Observations from KetoCon 2023
A convention-center full of people who have gathered to talk about the ketogenic diet? Who on earth would go to such a thing? This girl, of course, and my mom too. I’ve just returned from KetoCon 2023 in beautiful Austin, Texas and I’m here to give you my report on what I learned, what surprised me, what I’m still not sure about, and why I’m more motivated than ever to continue doing what I do.
KetoCon was amazing. My mom and I had so much fun, met so many cool people, and learned a lot. I’m here today to give you some of the highlights from our time at this three-day event.
Nice to Meat You - The Carnivore Diet is Taking Off
Okay, first off, I was surprised just how many people at the conference were full-on carnivores.
Out in the so-called real world, even though I believe in the power of the ketogenic diet with everything I got, I’m still the only one in my circle of friends that’s on it, except for my mom and a couple of my cousins and they’re all doing great on it by the way, yippee!
Anyways the point is, when I’m out and about, compared to others, I feel like I’m on a pretty strict diet, but then I go to KetoCon and compared to the majority of the speakers who are total carnivores, my diet seems pretty chill. Funny how that works.
So, am I converting to carnivore? Well, not yet.
For the moment I am happy where I am, which is something pretty close to ketovore - kind of in the middle of keto and carnivore. If a client of mine wants to do carnivore, I advise them to up the fat content, at least in the beginning, so we hit more of that therapeutic-grade keto macronutrient ratio, simply because we have more data on the effectiveness of that, so let’s do what we know is most likely to work first.
Meanwhile I have found that broccoli just doesn’t jive with me so that’s one thing that’s definitely off my list. More on broccoli later. So my conclusion on whether I personally want to be keto or ketovore or carnivore is that I haven’t reached a conclusion just yet. Stay tuned!
Dr. Ken Berry
Alright so let’s talk about some of the speakers at KetoCon. The one that I was most looking forward to seeing was Dr. Ken Berry.
I’m a huge fan of his and even got to take a selfie with him and try to hide how nervous I was meeting him because he really is one of my idols, haha.
He did something in his talk that I think was really brave.
Since KetoCon is a conference, there are speakers, and there are lots of vendors. Some of them sell keto energy bars, exogenous ketones, weird massage devices that actually make you feel more tense, ask me how I know, and so on.
Dr. Berry talked about how about 90 percent of the stuff being peddled there at the conference was useless crap. The crowd applauded wildly. I love that he said that.
In order to do a ketogenic diet, you really don’t need to buy very much except for delicious food and maybe a mineral supplement or two.
Dr. Berry talked about our ancestral past, and how we used to eat these big huge mammals, think wooly mammoth.
This was kind of an aha moment for me, because I had always been taught that the reason keto works is because it mimics fasting.
Could it be that keto also works because it mimics the way we used to eat - lots of fatty meat from these elephant-like animals?
Something to think about and if you have any thoughts on this please let me know. I love this stuff.
Dr. Berry also talked about broccoli being a human invention. This blew my mind big-time, and of course I had to give it a Google later. And he’s right. According to the Goog, broccoli was created in the 6th century BC, through selective breeding.
Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?
We’re always told that it’s such a healthy food, but it wasn’t even something our ancestors ate. All I know is that after cutting it out of my diet, I don’t miss my broccoli farts of yore. Those were pretty deadly.
Speaking of farts, the good doctor also talked about how some people cannot tolerate fiber at all and have an immediate adverse reaction to it, some people tolerate it fine, and then the majority of people are somewhere in the middle, in that fiber somewhat slowly takes a toll on them.
I know that hearing this will shock a lot of people. Don’t we need so much fiber?
When you really sit down with the research, it would appear that we don’t need it. There are other animals that can take fiber and process it and use it . . . humans not so much.
Other speakers echoed this sentiment. I will echo it too.
I used to be the queen of fiber but now, I’m over it. I barely consume any fiber at all now and I feel great and the bathroom situation is just fine, thank you very much.
Anyways all in all it was a very cool lecture by Dr. Berry that made me think about ancestral man and if there are any parts of my life that I could maybe simplify a bit, because at the end of the day, as Dr. Berry says, our ancestors did spend a lot of time just kind of lying around and gossiping, so maybe this idea that we have to be hyper-productive, always on, robot-like humans, go go go . . . is a dumb one.
Dr. Shawn Baker
Next up, I want to talk about Dr. Shawn Baker. Wow, he is a really interesting guy.
He is best known for coining the term “the carnivore diet.”
Back in the day, it used to be called the zero-carb diet, because it’s zero carbs.
He is one of those who really practices what he preaches, and has been on an all-meat diet for seven years now.
When you see him in person, to be honest, it’s intimidating. The man is really tall and appears to be pure muscle, and lots of it. He could probably lift a car with one hand. He also looks about twenty five years younger than his biological age.
When you hear him speak though, it it clear that he is much more than just a well-chiseled specimen of athletic excellence. He really knows his stuff and what I like about him most is that he never makes any recommendations without backing them up with data. So, for example, one thing that we always hear is that you have to get grass-fed, grass-finished meat, that you have to eat organic meat only, and that if you’re carnivore you need to eat organ meat to get all your vitamins.
Guess what! Good news. Dr. Baker said - and this is after looking at the actual research - don’t worry about the grass-fed stuff, don’t worry about organic meat, don’t worry about organ meat.
There really was nothing in the data he examined to say that there was any real benefit to be had by following these rules we always hear.
Again, these recommendations come from him looking at actual data, however he says some people have reported that they feel better when eating organic meat, or grass-fed beef, or organ meats . . . so that’s something to keep in mind. If that’s your personal experience and you feel better eating grass-fed grass-finished beef, for example, then by all means stick with it.
I’m lucky because I live in Colombia where all of our beef is grass-fed grass-finished, so I don’t have to deal with that decision.
I am, however, very happy to hear that the organ meats thing is not so important, as two weeks ago I tried making a beef liver pate and it wasn’t so great and was actually the only time my husband has flat out said that something I’ve cooked is horrible. Usually he really likes my food and even told me that that’s why he married me. So romantic.
Meanwhile, here’s something else interesting that Dr. Baker said. A lot of times when we talk about nutrition, it’s important to keep bioavailability in mind. Now I’m not so much of an expert in this that I can run around quoting percentages and milligrams and so on, but my general understanding is that the nutrients in meat are much more bioavailable than the nutrients in vegetables, in a human diet, that is. This means that that kale that you thought was so great because it had so many vitamins in it might not actually be delivering on its promise.
Guess what Dr. Baker said was one of the foods with some of the highest nutrient bioavailability. Just guess. Baloney! No, really, he said “baloney.”
I don’t know about you guys but sometimes when I hear this stuff I really have to breathe and realize that so much of what I thought to be true really wasn’t. I challenge you to find another website that says that baloney is a health food. Crazy stuff. Come to think of it, I haven’t had baloney since I was a kid and I used to really love it. I’m going to see if I can find some here at the grocery store. Yum.
Thank you, Dr. Baker. Super interesting talk and I’m now your newest fan.
What About the Environment?
There were also several speakers who talked about the environmental impacts of a meat-based diet, including a regenerative farming panel, which I unfortunately didn’t attend because I was in another lecture.
Now the environmental argument against meat is something we’ve all heard. I’m not going to go into it too much today because I really want to sit down with the data and give you guys some good solid information. That said, here are a few tidbits.
Did you know that for every pound of beef produced, 3.5 pounds of carbon are sequestered into the soil and the farm’s plants? I heard this at the Keto Mojo lecture. More on that in a bit. Again, without going into a ton of stats here, if you really look at the numbers, livestock farming can actually be regenerative.
These numbers you always hear about how much water is needed to make a pound of beef . . . well they came up with those numbers by measuring the amount of rain that fell on the grass that the cows ate. It was rain water that would have fallen anyways, not processed drinking water. And I do believe the cows pee and breathe most of it back out, don’t you? They’re not like permanently destroying water molecules.
Long story short - we’re not going to save the planet by going vegetarian, okay? More on that in future episodes.
Should You Measure Your Ketones?
Another lecture I attended was by Dorian Greenow, co-founder of Keto Mojo. The topic: to track or not to track your ketones.
Well, this was interesting, as the general attitude from the carnivore folks was that they didn’t bother with tracking, whereas many of the other speakers had nothing but positives to say about it.
Keto Mojo is a company that makes blood glucose and ketone meters. I’ve wanted one forever and I finally bought one at the conference and I give it a thumbs up. I’ve also used a random ketone breath meter that I bought for 19 bucks on Amazon that didn’t work really well, and the pee strips, which seem to work alright but if you want an actual number instead of just a color then you won’t like them.
You will hear all sorts of opinions on whether or not to track your ketones.
I really think it’s up to you. If it will help motivate you or help you understand your body better, then why not? It can definitely be a useful tool. If you don’t feel like spending the money on a device or urine strips or fussing with all the measurements, then don’t add another thing to your to-do list.
That said, I also attended a lecture by Dr. Annette Bosworth, a.k.a Dr. Boz, who also talked about tracking. She used ketone meters in a group program she ran and said that she really felt that it made a difference. The group members just seemed to be more motivated from getting that instant feedback, and Dr. Boz said she saw improvement that was even more rapid than what she usually sees.
Thyroid Function is a Big Deal
The thyroid was mentioned a lot. Wow this is a complicated and very important topic but I’ll just give you my two biggest takeaways from the information I heard about thyroid function.
These are from the lecture I attended by Temple Stewart - the Ketogenic Nutritionist. She’s a registered dietician who’s also in training to become a doctor. Super cool.
For thyroid function, a low-carb, ketogenic, or carnivore diet are all good ideas. (I will add my own two cents here and say that watch it with the so-called low-carb diets. Some of them are not very low-carb at all. If you’re doing low-carb but you’re still getting 30% of your daily calories from carbs, maybe reevaluate that if you’re not getting the results you want, okay?)
Also, I heard a lot about fluoride being not-so-great for thyroid function, so it’s best to filter your tap water. I learned so much information and have decided to devote more time to deepening my understanding of the thyroid as its function is such an important part of our overall health.
Now let's talk about menopause. Dr. Elizabeth Bright is the author of the book Good Fat is Good for Women: Menopause, and she had some fascinating insights on the subject.
For one thing, she claimed that perimenopause doesn’t exist. There were audible gasps in the audience when she dropped that bomb.
She went on to clarify and say that, yes, there are symptoms that many women have in the years leading up to menopause, but that they are caused by the adrenals trying to take over, and therefore the solution is to fix the adrenals. This is of course a huge and complex topic so I would refer you to her website to see what else she has to say about this and come to your own conclusions, as she says a lot of things that go against the current standard guidelines. My kind of gal.
Food, Glorious Food
Now of course I’m not going to finish this episode without talking about what I ate! Since KetoCon was in Austin, Texas, you can imagine all of the delicious stuff I chowed down on.
One night, my mom and I went to a barbecue that was presented as part of the conference. The chefs at the barbecue were shocked that our group went through 12 briskets - they actually ran out of brisket - and they had trouble keeping the meat coming out fast enough. I don’t think they had ever seen a group of people eat that much meat. It was delicious, though. The event was at a place called The Sapien Center, a new kind of social club that looks really interesting and focuses on health and ancestral-inspired living, and the barbecue was provided by Pop Smoke. Yum and yum.
Boundless Body Radio
In line at the barbecue, my mom and I met a really cool guy named Casey Ruff, who, along with his wife Bethany has a fantastic podcast called Boundless Body Radio where they interview many of the thought leaders in the space. He is also carnivore. (Man, is everyone carnivore? Did I just not get the memo?)
On his podcast he has interviews with two of my heroes in the metabolic psychiatry world, Dr. Chris Palmer and licensed mental health counselor Nicole Laurent, so of course I was majorly in awe of him for that, but I also enjoyed hearing his personal story, about how much better he felt when he made a drastic change to the way he ate.
And that was great, because at these conferences it’s so easy to get caught up in the numbers, the stats, the debates about vegetables, but at the end of the day we’re all individual people trying to improve our health. So even though I learned an absolutely insane amount of information, the thing that’s really upped my motivation to level one million was hearing not only Casey’s but dozens of other success stories at the conference.
The word is slowly but surely getting out about what we’re actually supposed to be eating, and I’m determined to continue to fight to amplify the message.
So that’s my little report on KetoCon 2023! If you know anyone who might benefit from this information, please share it with them.
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