Keto Life: Evidence that Calories don’t Count

We all have to unlearn all the ‘common sense’ slogans about healthy diet and weight loss parroted by advocates of the low-cal/low-fat ‘hunger games.’ ‘A calorie is a calorie is a calorie,’ goes one slogan. But slogans are not science.

One bit of real science everyone on the keto lifestyle ought to know is the 1957 study by Kekwick and Pawan. These two respected British doctors/researchers experimented with a 1000 calorie diet. The dieters were divided in groups. One group got 90% of their calories from carbohydrates, another got 90% from protein, and another got 90% from fat.

If ‘a calorie is a calorie is a calorie’ is a slogan with any validity, all of those diets should have had pretty much the same results. But the 90% carb dieters lost very little weight, the 90% protein dieters lost more, and the 90% fat dieters lost the most. The macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat) in the food made more difference than the sheer calorie count!

Maybe that makes you wonder what a calorie is, anyway. It is the measure of the energy in food, if you burned it in a lab. But we don’t burn our food in a lab. We metabolize it in our bodies, and our bodies treat the different macronutrients in different ways.

That’s why on keto we can’t substitute a 100 calorie candy bar for 100 calories worth of our low-carb vegetables, or 100 calories worth of butter. Our body handles different foods in different ways. In my own case, 100 calories of a candy bar would likely trigger a carbohydrate binge which would send my blood sugar and my weight right up. 100 calories worth of low-carb veggies would not, and 100 calories of butter, perhaps in a bulletproof coffee, would prevent my carb cravings and make me forget to eat the next meal. (Yes, even a chow-hound like me can say ‘no’ to food on keto!)

Since keto/lowcarb is not a temporary fad diet but a lifelong way of eating, we need to know about the science behind the approach. Memorize those names— Kekwick and Pawan— and the year— 1957. The study in question was published in the journal Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, and the study was called “Metabolic Study in Human Obesity with Isocaloric Diets High in Fat, Protein or Carbohydrate,” by authors A. Kekwick and G. L. Pawan.  Sadly, I could not find this study on the Internet.

If I had a medical degree and the ability to get things published, I would love to publish a short book with medical journal articles supporting the keto/low-carb lifestyle, and one of the first articles I would love to reprint in the book would be the Kekwick and Pawan study. Such a book would be a great little thing for us Ketonians to pass on to our skeptical doctors and non-doctor ‘health-care providers’ who would rather we use pills and, if necessary, low-cal/low-fat hunger diets in a vain attempt to improve our health.

I tend to post ketogenic lifestyle topics on Thursdays. I hope some of my readers find these posts useful. 

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Keto Life: Keto/Lowcarb without a Food Diary or App

What is the most dreaded thing that might happen to you? Having to keep a food diary— a record of every bit of food that goes in to your mouth. And since Keto/Low-carb is a lifestyle not a temporary diet, you might have to do it FOREVER.

Or not. The original Atkins (1972), created by a doctor who had real-world patients, didn’t require anyone to keep a food diary. Look at the original ‘diet sheet’ portion of ‘Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution.’ There were some foods you could eat in unlimited amounts— like meats,  fish, eggs, butter and mayonnaise. Other foods were allowed, but in rationed amounts— 2 salads of less than one cupful, four ounces of hard cheese, four teaspoons of heavy cream. You didn’t have to formally write down even the limited things, so long as you could remember to stay within the limits.

That was in Atkins Induction. Induction was a time for your body to adapt to being in ketosis. Atkins wanted everyone to use urine test strips to see if they were really in ketosis. We now also have the ability to test for blood ketones or breath ketones. At any rate, if you are really on Keto, you should be testing.

Atkins also has levels— in which you could add back small amounts of carbs, so long as you stayed in ketosis. And then when you got to ‘Maintenance’ you could have even more carbs even if you were out of ketosis. On a more modern Keto lifestyle, we know how healthy ketosis can be, so we want to be in ketosis even when we are at a normal weight. So we keep lower in carbs than an early Atkins dieter might have in ‘Maintenance.’

Learning the Atkins way does require study. You need to know, for example, that you can have shrimp but not scallops, and why. That you can have real lobster but not that fake lobster that’s manufactured from fish and has carbs in it. That you can put a bit of heavy cream (or sour cream) in your coffee, but not skim milk.

The great part of Atkins is that there is always something you are allowed to eat. After you have gone through your carb-containing limited foods, you can still have a feast out of the zero-carb foods. During the first few days of Induction, if you are used to the low-calorie hunger diets, you will feel like you are always eating. Go right ahead and eat! Until you get in ketosis, you have to keep eating the allowed foods so you feel not only full, but not-deprived.

Once you are in ketosis, you won’t feel hungry. You may be able to skip meals and fast pretty easily, but don’t go overboard. You will have to be eating food for the rest of your life, and your Keto/Low-carb meals are your way to train yourself to eat your allowed foods when you do eat.

What helps me is that I find allowable foods that I really like— such as baked chicken thighs, or bacon strips, or deviled eggs, or cheese sandwiches on a ‘Diet Revolution’ roll or a low-carb tortilla. And of course a bulletproof coffee or a keto hot chocolate. I have these pleasure-foods every day. Because my body needs me to eat this way for life, and that won’t happen when I’m eating foods I don’t care for.

I recommend that EVERYONE on the  keto and/or low-carb lifestyle own a copy of ‘Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution,’ if only to prove to yourself that the Keto lifestyle is not just a ‘fad diet.’ It also has some good recipes such as ‘Diet Revolution’ rolls or bread. The book is on Amazon in paperback, or you may be able to score a copy at a used-book store. My hardcover edition came from a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop. Get one!

KetoLife: You Need to Cook

One unpleasant fact of Keto living is that you need to do home-cooking. You can’t just go out for Keto food! Restaurants, especially fast-food ones, are notorious carb-pushers. Your burgers come with buns, and urgings to order fries and a sugary soft drink. Kentucky Fried no longer has the low carb roasted chicken, but the new menu looks to be rich in carbs, as well as requiring a biscuit. I think they made you pay for the biscuit whether you actually get the biscuit or not.

We have a societal inhibition about home cooking. Men don’t want to do it because it’s traditionally women’s work. Women don’t want to do it because we are brought up thinking we have to be good feminists and doing women’s work instead of delegating it to a man is bad feminism. But we have to man up (or woman up) and realize that eating the product of food processors every day is too bad for us to be sustainable. Do we want to be fat, diabetic and/or have Alzheimer’s disease?

To learn Keto (low-carb) cooking you need to have keto recipe books. Yes, actual books. Preferably NOT on Kindle, as you don’t want to spill low-carb gravy on your Kindle. Not every ‘low-carb’ cook book is good. I have one I bought on sale years ago that has not one recipe that is actually low-carb. It’s more of a ‘moderate carb’ approach.

The best book to start with is not a recipe book at all, but Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution, which has recipes in the back. The advantage to this old book is that it came along before there were any low-carb specialty food in the stores. The problem with low-carb specialty foods is that the companies that make them go out of business whenever low-carb popularity dips, and so you are stuck finding substitutes for ‘Carb Countdown dairy beverage’ in your recipes.

Dr. Atkins’ first book came out before any of that (1972) and his patients had to get regular food ingredients from regular grocery stores. And the advantages of the recipes in that first book is that they are well known in the low-carb community. The trickiest recipe in the book is the Diet Revolution Rolls a bread substitute, which require separating eggs and whipping the egg whites. There are actual YouTube videos that show how to make Diet Revolution Rolls!

YouTube videos are actually a great way to improve your cooking/baking skills. You can also Google (or DuckDuckGo) any cut of meat you want to cook and get instructions. Don’t know how to make pork chops or a ribeye steak? Google! (Duck!) You can learn no matter how hopeless you are. And if you have no internet access, try your local library. My small-town library has internet connected computers you can use for free for a  hour.

Dr. Atkins also has a lot of recipe books out. The two I use most are the two earliest, Dr. Atkins Diet Cookbook (1974) and Dr. Atkins New Diet Cookbook (1994). The first contains a very simple recipe for ‘cream sauce’ (like white sauce) and ‘mushroom sauce’ (can sub for cream-of-mushroom soups). Later Atkins books often have recipes which call on ingredients that are specialty products from Atkins corporation that are no longer available.

When you are ready to go beyond Dr. Atkins approved recipes, we have two cookbook authors that are dedicated to low-carb/keto: Dana Carpender and Maria Emmerich. Both have co-written cookbooks with low-carb health podcaster Jimmy Moore, both have a number of cook books available. Look on Amazon.com or your favorite online book seller and pick one that sounds good.

A final note: how many recipes do you, personally, need? My aunt Pat who loves to try new recipes all the time would need a lot. My mother tends to stick with a smaller number of ‘tried-and-true’ recipes. I myself prefer to be in a rut, making the same few meals most of the time. How many good keto recipes do you need? Don’t settle for the first few you try if you only eat them because they are ‘diet’ food and you are on a ‘diet.’ Keto/low-carb food should taste great! Try new recipes until you find ones you like.

KetogenicLife: The 6 Lamb Chop Man

Back in the good old days when the ketogenic diet was called ‘low-carb’ or ‘Atkins,’ the nay-sayers were convinced that low-carb didn’t work. They were fanatics about the (already disproven) calorie theory, and so they felt that if anyone lost any weight on low-carb, it was because they were eating less calories.

Dr. Robert Atkins, in ‘Doctor Atkins’ Diet Revolution’ (1972) tried to show that was not so. He gave several examples of people who ate quite a lot of calories on Atkins, but few carbs, and lost weight.

In the chapter ‘You Will Never Feel a Hunger Pang,’ in that first Atkins book, we read the story of Marc Eletz. Marc ate a lot. He ate enough for four people, and when asked why, he said “Because if I ate enough for three people, I’d still be hungry.”

On Atkins, Marc ate only two meals a day. Supper was the big meal for him. He ate large quantities of meat. One typical meal was six lamb chops with salad. Others were 7 frankfurters with sauerkraut, or two dozen spareribs, steak, cheese and salad. And he lost 100 pounds on that diet.

Another heavy-eating example from the Atkins books ate 4 pounds of meat a day— which would be about 5000 calories a day. Since a strict weight loss diet might be 1000 or 1200 calories a day, he should have gained weight. Instead, he lost 50 pounds.

Now, with all the vegetarian/vegan misinformation floating around these days, I’m sure many people won’t even try to eat the meat quantities these men did while on keto. Maybe if they switch to carnivore for a while…. The thing is, though, meat is what humans eat, and meat heals.

One reason the Atkins diet worked for so many people was that if you had eaten all your carbs for the day, there was still a lot you could eat in the form of meat. You never had to sit around hungry, knowing you had to wait to eat until the next day. I am not sure if the new vegetarian form of keto will have the same benefits, because there ARE no zero carb vegetarian foods. So you probably remain hungry on that keto diet.

KetogenicLife: Reduced Carb Pita Bread

One tough thing about keto is the lack of bread. We can’t have the sandwiches we are used to, and we have nothing to put cheese and ham slices on. Or tuna salad.

There are home made work-arounds that are better for you than the reduced carb breads and tortillas, but as we get older and can’t cook as much as we used to, or as we get too busy to cook a lot at any age, we need to find some ready-made foods we can work into our ketogenic lifestyle.

I recently bought some Joseph’s Flax, Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pita Bread. One pita is 10 grams total carbs, and 4 grams dietary fiber, which makes it 6 grams net carbs. Doable, for most of us. It does contain wheat flour and wheat gluten, and soy ingredients, so if you can’t eat those items this bread is not for you.

I found it is a little more delicate and tearable than regular pita bread. It’s tasty enough, and I’m sure you can use it for all sorts of sandwiches, including grilled cheese. I made myself a peanut butter sandwich with the bread and it was quite good.

Reviewers on Amazon have suggested storing the bread in freezer or refrigerator so it will last longer. I ordered 3 packages of 6 pita breads and will be preparing most of that for the freezer today. The bread I bought had a spot of mold on some of the breads, but I cut that out with a knife. Good reason, though, NOT to store it at room temperature or in the fridge for long periods.

I liked the bread well enough that when this batch is gone I will likely be buying more. It’s not low-carb enough to be able to eat it without rationing, but it’s filling enough and it makes for some easy meals.

Keto Podcast — I’ve been listening to the 2 Keto Dudes podcast and highly recommend it. Find it at: http://2ketodudes.com/

KetogenicLife: Are Keto ‘Shakes’ OK on Keto?

You may have noticed that the SlimFast corporation has come out with a ‘keto’ line of ‘shakes’ and bars. Atkins corporation has long had ‘shakes’ and bars which can be used on a ketogenic diet. But can you really have them on Keto?

The modern ketogenic lifestyle tends to advocate in favor of ‘real foods’ and warn against processed foods. Keto bars and ‘shakes’ are by nature processed foods. Certainly no ketonians should be consuming these foods as daily fare when real food is not available.

But what about when real keto food is not available. When I was staying in a homeless shelter for a while, which rarely served any food I could actually eat, I walked to a nearby pharmacy and bought Atkins brand drinks and bars. I had one or two a day when there was nothing I could eat.

I’ve done a similar thing when I’ve been sick. Many years ago when ill, I had my father bring me a supply of Atkins drinks. That way I didn’t have to go off keto, nor did I have to cook and wash dishes while ill.

Atkins products— and other specialty diet food for keto— costs a lot of money, though. Under normal circumstances and even in illness, I’d rather have some bulletproof coffee than a load of expensive Atkins drinks. It’s a good idea to keep some keto-friendly and easy to cook foods in your home to use in case of illness. I keep frozen hamburger patties and chicken thighs in my freezer. I take them out into the fridge on the morning of the day I plan to eat them, or the evening before.

I have also discovered that a serving of Progresso Chicken and Wild Rice soup is 13 grams of carbs, and only 12 grams of net carbs. Because soups tend to be too low in fats for keto, add some healthy fat in the form of butter, coconut oil, or olive oil. That will make the soup more filling and more ketogenic. Other flavors of Progresso soup are only a little worse in the carb grams department. I would buy a can or two regularly to keep on hand in the house in case you are too ill or too busy to create a meal that calls for a lot of cooking.

Note: I put quotes around the word ‘shakes’ because diet drinks are NOT milkshakes. Don’t call them that. It’s cruel to people who remember what real milkshakes tasted like.

Ketogenic Thursday: Why Not Fast in Survival Situations?

Sometimes I watch moments of those survival shows where they dump people on an island or in the wilderness and watch them try to survive. On one of the shows, they have to be naked, and are not allowed to use their carry-bags to fashion loincloths. But the one thing I haven’t seen is the use of fasting as a survival strategy.

People who have tried the low-carb, Atkins or ketogenic lifestyle know that these diets put you in a state of ketosis, and when you are in ketosis you are not hungry. Similarly— if you fast— don’t eat food at all but drink water— you get into ketosis and are not hungry.

If I were scheduled to be on a survival show, or met with a survival situation in real life, my first move would be to fast. No food, no attempt to find food, no worries about food. Average people can fast for 20, 30 or 40 days, so when you land in a survival situation, food is not your big worry.

The first few hours should be devoted to one thing— finding a good source of water. You can live without food for many days, but without water you die quick. And unsafe water— like sea water— is no substitute.

After you find out where the water is, the next move is to find shelter. Often, you need to fashion something for yourself from branches or palm fronds. And usually it won’t stand up to a hailstorm. But humans are better off under at least minimum shelter.

Only after you have got the water and shelter thing in hand do you have to start worrying about food. And there is no hurry. You are not going to die after a few days of fasting. Many people fast for multiple days at home for health reasons. Surely you can do it for a bit to survive in a survival situation or in a pretended survival situation.

It helps to do a bit of research beforehand on wilderness food sources. Wild vegetable foods and fruits can potentially be poison. Meats are not poison, but overly lean meat, such as rabbit, can lead to ‘rabbit starvation,’ which makes you die quicker than eating nothing at all. Fish is mostly safe, except for pufferfish. Which you probably won’t find.

If you normally are a heavy carbohydrate eater, it will help you if you avoid gorging on any available carbs. Carbs are not necessary for survival, and tend to make you hungry for more carbs. Fat and protein, the components of meat, are necessary, and as you will find when you try a ketogenic diet, will make you feel unhungry and sustain you for a long time.

In the artificial situation of a survival show, the faster also has the advantage that while he is fasting, he can donate any food he finds to the other survivors, thus winning points for generosity. People are more helpful to you when you give them a banana or a fish and go without food yourself.

In a real survival situation, just knowing that hunger won’t kill you in hours or days will help you. I hear stories of people lost in the woods who ‘survived’ a couple of days by eating cough drops or some such. They might well have ‘survived’ more comfortably without the cough drops!

To learn more of the science behind fasting, I recommend the book ‘The Complete Guide to Fasting’ by Jason Fung, MD, with Jimmy Moore. Besides learning things you can use for your own health, as writers we might always benefit by learning facts we can put to use when we make our characters get into a survival situation with no food.

I sometimes blog about health issues and the ketogenic ‘diet’, and I think I am going to post on Thursdays about the topic, rather than have a separate blog, which is harder to keep up with my health issues.