Six Key Learnings on my Journey with Hashimoto’s, the Keto Diet and Intermittent Fasting

Hello my fellow Hashis, AI-ers, Keto and IF-ers, and interested friends and family. It’s been a minute! Well, just over 2 months actually, since I last updated you on how things are going with my journey in recovery from Hashimoto’s using Keto and Intermittent Fasting.

Last I left you my results had been minimal. I had not lost much weight to speak of, and my energy levels were still low, especially after moderate activity. I was a bit frustrated, but not willing to throw in the towel, and I promised to work on acceptance of what is, as I continued to work on what I wish to be.

The last couple of months has been a real learning experience. I’m going to share with you my key learning points – especially in how they relate for someone with Hashimoto’s – and share some resources with you if you are interested in learning more and diving deeper into this WOL (way of life) for yourself.

So first, how am I doing?

  • I’ve now lost 10 pounds (yay! fitting back into some favourite clothes again!)
  • I’ve been solidly in ketosis for 17 days now!
  • My energy – very recently – is starting to feel steadier and more resilient.
  • I’m enjoying my food very much. Admittedly I’m relying on keto desserts more than I probably should…for now…
  • My latest blood tests still show high antibodies, BUT the nodules on my thyroid are fewer – none on the right side, and the ones on the left are about 20% smaller! This is great news!

I did hit some dark days in the last couple of months. Days when I felt like I was fighting against my body, and that I would never feel like my old self again. That I just needed to give up this dream of feeling energized, vital, slim, and strong ever again. BUT what was I going to do? Dive into a bag of potato chips or a pint of Häagen-Dazs? So, I kept on with things, and I started to read and educate myself. And this is where the learning – and the results – turned around.

What have I learned?

  1. PATIENCE Grasshopper. Don’t jump into this too fast. I thought I had gone slowly as I went lower carb with my nutritionist’s help. After a couple of weeks of eating very low carb (<30 g per day), and continuing to do 16-18 hour fasting daily, I thought I was ready to try the ADF approach – Alternate Day Fasting. With this approach you eat every other day, resulting in 36-42-hour fasts, up to 3x a week. I did this for 2 weeks, and each time I did it, I became so tired I needed to take naps, my mood got low, I was irritable, and was so focused on when I could eat next, counting down the hours. By the end of my second week with this approach, I had to admit it was not working for me, and that it was no way to live. I wasn’t ready. So, the last couple of weeks I scaled back, focusing on 16-20 hour fasting periods and staying in ketosis through low-carb, high-fat diet. The result has been a much more sustained energy level (even starting to feel pretty good after workouts!), better mood, and I even managed to still lose 1-2 pounds during this time.

The advice to go slow is especially important for those with Hashimoto’s and/or Adrenal Fatigue. Ketosis and fasting can be a bit stressful on the body and can add extra demand on our adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol. If your adrenals are already overtaxed or fatigued from years of low-calorie dieting (and other types of stress), they may not be up to the challenge. Take it slow, be gentle, and feed your body with ample calories and ample fat. Let it have time to heal.

2. Protect your ketosis. So, here’s the thing with all this… people claim to get skyrocketing energy levels, improved mental sharpness, and easy weight loss. But what I have learned (primarily through reading at this point, not as much with experience – YET!), is that you first must become FAT-ADAPTED. What does this mean? It means your body must relearn how to burn FAT for fuel, instead of relying on sugars. And that takes time. I understand most people’s body’s kick-in after a month-ish, but some people can take as much as even 4-6 months. And during this time, the key is you need to stay in ketosis consistently.

A few weeks ago, I thought after a week of ketosis, it would be ok to have a cheat day. I went ahead and had a couple servings of sugary treats, enjoying a Dairy Queen Blizzard with the rest of the family and sampling one of the fresh chocolate cookies my step-kids had baked. Well, that one day set me back for a week. It took me 7 days to get back into ketosis after that. Since that time, I’ve been extremely careful, monitoring my ketone levels to ensure I stay there. I’m determined to become fat-adapted, and experience that “whoosh” feeling that others talk about when their bodies kick-into fat burning mode.

Once you become fat-adapted – again, from my understanding – your body will better tolerate a bit of extra carb and go back into ketosis more easily. At that point, you also shouldn’t need to worry quite so much about consuming ALL the calories, because if you eat a little lower calorie in any given day, your body will know to start tapping into the stored fat, rather than to react by slowing down your metabolism. And, because it now knows how to use the stored fat, that is why your energy levels and mental clarity get a boost. This is how we repair a metabolism that has slowed down as a result of years of yo-yo dieting on low-calorie, low-fat diets.

3. Measuring ketones helps me. Not everyone feels the need to do this, but I found that for me personally, when I wasn’t feeling so fantastic, nor seeing any weight loss, seeing those numbers come up on my ketone breath analyzer (or initially, my pee-strips) encouraged me that I was on track and to stay the course.

4. It’s true what they say: everyone is unique. Some people can get away with simply eating lowER carb (say, under 50 g of carb per day), while others have to really restrict to the keto-diet recommendation of under 20 g per day. Some people can eat “keto-approved” sweeteners (eg: erythritol or monk fruit sweetener), and others must abstain entirely. Some people need a few weeks to get fat adapted, others need months. Some people will drop lots of weight right away, others will not lose much after week 1 until the fat adaptation kicks in. And most people will go up and down on the scale week after week, but when they look at the trend over time, they’ll see it is going down. Hang in there. Refer to point #1. Just feed your body well, monitor how you’re feeling, adjust accordingly, and let the magic happen in its due time.

5. Electrolytes are important. Potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and especially salt. When you’re in ketosis, more sodium is excreted in your urine. You need to replace that salt. Salt your food a-plenty, and even add some to your water throughout the day. If you’re feeling light-headed or dizzy, fatigued, or having muscle cramps (ouch, I have woken up in the night more than a few times the last couple of weeks with my legs or feet in spasm), you may need to supplement with electrolyte replacements.

Keto Food Pyramid

7. Finally – and extremely importantly – that the CICO (Calories In Calories Out) model is the key to weight loss and the idea that saturated fat (or, all dietary fat) is the cause of obesity and heart disease, is not just false, it’s a blatant LIE. I won’t go into a long explanation of the research, but it’s been well proven time and time again that low-calorie and low-fat diets DO NOT WORK. If I could make it mandatory for everyone to read The Obesity Code (by Dr Jason Fung), I would. And I implore you – if you are even somewhat intrigued to understand more about this – read it. Or at a minimum, watch the documentary “Fat Fiction” currently available on Amazon Prime Video (or via YouTube for $1.99).

Recommended Resources

In addition to The Obesity Code book and the Fat Fiction documentary, I have two other great resources to recommend for anyone interested in learning more about weight loss, metabolic repair, and overall health and long-term wellness:

DietDoctor.com – This website is JAM-PACKED with information and helpful tools. They offer weekly meal plans, delicious recipes, and LOADS of educational resources (articles, videos, and full-length movies) that speak to the layperson, backed by scientifically credentialled health experts.

The Facebook group “The Fasting Method Network by Dr Jason Fung & Megan Ramos” – While it’s a public group full of individual opinions like any Facebook group, it also is administered by a team of folks experienced with fasting and ketosis. While I will take everything with a grain of salt, reading people’s posts has helped solidify for me how individually we each respond to this WOE (way of eating) and how NON-LINEAR weight loss is. It reminds me how little we should put stock into that damned scale, not to get frustrated, to stay the course and be patient. I’ve gained inspiration from seeing other peoples’ successes, and it’s a great resource to get input from others with more experience. And it’s a very helpful community of people who support and encourage. So, if you’re going to step into these waters, I do recommend joining this group.

What’s next?

Keep on keeping on. I am focused on reaching fat adaptation, so whether I lose another pound in the next few weeks or not, I am committed to sticking with it. I am starting to feel better energy and mood, which tells me I’m on the right path. And besides, the meals I’m eating are delicious and juicy and l feel quite satisfied. Do I miss eating some things like chips, ice cream, popcorn, bread or pasta? Sure, but the feeling passes. And I find my own keto-friendly substitutes that are helping me as I adjust to this WOE. So, I’m happy to keep on keeping on.

A couple of months ago a reader asked me about the long-term health risks of the ketogenic diet, as she had heard it could be hard on the body. I also had heard similar things and had been averse to trying this WOE as a result. I’ve done more research on this matter. Check out my next post where I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Your turn

Have you been following a ketogenic diet, with or without intermittent fasting? I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree with my key learnings and advice? Has your experience been different? If you have Hashimoto’s or other AI disease, how do you think it has affected your experience? Post away in the comments below!

And as always, thanks for reading!

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