Photo credits: Iep Bergsma
Meet Romana Switzer, a Dutch orthomolecular therapist and health coach, offering guidance throughout a low-carb or ketogenic lifestyle. She shares with us her personal journey on keto, including challenges, benefits, what she eats in a day, and the effect of keto on hormones and conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis. At the end, she adds recommendations for women who want to follow keto long-term.
Hi Romana, can you tell everyone a little bit about yourself and your practice?
I'm Romana Switzer, 38 years old. I live in Oegstgeest with my boyfriend and his 3 and my 2 children. Four years ago, I started following various nutritional training courses and after that, I went further into orthomolecular medicine. Two years ago I opened my practice in Oegstgeest as an orthomolecular therapist. I mainly work with keto and low-carb nutritional guidelines. I also have 2 online programs: Keto4vrouwen (Keto for women) and La Dolce Vitaal (low-carb).
Besides giving advice, you also follow keto yourself. When and why did you start your ketogenic journey?
My own keto adventure started about 3 years ago. I accidentally came in contact with keto and it immediately caught my interest. In the Netherlands at that time, there was hardly any information about it. I got all my information from America. Then, I started applying keto in my own life. But, with little information, it went through trial and error. The first time I got mega keto-flu symptoms! With all the knowledge that I have now, I now know how to prevent this as much as possible.
After a lot of trying and restarting, I started to find my way in it. I lost some extra fat, I felt super energetic and my hormones felt much more balanced. I just felt better in general. That was a moment for me when I thought I would like to share this with the Dutch women. I don't want them to make the same "mistakes" and struggle with keto as I did 3 years ago. I have completed a keto coach training and put down 2 online programs with all my knowledge and experience.
What type of ketogenic diet do you follow at the moment?
I am in favor of a healthy ketogenic diet. Sometimes you see a keto insta-feed pass by where all food pics are grey, beige, white and without color. That is not the keto that I promote. I want colors, taste, and as much as possible pure, fresh and unprocessed. I want my way of keto to really contribute to optimizing your health.
Sure I sometimes do not eat keto. But if I don't do that for more than 2 days, I quickly start to feel less well. I can eat around 30 to 50 grams of carbs per day and still stay in ketosis. Keto is the center of my life.
What has changed in your life since you started eating keto?
My own experience is that I feel much sharper with keto. The fatigue and brain fog that I experienced is gone. I feel sharp and more focused. The acne on my shoulders disappeared, my mood swings improved, and my PMS went back to 2 to 3 days instead of 14 days. Also, when I started with keto, I was slightly heavier than I usually am. I wanted to get rid of those kilos and effortlessly dropped another 4 extra, 7 kg in total.
Did you face any challenges on keto? How did you deal with it?
The first couple of times I went keto, I was quite bothered by the keto flu. Purely because at the time, I did not have the knowledge to prevent this. Now, fortunately, I know better! That is why I sometimes stopped because I felt so bad. Electrolytes are your best friend! From then on, keto became my basis, my lifestyle, with an occasional trip with more carbohydrates. But I always return to keto.
What are the biggest misconceptions about this diet in your opinion?
That it is "the magic pill." Although I am really a mega keto fan, this is also not a quick fix. The best "diet" is the diet that you can sustain for a long time, so you can adopt it as a lifestyle. Do you want to lose 10 kg but do not want to eat ketogenic for a long time? Then don't start it. If you go back to how you ate before keto, you will get back to the same state as you were. Maintaining a long-term healthy weight is making a long-term lifestyle adjustment.
What do you usually eat in a day?
I usually skip breakfast. I do intermittent fasting in the 16/8 schedule, sometimes 20/4 schedule. Since I eat keto, I have started to listen much better to the signals my body gives me. I eat when I'm hungry and not on the clock. So my IF is not certain either, if I get hungry sooner or later, I will admit that. For example, I cannot fast in the week before my period, then I immediately feel hungry in the morning. I know that now and I will not fight it "because I actually wanted to do IF". Restoring contact with your body and learning to listen to the signals gives me ultimate freedom.
I like to break my fast with scrambled eggs or a protein smoothie, or vegetables from the oven with feta. Sometimes I take a handful of macadamia nuts in between. In the evening I like to eat one-pot recipes which are nice, easy and fast. Zucchini with salmon, cauliflower rice with lots of vegetables, coconut milk, and chicken, or a large oven dish. I like everything! But most of the time it comes down to 2 meals and a snack.
Photo credits: Iep Bergsma
Many women who want to start keto or are beginners have doubts about keto and hormones. Does keto affect hormones? How?
Every form of stress has an impact on our hormone balance. A dietary change is also a form of stress for your body. So keto also influences your hormones, just like any other diet. Hormones are very important substances in our bodies that are built up from amino acids, fats, and cholesterol, among other things. These nutrients are common in a ketogenic diet. With this, you create a common ground that can contribute to a healthy hormone balance.
However, it is not only the right nutrients that influence a healthy hormone balance. Many factors, such as stress, can cause your hormones to become (temporarily) out of balance. What I see a lot with my clients is that they notice changes in their cycle in the first few weeks. This can be longer or shorter. They can suffer more or less from PMS. We see that this change usually stabilizes again after about 8 to 12 weeks and many women indicate that they feel more balanced from then on.
Are there any possible hormonal side effects for women on keto?
From my personal experience as well as the experience of people around me who do keto, I see many positive effects. For me, keto is about a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle. Whichever healthy lifestyle you choose, it will always contribute more to a healthy hormone balance than an unhealthy lifestyle. If you give your body sufficient nutrients, sufficient rest and you take good care of yourself, this will contribute to the self-healing capacity. Our body will then look for the best balance, so this also includes a healthy hormone balance.
Does keto help with managing conditions like PCOS or endometriosis?
We see a connection with insulin resistance and PCOS. A keto / low-carb lifestyle can contribute to the reversal of insulin resistance. This can also reduce the complaints caused by PCOS. Endometriosis is associated with estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance can be tackled by, among other things, lowering your fat percentage. This saves you less estrogen.
This is something that we can achieve with keto, which means that endometriosis complaints can also decrease. This is, of course, a short version and other interventions are usually needed, but keto can certainly support this. And that is so beautiful in my work as an orthomolecular therapist, we look at the whole picture!
What are your recommendations for women who want to follow keto in the long term?
Measuring is knowing! Invest in a good blood ketone meter, keep a close eye on your values at the start, possibly also measure your blood sugar. This gives you a good idea of which foods kicks you out of ketosis and which do not. This can differ from person to person. During the first few weeks, don't go for cheat meals and get fat-adapted first. Know that you can also make delicious snacks within keto, but also find the right balance here. A keto-proof treat does not mean that you can eat in unlimited.
Learn to speak the keto language! I often hear women say that they feel that they can no longer eat anything. This is because a number of large food groups are omitted: bread, pasta, rice, beans, and legumes. What remains then? Continue reading a lot, learn to read labels, so you know how much carbohydrates something contains. If you let an expert coach you (in the beginning), you don't have to sort everything out yourself, which makes a huge difference and often ensures better longer-lasting results.
To wrap up: what do you think of our chocolate Keto Cacao? Do you have an all-time favourite flavour?
I've always been a chocolate freak, especially during my menstrual cycle. Then I really have chocolate cravings. Your keto chocolate bars are really a solution for this. I have tried all flavors and my favorites are the coffee, coconut, and white! Delicious to take a few blocks after dinner or to use in recipes!