Discover the benefits of a Keto Lifestyle

Proud Mary is excited bring to you the personal experience of Regina Gysel. Regina, a former Ophthalmologist, began exploring the Keto diet and lifestyle two years ago. She is now a dedicated practitioner and has quickly become a local expert and resource on Keto diets in her hometown area of Chico, California.

How would you describe yourself?

(RG) I think I am a Buddhist. I did not know that I was until I read a description of a Buddhist as someone who wants to reduce human suffering. I really identify with this, this is me.

What are the biggest motivators in your life?

(RG) I care about people around me, my family and my friends. I care about their health. I graduated from school (in Lithuania) as an ophthalmologist and practiced for eight years. I have seen a lot of people suffering. If I know how to reduce suffering, or how changing your eating habits can have a profound effect on your health and your family’s health, I feel like I want to share this knowledge with the rest of the world.

(RG) Since medical school, I have known that the only person who takes care of your health is yourself. We can’t rely entirely on doctors. Modern medicine has traditionally focused on treatment, not prevention. At the same time, if you follow simple rules of healthy mind, body and spirit, you can maintain your health for years to come. I have always tried to eat healthy. Having learned about the Keto approach, the low carb and high fat approach, I now know that my family was eating too much fruit (sugar). Fruit is so sweet and delicious; it seems to be a natural dessert, better than cake or chocolate. But you can still overdo it on fruit.

IMG_0278
Regina with Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt at the Low Carb USA Conference, with conference organizers Doug and Pam.

When did you first start to explore Keto?

(Regina) I wanted to lose some weight, so I enrolled in an online weight loss program that promised results. I went full force. It was a low calorie diet, which I now know can dramatically slow down your metabolism. It was also low fat and low protein. Everything was low. I did lose the weight but I also lost my period and it also affected my cognitive functioning. My brain was not the same anymore. I developed strong cravings for carbs – for the first time. I was eating healthy food, but when I ate what I craved, what my body felt like it was missing, the weight came back. This is when I came across a Facebook group run by a holistic dietitian. She recommended adding more fat to my diet. This sounded crazy to me! After hearing for so many years that fat is not good for you, it is hard to wrap your mind around adding a couple of more tablespoons of olive oil to your salad dressing or taking a tablespoon of coconut oil in the evening to feel full. I heard the term Keto floating around and it sounded strange to me. In medical school, we learned that Ketoacidosis is a condition that can develop in diabetics and is dangerous, even deadly. I became curious and started attending conferences, watching interviews, reading books and meeting experts in the US.  It took me a good amount of time to understand what the Keto diet is. I think it is a fascinating way of eating and a way of life.

If you follow Keto strictly, it is a medical grade diet. If you look at the medical history, before Insulin became available, Keto was used to treat diabetes.  It was used as treatment for epilepsy, before {epilepsy} drugs were available. Even today, in cases where the medical therapy doesn’t work, the Keto diet is recommended.

At the same time, if you wanted to try it as a lifestyle, you can try what we call “Lazy Keto.” You don’t have to be very strict.

… keep it simple…

Based on my life experience and the research I have done, I think we don’t need that many carbs.  For most healthy adults it is a good health approach to eating and living. I would be happy to tell you why!

The way we get energy for our bodies is either through sugar or fat. Most people are sugar burners. I was just a couple of years ago. We use glucose as the primary means of fuel. Let’ say you had a “healthy” breakfast of oatmeal, perhaps with some fruit. Immediately after you go through a sugar high, but a couple of hours later you are hungry again. Why? Because hormone insulin just responded and brought the sugar down. It feels like you need to eat again.

All that sugar can cause blood sugar swings. Your blood glucose soars when you eat, and then plummets as your body overcompensates with insulin. So you go from a sugar “high” to a sugar “crash” within hours. As a result, you need to graze all day long or you’ll feel weak, exhausted, and moody.

Standard-Healthy-Breakfast-Sugar-Equivalent-Infographic
Source: https://phcuk.org/sugar/

Now my body runs on “ketone bodies” which is on fat. From a biochemical perspective, this is a cleaner fuel. What is really important for women is that as we age, ability of our brain to use glucose as fuel decreases. What can we do? We can use fat for fuel. This is an important health hack for your brain’s longevity. For me, the mental health is the biggest motivator. If I have a choice, I can give away my arm or leg and I can still live, but if my brain is gone, my life is gone. Knowing what I do now desserts aren’t so tempting. This has really been the biggest motivating factor for my eating habits, to keep my brain healthy and active.

Here is an example of a Ketogenic diet. My mother is visiting; she arrived last night. This morning for breakfast, I just cooked bacon and in that bacon fat, I scrambled eggs. This is the perfect Ketogenic breakfast. I want to bet that my mom won’t tell me she is hungry until 6 hours from now. It is the perfect start to your day.  Your body will be satiated and again this is how you can transition slowly.

…Don’t be afraid of fat..

There is a lot of information to be learned. So you can start simply. Look at what you can take out of your meal, instead of focusing on recipes. If you eat a steak and some vegetables, (choose) lower carb vegetables that grow above the ground, and take the potato or pasta out of the meal. Then your low carb meal is ready. If you do eat beef, choose the cuts of meat that have more fat in them, like rib eye. My favorite meat right now is lamb, as it is naturally fatty. Some people add some butter on top of their steak. It is just about removing the carbs and adding some healthy fats.

How has this impacted your life? What changes you have seen in you physical and mental health?

(RG) The most fascinating was the first time I had bacon and eggs for breakfast and a light bulb went off in my head. My tummy was happy, but I also felt like my DNA was singing. This is how we used to eat in Lithuania when I was growing up. It was a primal joy.

Looking back, I tell my family that our grandma was a Ketogenic eater. She prepared eggs in bacon fat. Immediately after you eat a meal like this, you feel at home in you body. Shortly after I started to eat Keto, my sister came to visit with her children, two very active boys. She agreed to try it and soon after they ate her boys calmed down. It had a calming effect.

It was important for me that my husband was on the same page as me. As an introduction, we watched a couple of movies. Our Keto introduction was with the movie, First do not harm. It is based on the true story of a boy who struggled with epilepsy and found relief through a Keto diet.

What kind of resources are available for people interested in Keto Diet?

(RG) Dietdoctor.com is a great resource. Andreas Eenfeldt is a family doctor based in Sweden. He runs this startup full time, providing free information on Ketogenic diet. Step by step instructions on how to get started are very useful.  If you wish to dig deeper, there is a membership option, with a free trial period.

Another movie I would recommend is Carb Loaded. It’s about how carbs impact our health.

As a wife and mother, how this impacted your family?

(RG) I think we underestimate the impact of food on our health and weight. My husband tells me I have saved his life. My children are calmer and able to focus more.

…It doesn’t have to be extreme…

We know that there are two hormones that affect weight, insulin and cortisol. Cortisol is associated with stress and weight gain. Insulin is affected by glucose — sugar. Complex carbs, healthy carbs (unprocessed carbs) get broken down into sugar. Processed carbs get broken down into sugar even faster. This brings us back to our earlier discussion about how our bodies burn fuel. If we are primarily glucose burners this impacts our energy levels, concentration, appetite and overall mood. When our blood sugar drops it can even feel like a panic attack.

Less carbs means our bodies will burn mostly fat, resulting in more balanced energy, mood and appetite.

Common-Foods-Sugar-Equivalent-Infographic
Source: https://phcuk.org/sugar/

My recommendation is to look into a low carb way of eating.  It doesn’t have to be extreme. Ask yourself what you can do without on your plate without suffering. I believe if we look inside ourselves, we will know the answer. You can hire a coach, but I think we as women have our intuition and can keep it simple.

When you begin to take carbs out of your diet, you need to compensate. The role of protein is really important here. 50 years ago, when we were told to eat low fat, with the fat we lost about ⅓ of our protein. Proteins’ building blocks, amino acids, among other things, are essential to neurotransmitter (chemicals needed for brain internal communication) production. Depression and sleep problems, for example, might be related to poor protein intake.

For me personally the impact has been huge. My mood is better and I sleep better. On a recent trip to Europe, I was able to cope with the time change smoothly, without the effects of jet lag. Changing to a Ketogenic diet has changed my life.

What is one piece of advice would you give someone seeking to try Keto?

(RG) Start with a good breakfast, eggs and bacon, for example, or any protein of your choice with added fat. Don’t be afraid of fat. It is hard to change your mind that you can eat fat and eat more fat – fat is good for you.

Note to readers: Changes in your diet should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Proud Mary recommends that you speak to your doctor before starting a new diet to make sure it is right for you.

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