Cheating on Keto: Reality Check

Why I Cheated

Back in November, I had hit my goal weight, I had just been recruited by an awesome company, and the holidays were right around the corner.

I was happy. And if there was ever a time for me to start celebrating with food, it was that moment.

Even at the first day of the job, we celebrated the hirings of me and two others with a pizza party. A few days later, my boss brought in doughnuts. A week later, we celebrated with birthday cake.

Previously I've said the hardest part of Keto was cutting back on my favorite condiments and sauces. I was wrong.

The hardest part was being surrounded by good people, enjoying good (FREE) food, and having a good time. How the hell am I supposed to resist all that??

So I decided it was time to experiment.

The Plan

The original plan was to continue to do Keto, but do Cyclical Keto, which basically adds a "Carb Refeed" about once a week. I felt like I could resist carbs for most of the week and I could plan my carb days around whatever food-related event we celebrate at the office.

What actually happened was…I just straight up cheated, lol. For 24-48 hours, Vintage Mel came out to demolish any delicious carb in sight.

So I did this for several months, from November to now.

On March 20th, I cheated all weekend in celebration of my birthday. For the next ten days, I committed to Strict Keto before I went in for a blood test. I felt ten days was the perfect amount of time to see what I how well or how poorly my body would recover from a cheat weekend.

The Results

Here are my results, in addition to previous blood tests taken in 2015 (pre-Keto) and summer 2016 (mid-Keto):

Blood Test 11/15 7/16 3/17 Recommended
Glucose 98 87 99 65 to 99
Total Cholesterol 203 180 204 125 to 200
LDL "Bad" Cholesterol 126 122 137 Less than 130
A1C 6.1 5.5 5.7 Less than 5.7
Triglycerides 169 69 73 Less than 150

Glucose back up. Cholesterol back up. "Bad" Cholesterol significantly higher. A1C (the determining measurement of diabetes) is back up to borderline. Triglycerides — something that doctors kept telling me was a concern — is thankfully holding steady.

What I Learned

I'm no doctor but it's clear that with my cheat weekends, I've been damaging my body. Not even 10 days of Strict Keto following my birthday was enough to recover.

What's happening is my cheat days cause my body to produce insulin, which tells my body, "STORE FAT". And because I'm consuming so much fat — for however many days it takes to get my body back into ketosis — my body is storing that fat. Hence, the high cholesterol.

It became clear to me why Carb Refeeds and Cyclical Keto are so controversial:

Cyclical Keto a very advanced, disciplined diet that involves a controlled amount of good carbs, but it's rarely recommended because it's too easy for guys like me to completely go off the rails.

And that's exactly what happened.

Next Experiment

So now it's time to try something new. I've found success with Strict Keto and I've found failure with Cyclical Keto. I need find something in the middle.

I'm pretty happy with going low carb for most of the week…but I'd like to be able to enjoy carbs — like an occasional bagel or doughnut — here and there. I need something cost-effective and I'm perfectly content with limiting my solid meals to just one per day (and a shake for dinner).

Here are some variations of Keto that I'm considering:

  • cook Keto meals at home at night and bring them to the office for lunch (time-consuming…)
  • do Keto Chow full-time, every single meal of almost every single day (might get tiresome…)
  • dial back the amount of binge eating on my cheat days; maybe just one cheat meal on occasion?
  • do more Intermittent Fasting
  • do proper Carb Refeeds once in a while with a controlled amount of good carbs
  • do more intense workouts (ugh)
  • work out more frequently (ugh)

But I'm also considering alternative diets:

  • switch to Paleo or another low-carb diet that will allow me to have carbs again
  • switch to doing a combination of Intermittent Fasting, healthy snacks at work instead of breakfast, Soylent, and subscribe to a local meal prep service

So I have a lot of options to consider, lots of research to do, and lots of Keto Chow in my pantry to finish…but overall, I'm grateful that I'm fairly healthy and have the flexibility to experiment with my body like this.

Stay tuned!

Soylent 2.0

Foodie Life vs. Healthy Life

Over the past couple years, I’ve noticed how many of my friends have been traveling all over the world. It totally makes me jealous. I asked myself:

Why the hell am I not traveling like that?
Oh, money.
Okay, what are my biggest expenses that I can cut back on?
Oh, food.

The problem I’ve struggled with since boarding school is trying to find the right balance of food that is healthy, cheap, convenient, and tastes good.

I’ve tried a few things:

Eating Out Every Meal

For years, I’ve settled on spending $30 per day on food. That comes out to $900 per month. (It’s no wonder why I haven’t been able to set aside money for vacations.)

On top of that, eating fast food every day means slowly killing my body with all sorts of unnecessary sodium and preservatives.

Too many times I’d find myself not in the mood for anything in particular and defaulting to the nearest fast food dollar menu.

It’s not worth it.

Meal Prep Mondays

This is a popular option that I see a lot of my friends doing on Instagram. The problem for me is two-fold:

  • I don’t trust my cooking skills enough to eat my own food every day.

  • I get bored of food too easily.

Meal prep life simply won’t work for me unless I invest the time in learning to cook.

Prepared Meals by My Fit Foods

For a few months, I tried an alternative idea to meal prep — My Fit Foods. Instead of cooking everything myself, I could conveniently call up My Fit Foods and have days worth of healthy portioned food ready for pick up.

It worked great! I lost 19 lbs easily, even without working out.

The problem was the meal plan was costing me $35-$40 per day. Plus, it conflicted with my social life. On nights when I’d spontaneously hang out with friends, the meal I was scheduled to eat would expire. Money wasted.

It was the most expensive — and honestly, increasingly boring — meal plan I’ve tried.

Going Vegan-ish

For a while, I was working in Culver City, which is filled with great vegan restaurants. For the first time ever, I found myself enjoying vegan food!

But there was a problem — the good vegan restaurants are always expensive, typically costing between $12-$15 per meal. It simply wasn’t financially sustainable.

Also, I found myself gravitating towards the vegan food that was deep fried. I’m no nutritional expert, but deep frying vegetables probably isn’t any healthier that any other fast food.

So again, I’m brought back to square one — how do I find the right balance of food that is healthy, cheap, convenient, and tastes good?

Enter Soylent

This is the latest idea I’m trying — a food replacement shake called Soylent. It is a legitimate food product, providing maximum nutrition with minimum effort. And best of all, it comes out to about $3/meal.

When I posted about Soylent on Facebook, a typical reaction was:

But Mel, you’re a foodie! You need real food!

True! But I realized something — drinking Soylent doesn’t mean I have to replace every meal; it just has to replace one or two per day.

Two Months Later

I’m happy to report that I’ve lost 7 lbs in two months and easily saved $7-$14 per day! Soylent has truly been great on my waistline and my wallet.

And there was one great unexpected benefit that has come out of it — I can treat myself out to a nice $16 meal at a sit-down restaurant every day and not worry about breaking the bank.

So now, I think I’ve found the right balance for me. I’m eating healthier. I’m saving money. I’m saving time and gas money. And best of all, because I can afford to eat one nice meal per day, I don’t have to give up my foodie adventures.

I’m living the healthy foodie life now. And I’m loving it.