I Heart Carbohydrates.
For me, they’re curative. A doughnut or two and voila – nausea is vanquished, anxiety is subdued, headaches disappear, and mood is elevated.
All this, and delicious too. What’s not to love?
I can grab a cookie, a bag of chips, or a candy bar in any store across the nation. Meals high in carbs are easy to prepare and even easier to eat. My weight is fine and I feel, well, like I guess everyone feels when they’re 64, fluctuating between pretty good and pretty old. I love my carbs.
And then my daughter, Amy, calls. She is looking extra fit and trim, but I assume it’s due to her penchant for exercise.
“Keto,” she gushes, during a FaceTime call. What’s Keto? 75% of your food intake comes from the right kind of fats, like olive and coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. 20% of your diet is derived from protein, and 5% from carbs.
Can I Really Do This?
Drastically reducing carbs from my diet doesn’t seem feasible. My 23 and Me DNA traits report states: “You are likely to prefer sweet snacks.” Uh huh. It’s in the genes. My Neanderthal ancestors likely stumbled into a field of sugar cane while hunting for meat.
Amy peels off a list of health benefits of the high-fat, low-carb diet. Besides weight loss, devotees claim they have higher energy levels, better moods, and clearer thinking. Some studies show a Keto diet prevents epileptic seizures in children, effectively treats diabetes, and helps stave off Alzheimer’s.
Preliminary research suggests it may stop cancer’s progression, inhibit metastases and kill off cancer cells. She is so enthusiastic that I find myself saying, “I’m in, sweetheart!” Just. Like. That.
Amy was diagnosed with stage 2 invasive breast cancer in October of 2013. She is nearing her 5th anniversary, and fears of it’s possible return continue to disturb our peace of mind. For Amy’s type of cancer, years 5-10 pose the greatest threat of recurrence, and so she’s been looking for any and all ways to give herself the best chance at fighting or slowing down any cancer cells that may be lingering.
As we’re talking, I’m watching Amy’s face on the screen. I’m trying my best to hide my own emotions, but we both have a tough time pretending. If there’s a chance this diet can help prevent a return of cancer, then it’s a no-brainer.
I can sum up most of my life choices into a simple verse: For me, it’s all or nothing. So… I’ve turned into a bit of a fanatic. Mike and I both drop 5 pounds in 2 weeks, but weight loss isn’t our priority. Joining Amy in a healthier diet makes me feel like we’re standing in solidarity with her against cancer. She’s our baby. It feels right.
OK. I’m in.
Day 1: Breakfast – two scrambled eggs, sautéed in butter and topped with cheddar cheese. Lunch – turkey chili. Dinner – grilled chicken salad. I hesitate while putting on a generous dollop of blue cheese dressing, but do it anyway. I snack on peanuts and cheese.
Day 2: Lunch – cheeseburger wrapped in lettuce. Delicious but messy. On and on we go. My husband and I are eating like cavemen.
Days 3-4: I wake feeling tired and cranky. Mental pictures of meat, cheese and eggs are making me gag. By 5 PM, I’ve got a raging headache and my body aches all over. I want to punch my husband in the face for no reason whatsoever. I also want a biscuit smothered in raspberry jam.
“It’s called the Keto flu,” says Amy, calling to check on our progress. “Yay, Mom! That means you’re doing everything right!” This newsflash brings me no solace.
The next day I wake with no appetite and a heart that pounds over 100 bpm. Putting on my jeans takes super-human strength. Right leg goes into right side of pants. Rest. Then left leg. Rest. Hot flashes, ear-ringing and mental confusion are compounding my misery. I need an oatmeal-raisin cookie, STAT.
Days 5-10: I’m feeling a tad better. Progress is slow but steady. It may be a bit early to embrace this new dietary lifestyle for the rest of my life, but at least I’m feeling some energy and mental acuity returning. I am shocked at the rapid changes in my body. Pants are zipping with ease. Dresses are slipping on effortlessly.
But this is not a diet for sissies. I spend over an hour at the grocery store checking the carb count on the back of packaging. It’s annoying and time-consuming. Jabbing my husband in the arm, I wave my eyes over into the direction of a stranger’s cart. “Look at the carbs in that cart!” they silently say. Carb-judging brings out the ugly in me.
I’m not accustomed to so much food prep, and at first, it’s a bit overwhelming. Amy and I swap Keto recipes via text. Fathead pizza is delish!
Here’s the Amazing Part:
I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I am never hungry. I was always hungry before Keto. And my sugar cravings have almost vanished. I walk through Publix bakery without stopping, though I do partake in a good whiff of glazed donuts now and then. Squirting real whipping cream from the can into my open mouth brings back memories of Dad lining up all nine of his children to do the same. With a Keto diet, the tradition continues.
I’m sticking with Keto for a couple of months, then reevaluating. I’ll let you know how it goes.
About to head off to a holiday party. I’ll hover around the cheese and sausage platters, but will allow myself a dessert or two. We’ve all got our breaking point, and when I spot a tray of sugar cookies, fudge, or cheesecake, I reach mine. December 26th, I’ll get back in the groove by reminding myself that everything tastes delicious when you pour butter and melted cheese on top. Even brussel sprouts.