Interview with Tim About His Successful Keto Way of Life
In my previous article «What Is the Ketogenic Diet and How Does It Work» you learned about how this diet works and its wonderful health benefits.
This week, I have had the opportunity to talk to Tim Frese, Switzerland, a passionate keto enthusiast. In this interview, he shares his experiences following the keto diet in daily life.
Pernilla: What was your motivation to start with the keto diet?
Tim: I wanted to lose weight because I didn’t feel well with my 10 kilos (22 pounds) too much. As I’m a tall person, most people didn’t notice these extra kilos, but I felt them and noticed them every time I looked in the mirror. I always worked out and I was always careful with what I ate and restricting myself from eating desserts etc; still, I wasn’t losing weight. I had had enough and also wanted to get rid of the bloating in my stomach and for instance, the blood sugar dips after lunch.
Pernilla: Have you tried other diets before? If yes, which ones?
Tim: About 10 years ago I tried the Atkins Diet, which is very similar to the Keto Diet. You pretty much follow the same principles as in the initial phase. While the keto diet stays the same, the Atkins diet gradually allows more and more carbohydrates in the following phases.
With Atkins diet, I also lost around 10 kilos (22 pounds), but when adding carbohydrates gradually, the weight loss slowed down. At that time I was young and wanted to fit in. For that reason, it was rather difficult to say no when my friends drank beer or went out to eat pizza. In the end, this stopped me following the diet.
Some years later I tried the calorie counting method. With this diet, you can eat all kinds of food, but you may not exceed a certain amount of calories per day, and you should avoid sweets and fat. It was initially successful in that I lost weight, however, it wasn’t sustainable for a longer period of time. As soon as I started eating ‘normally’ again, I slowly gained the weight back.
Pernilla: What convinced you to choose the keto diet?
Tim: Last year, 2017, I decided to do something about my weight. I first thought about following the Atkins Diet again. While doing some research on the internet I came upon the keto diet. It sounded really good as it was similar to the Atkins diet, where I had achieved a great weight loss, but even better as a long-term sustainable solution.
Pernilla: For how long have you been following the keto diet now?
Tim: I started the diet in August 2017, so I have been following this way of eating consequently for about 9 months now. It feels really good, I’m very satisfied with the result and I, for now, I can’t imagine giving up the keto lifestyle.
Pernilla: How do you feel now after having lived on the Keto Diet for some time? Have you noticed any physical and/or mental changes?
Tim: I have lost 9 kilos (20 pounds) overweight and I feel so much more energized compared with before starting the keto diet.
My blood sugar level is stabilized and therefore I don’t have the typical tiredness I used to have before after having a meal.
My sleep has always been good, but I’ve noticed that I’ve got a healthier sleep rhythm now – I wake up earlier and I get tired earlier in the evening.
The mental clarity has improved significantly. I can stay concentrated on my tasks much better and don’t feel foggy in my brain anymore.
Pernilla: Do you strictly follow the keto diet, or do you do any exceptions?
Tim: Yes, I do follow the diet strictly at all times, because then my blood sugar level stays stable and I don’t risk getting the food cravings again. If I would do exceptions and eat food containing sugar, wheat or grains then my body would turn off the fat burning mode and get unbalanced, while suddenly getting the fast energy out of sugar. Going in and out of Keto would only produce stress for body and mind.
There is the possibility of doing a vegetarian or a vegan variation of the keto diet, but I like meat an eggs too much to do that.
Pernilla: What about your family? Do they also follow the Keto Diet? How about the children?
Tim: My wife and our two small children, 1 and 3 years old, also eat the keto food, but they do not follow it as strictly as I do. They still eat bread, pasta, rice, all kinds of vegetables and fruits.
Both my wife and I find it very important to eat natural foods and we do avoid all kind of processed food and sweets. We never eat non-fat or low-fat products because these contain too much sugar, which makes the blood sugar level go up and down and promotes sugar cravings.
Children can follow the keto diet because it is a very nutritious and healthy diet. But, since it also suppresses hunger, it might be difficult for them to eat enough. Because children need to grow, they should not eat at a calorie deficiency. For this reason, we also give our children bread, pasta, honey and fruits as these foods still are healthy eaten in moderate amounts.
Pernilla: Is it difficult to be the only one in the family to follow the strict keto diet?
Tim: No, it is not. I feel very well eating this way, and I don’t get cravings when seeing my family eating bread, spaghetti or bananas. I just leave the side dishes be and eat the keto friendly food like meat and vegetables.
Pernilla: How did you do the diet change? Did you put it into practice step by step or did you let go of all your old eating habits at once?
Tim: I did let go of my old eating habits at once and started eating low carb. Seeing the numbers on the scales (in the beginning, you tend to lose a lot of water weight) were very motivating.
Pernilla: How long did it take for you to adjust to the Keto Diet?
Tim: It took about 2 weeks for me to adjust to the strict keto diet. The body has to get used to not getting the fast energy out of sugar and instead out of burning fat.
It does need some willpower to overcome this period, but as I lost 2 kilos already within the first week I got very motivated and kept going with the diet despite the side effects.
Pernilla: You mentioned that you experienced some side effects during the initial phase. What kind of side effects and how did you feel?
Tim: Yes, I got the so-called keto-flu. It is not the real flu, but it feels like that. I got headaches, and I felt weak and tired. During this time I also had a craving for carbs, like bread, potatoes, and fruits. But as I just said I could handle it as I saw the quick result on the scales. It also helped that I knew about the keto-flu before I started the diet and was mentally prepared for what may come.
Pernilla: What did you do to overcome the keto-flu?
Tim: At the time I didn’t really do anything special except just soldiering on. What I know now is that electrolytes are very important. The keto diet changes the way the body handles electrolytes and water. Because of this, it can be very easy to experience electrolyte imbalances, especially in the beginning. This might mean that you need to eat foods that are high in magnesium like chocolate (100% cacao) or potassium (avocado) or that one would need to take some supplements. Sodium is also very important. I want to mention that it is very important to eat enough salt when doing the keto diet, not only in the initial phase. Eating keto means eating natural foods and there is no added salt in natural foods like it is in processed food. Depending on your activity level etc, it can be recommended to have a daily intake of 3 to 4 teaspoons of salt.
Pernilla: Do you have to take any supplements? If yes, why and what kind of supplements?
Tim: I only take a magnesium supplement. Although magnesium can be found in a lot of keto-friendly foods like leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish etc, I still find that I don’t get enough of it.
Pernilla: So when on keto diet the body gets the energy from fat instead of sugar – this state is called being in ketosis. Do you have to do something special to reach ketosis, to make the body change its way of getting energy?
Tim: No, the only thing you have to do is to eat the recommended keto food. Simply put: when we stop eating carbs and we get our main fuel from fat, the liver starts producing ketones out of the fat automatically.
Pernilla: I’ve heard there are measuring devices for checking the ketosis level? Do you use such a device?
Tim: No, for me it isn’t necessary. When eating the right food, the body automatically gets in the state of ketosis. It might be good for some people that are insecure if they are doing it ‘the right way’ to measure their ketone levels in the beginning. But it’s not a necessity and I believe it’s just a way to make money for some people.
Pernilla: What do you eat when following the Keto Diet?
Tim: I basically eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, salads, nuts and seeds and added fats like butter, olive, and coconut oil.
Eggs are very healthy and you may eat as many as you want, that’s good because I love eggs. There is this common question I get asked a lot – don’t eggs increase your cholesterol level. First cholesterol is a very important part of the body. When we eat cholesterol-rich foods, the body regulates the cholesterol level – the liver starts to reduce its own cholesterol production.
Pernilla: Can you make some examples of what dishes you eat?
4 Eggs fried in butter with bacon or salmon
or chia pudding
Meat and a salad
Fish and grilled vegetables
Pernilla: Wasn’t it hard stop eating carbohydrates like pasta, rice, and bread?
Tim: No, it wasn’t as I anyhow don’t like pasta and rice that much. The hardest thing for me was to do without bread and to make sure I plan on going out since just grabbing a sandwich at a gas station is no longer an option.
When eating enough proteins like meat and eggs, and enough fat, like olive oil, butter, and cream, I feel satisfied and I can control myself and don’t get any cravings for carbs.
Pernilla: Don’t you miss eating fruit?
Tim: No, I really don’t miss eating fruit. When eating keto, you also stop craving other types of foods. I do eat berries like for example blackberries and raspberries. That’s OK as these are very low-carb.
Pernilla: How long did it take until you lost cravings for sugar?
Tim: Already in the initial phase. After the first two weeks on keto, I didn’t feel like eating foods containing sugar. The desire to eat sugar can be aroused by only eating a tiny piece of cake. Therefore I rather leave it be.
Pernilla: Can you use sweeteners, like stevia, erythritol or artificial sweeteners when on a keto diet?
Tim: Yes, you can. Stevia and erythritol are the best ones to use. I personally like erythritol the best because of the taste and the sugar like consistency.
Pernilla: Do you eat desserts and if yes, what kind of dessert and how often?
Tim: Yes, I do eat desserts like for example keto friendly cakes or cookies on the weekends.
They may not contain any wheat, grain or sugar. I use coconut flour and almond flour instead of wheat flour and erythritol as a sweetener instead of sugar or honey. The internet and especially youtube are a real help when looking for keto recipes.
Pernilla: How many meals per day do you eat now on the keto diet? Do you eat fewer meals compared to before?
Tim: Before I used to snack between the meals. Now I have enough when eating the 3 main meals per day.
Many people who do the keto diet, eat only 2 meals or even 1 meal a day. For the moment it is not an option for me because I would miss the time eating together with my family and work colleagues and it would give me more stress than it would do me good.
Pernilla: Do you eat smaller portions of food with the keto diet?
Tim: I eat more meat than before, but generally, I eat fewer calories because protein and fat make me feel more sated and I don’t need to snack in between anymore.
Pernilla: How long did it take to get used to the planning and the cooking of keto diet meals? To learn what to eat?
Tim: It didn’t take long at all as we used to eat natural foods already before I started the diet. Now I leave the carbs be and eat more meat or fish and vegetables instead.
Pernilla: When following the strict keto diet you should not eat too much protein as the excess protein in the body converts to glucose. That means that you should not eat more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Do you check exactly how much meat, fish or eggs you can eat per day?
Tim: That’s a generalization. The amount of protein someone needs to eat depends on their activity level and on what their goals are (could be weight loss, but also muscle gain). I do track my macros with an app on my cell phone. Not daily but every now and then to get an idea what I should and can eat.
Pernilla: How do you plan the meals throughout the week? Do you go grocery shopping once a week?
Tim: No, I don’t plan that very much. Once a week we go to the groceries and we just buy enough natural foods for the whole family. We buy lots of fresh vegetables, fresh meat and fish, eggs and high-fat dairy products.
Pernilla: How do you do at your workplace?
Tim: Sometimes I take something with me from home, but mostly I go to the shopping center nearby and buy a meal at a Take-Away counter. I ask them to leave out the rice or pasta and to give me some more vegetables. Another thing I do is to buy a salad and maybe add an avocado for instance.
Pernilla: What do you do when visiting a restaurant?
Tim: That’s not a problem at all. At restaurants, I can have a good piece of meat or fish and add a side of spinach for instance. If there are set menus, I can always ask to leave out the carbs and give me some salad or more vegetables.
Pernilla: If you are invited to a birthday party, with dinner and cake, what do you do?
Tim: It’s a bit more tricky. Often I can ‘warn’ the host in advance that I don’t eat any carbs and that I’ll just leave the side dishes be and that I don’t eat any sweets at all. As time goes on, more people are used to me eating this way and they don’t get offended when I turn down the cake for instance.
Pernilla: For the holidays, isn’t it difficult to follow the keto diet when staying away from home?
Tim: It isn’t easy at all times, that’s true. Mostly it works out well, but it needs some planning in advance. I always take some coconut flakes and nuts, like macadamias and also chocolate with 100% cacao with me. In that case, I always have something should I get hungry and there is no keto food to buy.
Pernilla: What was the biggest roadblock for you to overcome?
Tim: It is actually how to organize the holidays and how to deal with invitations.
Once, the whole family was invited for coffee and cake by a couple we didn’t yet know very well. Beforehand, I told them that I do not eat any sweets and that I’m perfectly happy with just a cup of coffee. As we arrived, the host was very proud and happy, she had baked something especially for me – a banana cake with almond flour. Almond flour is OK, but not bananas. Of course, I couldn’t deny having a piece of the cake she baked especially for me. These are minor stumbling blocks but it’s also not the end of the world.
Pernilla: Is the ketogenic diet more expensive than standard food, like for example processed food?
Tim: A lot of staples on Keto, like steak or avocados can be quite expensive depending on the country where you live. Unfortunately, it's true that healthy, fresh and or organic foods are in general more expensive than unhealthy products. Walk into any supermarket and you will find that empty calories are much cheaper. A bag of chips delivers many more calories for a lot less money than for instance salad or fruit.
In short, I think keto is more expensive than a junk food diet but not terribly much more than any other healthy fresh food diets. Many people combine keto with intermittent fasting, which would then mean that you eat less frequently. In that way, you can also save to compensate for the higher prices.
Pernilla: What would you recommend someone who wants to start following the keto diet?
Tim: I would especially recommend getting as much information about the keto diet as possible before starting the diet. It is important to know how it works, what you can eat and not, and know about the different kinds of side effects which can occur. When you know about all these things, you are prepared and can overcome the side effects much easier and the weight loss, as well as the reversal of diseases, are more effective. Taking a few coaching sessions might also be a good way to get started. The quicker you see the results the more motivated you get to carry on.
Pernilla: How did you gain the keto diet know-how?
Tim: I informed myself on the internet. There are countless websites, youtube clips, books and cookbooks about this topic.
Pernilla: We have arrived at the end of the interview and I've got one last question. What is your overall experience with the keto diet?
Tim: The keto diet has totally changed my life for the better. I’ve lost many kilos, I feel energized and I can think more clearly than before. I don’t get any hunger pangs anymore and I’m not tired after having eaten a meal. Not to speak about the health aspects when following the keto diet.
All this has motivated me to try and help other people by getting certified as a Keto Coach myself.
Pernilla: Thank you so much, Tim, for taking your time doing this interview and sharing your experiences following the ketogenic diet in daily life. It was most interesting and I’m looking forward to presenting your future online business as a certified Keto Coach professionally helping people to a healthier life.
The Keto Way, Keeps the Pounds Away
What are your thoughts about the keto diet?
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