One of the most common New Year’s resolutions made by people is to lose weight and/or be healthier. I do believe the key in succeeding in this resolution is making lifestyle changes rather than looking for “quick fixes”, and today I want to share a little bit about the change I made five months ago that has been completely life changing for me!
Over the summer I got together with a friend of mine who had seriously undergone an amazing transformation. After putting on some weight, she was introduced to the Ketogenic diet and successfully lost 40 lbs over a 5 month period. If you haven’t heard of it, the Ketogenic diet or “Keto” is a low carbohydrate, moderate portion, high fat diet. Not only did she look incredible, but she was telling me all about how good she felt and never wanted to go back to her old way of eating. I was super intrigued and had a million questions about it. At first when she was telling me the things you can & can’t have I immediately was thinking “oh my goodness there is NO way.” No sugar, very limited fruit, no milk – therefore no lattes?! It sounded overwhelming but seeing her outward success combined with how she described feeling made me decide to look into it more, and I ultimately decided to give it a shot. Now that I have been doing it for 5 months myself I want to share a little bit about what I have learned about the diet:
You will experience the flu, the Keto Flu. Sugar is super addictive – some studies show it is just as addictive to the body as cocaine. And the body’s natural state is to utilize blood glucose (sugar) as fuel. When you stop providing your body with carbohydrates and sugar, your body switches to burning fat for fuel. However during this transition you can feel absolutely miserable. Headaches, fatigue, lethargy, irritability…it really can resemble flu-like symptoms. The length of time varies from person to person and how sugar addicted you are. For me the worst of the symptoms were about 2-3 days, but for my husband who started the diet with me (and who had a much bigger sweet tooth than me!), he struggled for several weeks & also had intense sugar cravings.
Keto is strict. Everyone’s carb threshold to attain and stay in ketosis is different, but for most people it is under 20 net carbs a day (this is carbohydrates minus fiber). This is approximately the amount of carbs in a small apple. When you start the diet I highly recommend tracking your daily macronutrients because it is surprising how much sugar/carbohydrates are in everything! Processed foods must be completely eliminated from your diet, and vegetables should essentially be your only source of carbohydrates. There are lots of lists available online which show you approved foods for the ketogenic diet and this is very helpful in getting started.
Fat is your friend and should make up about 70% of your daily calorie intake. (So bring on all the butter!) Being a child of the 90’s I was raised believing that fat is the enemy. New studies have totally debunked all of that information, and have shown how truly toxic sugar is. Now all of the most recent studies show that fat does not make you fat and the old adage that a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from candy or a vegetable – just isn’t accurate. Sugar affects the insulin response which has a direct correlation with weight gain and obesity, whereas fat does not have this effect. Also sugar is sugar whether it comes from fruit or candy – your body cannot tell the difference and metabolizes it the same way. This was a very difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around and I spent the first several weeks on keto terrified I was going to put on 20 lbs eating all these “forbidden” foods and so much fat. It was shocking to see the scale quickly start going in the direction to say the least! I do try to keep my sources of fat as healthy as possible and things like grass fed beef, avocado, olive oil, and fatty seafood are great sources. Another key part of what makes the diet so effective is that fat has a satiating quality and it is very difficult to overeat fat, whereas carbohydrates will not make you feel full (and why it’s easy to eat excessive portions of chips or sweets!). Your calorie intake will go down, simply because you will find you are full much more quickly and won’t experience hunger between meals.
Keto is a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s not really something you can dabble with & have regular cheats or it will throw your body out of ketosis. Once you get out of ketosis it can take days (or longer!) to get your body back into an efficient state of fat burning. Everyone’s carbohydrate threshold is different, and just slightly going over your daily carb allowance can throw you out of ketosis. Also, calories still count and if you are eating lots of fat, and still sneaking in carbohydrates you can absolutely gain weight on Keto. While I do have cheats here and there for special occasions, I do not have regularly planned cheats or days off, and I also didn’t have my first cheat for about 2 months after starting keto. That said, I know some people find it easier to stay on keto long term if they have a weekly cheat, while for others who truly struggle with sugar addiction, going off for one meal can put them in to a days long binge.
You will feel great! After the initial keto flu and the difficult first month or so of really figuring out what you can and can’t eat, I started to experience all the perks of this diet. In addition to losing about 10 lbs, the insomnia I had been struggling with went away, I didn’t get sick once, I had more energy, and my skin became extremely clear. I also found that it became easy because I truly like the food I can eat, and when I do have cheats I actually feel very sick after (bloating, indigestion, headaches, fatigue) which makes me actually want to stay on track! It’s also amazing how your tastes will change, and sweet things will start to taste too sickeningly sweet after a time. I did take three days off Keto over the Thanksgiving holiday, and a week for Christmas because we were doing some traveling and I also wanted to enjoy all of the foods we traditionally have during these celebrations. During this time I came down with the first cold I’ve had since starting keto, my skin broke out, and I was feeling incredibly lethargic. I’m actually super excited to be back on track and starting to feel my energy return!
Keto is such a big part of my life now, and I want to continue to routinely post about my experiences, tips I’ve learned along the way, and favorite recipes! Even if you don’t think Keto is for you, simply taking steps to reduce sugar intake is a lifestyle change that is guaranteed to make you healthier and feel better! Most people do eat too much sugar, and once I started Keto and truly looking at the amount of sugar in foods, it was pretty shocking to say the least. I was also surprised to discover that Keto has been around for a long time and used therapeutically to treat cancer, certain types of epilepsy, and Alzheimers. If you are interested in learning more about Keto, I highly recommend reading some of the excellent beginners guides available online to help you get started!
Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions or before undergoing any diet changes.