Do you want to know how I ended up eating a keto diet and working at Diet Doctor? Well, this is my story.
People who know me often describe me as a happy, well-intentioned and dependable person. But some years ago, these traits didn’t prevent me from spiralling into what I now understand was a depression, triggered by the stress of wanting to do well in my final exams.
Around the same time, I had noticed that I had gained a little weight, which I felt I needed to lose. With my reasoning at the time, I thought: “What better way to lose weight than just eat as little as possible?” And like killing two birds with one stone, this also became a way to cope with increasing stress.
Fast forward a few months, and I had begun my university studies. My studies were demanding and I realized that I had to stop trying to live on Diet Coke and salads if I wanted to have the energy to succeed. I gave up my obsession with calories and tried eating healthily and low carb. But I still suffered from crippling stomach pains on a daily basis and had problems with anxiety, and was put on an antidepressant.
I started feeling better, but then the next backlash came that summer. I had noticed intense stomach pains, which I dismissed as my usual IBS. When the pain got more intense and I ended up in the ER, it turned out I had appendicitis.
After the surgery and a subsequent antibiotics course, my IBS got even worse and left me incapable of leaving my apartment on some days. On top of that, I started feeling exhausted all the time and couldn’t sleep. There was clearly something going on in my body. I ended up in a vicious cycle of agitation, insomnia and stress, which in combination with the antidepressant contributed to weight gain in the following months.
I felt hopeless and decided to taper off the medication. The result? I felt worse. I went to see a therapist who diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
I followed a keto diet at this time, but despite my best efforts I was not particularly successful. Clearly, I was a hard case to crack. I figured that the only way to overcome my issues was through self experimentation and symptom tracking.
I tried many different therapies and I tweaked my diet in every possible way. Over the next few months, I slowly started putting the puzzle pieces together and gradually felt better.
It’s now February 2018, and I am deeply grateful that I have been symptom free for a long time (although I may suffer a mild flare-up if I stray from my diet). I have resolved my debilitating gut issues, anxiety and insomnia. And I have gained valuable insights into how my body works.
So to get to the point, this is what has worked for me. First of all, sticking to a keto diet and not straying is in my opinion a great tool to improve digestive issues and mental health, even though these can be complex problems which often require additional intervention.
That IBS can be improved with dietary strategies sounds reasonable, but it may sound too far fetched that anxiety and depression can be ameliorated. There is some emerging science, but wherever it may be lacking there is anecdotal evidence. For instance, here you can read about how Dr. Ted Naiman overcame his obsessive compulsive disorder with a low-carb diet, and Carrie Brown discusses how she manages her bipolar disorder with a ketogenic diet in the fantastic talk here.
What I eat
I follow a very simple keto regimen of mostly beef, eggs, natural fats and well-cooked vegetables (like many IBS sufferers, I don’t tolerate most raw ones). I avoid alcohol and vinegar, and since I react to many supplements, I only take fish oil, magnesium oil and vitamin D. Taking oregano oil for a short while also helped improve my IBS, probably because it killed off some bad gut bacteria.
Over time, I’ve gradually started eating more nutrient-dense red meat and less added fat. The practice called “carnivory” is popular in the ketogenic sphere. Even though I do eat plants on a regular basis, eating less of them has had a positive impact on my health and weight.
Stress comes in many forms, but it was undeniably one of the biggest culprits in my health struggles, so I did a lot to change that. Additionally, I only do light exercise like yoga and walking to keep my cortisol in check. I also prioritize sleep.
I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with similar issues to be stubborn and willing to experiment with your diet. If you read a success story and you don’t feel like your own health and weight has been magically transformed overnight like that, don’t throw in the towel. In the end, something’s got to give. It doesn’t have to be you.
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More success stories
Do you have a success story you want to share on this blog? Send it (photos appreciated) to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please let me know if it’s OK to publish your photo and name or if you’d rather remain anonymous.
It would also be greatly appreciated if you shared what you eat in a typical day, whether you fast etc.