Hi there! This is my story…..
A food love affair
Born in 1963, I grew up surrounded by Italian food and beautiful, fresh, organic produce. After moving to the UK as a traumatised kid following a double family tragedy, my love for Italian cuisine continued. As soon as I was old enough to cope in the kitchen on my own, I taught myself how to make beautiful and tasty meals from scratch. My favourite dishes always featured plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. They also included home made pasta, pizza, bread, gnocchi, risottos and carbohydrate rich sauces. Not to mention cakes, biscuits and all sorts of sweet delights loaded with refined flour and bucket loads of sugar. Baking was my favourite activity.
It is safe to say that I was a true carbo-holic. I couldn’t even eat a salad without an entire box of breadsticks to go with it! I was convinced that my mostly home-cooked diet was the healthiest and best. Even my medical student text books said so, after all. When my children came along, I focussed even more on home cooking with fresh, unadulterated produce. I wanted them to grow up in a healthy way, on the high carb and low fat diet, in accordance with standard nutritional recommendations.
A cholesterol conundrum
I looked and felt healthy. My only medical issue was Familial Hypercholesterolaemia. My mum had a heart attack at an early age and had died suddenly when I was just a small child. This had led to my being tested and diagnosed with FH. My cholesterol levels increased year after year. Relentlessly. To way off the scales. I was given a very short life expectancy (mid thirties, maybe the 40s with a bit of luck) unless I took statins forever. That scared the hell out of me. Thinking of my two small children I started taking prescription statins and my cholesterol levels plummeted to ‘normal’ range. Phew! Or so I thought. Unfortunately, I began suffering with muscular pains and fatigue almost immediately. And it got progressively worse. Worryingly… I’m sure you’re aware that the heart is itself a muscle… 🙁
The dark side of statins
My GP refused time and time again to acknowledge any link between the pains and the statin drugs I was taking. He merely insisted that I “take them or die“. So I continued to endure the pain that apparently was ‘all in my head’. Until a few years later, when statin side effects started to be recognised. I became curious after reading that the cholesterol link to heart disease was a total myth. That led me to read more and more on the subject. The more I read, the more I became convinced that the whole theory of fat, cholesterol and heart disease was utter rubbish. Inevitably, I made the ultimate decision to stop taking statins, much against medical advice.
The myalgia disappeared almost immediately. I was pleasantly surprised and convinced I had made the right choice. But a worrying concern for my health kept niggling me. What if the doctors were right and I was a “ticking time bomb”? What if I died suddenly and left my children without their mother when still so young? I didn’t want them to go through the hell I experienced in my own childhood. I kept banishing those thoughts to the back of my mind, though they kept creeping back to the forefront from time to time. So I continued to ‘watch’ my fats intake. Just in case.
The keto awakening
Then, a few years later, I had an epiphany: while reading about carbs, sugar, fat and metabolism, I discovered the ketogenic ‘diet’ and its too-numerous-to-mention health benefits. It seemed impossible and inconceivable. Fat is good for you? No way!!!! But the more I read about it, the more it made sense. It dawned on me that I had got it completely wrong. Now it was time to reverse the damage.
I started the switch by firstly cutting out added sugar – and boy did I see the benefits immediately! Then I cut out my beloved carbohydrate-loaded foods and found yet more benefits – less cravings, more energy, better hair and skin, to name but a few. Then I started being selective about the fruit and vegetables I was eating, avoiding the starchy, higher carb ones. Well! It was never my intention, but as a side ‘benefit’ I lost a lot of weight in just 6 weeks. 5 whole kg to be precise, and since I started at 56 kg and I am 5’6″ tall, it did surprise me! The biggest benefit, the one I was aiming for all along, didn’t disappoint: my HDL cholesterol increased and my triglycerides took a dive into normal range, for the first time, ever. Mission accomplished. Oh, and my serum CRP (C reactive protein) level is very low too, which indicates no inflammation. Extra bonus point! More recently, my new GP has told me that my stats (BP, heart rate, serum lipids, kidney and liver functions) are perfect and I am no longer at risk. I’m just like any person who doesn’ thave FH. Gone from a ticking heart attack explosive to zero risk. Woah! THANK YOU KETO!!!!!
In all honesty, switching to a completely ketogenic lifestyle wasn’t easy for someone like me who gets easily bored of meat-and-two-veg type dishes. Learning to cook with ingredients I didn’t even know existed before (Erythritol, Lupin flour, MCT oil, Guar Gum, Agar Agar, Locust Bean Gum, Acacia Senegal, Protein Isolate….) was a massive task. Never mind my determination to re-create (well, attempting to) what I was used to, i.e. Italian classics and desserts that didn’t look or taste like cardboard!
Coping with carb cravings
There have been – and still are – times when the aroma of freshly baked pastries or the sight of a gorgeous pasta dish take me back in time and I reminisce fondly. But there is never temptation for me. Those thoughts disappear in a flash and all I can think about is how I might be able to recreate whatever I saw or smelled – the keto way.
Nowadays I continue to be inventive, and my methods and choice of ingredients can be a little maverick at times. But my crazy way keeps carb cravings and doctors at bay 😀
Variety is key to keto success
Understanding what ketogenic means, why ketosis is healthy and which ingredients to use in every day meals is a huge task in itself, never mind finding enough variety in home cooking to make this lifestyle sustainable! It’s no surprise that many people who are initially attracted to the ketogenic ‘diet‘ end up going back to eating ‘normal‘ food. They either get tired of eating the same stuff, or they can’t figure out what to take to work for lunch, or their busy lives don’t allow much spare time to cook. And let’s face facts: we are surrounded by tasty, attractive, convenience food that is sky-high in carbs, so temptation is always looming!
The aim of my blog is to make keto life easier by providing easy recipe ideas for every situation. Whether it’s breakfast, a packed lunch, a picnic, dinner for 1+ or a full-on Christmas family meal. And because desserts are what ketoers miss the most, my collection of sweet recipes very much prevails 🙂
If I can help any reader switch to and maintain keto adaptation by blogging my recipes, I will have achieved what I set out to do.