“I really value my health now and appreciate the fact that diet is the most important thing when it comes to health.”
This week, Sevi Rutgrink tells how having the right diet can change a life and bring a room of opportunities. Sevi is a certified Keto Coach, helping people to find their way into Keto. In this chapter, she shares her journey into a high-fat diet, what has changed ever since, and a very important message for people starting or considering Keto.
Hi Sevi, Let's start sharing a bit of your journey so far and how you discovered the Keto lifestyle?
It actually took me falling ill in 2013 to start this journey: after years of eating what I at the time considered a ‘healthy’ and fairly normal diet it all came crashing down. I was feeling fine one day while away with friends in Barcelona, next thing I knew I was cooped up in my hotel room looking like I was 7 months pregnant with severe gastrointestinal distress, I was literally howling with pain and the flight back was a complete nightmare. The following months I could not eat anything without extreme nausea or actually throwing up, the pain continued, my gut was even visibly moving every time I did eat, sort of like there was an alien trying to get out, and as a result, I lost about 10 kg in less than 2 months. And I was not even overweight to begin with.
To this day I have no clear idea what the immediate trigger was in Barcelona but after lots of examinations and testing in hospital (at one point they even tested to see if I had colon cancer) it became clear this was something that had been going on for a much longer period of time, just without any obvious distress. I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut, IBS and apparently, I also had multiple ulcers in my oesophagus. Conventional doctors told me there was nothing they could do really other than advising me to ‘look at my diet’.
The advice I took to heart: I took a close look at my lifestyle up to that point, figured that maybe my ‘healthy’ way of eating was not so healthy after all and I also concluded that I had been drinking way too much alcohol and was seriously sleep-deprived.
While the internet can be a minefield in terms of conflicting info, especially with regard to diet, it is also a blessing: I found out so many amazing things I really had no idea existed, I studied for hours on end. I started out doing the low FODMAP diet, which already helped a lot, then quickly moved to Paleo. Unhappy with the final results AND convinced I could be feeling even better, I found Mark Sisson’s Primal Footprint and it was on his public forum I first learned about the Ketogenic lifestyle: high fat, moderate protein, and low carb through healthy whole foods only.
Wow, that is an intense journey so far, but we're happy to hear that you found a diet that is good for you. What has changed in your life since you’ve been on Keto?
First of all, from getting the diagnosis in the hospital to feeling healthy again only took me 6 months, with the last 3 months being strict keto. Besides eating according to a ketogenic diet, I also tackled my sleep deprivation and stopped drinking alcohol completely. A complete overhaul all in all. I really value my health now and appreciate the fact that diet is the most important thing when it comes to health. I simply thought I was doing just fine, like anyone else I figured ‘everything in moderation’ when it came to food was good enough, and my diet was never something I worried about. So in a way falling ill was a blessing in disguise, had that not happened I could have gone on silently ruining my health with much worse end results.
Secondly, it became my passion and work. I never set out to become a Keto coach, never made a conscious decision, I really just stumbled into it, first through volunteering to help others: I wanted to pay it forward, so many people in the online communities were there to help ME out when I first started. That alone has taught me so much. Working for KetoDiet App for a year and a half made me realize I wanted to do this professionally in one on one settings as well and that was when I started to think I might become a keto coach. I now have my own practice while still volunteering online, this time for an organization called Keto Vale. I am also very happy to have taken my certification at Nutrition Network, found by the Noakes Foundation, and hope to get further certification in the near future.
Besides all that you just said - how you feel better and how this diet even became a profession to you, what do you enjoy the most in this lifestyle?
The simplicity of it: I am a stickler for basic meals, which is perfectly fine on Keto, and both intermittent and extended fasting allows me to be free of food thoughts. Food is energy to me and while I do enjoy a good meal obviously (and I really enjoy eating out) I am just not preoccupied with eating. Social activities are never connected to food anymore: I can go see a film for example and not feel the need to eat at the same time, whereas just about any other person in the cinema seems to be snacking on something. I am also quite immune for all the ’food bombarding’ in society, you literally can not go one block without seeing food these days but it does not affect me at all.
Talking about food... What fridge and pantry essentials do you always have on hand to make your lifestyle easy and delicious?
Eggs, smoked salmon, avocado, spinach, olive oil, canned tuna, pickles, pumpkin, green bell pepper, goat’s yoghurt and cheese, pumpkin seeds, and strawberries are what I usually have in the house. In terms of drinks green tea, espresso, and sparkling water.
Are there any challenges that you face or have faced on Keto?
I can’t say there were many challenges really. Eating out seemed daunting at first, especially since I was so focused on keeping to my macros, as one does when starting out. But I have been Keto for 5 years now and so adapted AND metabolically flexible I really do not focus on macros anymore outside of the house. I make wise choices obviously but I also adapt if a restaurant does not cater completely to Keto.
One thing I often hear from coachees is how their friends, colleagues, even spouses react negatively to their new lifestyle. In fact, it is something I have to discuss often as a coach and give advice to help them overcome this. But personally, I have never encountered this. I get that people sometimes do not understand what Keto is all about, after all, a lot of people simply never heard of it. But really everyone in my circle has been very understanding with regard to WHY I am doing this. No judgment at all, which is great. My own husband and children, who are all not Keto, also truly support me.
Support is very important in this journey indeed, especially from your loved ones. What’s the biggest message you would like to share with people interested in the Keto lifestyle?
To make a ketogenic lifestyle a success you really need to want to do this, you need to be convinced this is the right thing to do for your health. I can not convince you, not as a private person and not as a coach: the minute I feel I am trying to convince someone I know I need to stop, take a step back and tell that person to take a good look at their own motivation. I can always tell when it is not there, when someone is not really into it. That is fine, sometimes you need to dig deeper, get a better look at the state of your health and find out what you want to change.
Another thing that has become more and more apparent and this may sound strange considering the fact I am a keto coach: strict keto is really not the end all. It is however still the perfect starting point to get your health in order. Following strict macros is what I teach from day one, always, because you have to start somewhere: you need to have a common ground as a coach to start with and the vast majority of people need to heal first, they usually have several underlying medical issues. Strict macros help with sorting this out.
My services usually do not go beyond the first three months: that is how long it takes people to get this off the ground properly, learn what it entails, feel comfortable with it and make this a permanent life change.
A lot of people stick with the way I taught them after those three months, especially people with medical issues. But there are also people who can start experimenting once they have become keto-adapted and more metabolically flexible and that is fine too: there really is no one size fits all. I personally also switch things up now: sometimes higher protein, I can add healthy carbs such as sweet potato, I fast in more irregular patterns etc. As long as you stick to healthy whole foods only you can be certain you are doing what is right for your health.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Sevi!
And if YOU want to share your own journey from carbs to fat with our community, follow us on Instagram and tell your story using #highfatstory.