Dont Cut Your Carbs: My Experience With the Ketogenic Diet

**I am not  a Registered Dietitian (yet). All statements are based on opinion, experience, and my undergraduate education**


Yes, you read that correctly.

The ketogenic diet has skyrocketed in popularity recently. It promotes a low carb, high fat diet with moderate protein, which shifts your body’s metabolism to run on ketones instead of glucose. Individuals who follow this diet claim to  not only lose weight, but have improved sleep, more energy and greater mental clarity, among other benefits. The Ketogenic Diet is often used in Medical Nutrition Therapy for patients with epilepsy, and more recently is being tried in those with diabetes and risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Now. If you know me, then you know that I think all “fat diets” are complete crap. When people bring up low carb diets I internally roll my eyes and prepare to get up onto my soap box.  After completing an undergrad degree in nutrition, I understand (and have  PTSD from learning glycolysis) the importance of carbohydrates. WE NEED CARBOHYDRATES.  Carbs are the preferred source of energy in the body, and should make up ~50% of our diet. So then, why did I decide to test out this diet? There’s 2 reasons:

  1. By severely restricting carbohydrates, the Ketogenic diet promotes rapid weight loss, which is, lets face it (sadly), something that most people want. As a future dietitian, I can almost guarantee that I will have at least one patient/client that is going to ask me about this diet. And before I simply dismiss the whole idea, I thought it would be beneficial, and would make me better at my job to have hands on experience with different kinds of diets. So while yes, I can present them with the current research surrounding the diet, I can also offer my personal experience coming straight from the mouth of the RD herself
  2. Im a huge nerd and I’m honestly treating this like a science experiment.

Science rant over.


Week 1

I started off by doing my research. I checked studies that related this diet to blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease etc. I saw no glaring red flags. Next, we ( I say “we” because I dragged my mom into this) made our shopping list. It was so odd to me because I’m so used to eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, and that usually makes up the majority of our grocery cart. Now, our cart was filled with mostly meats, fish, cheeses, nuts and eggs. Weird. Then did a little planning: what typical breakfast, lunch and dinners would look like (I read that this diet is even more tough if you dont plan!!). And then it was time to start!

Day 1:

I started the morning excited, up for the challenge, and beaming with optimism. I made myself 2 scrambled eggs cooked in olive oil with spinach and cheddar cheese, and 2 pieces of bacon on the side. I was feeling pretty good, and full.

After the gym, I came home and had a few cubes of colby jack cheese and a few pecans. Still feeling alright…

By lunch time I was a ravenous bitch. Im probably just exaggerating, but I was feeling lightheaded and I couldn’t concentrate. Optimism was getting ready to be thrown out the window. I made myself a salad with arugula, spinach. chicken, avocado, 1/2 hard boiled egg, feta cheese, pecans, olive oil and vinegar. For real… this salad was pretty damn good.

2:30 hits: still hungry and pretty tired. Drank some almond milk wth keto-friendly protein powder stirred in.

For dinner, we had a pork loin with roasted parmesan broccoli, also delicious… but 5 minutes later I was hungry. I tried to push past it and drank a ton of water which helped a little. Later I had a few cubes of cheese and headed off to bed.

 

Day 2:

My alarm actually woke me up this morning, which almost never happens. I had coffee and then made breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs w/ cheddar cheese and arugula, 2 pieces of bacon spread with a little cream cheese.

Came home from CPR training pretty hungry. Threw together avocado chicken salad over arugula and called it a day. I do have to say, I felt pretty full after eating… which lasted for about 90 minutes. I felt super tired and lightheaded so I laid down for most of the afternoon.

Dinner consisted of London broil over a salad (spinach and arugula, feta cheese, cucumber, green pepper, walnuts, EVOO and vinegar). A few things worth mentioning: First, I’ve been so thirsty. Secondly: Ive been a raging bitch all day. I snapped at everyone and I felt so bad but I was just so damn irritable. Didnt think that would happen this soon. A little later I had 1/2 tbsp of almond butter and a couple pieces of the failed “fat bombs” I tried making… I dont know if its just the hunger talking but it tasted heavenly.

Day 3:

My body felt so heavy when I woke up, but I felt a little better after I moved around. I made myself a smoothie with almond milk, protein powder, chia seeds and almond butter before heading to the gym. The first 20 minutes of my workout sucked. I felt like my legs were going to give out, I was super lightheaded and out of breath, but eventually it started to go away. When I came home, I made the huge mistake of sitting down… I had a hard time getting back up. I just felt weak and hungry. Meanwhile, Mom feels fantastic and its really pissing me off.

Dinner was kind of a shit show. I made a cauliflower puree ad whatever leftovers were in the fridge. I had chicken but I needed to up the fat content and I was worried that it was too much protein. Also, I didnt want to eat too many carbs from the cauliflower… I was just a mess. Too much to mentally think about when I’m just trying to enjoy my damn dinner. I was hungry 0.2 seconds later.. really starting to get sick of this. I found myself ready for bed super early.. like 7pm. A combination of the “keto flu” taking its toll on me, and if I went to bed I wouldnt think about how much I wanted to make myself a bowl of popcorn.

Day 4:

Hello day 4! So I woke up actually feeling good. Not super tired or anything, but still very lightheaded every time I stood up. I made myself 1 minute keto bread in the microwave, spread  half with butter and half with olive oil (it was surprisingly tasty + filling) and an egg.

So heres where it starts to go south: I went to the gym, when I left I was feeling lightheaded, chest  was tight, and overall just felt funny. I came home and had a piece of cheese with a few nuts. I sat down and immediately felt worse. I laid down because I thought I was going to pass out. I was cold and clammy: my blood sugar plummeted. My body really just isnt used to consuming so little carbohydrates that i am not handling it well. My mom made my eat a little piece of coffee cake and I picked right back up, thank god.

We decided at this point to check whether or not we were for sure in ketosis (we bought the test strips!) To both of our surprise, I was in a moderate ketogenic state.. and my mom was no where close. She was not happy, but I told her that it was definitely because since I workout, I burned through my glycogen stores faster.

For dinner we made zucchini lasagna. This was the first thing I ate on this diet that kept me full fur pretty much the rest of the night. However, I was still so tired and lightheaded and had really uncomfortable heart palpitations  that I spent the rest of the day laying down.

 

Day 5

So I felt surprisingly descent this morning. I wasn’t nearly as tired as I have been, but still lightheaded anytime I stood up. I made myself 2 scrambled eggs and keto bread spread with butter and almond butter before I hit the gym. This was my first real day on this diet where I was going to be doing more of a high intensity workout. After yesterdays incident, I was a little scared to see how I was going to feel. The entire time I was lightheaded and worried that I was going to pass out. I also could tell that my performance was significantly decreased. I love working out and I just can’t take feeling like that. So when I came home, and after discovering some other hormonal imbalances that were possibly a result of this diet, and some serious consideration, I called it quits on day 5. 

 

The Takeaway

If I already didnt understand and appreciate the importance of carbohydrates in out diet… I sure do now. I know people say it takes time for your body to “adjust” to running on ketones instead of glucose, but honestly, the misery that I was in those 5 days was NOT worth it. I think one of the only pros from this diet was that I definitely wasn’t as bloated as a normally am. But beyond that, the side effects far outweighed that one positive. I was exhausted, lightheaded, having heart palpitations + my workouts sucked. There was excessive unnecessary stress being put on my body. On top of that, there was so, so much planning going into meals that I really wasn’t enjoying , and that soon became boring and repetitive (again, this was only 5 days so thats saying something). For me, this diet restricted me from eating the foods I liked, I found myself not wanting to go out because there was no point if I couldn’t eat/drink anything, and quite truthfully, I found myself engaging in some of my old eating disorder thoughts and behaviors: i.e: when my urinalysis came back positive for ketones, I felt the same high that I used to when I would weigh myself and saw the number go down…mind you I took this urinalysis 5 minutes after I had JUST PASSED OUT, and I had this new motivation to keep this diet going… tell me whats wrong with that.

Overall, this lifestyle wasn’t healthy for me. I am fully aware that there are people out there that live their daily lives following a low carb, high fat, ketogenic diet, but I fail to see the appeal or benefit. For the typical person, I see absolutely no reason to eliminate an entire macronutrient from your diet, especially the one that gives you energy is is meant to comprise half of your intake.  So as if you needed another reminded to eat your fruits, veggies, starches, nuts and legumes, this ones for you. 

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Stagioni; South Side; Pittsburgh

I can’t believe I’ve just wrapped up my final Christmas break for my undergrad. And its weird, because three years ago, freshman me wasn’t anywhere close to ready to have to head back up to Kent (dreading it, really), and now, I can’t get there soon enough. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE being at home and with my family, but after relaxing for a month I’ve become a tad (extremely) bored.

But with the end of Christmas break comes the tradition of my back to school dinner. Last year, I picked Social House 7, before that, Casbah, and before that Monterey Bay. And this year, the pressure was on, because all of those places were pretty damn good. I stumbled upon Stagioni, a small restaurant in South Side… and I must say, I picked another winner 😉

We walked in and I immediately fell in love. It was very cozy, warm, and inviting. They had little space heaters that looked like fire places and I thought that was just adorable.

As far as drinks go, my dad and I split a bottle of Chianti (good choice Dave). And if any of you reading know my mom, the woman LOVES a dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives. Guess what she ordered?

So the appetizers on this menu were what sold me. We honestly could have ordered one of everything and made a meal of it. So we finally narrowed it down and decided on the Made To Order Mozzarella with prosciutto, olives, roasted peppers, balsamic and olive oil, the Butternut Squash Arancini with sage-pumpkin seed pesto, and the Sautéed Mushroom Polenta. Out of the three, the mozzarella was the most disappointing, not bad, but just not spectacular. As far as the polenta goes, I was surprised at how good it was. The mushrooms had a good flavor, and the texture of the polenta itself was creamy and delicious. Now, the arancini… WOW. Honestly probably the best thing I ate all night. But I’m a huge fan of butternut squash and risotto so I dont really see how they could have gone wrong! (Side note: my dad is regretting not ordering   the greens and beans, so I guess we have to go back)

For the entree, I was really torn. I knew we were going to have a lot of appetizers so I didnt want to order anything TOO big. Luckily, their pastas came in half sizes so it was perfect. My mom went with the Tagliatelle with bolognese and parmesan. Very simple and very good.(PS. Sorry mom, the pic of your dinner was too blurry :/)  I finally decided on the Ricotta Gnocchi with sausage-rapini ragout and parmesan. The ragout was the best part of the dish, and I was happy that the gnocchi were light and soft. My dad picked the Tomato Braised Meatballs with escarole, cannellini puree, Calabrian chili,  and parmesan. The bean puree was actually really different and I liked the concept. The meatballs themselves were also great (and yes I know this because we obviously have to try everyones dinner)

And you guys didnt think we were going to pass up dessert did you? Mom and I spilt an apple cinnamon pound cake that was to die for, really. The homemade whipped cream was the bomb. Dad wanted the Nutella mouse.. I dont know what else you want me to say because anything with nutella cant be short of amazing.

Im with my dad on this one. I absolutely would go back to Stagioni. We had such a great time and a great meal. I love this little tradition that we unexpectedly developed, but I’m so glad we did. Yes I am excited to get back to Kent, but having this much time at home is absolutely wonderful ❤

 

Because I Do.

Remember when we used to go to the library together when we were so little we couldn’t even read yet?

Remember how you had to ask me three times to be your girlfriend before I finally said yes?

Remember that time you close lined me in the face with the tree branch, but we had a funny story to tell afterwards? (and the cut on my cheek to prove it)

Remember when you threw a FIT because my dad cleaned his golf clubs for an HOUR (20 mins) while we were hanging out in my basement?

Remember when we all went to that haunted house in Brilliant, and that guy in the mask chased you all the way down the street?

Remember that time we got into the wrong car with “some guy”, thinking it was your mom picking us up (top ten scariest moments of my life by the way)?

Remember how you made your entire hockey team sing happy birthday to me at Generations (when it was 2 weeks past my actually birthday)?

Remember how you walked around Kennywood with me on our 8th grade field trip because you knew I didn’t like rollercoasters (even though you loved them)?

Remember when you came to my house to shovel my driveway (and I always made you hot chocolate for afterwards)?

Remember that time you came to visit me at Kent and didn’t mind being lame and just hanging out in my room and watching movies (my mom totally still thinks you slept on the floor) ?

Remember when you volunteered to pick me up and take me home for Thanksgiving break. and cut across 3 lanes of traffic because you almost missed the exit?

Remember our trip to Morgantown for Fall Fest, when we drove my car through someones yard, snuck you into a frat house, and ate the best bowl of raisin bran of our lives?

Remember that time we went and got pedicures because your feet were destroyed from hockey but you refused to go by yourself?

Remember when you borrowed my pink, glittery, Kate Spade wristlet to put chips in while you were at the casino, and you paid me back by giving me your favorite hoodie (that i had my eye on for years) ?

Remember when you found out  my boyfriend and I broke up, and you insisted on taking me to dinner in Pittsburgh, and even showed up at my house with roses?

Remember all the little petty fights we had, where we wouldn’t talk for weeks, but always picked right back up where we left off?

Remember how you were the funniest, most stubborn person I ever met, and I thank God everyday that he  blessed me with an incredible friend like you that I didn’t deserve?

Because I do.

 

Why I’ve Stopped Using the ‘F’ Word

No, not THAT F word

Fat (n): One of the three major macronutrients that has many biological functions, namely to provide energy and serve to protect vital organs from external damage.

Notice how that definition has nothing to do with outward appearance or weight.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I no longer want to use the F word. Not to tear myself down, and not as an adjective to describe others. And I’ll tell you why.

Ive narrowed it down to the 3  basic reasons why someone calls themselves/others fat:

  1. To solicit a compliment: “OMG NO YOU DONT! YOUR SO SKINNY, I WISH I LOOKED LIKE YOU!” (Like, I admit it, I’ve been that girl)
  2. To make them feel better about themselves: ” You know…so-and-so has gained a lot of weight, she’s gotten kind of fat”
  3. Because they truly  feel that way about themselves.

And honestly.. none of these are good enough reasons to use the F word.

How many times have you felt better after calling yourself fat? You sit there, look in the mirror, tear yourself apart, tell yourself awful things, and expect to feel better? Its like sticking your hand on the stove and expecting not to get burned.

And trust me, I learned this lesson the HARD way. It took years of self destructive and self deprecating behaviors and I’m finally just now begining to understand this.

I started noticing how often people comment about their own weight or make a comment about someone else’s weight… it was a lot. And you know, some people argue “oh, thats just part of being a woman, we talk about losing weights and dieting, its normal.” ITS JUST A PART OF BEING A WOMAN? I just want to make sure that you’ve read and processed that. Im gonna be honest and tell you that I’ve actually heard that statement come out of someones mouth and I still can’t wrap my head around it. No No NO. If  we are okay with the fact that this is what is considered “normal” then do you see the issue here????

I decided that I was going to try to make a conscious effort to  not comment about my weight or anyone elses. I have spent way too much time making weight the focal point of my life and I’ve finally had enough, When someone brings up how “fat” they are, or how much weight they’ve gained, I dont engage. I change the subject. I won’t use the F word. I dont think that calling yourself fat should be normal. How about talking about the things you LIKE about yourself…? Oh my god. UNHEARD OF!!!!

So I challenge you: be cognizant of how many times you use the F word, be it about yourself or referring to another person.  I challenge you to stop using “fat” as an adjective to belittle yourself,   to feel better about yourself, or to seek out a compliment. Coming from the mouth of a nutrition major:  try to only use it when you’re talking about how awesome it makes your peanut butter taste 😉

Charleston, South Carolina: Day 5

The last day already? Wow that flew.

By now, I’m sure you guys see a pattern: gym, walk, breakfast, pool. This vacation was a lot different in the aspect that we didn’t have as much planned, wanted to relax and thats exactly what we did!

Friday was probably the hottest day all week, I only lasted in the sun for a couple hours, MAYBE. I sat underneath the shade near the snack bar with dad, and read a little (side note: A New Model by Ashley Graham was soooo good!!) And of course, since school never stops, I had to go in and take some notes. 2 hours later.. .mom and dad came up. I hate to admit it, but the sun took it out of us! We hung out in the room for a little, watched some TV, dad did some work, all that fun stuff.

Tavern and Table was the final dinner pick of the week. We looked into it, and the head chef there graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, worked for Beau MacMillan, and battled Bobby Flay on Iron Chef and WON. Needless to say, we had to check it out!

We made reservations for 7pm, we of course got there a little early and went to their deck outside! Mom and I got a glass of prosecco ( I wanted something bubbly) and Dad ordered a Tito’s and lemonade. The restaurant was right on the water, so the view from the deck was awesome, and the atmosphere was fun! At this point it was almost 7:30 and we hadn’t been seated (Tavern and Table was a happening place!) and I was starving. We hadn’t eaten since 9 that morning and I was ready to collapse (okay maybe I’m being dramatic but still.)

We finally sat down and I was relieved. I was just happy to get something in my stomach. The Prosciutto and Fig Flatbread with whipped ricotta, balsamic onions, fontina, and arugula caught our eye. I took a bite and went to heaven. Everything about this pizza worked. The whipped ricotta was phenomenal and the figs were a sweet contrast.

I told myself that I wanted to eat shrimp and grits at least one time while I was down here, so it was now or never! Honestly, grits remind me of my all time favorite movie, My Cousin Vinny. “How do you like your grits? Regular, creamy, or aldente?” My answer is however Tavern and Table cooked them because wow were they delicious!  They were cheddar grits with spanish chorizo, cherry tomatoes, green onion, and moroccan sauce. To die for. Obviously, because “no self respecting southerner uses instant grits” (if you couldn’t tell, I know every line of that movie verbatim).

Mom got the Pan Seared Scallops with caramelized onion and bacon spaetzle, sun-dried tomatoes, fava, lemon caper butter. Anything with bacon and she’s on board. I had a bite and it was pretty dang good! Dad ordered the  Lobster Fra Diabolo, which was bucatini, red pepper flakes, roasted cherry tomatoes, lemon, and parsley. Dad really enjoyed it, he said he made a good choice!

We took a look at the dessert menu, but decided just to go back to the hotel for ice cream on the boardwalk ! I got a scoop of coffee and Mom got the cookie dough caramel. Both were great! I can’t pass up coffee flavored ice cream, its so good.

I had so much fun on vacation . Anytime I get to spend with my parents is always a good time. Im incredibly thankful that we get to do this together every summer and I look forward to where we pick for the next year!

Charleston, South Carolina: Day 4

Unlike Wednesday, the weather on Thursday was BEAUTIFUL. Definitely a pool day. Of course Dad and I got our workouts in– I elipticalled for 30 min and got on the stair stepper for ten, coupled with shoulders. We showered, got breakfast at the hotel again, and then laid at the pool all day. Surprisingly, I didn’t burn on this vacation–thank god. I dont know if I could take it again after what happened to me on spring break.

Mom and Dad stayed and laid out some more, but I had to go up to the room to do some more homework (bleh). I must have been pretty damn tired, because I fell asleep for about an hour when I was done! By the time I woke up, it was time to get dressed and ready to go out.

As per Bolger recommendation, we had reservations at Cru Cafe in Downtown Charleston. We got into the city a little early, so we took a walk down King St, which we hadn’t seen yet, and through the College of Charleston’s campus.

We got to Cru and I immediately loved the atmosphere. The building used to be an old house, and you could really tell. It was just very quaint and homey

.

We ordered the calamari with Asian slaw and sesame dressing to start with. It may have been the best calamari I’ve had. The way they paired it with the slaw was super creative and it really contrasted the fried squid. Dad wants to recreate it at home. We all had a tough time picking what we wanted for the entree. After the waitress had to come back three times, we finally had our orders: Mom went with their pasta special, that had a fried pork chop over cavatelli in a cream sauce. Dad and I went back and forth, but he ended up going with the  seared Scottish salmon over lemon risotto, sautéed vegetables and honey ginger glaze. He fell in love, I was glad I didnt get because I wasn’t crazy for it, but it was okay. I saw the waiter bring fillet out to another table and I decided I had to have that. It came with gnocchi and a light tomato sauce. I loved it, I’m a sucker for gnocchi. For dessert, Dad picked the flourless chocolate cake… excellent choice. It was so dense and the chocolate flavor was strong. Im hungry just thinking about it!

Afterwards, we hit up Charleston Crab House since we saw that they had a rooftop bar. We hung out up there for a while and then turned in for the night.. as you can tell the Werkins are not night people.. dont judge 😉

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Charleston, South Carolina: Day 3

Twas a rainy Wednesday down south, my friends!

I woke up and got ready to hit the gym! Dad and I walked over to the bigger facility at the hotel that had more weights and equipment (I didnt know about the bigger gym the day before, the one I went to on Tuesday just had cardio machines!) I ran a couple miles and lifted legs and called it a day.

I wasn’t quite raining yet when I met Mom and Dad at the pool. We took another 2 mile walk on the beach, but the whole time I couldnt wait to shower! I just felt gross and sweaty and.. ew. So the plan  was: shower up, and go to breakfast.

A family that we are friends (shout out the the Bolgers) with actually go down to Charleston every year and the gave us a ton of restaurant recommendations (you know, the most important part of vacation). They had suggested Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. It was just a few minutes down the road so we got in the car and went. The place was pretty crowded. There was a 30 minute wait for a table, but we figured we’d stick it out. Me and mom wanted mimosas anyway, so we thought we’d sit at the bar until our table was ready. When the waitress took our drink orders, she informed us that we were able to eat at the bar, since the seats in there were first come first serve: works for me! I had a hard time picking, but I ordered the garden omelette with egg whites, toast and hash browns. No complaints here.

Spur of the moment decision, but we thought that since the sun wasn’t out, we would just ride into the city now. My mom wanted to go on a horse and buggy tour of the city, so Dad sucked it up and said yes (y’all know Dave can barely sit through church– let alone a tour). But overall, even thought it started to POUR,  it was pretty cool. The tour was pretty informative, which took us through the French Quarter of the city and down by the Battery.

Afterwards, my mom and I took a walk though the City Market, which was just a bunch of vendors selling clothes, foods, etc. Too many people for me, so we headed over to Henry’s Bar where my dad was sitting. Had a drink, waited for the rain to let up.

One of my all time favorite bloggers visits Charleston frequently, and in her post, she always recommends the restaurant 82 Queen. Unfortunately, none of us were super crazy about the menu, but i honestly just wanted to say that I have been there, so we decided to forgo dinner and just went in for a drink — yes, the Werkin’s essentially drank our way through Charleston. But the place was so cute and I was happy that I got to go!

We got back to the hotel at about 4pm. Mom and Dad sat at the pool for a little, and I took a quick walk down on the beach before we got ready for the night.

We drove to Mt. Pleasant to a restaurant called Graze. It was a small restaurant, but just from walking in, you could tell that the food would be good. Mom was happier than ever because they had blue cheese stuffed olives… A dirty martini was obviously on its way to the table. For an appetizer, I made the executive decision to get the Beef Tartare with crustini. Me and mom liked it, Dad wasn’t a fan: hey, ya win some ya loose some. For dinner, Dad went with the Wild Mushroom Pappardelle with goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, spinach, pinenuts and truffle oil. Anything was goat cheese has me sold; it was awesome. In typical Sheila-beef loving-fashion, Mom picked the horseradish potato hash, bacon, bleu cheese and demi. Not a single word came out of her mouth, it was that good. And in typical Monica fashion, I, of course, had to get salmon at least one night. it came with marbled potatoes, arugula, corn, and toasted coriander-tomato vinaigrette. The vinaigrette made the whole dish, and the salmon was cooked perfectly.

We left and took a ride down through Sullivan’s Island on our way home. We also stopped at a Harris Teeter to pick us some snacks and drinks for the room, and headed back to the hotel!

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