My Experience with the Keto Diet
Why I tried the Keto diet
I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet, based on the Atkins diet, as it’s been blowing up all over the internet with many people claiming their dramatic weight loss and improved health is down to this strict way of eating.
I originally decided to try the ketogenic diet to improve my health. I’ve been chronically sick with an undiagnosed illness for the past three years which has left my bed bound for months on end with a variety of symptoms. Last year I was also diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and I discovered that a lot of women had a reduction in their symptoms from this particular way of eating.
Although weight loss wasn’t my main aim, if I did manage to lose some fat it would be a happy side effect.
What is the Keto diet?
The name keto is short for ‘ketogenic’ and the aim is to reach ketosis which means your body releases ketones which forces your body to get its energy from fat, instead of your body fueling itself with glucose from carbohydrates. In order to achieve this, you have to severely limit your carb intake (to roughly 20g of carbohydrates a day) and increase your fat intake (to higher than your protein intake) and eating a moderate amount of protein.
How I got on
I discussed the possibility with my nutritionist first since completely changing your diet and eating in such a restrictive way can be dangerous for some people and definitely isn’t appropriate for everyone. Once she gave me the green light to try it for a few months I did a vast amount of research from various sources to make sure I understood the basic rules of what you can and can’t eat and what to expect once your body starts to adapt to this way of eating.
My biggest concern was that like the majority of people, I was a total sugar addict and have a very real sweet tooth. You can’t eat any sugar on the diet, including any natural sugars like maple syrup, honey, dates or agave syrup. There are, however, some artificial sweeteners you can use, but even these are a very strict list as many, many sweeteners are very high on the glycemic index which would cause your insulin to spike and prevent you from reaching ketosis.
I’ve been a pescatarian for almost 10 years and the majority of people who try keto can eat meat, so I was a little concerned of getting enough protein as you can’t eat beans due to their carbohydrate content. A few advocates for keto say you shouldn’t eat soy as it’s inflammatory but since it wouldn’t hinder me from reaching ketosis I kept tofu and tempeh in my diet with fish in order to hit my protein intake.
Another big part of the keto diet is figuring out what calories you should be consuming (for weight gain, weight loss or maintenance) as well as your macros (carbohydrate intake, fat intake and protein intake). Once I had the basic research down I cleared my cupboards of any food I wasn’t allowed and did my first keto food shop. I joined Facebook groups to help me get recipe ideas and to see other peoples results which I hoped would keep me motivated.
Although it’s not easy, I didn’t eat anything I wasn’t ‘allowed’ for months. The sweeteners helped my sweet tooth, things like Konjac noodles satisfied any pasta or noodle cravings, and I experimented with loads of different recipes so I didn’t get bored. I was amazed that I could actually stick to something so strict. I think if I can do it, anyone could with the right resources.
The most important things I learnt
Not everything works for everyone. I did everything by the book and was stricter than a lot of my friends or people I was seeing on Facebook and not only did I not lose any weight whatsoever, I wasn’t actually feeling that much better either. At the time this was truly disheartening but it was only the third type of diet I’ve tried and it sparked my new found passion for nutrition which I will always be grateful for.
Sugar is in everything. Almost everything processed has sugar in it, which forced me to cook everything from scratch. At the time I was annoyed but I’ve now gotten into the habit of cooking 90% of my own meals which I actually love. I currently don’t work or study due to my health so I have the time but I was absolutely amazed by friends and the people in the facebook groups who have families and worked full time and still managed to cook every meal.
Health is is trial and error. There isn’t going to be a quick fix for me, I simply have to figure out what helps my body and what hinders it. Although at times this is the most frustrating thing, I’m learning so much and I’m now far more in tune with my body than most people are.
- https://www.ruled.me/ A lot of the research I began with was from this website. It’s incredibly informative and reliable. They have vast amounts of information for getting started, recipes, a forum and recommendations.
- https://www.ditchthecarbs.com/ Most of the recipes I started out with were from here. Once I understood more about the diet I came up with my own.
- http://meatfreeketo.com/ If you don’t eat meat it can be hard finding recipes that are keto, but this website dedicates themselves to a vegetarian keto lifestyle.
- https://www.myfitnesspal.com/ I used their website and app to track all my macronutrients and calories which was incredibly helpful for the times I didn’t want to follow any recipes or wanted to experiment.