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The Ketogenic (Keto) diet is still considered craze diet! Many people are ruling it out as a fad, and of course, there haven’t been enough scientific studies to judge it’s long term effects. But it’s hard to ignore! Anywhere you look, there are so many people who have done so well with this diet!
I had tried to spend part of 2018, watching what I ate, and trying to work out. I just didn’t have the time to do that! Between wedding planning, work, and other commitments, it was just so difficult to find time to juggle working out, meal prepping, wedding planning, and just breathing.
So, in a state of wedding desperation in 2018, I tried this crazy Keto Diet. For about 3 months last year, I religiously followed the ketogenic diet.
Why I started the Keto Diet
The reason I started the keto diet, was because I was going through a tough time. Stress was at an all-time high, from work, wedding, buying a condo. I was not feeling my best. To top it off, it was winter – which already is not my best season. I was constantly tired, I couldn’t focus, and was just always drained. Plus I was gaining weight because of stress and unhealthy eating habits.
I had bought my wedding dresses eight months before the big day. I knew that working out was necessary because at the very least I had to maintain my weight, but it was hard to make time for it.
It’s hard to work out when you have no energy. And working out had never worked for me – I couldn’t stick to a schedule. And when I did work out, I was hungrier, so I would eat more and basically be in net positive for calorie intake. I’ve always struggled with my weight, especially working it off. And so as a last resort, I tried to take a stab at fixing my diet. Keto was so on trend.
What is the Keto Diet
The Ketogenic Diet (Keto), is a high fat, low carb diet. The idea is that you limit your NET carbohydrates to 30 grams to 50 grams. Net carbohydrates total carbohydrates less fiber.
Think about the food you eat in terms of the macros: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Many foods have some combination of the three, but some are higher than others. Sugars and alcohol break down in carbohydrates. When you eat, your body tries to metabolize the food. The first and easiest source is carbohydrates, which can easily be converted into sugar for your body to use as energy (sugar crash, anyone?). If it doesn’t have these sugars, then it looks to your liver for some fat stores to use energy through a process called ketosis. Of course, there’s more science to this, and I am in no way qualified to provide science. But this is my understanding of the process. Keto Connect is a great resource on the topic of the ketogenic diet, and they have a primer on it, that describes the process in depth.
Why the Keto Diet is so Tempting
What drew me to the keto diet was that people claimed they were not hungry! That was different than any other diet I tried. Usually, you cut out sugar, carbs, and eat chicken, vegetables, and fruits. Fruits and vegetables often with their high water content don’t keep you full. Fruit, depending on which you choose, actually can have a lot of sugar, so you do have to eat it in moderation.
I hate to admit it, but once my body got used to the diet, I’d never felt better. Once I got over the keto flu (below), I had much better mental clarity, more energy, and fewer cravings!
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to follow it for longer, as meal prep is key to keto success. but while I did follow it, I saw results!
I have thought about going back to it, but I love sugar too much, and it’s not like I have to fit into any special dresses anytime soon. But just writing this post is making me feel like I should give it another shot.
Overall, I lost about 15 pounds, and my wedding clothes were too loose for me and had to be altered in the last week … oops! The best part is that I’ve managed to keep off most of that weight to date!
Here are some lessons I learned from the diet.
One: The Keto Flu is very real!
You hear about it, but until it happens to you, you won’t believe it. For me, the first three days of the diet were just so difficult. My body was used to a high-carb, high-sugar diet. For some, it’s easier to power down. Some people reduce their carb intake and go bit by bit to hit 25g net carbs. I went cold turkey.
My energy in the first few days was at an all-time low. Workouts (if that’s what you do), will be harder. Especially if you lift, there are no carbs in your body to burn. For me, part of the reason I focused on food, was because I didn’t have time to work out. And they say it’s mostly about the food you eat! But it is important through it!
Tip: What did help me, was that in the days leading up to the start of the keto diet, I recorded what I ate, and monitored my average carb intake. This gave me an idea of what I was striving towards, and mentally prepared me for what is to come.
Two: Butter is not a carb
Okay, maybe this is because I’m nutritionally stupid. I was told carbs were bad, butter was bad, ergo, butter must be a carb right? Clearly, I was wrong! Being on this diet taught me a lot about the food I was eating. There were sources of sugar in so many more foods than I thought.
The Keto diet has made me much more aware of the nutrition content in foods. There is so much information around you, to learn about the foods you eat.
My body doesn’t react well with too much red meat, so I didn’t eat steak for dinner every night! For some people, dairy (especially the heavy cream and cheese that’s often used in the keto diet), doesn’t sit well!
Tip: Write down how your body reacts to certain foods.
Three: This diet takes over your life
Find your community! Think about how much time you spend eating, thinking about food, planning social gatherings around food. You won’t stop talking about it, so you better make sure that you have someone to talk to.
Tip: Find your tribe online – there’s many blogs, Pinterest boards, Reddit forums, Instagram pages, are all full of information and motivation!
Four: Don’t compare yourself to others
Your body will react differently than others! I started the diet on my own, not with my fiancé. The reason was that I knew that my body would react slower than him to changes in diet, and I didn’t want to be demotivated.
I spent lots of time online trying to find motivation in others’ progress, which worked sometimes. Other times, it felt that everyone was progressing much faster than me!
Tip: Keep a record of the diet in a journal. Record your weight, and non-scale victories, such as mood, energy levels or inches coming off! It is a reminder of why you started your journey.
Five: Meal Prep is the key
It is the key to success! Every week, I would have a meal planning spreadsheet, take stock of what I had in the fridge, and then on Saturday, I would do a grocery run, and then Sunday would be meal prep day. Religiously every Sunday I’d spend at least 4 hours in the kitchen, preparing breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack options. This made sure that I wasn’t eating high-carb foods because I had no options!
However, I also enjoy cooking. If you don’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen, don’t make this the time for an ambitious lifestyle change. Find recipes that don’t take too long, or have too many ingredients.
Tip: Keep a list of foods that are keto friendly and a list of recipes you enjoy! I found using Pinterest was very helpful to get ideas and inspirations!
Six: Keep snacks on hand
This was especially sound advice at the beginning. Don’t watch your calories so much, but rather how many carbs you’re taking in. Have a plan for your 3 pm snack cravings!
Many days, at work there would be cake or treats, and it was hard to get by without having my own snack source. Keep nuts, cheese, avocado or packaged keto friendly snacks around to give yourself a fighting chance.
I missed baking during my journey so I even made this Keto-friendly Zucchini Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting!
Tip: I drank lots of tea and black coffee to curb cravings, so that I could tell when I was actually hungry!
Seven: Find Keto-Friendly restaurant options
The reality is that you will not be able to meal prep a hundred percent of the time. It is important to be prepared when hunger strikes that you don’t reach for your favorite Chinese take-out option, because you couldn’t find keto-friendly meals in your state of hunger.
Tip: When going out, try to make substitutions and ask for sauces/dressings on the side so you can control how much is in your food!
Eight: Your social life will change
You will not stop talking about your diet, and more importantly, it’ll make hanging out with friends even harder!
You’ll notice that you’ll look up menus before you go to restaurants so that you can give yourself a chance to survive and eat. You’ll become that obnoxious person who asks a million questions about the menu and substitutions. Just own it!
Tip: Remember to check out the menus before you reach the restaurant, it’ll give you a chance to think about the option, and you won’t be forced to fall off the wagon.
Nine: Give yourself a break!
I am still a chocolate lover and sugar addict – Give yourself a break!
If you don’t like mushrooms now, chances are the diet will not change the way you think about it. Look for foods that you do enjoy to give yourself a chance at sustaining the diet.
Cheat meals were like a reward. Okay, I know they say that you’re not supposed to reward yourself with food, but if you need it to make your diet sustainable, then do yourself a favor and go with it! I found that a cheat reward was necessary. Every Saturday, I would have a cheat meal. I will tell you that every Sunday, it was difficult to get back to keto, but I needed the cheat meal to remember why I started the journey in the first place!
Tip: If you’re going to have a cheat meal, schedule it around social plans, so your social life doesn’t suffer as much!
Ten: Keep Going
At the end of the day, the keto diet is not magic. It will take a while to see results. Everyone’s bodies react differently to changes in diet. Some people will react faster than others.
For me, I realized it was working when I didn’t feel tired all the time. I realized what it meant to feel good when I ate food that actually agreed with me!
Even though I’m not on keto at the moment I have a much bigger appreciation for the foods I eat. I know how the food I eat affects my body.
Tip: Focus on the positives! Keto is not necessarily for everyone, but reflect on how much progress you’ve made. Maybe haven’t lost the weight you wanted, but do you have more energy? That is still progress!
If you’re thinking about starting the diet, let me know if you have any questions or are looking for resources! I’d love to share what I’ve learned with you!