Farewell, sweet carbs.
As someone who loves pasta and bagels and is Italian-American and grew up on the Standard American, carb-heavy diet, attempting a low-carb, ketogenic diet seems like quite the hurdle. But I did dabble with really trying to be better at it in 2017, though for various reasons my approach was on again-off again and while I overall lost about 11 pounds, it wasn't where I wanted to be and some of that was on me and not being consistent.
So this year, for 2018, one of my goals was to improve my overall health and that includes my weight and diet and overall general wellness. I've noticed the older I get the more bloated and sluggish I feel after large, carb-heavy meals and since I didn't want to spend every day in digestive discomfort and actually make progress in losing weight, I need to better commit to keeping calm and keto on.
Getting started on keto
The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb, moderate-protein way of eating and the usual keto macro ratio is 60-70% fat, 20-30% protein, 5-10% carbs. The idea is to be in ketosis, where your body switches to using ketones instead of glucose for fuel and becomes better at using fat for energy so that you ultimately become fat-adapted. Positive benefits of this diet can include weight-loss, improved digestion, appetite suppression via better satiety, improved hormonal and reproductive health, improved skin and hair health, some improvement with certain mental health disorders like anxiety, and more.
One of the most important things I want to impart off the bat is that everyone is different and while there are keto police out there who preach that people must eat 20 net carbs or less, not everyone is the same and you should find what works for you. 20 net carbs or less will pretty much guarantee you go into ketosis, but most people also seem to do fine with 50 net carbs or less. For me, I find my sweet spot can be 35-40 net carbs but if I go over that and under 50 I won't stress either. It's a marathon not a sprint and some days I can't do only 20.
Do your homework and research, experiment, and find your own way of doing keto. KetoConnect on YouTube is a pretty great channel for info and I like they aren't into being the keto police. I also really like Kellie Foster on YT and Instagram, though she's more active on Instagram Stories than YouTube and very open about her struggles with recovering from binge eating disorder and the power of positivity.
Having your kitchen stocked with keto ingredients and having meals planned out and a structure in place can really help to keep consistent and on track. I basically have a spinach salad with cheese, bacon, olives and dressing every day and I've begun to actually look forward to that meal. I eat a lot of repeat meals to keep things simple: unsweetened coffee with cream in the morning and either a Kirkland protein bar, egg bites or bacon, meat and veg for lunch, meat and veg for dinner. I make a lot of low carb soups, stews, chili, and meat sauce in my Instant Pot, leverage spaghetti squash when I crave pasta, and every now and then use low carb tortilla to make pizza. I like cooking but I work full time and am generally lazy after 5pm so I'd rather have a handful of fave food staples than feel the need to go crazy every day with new things. But if you like variety, Pinterest is the beeeeeeeest at collecting recipes and inspiration.
A supportive community also is a lifesaver with any big change or goal. I really like the sub-reddit Ladies on Keto (r/xxketo) and find it to be a bit kinder than the main r/keto group. I've found them to be very helpful, open to questions, really supportive and with a lot of good ideas and tips. Maybe also find a friend or two to help be a accountability buddy. Whichever you prefer, having a good support system is really important.
Avoiding keto flu
One of the crap side effects of starting this diet is the dreaded keto flu, and had I done my homework when I made my first initial attempts years ago I would have realized feeling like barely warmed over death was totally avoidable! As you initially shed a lot of water at the beginning of this diet, you're also shedding electrolytes with that water so you need to make sure to supplement extra sodium, potassium, magnesium. The general consensus as recommendations go is a minimum of 5,000 mg sodium daily, 3,000 mg potassium, and 500 mg magnesium. I can hear it now: OH MY GOD ALL THE SALT WTF SALT IS BAD.
Okay but not necessarily, y'all. As you're losing a lot of water and electrolytes on this diet, you need to replace them so you don't feel like a pile of achy breaky nope. Adding pink salt and potassium-based salt substitute to water with a little unsweetened flavoring is a popular way to get the necessary electrolytes, as well as getting enough mineral-rich foods like spinach, kale, avocado, etc. A good magnesium supplement can also help but as I said before, find what works for you and obviously don't go TOO crazy with salt. Too much salt and potassium can have a laxative effect and um....it's not pretty.
Not everything is a straight line
One of the things that can derail people from this way of eating is that in the first week or everything is great! I'm losing tons of weight! This is magic! And then the water loss phase stops and after 2-3 weeks you might stall, actually gain some weight, and in general find things have slowed down and what the fuck everything was great and now this doesn't work! Next!
Listen friends, I've been there. I've gotten frustrated and moved on after barely 3 weeks because I couldn't be patient and couldn't really understand that weight loss is NOT linear. Some weeks you'll lose 2 pounds, the next maybe gain a pound, lose nothing the following week, and oh no shark week is approaching here's a 2 pound gain and oh hey, WHOOOOOSH 4 pounds down. It's rarely a straight line angled down, like most of life there are bumps along the way and the key to success is be consistent, be patient, and stay on target. Eventually you'll see those bumpy lines do trend downwards, and there's more victories than just ones on the scale. You might notice your moods improve, your stomach hurts less, you have more energy, your hair is looking amazing, clothes fit better.
It's as they say in keto circles, Keep Calm and Keto On.
Have you tied keto or are interested in trying it? Leave a comment!