After almost three years as a vegan, I decided to give a Vegan Keto diet a try.
To start, I want to give you a bit of a background into why I decided to give this way of eating a try. It was, for the most part, fairly unplanned and spontaneous. Below you’ll find a day-by-day journal and food diary, followed by a summery of my conclusions at the end of what turned out to be a 12 day experience.
If you’re looking for my quick and easy Vegan Keto recipes, then you can follow these links:
In late February, a friend of mine, who has come in and out of my life since Spring Break of ‘99, recently re-appeared in my life via Instagram. He started following my @monsonmadethis account, and I so I started following him back. I messaged him a day or two later just to say “hey”, and to catch up a bit. To my surprise, he told me that he had fallen down a rabbit hole of my videos, and he was quite complimentary about the content that I had created.
Intrigued, I asked if he had cooked anything from my channel. He said no, but it wasn’t because he didn’t find anything appetizing, but instead it was because he was on the Keto diet. So far, he said, he had lost over 40 pounds, and if I had any Keto recipes on my channel, then he would definitely able to give my vegan food a try.
At the time I hadn’t really considered creating any Keto content, but that lead to a conversation about what exactly the Keto diet is, what it’s parameters were, and in what ways it could be made vegan.
From what I had seen of the Keto diet online, it was predominantly meat, dairy, and eggs. There were Keto YouTube channels devoted to drastic weight loss from people simply eating lunch meat and cheese, with the occasional steak thrown in as a special treat. I believed that the Platonic ideal of the Keto diet encourages people to consume only pasture raised, grass-fed beef, with organic raw milk cheeses and eggs from cage-free hens, but that’s definitely not what the average American is doing, nor is it what the average Keto YouTuber is doing to promote weight loss
From what I’ve seen online, the Keto diet is simply a way to try to legitimize factory farms as a necessary source of “healthy foods”. Sure, I could lose weight by eating nothing but concrete, but that doesn’t make it healthy, nor does it mean that the sidewalk is a source of healthy food.
Vegan Keto (Veto?), or Eco Atkins, or even Pegan (plaeo + vegan) videos and articles been popping up a lot lately. People want the weight loss benefits of Keto, while sticking to the ethics of a vegan diet. I’m in full support of a diet that promises weight loss without the loss of animal lives, but can these two drastically different worlds ever really meet? Can a Vegan Keto diet actually work, and is it even sustainable?
Eating 80% of your calories from fat is easy when you’re consuming animal products, because most sources of highly-concentrated animal fats come without the added hindrance of carbohydrates. There are no carbs in a chicken thigh.
A Keto diet restricts your carbohydrate intake to 5% to 10% of your daily calorie intake, your protein to 10% to 20%, and ramps up your fat intake up to 70% to 80%. If you’re eating high amounts of animal protein like ground beef, and adding animal fats, like cheese, then these “macros” are fairly effortless goals to reach.
But what about if you’re trying to reach these targets without consuming any animal products? All whole plant foods contain carbohydrates. Even those with high concentrations of fat, like avocados, nuts, and seed contain carbohydrates.
Thankfully, there is the concept of “net carbs”. If you subtract the the grams of fiber from the total grams of carbohydrates, you get the “net carbs”, which are apparently the only carbs that count. Thankfully plant foods have a lot of fiber, so this net math helps make achieving Keto macro goals somewhat obtainable on a vegan diet. However, to put that 5% of calories from carbohydrates into perspective, a half cup of cooked white rice (brown rice really isn’t much different) has slightly more “net carbs” than you’re allowed to eat in a single day on the Keto diet.
Products like coconut oil, and olive oil are allowed on a Keto diet, although they frown upon more “processed” vegetable oils. Coconut and olive oils are both vegan and are plant-based sources of pure fat. However, the jury is still out on the health benefits/detriments of these oils. When considering a Vegan Keto diet, there is the conundrum of whether or want you want to rely on these easy sources of pure fat to help you reach your goals.
The brave new world of vegan food also makes it easier to reach your fat goals. You can also consume products like vegan mayos, vegan cream cheeses, or even just vegan cheeses in general because they are normally fairly low in carbohydrates while being higher in fat. However, if you’re not interested in consuming processed or refined oils, then these products are going to be off limits as well.
One of the positives about the Keto diet, in its Platonic animal-based form, is that it really restricts one’s intake of processed foods. Dieters are encouraged to eat whole animal foods (and some green vegetables), with minimal processing, in order to reach their goals. One can argue as to whether or not a cut of steak is “processed “or not, but if a person wants to go Keto without harming animals or the environment, shouldn’t they strive to eat unprocessed as well?
So, then what can you eat on a Vegan Keto diet? As I mentioned before, avocados, nuts, and seeds (and the butters they produce) are all great sources of whole plant fats, and even though they contain a fair amount of carbohydrates, the fiber content of these foods helps to offset their impact on your macros.
Protein is also limited in a Keto diet, but is not found in large enough quantities in those nuts and seeds to put you over the limit. Tofu is probably the cleanest source of protein for this diet; also containing minimal carbohydrates. Seitan, made from wheat gluten is also low in carbohydrates, but may be considered by some to be too processed. It is best made at home, so that one can truly reduce the number of net carbs contained in this food.
Greens are a go, for the most part. Spinach, celery, leafy greens, broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, and non-starchy vegetable like cauliflower are all great as well, although in large quantities, their net carbs will start to add up.
You can forget about eating any grains, cereals, quinoa, any type of fruit (except berries in a limited quantity), or potatoes. All of these foods have way too many carbs, net or not, and knowing that even the most Keto friendly vegan foods as listed above have carbohydrates, there is no room in this restrictive diet foods with lots of starches or high amounts of sugar.
So, in talking to my friend, and going back and forth about the logistics of a Keto diet, I decided to give it a try. What better way to see if it could work, then by trying it out? My intention was to try it for a week to see if it was even doable. I wanted to document the week, and what I ate, and present my experiment to my YouTube audience.
Unfortunately, I just sort of started it on a whim, without much thought or planning. On an average day, I normally don’t start eating until the early in the afternoon. This friend and I were chatting about the ins and outs of the diet on the morning of March 5th, and so I just decided to just give it a try that day. I had a recipe video (high in rice and agave syrup) all set to be filmed the following day, but as I made it through that first day of Vegan Keto, and proceeded into the second, I decided to just let it roll and see what happens.
I didn’t really weigh myself before beginning, nor did weigh myself when I fell off around the 10th day. I did notice that my belt needed to be tightened one more notch after a few days, but that could have been due to the loss of water weight associated with heavily restricting carbohydrate intake.
Additionally because I just wanted to try it out for a limited period of time, I didn’t purchase any Keto testing strips. I don’t know if I ever reached that coveted state of ketosis, which is apparently the entire goal of going Keto, when your body switches over to burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. I did experience some symptoms associated with the state, the “Keto Flu” on the third day, but I have no proof.
I religiously tracked my macros (fats, carbs, and protein) and my calories using Cronometer. Originally, I had set my macro percentages to be 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% net carbs. I adjusted things slightly after the first day, and I switched to 70% fat (143g), 25% protein (117g), and 5% net carbs (23g) per day.
For each entry, I’ll give you the macro breakdown for that day, but I will not give you my calories. I was been eating in a calorie deficit, for my particular body weight and perceived activity level, but I don’t want to lead anyone astray by posting what my particular body required.
Day 1, March 5th, 2019:
Day one seemed too easy to be true. I didn’t have shop for anything. I just used what I had on hand. I felt experimental. When I got home from my morning “work” routine at Starbucks (black coffee), where I had been messaging with my friend about the specifics of the Keto diet, I decided to make myself a snack. I pulled out some nori sheets, some tahini, nutritional yeast, some spices, and some hemp seeds. I mixed everything except the hemp seeds (and nori) with a bit of water, and then spread it over two sheets of nori. I sprinkled the top with the hemp seeds, and then baked them at 350 for about 10 or so minutes. I cut the crispy coated nori into triangles, and called them Vegan Keto “Doritos”. I was so proud of myself that I sent a picture of my creation to my friend. I also calculated the macros of the recipe and shared them with him. 283 calories in a serving. 21g fat, 14.7g protein, and 3.4g net carbs. It wasn’t perfect in terms of percentages, but it was delicious, it felt indulgent, and I was actually really satisfied after eating it.
I had a bit of coffee left from the morning, and so I Googled “vegan bulletproof coffee”. I made a batch with a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil, a bit of unsweetened almond milk, and natural peanut butter.
I was satisfied until that evening when I started feeling a bit hungry. I noticed that I didn’t feel snacky, or like I just wanted to eat for fun, but I was actually hungry. In the fridge I found some oyster mushrooms, walnuts, and fresh spinach. I sauteed the mushroom in a liberal amount of olive oil, until they were browned and tender. Then added in a serving of raw walnuts, that I crumbled in my hand, and then the spinach, which I cooked just long enough to wilt. I ate this concoction topped with a bit of tahini, Liquid Aminos, and nutritional yeast. This too was so decadent and rich, and I was so satisfied when I was finished, feeling like I hadn’t eaten too much, but just enough.
Fat bombs are apparently a thing. They are basically frozen chunks of coconut oil and other high fat items, like nut butters, that are eaten as a snack, or when one if feeling peckish. My friend told me that his girlfriend really depended on fat bombs to get her through, and to help her reach her daily fat goals. I decided to make a batch with what little coconut oil I had left, and some natural peanut butter. I ate one later in the evening, and although I didn’t love the thought of eating a chunk of frozen oil, it did help to sustain me for a couple of hours.
At some point during the day I made a version of my air fryer Soy Curls jerky using pretty much just Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and pepper. Although high in protein, and relatively low in carbohydrates, I realized that eating them today would put me way way over my carb limit, so I decided to just save them for the following day.
Around 10pm every evening I get snacky. I just want to snack indiscriminately. To satisfy this, I snacked on some raw cauliflower florets and celery. Whether it was out of habit, or the carbohydrate content of the cauliflower, I don’t know, but the need for snacking hit even harder. I ate a spoonful of peanut butter, and told myself that I wasn’t aloud to eat any more for the day.
My takeaway from this first day was that it was super doable. My protein intake was very low, only 45g, but I was able to eat only 27g of net carbohydrates (not bad for the first day, without any prep), and 166g of fat. I didn’t love that I depended on so much oil to get me to my fat goals, but I really wanted to give this diet a shot, so I used what I had.
Additionally, I didn’t really feel hungry in the way that I normally do. I never felt that starving feeling, or the feeling that I needed to just shove food indiscriminately in my face. I had noticed over the past few months that adding fats like avocados and tahini to my foods make them a lot more satiating, but this was the first time that I was relying on high-fat foods to be the bulk of my calories. I felt great, and other than the habitual need to snack before bed, I felt very satisfied.
Day 2, March 6th, 2019:
As I went into the second day, I wanted to try and increase my protein intake. I started my eating in the late morning, around noon, with one of the fat bombs I had made the previous day. A couple of hours later, I had another one. Again, I wasn’t in love with the idea of eating straight oil, but I wanted to try and meet the macros as best I could. That afternoon, I made a tofu salad, like a tuna or chicken salad, with Vegenaise, celery, and walnuts. I made a fairly large portion, but no larger than I would have eaten in one sitting before. About halfway through, I felt done. It was tasty, but I was just done. I felt satisfied. So, I saved the other half for dinner.
This saving my food thing was a new feeling for me. I never save it. I’m always willing to overeat in order to finish my plate. I’m the king of “that’s not enough for another meal so I might as well just eat it now”. But seeing that I had only eaten half, and been satisfied with half, I saved the other half for later.
I at the Soy Curls jerky that I had made the previous day for a snack, and tried to push my dinner as late as I could to avoid being hungry during my normal snacking hour.
Around 9pm I filled a peeled and seeded avocado with my leftover tofu salad. It was incredible, and again, I felt very satisfied after eating what visually seemed like a small amount of food.
At the end of the day, I had consumed only 31g of net carbohydrates, 96g of protein, and 154g of fat. Still not perfectly in line with the macros I had set, but definitely in the ballpark. I still felt like it was doable, and that with proper planning, a Vegan Keto diet was sustainable for at least a short period of time.
Unrelated to diet, but possibly related to my feelings on day 3, I alsodid about 30 minutes of an hour long Tracy Anderson workout video on YouTube, and soaked in a hot tub for an equal amount of time before going to bed.
Day 3, March 7th, 2019:
Is this what they mean by the “Keto Flu”? I woke up with a splitting headache and a tense neck. I felt nauseous. I chugged some water and ended up throwing it up. I took a couple of showers to try and relieve the tension, but it didn’t work. I took a melatonin and put myself back to bed. I woke up again around 4 in the afternoon, feeling better, but with a faint headache.
I Googled “Keto Flu”, and found that it normally hits around the third day, as your body adjusts to not having as much sugar, and as your body switches from burning carbohydrates for fuel, to burning fat. Although I don’t know for sure if I was, or even am in ketosis, because I haven’t tested myself, I did feel all of the withdrawal symptoms associated with it. I was weak, could barely walk, fatigued, headachy, nauseous… These symptoms are also associated with dehydration, which could also have been a possibility not only from sweating during the brief workout and time spent in the hot tub, but from my cells apparently purging water.
Individuals that start a low-carbohydrate diet often experience rapid weight loss in the first few days, but it is not a result of losing fat, but water. Websites suggest that staying hydrated is a good way to help you with the “Keto Flu”, and so I drank as much water as I could stomach. Electrolytes and magnesium are also recommended, so I took a serving of a magnesium supplement that I had on hand.
I wanted to give up. I wanted a bag of chips. But thinking about the loss of a day, and how much of a waste it would be if I gave up, kept me going. I didn’t want to be damaging my body, or causing unnecessary stress, but I also knew that I needed to make a real change. If not this, if not now, then what, and when? I was willing to stick it out a bit longer. I had seen warnings that the “flu” could last day, weeks, or even up to a month. If I wasn’t feeling better by the next day, I would re-evaluate.
The first thing I ate, because hunger came on strong around 5pm, was peanut butter. I am obsessed with Trader Joe’s peanut butter, and I find that it’s a quick way to cure hunger. I ate two servings, which is 4 tablespoons.
I felt a bit better, but the weakness, lack of energy, and headache remained.
For dinner, I spiralized two medium-sized zucchinis, and made a “pesto” out of a whole (small) avocado, a half-serving of walnuts, two tablespoons of olive oil, nutritional yeast, and a half-serving of spinach. I tossed the “zoodles” in the avocado sauce along another half serving of fresh spinach.
Truly, one of the best things I have eaten in a long time; I felt nourished, full, and satisfied.
At the end of the day, seeing that my protein was still a bit low, I drank of serving of vegan vanilla protein powder. Calorically, I was way under my goal, but I slept through most of the day. My protein was still a bit low, only 55g, as were my fats, only 109g, and my net carbs were a bit over, at 27g.
Had I eaten more, I probably could have reached my protein and fat goals better, but I’m priding myself on the fact that I didn’t give up. I felt like shit, and question every decision I’ve ever made involving food I’ve ever made in my life, but I stuck to it. I didn’t eat a bag of chips. In fact, I ate a big bowl of zucchini.
My sleep, however, was a nightmare. I fell asleep pretty easily with a melatonin, but at about 2am, I was wide awake with a feeling that I can only describe as Restless Leg Syndrome, but over my whole body. I had this intense feeling that I just needed to writhe and stretch, and nothing I did, or not position that I was in was comfortable enough. I moved out onto the couch, took another melatonin, and fell back asleep. Every hour or so, I would wake up, but I fell back asleep, at least for another hour or so, fairly easily.
Day 4, March 8th, 2019:
I woke up with a bit of a headache, but it quickly went away with my morning coffee. I hadn’t had any coffee the previous day, but as much as I’m a caffeine addict, I know that my ailments the previous day were not related to insufficient coffee consumption.
As I did my morning Starbucks “work” routine, I could feel myself feeling better and better and for lack of a better word, determined. I went to sprouts and bought MCT Oil, mushrooms, Beyond Burgers and Italian sausages, jicama, and a few densities of tofu. I meant to buy cauliflower and some more greens, but I was too excited to go home and make a batch of bread machine seitan.
I modified the recipe that I have used many many times, by eliminating the garbanzo bean flour, and adding olive oil to the dough. I wanted to minimize the carbs, and increase the fats.
It was also around this time that I started to see things clearly in terms of where I saw this “experiment” going. The foods I was eating were actually satisfying me, not just on a physical fullness level, but I was able to feel “done” when I finished eating. On the other hand, I hated the thought of me eating oils just to meet my fat goals. I don’t really like cooking with oils due to the mess it creates; I hate cleaning up greasy dishes and stove tops. Maybe after years of anti-oil indoctrination by the WFPB community, I have become a bit fat-phobic. But even if I wasn’t meeting my macros exactly, as long as I was living in the spirit of the diet, and knowing what I know about how and why it works, I wanted to try and make some modifications so that I wasn’t so dependent on oil for the majority of my fat intake.
If this Vegan Keto diet was really going to work for me, and long term, it was going to have to be sustainable. I was going to have to feel like I wasn’t restricting myself, or that I wasn’t forcing myself to eat large amounts of oil to fulfill the goal.
The reason these diets work is that they make the dieters feel satisfied on fewer calories. It’s not about the macros so much as it’s about hitting that sweet spot of satiety. How can I build meals that are low in the foods that trigger me to eat thoughtlessly, that fill me physically and emotionally, without feeling like I have to depend on coconut or olive oil?
This is my new goal. Not to say that I’m not going to enjoy those foods, but that I’m not going to force them upon myself ie “fat bombs” to reach my Keto determined macros.
That goal would have to be a journey, and was not an immediate destination. I made a coffee with the MCT Oil, and that held me over for a bit. Later in the evening, I made a chicken-style salad with my bread machine seitan, walnuts, green olives, celery and Vegenaise. I ate it over a serving of fresh spinach.
I had another serving of protein powder at the end of the day to try and bring that number up, but overall, I felt very satisfied throughout the day, and my obsession with food was quieted down severely. Hunger felt different that it has in the past. My stomach felt empty, as opposed to feeling like my whole body was craving a flavor or eating experience. That emptiness in my stomach is filled with physically very little food, that for the most part, is quite calorically dense. Major changes need to be made, as I discussed before, but I’m still going headstrong into my experiment.
I met my calorie goal within 24 calories, which was pretty good, and my macros all were the best that they had been: 143g of fat, 111g protein, and 30g of net carbs. I was over on my carbs a little bit, but I think that’s what it took to get my other macros to where they were.
I didn’t have the same Restless Body Syndrome as I tried to sleep, but I still felt like I was waking up every hour, uncomfortable. By morning, I didn’t feel like I had had a poor night’s sleep, but during the sleep process, I felt like I was constantly in and out of sleep.
Day 5, March 9th, 2019:
I woke up feeling great, around 7:30, and fed the pups. About 9am I made myself a coffee with MCT Oil, and pretty much chugged it. I made another black coffee to take on the road with me as Ben, and my friend Adam and I took our pups to a dog event at a park. We walked around the event for a bit, but then ended spending most of our few hours in the sun walking about a mile around a reservoir in the middle of the park.
On our walk, we decided to go look at some model homes. On the way back to my place, to consolidate vehicles, Adam and Ben both got Taco Bell. I mentioned to Adam that I was on a “diet”, so I would just eat something at home. I made a salad with a serving of fresh spinach, a whole (large) avocado, a serving of my seitan, some walnuts, celery,and nutritional yeast.. I just mushed the whole mess together and devoured it. It tasted amazing, and I was so satisfied after having finished it, feeling full, but not weighted down, not bloated, but not hungry at all; energized.
A lack of bloating is one thing I’ve noticed. I hadn’t feel gassy at all since starting this trial. I have a very regular bowel movement schedule (every day about 10 minutes after I wake up), which has not changed in the slightest, and if anything, the quality of the movement has improved.
We walked around the model homes for about an hour and a half. Then Ben and I washed the pups, and took them to get their nails trimmed. It was a great day for the pups. I also felt great, not hungry or full, which I feel that I’m normally either one of the two.
I do feel that I am missing out a bit; I would have loved to eat Taco Bell with Ben and Adam, and I do feel bad that I’m cooking food, but not really looking out for Ben’s interests. If I had a family that depended on me for food, or if I was having to cook for more people than just myself, this diet could be problematic.
Around 8:30 at night I felt real hunger, and decided to make myself another avocado salad. I told Ben that I was going to cook something, and he wanted to know if he could have some. I only had one serving of spinach left. As a compromise, I decided to cook up the Beyond Burgers I had bought, dividing the pack of 2 into 4. I ate two of the the smaller patties (¼ pound), sauteed with a serving of crimini mushrooms and walnuts, served over the last bit of raw spinach with a two tablespoons of tahini. Again, I mushed the whole thing together and devoured it. Amazing. Hamburger salad. Just like a real Keto person would do.
I had felt great all day. Energized. Satisfied. I was 148 calories under my goal, and although I only met 64% of my protein goal (75g), I hit 97% of my fat goal, and actually only managed to consume 21g of net carbs.
The Beyond Burger really helped me reach my goals, and as delicious as it was, it’s fat content comes from canola oil and coconut oil. So, is there a big difference here with eating a burger that has embedded oil, or eating straight up coconut oil fat bombs?
I didn’t have the most amazing night’s sleep again. Same thing: feeling like I’m waking up every hour or two, uncomfortable.
Day 6, March 10th, 2019:
I had a lot of feelings today. Reflecting on the previous 5 days, and my macros vs. the macro goals of the diet, I am realizing that it is impossible to reach the insane fat goals, while still limiting carbs, eating whole foods alone. That says something to me. I love the way I feel after a higher fat, whole food, vegan meal, but the macros just don’t seem to be as high as they need to. Every whole plant food has carbohydrates, and even with a high fiber content, the net carbs for each meal are still higher than they should be to create a perfect Keto storm.
When I returned home from Starbucks, I made myself a (another) coffee with 1 tablespoon of MCT Oil and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. I was feeling a bit peckish, but it was only around 2pm, and I wanted to push myself a bit farther. I know that it’s easier for me to not start eating than it is for me to stop eating, so if I can push my meals back, eating my last meal shortly before going to bed, then I don’t have that snacking feeling. Ideally.
I drank my “bulletproof” coffee, and then shortly after that I went to help Ben clean a friend’s rental property. I packed a serving of walnuts with me just in case.
Over the next couple of hours I cleaned my ass off. I even broke a sweat from vacuuming and then mopping the entire house. While I cleaned, I listened to The Plant Proof Podcast interview with Dr. Barnard. Both the host of the show and Dr. Barnard were both speaking out against the Keto diet and its effects on overall health, specifically Type 2 Diabetes.
The main reason that I had started this vegan/plant-based journey three years ago was to help fight my prediabetes. The last thing that I wanted to do with my current diet “experiment” was to put myself in a worse situation. Their conversations further fueled my fear of oils.
I can’t tell if it’s a healthy fear of oils, or a phobia. Who is right? I talked to my Keto friend the preious day about my struggle with oils and he said to embrace the fats. Don’t be afraid of the oils (olive and coconut), and he was encouraging me to do whatever it took to get those fat macros in.
My gut is telling me to avoid them, and I freaked myself out a bit, actually. I felt a bit weak after the cleaning, and I ate my walnuts. The whole drive home I thought about the kabocha squash I had sitting in a bowl by my stove, that I couldn’t eat while Keto because of the net carbohydrate content.
The struggle continued. I don’t want to be Keto for life, but the only way for Keto to work is to commit 100%, or else your body won’t go into Ketosis, and your body will immediately store any carbs you consume as fat.
There are so many mixed messages out there, and it’s so hard to decide who is telling me the truth, or at least the truth for my own body. Low fat plant-based? Or Keto?
The first thing I did when I got back home was cut, weight, and bake that aforementioned kabocha squash. I ate two servings of my homemade seitan while it cooked. By the time it was done, I was feeling satisfied by the seitan. I let the squash cool, and then stored it for a later meal. I then went to the store and bought more greens, some cauliflower, zucchini, tahini, some more avocados, and two small cartons of raspberries.
The raspberries, too, would put me above my macros, but I really can’t shake that feeling of guilt that comes with the thought of being able to eat a tablespoon of straight oil because it’s in my macros, but raspberries and squash are off limits?
It’s about choices and priorities. But my head was spinning with trying to figure out what was right and wrong. Eat straight oil to get your fats up, or eat raspberries and squash because they are delicious and nutrient dense. I ate 6 ounces of raspberries the second I got home, and felt great about it. I wasn’t hungry for a few hours.
At about 10pm, I decided it was time for dinner. I filled a large bowl with mixed greens, two servings of kabocha squash, some walnuts, half of a large avocado, a serving of tahini, and some nutritional yeast. The salad was delicious and satisfying, and I wound up going to bed having eaten way under my calorie goals.
Considering the calorie deficit, my fat and protein macros were pretty good. 81g of protein, and 102g of fats. In terms of net carbohydrates, I ate almost double what I was supposed to, mostly guilt free, 44g.
Day 7, March 11th, 2019:
Today was tough. This was the first day that I had “cravings” all day. I kept saying to Ben that I just wanted to eat a bag of chips. I don’t know if it was the result of having eaten in a calorie deficit for a week, or if the larger amount of carbohydrates I had been eating in the form of raspberries and kabocha squash had kicked me into some sort of craving spiral.
I started the day as I had done the previous days, I had gone to Starbucks to have some “office” time; to respond to emails and YouTube comments, and to document what I had eaten the previous day. Overall I felt good, but hunger was definitely present.
At around 11am I did a Shipt shopping trip for someone, and then returned home around noon to make myself a take on bulletproof coffee, but with green tea and cashews. I was so hungry as I drank the tea, and honestly after about 10 minutes, I felt a satisfied.
By this point I had decided that I wanted to make a few of my favorite Keto recipes for my YouTube channel, and I thought that making them for lunch and a snack would be a good way to refine the recipes. I make a huge zucchini noodle and avocado pesto bowl, and devoured the whole thing. It was amazing, and I felt amazing and I was satisfied for a few hours, and long enough to do another Shipt shopping trip.
Later that afternoon, not really feeling that hungry, I decided to make my Vegan Keto Doritos. The recipe was again so delicious, and I ate about half. Stopped for a bit. Then ate the other half. Again, I felt fairly satisfied and not that hungry after eating them.
I really wanted to eat my last meal much later, so I didn’t want to give into any cravings that came up in the early evening. At one point, however, at about 8pm, I went in on some peanut butter. I ate about 4 tablespoons worth and felt satisfied. For a minute. But the cravings continued. I gave myself a serving of seitan, and then another. Everything tasted so good, and all I wanted to do was eat more. But I held off.
I did another shopping trip, and then Ben and I went to visit a friend of ours who was in the hospital, and whose dog we needed to bring home to play with our pups. When we got home around 10:30, my hunger was through the roof. And it wasn’t just hunger, but it was cravings. Specific cravings. I wanted a bag of chips. That’s all I could think about.
I ate my last serving of seitan and decided to try to go to bed. The cravings didn’t stop, but I was able to sleep through the night with only a couple disturbances.
In the end, I did meet my calorie goals for the day, even in a slightly large deficit. I exceeded my protein goal, with 126g. I fell short on my fat goals, eating only 108g. My net carbs were way over, having eaten 51g.
But I made it a week. Do I keep going…?
Day 8, March 12th, 2019
I woke up today with a terrible headache, an intense physical hunger, and again, a craving for a bag of chips. And the craving for chips is specific. I wanted All Dressed Up Ruffles. An entire bag. It was only about 9am, but I needed to eat something so that I could take some pain reliever. I ate a serving of walnuts, and took some Aleve.
How much of this feeling was due to the macros from the previous day? Or did it have more to do with the calories?
As I left the house to go to Starbucks, I was haunted by the need to just pull into Albertson’s and buy a bag of those specific chips, and just eat the whole back in the parking lot. Anyone with food issues knows the feeling of needing to eat in private, and the need forcibly stuff your face until you can’t anymore. I wanted that experience. I missed that private gluttony. Truly, like a long lost love, I missed with my whole being the feeling of being alone, without anyone to judge me, devouring an entire bag of potato chips all in one go.
The Starbucks I go to is located in a Smith’s parking lot, directly across the street from the aforementioned Albertsons. As I type this, I am mere feet away from those chips. I’m drinking black coffee, and not eating those chips.
But The Day is young.
When I got home, I fried up two Beyond Meat Hot Italian Sausages, with some mushrooms and walnuts. I filled a bowl with mixed greens, and then topped them with the sausage and mushrooms, and then drizzled tahini over the top. It felt good to eat food that was in line with my macros, but I have to say that even after I finished, I didn’t feel completely satisfied.
That was a feeling that continued throughout the day. The craving for Thai food wouldn’t go away, and so I devised a plan to satisfy that hunger while trying to stick to the keto macros. I made a Thai style coconut soup with mushrooms and tofu and cauliflower, and I felt really accomplished, having made a dish that hit my cravings. It truly hit the spot. I ate half of the large pot, and saved the other half for the following day.
But I didn’t feel fully satisfied, I snacked on some raw sunflower seeds, which are, side note, actually really macro friendly for the Keto diet.
I had eaten fairly well. I hit my calorie goal almost exactly, and I think I did pretty well in terms of meeting my macros. Hit missed my fat goal by 4g, and that was without really any added oils (lots of coconut milk). I ate 88g of protein, and I only ate 35g of net carbs, which was only about 7% of my total calories. I felt like I had done really well, and I felt great about my numbers.
However, I wasn’t satisfied. The hunger that I woke up with never went away. The entire day, no matter how much I ate, I never felt “full”. I tried to go to bed, but I just tossed and turned. I went back out on the couch to watch TV until I got tired, but my stomach was growling and my mind would not stop thinking about food.
I came to, about 1am, driving home from Taco Bell, shoving fresco style potato tacos into my mouth as fast as I could. And then bean chalupas. I live only a couple of miles from Taco Bell, and none of my 5 item order made it back home with me.
I felt satisfied. The hole was filled. I didn’t beat myself up about it. I slept like a baby.
Day 9, March 13th, 2019:
Although I ended up greatly falling off the wagon, and pretty much doubled my caloric intake for the day, I was determined not to let the “setback” slow me down. I was determined to have a good day.
I didn’t wake up feeling hungry. I had to help Ben clean the rental house, and I did so without feeling hungry at all. In fact, I didn’t eat anything until late in the afternoon. I made a chia, hemp, and flax “pudding”, which ended up more like some goopy almond milk with seeds floating around it in. It tasted good, though.
A bit later, I made a smoothie type concoction with some vanilla protein powder, an avocado, and the aforementioned seeds. I used a lot of water and ended up filling a large NutriBullet cup with the mixture. It tasted great, and I was fairly satisfied after drinking it. Overall, I felt good throughout the day, and I never had that starving feeling that I had the previous day.
Before bed I snacked on some raw sunflower seeds, and then I went to sleep at a reasonable hour, having probably my best macro day yet. I hit my calorie goal within 5 calories, with 27g of net carbs, 145g of fats, and 83g of protein. My protein goal was a bit low, but overall, I really did the diet that best that I could. Whole foods. Nuts and seeds.
I really felt great, and had some ideas on how to proceed.
Day 10, March 14th, 2019:
I slept alright. I had my coffee at Starbucks, and felt armed to deal with the day. I was hungry, but nothing I couldn’t talk myself out of.
Around 10am, I got an order to shop at Target. After that, around 11am, I went over to my friend Jackie’s house to hang out for a bit. She had an errand to run across town, so I went with her. We got back to her house around 12:30, and she insisted that I try the new formulation of Follow Your Heart’s cream cheese. She toasted a slice of Dave’s Killer Bread, cut it in half, and then slathered both halves with cream cheese. She handed me one.
I wasn’t ready to start eating. I hadn’t eaten bread (except for the Taco Bell incident), since starting this experiment. I had the fear that by eating that piece of bread with cream cheese, that I would be ruined for the day. Probably not a healthy mindset to have over a piece of toast.
I devoured that toast as fast as I could, and the cream cheese was next level. Truly, I can’t wait for it to hit stores. But the damage had been done. The fast had been broken, and I had consumed a third of my daily carbohydrate limit in three bites.
I left around 1pm to shop another Target order, and then a Smith’s order shortly after that. I went home to make myself another coffee to try and curb my hunger, but it didn’t really work. I shopped another Target order, and then I was back home at 5pm to have my first real meal of the day.
Feeling good about the avocado and protein and seed smoothie I had made the previous day, I made myself another one. I drank the whole thing, feeling that I was really getting back on track. This is how it’s done.
But I didn’t feel the same satisfaction that I had felt the previous day. I was hungrier than before. I needed more food, so I had some raw sunflower seeds. I felt hungrier than ever.
Ben had to run drive across town to bring our friend’s dog back, and pretty much the minute after he left, I was in the car, destinations unknown.
First stop: Albertson’s I bought a package of inari sushi and a bag of All Dressed Up chips. Fallen. I had that bag open before even getting to my car. As much as I had craved and thought about these chips for the past few days, they didn’t taste as good as I remembered. But I didn’t stop shoveling them in my mouth; as many chips as I could fit in my mouth at a time.
In my car, I opened up the sushi, and started eating them as fast as I could, two bites a piece. I started driving while switching back and forth between chips and sushi, trying to decide what I was going to actually eat for dinner. I started towards Taco Bell, and then I remembered that Panda Express had recently switched ingredients in a few of their items so that they were vegan. I did a U-turn, and ran inside the restaurant. I ordered a bowl with chow mein with eggplant and tofu.
When I got to the car, I opened the lid, and started eating. I stopped long enough to drive to a distant part of the parking lot to finish. Alone. Binging.
The bowl was clean, and the guilt set in. The Panda Express didn’t taste that great at all, but I didn’t care. I was seated next to an empty plastic bowl, an empty sushi container, and a half eaten bag of chips. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. I had lost.
I put the empty packaging into the half-eaten bag of chips, and then I deposited everything into a dumpster in the parking lot.
Obviously not feeling guilty enough, I opened the fortune cookie. It read, “LISTEN TO YOUR HEART”.
I have always believed in fortune cookies. It’s been my way of understanding fate for as long as I can remember. I have an entire collection of them, and unless they are just completely off-base, I see them as a personal message, that was solely intended for me. That cookie was given to me by the employee, I chose to open in in that moment. Fate.
In that moment, that “heart” meant two things: desire and the organ in my chest keeping me alive. The scene I was currently starring in was the result of me listening to one, while ignoring the other. If I am to live my best life, I need to be able to listen to both “hearts” at the same volume.
I got home, put on comfy clothes, and watched TV with the pups, waiting for Ben to get home like nothing happened.
For honesty’s sake, I entered my binge into Cronometer. Because I had only eaten about 800 calories prior to my binge, the damage, calorically, wasn’t as bad as I had expected. I finished off the day having consumed about 2600 calories, but the macros were ridiculous. I had consumed about 198g of net carbs, 155g of fat, and 74g of protein. I exceeded my carb goal by 843%. Not cute.
Was the feeling of fullness worth the feeling of guilt I felt after? Did the fact that calorically, I didn’t do that much damage, erase some of the reality of what actually happened? I was powerless. On auto-pilot. I wasn’t in control, and I ate unconsciously until I heard the “click”, and immediately felt the shame of my actions.
How should I think about what I did? What is the rational way to look at my binge? It wasn’t that bad because it wasn’t that many calories? It was terrible because I was out of control? What did I expect starving myself all day?
I slept very well that night.
Day 11, March 15th, 2019:
I’m still struggling to wrap my head around my binge last night. I did sleep great, and I woke up feeling good. Looking in the mirror, I don’t feel any fatter than the day before, in fact, physically, I feel like I look better than I did a week ago. A couple of days ago I went down a belt hole, and I feel like my clothes are fitting me a bit better; my shirts don’t seem to be as taught in the front around my belly.
There is something about the day after a binge, where I actually feel better in some ways. I don’t wake up hungry, and I don’t have that feeling that I need to just devour everything in sight. It could be physical, but it could be mental. My resolve is always stronger after I have lost all control.
After my morning of black coffee at Starbucks, I decided to try something that I hadn’t really done before. I decided to eat, around noon, when I wasn’t super hungry. Normally I wait until later, until I’m much hungrier, but today I decided to see what would happen if I at when I was just a little bit hungry. Would it trigger an eating binge, or would it fill me up just enough to sustain a full feeling?
I made a whole bunch of shishito peppers with a bit of olive and sesame oils, Liquid Aminos, and some seasoning. They were the perfect salty and spicy treat, and I felt good about indulging on whole plant foods. When I finished the plate, I didn’t feel ravenous, but I could tell that I had that feeling of having eaten, but wanting to eat more. Thinking about what makes a person full, and would could have been missing from the meal, I decided to down a bit of psyllium husk. I wanted to see if boosting the fiber content of a meal would in fact make me feel fuller, longer.
After the psyllium husk, I do think that I felt more satiated, and I was able to go on a bit longer without eating anything.
I did a couple of shopping trips. When I got home in the late afternoon, I felt truly hungry. Instead of just going crazy on whatever I could find, I decided to give my avocado and protein smoothie another shot. Chia seeds, flax meal, hemp hearts, avocado, peanut powder, and protein powder, blended together with water and a few ice cubes. The smoothie filled a large blender cup, and was super thick and creamy. It took me a while to drink it, and so I was actually able to work on Ben’s website while I sipped.
I think that drinking it slowly helped to make it more satisfying. I wasn’t super focused on just chugging it, but instead I tried to enjoy it, and drink it slowly so that it would fill me up. And it worked.
Around 9pm, I was hungry again, and I had only consumed a little over half of my daily calories. I browsed the fridge for foods to eat, and ended up air frying a bunch of asparagus, browning some Tofurky chorizo, and making a sort of pasta dish, with the asparagus as noodles, chorizo as meat sauce, and then a drizzle of tahini as a creamy, cheesy, umami rich topping.
The dish was so good, and so satisfying. I felt full after eating the large portion, and it fit right in with my macros, leaving me a couple hundred calories left to play with.
Shortly before bed, I had a serving of raw sunflower seeds, and did my final macro calculations. I was about 100 calories under my daily goal. I nailed my net carb macros with 23g, (101% of my goal), my fats were also pretty good, 126g (almost 90% of my goal), and as always, my proteins were the lowest, but still pretty good at 88g (75% of my goal).
I slept great. I felt great. I did feel the craving to snack, but I had the power to override it. I didn’t fall victim to my own blind eating tendencies. I was in control.
Day 12, March 16th, 2019:
I woke up feeling great, ready to eat well. I started off my day at Starbucks, as usual, typing up my previous day’s food diary. I was so proud of myself. I was confident that I was learning more about myself and my habits.
Around 11, Ben and I had to go clean the rental house, and by the time we got back home, around 3pm, I was really hungry. Feeling in control, however, I decided to make one of my current favorite avocado, protein, and seed smoothies. The smoothie was hearty and satisfying, and just the right amount of sweet and savory. I was full and satisfied.
My mom flew into town to stay with us for the week, and I had to pick her up at the airport at 5pm. While I waited for her, Ben messaged me to see if we would be getting dinner with my mom. “I’m gonna guess that she will want to eat something”. I responded that I thought she probably would, because that’s sort of always a thing when she comes into town, or when anyone come into town: we eat.
Actually, it turns out that she had eaten at the airport right before her 90 minutes flight, so she wasn’t hungry. But Ben was, and because he had put the but in my ear, I was suddenly hungry as well. We agreed on going to Whole Foods, so he could get a pizza, and I could hit up their salad bar. My mom needed to be driven across town, so it worked out that we would go together to drop her off, and then stop at Whole Foods on the way home.
Ben went directly to the pizza line, and I took my time building my salad. I added a bed of mixed greens, and then topped them with various “low carb” vegetables, avoiding any beans or noodle salads, and then adding a bit of vegan chick’n salad. I also got a small avocado, and a bit of their vegan ranch dressing on the side.
My salad was pretty large, but it was full of mainly vegetables. I had only consumed about 450 calories before that salad, so I wasn’t concerned about going over my calories. But because of the varied nature of the ingredients, it was impossible to try and enter what I ate into Cronometer. That was a big mistake.
I was satisfied for a couple of hours, but around my usually snacking time, after 10pm, I started to get strong cravings. I can only equate my feelings in that moment to those of a person who is stranded in the middle of the ocean, treading water. I was exposed and susceptible. How many calories had I eaten today? Was I over? Under? Do I have 100 calories left for the day, or 700? What should I eat? Should I eat at all. Is eating giving into temptation, or is eating what I need to do to sustain life?
I gave in, reheated the second half package of Tofurky chorizo. That wasn’t enough. I ate a couple of graham crackers, two handfuls of chocolate chips, a few walnuts and then I found some Dave’s Killer Bread that I had hidden in the freezer. Three slices, thawed and dunked in olive oil and Italian seasoning later, I felt shame and guilt.
As quickly as I fall into the trap of binging, I just as quickly snap out of it in a realization of the damage I have done.
The experiment was officially over. I do think I did lose some weight, and maybe an inch or two, but I have not measured. Bad science. In the end, I think I learned more about myself than I did a Vegan Keto diet. Here are a few main takeaways from my 12 days of Vegan Keto:
The experiment was over the second that I lost track. As healthy as that Whole Foods salad may have been, I felt lost. Had I eaten 1,000 calories, or 500 calories. Tracking everything I ate really helped me to reach my goals, but the second that I at out, or ate something that wasn’t easily trackable, I lost it. There is a lot to unpack here, from not knowing caloric densities of foods, and being able to calculate them without the use of an app, to the mixed emotions I felt when I wasn’t able to see a number after a meal.
Tracking helped, and I did learn how to eyeball servings of certain foods. I like knowing. I like feeling in control, However, the second that I was out of control, I felt lost, saying “fuck it”, and then eating whatever I wanted because, well, I wasn’t able to keep track anyway.
I obviously still have some work to do.
I do think there is something to be said about balancing fats, proteins, and carbs. Carbs are triggering to me, and they don’t make me feel satisfied. A meal of air-fried, oil-free, salt-free potatoes will leave me unsatisfied. I may feel physically full for as long as it takes me to finish the plate, but I am not satisfied. Eating higher fat foods, and foods that were lower on the glycemic index helped me to control my eating, and eat in a caloric deficit without feeling hungry. However, there’s a caveat, which leads me to my next lesson….
Calories are probably the biggest culprit for both my successes and failures. If I lost any weight or inches, it was because I consumed fewer calories than I had burned. At the same time, I do feel like it was not eating enough calories which lead to my binges.
I was going off of what Chronometer was telling me was the best for losing weight. I wasn’t sure exactly how many calories I was actually burning in a day, and so the limiting of calories one day is probably what lead to the cravings and binge eating the next. On day 13, I bought a Fitbit to try and track my daily calorie needs. I would like to eat in a deficit for weight loss, but I know that if I go too low, and start to “restrict”, then only bad things will come.
I will occasionally add olive oil to foods, or I’ll eat fried foods when I’m out, or I’ll slather a bit Vegenaise on my sandwiches and such, but for the most part, I don’t really add that much extra oil to my foods. Yes, there are a few recipes on my channel that are fried or contain oils, but I have limited them for the most part. It’s not so much a conscious decision because they are “evil” so much as a realization that they are unnecessary. If it’s not going to make a difference, then I don’t add it.
Because of this mindset, I did find it really difficult to reach fat macros without oils. I hated the thought of just eating oils to get more fats in me, especially when I would see that eating tablespoons of coconut oil was fine to help me reach my macros, but eating an apple wasn’t. My programming finds it really hard to switch over to that logic, and I’m ok with that. I’m still trying to rectify the cost/benefits of coconut and olive oils, and although I enjoyed a higher fat diet, I don’t see oils as a healthy part of an imbalanced diet.
I think I like eating a lower carbohydrate vegan diet. The need to ramp up my fat macros is gone now, but eating more whole plant foods with higher nutrient and caloric densities has really helped me to eat better and to feel more satisfied. As I continue this journey to try and eat better, and try to be comfortable in my own skin, I will take what I learned from this experiment with me.
I have a better understanding of my needs and habits, and hopefully I’m developing tools to help me rectify some of my issues with foods. In the end, I love eating and I love delicious foods, and I hate the feeling of missing out. I want to be able to cook amazing meals, and I want to be able to go out ot amazing restaurants. I don’t want to beat myself up if I eat a bunch of chips, but at the same time, I don’t want to restrict myself in a way that leads to irrational binging and the eventual depression that “clicks” on the second that the craving is satisfied.
To get to where I want to go, I need to be accountable, conscious, aware, and balanced. My work, following this experiment, is to figure out how to reach those ideals.