In today’s episode of The Whole Circle Podcast we talk all things keto diets with Leah Williamson.
Leah is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, she is also an Associate Instructor for the Nutritional Therapy Association and she is a Consultant at My Keto Clinic which is in the Brisbane CBD where they have a Keto Program which is suited for people who are looking to switch over to a ketogenic diet or are having issues and need more support.
Jo and Leah met about 4-5 years ago at a mum’s in business group, right back when they were first starting out with their respective blogs and they have stayed in contact ever since and been able to watch each other grow. Leah has built an amazing business, she’s studied and also has her own podcast show and they’ve both gone from these two mums who didn’t really know anything about business to now having successful businesses and living the dream.
What does a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner do?
A Nutritional Therapy Practitioner is a little bit different from a normal Nutritionist in that they actually work functionally with the body. They work on restoring the body back to balance by using a method where they press down on certain points of the body where there’s inflammation that they know relates to a system or organ and then they test nutrients against the body so that they can specifically find which nutrients the body needs and then they can get that into the person’s diet. The person can then either choose to take a supplementation or, for example, if the person is lacking in beetroot then they can simply eat beetroot.
What is the keto process?
It is an amazing process because the body really knows what it needs, and you might liken that to when you have had a particular craving for something and we aren’t talking about chocolate haha! But we are talking more specific foods such as the other day Leah had a craving for Brazil Nuts and she really needed it then and there and if you look at the nutrients in a Brazil Nut, one being Selenium, and put that with Leah’s autoimmune disease that she suffers from, Hashimoto’s which relates to the Thyroid, and every now and then Selenium works well for the Thyroid so that’s her body tapping into its innate intelligence. It’s also something that is primally in everybody, including animals.
When Tracey was pregnant she craved carrots, so Leah said that at the time there was most likely something in the carrots that Tracey’s body or the baby needed.
Prior to Jo being pregnant she never ever liked mangoes and then once she was pregnant she could not eat enough of them and she still loves them now.
Leah believes that we have really forgotten these days what our body needs, especially now that we have so much processed food and environmental toxins so what the keto process is designed to do is to reduce some of that inflammation and reduce some of those stressors on the body so that you can tap back into that innate intelligence and it’s also the same with hunger signals and recognising when you are hungry and when you are full.
What is a ketogenic diet?
It’s the latest trend and everyone seems to be talking about it. So, what is it? It’s actually something that we have been doing since primitive ancestral days but up until recent times, we didn’t really have a name for it. There is so much conflicting information out there about a ketogenic diet so when Leah talks about a ketogenic diet she is talking about a nutrient dense, real food, properly prepared, ketogenic diet. So, this doesn’t mean that you can basically just fill up on fat because that’s the myth that we hear in the media, but it is predominantly a higher healthy fat, low carbohydrate (from leafy green vegetables) and moderate proteins. So, it’s a myth that we are just gorging on steak, bacon and butter! Vegetables play a massive role in the diet and that’s where the nutrient density side of it comes in.
With the ketogenic diet, essentially you are burning fat as the primary body fuel source rather than sugar as the fuel source. The body is able to burn two fuel sources, so it can burn sugar and fat. These days everybody is burning sugar because of the world that we live in with higher sugar content in everyday normal diets and with everyday stress this all causes us to be sugar burners. Sugar burners are like putting kindling on a fire. They are just throwing carbohydrates at the body constantly all day and that’s why you have to eat constantly and what’s happening with your blood sugar is that it’s rising it up and then dropping you back down and that’s when you become hangry and that’s when you need sugar again.
Going back to ancestral days, there’s no way that people in those days could have survived that way because there wasn’t enough fuel source around to be doing that constantly so what they were fat burners, which means they were eating proteins and fats to fuel the body which gives you a more sustained and satiating ride so it’s like logs burning on the fire as they burn lower and slower.
What does the average day in a ketogenic day look like when starting out?
When starting out Leah always suggests to people to have three regular meals and the simplest way to do it is 1 protein, 1 fat, and 2–3 veggies so at breakfast time that looks like 2 eggs, kale, mushrooms and some olive oil or butter drizzled over the top of the kale and mushrooms and then at lunch and dinner it could be a piece of chicken, some salad and some olive oil on top of that. It’s about eating three regular meals so that your blood sugar levels become stabilised and then you don’t need to snack all the time.
Jo loves trying all new diets, even if Tracey rolls her eyes at her haha! But Jo does love to understand all the different diets and styles of eating that are out there. From all her research over the years she has worked out that the paleo/keto way of eating fits with her body really well. She feels amazing when she does stick to it and when she does find herself going back into old habits or she eats a piece of cake with sugar or carbs, she definitely notices the difference it makes to her body and it just makes her feel terrible.
Jo did a keto program and she found that it put her mind in a really cloudy place as it was a really high fat program and she wondered where all the fruit and veggies had gone? She found it very full on. So, she asked Leah what she had to say about that type of keto diet?
Leah responded with that she thinks that’s what they call ‘dirty keto’ and basically you need veggies, you need your micronutrients as well. When we’re talking about ketogenic diet we’re talking about macronutrients as well which is the fats, the proteins and the carbohydrates and then we need the micronutrients which are your minerals and vitamins which come from veggies and they’re also essential for your gut microbiome so gorging on fat might get you into ketosis and by the way, what ketosis is, is that you’re burning ketones, that’s how you know that you’re a fat burner. So, ketones are the by-product of being a fat burner which is why they call it a ketogenic diet. You might burn ketones, but you might not feel great because you’ve got this enormous amount of fat coming through the body and everyone is bio-individual, and some people may be able to tolerate that amount of fat and be okay but Jo’s obviously different and she needs to find out what works best for her body. So, it’s always important to work with a professional such as Leah to set the right plan for your individual body.
One of the main problems, especially these days, with being on low fat diets for so long the bile in your gallbladder becomes quite sluggish and thick and when you start adding good fats on top of that it can put a load onto the digestive system and something as simple as emulsifying your fats which you can do by mixing the fat with apple cider vinegar and olive oil will help you digest your fats much better.
Jo thinks this will freak a lot of people out. Especially those on a low-fat diet or calorie counting and who look at fats, such as those in avocado, and think they are bad.
Leah sees those types of people coming into the clinic and she can totally relate because she used to be a chronic yo-yo dieter herself and she found that just the thought of having an enormous amount of fat was not appealing and how would it fit into her calories but she lost 30kgs doing this and has never felt more fantastic and never had more mental clarity and energy and it also cleared up a lot of digestive issues that she had too and that was with a higher fat diet. Once you look into the research of fat, you can see how we got into this low fat paradigm and there’s a really good book that Leah recommends everyone should read, which has got proper resources in it, called ‘The Big Fat Surprise’ by Nina Teicholz and it documents how we got from eating high fat diets from many many years ago to going low fat and the manipulative ways in which that happened.
Jo thinks we need to just get back to basics and listen to our bodies and what works for us. For example, if you are eating a high carb, high sugar diet, does that make you feel good? Do you sleep well? Do you never get headaches? Do you feel happy and have happy hormones? Or when you are living a wholefood diet with real wholesome food, good quality fats, good quality meat and fruit and vegetables, how does that make you feel?
Leah agrees. When you are stripping it all back you are really just looking for nutrient dense real foods and to make it easy on yourself it’s just 1 protein, 1 fat, 2-3 veggies and that makes a simple nutritious meal for you.
What about portion sizes?
Leah says that what we are trying to do is use our body’s innate intelligence so that we learn to recognise ‘are we really hungry?’ and listening to those cues and signals because we spend a lot of time these days eating just because it’s breakfast time or just because it’s lunchtime or just because it’s dinner time instead of actually listening to what our body is telling us. Am I really hungry? Or am I just thirsty? If you listen to and recognise those cues correctly then portion size doesn’t matter because then you can trust that the body knows what it needs.
Can kids eat keto?
Leah eats keto most of the time and her kids eat very similar most of the time. Kids can handle a little bit more carbohydrates and Leah doesn’t put her kids into the label of saying they’re eating ‘ketogenic’, what they do is just try and eat nutrient dense real foods with them.
A school lunchbox for Leah’s kids will be a bento box style lunchbox and will have in it an omelette, some veggies, a little bit of fruit like raspberries, strawberries or blueberries, some good full fat Greek yoghurt and then maybe a cheese stick.
Tips for new people starting out on a ketogenic diet
Leah says that transitioning over is a really good start. Following a program such as Jo and Tracey’s Additive Free Made Easy program is a really good start so that you can be empowered to learn all you need to, to make better food choices and slowly reduce packaged food. Once you get the hang of that then you might want to start introducing some recipes like butter chicken where you cook it from scratch with real ingredients and instead of rice, serve it with cauliflower rice because rice is a bit higher in carbohydrates, but for her kids Leah will still give them rice with some cauliflower rice snuck in for an added veggie boost.
Transitioning over that way instead of going full into it can be a lot easier to handle. Also make sure you do it for the whole family, otherwise it can be extremely difficult to only do it for some family members and then not for others. If you were just doing the ketogenic diet just for yourself and then everyone else in your family wasn’t and you were having to cook a bunch of different meals, this would put a lot of stress and pressure on you and when you’re stressed you won’t get into ketosis, so always best for the whole family to do it together. So, find transitional foods that the whole family can enjoy.
What is ketosis and how do know you if you are in ketosis?
Ketosis is that you’re burning ketones and burning fat for fuel which means that you are a fat burner. Ketones are the by-product of being a fat burner which is why they call it a ketogenic diet. You can test if you are in ketosis by doing a urine test which you can get at the chemist or you can find out via a blood test. At Leah’s clinic they test blood ketone levels and blood sugar levels as well and then there’s a calculation you can do to see if you are in nutritional ketosis but you don’t need to be testing, you can simply go by how you feel which could be you are starting to feel more energetic, greater mental cognition, you’re not feeling so tired and rundown anymore, you’re not needing to eat all the time or snack constantly and these are some of the really good signals. Some people experience bad breath which is when the ketones start burning so that could be another indicator but that doesn’t last very long.
It is also all about balance. We do have to live in today’s world and you may want to have a champagne and enjoy things. Some people do what’s called ‘carb ups’. Leah doesn’t really get into that side of things but there is other alternatives so when you’re metabolically going really well in ketosis and you’ve reached your goal weight and everything is functioning how you think it should be, then you can start experimenting by adding a little bit more carbohydrates back in like sweet potato and things like that and then cycling in and out when you might have an event on.
Can you go into ketosis if you are still eating fruit or sweet potato? Leah says that it’s bio-individual so best way to know is to test for that. So, eat the food that you want to eat and then blood test your sugar levels and ketones a few hours later and see what the response is.
Keto v Paleo
Paleo and keto are very similar, but paleo has more carbs in its way of eating. With paleo you can enjoy things like paleo cake, paleo slice, paleo bread which if you are eating a lot of those then it’s going to keep you in that sugar burning mode whereas keto doesn’t really allow for that, but paleo is a really great first step because you are learning the principles of real food. The negative side effect of that is you might not be eating enough fat because paleo doesn’t focus a whole lot on fat, but combining the two together is a perfect combination.
Links and Resources
- If you would like to learn more about Leah Williamson head here
- If you would like to check out My Keto Clinic head here
- If you would like to check out Leah’s podcast show head here
- Follow Leah on Instagram here
- If you would like to register for the next round of Additive Free Made Easy head here
- We would love for you to leave a review of this podcast here
- Visit our Additive Free Lifestyle Facebook Page
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