So, my gal pal Heather suggested I explain the difference in the keto diet and Whole30, for those of you who may not be familiar with one or the other or both! I figure that’s a pretty good reason to write my first blog post in months. Oopsy! I never claimed to be a good or consistent blogger.
First, let me say that the ketogenic diet is a complete lifestyle change– it is not a “diet” in the traditional sense. Yes, it can be utilized for weight loss, and plenty of well-meaning people clump it into the fad diet category, but I strongly disagree. So does history and science. The keto diet is simply a description of an eating style that forces your body to burn ketones for fuel instead of glucose. This is an entirely natural process. So natural, in fact, that babies are born in ketosis. Gasp! Isn’t it unhealthy? Isn’t it dangerous? NO. Before our modern diets were full of refined grains, sugars, and starches, carbs weren’t such a huge percentage of our eating style. Doctors weren’t afraid to recommend cutting the carbs, either. Our bodies were once metabolically flexible– able to go from fat burning to sugar burning and back again. Now, we’ve all but lost that ability because of the constant influx of carbs and the ensuing insulin roller coaster. We talk about burning fat like our bodies do it well, but they honestly don’t. Our bodies are EFFICIENT. They want the path of least resistance and since we turn fat-burning babies into sugar burners the moment we put them on the blood sugar-insulin cycle from baby food and juice, as adults, our fat burning is tough to tap into. Our bodies want to burn the glucose we so often fuel it with because that process is almost all it knows. It wants to do the easy thing. Hence the toughness that can be the first few weeks on a keto diet. That’s a time period when you’ve dropped your carbs substantially, (ideally to less than 30 total per day or so) and your body is scrambling in the sudden absence of its fave fuel source. It is depleted of most of its stored carbs, glycogen, and with that has gone lots of water weight and electrolytes. So lots of folks drop weight quick with the keto diet just to gain it right back if they fall off the wagon (a phrase I hate because you don’t fall– you make choices).
ANYWAYS. I am not even staying on topic here really. I do feel desperate to explain keto to anyone and everyone I meet sometimes because I hate the misconceptions that are out there. Long story short, keto mimics a fasting state in your body. A fasted state is not a bad thing! Fasting is cleansing to your body– it allows it time to heal and rest. Fasting is mentioned in the Bible a lot and has a huge role in many cultures and religions. Your body produces ketone bodies to use as fuel, and once your body is acclimated to ketones, it performs at least as well on glucose in athletic performance and way better cognitively. There’s a brain fog that comes with glucose that does not exist with ketones. Many researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 diabetes! Y’all, that’s huge. The carb industry doesn’t want you to think about that, I promise.
So how does this differ from a Whole30? Why have I been eating the keto way for a year just to do a Whole30 now? Well, call it hormones or sleeplessness or whatever, but I’ve been having a rocky time with my cravings and eating since Tucker was born. I was really prone to binge eating in college and a lot of the secretive/shame cycle that comes with that. Having a young baby that I’m breastfeeding on demand has made me feel all kinds of stressed and out of control, and I was doing a lot of stress/comfort eating anytime I could get out from under him. So I wanted to take dairy and sweeteners out of the picture for a little while and see how that went and that basically brought me back to my second round of Whole30. When my friends Whitney and Rachel were also on board, it sealed the deal that I’d go for it.
Whole30 isn’t a lifestyle change necessarily like keto. Whole30 is a temporary reset to your system. It entails eliminating foods that negatively affect the body, whether hormonally, emotionally, physically, etc. The foods that are eliminated are not inherently bad, but there is scientific evidence to back up that they may be problematic for certain people. How do you know if certain foods are problematic? Well, for some, it’s obvious. Lactose intolerance is sometimes easy to spot, for example. Others are much more sneaky. For instance, after my first Whole30 in 2016, I was 6 months postpartum with Rhett. I did and had been consuming a ton of oats and oat-based products like Clif bars to “boost” milk supply. That’s pretty much what everyone does and says to do, so I enjoyed allllll the oats and lactation cookies. Well, come to find out, oats absolutely tear up my stomach. This was especially noticeable after eliminating them for a while. It’s like my gut finally got to chill out on the gas and bloating front, so upon reintroducing my beloved lactation cookies, I quickly had to depart with the tasty treats. My sister was the same way actually!
So you eliminate those foods (dairy, grains with or without gluten, legumes, sugars & sweeteners of ANY form, food additives like carageenan and sulfites.. I may have missed some things but you get the gist) for AT LEAST 30 days. Hence, Whole30. Some foods take even longer to completely leave your system, but 30 days is manageable and not so intimidating that people would never attempt it. The biggest thing is that label-reading is crucial, and lots of the things you’re eliminating are sneaky. Sugars and dairy ingredients are in almost everything! Sugar could go by a million different names on a label, and even trace amounts in your food every so often could still be causing inflammation or cravings.
Basically, you’re eating fruit, vegetables, and high quality meat and eggs. It sounds difficult, but like a lot of things, I think it’s about preparation and mentality. Yes, I’m a stay at home mom so I can make each meal as it comes (usually), but there are also so many Whole30-approved products out there for those who need quick and easy. Really, there’s no excuse if you want to do it. Because hard isn’t an excuse 🙂
Upon reintroducing the foods you eliminated one at a time, slowly and strategically, ways that they may have caused you distress in the past become obvious. Like if you’ve been eating Whole30 for a while, and you finally have a piece of bread and bloat like crazy, congrats! You’ve just used the scientific method on yourself. Your Whole30 diet was the control and bread a variable. When you reintroduce, and that’s the only variable that changed– there ya go. You and bread may not agree!
This isn’t to say you can never eat bread again! The point of Whole30 isn’t to see what foods you HAVE to eliminate long term. It’s about “food freedom.” When you’re armed with the knowledge of how any particular food actually makes you feel (physically, mentally, AND emotionally), you’re much freer in the future to choose when you might want to consume that food and accept the possible consequences. Like duh, I’m gonna eat icecream again at some point, but only when I deem not feeling so hot after “worth it,” and not because my sweet tooth says I HAVE to have it.
Make sense? If you’re curious, I strongly recommend the Whole30 books. It Starts With Food is the original, and there’s several new versions and cookbooks and such now. There’s also Food Freedom Forever that I’m reading for the second time now, and it’s a phenomenal follow up to life after Whole30.
The biggest difference in keto and Whole30 is the consumption of fruit and starchy vegetables. I plan to keep dairy out for a while going forward because I do feel it makes a big difference in my digestion. I’ll cut my fruit intake way back down to a keto level, so basically fresh, in-season berries maybe a couple times a week. I’m not someone who NEEDS fruit. I actually refused to eat bananas this round of Whole30 because they’re basically dessert to me. They definitely don’t help me get control of my sweet tooth. I may keep a small amount of sweet potato around while I’m nursing, but we’ll see. The beautiful thing with my nutrition journey is that it’s ever-changing based on how I’m feeling, and I love having the knowledge to try to feed it what makes me feel best!