Vacation, Easter, Mother’s Day, and my 20th Wedding Anniversary all seemed like good reasons to fall out of ketosis and over-indulge a bit on some delicious carbs. Afterall, what harm could it do to take a small break from keto and live a little? I was successfully maintaining my goal-weight, consistently exercising, and feeling healthy and in-control. Surely, it’s not a big deal to have a few cheat meals now and then…or is it?
For those of you new here, let me fill you in on some backstory. I adopted a ketogenic lifestyle on January 1, 2018 and stayed faithful to being in ketosis with little to no straying from my “20 net carbs a day” for over a year. You can read all about my health journey here. Besides helping me lose the extra weight I was carrying around, eating a ketogenic diet just made me feel better. My allergies were reduced, my skin was clearer, my sugar cravings were gone, my moods seemed more stable, and for the first time in my life I felt normal in my relationship to food. I don’t like to be overly-dramatic by using the word “addiction” here, but for lack of a better word I felt free from my addiction to sugar and carbs.
Fast forward to today—where I keep vowing to get back on track with keto—and I keep cheating enough to knock me out of ketosis. To be blunt, I’ve fallen off the wagon and getting back on is proving to be more difficult than I ever imagined!
My Symptoms Out of Ketosis
Since I’ve chronicled my keto journey from the beginning with you all, I thought it was only fair to share what I’ve noticed since being out of ketosis. I’m not sure why any of the following symptoms should come as a surprise to me, but each and every one has! When I started eating a keto diet, I didn’t know where it would take me. I’m still not willing to commit to eating keto for a lifetime. I also do NOT think that a ketogenic diet is right and healthy for everyone. We all have different body chemistries, health histories, and genetic predispositions. However, the plain and simple truth for ME is that I feel so much better when I cut out sugar and reduce my net carbs. Here is my subjective experience of being out of ketosis and what I’ve noticed in my health.
- Weight – My weight has remained completely stable. Yes! I have not gained or lost any weight as a result of adding back into my diet some ice cream, candy, donuts, nachos, tacos, biscuits, pasta, cake, alcohol, etc. (I told you I’d fallen off the wagon! 🙈) There is some research that suggests long-term ketosis is damaging to one’s metabolism. I don’t believe this is true. If anything, I think keto has helped me heal my sluggish metabolism. I weigh myself every morning and am amazed at my body’s ability to manage some over-indulgences similarly to the way it once did when I was in my 20’s. I am currently 44 yrs old, 5’5″, and I weigh 124 lbs.
- Mood – I have always struggled with pretty severe PMS. While on keto, I noticed that my moods seemed more stable. Since going off keto I realize just how stable they actually were! Granted, I haven’t had enough months off of keto to know for sure if this month was just a fluke, but I haven’t felt this moody and depressed before my period in a very long time. My PMS cravings for sweets and carbs are consistently strong, but this month felt out of control. Like, give me all of the Double-stuffed Oreos and bag of Dove chocolates out of control.
- Anxiety – This could be filed under mood, but it’s a whole different beast for me. I have always struggled with social anxiety, and I am just plain high-strung. I’ve made peace with this aspect of my personality and do my best to push through it. Eating a keto diet didn’t cure this aspect of myself, but I definitely feel how much more anxious I am when adding back carbs and sugar to my diet. It’s a vicious cycle. Anxiety drives me to want something sugary or carby-comforting. Initially after eating the sugary treat, I feel this sigh of relief and sense of inner-peace and calm. I get my fix. And then once the sugar crash hits, my heart begins to race and I feel shaky with low-blood pressure.
- Energy Level – I’ve always had difficulty with fainting upon standing since I was around 11 yrs old. If I’m seated for awhile, or if I go into a squat position and then stand up, I will begin to black out. I’ve always had low blood pressure, so I just thought it was normal to feel faint. One of the treatments for this condition is a diet higher in salt to increase blood flow. Keto also recommends eating more salt and increasing fluid intake to balance electrolytes. I eliminated my fainting spells while on keto! And as you can probably guess, since adding carbs and sugar back into the mix they are back.
- Sleep – A keto diet makes me thirsty and therefore getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom is the norm. This disrupts sleep every night. I think this could be modified by better controlling the timing of fluid intake, but I never seemed able to master this aspect. If I stopped drinking fluids by 8pm I would wake up incredibly thirsty. On a higher carb diet, I don’t seem to need those middle-of-the-night pit stops and therefore sleep better.
- Allergies – One of the most amazing and surprising side-effects on a keto diet was the reduction in my allergies. Keto reduces overall inflammation in the body and perhaps this allowed my immune system to work more properly in response to allergens. My entire life I’ve been severely allergic to cats and then on keto I was able have a cat! Off of keto, (you guessed it!) my allergies are back but they still do not seem as severe as before. This may be because I’m in better health now than I was before, and it also may be that Sprockets (our cat) just naturally has lower dander. All I know is that my horrible seasonal allergies are able to be controlled without medication when on a keto diet.
In summary, my weight has stayed the same and I’m sleeping a bit better since adding carbs back into my diet, but my mood, allergies, and energy level all feels off.
So what now?
I love eating sugar and carbs. I LOVE them so much!! It has been wonderful to eat some of my favorite things again. I hadn’t had ice cream or carby pizza in over a year. A YEAR!! I used to have ice cream almost every day, and I somehow managed to go without it for over a year—and not really miss it. I will be the first to admit that it was freeing to go out to eat with friends and family without any annoying food restrictions. Food restrictions, no matter how valid, are just annoying to social eating! I still wish I could occasionally have an indulgent meal like a normal person and then get back on track the rest of the time. I think this is a very healthy and reasonable way to approach eating! All things in moderation. However, for whatever reason, I just can’t do it. I wish I could. I’ve tried. But after eating one chocolate chip cookie, I want five more. I sit there staring at them and fighting them mentally the rest of the day until I give in and just eat five more. On keto, I honestly could be around sweets and not crave them the same way. It felt miraculous. Out of ketosis, and I want all the carbs and all the sugar.
Getting Back into Ketosis
The reason it’s so hard to get back on keto once you’ve significantly fallen off the wagon is that you will have to go through the “keto flu” again. It’s unpleasant and you feel like crap for a good 3-5 days depending on how your body responds to running on ketones. Supposedly once you’re fat-adapted it’s easier for your body to jump back into ketosis, but I think I’ve eaten enough sugar and carbs now that my body is fighting me on it.
To get back on track, I’m going back to the basics and using Melissa Sevigny’s free 3 Day Keto Kickstart Menu Plan! Her blog is one I often referred to when I first began keto and her cookbook is wonderful! If you want to join me, I’d love to do this journey together! Accountability is key for me.
Here are some other keto resources I love: