and share a moment of gratitude for yourself. It is so hard knowing the things we as women say to ourselves that are just mean, cruel and astounding. Replace that negativity with love and watch how much more time and love you can give to other things in your life that are more important than your physical appearance.
Usually, when we think of weight loss, we think of work. We picture dumbbells, ellipticals, squat racks.
But – as most of our community knows – I am my most happiest when I am not slaving away at the gym everyday. It isn’t fun and it feels like work. To top it off, it is not the most efficient way to lose weight!
However, I am also my most happiest when I am engaging in physical activity. It makes me feel more energetic, confident, strong, and inspired. Over the years I have found a way to be really fit without being a total gym rat (balance!), and it is a huge reason I am able to maintain my weight management goals. In this post I show you how you can do it, too. The best way to achieve harmony with your body (and contribute to your weightloss goals) is by combining a low level activity that you love with a handful of high intensity exercises throughout the week. Balance! Summer is a perfect time to get in touch with outdoor activities that are actually fun but are also a workout.
How Much Should You Exercise?
I recommend that you try a low-level activity, like one mentioned in the list below, combined with one or two high intensity interval exercises and one strength training session a week to fully maximise your bodies potential. This will totally help you optimize your free time as well as health benefits, further contributing to a healthy balanced life!
It is important to give yourself the amount of exercise that your body needs. What does that look like? We really need to be intune with how much is too much, but we also need to not sell ourselves short. If you are obese, overweight, or ill, start as slowly as you need. The important part here is to just start. As you start slowly and continue, you will be able to achieve more weight and health goals overtime.
Best Summer Exercising Activities
There are literally a ton of ways to combine socialization, nature and its positive effects, and exercise with summer activities. You are capable of killing three health beneficial activities with one stone! This is why we all love warmer weather, right? I absolutely love doubling up on tasks by doing things like going on a walk with a friend to catch up, or getting competitive with some corn hole.
Any of the following would be considered at least a low impact activity that you can also do outside. These can definitely be modified to be a high intensity workout depending on the conditions.
- Kayaking or canoeing
- Lawn games like cornhole or bocce ball
- Outdoor yoga
- Climbing trees
- Tossing a frisbee or ball
- Hula hooping
High Intensity Workouts
- Interval Sprinting
- Interval Biking
- HIIT Classes
- Spin Classes
What to Eat
Seasonal produce is the best in the summer, there is a huge plethora of delicious fresh foods in season, not to mention it’s also grilling season.
Check out my post here on the best kabob recipes, and this post on what produce is in season right now.
I am a big fan of salads during the summer; they’re easy to throw together and you can combine so many different toppings to make it a superfood salad. My favorite right now is throwing arugula in a bowl with salmon, persian cucumbers, broccoli sprouts, seaweed and tahini for an asian style salad. The fat from the tahini combined with the protein from the salmon keeps me full and it’s super easy to throw this together.
If you are looking for more ways to reach your weight loss goals, check out my program, Weight Loss Unlocked here.
For more resources on healthy weight loss, check out my list of resources available here.
MCT oil has been a big deal in the paleosphere since bulletproof coffee surfaced as the new wellness trend.
While I’m not a huge fan of dosing myself with caffeine and fat while fasting (in fact, I never do it), I do really believe that MCT oil can have some great benefits. I use it while cooking sometimes (this is my fave). This is because MCT Oil may be able to surpass coconut oil for its nutritional, physical and cognitive benefits.
What is MCT Oil?
MCT’s, or Medium Chain Triglycerides, are a form of fat that is digested differently than an LCT (long chain triglycerides) or SCT (short chain triglycerides). (For more detail on the molecule content, click here.) They’re unique because short chain and long chain triglycerides are metabolized in the digestive system. MCT’s are metabolized in the liver for faster, cleaner conversion to energy or ketones. Ketones are the highly valued component in the ketogenic diet.
While I am not the biggest fan of ketosis, ketones can be wonderful.
4 types of MCT
There are four types of MCT’s, distinguished by carbon content.
C6 – Caproic Acid : is one type of MCT, the shortest of the medium chain triglycerides. This MCT is known as the MCT behind “disaster pants” or a negative digestive side effect resulting in immediate bouts of diarrhea.
C8 – Caprylic Acid : This MCT contains 8 carbon molecules. Because of the smaller amount of carbon content, C8 is easily transferred metabolized into ketones in the liver resulting in instantaneous bursts of energy.
C10 – Capric Acid : This MCT contains ten carbons. The addition of two extra carbons means the MCT reaction is more delayed in the body than C8, but still faster than C12.
C12 – Lauric Acid : The longest of the medium chain triglycerides, C12 is also closest to resembling the molecular structure of an LCT. Like C10, C12 is digested in the liver the slowest, and ketone production can only occur if you are on a low carb diet.
If you are interested in learning how MCT oil is actually made, check out this article.
Why are people using MCT oil to begin with?
- Eliminating Brain Fog
Because the carbon content of these triglycerides is less than that of their shorter and longer cousins, they are digested faster and more readily resulting in a more immediate release of energy and clarity. In addition, MCT’s do not require additional energy to digest or be metabolized in the body, so the energy you receive from consuming MCT’s can immediately turn over into a clean form of energy.
With all the commotion regarding ketogenic diets these days, MCT’s have been put in the spotlight as commonly seen as an important partner for those on the ketosis diet. Many people who try to do ketosis focus on MCT oil because it further helps their body build up ketone levels in the blood. Interestingly enough, eating a low or zero carb diet, contrary to popular opinion, is not necessary to have ketones in the blood, exactly because you can achieve the same effect from MCT oil. To read more about this ‘shortcut,’ check out this post.
- Gut and Skin health
MCT’s containing Lauric Acid (from coconut oil) are known to be antiviral and antibacterial. This has led researchers to believe that MCT’s can contribute to healthy gut flora by stabilizing the bad bacteria. The derivative of Lauric Acid, Monolaurin, has shown antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungi and viruses. Lauric Acid is also known to have anti-inflammatory properties against acne. This combined with its antimicrobial properties make it a great supplement to promote a healthy gut reduce inflammation.
- Weight Loss
This is a debated topic amongst MCT consumers. Many believe that MCT aids in weight loss, and several studies conducted contribute to this mindset. This study compared individuals using LCT vs MCT and in the course of 4, 8, and 12 weeks demonstrated that those ingesting MCT’s “lost more subcutaneous fat than their counterparts using only LCT.” A lot of this can be attributed to the satiety produced by consuming MCT’s resulting in less consumption of food overall. This inhibits our leptin receptors which also may lead to increased overall satiety. Curious regarding the other ways leptin affects us? Check out this post here.
(I happen to have a program for healthy and sustainable weight loss if you’re into that sort of thing, which you can check out here!)
How to Use it
MCT can be found in coconut and palm oils and high fat dairy products, but is most commonly used in a liquid form, like this one that I have been using. Mixing with coffee or tea in the morning is a common and effortless way to ingest the MCT’s. Start small first, and work your way up to the recommended dose. My friends say a good way to start is by putting a teaspoon in coffee, but I mainly stick to using it in food as that can have less digestive effects. If you do use the coffee method, I recommend consistently stirring or whisking your coffee or tea, as the oil can congeal towards the top of your beverage.
MCT oil can be used in :
- Teas or Coffee
In food sources, MCT is most highly concentrated in palm oil, and then coconut oil. High quality cheese also contains a substantial amount of MCT’s. Goat’s milk total percent fat content of MCT’s is 19.8%, however it is barely near the 79% found in palm oil. For a full chart of foods containing MCT’s, click here.
MCT oil really has no drawbacks, so long as you’re using a high quality source.
MCT’s ability to be metabolized in the liver and immediately make ketones creates a clean instant burst of energy that lasts. This is perhaps my favorite part – the long energy and satiation.
Also, because of the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties found in Lauric Acid, MCT oil can also be an excellent way for those with autoimmune conditions to metabolize fat and boost immune systems. MCT can stray leptin cues however, so ensure you are listening to your body and feeding it the proper amount of food while supplementing, especially carbs!!
If you are looking for additional information on MCT oil, check out PerfectKeto’s Comprehensive Guide, which can be found here.
I would love to know about your experiences. Have you tried MCT oil? If so, what was your experience like?
I feel like I’ve been bombarded lately with questions about fad diets. They’ve always been around, but they just don’t seem to go away.
It just seems shiny and new to try a “new” diet instead of sticking to the fundamental principles of a healthy one.
I’ve been noticing this more and more, with the incredible popularity of “keto” which is pretty much paleo circa 2012, and with new books sent to me for my feedback like The Sirtfood Diet (Find it here).
I was able to read and review The Sirtfood Diet, a plan that claims to help you lose 7 pounds in 7 days, all with the power of what they call “Sirtfoods” which are essentially antioxidants, polyphenols, and other health supportive compounds.
What are the kinds of foods the Sirtfood diet wants you to eat? Things like buckwheat, soy, strawberries, turmeric, red onions, kale, dates, garlic, and olive oil, among others. Besides buckwheat (for some) and soy, I had a hard time figuring out how these foods were so lacking in typical healthy diets like the authors claim.
Most people who promote a paleo diet include ample amounts of these, and sometimes the dark chocolate and red wine pictured on the cover, as well-rounded parts of the diet.
Reservetrol, a healthful component the diet authors claim is often missing is available in fabulous multi-vitamin supplements like this one and in many foods like blueberries and cranberries, besides red wine.
Polyphenols are also common across the range of plant based foods and are even available as powders to mix with smoothies (like this one). Most paleo authors value and promote the inclusion of lots of plant based foods in the diet.
Here’s the truth as I see it. The reason you might lose 7 pounds in 7 days is because the first three days consist of 1000 calories of mostly green juice. This is a common trend among fad diet plans- starve you during the first week while you’re motivated (while also telling you that you aren’t starving but are instead “detoxing” which is why you feel like you’re starving) and then working calories up to more maintainable levels so you continue to lose weight but think you are eating much more.
You’re losing water that first week. A little fat is lost too, but its almost scientifically impossible to lose 7 pounds of pure body fat in one week for the average person. It requires a caloric deficit that not even 1000 calories a day can meet.
I have no issues with a diet that supports the inclusion of healthy ancient foods. My mind has changed over the years with regard to gluten-free grains and other dietary components, so long as they are healthy FOR YOU.
The key to lifelong weight loss is learning how to heed your internal cues. Learning your body, understanding its needs, and feeding it nutrient dense food. There doesn’t need to be a special superfood protocol. There just needs to be balance.
I’m never going to say its ok to eat mostly bacon and butter. They’re nice as inclusions, but they don’t have the nutrient density that vegetables do.
I’m never going to be cool with women fasting. Thankfully the Sirtfood diet and I agree on that one (though I still think 1000 calories a day for a woman is pushing it, even for 3 days). If the choice is between you eating or not eating, I’m always going to say, eat.
But eat what makes your body feel good. I know what that looks like for most people- vegetables, fruit, meat, fat. Eat those things, in balance with the other things. with a focus on quality. That’s all you really need. And that’s what Weight Loss Unlocked is all about.
If weight loss has become a struggle following that paradigm, then you should look into seeing a professional. A good functional nutritionist in your area can help you get to the bottom of what is going on and provide a structured plan that will help you reach your goals, along with the accountability and monitoring to help you truly maintain that weight loss.
Please, oh please, don’t just go looking for another crash diet. In the end, you’ll lose much more than some money and a few pounds.
In recent months, there has been a resurgence of diets I had long thought were old, buried news.
I am speaking specifically of ketosis and of fasting. In ketosis, the goal is to eat so few carbohydrates that the body produces ketones as an alternative fuel source. In fasting, you simply stop eating.
Both of these dietary practices are aimed at reducing insulin and blood sugar levels as much as possible. This is supposed to predispose the body to “fat burning mode.”
These methods appear to actually be helpful to some people. There can be substantial health benefits to both ketosis and fasting for certain groups of the population. People who have very high body fat percentages and are insulin resistant may benefit—at least in terms of their body fat percentages–from fasting. Ketosis may also benefit people who have dysregulated insulin levels, but it also has the unique benefit of being able to help people with certain kinds of cancers and neurological conditions. I do not deny the potential potency of either of these diets, given the right clinical needs and application.
(You can read more about the physiology of ketosis in this post here.)
But I would here like to address the concept of freedom.
I have recently heard people call bboth fasting and ketosis “freedom.” You can read a post about it and fasting, here, or a whole book on ketosis and freedom, called Keto Freedom, here.
I do not mean to detract from the worthiness of each of these people and what potential they have to offer many people. But I do wish to shed some light on this whole “freedom” thing.
Two ways to define freedom
There are, so far as I can best tell from my philosophical training, two primary ways to define freedom. One is as freedom from something; the other is as freedom to do something.
Freedom from something is what we find most common in discourse about restrictive diets.
In talk about ketosis, fasting, and other kinds of dietary (including paleo) freedom, advocates walk around talking about how great their freedom is. People are sometimes confused. The word “freedom” is very appealing. Yet what kind of freedom are the gurus talking about? When pressed, they typically that their diets enable them to achieve freedom from some symptom. (Sometimes they say the diets provide freedom from negative body image or disordered eating, which while not impossible is also kind of ludicrous.)
Ketosis is “freedom from blood sugar swings.” Intermittent fasting is “freedom from obesity.” Paleo is “freedom from gut distress” or etc.
These are all important points. It is great to finally be liberated from health concerns that have dogged you your entire life. I know this quite well, as I have suffered from many chronic symptoms such as generalized anxiety disorder, insomnia, acne, PCOS, and migraines throughout the course of my life.
But this concept of freedom is actually not the most popular one. It’s not the one that makes immediate sense to people.
The most popular idea of freedom is the one in which we have degrees of freedom with which to act. For example, most people intuitively understand that people in the USA have more freedom than people in North Korea. People who are not incarcerated have more freedom than those who are. People who have so much money they don’t have to work are more free than those chained to minimum wage 9-5 jobs. This is because they have more options and abilities due to their circumstances. They are more free.
If we analyze diets in terms of this kind of freedom, we come up with a spectrum. On one end – the most free end – people eat whatever they want, whenever they want. On the other far end are highly restrictive diets, ones that require a lot of control and very few options.
I would argue that there is almost nothing less free than ceasing to eat for several days or periods at a time, as is what people do when they fast.
Perhaps worse, and more importantly, there is almost nothing less free than ketosis. There is almost nothing less free than having to pee on a stick to determine if your diet is “pure” enough.
Any time you go on a diet, and deliberately restrict the kinds of food you can eat, you limit your freedom.
If you give yourself a rule that you cannot break, you limit your freedom.
If you give yourself a set of acceptable foods and feel guilty if you eat outside of it, you limit your freedom.
If you struggle at all with your body image, your self love, your sense of self worth, or your love and forgiveness for yourself as a result of the diet you’re on, you limit your freedom.
Yes, I believe there are psychologically healthy ways to limit the food groups you eat. Yes, I think focusing on whole, natural foods is probably best for health. Yes, I do think certain health conditions such as leukemia and neurodegenerative disease (both possibly helped by ketosis) can call for severe measures. Yes, I do think weight loss is an acceptable goal given that it is done well on both physical and psychological levels (as I attempt to do here).
But I do not think we should ever make the mistake of calling a diet freedom – unless of course we are very clear from the outset that it is freedom from, not freedom for. To call a diet “freedom” is to do psychological health and real honest-to-god freedom a serious disservice.
If you seek any of these things:
Overcoming an obsession with food
Then I would never recommend a set of diet rules – and again, especially one where you can’t eat for days or one where you have to pee on a stick — to help you.
I would recommend instead doing the hard, psychological work of sitting down with a friend, a therapist, or a pen and paper and digging deep into your heart. I would recommend discovering and deconstructing the demons that haunt you. I would recommend learning to embrace body fat as a natural part of what it means to be a human being – of what it means to be an animal – of what it means to be you, in your skin, nourishing your body the best way you know how.
Ketosis and fasting may be many things. They may even liberate you from serious health conditions. But if we want to have an honest discussion about what these kinds of diets can do for us, we need to stop calling them “freedom.” They are pretty much anything but.
In 2012, when I began writing this blog, the paleosphere was what I am now thinking of as “old school paleo.”
Paleo bloggers then focused on leanness, fitness, biohacking, and generally being a hard guy (taking baths in ice water was a thing). We were told to never eat legumes or other carbohydrates. We were told that it was better to starve than to have a meal that wasn’t paleo. We were admonished to never snack. We were told that fasting was a lifesaver, and ketosis, a miracle.
But in the years since 2012, in small part due to my own advocacy and in large part due to the wisening up of the whole sphere, paleo leaders opened their eyes to the larger picture. They realized that women’s bodies might need some more calorie nourishment than men’s. They realized that carbohydrates can sometimes be helpful – and eventually appeared to embrace them entirely. They realized that fitness is different for everybody, and maybe some people should do less of it. They recognized that body fat percentage doesn’t dictate the quality of someone’s health. Major parts of the paleosphere relaxed into an atmosphere of love and encouragement and relaxation.
All of this means that I was very surprised rounding the corner into 2017 when all of the sudden everybody was talking about fasting and ketosis again. I will write about fasting in another post. Today, I will focus on the return to ketosis. I will talk about what’s bringing it back, and then re-examine what this can mean for your body and your mental health.
What is ketosis?
I am going to steer clear of giving you a long, technical definition of ketosis. I do however think it’s worth learning the biochemistry if you plan to experiment. In that case, I highly recommend Dr Peter Attia’s posts or Dr Chris Masterjohn’s.
In short, ketosis is a state the body enters when there is an excess of molecules called acetyl groups over oxaloacetate. This happens when there is a shortage of glucose supplied to the metabolic processes that create energy–ie, when you eat a very low carbohydrate diet. Yet interestingly enough the body will also produce ketones when medium-chain fatty acids enter the metabolic processes. Most people do not know this, but it’s very important, and I will return to it later.
So then, when there is this excess of acetyl groups relative to oxaloacetate, the body produces something called ketone bodies. Ketone bodies come from fatty acids that the body has liberated from fat tissue, which can be used as an alternative fuel to carbohydrates. This is important because the body (and specifically the brain and heart) literally need carbohydrates or ketone bodies in order to function. When carbs are gone, basically, ketone bodies step in to do their work.
People typically achieve ketosis by fasting or by eating diets very low in carbohydrate (high fat, moderate protein). This calls for at least fewer than 50, and maybe more like 20, grams of carbohydrate a day. This depends on your age, body type, activity level and the like.
You can verify how deeply your body has gone into ketosis by peeing on a stick, which reveals the level of ketone bodies being circulated in and used by your body.
Why do people do ketosis?
The supposed health gains of ketosis are different depending on who you ask. Some will call is a miracle that cures all ailments, some will be more circumspect.
In general, there are two many categories of benefits that people talk about: metabolic health and weight loss, and performance gains. There is some truth to each of these categories.
For metabolic health and weight loss, ketosis can be helpful for people who struggle with insulin resistance. Now, to be clear, ketosis does not cure the underlying problems that cause insulin resistance such as poor gut health and inflammation.
But ketosis can provide a way to circumvent the issue. If insulin levels are chronically high and you eat a moderate carbohydrate diet, you may find that you never lose weight, because the body always has a surplus of sugar to burn instead of dipping into its fat stores, which it really only does once the body’s glucose and glycogen stores have been burned through. If however you keep your body’s carbohydrate intake to an absolute minimum, it will more consistently be able to reach into fat stores to burn fat (and make ketones to burn), given that there is a caloric deficit. This is something everybody, and especially ketosis aficionados, should keep in mind; calorie deficits need to be present in order to lose weight.
This being said, there is debate about whether or not there is a “metabolic advantage” to being in a state of ketosis. It is possible that, given how much energy it takes to create ketone bodies, the body actually burns slightly more calories in ketosis than otherwise. Unfortunately this matter is not altogether settled. Though it is worth noting that even if this is the case, the difference is relatively small. For the most thorough discussion I’ve seen of this issue in a blog, see Dr Attia’s write up here.
Ketosis may provide metabolic benefits. They include:
-Regulation of blood sugar levels for people who are sensitive to blood sugar swings (as the body produces its own blood sugar in a state of ketosis so there are fewer fluctuations)
-A reduction in circulating insulin levels for those who were previously insulin resistant; an increase in insulin sensitivity
-Potential weight loss due to increased insulin sensitivity and ability to burn fat
-Potential weight loss due to decreased caloric intake from eliminating an entire food group
The other main category of improvements people discuss have to do with performance. Many people say they think more clearly or have more mental or physical energy while on ketosis. This does not seem an altogether unreasonable claim since the brain burns ketones efficiently, and ketosis can help keep blood sugar levels stable.
Importantly, however, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the adrenal glands can get involved in ketosis – as they play a role in regulating blood sugar, among many other things. When the adrenal glands are active, typically cortisol, adrenaline, or norepinephrine (or any myriad of other stimulatory chemicals) are released into the bloodstream. Norepinephrine, notably, is released in a state of fasting at 2x the rate of regular body metabolism. This can create great feelings of energy. And it can help preserve muscle mass. But it is important to note that it can also lead to disruptions to circadian rhythm, or a feeling of being over-wired.
Specific Health Conditions
Finally, there are also specific health conditions for which ketosis appears to be therapeutic. Certain neurological- and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, dementia or Parkinson’s may be helped by ketosis, as may seizures and chronic migraines. Ketosis can also starve tumors which thrive on glucose as a fuel source, and therefore be helpful for cancer, specifically that of the brain or blood.
Importantly – we should be clear about which types of benefits we are chasing
So you may decide that ketosis seems like a good idea, something worth trying. But it is important to note something that often goes neglected in conversations about ketosis: there is more than one way to achieve the presence of ketone bodies in the blood. In fact, there are two main ways, and they correlate to the two different types of benefits discussed above: the metabolic, and the performative.
The traditional way of achieving ketosis is to eat a low carbohydrate diet. This has two types of benefits: 1) it can increase insulin sensitivity and can therefore help remediate insulin insensitivity and diabetes. It can also help stabilize blood sugar, and, importantly, if one is eating fewer caloriess since one’s diet is almost 100% fat, then one will be in a calorie deficit and may lose weight. 2) Ketosis can increase mental performance given that ketone bodies are produced as a result of carbohydrate restriction.
But there is another way to achieve ketosis. You can get ketone bodies into your bloodstream simply by consuming MCT oil. Chris Masterjohn addresses this masterfully in this podcast (linked to transcript). I stated earlier in this post that ketosis is widely misunderstood as a result of low carb dieting. While low carb dieting does lead to the acetyl group excess over oxaloacetate in the fuel burning process that leads to ketosis, so do medium chain fatty acids. So if you cook with or add MCT oil to your diet (coconut oil contains MCT’s but is far from 100% MCT, so if you’re looking for a ketosis effect it may be wise to purchase an MCT oil such as this one), you can achieve the performance-enhancing effects of having ketone bodies in your bloodstream without subjecting your body to the rigors of a low carbohydrate diet.
You can also get ketone bodies into your bloodstream by consuming exogenous ketones. This is a fancy way of saying “eating ketones.”
In fact, exogenous ketones are I think a big part of why ketosis has made a come back in recent months. There has been an explosion in the market for selling ketone bodies, especially with MLM schemes. I can’t tell you how many facebook posts I see from paleo friends talking about how great their exogenous ketone supplements are. I am sure they really are. But it is also a part of an industry wide boom, so I’d step very carefully about choosing a brand and making sure you know what you’re buying into.
Importantly, if you take exogenous ketones, a) know that you are taking exogenous calories as ketones are calories, and b) know that you will be getting the performance enhancing effects of ketosis but not the insulin sensitizing effects of a very low carbohydrate diet. I do not caution you because I think this is a bad thing. In fact, this is a great option for many people, as I do not think the low-carb aspects of ketosis are important to strive for unless it is an experiment you choose to conduct for the sake of managing diabetes or etc.
How to achieve ketosis performance gains without sacrificing metabolic health
I talked at length before about how low carb ketosis poses potential metabolic gains. This is especially true for people who suffer from diabetes or insulin resistance and/or also have high body fat percentages.
But I would be remiss if I did not also point out – especially as Paleo for Women – the many different groups of people who may be hurt by ketosis.
Women of reproductive age who are attempting to conceive or are pregnant should probably not undergo low-carb ketosis, as carbohydrates play an important role in A) pregnancy, and B) assuring the hypothalamus that the body has been properly fed. In fact, insulin is actually an important satiation hormone. For women who want to conceive, it may be best to err on the side of caution and make sure you get bountiful carbs.
Women with sensitive reproductive systems may want to step carefully. If you have a history of low hormone levels, hypothalamic amenorrhea, dieting, or irregular menstrual cycles, the hormone changes invovled in low carb ketosis as well as the uptick in stress hormone levels may hinder your reproductive hormone production.
People (mostly women) with sensitive thyroid systems may also be in jeopardy from low carb ketosis. Ketosis is well known to downregulate thyroid production. T3 (the form of thyroid hormone that is actually active in cells) decreases, and reverse T3, a molecule that blocks the activity of T3, increases. Ketosis advocates may bend over backwards trying to make this phenomenon seem hunky dory, but I would advise anyone with thyroid issues to step carefully around ketosis. If you have clinical hypothyroidism I would consider consulting a doctor first.
People with adrenal issues or a lot of stress. Adrenal glands may become more active with low carb ketosis, which can exacerbate feelings of being wired, stress, and all the attending symptoms that come along with it.
People (especially women) with sleep issues. Low carb ketosis may up-regulate the production of stress hormones, which can have a negative impact on sleep.
In general, low carb ketosis is another stress on the body. For people who can handle that stress – it may go off without a hitch. But if your body is predisposed to adrenal, thyroid, or hormone issues, you may wish to at least step carefully.
What about my psychological health?
I will be publishing a post on the concept of “ketosis freedom” next week. In the meantime, it stands to note that this is obviously a highly restrictive diet. If you have a history of punishing yourself for falling off the wagon, feeling guilty about food, engaging in cycles of over- and under- eating, or confining yourself to strict dietary rules, I would not recommend ketosis. In order for someone to truly achieve wellness, then psychological health must be prioritized, perhaps above whatever ketosis-based goals you may have (and of course this varies by the individual. If you have brain cancer then please feel free to try ketosis regardless of how much you love your body).
All of which is to say that…
Ketosis is very complicated. It has a common practice of very low carb dieting that has been shown to benefit some people, but it certainly does not benefit everybody. It is different for every person – so if you decide to try it, please simply be aware of potential pitfalls that may result and adjust your diet accordingly.
You can also achieve ketosis a less well-known way, which is by consuming a tablespoon or two a day of MCT oil. If you are seeking simple psychological and physiological performance gains, and are not trying to starve your body of carbohydrates, then this may be a much more safe route with which to experiment. (It would also be compatible with recommendations I make in my program for weight loss – in which you can choose to be low carb or low fat – Weight Loss Unlocked.)
In the end, however, ketosis may be good for some conditions, but is not good for everybody. Every time a new fad roles around, it is best to step around it with caution, as hype (at least in my experience of observing the health world) typically vastly overemphasizes actual results. The only way to truly know if a diet works for you is to try it – but also to do so armed with as much healthy skepticism and and self-awareness as possible.