Keto Chow for Mental Health

As you may know, I’ve been visiting with a counselor pretty regularly for the last few years, and that coupled with a lot of reflection and prayer has helped me attune more to myself. I’m doing a better job of being curious when I experience an emotion or have a thought, and by investigating those, I can understand myself better and find areas where I need to do more work and heal.

A couple of months ago, I had the startling realization that my relationship with food was really unhealthy. I have always known that I seek comfort in food, but I accepted that about myself because I didn’t feel like I needed comforted all that often, or that my times of needing comfort would be limited. Sure, I might have a stressful few months and gain a few pounds, but then that time would pass and I could shed those pounds and no big deal.

Though with the pandemic and having a baby and now having another baby (our third!) and getting a new job and leaving our church, really the last couple of years have been pretty stressful…

…and I also realized last month that I don’t just go to food when I’m stressed, I also go to it when I’m celebrating.

That was the startling realization: if I’m going to food both when times are bad and when they’re good, that’s all the time.

When I was sad or stressed, I would walk up to the neighborhood coffee shop and get a muffin and maybe a cookie, or I’d have Chinese food for lunch, or we’d order out for dinner. When I was feeling particularly good, maybe because something had gone well at work or I had just achieved some milestone, we would have a celebratory dinner or I’d walk up to the neighborhood coffee shop or I’d have Chinese food…

I manage our budget pretty carefully and we spend less than a lot of people on eating out or going to coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean we spend a small amount. And a lot of it was me, and a lot of it was stress eating, either for distress or eustress.

So I decided that I need to change my diet temporarily to help break this mental association of going to food to deal with stress. I wanted to remove some decision-making from my eating, eliminate between-meal snacks, lose the 20 lbs. I’ve gained over the last couple of years and then lose the additional 20 lbs. that I had intended to lose a few years back after hitting my first goal weight.

Over the weekend, I started drinking Keto Chow (KC) shakes for every meal. I did keto for 6 months in 2018 and felt phenomenal, but I was only successful because April helped with a ton of the meal prep. She doesn’t have that time thanks to Simon and Isaac, and I don’t often have the time to think deeply or meal prep either. These days at work, it’s not uncommon for me to only get 15-20 minutes to eat, and I work through lunch once every week or two because things are so busy right now.

Even just a couple of days in, I’m already feeling better physically. Each KC shake has 1/3 of the nutrients you need, so 3 a day gets you everything. I’m getting more nutrition than I was before. I’m also doing a better job of taking my daily multivitamin and fish oil pills, and I’m drinking lots of water so I’m not dehydrated.

But I think it’ll be a while before the mental habits change. Saturday morning I was shaving and thinking about a challenge at work and getting stressed and thought, “We should order Bambu for lunch so I can have some combination fried rice…” That’s how my brain works. Stressed? Eat lots of fat and/or rice. Happy? Fat and/or rice.

I’m tentatively planning on 3 months of KC shakes for every meal, though on days when I’m more active, I’m adding in pistachios and whatever meat April has cooked for dinner. I might extend it to a 4th month just to hit my target weight, because I think that amount of time will get me there, but we’ll see. I might also stop doing the shakes for every meal, stick with keto, but use KC for lunch.

For this first month, I did a “surprise” box where they pick the flavors for me, again towards the goal of removing decision-making. I regret that because I’m not a big fan of Key Lime or Pina Colada. But even for the flavors I don’t like, they’re still good. I’ll pick my own flavors next month, then do what I did Friday night: sort them into stacks and orders so for each meal I just pull from the row of pouches. Make a decision once, then just work my way through it for the month. With how my life and stress is right now, I think this will help.

And, hopefully, over the next month or two I’ll stop defaulting to bakeries and Chinese food every time I’m stressed. I think KC will help diminish that, but what I really need to do is replace it. I need a new way to destress and a new way to celebrate. I don’t know yet what those will be, but if I don’t replace my bad habit with something good, then it will just come back.

This is day 3. I got up to 214 lbs. this month (compared to 190 back in 2018). Today, I’m at 210. My goal is 170, and so far, I think Keto Chow will help me get there while feeling better and giving me the time I need to work on my mental health and stress responses.

One thought on “Keto Chow for Mental Health

  1. I enjoyed the blog Matthew. You’re a very introspective fella and a thinker. Good luck with your food plan.

    An idea…include God in your plans for what you will do or not do. He will help you and remove cravings, desires, habits and those thoughts that sneak in. And if there is something that you cannot live without…have it once a month. I learned in Behavioral Modification that the definition for motivation is deprivation. Don’t deprive yourself, just limit it as a treat once a month or whatever works for you.

    Best, Brenda “who has struggled for years with making healthy choices with food”

    Be well and be safe 🙂


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