I weighed myself while I was back home for the holidays. I don’t advocate weighing yourself regularly, and for a long time I suggested that people that have been in my situation of disordered dieting and hating their body never weigh themselves….But... I got curious. I’ve been feeling a little lethargic, I’ve been eating ALL the Chinese takeout, and I’ve started to notice feeling a little winded at the top of the subway steps, even though I’ve been on a very consistent cardio and weight lifting routine.
So I stepped on the scale. 210 LBS. I’m tall (5’9), but I officially weigh more than my father and almost as much as my brother who is 6’1 and a beast. Does it matter? No. But it took me a little by surprise.
I expected to feel that immediate pang of panic, shame and the desire to purge somehow. But I didn’t. I honestly just thought to myself (surprisingly calmly), “That’s getting a little heavy. Maybe it’s why I’ve been a little unusually winded. It’s not a huge deal, I’ve packed on a lot of muscle in the last year with lifting heavy weights, but let’s make sure I have a healthy body composition. Feeling healthy and strong is my main priority. Maybe I can gently focus on losing a little bit of body fat and prioritizing healthy food and I’ll feel a bit better.” I feel the need to say VERY LOUDLY that I DO NOT ADVOCATE REGULAR DIETING, COUNTING CALORIES, OR OBSESSING OVER THE SCALE. WHAT I DO ADVOCATE IS: LISTENING TO YOUR BODY. AND EATING ALL THE VEGETABLES.
Oh great, what a fun time of year to lose a few pounds of fat. Maybe this was a bad idea. I gotta stay warm.
Right now, I feel like my body is showing me that I’d feel better slightly lighter. I don’t really care what the number is, as long as my joints feel good and I don’t feel winded. So here comes the fun part: I’ve decided to go Keto for a few weeks to lose a little body fat, and see how I feel. KEY WORD: FUN EXPERIMENT. I’m finally at a place in my life where I can experiment with things like this without devolving into body shame, starving myself, or freaking out and going into a binging and purging cycle. This is a good thing, my people.
In the Instagram body positive movement, there is a lot of anti-dieting, fat-positivity, and a whole lot of support for embracing your curves. I SUPPORT LOVING YOUR BODY AT ANY SIZE 100%. However, unfortunately, when the conversation turns to desires for any type of manipulation of the body, even with healthy intentions, many from this online support group withdraw their support. I understand where this comes from… so many of us have been trying to change so much in such an unhealthy way for so long, it can really upset people that recovering from these kinds of negative thought processes who can’t read your mind to understand your good intentions and motivation. But you know what I say to that? Ultimately, body positivity is an individual effort that can benefit a lot from support of like minded individuals, not another clique that requires following certain rules to be included (or at least it shouldn’t, wink, wink).
The question isn’t really, “can dieting be body positive?” The question is, “why am I doing this?”
Most activities and lifestyles can be a positive experience for your body if we let it. We are what gets in our own way; whether it’s from decades of absorbing abusive advertising, family members and loved ones surrounding us with negative patterns, or society putting us down. I’m not saying it’s easy or quick, and I’ll also acknowledge that while I’ve had some struggles, I’m also incredibly privileged to be on the smaller side of the plus spectrum, while also being white, and young. There are many people that are going up against far more than I have. Many body types are taught that they’re inherently ugly, unhealthy, and not good enough. This is a huge part of the problem, and where group support can be a major help. That said, following the examples of many wonderful role models out there (ask me for suggestions if you need inspiration), I know that it’s possible for anyone to learn how to love their body, with enough dedication, with the right people around you, and with the right information.
I think we are all capable and responsible for doing the mental surgery required to unlearn self hatred. I think it can take years. It certainly has for me and I’ve got A LONG WAY TO GO. But with all of these things in mind, there is absolutely no reason why a person learning to love themselves cannot explore AND ENJOY different experiments with diet and exercise in a healthful way.
The bottom line is: It’s your body. It’s your experience. And if the answer to the question “why?” is that you’re genuinely having fun or gently pursuing more health, that too, can be body positive, no matter what the internet says.
So back to my experiments with the keto diet thus far:
What is keto?
Simply put, the Keto diet is a high fat, very low carbohydrate diet that puts your body in a state called ketosis; where you force your body to burn your own body fat for fuel, instead of the glucose (from carbohydrates) that it usually uses. Note: If you want to try, it is extremely important to do your own, individualized research beforehand, as this diet can have extreme consequences if done improperly.
So you eat 65% Fat, 30% Protein, and 5% Carbohydrate. Generally, you want to try to keep your carbohydrates below 20g per day. If you just track carbohydrates (rather than worrying about calories or counting anything else, which is a pain in the ass) I think it’s pretty easy to maintain; both mentally and physically.
I learned a lot from Dr. Berg, who suggests not counting the carbohydrates in green vegetables, which I completely agree with. It’s really important to make sure that you get enough nutrients and also electrolytes (when you start burning fat in ketosis, your body flushes out ketones (build up of acids produced by the body using fat as fuel) and electrolytes in your urine, so it’s extremely important to hydrate and get enough salt/electrolytes). So I’ve been eating A TON of salad, with ranch. Which is AMAZING (lots of Iowans love ranch, did you know that?).
So far we’ve been keto for 12 days. We eat a lot of salads, cheese, bacon, meat, whipping cream, spinach, full fat yogurt, stirfry's and butter, which is my favorite food in the world. Some people experience the “keto flu” the first week, where you feel generally awful and low energy, but I didn’t feel much of that. I read up on the subject, and apparently the reason most people feel that way is due to lack of electrolytes and dehydration. When I say drink a lot of water, I mean you HAVE TO ACTUALLY DRINK A GALLON OF WATER OR MORE PER DAY. Here’s a breakdown of the first 12 days. Follow up post to come.
The first couple of days were a little bit rough (when your body is used to a certain amount of carbohydrate, you have to adapt to burning fat for energy instead). I felt a little tired and run down. I drank a lot of water and electrolytes. But when I tested my urine at the end of the second day, I was already in ketosis (it takes 48 hours for your body to burn up it’s reserve of carbohydrates). Didn’t feel particularly hungry or want sweets more than the usual desire after dinner. Aside from a little fatigue, I didn’t feel that much of a difference, honestly.
Please ignore the hair on my sink. I am a gross person, now with my pee on a stick. #maturity
Still a little tired, but I was also PMSing, which always throws everything off. I have absolutely horrible periods and terrible mood swings, exhaustion, and sleep issues the week before. Keto can apparently be very balancing hormonally, and help the skin; which is yet another reason why I wanted to try it for a bit.
I found it very easy not to eat all day on busy days at work (not that I think that’s something anyone should pursue, unless you’re trying intermittent fasting, which I am), which is very unusual for me. Normally I have to at least shove some sort of protein bar or sandwich in my mouth at some point in route between jobs, and I’ve been finding it incredibly easy to wait until I get home for double dinner around 7 PM ( and then naturally again at 10 pm cause HUNGRY). Because of the lack of carbohydrates and sugar in the body on this type of diet, it keeps your blood sugar very level. Normally when you get insane hunger pangs and feel like you’re going to die it’s because you’re crashing from the jump in your blood sugar from the carbohydrates you’ve eaten in the last however-many hours.
Period is horrible as usual, but I only got one zit this time around. I was wondering if all of the dairy (I usually try to eat almost no dairy because of my skin/hormones) would break me out, but so far I think this pimple is just due to hormones. I’m trying to buy organic dairy whenever possible. The boyfriend’s skin has cleared up as well.
I can easily not eat all day long and feel fine. VERY weird.
I’ve lost 5 lbs, which again, I don’t care about, but it’s nice to use it as a marker that something is happening.
I test my urine every day and have maintained ketosis (although it’s gone down during my period. I can think of a lot of gross reasons for that, and also that maybe my body has bigger priorities around this time. Will research and get back to you).
Keto tuna salad, with eggs, a shit-ton of mayo, mustard, turmeric and a few drops of stevia for sweetness. Comment if you'd like keto recipes!
All in all, so far we both like it, A LOT. Highlights and tricks:
I feel better, clearer, with more energy
I love not crashing after a meal, or feeling that full, bloated, tired feeling you feel after a huge pasta dinner or something of the sort.
I feel a little leaner, which is cool. I can tell I’ve lost a bit of bloating around my face and belly. After my period will be the real marker, as I usually lose 7 lbs around that time anyway.
I love dips, and can’t have most of them now, so what do I do? When I make a bun-less burger or piece of meat, besides cooking it with cheese, I now make a yummy butter hot sauce, which is one part melted butter and one part hot sauce. YOU WILL THANK ME LATER.
It’s important to get enough fat to stay in ketosis, see step 4
When I’m dying for a sweet (which really hasn’t been bad, honestly, I’m used to suffering much more on a strict diet like this), I take a little bit of diet root beer, and put full fat whipping cream in it, and sail away TO HEAVEN BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT IT TASTES LIKE.
There is ZERO CARB CHEESE. YOU CAN HAVE LIKE, A TON OF THAT.
YEAH STILL THERE, FRESH MOZZ HAS NO CARBS YA WELCOME.
I’m cooking a lot more because you can’t really trust most restaurants not to add starch and sugar to everything, WHEE THIS IS A BITTERSWEET ONE I’D LOVE SOME CHINESE FOOD.
More updates to follow. If you have thoughts on body positive body manipulation, I’d love to hear them!