The beginning of my healing journey was at about 8 months postpartum. I realized that between triple feeding my baby and dealing with postpartum hormones. I was completely off, didn’t recognize myself, felt constantly anxious, and very edgy. It was then that I realized I was dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety (PPDA) on top of the normal hormonal havoc I was experiencing due to my weight gain. What I didn’t know was how food will become my best ally and lead me to a Ketogenic lifestyle.
The first step for me was to find a natural solution to this situation so I went back to my chiropractor. I had stopped going at around 4 months postpartum because any outing with my baby was starting to feel overwhelming. These feelings were part of the PPDA. Once I started going regularly again, I felt like I was waking up again and started considering stopping my crazy schedule of triple feeding. But I kept thinking, what else could I do to get out of this situation and heal?
Food Intolerance or Allergies
On top of the hormonal and emotional aspects of my situation at the time, I was having stomach issues with foods that were part of my regular diet and now were not working for me. Prior to my pregnancy, I was able to eat beans and onions without problems. Once pregnant and after birth, I couldn’t handle them and few other things. I also couldn’t handle wine shortly before getting pregnant and that’s still the case today. (I know, sad!) There are a lot of females that experience this after pregnancy. Some end up with autoimmune disorders after pregnancy. Hence, pregnancy can put a lot of pressure on your system and issues like this come out afterwards.
Whole30 and Healthy Mamma, Happy Baby
So armed with the symptoms I started digging for the root cause of what I was experiencing. I did what we all do… GOOGLE to the rescue! I found few articles about treating depression through food and leading me to Whole30. It discussed how food can wreck your hormones and how a clean eating approach could help with regulating your hormones. I dove into Whole30 and Healthy Mamma, Happy Baby support groups. I cleaned up my food choices more and got with the program. The first two books I got were It Start With Food and Whole30 Cookbook. These two were great resources, particularly It Start with Food because it explained the science behind their proposal.
After the 3rd week of my first round, I felt more relaxed. Handling the new mom stress was easier and my mood significantly better. While I didn’t feel the “Tiger Blood” rush of energy many Whole30-ers describe, I felt my results validated the original claim. Food can help healing depression and anxiety. After all everything starts in the gut!
Unexpected Things Happen
However, close to the end of my first round I had a bad night with pain. It ended up with removing my appendix. Was it too much healthy food at once? Was all the detox too much for my body? I don’t know. I feel it wasn’t related to this way of eating. Since then I have done 2 more Whole30 rounds perfectly fine, feeling even better every time. With each round I have lost an average of 8lbs. Yes, I lose very slowly so I take it as an extra. As long as I am healing and feeling better, I keep going with what is working. But I wondered, how to keep this lifestyle forever?
Whole30 in a Nutshell
For those new to Whole30, it is 30 days of no grains, legumes, NO SUGAR AT ALL!, processed food, no alcohol in any form, no dairy, and no recreating treats with compliant ingredients. I compare this with the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). Whole30 is just 30 days and AIP is a longer period. The food restrictions for both programs are extensive. While AIP helps you narrow down any food sensitivities, Whole30 aims a cleaning you of known inflammatory foods, but not all of them. They both have great benefits depending on your goals.
From Whole30 to Ketogenic
I had been on and off rounds and staying mostly compliant with Whole30 for a few months until the Holidays! Up to this point, I had lost about 25 lbs with Whole 30 and overconfidence got the best of me. After the holidays, I was almost back to where I started. I was looking for a sustainable lifestyle. While many can sustain Whole30 as their normal diet for long periods with compliance like 80/20, 90/10. I felt I still needed something more. I wanted flexibility and for my husband to do it with me. While feeling superb, my energy was still lacking a bit and wondered what else could be affecting it.
I found Keto through The Castaway Kitchen, Cristina Curp, took over the Whole30 Recipes Facebook page for a week. Her Cuban roots and cooking made an instant connection with me. I went to her website and read her story and recipes. I loved it all and felt I like giving ketogenic a try. So, I finished my third Whole30 round and started preparing for Keto. After 2 weeks of reducing my carbs intake, I felt I was ready to give under 20g of total carbs a chance.
The first few weeks were amazing! I lost 10lbs just the first 2 weeks. Disclaimer: I know others lose more or less. If you follow this path, please just focus on how good you are feeling and forget the scale and others. Those things will eventually come and the less stress you put on yourself, the better.
The keto diet has many variants, but for people searching for healing, I recommend a clean keto lifestyle. In this path, I found Maria and Craig Emmerich. The authors of Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on The Ketogenic Diet and many outstanding ketogenic cooking books. I have a lot of their books. Their site, along with few others, have helped me tremendously to feel Keto is my lifestyle.
My level of energy has increased after taking the carbs out. I also had adrenal fatigue issues so I started a vitamin for that. I keep up with my electrolytes, most of the days. Most important of all, I feel it is a sustainable way of eating (WOE) for all my family. While my daughter is just two and a lover of cheese balls and dinosaur nuggets, I avoid giving her sugary foods as much as possible. Hence, I see us sticking with this for a lifetime.
How do you change from a Puerto Rican classic diet to Ketogenic?
There are a lot of swaps, but I feel the compromise is doable. Cauliflower is a stable at my house for rice, potatoes, and few other things. Good old, homemade sofrito has kept a lot of my traditional recipes tasting just like back home. I keep plenty of delicious chimichurri and spices to keep the Puerto Rican taste buds happy.
Finally, one of my husband’s best contributions to this journey has been keto mayo-ketchup. One night while doing jicama fries, he thought about why we haven’t try mayo-ketchup?! So we took some low carb ketchup we had and mixed with a homemade garlicky mayo I keep (another stable around here). It was perfect! I felt I was eating the mayo-ketchup from El Meson Sandwiches.
How to make it a lifestyle?
Hence, the key to success is to make it your own. Keto doesn’t have to be bacon, eggs, and butter. It is green veggies, healthy fats, healthy fatty proteins; delicious food all around. It can be dairy free and AIP friendly, can adapt to your normal routine, can be kids friendly, and so much more.
Where can I see what you eat? I post most of my meals in Instagram @boricuaonthemoon so follow me to check them out. You can also leave me a comment or message if you have questions or feedback. I have lost almost 50 lbs this year doing Whole30 and Keto. I lose the most when I stay clean keto. However, any version of it that means a healthier and happy you, it is worth pursuing. Good luck in your journey!