Dancing with Keto
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Let me tell you the story of one of my dancers, Chantal. She is talented and worked hard and I felt incredibly lucky to have her as a student. For her first recital with me she had worked on a piece of choreography, and during the dress rehearsal she asked, several times, to stop the music so she could consult her notes. Finally I said, "Chantal, give me your choreography notes. Maybe I can help you." I took the sheet of paper from her and ripped it up. Chantal — and the rest of the class — were stunned. It looked as though she was going to cry. I said, "NOW you dance. Dance from your heart." Did I know for sure that Chantal would do a beautiful performance? Did I know she would survive? Yes and Yes. But how did I know this? I knew this because she knew the steps and the combinations and how to move to music. I knew that Chantal knew it all and could trust herself to dance from her heart.
So what does this have to do with Keto? Everything! I am telling you that you do not have to weigh, measure, count or track in order to be successful. However, you do need to be educated and mindful, and you need to trust yourself. Just as with dancing where you need to know steps and combinations and nuances and how one thing works with the music and another thing does not, you can't just "eat Keto" without an understanding of what it is you are eating. You need to start by learning the steps. Please read my "Getting Started with Keto" in the Keto FAQ section of GrannyKeto.com.
Listening to your body is crucial for successful Keto eating
At the very least, if you eat from my "yes/no food" list, you will only have to track your carbohydrates to make sure you do not go over your total allowance. Keep in mind, you can still eat Keto by following the list, but you have to know that Keto is not necessarily a weight loss diet. It can be, but you will have to be stricter, to start, than just tracking carbohydrates. If you track only carbohydrates and keep them to 20 total, you will probably lose weight at the beginning, but your weight loss may stall even though your innards are continuing to get healthy. Your fasting insulin and blood sugars are likely to go down, your lipid profile will probably improve, your blood pressure will most likely normalize, and you will probably "shape shift." However, if you eat when you are not hungry or you eat when you are beyond full, it will simply be too much food. The quality of the food will make you healthier, but the quantity might keep you fat! The gold standard of losing weight on Keto is weighing, measuring and tracking your food because an external source is telling you when you have had enough. You can lose weight without doing that, but unless you are willing to listen to your body and eat only when hungry and stop when full, you might not lose weight quickly. When you work with me, I will give you mindfulness guidance so you will be able to do this! Tracking your macros (carbohydrates, protein and fat) is on one end of the scale and totally going "freestyle" is at the other. Your success may lie somewhere in between.
So let’s get on with the dance lesson. Let’s look at the concept of "as if" for dancing — or anything in life. Walk as if you have confidence and you will. Smile as if you have confidence and you will. Dance as if you have confidence and you will. Exude pride as if you have it and you will. Keto: Stop telling yourself you can’t do it. With every meal you prepare and with every bite you take, tell yourself "I am smart and intelligent and I can do this. I am eating Keto and every step of the way I am moving toward health and my goals." Keep it up and you will move towards health and your goals. First you have to believe. Why do I make this the first step before even starting Keto? Because you have to know that you are worthy of making this change in your life and that you are intelligent enough to do it and make decisions about the food that is in front of you. When you work with me, I will help you with a lot of mindset work. I found for myself that just learning about getting into that correct mind space was more valuable than any practical aspects of learning Keto!
From there, when I was teaching my dancers to dance from the heart, we spent time listening to all sorts of music and seeing how the music made our bodies move. Keto: Does a food make you feel good, give you energy and satisfy you, or does that food make you feel nauseous or uncomfortable, make you tired and leave you wanting more or send you into a binge? Your next step in learning to dance Keto is by noticing how food makes you feel. Working together, we will explore food sensitivities — sometimes it is just the elimination of one thing that will make you feel better or stop craving and bingeing in their tracks!
Practicing with portions is important as you get started with Keto
Next comes learning the steps. Not just learning, but practicing – over and over again! Keto: This is where you keep your own notebook with your dance steps. Even with a yes/no list you still need to know counts in order to be successful with weight loss. List your favorite foods and what a good portion would be. You can do this by putting foods into a food calculator like My Fitness Pal or Carb Manager and writing down the protein/fat/carbohydrate count in each unit of food. You can use a book like Dr. Atkins NEW Carbohydrate Gram Counter by Robert Atkins. I found this easy to carry with me when I would not be eating my own meals at my own house. Mindfulness with this approach to eating Keto is more than half the battle. I quickly learned that vegetables add up, that something like canned tuna fish is outrageously high in protein, and that I was not eating nearly enough fat. And by the way, here is a good place to mention the macros you should aim for: 20 total carbohydrates — which, on average, comes to about 5% of your caloric intake, give or take, with the rest of your calories coming as 15% protein and 80% fat or 20% protein and 75% fat. As your coach I will guide you through finding what your perfect macros are — they can be different for everyone.
Then comes putting the steps to music. Once you have practiced your steps and have also done the feelings exercises, it is pretty easy to tell if something fits the music or not. Keto: Take your basic foods that you like and especially that are easy to pack if you need to take food to work. Don't make it complicated. Weigh and measure everything and learn what a portion size is and how much protein/fat/carbohydrate is in that serving. While we are working together, I will guide you to keep your protein moderate and fat high, but to start with, just make sure you track your carbohydrates and keep them within a 20 total carb limit.
If you are not new to dieting you may know how to figure portion sizes without weighing or measuring. Here is a visual that might help. I have a client who was successful just using visuals and never used a measuring spoon, a measuring cup or a food scale. She has lost 60 pounds so far and is still going strong!
Understanding the macros for foods is the path to freedom from measuring and tracking
Going back to your list of "dance steps," here are the macros for some sample high-protein foods:
3 ounces of tuna fish canned in water: Total carbs: 0 (great!); Protein: 20.1 (not so great — this might be almost half of your protein for the day); Fat: 2.5 (that’s nothing! You will have to add a lot of mayo to this lunch!).
3 ounces of hamburger (15/85): Total carbs: 0 (great!); Protein: 19 (not so great — this might be almost ½ of your protein for the day); Fat: 22 (much better!).
3 ounces of fried pork belly (if you like bacon and have not tried this, RUN to your nearest Trader Joe’s and get some!): Total carbs: 0 (great!); Protein: 11 (great!); Fat: 21 (great!).
The point here is not that you have to eat pork belly (and let me take the time to answer here that even though people are gaga over bacon on Keto, you do not have to eat bacon or any pork product on Keto) — but I just wanted to show that knowing the steps of the dance (i.e., macros of the foods) can help you start to put together meals that eventually you will not have to measure and track. You will learn when some mayo or butter will round out the profile, whether a salad will add a few safe carbs, or whether you have enough protein left so that you might want to add a sprinkling of cheese to some of your meals. You are starting to dance to the music!
Sample meals for the first few weeks of ketogenic eating
Have a few meals that you rotate but stick with for the first few weeks.
- Breakfasts could be scrambled eggs and bacon or (my favorite) Caprese salad (pictured), which is mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and (optional) a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar.
- Lunches could be a salad (if you make your own, weigh, measure and track it the first few times — vegetables pack a lot of carbs and you need to be mindful of this) with some feta cheese and hard-boiled eggs or tuna with a lot of mayo and crunchy, diced vegetables (celery and bell pepper).
- Keep dinner simple – a steak or chicken thigh with a cooked vegetable like asparagus or broccoli.
Again, these are your steps. Practice them over and over again. When I started Keto I would weigh and measure and then after a few times "eyeball" the portion and then weigh and measure to see how spot on I was. Eventually I would just make myself a plate and be done with it! My foods fit my macros just as my steps fit the music. Together, we will work to identify your favorite Keto foods and then design your plate so you can be sure that you are eating the Keto way at every meal — enough fats, not too much protein, best carbohydrate choices.
Then after my dancers learn simple steps with simple music we branch out into more complicated steps and more complicated music. But again, it doesn’t happen without practice, but it does become easier once the dancer understands the concepts of the nuances of the steps or hears the music in a more educated way so that the complicated and nuanced movements flow with the music. Keto: If you become tired of basic meals and foods it is time to branch out into Ketogenic recipes. But don't rush this — you must learn the basic steps before you can start to put together combinations via recipes. If the recipe does not already have nutritional information it is a good idea to go into some sort of recipe builder (or write everything out by hand) so that you know where you are going with the macros. But once you have followed a recipe and you understand the ingredients and portions you can begin to do it on your own (advanced non-choreography!).
As you become comfortable with portions, you can start to adjust your favorite recipes
Baking is a science so it is important to follow a recipe when you bake, but once you have done something like a soup or a stir-fry, you can alter the flavor profiles or quantities of ingredients while still having a sense of the macro count. For example, I make a green smoothie for myself several days a week. The first few times I made it I weighed — in grams — the kale, spinach, parsley and fresh ginger, and also made note of the carb count for an addition such as the fresh lemon juice. I did the recipe both by taking handfuls, then putting the handfuls into measuring cups and then also weighing each item on the scale. I got the macro count of the shake. Now if I run short of kale and put in a little extra spinach I don’t go through the process again. If I am trying to finish up a container of lemon juice I made and it is just over a tablespoon, I don’t obsess whether the carb is 1 or 1.5. Sometimes I forget and I leave out the ginger! The point is that I am always within a gram or two of any of the macros of whatever the original recipe was. I understand the nuance and the complication (i.e., several parts) of the recipe. I look forward to working with you on finding recipes that the whole family will love and I will help you sort out flavor profiles so that you become comfortable changing up recipes as you need to. In the meantime be sure to check out Granny's Table.
One word about not being exact on all the counts: Some people are extremely sensitive to carbohydrates. Examples of this would be if you have very severe insulin resistance, already have Type 2 diabetes, have fatty liver disease, have yo-yo dieted your whole life so that your metabolism is wonky, etc. In these instances you may find that you don't have as much leeway as I am suggesting here. However, except for cases where you are varying recipes (in my shake, for instance, where I might use a little more or less spinach or lemon juice one time), you can begin to trust yourself with straightforward foods – like an egg or a slice of cheese or a recipe that you always make the same way.
Look at your daily meals as a whole to keep your intake from getting too busy
A dancer must also understand the concept of "this and not also this." By that I mean that a dancer must understand not to make her dancing too busy. Keto: In order to stay within your macros for the day (without the counting) you have to make sure that your eating day is not too busy. As I said earlier, Ketogenic eating is for health, not necessarily weight loss. But if you do want to lose weight there are certain things you have to adhere to. The first rule is no grazing! If you are eating enough fat you will be able to start off right away with three meals a day and no physical need to snack (breaking a snack habit is another story). When you first start and you aren't used to eating so much fat you might need a snack because your meals might not hold you, but in no way do you graze. That means no handfuls of nuts, no constantly getting some salami or cheese from the fridge, no munching on celery all day long. But in terms of a day being busy I mean more this: If you have had a green smoothie for breakfast, go light on the salad at lunch or cooked vegetables at dinner. If you have had seafood (which packs a punch in the protein department) for a meal, try to have one of your meals very light on protein — like a piece of cheese or a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Try to start to look at your day as a whole instead of meal by meal. A good place to start is to look at your plate and ask yourself, “Is this Keto? Will this get me to my goal?” Food by food (step by step) and plate by plate (combination by combination), you will find yourself dancing in no time! As your coach I will help you with meal planning so that dinner on Monday would be the perfect lunch on Tuesday to complement your breakfast and dinner that day. Eventually you will not even need that guidance: It’s just dancing!
With dancing there are non-negotiables. A frown and a down-turned head could erase months and months of work and dull the beauty that the dancers worked so hard to achieve for their performance level. Keto: Some non-negotiables: no grains (not even oatmeal for breakfast), no starchy vegetables (that’s right – throw out your bags of baby carrots), no fruit (except berries after you have had Keto success for a while) and no refined carbohydrates, legumes or starchy vegetables. When you work with me, I will show you the way to hold up your head and smile, how not to fall over the same stumbling blocks and non-negotiables, and I will teach you how to dance from your heart.
Granny Keto is here to help you with your goals
If you are a toe-at-a-time person and not a jump-in-all-at-once person, but know you want to strive for Keto, you may be interested in my Granny Keto Transitions Program™: 5 Steps To Keto. This might be the perfect way to start your dance: First tackle eliminating sugar and baked goods (Step 1); then eliminate grains and legumes (Step 2); Low-Carb eating is next, where you begin to have an awareness of the carbohydrates in foods (Step 3); move on to eating higher fat and cutting out starchy vegetables (Step 4); and then, finally learn to moderate protein and cut out fruits except berries (Step 5). At the very top then you can take your high dive into the wonderful waters of Full Keto. These Transitions steps will give you more confidence to dance from your heart!