The Keto Diet: Facts and Fallacies

2019 is already revealing itself to be a year of people bettering themselves, which is wonderful! As I watch my college peers decide what they are going to focus on improving about themselves in this new year, I’m blown away by the number of people taken by this “keto” diet.

I had never heard of this diet until the very end of last semester. A friend of mine and I were talking about eating habits and he starting raving about the keto diet and how it’s helped people drop 20 pounds in as little as a few weeks! Naturally, I didn’t believe this for a second. But, as soon as I started investigating, I got to read lots of great success stories of people loosing lots of weight and making it look seamless and easy with this new diet! I was impressed, but skeptical.

My next question was: how does that even happen?

This post is meant to help answer that question, and many others I had after investigating the keto diet. Hopefully, if any of you are looking to go on this new diet in this new year, this post is helpful in letting you know what’s in store for your body!

What We Know

The scientific backing to this diet is surprisingly sound. Basically, ketosis is what your body goes into when you’re starving, or at least when your body perceives that you’re starving. This diet tricks your body into thinking this by lowering the amount of carbs you intake and replacing those lost calories with high-fat foods. The absence of carbs leaves your brain looking for a different energy source, and the only other one available is ketones stored in fat.

This switch in energy sources has actually been found to help soothe lots of chronic illnesses, such as epilepsy and diabetes. It can also provide the brain with more efficient ways of producing energy, by using less oxygen to produce more energy when the source is BHB (one of the major types of ketone bodies!). Ketones can also help our bodies produce more antioxidants, which help keep us from getting sick!

On the other hand, the keto diet has been shown not to be a great long-term lifestyle to keep up. Originally, this diet was created for people with epilepsy to help minimize their seizures. As patients who have tried to use keto as a long-term solution for their epilepsy have shown, things get complicated as keto goes on for too long. Some crazy side effects that have been found include things like kidney stones, hair loss, an inability to concentrate and acid reflux.

This isn’t to say for sure that all of these things will happen if you try a keto diet, but they are reactions your body may have, and therefore things to be aware of going in.

What We Don’t Know (Yet)

The tricky thing about a diet like keto is that there are still a lot of things we don’t totally know. I was surprised to discover that, while there are a lot of great anecdotal benefits to keto, a lot of the stories aren’t backed by science yet.

Additionally, there are lots of claimed health benefits that come from keto diets. These are real benefits, with real studies to back them. The problem is: almost all of them have been done only in mice. While the clinical trials in relation to seizure management have been moved into humans, no other clinical tests related to keto diets have been done to know exactly what happens in humans’ bodies on such a diet.

One of the best articles I found about the keto diet in general was published by UCSF, and the author makes the argument that even the euphoria that people feel on the keto diet can’t be scientifically backed yet. She follows this claim with the comment that, while it could be the way the body is changing functions under ketosis, this extreme happy feeling might just be an outcome of keto dieters getting better sleep, being conscious of what they’re eating, and maybe getting compliments as they start shedding pounds!

Hopefully this post hasn’t deterred anyone too much from trying out the keto diet. While there are lots of questions left unanswered here, and science hasn’t had the opportunity to investigate them all yet, it’s indisputable that the keto diet has brought lots of people happier and healthier lifestyles.


Being a Clean Queen

I’m happy to say that I’ve started my last semester of college today, and this final “first day of school” has brought with it a lot of thinking about things that are important to me. As I’ve started thinking about what I want to do with my life after being a student, I’ve considered things that are important to me more and more, and have started to really focus on those things as a way to sort out the chaos that feels like my future.

One such thing that is high on my priority list is something I didn’t even realize was important until I came back to school yesterday. I was chatting with one of my housemates (I live with four guys, just to put this story in context), and we were talking about how I left for my winter break about a week earlier than everyone else in the house because my exams finished early. He mentioned that the entire house got noticeably messier and dirtier after I left, and I was astonished. I always knew I was cleaner than the guys, but I didn’t know it was by that much!

Once my housemate described to me just how dirty things got without me around, I realized how important cleanliness is to me. It’s something I always thought I defaulted too doing rather than prioritizing it, but in it’s own way, doing something just because you feel that it needs to be done is a method of prioritization!

There are a lot of cleaning products out there, I’ve found, that work wonders but have a lot of negative health effects associated with them. I’ve been working on a bathroom floor or a kitchen counter and suddenly had to stop due to headaches from the chemicals in the products I was exposing myself to. So, here are some suggestions for how to keep your space nice and clean without sacrificing your health.

Pets and Pests

Pets can bring so much joy and love to a household, but also a lot of dirt and bugs. To keep a space clean while living with a pet, it’s important to pick out cleaning products that are healthy for them and for you, while also helping to get rid of pesky insects and dirt that might be harmful to your furry friend. Wondercide makes lots of plant-based pet-cleaning products that will make sure your pets are clean and healthy without exposing them to chemicals that may end up harming them in the long run.

Fresh Floors

It’s basic, but I have to talk about how much I appreciate Swiffer as a brand. I was hesitant to buy a Swiffer because I figured for a product to work so well on all different types of floors, it had to be full of terrible things that would make our bodies feel terrible too. However, I’m pleased to admit I was completely wrong. I use a Swiffer for all the floors in my house and it’s never once made me feel sick, and it’s super effective in a house full of guys who walk around with dirty snow on their boots!

As an alternative to Swiffer, though, I also like to use Aunt Fannie’s products for floor cleaning, since they’re also very effective and smell absolutely incredible! And, the foundations this company was built on was creating cleaning products safe for families, excluding harsh cleaning agents that can have adverse effects on child development.

Spotless Sheets

Really what should have revealed to me that cleanliness was important to me was how much I enjoy clean sheets. I love the smell of clean sheets, and the way it feels to get into bed when you have freshly washed sheets. Honest is a company that makes mostly baby products, but I have no shame in admitting that I use the detergent they make because it’s not too fragrant, and it’s gentle for skin (obviously, it’s made for babies!).

Clear Counters

Clean counters include not only the counter tops themselves, but the things that get placed on them often like dishes and appliances. For all of these things, Mrs. Meyers cleaning products are tough on stains and not on skin. I tend to forget to put gloves on before I take on a cleaning endeavor, and lots of products for countertops will leave you with dry, aching skin without a little protection. With Mrs. Meyers, that definitely isn’t the case. The smells are also nice and light, so no worries about headaches or harsh scents with this brand!

Happy Hydration (and 2019!)

As my first post in the new year, I thought it only fitting to include in this post my two new years resolutions. I know a lot of people don’t believe in new years resolutions, especially skeptical college kids (which describes most of my peers currently), but it’s been shown that people who actually talk about their resolutions and ask for support are more likely to keep those resolutions! So here I am, hoping to keep my two little resolutions by writing about them.

I decided on two resolutions because I felt like just one wouldn’t be enough to help me improve both my mental and physical well-being, both of which I would like to work on in the new year. The first is that I’m going to focus on saying “no” more to things that I genuinely do not want to do. I’m hoping that being deliberate in the things I choose to do with other people versus the things I do for myself will help me feel more grounded and relaxed, as well as enjoy the people I do decide to hang out with. This one will probably be the more difficult resolution for me, and I’ll come back with an update eventually about how it ends up going for me!

The second is something more for my physical health, and definitely more within reach for me, personally. My second resolution is to drink more water and/or stay hydrated. This is something I am conscious that I am terrible at, since most of the time I just forget! And I know on this front I am certainly not alone. Here is my game-plan for staying hydrated in the new year, including creative ways to keep myself on-track and why hydration is important to me.

“Little Breaks” and Balance

Aside from simply not thinking about it, one of the reasons I’ve found I don’t usually drink enough water is because I simply don’t like having to get up to go to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes. It’s such a ridiculous reason to deprive yourself of the competent that makes up ~70% of our bodies, but it’s stopped me nonetheless. When you’re busy, when you’re on a roll, it’s hard to have to stop to get up to go to the bathroom constantly.

I brought this up to my roommate, who happens to be a hydration goddess. She’s been described as a “sponge” on more than one occasion based only on the amount of water she drinks. I asked her for advice about how to combat my dislike for water-based bathroom-breaks, and her reply was so priceless I had to share it.

Upon telling her that I found it annoying to get up to go to the bathroom often after drinking a lot of water, she said:

“Why?! Getting up to go to the bathroom is great! You know what that represents? You taking a few minutes to step away from your work, getting your daily steps in walking to the bathroom, and a reason to give yourself a mental break from whatever or whoever you’re dealing with! It’s a reason to take little breaks! So think about it like that: you’re not getting up in an annoying way. You’re getting up because you’re worthy of a little break!”

So, it’s not getting up to go to the bathroom for the 3rd time in an hour. It’s the third “little break” I’ve gotten to take for myself this hour. It’s amazing how just changing the phrasing in your head suddenly makes something that felt like a nuisance now a treat!

The funniest part about this mentality shift for me was also that I was getting irritated by the part of drinking water that is so wonderful for your body, the part that provides you with balance: water’s job is to flush your body out. It’s meant to help cleanse your body, and part of that is the getting up and going to the bathroom. Speaking of flushing-out and cleansing, it’s fitting that most of the easiest, quickest, and most natural detoxes out there are water-based.

Water’s health benefits, of course, don’t stop at balance. Water helps protect your vital organs, keep your body temperature constant, and just helps you feel better.

Fashion and Complexion 

A wonderful thing about deciding to focus on drinking water now is that, I’ve found, it’s a fashionable thing to do. I mean this in two ways: people actually admire you for purposefully drinking water, and that it visibly looks cool.

It’s fashionable because it serves as a conversation starter. Drinking lots of water is a reason to ask where a water fountain is, or to ask if you can get your water bottle filled up. It’s also fun as someone who never usually drinks water to suddenly be a person who does, because people close to you will usually notice the change and congratulate you.

On a similar note, you start to notice how many people around you prioritize drinking water. It’s as though you’ve joined this secret club of people who care about taking care of their bodies enough to do things like carry around water bottles and constantly refill them. This club of people who are big on hydration are also great for moral support and keeping you on track with drinking enough water.

This leads me into the second part of the fashionability of hydration: the friends I have who have inducted me into their cool-kids-drink-water mentality first let me in because they noticed my shiny new water bottle. Mine happens to be a no-name that I bought on sale at Urban Outfitters because it had peaches on it and keeps my water very cold, but there are lots of other great brands out there like S’well (my sister swears by them), Contigo (which I use for coffee), and Nalgene (my hydration goddess roommate ONLY uses Nalgene!).

The glamour that comes with water-drinking also doesn’t stop there. Staying hydrated is probably one of the easiest ways to keep your complexion clear and gorgeous by doing things like reducing the size of pores and wrinkles. Your skin is an organ, and organs are made of cells, which require water to function at their very best. Water also helps these cells remove toxins and unnecessary compounds that can keep your skin from glowing as radiantly as it possibly can.

Water- Alternatives and Extra Benefits

A final challenge I’ve faced with trying to get myself to drink more water is simply that I’m not interested in the taste of water. Some people can tell the difference between different types of water, and I hope to get there someday. For now, though, it all just tastes like water to me.

To get myself to continue to be hydrated even when I can’t take the taste of water anymore, I’ve started using water-alternatives to stay on-track. Things like tea (pretty much every variety of Mountain Rose Herbs tea is wonderful!), aloe water, and Starbucks Refreshers are some of my favorite hydration-treats that give me a break from water without giving my body a break from hydration!

The nice thing about occasional alternatives is also that there are lots of benefits to be retained by drinking other hydrating beverages that aren’t water. For instance, the refreshers I mentioned earlier can have coconut milk in them, which provides your body with electrolytes that help combat dehydration even more than water does alone! Or different types of tea can have huge health benefits, from green tea boosting metabolism to raspberry tea calming mood swings to lavender tea helping you sleep.