When we begin the process of transitioning to a Ketogenic Lifestyle, it might be tempting to look at all the long term progress pictures and forget that those results don’t happen overnight.
Pictures we see follow the same rule on Facebook and the internet as icebergs. 10% is on the surface, but 90% of the story is floating underneath. We forget about 90% of the story, but that is the part which will trip us up if we don’t know about it.
You might be here transitioning from another eating plan, or on a recommendation. You might have stumbled on this place by “coincidence” (no such thing). No matter where you’ve come here from, or what kind of amazing healthy looking eating plan you have been on before you transition to Keto, it’s important to understand what happens to your body during the time of transition.
Unless it’s been a high fat lifestyle, the human body starts out very very confused. It is very, very happy, don’t get me wrong.
Imagine this: You have a job, you have been there for 20 years, your boss walks past you every day and doesn’t acknowledge you exist. Suddenly, out of the blue, he comes up to you one day, calls you by name and says, “I really love your work, you always do an amazing job, thank you for being here!”
He knows your family, he knows your license number, he starts giving you double your usual pay… You are. Freaked. Out.
This is what is happening in our bodies when we start feeding it all this beautiful fat. It gets freaked out. We are giving it what it needs, and extra Christmas bonuses, and it suddenly doesn’t know what to do anymore. In the past it had to work hard to get us through each day, and save up just in case there’s a hard winter. Now all the paradigms are different and it takes time to trust whether we will continue to feed it properly or not.
For some of us, it takes a looooong time for our body to trust that this lifestyle change is for real. I am a worst-case scenario. When I first transitioned to Keto, it took my body 3 months to see any change, either in measurements or on the scale. It took one whole month to stop being ravenously hungry.
Most people experience change much quicker than I did. The reason I mention my experience is to illustrate, Keto does work for everyone. It might take a bit longer for one person’s body to recover from years of the Standard Western Diet (SWD) than another person’s body, but it does work.
Our co-morbidities (a fancy way of saying- the different health conditions we have simultaneously) also add to the time period it takes for each of our bodies to go through this transition.
Before I began Keto, I had PCOS, hyper-flexibility, irritable bowel, a brain-injury, genetic migraine, epilepsy and 25 years of serious dieting including doctors prescriptions for weight loss (and probably an eating disorder).
No wonder it took three months for my body to decide that it trusted me again!
So if it takes a while for your body to adjust and begin the process of healing, speak kindly to it. I know this sounds weird, but when we are relaxed in our minds, our bodies follow. Conversely, when we stress, the body releases hormones that can further hinder adaptation. Relax and know that you’ve made a great choice!
One of the first things that happens is carbohydrate withdrawal. Some people call this ‘Keto Flu’, which is really misleading, because Keto doesn’t cause it, carbs do. Some people have a heavy dose of carb withdrawal, and some people less.
It is also based on how much water weight our bodies lose in the initial period, because some of the withdrawal symptoms may also be symptoms of electrolyte deficit.
This needs to be taken care of by salt, salt, salt, vinegar and or lemon juice – this is why you will see many references to salted Apple Cider vinegar (with the mother), unsweetened pickle juice, and salty lemon water. Magnesium tablets may also necessary. [NB. Potassium is NOT. Potassium supplements are dangerous and unless you are prescribed these by a doctor, do not take them.]
This is an ongoing resource that you will need. Eating excessive carbs causes us to hold water and electrolytes. By cutting out carbs and highly processed foods, which are heavy on preservatives and all sorts of artificial fortification, it can lead to electrolyte imbalances if we’re not careful. It is important to know which kind of electrolyte supplement your body loves, and get familiar with your symptoms of electrolyte deficit. (*see below) Mine loves salty, salty water…
Another of the first things that happens during the transition period is cravings. This is probably a bit obvious. It’s a symptom of withdrawal.
It’s going to take time to adjust your taste buds. You will crave sweet things, you will crave carb-loaded things. You will want fast food and junk food. There is no way around that.
My best advice is to not try to substitute, but like any addict, wait it out. There are enough things on the food list to cover the cravings, even if they don’t ‘hit the spot’.
Initially, they probably won’t hit the spot. That’s what withdrawal cravings are about: Withdrawal. Here are Recipes on the Ketovangelist website, and here is a link to the Keto Holiday Recipe Book which lots of people had success with over Thanksgiving- both of these will be a great resource.
While we go through transition, another significant symptom is hunger. I was ravenous like a bear. I ate so much food, and I thought it would never stop! Then one day, I woke up, and a switch had been flipped. I wasn’t hungry. From that day, for the last two years, hunger hasn’t ruled my life. I still get hungry, and I still feel like I could eat a horse, but I couldn’t fit a horse in anymore. In fact I couldn’t fit a chicken in, not even half a chicken if I tried.
During transition, eat. Eat. Eat. Eat until you are full.
Don’t try to adjust your Macros until you stop feeling hungry. Learn about them, practice with them, but wait until your body has adjusted past the withdrawal. Watch your carbs, eat from fat and then protein and then carbs to make sure you are getting your ratios right, but don’t be afraid to eat.
We have to teach our bodies to trust us again. Trust that it doesn’t have to store up fat for a hard winter. Trust that it can start to heal all those things that the Standard Western Diet and Lifestyle have damaged our bodies with.
It may take a longer time, it may take a shorter time. It will happen, it’s a matter of whether you’re willing to stick it out and trust the process.
No matter how long or short your transition period is, your decision to step into a Ketogenic Lifestyle is setting you up to have a powerful future. Your health and well-being has already improved off the charts, and you are participating as a leader in a global movement towards a healthier world.
*The symptoms associated with electrolyte deficit are as follows:
- dark urine, [this can mean you’ve just released a lot of electrolytes very quickly]
- irregular heartbeat [this can feel like sudden onset nervousness or anxiety]
- fatigue, lethargy,
- convulsions or seizures [trembling in hands or eyes is enough, epileptics need to be careful]
- nausea- feeling off your food is different to not feeling hungry,
- bowel irregularities- both kinds… [having enough salt and magnesium in your system helps you poop properly!]
- abdominal cramping [ladies, check your calendars]
- muscle weakness/muscle pain/cramp,
- changes in mood and/or coherence (irritability, confusion, depression)
You may not experience all of these, but even one should be enough to double check your complex salt intake.