If you were to google “Keto Diet” today, you would be overwhelmed with the search results. Literally millions of hits, covering everything from books to videos to blogs to products to supplements to courses to coaching to recipes and on and on. It’s one of the most popular Google searches in the last few years.
And there are so many apparent variations. People have given names to these variations like lazy keto, dirty keto, clean keto, strict keto. And each of these seems to have it’s own set of rules and restrictions. There’s also all kinds of supplements that are discussed and recommended, both nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and actual ketones themselves. And keto convenience products coming out of every nook and crannie – a substitute for every conventional processed food ever made, it seems.
There seems to be almost no acknowledgement that a ketogenic diet is simply a diet that puts the body into nutritional ketosis, the state of having ketone bodies circulating in the blood for use as energy by body tissues. It actually has nothing to do with food rules when you come right down to it. A keto diet could be all meat, all vegetables, all smoothies, all eggs, all fats, or all nothing (otherwise known as fasting). Simply having a low enough carbohydrate intake is the common and critical factor, because it’s not about the food – it’s about the body’s response to the food.
And being “in ketosis” every minute of the day, or being “kicked out of ketosis” by a dietary misstep is treated like some sort of judgement on a person’s personal worth. It’s just all so contrived.
I belong to several Facebook groups about the ketogenic diet. And I have been to several Low Carb and Keto Conferences. So much of the discussion in the groups or the display booths at the conference was based around providing “keto-fied” products for adding to the diet. Ketone supplements, keto dessert items, low carb bars, keto bread substitutes like wraps, crackers or loaves. The vast array of cookies, cakes, fudge, cheesecakes and squares was overwhelming. The amount of almond flour and erythritol sweetener in each of these displays was mind-boggling. It was as if there was an expectation that the diet was going to look just like the Standard North American (SAD) diet, but with “healthier ingredients”.
In my kitchen, I have accumulated all of the various ingredients needed to build most of these items. Over the years, I have collected several bags of non-nutritive sweeteners, a variety of alternative flours, low carb chocolate chips, about a half dozen varieties of oils. I have coconut products of every description – virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil, coconut cream, coconut butter, coconut flour, liquid MCT’s from coconut. You name it, it’s probably buried in my pantry cupboard somewhere… I spent most of my life HATING coconut! Now I don’t hate coconut, but I also almost never reach for it. But I bought into the message that it was a critical component of low carb eating…
I have gone through the stages of low carb lifestyle that included a variety of fat bombs, low carb mug cakes and instant breads, larger-scale low carb bread baking, cookie making and salty snacking. I would bake to satisfy a perceived need for “bread” or “sweets”, then be left with way too much of the product, sitting in my cupboard or fridge, calling to me to be eaten before they go bad. “Keto Crack Granola” was probably the most delicious but damaging thing that I ever made. Several pounds of sweet, crunchy nutty loveliness that I simply couldn’t stay away from.
I have never gotten into supplementation in any big way, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t fallen victim to buying the latest cool “keto-marketed” thing, such as buying a collagen supplement for my coffee. I used it once or twice, decided that adulterating my black coffee with this vile stuff was cruel, and now I have three bottles of it sitting in my cupboard (it was on sale – silly me).
As time has gone on, I have realized that I have let go of many of the fussy trappings of a low carb diet. My recent month long experiment with carnivore eating has really brought into focus how much I have simplified my life, removing the noise that can get in the way of listening to your body’s own wisdom.
Most of the “keto crap” that’s out there is designed to be snack food or to push our “reward” buttons, either sweet or salty. But with a well-designed nutrient rich ketogenic diet, my desire to snack has all but disappeared. In the past month on carnivore, it has completely disappeared. I experience a deep and real satiety from my meals that lasts for hours. Without the hormonal fluctuations that cause cravings, I simply don’t care about food, or think about snacking unless I get actually stomach hungry.
So, I’m proposing a new Keto handle – Minimalist Keto. It’s that peaceful place that you get to when the inner noise of cravings, hormone fluctuations, blood sugar instability and mental fogginess recede and you have stable blood sugars, abundant energy, mental clarity and true physical satiety. It doesn’t require the trappings of the SAD diet for physical or mental satisfaction. Two to three meals per day – simple meat/eggs/poultry/fish/seafood for protein, non-starchy vegetables (raw or cooked), rich healthy fats for satiety and flavour, and lots of good seasonings for taste satisfaction. Get everything you need for your body by eating abundantly of real, nutrient dense foods, not pills or powders. Feast abundantly, then fast until hungry again. Rinse and repeat.
Understand that this is not the place where you start a low carb or keto dietary lifestyle. This is the end product – the Shangri La of the lifestyle. It’s the pot of gold at the end of the keto rainbow. Using keto alternatives to bread, desserts, salty snacks or sweet drinks is an important coping strategy for many who are transitioning to this lifestyle. I’m just saying that it’s not the forever place to be.
Life for me has simplified down to coffee in the morning and two generous and satisfying meals. After spending most of my adult life (and much of my youth) obsessing on what I eat and my weight, I feel a real sense of peace now, a place that I realize I have been seeking for decades. Thank you Carnivore Month and Thank you Minimalist Keto.
I think maybe it’s time for a pantry purge of some of that baking stuff…