Hello, my name is Karl and I've been overweight most of my adult life. My weight has hovered around 220lbs for the last ten years or so and, despite my many attempts to shed the excess poundage, I've largely been unsuccessful. Chalk that up to a weakness for pasta, an appreciation for soft chairs, and a genuine talent for coming up with excuses.
I'm not too fond of mirrors, as you may imagine. The guy staring back at me, man, his belly's huge! Where's his chin? What's up with those jowls? He sorta looks like me, but isn't the same guy I've idealized in my head. Nope. Needs improvement, not just physically, for sure, but definitely could benefit from a few less double cheeseburgers.
Even my endocrinologist says: stop it with the lasagna. Well, not in those exact words but that's what she means. You're prediabetic and you need to lose the weight. Yes, Doctor, I do. So, six months ago, I embarked on my keto diet journey.
BUT, before anything else, the fine print. This isn't a medical endorsement of any kind. This essay reflects solely the opinion of the writer, not the publication. This is a personal narrative. This doesn't promote, shill or advertise any product or service. Do not try this unsupervised at home. Performed by a professional writer, not a fitness or health professional.
For most Filipinos, our idea of a standard meal consists of some ulam, some gulay, and copious amounts of kanin. We sure do love our rice, which is a carbohydrate that enjoys its own standard unit of measurement in carinderias and restaurants around the country. “Miss, dalawang cup ng kanin po. Palagay ng sauce.” When we try to lose weight, we just ask for “half rice po.” That's what I used to do. Add to that our penchant for matching pancit as an ulam and you can see that our typical meal plan is carbohydrate-rich. Our bodies are powered by carbs. We're "carbureted," so to speak.
The ketogenic diet turns that on its head. To fuel our bodies, carbohydrates are replaced with, drum parapapumpum, FAT!
So, you're telling me that, to lose fat, you eat fat? Yes. How much fat? Lots, to the tune of 75% of your daily food intake. What the hell kind of logic is that? Chicharon, man, it's so effin logical, your head will asplode.
'We may enjoy fat, say when eating a particularly tasty pork chop, but we've been conditioned to feel guilty about it afterwards'
It does seem so counterintuitive, given that we've been taught that fat is the enemy. We may enjoy fat, say when eating a particularly tasty pork chop, but we've been conditioned to feel guilty about it afterwards. We buy “Fat-Free” products at the supermarket to assuage that guilt and make us feel better about ourselves, but what if fat was the solution all along?
Keto, Shmeeto, What's the Deal?
My keto inspo friend puts it simply: “When you cut your source of carbohydrates, the body has no choice but to use up its own, therefore you become a fat burning machine.”
Here's how it works. A ketogenic diet hinges around a natural metabolic state called ketosis, which happens when you don't have enough glucose in your blood. Glucose is the preferred fuel source for many cells in the body and is produced when carbohydrates break down. Lower carb intake means lower levels of glucose. When starved of this fuel source, your body starts metabolizing fat and producing ketone bodies for energy. A typical keto meal will contain 75% fat, 20% protein and only 5% carbs. This effectively starves your body of carbs and jump-starts ketosis. In ketosis, fat is now the fuel, burning both the fat you eat and the fat you've accumulated through the years. It’s like your body snacks on itself, only less Cannibal Holocaust (a 1980 Italian horror flick).
What’s On My Plate?
Aside from my initial sungit at the denial of carbs, it really wasn’t a difficult transition for me from my regular diet to keto. The Filipino’s penchant for pork and fish already means that the usual ingredients you need are already in your fridge. Fresh eggs, salad greens, cheese and butter are all staples of a keto meal plan. My breakfast favorites include cheese omelets with a side of bacon and baked eggs in avocado. Lunch would be a meat dish, maybe a buttered pork chop or a three-meat Whopper from Burger King, made to spec without the bun. Dinner would be nilaga with the potatoes taken out or grilled tilapia. For snacks, there’s always boiled eggs, balut, or chicharon, the food most name-dropped when you want to convert someone to keto. Then it’s coffee with heavy cream and Stevia whenever I need something to wake me up.
'The Filipino’s penchant for pork and fish already means that the usual ingredients you need are already in your fridge. Fresh eggs, salad greens, cheese and butter are all staples of a keto meal plan'
On the other side of the fence, the foods to avoid along with rice, are grains and starches, candy, soda, most fruits, root crops, beans, and beer. We’re also waved away from low-fat and diet products as these are often high in carbs.
There’s a lot of literature online if you want to get into the nitty-gritty, such as what keto-friendly ingredient may be substituted for wheat flour, what brand of grass-fed butter is the best and how much dark chocolate you can indulge in. It can be overwhelming. To help make sense of it all, it’s great to have some support.
You Need Superfriends
Any diet can be a lonely road when you don't have a support system in place. In my case, my kakunchaba is my sister, who knows how to cook. I, myself, can't cook to save my life—I had to watch YouTube to figure out how to properly boil an egg—so having her around is a load off my back. The secret keto group on Facebook has also been a great help. Not naming the group since secret nga eh, but I'm sure you have a friend of a friend who can endorse you. Lots of inspirational stories to motivate and encourage you. It has so for me. The sense of community is palpable, the information shared is relevant, and it doesn't clog your Facebook feed the way the "Titos and Titas of Manila" page does. The before-and-after photos are simply amazing.
Keto is also making its way into the mainstream, with people rising up as champions of the lifestyle. The Mae Paner ANC Headstart interview with Karen Davila has been viewed over 4.7M times on Facebook and it seems to have opened a floodgate of interest in the ketogenic diet. There are more suppliers now of keto-friendly food, including restaurants, grocers and online sellers, though avocado and shirataki noodles are still in short supply. Shirataki noodles are a zero-carb pasta substitute made from konjac yam and may be found in Japanese groceries. Behind these groceries are keto fight clubs, where dieters slug it out for the scarce ingredient. That last line is a lie.
For Better Selfies
Every journey has its detours and I'd be lying if I said I didn't struggle sometimes with this diet. I can’t be 100% on point all the time, especially in my line of work, where I can't always stick to my ratios. This is an example of me making an excuse. But the only way for me to go forward whenever I fall off the wagon is to get back on it. Persistence is key. When you knock yourself out of ketosis, do your best to get back.
What motivates me to keep on going is results. Four months in and I was able to fit into a size L Uniqlo shirt. Sure, it was one of those loose cuts, but I'll take it. A year ago, I would be hard-pressed to find an XL shirt that didn't make me look like longganisa. These days, I can fit into a regular-cut XL, no problem. Skinny jeans, too, can you believe it? My weight now hovers around 208lbs, still a long way to my goal of 180 by February, when I plan to join the next Spartan Race. I don’t hate my mirror as much because I see progress reflected back at me. I feel healthier, lighter, better about myself, and that’s a good thing. Keto may not be for everyone, but so far it seems compatible with me. I’m due for bloodwork soon, so my endocrinologist can say, with authority, whether what I’m doing is wrong or right. At the very least, I hope she’ll be happy with the weight loss. I know I am.
Karlo has been writing for magazines for over sixteen years, but he’s been zaftig for much longer. He pivoted from print two years ago and is now a social media and digital content entrepreneur, whatever that means.