What is Phase 1 of the Healing Journey at the Power Foods Lifestyle, and what is the protocol for beginning to help your body heal at the gut level?
This blog post will take you through the protocol of Phase 1 and what needs to be done for a successful elimination of exacerbating food elements that can be causing your distress symptoms. I highly recommend you read the Introduction so you understand Leaky Gut and other important factors before reading or reading this protocol.
Note from Kristy Jo: If you feel overwhelmed by this information in putting your own meal plan together, and don’t yet own Phase 1 Challenge meal plans like so many of our Power Foods Lifestyle Champions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about getting that valuable PDF document.
Don’t want to read? Click the podcast player to listen to the entire episode!
Scientific Purpose and Goal of this Phase
When you are dealing with any condition in the body, it is important to first look to the gut as a potential root cause. Recent studies are finding with shocking speed that the gut, or microbiome–eco-center of trillions of microbiota and bacteria–are the captain of the health ship for your body.
Diet plays a fundamental role in shaping your microbiome composition and function. Microbial activities in your gut can influence your mental, physical, and even emotional health as it regulates the balance between health and disease. Looking at the design of your food choices each day will make the greatest impact on your health, beyond what conventional medicine can do for you.
In Phase 1, the goal is to make it possible to achieve all 4 of the goals below. Elimination and deconstruction of old habits can be quite tedious, but you can succeed when you have a plan of what to eat. If you try to eat as you always have but eliminate the items listed below, you may easily end up under-eating, getting frustrated, then abandoning this process. Make sure you have a bulletproof plan to follow before committing to a minimum 28-day process.
Stop feeding Bad Bacteria in your Gut
- Hydrogenated Fats & Fried Foods
- Processed Foods
Commit Fully to Abstain from Carbohydrates and Sugars
- No indulgence meals
- No ‘off’ days
- No ‘better options’
Bring Down Insulin Levels and Regulate Blood Sugar
- Regulate meal timing
- Regulate total macronutrient and caloric load
- Regulate proper pairing of macronutrients
Lower Inflammation in the Body
- Eliminate all items in #1
- Eliminate additional inflammatory foods in your body
- This may require you complete an IgG food sensitivity test before beginning your elimination process. I recommend Viome–click here to learn more.
Nutrition Strategy: What To Do
While the previous list may feel difficult, if not impossible, remember it is 100% doable when you focus on what you can eat. Phase 1 requires the mindset and perspective of healing, and constant vision in how you are stopping the feeding of bad bacteria. When you focus on what you can eat, get to eat, and are blessed to eat, your perspective may feel with gratitude as you realize the abundance and resources with which you’re blessed.
During phase 1, focus on eating the following:
- Eat moderately low protein–for women this will be somewhere between 70-110 grams of protein per day. Depending on total caloric intake, your protein may account for as much as 20-25% of your intake. Seek to eat 1-3 servings of animal meat each day, including wild caught salmon and cod, grass-fed beef (no more than 3x/week), hormone-free chicken, turkey, and eggs. Meats higher in saturated fat like bacon and sausage are okay to eat once in a while in small amounts.
- Find alternatives for dairy items for at least four weeks. If your body is ready to move into Phase 2 after only four weeks, great! But if you feel the need to repeat another round of Phase 1, you might experiment with the light use of dairy products only in the second round. This will help keep a high-inflammation food that feeds bad gut bacteria out of the diet for a time. When reintroducing, flatulence, bloating, or other digestive distress may signal the need to keep dairy out.
- Eat 4-6 cups of leafy greens per day. This is easily achieved when you add a cup in at breakfast–whether in an omelet or protein shake, and then have a salad or stir-fry with 2-3 cups of leafy greens at both lunch and dinner. Some of the best greens to incorporate include Spinach, Kale, Mustard Greens, Collard Greens, Arugula, and Chard.
- Eat ½ cup Olives daily. You can choose from any variety you enjoy, just ensure you eat enough. While olives are dense in fat, you need to eat approximately ½ cup to ensure you’re getting enough of this monounsaturated, heart-healthy fat.
- Utilize healthy oils in your cooking, on top of your food, and base many meals around these oils: MCT oil, Coconut oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado Oil, Grass-fed Butter, and Ghee. Many wonder if Butter is okay to use when seeking to cut out dairy–the answer is usually yes. Although butter is a dairy product, the lactose content is so minimal that it rarely exacerbates symptoms of anyone who would benefit from getting this type of sugar out of their diet for a time. As in most things, it is great to alternate between options–choose 2-3 oils to keep in your home that you regularly rotate so you are getting a variety of fats.
- Eat two portions plant-based fats for each one portion saturated animal fat. Basically, if a food is from the earth or grows on a tree, this is a plant-based fat (olives, avocado, oils, etc.). If the fat is from an animal (egg yolk, beef, pork, etc.), then that is an animal fat. As you focus on bringing these fats (yes, all are healthy but have their place in the rotation and volume of what is needed by your body) into your daily diet, use a self-monitoring system or track your meals to keep the balance on point. This will help your cholesterol reach normalizing levels within 1-3 months of following this phase. It will also give you the eyes to see issues with other diets that look good and offer results, but may render long-term problems down the road (a.k.a. Atkins and Dirty Keto).
- Eat a serving of Cruciferous veggies each day. In Phase 1, this may be as low as ½ cup or as much as 1 cup. It is important to keep even vegetable portions to a moderately small amount so as not to allow carbohydrate sugars to get too high, keeping you in a state of Ketosis. Cruciferous vegetables include Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and Bok Choy. Most people do not enjoy these vegetables eaten raw, and they can cause digestive distress including gas. Try lightly steaming them for 15 minutes or so, or ‘sweat’ them (chopped up) in a skillet with a small amount of water in the bottom on medium heat for 10 minutes or so. The latter is one of my favorite methods of cooking these types of vegetables before adding in shredded chicken or ground beef (pre-cooked) for a delicious–and simple– stir-fry.
Not all carbohydrates impact the body in the same manner as they have different speeds at which they absorb. While sugars hit the blood stream and absorb quickly, it is generally well-accepted thought that fiber and sugar alcohols (erithytol, malitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.) should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate count.
Sugar alcohols occur naturally in many fruits and vegetables–due to their greatly diminished impact on blood sugar, sugar alcohols are perfectly fine to use as sweeteners in Phase 1 of your journey. The common sweeteners used in the Phase 1 meal plans are Monkfruit Sweetener and Stevia. Ensure you purchase a pure Stevia as many manufacturers these days will also dose a little Dextrose sugar in there too in order to sell this sweetener for a lower price. These are perfectly fine to use in very small amounts (especially if this is all that fits in your food budget), but consider the counsel on sweeteners below:
Sweetening every meal in Phase 1 with these artificial or natural sweeteners is not in line with the Power Foods Lifestyle approach. Rather, sweetened meals may be for a
- once-daily beverage or tea,
- a snack,
- and maybe a shake.
Reserving sweetness for once-in-a-while occasions rather than an all-the-time thing will help your body maintain its sensitivity to the natural taste of food as well as protect you from the overuse of a lower-quality product that looks like it’s a safe-to-use-all-the-time product.
Because of these theories about fiber and sugar alcohols and their impactability, mainstream Keto teaches that only counting net carbs is needful to keep your carbs low enough to stay in Keto.
However, the science gets much more complicated than that. Without launching into a 10-page essay on the nuance behind testing, glycemic load, absorbability, and so forth, please remember the simple take-away from the PFL approach:
In Phase 1 of the Power Foods Lifestyle healing protocol, track the net carbs you eat that are naturally-occurring.
- Sweet Keto Treat from a bakery? → Count total carbs
- Celery → Count net carbs
- Keto-friendly Chips from the store? → Count total carbs
- Broccoli → Count net carbs
- Keto Popsicles at the Farmer’s Market? → Count total carbs
- Blueberries → Count net carbs
While you may feel this is more restrictive than others doing Keto, and that they are still able to render results in their bodies, I advise you to remain firm on what you will track and what you will not. It is very easy to create mindset loopholes when dieting or tempering our dietary patterns in order to self-serve what it is we want. This comes back to a controlled mindset of enjoying what we get to eat which was given us naturally from the earth, versus feeling an entitled mindset of wanting to eat any possible food that man can serve up.
Remember: it is man’s food that made us ill in the first place, in combination with a host of other probable issues. Turn back to God’s food and fall in love with it to find lasting healing and loving mastery over the intelligences in your body.
Consider taking the following supplements to aid the process of being in a state of Ketosis–always consult your primary care physician before bringing any supplement into your diet, particularly if taking prescription medication:
- Magnesium (400-600 mg) in the evening
- Potassium (100-200 mg) per day, as needed
- Zinc (50 mg per day)
- Omegas (4,000 mg per day) 2,000 mg in the morning and 2,000 in the evening
- Vitamin D3 (5,000 iu per day) any time of day
- B12 (2,000 mcg per day) any time of day
- Exogenous Ketone Supplement (1-2x/day — Before workouts, when sluggish, or by experimentation for your own body in what is needed)
- Exogenous ketones (those brought in externally) can be very helpful in giving your body a little more energy while it is endogenously (from the inside) working to produce ketones naturally. Exogenous ketones are still being studied by great degree, so it is best not to put all stock in them, but to experiment moderately. Many of my clients report positive benefits from the usage of exogenous ketones during Phase 1 and 2 until moderate carbohydrates are back in the picture. Only utilize this supplement if you can easily make room in your food budget. If not, focus on spending your budgeted money on high-quality food sources instead.
- Be sure to salt your foods liberally (but not to excess) with a sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt. These compounds contain trace amount of minerals that will aid the ketogenic process and all that is happening chemically in your body more than an iodized table salt. Sodium is important for helping to control blood pressure and retaining normal levels of water in your body. If you are getting headaches, the best tonic is a pinch or two of sea salt in a glass of water with the juice from half of a lemon.
During phase 1, it is critical to keep your body in a state where it does not have carbohydrates or sugar for energy. Only in this state will your body be in a position to produce ketones from the liver, utilizing stored body fat for a fair percentage of this energy for your brain and body. In order to achieve this, it is best practice to track your macros for one week using a smart phone app like ‘My Fitness Pal.’ Knowing the percentages of your calories that are coming from protein versus carbs versus fats will help ensure you keep your targets correct.
Though I don’t particularly like those I work with to consistently track percentages, as these percentages will differ greatly depending on their caloric intake, an initial checkpoint can be helpful. Aim to keep the following ketogenic percentages, assuming a female’s standard fat loss caloric intake was 1,550 calories.
- Protein: 15-25%
- Net Carbohydrates: 5-10%
- Fats: 65-80%
Try tracking your foods for 3-7 days to get the feel for portion sizes, food pairings, and other ‘a-ha moments’ that come to those who track their food. Awareness and accountability to yourself in this manner will help you learn far more about food than simply trying to make ‘healthy choices.’
You will need to focus your meals around a small/moderate amount of power protein, combined with a moderate amount of vegetables and large amounts of power fats. In the Power Foods Lifestyle, most Ketogenic meals look like a pVFF (assuming 5-6 small meals per day), where 2-3 meals per day in an Intermittent Fasting style might resemble a PVVFFFF meal.
One additional note on tracking: food apps do not always come standard with the right numbers associated with the foods. While it would be wonderful if we could trust that when we plug in ‘4 ounces of chicken breast’ that the numbers would come out right, that is not always the case. If you wish to expedite your learning and ensure you don’t hit any hiccups from entry errors in your app’s food database, consider using one of the following options:
- Look up 2-3 additional Nutrition Facts sources online for the food and portion size you wish to track. This will help you stay on target with foods rather than erroneously thinking you either ate too much or too little of a food.
- Schedule a coaching call with me to review your tracked data one line at a time. We can make sure that the entries you have made all align with the macro and caloric amount that should be identified with those foods. This time will also give us time to discuss your daily targets, and how you can ore closely hit your goals. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Phase 1 Strategy Do Nots
Do not eat red meat more than 1-3x/week
Many controversial studies have been found, and will continue to be found in the future about eating red meat. While the majority of these studies do not test key variables that should be factored in (like frequency of red meat within a low carb/low sugar environment, portion of said red meat, and pairing of red meat with other foods–I encourage the pairing of red meat only with vegetables and other fats, which is 100% the approach of Phase 1), I do not feel any black-or-white statement on the efficacy of eating red meat should be made.
There are many nutrients obtained from eating the right type of red meat (grass-fed or grass-finished beef with 85-90% leanness). These can be obtained through eating wild-caught Salmon or sardines, so I recommend a rotation between these two wonderful foods on a daily basis (say, for dinner).
- Omega-3 fatty acids (helps reduce inflammation in the body from an overabundance of Omega-6 fatty acids)
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)–has been shown to help fight cancer
- B6 (helps with the creation of neurotransmitters and red blood cells)
- Selenium (aids in the proper function of the thyroid)
- Niacin (boosts brain function and lowers cholesterol)
- Iron (found in Hemoglobin which transports oxygen in the body)
Remember that saturated fat, like that found in red meat, is actually good for you, but should be eaten in the right ratio with plant-based unsaturated fats as discussed earlier.
- Budget Note: if eating conventional beef is the only food item that fits in your budget, I would prefer you still eat the beef, following all other guidelines of portions, frequency, and proper pairing. While you will not get all the benefits of a grass-fed or grass-finished beef, there is still some great benefit. You can boost this benefit by being diligent with the recommended 4,000 g Omega 3 supplement daily.
Do not eat too much Protein each day
While hidden carbohydrates are usually the vilifying macronutrient in not ever fully achieving a state of ketosis, protein eaten in excess can have a small impact on your ketogenic state as well. In the absence of carbohydrates, your body will turn to other compounds, like lactate, amino acids, and glycerol to manufacture glucose. This production of glucose, depending on the amount, may interfere with achieving an optimal state of ketosis where your body relies solely on ketones for fuel.
Be careful not to take this principle to an extreme where you do not eat enough protein. For most people, 1-2 sources of animal protein the size of their palm combined with naturally-occurring protein in plant-based vegetables and fats, will be adequate to reach an optimal amount of protein each day.
Do not eat more than ½ cup nuts/seeds daily
There is no question that nuts and seeds are healthy as a plant-based fat with a small amount of carbohydrates and fiber. Nuts are often deceiving in volume if they are not portioned out, so it is best to always measure and pack in small Ziplock baggies or containers before eating or adding to salads. Too many nuts or seeds in one day can easily result in constipation and digestive distress, not to mention the sheer caloric volume that may push you out of an intended caloric deficit.
Do Not Count Net Fiber in Manmade Foods
With Keto being a trendy direction for nutrition these days, many companies are riding the wave of consumerism and producing Keto-friendly foods and meals. While these may be a nice treat once in a while, be careful that these types of food do not creep into more than 10% of your food intake in any given week.
Equally important is not counting the fiber in man-made or manufactured foods in an effort to get lower net carbs. Only subtract the fiber in naturally-occurring, earth-made foods to reach total net carbs. If you will stick to this principle, you will easily keep portion sizes and frequency of eating these foods in check while trying to maintain a ketogenic state. You will not find yourself creating many loopholes and wandering in and out of ketosis, achieving increasingly smaller results while convincing yourself you’re doing keto ‘correctly.’ Be very wise and deliberate in this matter.
Do Not Weigh Yourself More than Once Per Week
Your body changes slowly in a wonderfully adaptive process. It is not a magic bank account that suddenly drops weight and inches at the snap of a finger. Weight can fluctuate depending on the amount of glycogen held in your liver and muscle sites (yes, your body can make glycogen even while in Ketosis!). Some foods may even cause your body to hold more water than others, which means the same macros and calories fueled with different foods on two different days may render a different weight on the scale. It is important to protect your mind and emotions from constant weighing on the scale.
The best time to weigh and assess progress depends on the person, but most people do best once per week first thing in the morning. Treat the numbers as data and feedback, not as an absolute outcome. There is always more to the story of why the number is reflected as it is.
Do not self-sabotage in the event of a higher number than you expect to see. Get back to the basics of self-assessment and seek to find solutions and direction.
Converse with another person, coach, or journal about the following questions:
- What do I need to stop doing to see more results?
- What do I need to start doing to see more results?
- What questions do I need to be asking to dial in my strategy for MY body more?
Engage in exercise that keeps your heart in an aerobic state (50-80% of your maximum heart rate). Pushing your heart rate too high by doing cardio intervals or high-intensity will put your body in a state of using glucose for energy during a time you are not providing glucose in large amounts via food. This can ultimately keep you from maximizing your ketogenic state as well as the ultimate healing and fat burn state you can enjoy.
It is perfectly fine to lift weights, go hiking, play tennis, or attend dance classes–so long as you keep the exercise intensity lower and also do not go for too long. 45-60 minutes is just right for an exercise duration–any longer may result in a significant drop of energy as your body is not fueled for that type of performance. Your focus must first be on only engaging in exercise that invites a healing environment, rather than stressing the body in additional ways.
- One of the best things you can do during Phase 1 is to take a 20-45 minute walk each day at a light pace. While ‘light’ differs from person to person and age, a moderate light walk is around 3.0 miles per hour. Of course, your walk may be faster or slower than this, but you may find 3.0 is just perfect. Walking is called a low-intensity exercise that improves cardiovascular conditioning while preserving the heart rate restrictions recommended above during Phase 1.
In Phase 1, we do not allow any indulgence meals that contain carbs and sugar. Can you go outside of the plan requirements, or lift the requirement of hitting certain macronutrients or calories each day if your goal is fat loss as well?
The key to sustainability and being able to finish your Phase journey is to know yourself well. If you’re beginning to break, find a way to indulge without adding an influx of carbohydrates. Sometimes we all need that respite from restricting portion sizes, and will fully embrace an overly-full tummy. This is fine 1-2 times per week provided you keep yourself in Ketosis by not going higher than 50 grams net carbs.
While there is no hard-and-fast set point for ‘staying in Keto’ or not (all of our bodies are built differently, this simple principle may help you find balance and make wiser decisions instead of throwing in the towel just because things are hard for a moment.
Your indulgence may look like a large salad with lots of fatty meat (unbalanced in saturated to unsaturated fats), with as much olive or avocado oil on top as you’d like. This may also look like making a Keto-friendly treat and having several (still observing the portion size does not push the carbs too high–this can happen easily!).
- Indulge on more calories, red meat, dairy, etc. whatever you need to keep you going.
- Calorie cycling is good for you once per week when you’ve been in a deficit and strictly compliant to it. Not tracking brings more ambiguity and irrational doubts and fears. Don’t want that? Track your food.
Mindset Strategies for Success
- Plan your meals ahead of time
- Set alarms in your phone to remember to eat
- Focus on what you GET to eat
- Have 2-3 go-to food items for fast food or dining out
- Keep a snack in your purse of the drawer at work for emergencies
- Tell others your goals and ask for their help
- Have a Keto dessert prepared ahead of time just in case (fudge bombs)
- Accountability that works for YOU (sticker chart, calendar, macros charting, nightly call with friend, etc)
How to know when it’s time to move on to the next phase
- Psychologically you feel you really need some carbs–can’t maintain this no carb approach and are missing carbs
- Life seems to be a little more hectic and going full-keto feels so impossible but you still want to focus and lose weight with a little more flexibility and options
- Have experienced no bloating or digestive distress in at least 10 days
- Females–your period has stopped
- Repeat phase 1 if you are feeling good, like the phase, and can easily accomplish another 28 days!
I hope this has given you some insight into Phase 1 of the healing journey. There are 3 phases of healing, and many have taken this road to powering their body to accomplish a great deal of change. I hope you will trust the process and embark as well. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any coaching calls through this process.
CPT/FNS/Creator of the Power Foods Lifestyle