Gaining weight wasn’t something I was horribly worried about until living on my own during the college years. The idea of a ketogenic diet was years off from my mind at that point as I cooked and ate whatever sounded good at the moment with no second thoughts. It wasn’t until I left for college and ate all of the easy-to-cook pre-packaged meals and pulled all-nighters weekly that the weight started to creep. Don’t even get me started on how it packed on when I discovered bars after turning 21. A refreshing Moscow mule sounds fine and dandy until the sugar and calories do their work on your waistline (if only I’d known about this sugar-free, keto-friendly ginger beer at the time—I could have indulged without the carbs!)!
I talk more about my breaking points before deciding to go Keto in this blog post, as well as a timeline to my weight loss in my About Me section. But, I realized recently that I never explained to people:
Why a Ketogenic Diet?
I’ve tried nearly every popular diet there is to no avail. Take a look at this picture below. The picture on the far left is near my heaviest weight in 2015. Moving along a good few months, the middle picture was a progress picture after 4 strict months of working out 3x a week with a personal trainer and sticking heavily to a high-protein, moderate carb, and low-fat diet focused on counting calories. This kind of diet left me feeling ALWAYS hungry, constantly tired, and I loathed going to the gym but forced myself due to paying over $300 a month for someone to tell me what workout to do.
After researching diets recommended for women with PCOS, I landed on a Ketogenic diet: eating foods that were high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Standing at 5’2″ and being pronounced pre-diabetic at my Keto starting weight of 168, I decided it was time to give anything a try.
How does Keto possibly work?
It sounds crazy. How can one lose weight while eating cheese and bacon? Trust me, I was a skeptic myself. I read tons and tons of research and testimonies before taking the dive. I knew that I would get shocked looks and scoffs from those who didn’t understand, but the idea of nourishing my body with fat to keep it satiated rather than consuming empty carbs for temporary “fullness” just made sense to me. Part of me was a bit scared to make this change based on what I had been taught about fat, but the other part of me figured that if it didn’t work after a couple of months, I would switch to something else and start over. So, with much hesitation, I threw out my bread, potatoes, and rice, and stocked up on flavored cooking oils, sugar-free sweeteners (I use Swerve sweetener to replace white sugar and Lakanto monk fruit sweetener to replace brown sugar), shirataki noodles with oat fiber that seriously tastes like the real thing and Quest loaded taco tortilla-style chips that are like a fiesta in your mouth (pasta and chip cravings are REAL during the beginning, y’all!), and ALL the cheese.
You see, many of the yummy carbs we eat but know are bad for us give us quick and easy energy, but don’t last in nourishment, meaning we don’t feel satisfied or full as easily. Whatever our bodies don’t use up in energy ends up getting stored as fat. It’s no wonder our bodies are subject to weight gain on a diet containing a high amount of carbs. But how do you get nutrients and energy without carbs? Using a ketogenic diet, carbs are replaced with high-fat foods which cause the body to go into a natural state of ketosis. In this way, the body runs on ketones for energy rather than carbohydrates.
No bread or sweets?! That sounds impossible.
I know, I know. I’m met with a lot of eyebrow raises and pure shock when I tell people that it’s as “simple” as cutting out bread and cookies. But, the truth is, it really is easy if you get a bit creative. There are a lot of low-carb friendly bread recipes, and sugar-free options are plentiful when that sweet-tooth kicks in. I mean, with sugar-free cheesecakes and pecan pies on the regular, it’s hard to argue that I’m “deprived” in this way of eating!
How long did it take for Keto to work?
I’m not going to sugar coat it; the first week was AWFUL. I’d heard of the “carb flu” associated with a ketogenic diet thanks to my research, but I didn’t realize how real these claims were. I was constantly sweaty nauseous, weak, grumpy and suffered from some pretty crippling headaches.
I was hungry like no other and wanted to snap at anyone who talked to me. It wasn’t pretty.
But, having read all the testimonials that spoke of this happening, I tried with all my might to push through. It helped that I had told everyone around me I was starting this diet, and part of me wanted to continue just to prove the nay-sayers wrong. About eight days into eating this way, my bad symptoms lifted and I felt a weird sense of energy and clarity I had lacked for quite a while. It was as if I was living in a dimly-lit room for some time and someone finally drew the blinds to help me perk up.
Losing a total of 45 lbs on a ketogenic diet, I got to the lowest weight I’ve been since graduating high school. I actually went back home a month ago and was able to fit into my high school dance dresses! The feeling of being able to fit into those dresses all the way left me like an excited child on Christmas morning, zipping up each dress and realizing I had achieved what I thought was impossible, simply by eating a low carb, high-fat diet.
What Did You Eat Regularly to Lose Weight on a Keto Diet?
One of the biggest excuses I hear for those who don’t think they can stick to a ketogenic diet is that they either have no idea what to eat or get bored easily eating the same meat and veggies over and over. I’ve said it before on several recipes and I’ll say it again: necessity is the mother of invention when it comes to eating Keto meals!
If my husband can dream up a meal he wants, the wheels immediately begin turning on how I can “keto-fy” it. From Italian alfredo pasta nights to cozy Zuppa Toscana evening dinners, I’ve looked for ways to sub ingredients without losing flavor or missing the real thing. In fact, some dishes he actually prefers the low-carb alternative to the carb-loaded original!
Using the Right Keto-friendly Ingredients While Cooking
Having the right ingredients and tools at your disposal is key to keeping up with a ketogenic lifestyle without getting bored or discouraged. Check out my Amazon page to see all of my favorite, tried-and-true keto-friendly products, as well as my favorite kitchen utensils for making low-carb cooking easier. There’s not a single product listed on that page that I haven’t tried and loved myself. They’re all staples in my fridge and pantry now!
Did you work out?
I get this question a lot. While I did work out toward the beginning, it was more for my own cardiovascular health than it was to lose weight. The toning up was just a bonus. I started lifting weights a few times a week, sticking to light weights with several reps. I then began running for a few months as I prepared for two separate 5K runs. Let me add that I am NOT a runner, but I was actually excited at having the energy to train and get up for a race. One of the races I actually ran fasted! I never would think I could say that. It was incredible. I ate an enormous amount of bacon and eggs after.
I haven’t been working out much these past 3 months due to using every excuse in the book, but I really want to get back into it! It is such a great habit for cardiovascular health, and it relieves my stress. Not to mention that I continue to pay a monthly membership! Whoops. Perhaps now that I’ve reached goal weight, THAT will be my next fitness goal.
How about fasting?
The second-most-popular question I get when those curious ask me about a Ketogenic diet is if I participate in intermittent fasting. The simple answer is yes, though none of my fasts have lasted more than 16-18 hours. Intermittent fasting describes a dieting pattern in which a person chooses to eat during only a certain time during the day. Studies have shown that this cycling between fasting and eating can help weight loss efforts, improve metabolic health, and protect against disease. I typically fast during the weekdays from 10-11 PM to 12:45 PM the next day. On the weekends, I choose to fast from 11 PM to 3 or 4 PM. Some days will be longer or shorter, depending on how hungry I am and what I’m doing that day. Above all else, I always try to listen to my body.
Do you count calories? Your macros? Both?
In starting out, I plugged EVERY little thing into MyFitnessPal and stuck to macros of 85% fat, 10% protein, and 5% carbs. Better safe than sorry was my mantra, and it helped me learn what foods had hidden carbs snuck into them. After I got in a pretty rhythmic cadence for meals, I stopped counting all macros and focused mainly on how many net carbs I was having per day (net carbs meaning the total amount of carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols), sticking to 20 net carbs or less per day. I never worried much about calories, as I stopped eating whenever I felt full and didn’t deprive myself if I was hungry.
Overall, a Ketogenic diet has done wonders for my life. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance on my body and its health, and it feels wonderful to not feel guilty for eating or indulging. My hope is that this diet does the same for you!
Did I answer all of your questions? Comment below and let me know if you’re curious about anything else; I’m happy to help!