A little over five months ago I was in my doctor’s office, chatting about all things healing, and he gave me the instruction to begin a 16:8 intermittent fasting regimen. I was excited because I knew about all of the awesome benefits of fasting, but a little apprehensive because I had NEVER in my life gone without breakfast.
I also knew at that moment that I would make the switch to a ketogenic diet to support the process as effectively as I could. Why was that switch necessary? When someone is a sugar-burner, which is about 99% of us, (including me at the time, even though I had been eating a Paleo diet for years) the body relies on the glucose response from that next meal to provide energy. This glucose response comes with every serving of carbohydrates and even excess protein consumption, so the body learns to depend on those foods for its energy supply. For the sugar-burner, too much time between meals causes the blood sugar to drop, cortisol to spike, cravings to ramp up, hunger to get out of control, and the body to do everything it can to let you know it needs that serving of sugar.
However, when your body adapts to burning fat as fuel, all of these issues are bypassed. Your body knows there is plenty of fuel right on your body that can to use between meals and so hunger, cravings, cortisol crashes, and energy dips don’t happen. Blood sugar remains stable, and a sense of calm takes place within the body.
This is what I wanted to experience during the 16 hours I would be fasting. I didn’t want to deal with hunger or feel terrible during that time. I wanted to reap the benefits of fasting and knew the only way to do that would be to adapt my body to being a fat-burner.
And just like that, keto walked into my life. I was very familiar with what this new lifestyle would entail as I have many colleagues who prefer a ketogenic lifestyle, but it was finally time to put my knowledge to practice and embark on my keto experiment.
Before this experiment, I spent most days in a fog, taking multiple naps per day, sleeping 10+ hours a night and not feeling rested, being hungry all the time, bingeing on carbs, and having trouble holding conversations. I like to say I lost my personality during that time. I was also having hormonal issues and in a severe state of adrenal fatigue.
Five months later and I can easily say it has been the best five months I have had in a long time, quite possibly ever, as far as my health is concerned. I have fantastic energy all day, mental clarity, focus, meal satisfaction, and overall hormone balance. Something I didn’t expect to come from this experiment? A strong sense of food freedom and intuition.
Because of my success, I now have a deep desire to share it with the world. Based on the thousands of ladies in the Fat Burning Female Project, those that listen to my podcast, The Keto For Women Show, and friends and family in my inner circle, I can see a real need for many more women to turn to a ketogenic diet to heal and feel amazing again.
I say women specifically for a few reasons. First of all, I think there are so many health issues specific or more prominent in women that could be healed simply by a keto diet. Secondly, I think a keto diet is something that women would tend to shy away before getting full knowledge around it. And lastly, while I think it is a fantastic lifestyle change for a woman to make, I think it needs to be approached a little differently than most keto dieters will tell you, and different than the men in our lives.
Before I do that, let me give a brief overview of how a keto diet looks.
Ketogenic Diet In A Nutshell
The ketogenic diet is a style of eating that is composed of very high fat, moderate protein, and low carbohydrate macronutrient ratios to promote a state of ketosis in the body. Ketosis happens when the body is depleted of glucose and stored glycogen causing it to switch its metabolic pathways to begin using fat as fuel. The body produces ketones when it breaks down fats into fatty acids and is the body’s signal to start using both dietary and body fat as the primary source of energy. This is the body’s preferred source of fuel and something that is an innate mechanism in all of us and allows our body to work more efficiently and effectively. More important, there isn’t that reliance on the next meal to have energy.
Ketosis has been around for a long time and started as a medical intervention for epilepsy. Studies are now coming out showing its effectiveness at treating and reversing diabetes, insulin resistance, depression, PCOS, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s disease. More and more research is out about this style of eating even for a “healthy” person with amazing results and extremely low risks.
When the body is in a state of ketosis, that new (yet old) metabolic state allows the body to have large amounts of energy at the ready, especially for the brain.
This results in:
- steady high energy without crashes
- mental clarity and focus
- no more intense hunger and cravings
- better sleep
- enhanced mood
- stronger, more effective workouts
- healthier skin, hair, and nails
Now, putting this into practice is where a lot of women have a hangup. In my practice, I often see women thinking they are eating a high-fat, low-carb diet only to realize they’re not even close. It can be a pretty tricky change to make after years of thinking dietary fat was the cause of excess body fat, heart disease, and all kinds of health issues, when in fact, dietary fat does the complete opposite. I have learned through my trial and error, along with professional and educational experience, the dietary fat is the healer.
A high-fat diet means VERY high fat; anywhere from 60-80% of your daily food intake will be in the form of high-quality, nutrient-dense fats. When this happens, the other macros shift as well, with protein making up about 15-30% and carbohydrates rounding it out at 5-15% per day.
Now, in my world, this is a healing dietary protocol and with that comes the need to emphasize the quality of food that is going into your daily consumption. Standard keto diet protocols don’t necessarily discuss this idea much, but I think it is paramount to achieving the success you desire with your health.
- YES to grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, poultry, and eggs
- YES to organic produce
- YES to organic, unrefined oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, sesame oil
- YES to grass-fed butter or ghee
- YES to lard, tallow and duck fat from properly-raised animals
- YES to natural sweeteners like raw honey, grade B maple syrup, and organic liquid stevia
- YES to raw, grass-fed dairy (after 30-day elimination to make sure you tolerate it)
- NO to processed vegetable and seed oils like canola, soybean, and safflower oils
- NO to margarine or other fake spreads
- NO to sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, or any other form of processed sweetener
- NO to feedlot meats, dairy, poultry, and eggs
Following these guidelines will ensure you are eating a nourishing diet that will work to lower inflammation.
Keto For Women
Now that we have the basics of keto covered let’s get into how it may differ for women looking to achieve a state of ketosis. I think the ketogenic diet is still way too overlooked as a means to heal women-specific health issues, although I do think it may need to be approached differently to see success.
As a woman, you might benefit from a ketogenic diet if you:
- have PCOS
- have irregular or absent periods
- have imbalanced thyroid hormones
- can’t lose or gain weight no matter what you try
- have terrible PMS
- have adrenal fatigue
- feel tired or unmotivated
- get hangry and need to always have a snack handy in between meals
- want to increase your performance in the gym
- have an autoimmune disease you would like to manage
I have seen great success in myself and in clients who can heal these specific conditions and symptoms by making this dietary change. It is THAT powerful!
Are you feeling empowered to make the switch yet? Good, that’s what I had hoped! Let’s talk about how you can make this work FOR YOU.
4 Tips For Success
Take it slow. There’s no need to go from eating your typical diet to being keto the next day. Making the change of macros for 3-4 weeks will ensure you keep your body safe and stress-free. Frequently, when women take on a new diet, it shocks the system so much that it put even more of a burden on our body, landing us in a state of compromised adrenal function and excess cortisol production. By giving your body the time to adjust over several weeks, we can bypass the potential stressor it would cause. In my online course, The Fat Burning Female Project, we slightly modify our macronutrient ratios week-by-week for four weeks, using a course-specific tracking system, until we get to the optimal ketogenic ratios safely and effectively.
Don’t go zero carb. There’s no need to eliminate an entire macronutrient. While we don’t technically NEED carbohydrates for survival, as our liver produces all of the glucose we need daily, it’s also unnecessary to tell yourself carbs are bad or that you can’t have them. These kinds of limits we put on food, ultimately lead to bingeing, emotional eating, and feelings of failure. This is not your typical “quick fix” diet so no need to even go there.
I think some women do better being on the higher end of the carbohydrate spectrum of ketosis. It may have to do with the extra supply of glucose, or it may just be that carbs make them happy and happiness induces healing! The beauty of the keto diet for women is that it can be flexible. You can find what works for YOU, your body, and your health needs.
It’s quite easy to find your carb tolerance once in ketosis. If you would like to test for it, you can either use a blood ketone meter and test strips or a Ketonix breath test meter. Once you get a positive reading that you are in ketosis, you can experiment with different macronutrient ratios to see what amount allows you to stay within the range.
But, I also don’t think you HAVE to test! If buying another contraption doesn’t sound appealing, you can use your intuition to guide you to ketosis. You can go by how you feel and notice when you experience that switch in energy level, mental clarity, and hunger. Those are sure signs that you are in ketosis. From there, take notice of how you feel after adding in some carbohydrates and when you don’t have those awesome feelings, you may have had too many.
Get over your fat fear and diet mentality. This is the biggest reason why women may need to approach the ketogenic diet differently. For many of us, somewhere along the way, we learned that fat was bad, made up gain weight, and caused health issues. There is an abundant amount of evidence and research to show the exact opposite, but changing our mind can be tricky!
The only way it works is to get over the diet mentality, the idea the “calories-in needs to be less than calories-out for weight loss,” and all of the other myths from the last few decades. Instead, approach it with the mentality of health gain. Understand that dietary fat is the critical nutrient at play for cell-repair, hormone building, nutrient delivery and absorption, and so much more. When health is at the forefront of every decision you make, your body has no choice but to deliver. And THAT’s what is essential.
It’s not a low food diet. One of the biggest misconceptions in the health community is that low carb diets can be dangerous and ineffective. I agree, in a way. If you reduce your carbohydrates but don’t make up for that food by increasing your fat intake, then that diet becomes just too low in food, nutrients, and energy, so of course, nothing good is going to come of that! Remember, this is a VERY HIGH FAT, low carb diet, not a low carb, low food diet. That’s just disastrous.
Are you overwhelmed yet? I know taking on a new eating style can be daunting, especially with a wide range of information out there. But don’t worry, I’m here to help!
I’ve taken my passion for this topic along with my personal and professional experience to create an online group project that will take you from sugar-burner to fat-burner in 6 fun, simple weeks! We spend four weeks slowly altering our macronutrient ratios using a unique tracking system that prevents obsession, counting, and measuring. During this time, we are also learning about the role fat plays to our health, how it can heal us, and what hormones get involved in the process.
We spend the last two weeks looking at becoming intuitive with our new eating style, so we can make it a lifestyle without the need to track, count, or measure ever again. We have in-depth dive discussions on intuitive eating, self-love, and stress and the role they all play on the body.
Because of my success going through the same change, I’m determined to help as many women with this transition as I can. I’d love to have you be a part of the next class!