In July our family moved from Pennsylvania to South Carolina and along with packing up all of our belongings, I packed on about ten new pounds. Trying to learn a new place, setting up a new home, making new friends, worrying about my kids, left me filled with all the feels. Instead of coping with these feelings appropriately, I did what many educated, adult women do when stressed. I ate ice cream and gobbled down baked goods. 🍦🍩🍪🍨🤦🏼♀️
Fast forward to New Year’s Eve and I decided enough was enough. It was time to stop feeling sorry for myself, neglecting my health, and not taking responsibility for my actions. I committed to making healthier mind, body, and spirit choices in 2018! I joined a gym. I signed our family up for a small group at the church we’ve been attending. I reached out to an acquaintance and invited her to lunch. And I started eating a ketogenic diet.
What is keto?
A ketogenic diet is a high fat, low carb, moderate protein diet. It’s often touted as being the same thing as other low-carb diets such as Atkins or South Beach, but it is definitely different. Atkins is a much higher protein diet and South Beach allows for more carbs and has various stages. A keto diet has you eliminate practically all carbs from your diet with the exception of those found in leafy greens and avocados. You essentially starve your body of carbs in order to induce a state called ketosis, which forces your liver to use fat to produce ketones for energy. Typically your body uses glycogen as energy which is converted from carbs. Ketosis forces your body to use the ketones as energy and helps convert the fat that you’re eating into energy. Unfortunately, ketosis doesn’t necessarily help you burn your own fat stores more rapidly or effectively than other diets. You still have to watch your calories, really watch your carb intake, and exercise while eating keto. Some people respond dramatically to keto and rapidly lose weight. This has not been the case for me. Don’t get me wrong. I HAVE lost weight so far but it hasn’t been dramatic. However, I have seen many other non-scale benefits since going keto that I’ll outline further down in the post!
Why keto instead of another diet?
I was on keto a few years ago and found it fairly easy to stick to which is the main reason I decided to give it a go again. On keto a person can eat meat, leafy greens, high fat dairy, seeds and nuts, avocados, and some berries. You can use a no-carb, no sugar sweetener to sweeten coffee or tea. You can have dark chocolate in moderation and some no-sugar sweets. My goal in losing weight and making lifestyle changes needs to make sense, allow for enjoyment, and above all not cause suffering. I don’t do well and can’t commit to suffering. If a diet makes me feel deprived, hungry, light-headed, or in anyway sick I just won’t be able to stick to it long-term. After adjusting to keto, I feel great and truly do not have uncontrollable cravings, mood swings, or hunger.
What is the keto flu?
Also known as carb flu, the keto flu is a real thing. It is what many experience the first week of transitioning to a keto diet and is a withdrawal from carbs and sugar. During this time you might experience headaches, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, irritability, brain fog, and fatigue. Basically you feel crappy and want to eat carbs to alleviate your symptoms! To avoid the dreaded keto flu or to lessen its effect you should eat a few more lean carbs (like those in veggies), drink broth, up your magnesium, sodium, and potassium, eat a few more calories, drink more water, and exercise. I had a few keto flu symptoms for about two days and then felt fine.
One symptom I DID have upon starting keto is something most won’t have to worry about. It is called a “keto rash” and happens to a small subset of those beginning a ketogenic diet. I actually experienced this same rash the first time I tried keto and another time when I did a low carb diet so I wasn’t quite as alarmed this time around when it made an appearance. My thighs, stomach, back, upper arms and back of my neck broke out in a small, red, raised rash that was mildly itchy. It looked terrible and coconut oil seemed to help quiet it. There are many theories as to why this happens. Some claim it’s candida die off, others claim it’s fat detoxing through your pores, and some say it’s an allergic reaction to your ketones in your sweat. Whatever the cause, know that it goes away within a week or two.
What do you eat on a keto diet?
To properly follow a keto diet, you will need to eliminate grains, sugar, most fruit and tubers, and stick to only 20 grams of net carbs a day. Net carbs are the amount of carbs a particular food has minus the amount of fiber. And not, unfortunately you are NOT able to take a fiber supplement to negate carbs. The fiber has to already be naturally occurring in the food you are eating. So for example, if I was served something like the above picture I would eat the olives, the cheeses, the meats, the prosciutto wrapped cheese, the radishes, a few raspberries and maybe a strawberry. I wouldn’t eat many of the tomatoes or carby fruits, and of course I’d avoid the crackers, breads, and stuffed grape leaves.
What does a typical day on keto look like for you?
My diet varies day to day but this will give you a brief snapshot of what I might eat in a day. This isn’t meant to be a meal plan for you to follow but just to give you the general gist of what the diet might look like. I aim to keep my calories between 1200-1300 calories a day and a little more on days that I workout. Fat is very calorie dense so monitoring your calories is important! If you like green salads, eggs, bacon, salmon, hard cheeses, and nuts, then keto should be easy for you to implement
Keto Cream Cheese Pancakes: 1 egg, 1 ounce cream cheese, baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon blended together in blender and cooked like pancakes on a buttered griddle. Serve with sugar free syrup.
- Coffee with a few drops of EZ-Sweetz (liquid sucralose) and 1 1/2 T heavy cream
- Cream cheese pancakes with sugar free syrup (1 egg, 1 ounce cream cheese, baking powder, vanilla, and cinnamon blended together in blender and cooked like pancakes)
- Wilted spinach with Kerrygold butter
- 6 slices Margherita Hard Salami
- 1 ounce Kerrygold Cheese
- Salad with avocado and low-carb dressing
- 1 Boiled egg
- Grilled salmon with dill
- Steamed broccoli
- A few small squares of 85% Green & Black’s dark chocolate with natural nut butter, or macadamia nuts
I don’t typically need to snack while on keto. If I’m run down, I might eat a few almonds or a few olives and that seems to do the trick. Typing that just sounds utterly ridiculous. To be clear, I’m not an “oh, all I need is a few olives to sustain me,” kind of girl. I’ve always been a “five cookies might do the trick if I’m lucky” type. But like I said before, eating a ketogenic diet really does help curb the cravings and tame your tendency to binge. On keto, I am pretty much sugar free and mostly gluten free which helps stabilize my blood sugar. On days that I work out I might add a half of a Quest protein bar, or some extra protein but otherwise I am happy and content with the macros.
What online tools are helpful for someone wanting to begin keto?
- Macro Calculator: Speaking of macros, I recommend you use a keto macro calculator to determine the percentage and grams of fat, protein, and net carbs you should be consuming each day.
- Weight Loss Calculator: In addition to knowing you daily macros, it’s a good idea to use this weight loss calculator to get a rough estimate on how long it might take to lose the weight. When I entered in today’s date, I received a date five months from now to be at my goal weight. That is five months to lose 22 pounds. You might lose weight much quicker than this, but I lose weight incredibly slowly and have found this calculator helpful .
- My Fitness Pal: I use My Fitness Pal to track my macros and calories. I just use the free version and it works great for me.
- Keto Recipe Sites: Some of my favorite keto recipe blogs are I Breathe I’m Hungry, Ruled Me, and All Day I Dream About Food.
I don’t bake a lot of keto treats because I think it’s best to keep things simple starting out, but I have enjoyed fathead bagels, sugar free peanut butter chocolate cookies, and chocolate chip scones. These are the only treats I’ve made in the last two months and honestly they may have slowed my progress down. But I figure staying in ketosis while enjoying a treat is better than falling out of ketosis by cheating. These are tasty alternatives to the real deal.
What about exogenous ketones? Are they necessary?
Exogenous ketones are ketones you ingest to help your body get into ketosis faster or give you more energy while in ketosis. I personally don’t find them necessary although those trying to sell them to you through their MLM’s will swear they are miraculous and vital. I have tried MCT oil which is a type of good fat that is easily converted into ketone energy. I use it on days I workout to boost my energy levels but I’m not sure they are vital.
Should you take supplements while on keto?
I have watched my daily vitamin recommendations on My Fitness Pal and I am typically low in the following while eating keto:
- Vitamin D
I also think you should take a probiotic while on keto because the lack of sugar can change your gut flora. I take all of the supplements above and also take Zint collagen daily.
How much weight have you lost so far on keto?
If you do a “before and after keto” search on the internet you will find myriads of inspiring weight loss stories and images. Many have incredible success at shedding the pounds quickly and easily. This just is never my experience no matter which weight loss program I’ve tried. I workout 3-4 times a week in addition to walking and I keep my net carbs between 20-30g every day. I have lost ten pounds in the last two months on keto and most of that weight loss was in the first month. I know this isn’t incredibly impressive, but I am pleased with the results! I know my body and I know that I just lose weight at a snail’s pace. I’m pear-shaped, have a slow metabolism, and it takes a lot of training and macro watching in order for me to drop in weight. Sure I wish it was coming off faster, but I feel good while on keto and don’t feel like I’m missing out!
Any non-scale keto gains to note?
Yes! My skin has never been clearer and my allergies are amazingly better. A few months ago, I began having cystic acne for the first time in my life. Every month right before my period began my chin would break out something fierce. The only thing I had changed in my diet was eating a cup of 2% Greek Yogurt for breakfast. You would think eating Greek Yogurt would be healthy! I did some research and found that the excess of dairy can cause inflammation and result in cystic acne. Although I eat dairy while on keto, my skin has completely cleared to the point I rarely break out at all.
My allergies are typically horrible year round and since moving to South Carolina have really escalated. In December before beginning keto my husband suggested I look into getting allergy shots. My attacks each night were fierce and frequent! Since eating a ketogenic diet I can’t recall the last time I had an allergy attack. Keto is supposed to reduce inflammation in the body and I’m a firm believer that it indeed does so! Many people adopt a keto lifestyle simply for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Should I try a keto diet?
This diet is NOT for everyone. I repeat. It’s just plain not good for everyone! You should discuss with your physician whether it might be right for you and do your own internet research. If you have kidney issues, gallbladder issues, diabetes, or other health concerns you should of course check with your doctor. There is a ton of good research both for and against a keto diet online. Don’t take my word or experience for it! Do your own research and see what works best for you and your health.