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A Change of Direction: Starting Keto

A Change of Direction: Starting Keto

This blog is going to tell the story of my journey into the keto lifestyle and how the various changes have affected my health and well-being. There is no shortage of blogs out there already covering the subject of keto. As far as I am aware at least, none of them cover it from the point of view of a person of relatively mature years starting keto. Especially one in the course of making pretty drastic changes to their diet and lifestyle. Of course, this keto experiment could all end in tears. This is a risk I am prepared to take in pursuit of the goal of a long, healthy, and vital life.  

Keto for Life by Mark Sissons book

But…who am I, you may well ask?

Well, firstly I am not a doctor, not a sports physician, not even a coach. I am simply someone who has nurtured an interest in wellness, exercise, and diet over the course of his lifetime. I now believe the answer to many of my own and society’s problems lie in our choice of diets, lifestyles, and attitudes. Interestingly, a lot of these poor attitudes and choices seem to me to be actively supported, even promoted, by big pharma, big agriculture, big government. The consumer society that we all live within processes us through a system designed to sell us food, drugs, and information. Personally, I am a fairly reluctant member of that particular society, for obvious reasons! 

I am also 66 years old, going on 67 in January 2021, and have been a UK pensioner for 18 months now.  Some would say that’s late to be starting keto, others would say it is ideal!

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Let’s start off with a confession…

Before starting keto, I was a vegetarian for decades, from the age of 29 to the age of 65. This was long before it was even fashionable to be a vegetarian. In those far off days, it was a distinctly counter-cultural choice. Originally, I did it mainly for ethical reasons. There were also many supposed health benefits that those who support such a diet promised me it would bring. At times during those decades, I even toyed with extremes like fruitarianism and even full-on veganism. These I could never keep up for long because of the stunning amounts of food you have to consume just to reach anywhere near satiation. At least the sort of satiation that lasts for more than a very short time.  

I remember several years ago spending a few months in Thailand living off the local fruit and vegetables. There was, to be fair, a huge variety to choose from, and much of the culture was vegetarian in any case. Finding food was not at all difficult for a vegetarian in such circumstances. In the mornings, I would sit out front of my chalet on the edge of Kanchanaburi and eat as many as fifteen bananas in one sitting. After that, I would head off to a cafe to do some writing. By 1030 that same morning, I would feel ravenously hungry. The coffee would invariably then be accompanied by a piece of gateau or some other confection. Snacking becomes habitual, and necessary, on these restrictive diets. For a period of many years I only briefly knew the feeling of satiety.

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Eat better forever book by hugh fernley-whittingstall

Life as a Long Term Vegetarian

On top of these problems, over time I began to increasingly experience health problems that were, looking back, mostly the result of dietary deficiencies. It may well be possible to be well-nourished on a vegan diet but it takes a lot of work to get enough nutrients in a bio-available form to make the whole project something of a challenging venture. Most vegans resort to endless supplementation, but even this comes with problems. The human body seems to prefer to obtain its nutrients directly from food consumed rather than artificially through tablets, pills, and suchlike.  

The nature of the problems I was facing seemed to have an underlying theme, they were often related to inflammation in the body. Eczema, dry skin, athlete’s foot, fungal growths on the toes … these were some of the less serious, but still annoying, issues I would face.

A Greater Challenge

Then came a heart attack. My doctors could not explain why someone who was cycling and swimming on a regular basis, who looked slim and healthy, whose BMI was only slightly above normal, and whose cholesterol levels were relatively low and stable should suffer such a fate. Being mystified, their usual paradigms unable to explain my case, they simply assumed that the tired old cholesterol theory must apply and, after fitting three stents around my heart, promptly put me on statins for life. 

Statins, of course, are a potential subject for this blog in their own right and I think it is very likely that we will return to the subject in the months to come.  

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Eat rich live long book for starting keto

Addressing the Problem

Following these problems I was happy simply to be still around, as you can no doubt imagine. After a distinctly nervous few months simply recovering, I redoubled my efforts to improve my vegetarian diet. I sought out the elusive knowledge that was somehow going to complete the picture. The more I searched, however, the more elusive it seemed, and the more my energy levels and health seemed to deteriorate.

As so many others prescribed statins report, my body began to ache in places I didn’t even know it could ache. I began to suffer arthritic pains throughout my skeleton, but particularly painfully in my hands. I also began to feel generally weaker. This proved to be particularly challenging after my wife gave birth to my son. Now … I am a pretty big guy, but carrying young Daniel up and downstairs proved to be distinctly challenging at times. Though admittedly, I am getting on in years now, I still recalled being much, much stronger prior to the statins.  

the great cholesterol myth book

Decision Made: Starting Keto

Eventually, just over a year ago, I started to eat some meat again. After years of sheer vegetarian inertia, this was something of a challenge. This was especially true emotionally. Very quickly though, I noticed improvements in my strength and a general sense of being a healthy person. In the early days of starting keto, part of me was still quite uneasy. The ethical side of meat consumption has always bothered me. It was becoming clear, however, how much my body needed something more than merely a vegetarian or vegan diet. I wanted to flourish, not merely survive. 

Some kind of change was needed… 

And so my journey began.

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