healthy eating

[Kitchen 143] Curious about keto? Here’s what happened to my body

Michelle Aventajado
[Kitchen 143] Curious about keto? Here’s what happened to my body
'There are a variety of ways you will know that you are in a state of ketosis. Sometimes, you will experience a keto-like flu.'

More than a year ago, Nino mentioned to me that he wanted to go keto. He cited a couple of different articles as to what happens when the body goes into ketosis, and how he thought it would be good for him if we looked into it. I wasn’t ready to explore it as a dietary option, because I knew it would mean a lot of work for me, since I prepare most of our meals at home. We quickly came to an agreement to try out this new lifestyle when I stumbled on Ketoveganph through the Ketolivingph Founder and entrepreneur Kath Buendia. Through our experiences, Nino and I learned many things about each other, our eating habits, and our commitment to health. And because of my experience, I am excited to share five things I learned by committing to the keto vegan lifestyle.

Back to basics

I have always been a firm believer that I can eat everything in moderation as long as I was careful and mindful of what I was putting in my body. However, in my past quests to make healthier choices, I figured out that my food intolerances were wheat, eggs, and dairy. Staying away from these foods enabled me to analyze how I felt physically, when I ingested my forbidden favorites, in spite of my leaky gut.

Returning to a very basic diet and limiting my caloric intake seemed drastic at first, but when I started to see and feel results, I became even more committed to my short-term goals of weight loss and jumpstarting my mission of a healthier middle-aged me.

What is keto?

The basics of a ketogenic diet include:

  • A LOW-carb, HIGH in fat food intake
  • By drastically reducing your carb intake to less than 50g a day, your body is forced to burn the glycogen that is stored
  • Once the sugar supply is burned up, your body will start burning fat because you are in a state of ketosis
  • When your body metabolizes fat and ketones instead of glucose and carbs, the end results can include weight loss, lower blood sugar, improved acne, improved heart health, and protected brain function, and it can also reduce seizures

In short, “Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbs. Modifying your diet and practicing intermittent fasting can help you enter ketosis faster.”

HUMMUS. Vegan hummus with coco pita is one of my favorite dishes from this meal plan. Because I craved and missed the ‘bread’ options from my diet, I found so much joy in this meal. Photo by Michelle Aventajado
Who should try keto?

Lifestyle, beauty, and wellness advocate Kath Buendia shares that a low-carb lifestyle is ideal for individuals who have diabetes and high blood pressure. Other individuals who have a specific weight loss goal in mind can benefit from the keto lifestyle and low carb intake, too. She and her partner, JV, founded Ketolivingph when he shed a considerable amount of weight from his own experiences with this new, to them, diet. They knew and understood that many people struggled with weight and health issues, so they studied, researched, and met with experts to introduce a diet plan that could yield results for those who could commit. 

SCRAMBLED. Pesca squash and mushroom scramble is tasty and satisfying. I would often supplement the meals that were sent with berries, tomatoes, cucumbers, or even nuts. Photo by Michelle Aventajado
How do you know you are in ketosis and what are the risks?

There are a variety of ways you will know that you are in a state of ketosis. Sometimes, you will experience a keto-like flu. These symptoms can present themselves when your body is adjusting to the new low-carb intake and can include nausea, irratibility, weakness, vomiting, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, and intense sugar cravings, among others.

Admittedly, I didn’t experience many of these flu-like symptoms. Nino definitely experienced more symptoms of the “keto flu” than I did. However, I was a bit irritable because I craved sugar and carbs. Kath shares that one can do their best to avoid these keto flu-like symptoms by staying hydrated all throughout the process.

If one wants to “test” whether or not they are in ketosis, monitoring urine output with ketone urine strips can measure the level of ketones in your output. Additionally, some people can experience bad breath, natural appetite suppression, increased focus and energy, and insomnia.

TOFU. KL tofu and salted egg with peanut sauce is light and filling at the same time. One thing that was true for all the different meal plans that Kath offers is that in the three months that I was on keto, I did not eat the same meal twice! Photo by Michelle Aventajado
Do your homework

As with any change in your intake or lifestyle, it is important to consult your doctor before making drastic adjustments. I have been bugging Nino to visit the doctor because he did so well with Keto Living that he lost close to 40 pounds in three months. The challenge for him is to continue to make healthier choices while incorporating more physical activities to build strength and muscle after losing all that weight.

Here are some long-term risks that I found while researching:

  • kidney stones
  • excess protein in the blood
  • mineral and vitamin deficiencies
  • a buildup of fat in the liver
PIE. Pesca Boston cream pie is delicious and fun. The different desserts and snacks that I enjoyed truly made it easier to stick to the plan. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

It is uber important to cycle on and OFF keto for your health. Staying on a limiting diet for a long time can actually do more damage to your body than good. In our case, using this diet as a jumpstart on our #Roadto50 was the perfect way for both of us to tune into our bodies and get in sync with one another in our healthier choices.

Kath suggests educating yourself,and choosing the right plan that suits your needs and dietary preferences. Keto newbies can start with any of the premium plans from Ketolivingph, Ketopescaph, Ketovegetarianph, or Ketoveganph, which includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Supplementing with juices and smoothies from another sister company, BetterJuicemnl, can help with the adjustment as well.

What I learned

1. Chew slow

Gosh, even if we have been in quarantine for more than two years, I realized I wasn’t exactly mindful of my intake. I could see how if I would wait too long to eat, I would binge on snacks. Chewing slow, eating only when hungry, with meals packed portioned and weighed for me, allowed me to become more mindful of even how I CHEW.

Chewing with intent also gave me time to enjoy my food, and the company sitting around the table while I ate.

2. Portion control

Admittedly, the first week of being on this calorie-deficient meal plan was quite difficult. I wasn’t used to the smaller portions, and in order to make it through the day, I messaged Kath Buendia often. I would ask what was safe to eat while trying to achieve a state of ketosis at least once a day.

I would send her photos of nutrition labels to check if what was being sold as “keto” was actually safe to eat. (Believe me, there are fakers out there, too!) In that first week of adjustment, Nino and I would weigh out almonds, macadamia nuts, and even pine nuts in 50g snack bags to help survive those “hanger pains.”

Which leads me to my next learning lesson (and probably the biggest) of this entire experience.

BUDDHA BOWL. The Vegan Buddha bowl comes in mindful packaging and is delivered every night for the next day’s consumption. I always find the servings generous and filling. Photo by Michelle Aventajado

3. There is such a thing as leptin resistance

I started my keto journey just after Mother’s Day in 2021, and stayed on keto for three months. After two weeks of receiving my keto vegan meals, I realized that I couldn’t finish what was being sent to me on a daily basis. I asked Kath if she had upgraded my meal plan to an extra-large plan because I couldn’t understand why I found it so difficult to finish each of my three meals.

  • Leptin is a hormone that is produced by your body’s fat cells
  • It is often referred to as the “satiety hormone” or the “starvation hormone”
  • Leptin’s primary target is in the brain — particularly an area called the hypothalamus
  • Leptin is supposed to tell your brain that — when you have enough fat stored — you don’t need to eat and can burn calories at a normal rate

So what does it mean when we are leptin-resistant?

People who are leptin-resistant usually have high levels of leptin, but the leptin signal doesn’t work properly. So, not only does the brain not get the signal properly, but it will have you thinking that you are hungry when you are not. And this condition even limits the calories your body will burn.

After my body set into ketosis, I went through so many changes. The biggest change was the inches I lost immediately. I didn’t lose weight right away. In fact, I had to stop comparing myself to Nino’s dramatic weight loss because I started to feel bad. Thankfully, it was Kath who said: don’t weigh yourself. Just monitor how you feel and how your clothes fit. 

4. I can survive on mostly veggies

Keto + vegan was a necessity for me. Because of my wheat, dairy, and egg intolerances, I knew that it was important for me to monitor my intake and go vegan. This added to the physical benefits of weight loss and measurements in more ways than one. I followed the meal plan strictly during the week, but since we prepared our own meals on the weekends, I would up my leafy greens and add grilled proteins of either meat or fish when I craved it.

I didn’t miss the meat as much as I thought I would, but at least once a month, I did crave a nice piece of steak. 

5. Bye bye brain fog 

Once I was in ketosis, I felt better. I had more energy. I slept better. I was not bloated. And I had a mental clarity that I had not experienced in YEARS. I had a renewed inspiration to write. I started pitching new projects, and felt like I had the ability to be more organized and clear in my thinking.

In short, by week three and four, I felt better than ever. And this was largely due to the commitment of staying vegan and eliminating food that I was intolerant of. Staying keto vegan for three months put me on the path to healing my leaky gut.

HIS AND HERS. Vegan Italian salad and Keto Living chicken shawarma. Embarking on a keto journey is definitely made easier when you can do it with your partner. Photo by Michelle Aventajado
Educated and empowered

I have often said that you give someone the chance to be better once you educate them. I use this when I’m speaking to groups of individuals as we establish new Best Buddies Philippines friendship chapters in schools or corporations.

This same principle applies when we train ourselves to eat properly. My keto journey empowered me to make better choices in my food intake by keeping things simple. Having healthy keto food delivered to our doorstep made it easy to stay committed to this way of life. Supported by the keto community Kath has nurtured, 33 enabled us to stay on track, share our experiences, and learn from others’ success stories. When we are armed with information, a support group, and the understanding that it doesn’t have to be complicated, we can all make healthier choices. 


Michelle Aventajado

Michelle Aventajado is a Filipina American striving for an ever-elusive balance in everything she does. Advocating for individuals with IDD through Best Buddies Philippines, sharing her parenting journey with her daughter's extra chromosome through Momma 'N Manila, and churning out love of home and hearth through Kitchen 143 are just some of the things that fuel her passion and serve her God-given purpose.