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'Alas I can’t celebrate this with my favourite dish – biryani'

This morning I felt happier than the person who won $1m in Dubai Duty Free raffle a couple of days back.

Why? I achieved something which I never imagined in my wildest dreams would ever be possible.

Imagine a person who once tipped in at 74 kilos losing quite a bit to look lean and mean. That’s me.

After having started my Keto diet about two and a half months back, my weight had more or less plateaued at 61 kilos from the 70s when I started. I doubted if my weighing scale had lived its course and it was time for me to buy a new one.

The last time I checked my weight was last week, and you guessed right. It still showed 60 kilos -- not less not more.

As usual, I gingerly stepped on my digital scale this morning, expecting no miracle. But I couldn’t believe my eyes when the display showed 59.6 kilos. My joy knew no bounds – my weight under 60 in over two and a half decades! Alas I can’t celebrate this with my favourite dish – biryani.

Lest someone should doubt my claims, I captured this magical figure in my phone with my bare feet still on the scale.

I intend to carry on with my diet until I reach 55 kilos. A tough challenge. But no harm in trying.

Guys, please don’t say I look emaciated.

Earlier Report

September 25, 2018

How I lost 10kg on the keto diet

When I first heard about Keto diet, I thought here’s another fad diet promising good health. Nothing enthused me anymore as I have tried several diets: low-fat diet, low-cal diet, 13-day metabolism diet and what have you, which showed encouraging results as long as I followed them. One break, maybe during my annual vacation, and it was back to my normal self -- ugly paunch and all.

Believing in the ‘calorie in-calorie out’ theory, I’d enrolled myself in a gym to burn the calories I was consuming. But the experience turned out to be a real burnout with a personal trainer who’d put me through strenuous paces.

I’ve also tried out what’s peddled as artistic yoga, which only aggravated by backache. Then I turned to my treadmill. That proved too tedious and it ended up being the most expensive clothes stand at home.

Here's how I used to look 

Early this year, I stumbled upon the VRK Diet, devised by Veeramachaneni Ramakrishna Rao in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. I had written about it in Community Heartbeat in February and wanted to try it myself after consulting my doctor.

It took me almost six months to convince myself about this Andhra Keto and I finally started it on July 29. Now I believe it’s not just keto, but ‘key to’ good health. VRK Rao emphatically says this diet reverses many lifestyle diseases.

Tipping in at 74 kilos and BMI at 28, I was quite overweight until around this time last year. But with a regular morning walk and slight changes in diet, I could reduce my weight by 4 kilos, give or take a few hundred grams.

But, less than two months of being on VRK diet, I have lost 10 kilos. Yes, 10 kilos! And that too without much exercise or daily walking routine. Today, my weight is 60.1 kilos and I have lost all visible signs of fat on my face. The double chin is gone and I look a lot slimmer compared to my earlier self. The downside of all this is I have to change my wardrobe. Already I have lost more than 3 inches at the waist.

My concern was not just being overweight. I’ve had high blood pressure for more than two decades and when someone has a BP issue, cholesterol is sure to come as a package deal.

I have been on statins for over 10 years. Initially, I was taking a tablet in the morning for hypertension, later I graduated to taking a capsule at night.

I used to get terrible headaches if I missed my medicine. It would aggravate into a migraine as the day progressed.

The less said about the statin drug the better. It would make me quite foggy. Over the years, I became quite forgetful. It used to be a daily treasure hunt for such simple things as car keys or my phone or wallet or some important documents which I would have left at some place in the house trusting my memory wouldn’t deceive me.

Coming back to my diet, it’s a ketogenic diet with a desi touch.

We’ve got used to the food pyramid where we were advised to take 65 to 70 per cent of carbohydrates; 25 to 35 per cent protein and just 5 per cent of fat.

Here, the pyramid is just reversed where fat takes the lion share followed by protein and no direct intake of carbs.

Here's how I look now:

Let me make it clear that this diet has to be followed for 3 months and 21 days to reap its benefits.

It has done wonders for me. I’ve stopped taking the statin drug from day 1 and have stopped taking the second medicine for my hypertension a week after being on VRK Diet.

My BP, which used to be 140/90 or higher always even after taking my medicine regularly has gradually come down to 111/72 when I last took the reading.

I feel a sort of bliss living a life devoid of statins. My thinking is clearer now and I remember if I had lent you a book or money.

This is my typical day:

I strictly follow the four pillars of VRK Diet.

1. Sixty to 70 grams of fat (Butter, Coconut oil, Ghee or Olive oil)
2. Three lemons a day
3. Four litres of water
4. One multivitamin tablet

We have to forget eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacking in between. We have to switch to eating when we are hungry and only so much as you feel satiated.

Image result for butter

Butter was a regular staple in my diet.

Here's what I eat:

I begin the day with a glass of lukewarm water with a lemon squeezed into it around 8 and follow it up with a cup of bulletproof coffee - coffee blended with your choice of fat.

I don’t feel hungry until 2pm. The coffee is the culprit.

For lunch, I eat either eggs, fish, lamb or chicken or veggies. My next meal is between 9 and 10pm.

I drink water or thin butter milk with two lemons squeezed into it throughout the day and a multivitamin tablet at night.

As I have written in my earlier blog, all carbs: rice, wheat, cereals, pasta or noodles are avoided. Same goes for sugary drinks, fruit juices. And starchy food items such as potatoes, yam, tapioca or colocasia. Beans and lentils also figure in this list. No Indian dish is complete without onion and tomato. But we are allowed just one each of these a day. The idea is to minimize our carbs intake.

Most important thing is, I have stopped using refined oils and switched to healthy oils such as coconut, ghee or butter for cooking.

It is recommended to have 100 grams of fat in the first 15 days and reduce it to 60 to 70 grams a day. Please note, it’s in grams, not ml or any other measure.

The idea that VRK Rao puts across is fat cuts fat. We are switching from carbs to fats that are converted into ketones as fuel for our bodies, which also burns the fat that we have stored over the years due to reckless eating.

So what will I eat after completing this diet? I will exercise restraint. No recklessness in what I eat. No sweets. Will avoid all processed foods and anything that comes in packages and closely look for low glycemic index food grains.

Hopefully my medical reports will turn out to show me in the pink of my health at the end of this programme.

PS: If you smoke or drink liquor, then this diet is not for you unless you are willing to make the supreme sacrifice of kicking these habits.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert or a dietician. This diet has worked for me and would advise you to consult with your doctor before deciding to follow Andhra Keto.

What is ketogenic diet?

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■  Keto diet is low carb diet; so low that the body switches from sugar to fat for fuel.
■  Keto diet is not only lower carb, but also it is high fat and moderate protein.
■  Simply put, it means no sugars, processed food, rice, pasta, wheat, fruit, starchy veggies, alcohol and fruit juices.
■  Healthy fats include extra virgin coconut oil, unsalted butter, ghee, olive oil and cream. (Saturated fats are not bad as they have been vilified over the past few decades. Studies show there’s no correlation between blocked arteries and saturated fats).
■  No refined oils. Banned for lifetime.
■  If you don’t take enough fats, your energy levels will plummet making you feel tire.
■  Ketosis has many benefits including it becomes a fat-burning machine; perfect for weight loss without feeling hunger.
■  On a keto diet most people can lose excess weight and a number of health issues can be improved viz acne, brain cancer, migraine attacks, less sugar cravings, a calmer stomach and less heartburn, improved health markers, reverse type 2 diabetes, normalise blood pressure, boost physical endurance & reverse PCOS.
■  It’s not a temporary thing, it can be a longtime lifestyle for staying fit.
■  It keeps you fuller, so no need to snack all the time.

— compiled by N Rao

What do nutritionists think about Keto?

Compiled by Yousra Zaki - Deputy Editor 

It's time to consult some experts to see if the Keto diet is a sustainable diet that people can live on for life. Gulf News spoke to two registered dieticians to see what they had to say. 

Tanya van Aswegen is a registered Dietitian, BSc, RD, LD at Valiant Clinic in Dubai. Here's what she said about Ketogenic diet.

What is your opinion about the Keto diet?

I would start to say that nutrition is a science and not an opinion. Most often what happen with translating nutrition science is that people use their own lived experiences as “expert opinions”, but this does not mean it is supported by solid scientific evidence. A ketogenic diet is based on a high fat diet (more than 80 per cent fat), moderate protein (+ or -1g/kg) and extremely low carbohydrates (ranging from 20g - 50g) intake.

All grains, dairy, most fruit, some vegetables, certain nuts and legumes and pulses are usually not consumed on a ketogenic diet. It is actually not a new thing, it was developed as a method of treatment for children with refractory epilepsy as early as 1920, and it is very effective for that purpose. In the modern world, there are however a lot of claims about the benefits of a ketogenic diet, ranging from weight loss, to antiaging, cognition (or mind clarity) and prevention of certain diseases.

It is a rapidly emerging field of research but at this stage it is certainly not suited for everyone, and in some instances more harm than good can be done if a person is embarking on a ketogenic diet without seeking professional help first. 

A ketogenic diet, just like any other type of diet would have its pros and cons and it is all about looking at a person holistically before advising on any nutritional treatment. 

What are the drawbacks of the Keto diet?

What is positive about a ketogenic diet is that is does discourage the intake of alcohol and refined carbohydrates, and emphasises the intake of non-starchy veggies and good fats, which we can all benefit from.  It has also been shown to be effective in terms of early weight loss and some people use it for reaching their initial goals, but in terms of long term weight maintenance (>12 months) it has not shown to be effective as most people struggle to maintain the keto-lifestyle. 

The most common initial side effects of a ketogenic diet is often referred to as “keto flu” where people experience (initially) tiredness, headaches, dizziness, nausea, irritability, hairloss, bad breath and constipation while your body adjusts.  The main drawback is that we are simply not sure at this stage what the long-term effects of a ketogenic is on metabolic health and gut health.  There have been a few studies that showed that it could improve insulin sensitivity in the short term, but we are not sure what happens in the long run and if the benefits outweigh the risk. 

The only longer-term studies (>12months) that we have was done on epileptic patients which showed risk factors such as Osteopenia (brittle bones), kidney stones, cardiomyopathy and iron-deficiency anemia, but this is clearly a specific patient population.  People who embark on ketogenic diets usually have to take specific supplements to off set some of the deficiencies in the diet, most commonly magnesium, potassium and calcium.

Due to the very strict dietary principles of this diet, the social aspects might be difficult to manage as one night out with carb heavy meals and alcohol might throw you out of ketosis, but even this is very induvial and depends on how long you have been in nutritional ketosis.   It is important to remember that this diet is not high in protein, a mistake many people make.  Eating too much protein will also prevent you going into nutritional ketosis, while it is essential that you reach your fat intake targets. Monitoring your ketone levels is also quite an expensive exercise as the most accurate values or given by blood and not urine strips. 

What happens to your body once you go off it?

Your body would start using carbohydrates as a main energy source again.  Predicting individual responses would be difficult as some might have minimal effects while others have more rapid fluctuations in blood sugar which could lead to fatigue, feeling jittery or changes in your mood.  Some people might experience some bloating as you build up the fiber in your diet and others feel their appetites increase due to reduced fat intake (which has a satiety effect). Sometimes we see rapid weight regain as people tend to go the complete opposite direction and overload on carbohydrate intake after a long restriction.  

I would advise that transitioning off a ketogenic should be a gradual process. Start with introducing unprocessed carbohydrates such as fruit, starchy and non-starchy veggies, legumes, pulses and unrefined grains. Start with one meal per day and see how you feel, and slowly build up.  Don’t overdo it and stick to sensible portion sizes.  

The key message here is that it is not for everyone. It might be used by professionals who can monitor their clients to achieve certain shorter-term goals and can help build sustainable habits, but the evidence is not yet clear on the long-term safety of a ketogenic diet.  Those that want to embark on a strict ketogenetic diet should do their research and/or seek help from professionals to minimize harm. 

Some practical advice I would suggest is to first try a lower carbohydrate (<130g per day) diet, learn more about portion sizes and find a method that works for you. Your “diet” or lifestyle doesn’t have to have a label, sometimes the best results are seen by combining a number of strategies, as long as you can sustain it.  

What another nutritionist had to say

We also spoke to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, PhD is a nutritionist specialising in women’s health at Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery. Here is what she had to say about following a ketogenic diet. 

What is your opinion about the Keto diet?

The keto diet may work for some, but maybe not for everyone. It can cause side effects when you first start it, like constipation, drowsiness, muscle cramps and sugar cravings. The principle is there, in terms of weight loss, including protein with meal and snack, but the diet can advocate too much red meat. Red meat is high in saturated fat (a “bad” fat) and has been linked to certain types of cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, I would recommend more lean meat like chicken, turkey and plant based protein sources like quinoa, nuts, seeds, fish, tofu and avocados, than red meat. We must not forget to include healthy essential fats like Omega 3 food such as fish, nuts, seeds and avocados, into the Keto diet.

What are the drawbacks of the Keto diet?

It can cause side effects, as I mentioned before. Your brain needs sugar, so you may not find you can concentrate or focus easily to begin with. Anyone with a health condition ie Type 1 Diabetes etc,  should check with their Dr or a qualified practitioner first before taking on this diet. If you are an athlete, wanting to build muscle mass or perform in sport events, then this diet may not be suitable for you.

What happens to your body once you go off it?

This is not a diet I would advocate that we stayed on indefinitely, at the end of the day our muscles and brain need glucose to function, so we don’t want to remain in a state of ketosis all the time. I would suggest slowly coming off it and so slowly adding in carbohydrates, and don’t over a do it at the beginning. Also stick with a small portion whilst introducing it back into the diet. Start with unprocessed carbs first like beans, legumes and whole grains, rather than white pasta for example. Bloating and flatulence may be a symptoms of introducing carbs back into the diet particularly fibrous foods.

What other diets are out there

Compiled by Malavika Kamaraju, Features Editor

The pursuit of burning fat as a resource for metabolism has led to a slew of diets that embargo carb consumption, thus kick starting the process of ketosis, in which ketones are burnt rather than carbs.

Ketones are chemicals made in your liver. You produce them when you don't have enough insulin in your body to turn sugar (or glucose) into energy. You need another source, so your body uses fat instead. Your liver turns this fat into ketones, a type of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream.

Putting the body into the ketone burning mode leads to consistent weight loss and a stabilisation of many parameters such as blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels for the duration of the diet.
Here are some popular ketosis-based diets:

1. The Eco-Atkins Diet

This is a high-fat vegetarian version of the Atkins diet created in 2009.

What does it do?
Aims to reduce weight and LDL cholesterol using vegetarian protein sources in a model similar to the Atkins diet.

2. The Atkins Diet

It is a strict, low carb diet developed in 1972 by American cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins. He discovered a low carb approach provided weight loss benefits without significant hunger by testing it on himself and 65 executives. He published his findings in his book “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.”

The current Atkins diet is divided into two methods:

Regular Atkins diet Atkins 20.
And the Atkins 40, which allows more carbs.

What does it do?
Aims to reduce weight and LDL cholesterol using protein and fat sources for metabolism.

3. The Dukan Diet

This is a high-protein, low-fat, low carb diet fashioned by Dr. Pierre Dukan in 1970. The success stories of his patients, led him to publish the book “The Dukan Diet” in 2000.

What does it do?
Helps people arrive at their right weight by emphasising on high-protein foods. It allows 100 foods — 68 proteins and 32 non-starchy vegetables.

4. The Ketogenic Diet

This is a strict low carb, high-fat diet that was invented to treat children with epilepsy in the 1920s and ‘30s.

It’s a largely researched diet that has shown many positive results in metabolic markers. It uses fat as fuel in the form of ketones, instead of glucose.

5. The Scandinavian Low Carb, High-Fat Diet (Lchf)

Sweden was one of the first countries to turn to a low carb, high-fat diet.

What does it do?
To induce weight loss and prevent chronic diseases by reducing carbs and increasing fats.

6. The South Beach Diet

Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, the South Beach diet is a three-step high-protein weight loss regimen. “The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss written by Agatston is a bestseller.

What does it do?
Creates weight loss through a high-protein, low carb diet.  

7. The Zero Carb Diet

It was in the 1990s that Icelandic-Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson first spoke out about the advantages of a zero-carb diet after living with the Inuit tribe whose diet consisted of mostly meat and fish.

What does it do?
Helps achieve rapid weight loss through metabolism of fat and protein.

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Nagarjuna Rao