Get the inside scoop of this low-carb, high-fat diet as I share the trials and triumphs of my keto journey. Note this a long read but I promise to be brutally honest.
In the past it was easy to manage my weight. Being tall, I generally weigh more and my physique hides the fact that I am actually overweight. If I gained a few kilograms I would go on a quick weight loss programme to shed the excess weight. Yet it isn’t all that easy once you are in your 40’s and hormones and perimenopause becomes a contributing factor. So the older I got, I started embracing my love handles, curves and have become comfortable with the way I look as long as my clothes still fit me.
So why did I start Keto diet?
In February this year I started feeling sluggish, my clothes didn’t fit and I felt out of breath when I climbed a flight of stairs or just went for a short walk. Then in March, lockdown happened and all I did was snack – piling on more kilos. Although I participated in a scheduled home exercise regimen; it didn’t help much if the rest of the day consisted of lying on the couch and stuffing my face with what was in the grocery cupboard and fridge. Boredom led to more unhealthy habits. Furthermore I continued to feel lethargic, experienced daily headaches and lower back pain.
Up until now, I have never had any health issues that forced me to be reliant on chronic medication. I also intend keeping it that way. With a family history of hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol and heart disease; lowering the risk of contracting these silent killers are vital.
Then on Easter Sunday I stumbled upon a blog post written by Amanda Carpede detailing her weight-loss journey. I thought if she could do it, so could I and in that moment I had a turning point. Despite the fact that I wanted to lose the weight; I first had to do my research. I didn’t know anything about this keto diet and I couldn’t just jump straight into it. I’ve always known that a person’s nutritional needs should consist of a balanced diet that incorporate all food groups. So the concept of going completely low-carb was mindboggling; especially when I was raised believing that bread and potatoes are life. Just to let you know, I still believe these two staples are life!
On the contrary; I wanted to break out of the slump I found myself in and my ultimate goal was to shed the weight. Therefore I went all in and gave it a try.
What is the keto diet?
The keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. When you eat a very small amount of carbs and eliminate sugar, your body goes into a state of ketosis. Usually your body relies on glucose which derives from carbohydrates as the main source of energy. Whereas ketosis allows the body to go into a natural metabolic state by producing ketone bodies out of fat for energy. Ketone bodies are compounds produced by the liver to provide energy to cells when glucose is low. In short, when you on a keto diet your body burns fat for energy.
The primary rule to succeed on the keto diet is to drastically reduce your carb intake. This means that a person who is following the keto diet must have a daily carb into that ranges between 20 – 50 grams a day. This was a tall order considering that 1 potato is already 20 grams of carbs. I downloaded the free version of the Carb Manager App that calculated my personal macros (daily carbs, fats and protein you need to consume). It is essential that you have a keto diet tracker and macros counter which will assist you to stay in ketosis.
Restricted to a daily carb intake of 32 grams meant eliminating so many foods from my diet. Adjusting to eating fewer carbs and staying within this range was extremely difficult when I started off. No doubt, I struggled and to make matters worse the temptation to was right in my face. My family was eating pasta, pizza, fries and all the delicious carbs in front of me.
My first week on the keto diet was dreadful. I developed keto flu which meant that my body was responding to the low carb intake and it was transitioning into a state of ketosis. I felt like death – I was irritable, experienced headaches, flu symptoms, brain fog, dry eyes, constipation and keto breath. Out of all the symptoms, I think my foul-smelling breath was the worst. Fortunately I could combat the smell by wearing a mask, chewing sugar-free mints, using mouthwash, and drinking lots of water.
The keto flu was short lived, my breath improved, my body adjusted well and I was achieving satiety. Meaning no more hunger pains. Prepping my meals helped me control my portions, saved me time and allowed me to stay within my daily calorie intake. The biggest triumph is definitely the rapid weight loss. Every weight-loss stage is pure joy. For example when you just manage to fit into your favorite jeans, then as you shed a few kilos it fits like a glove and finally you at that stage where it literally falls off.
Once you understand how your body responds to what you eat; you view food differently and by doing that, you make better food choices. Initially I thought it was going to be expensive to do this but it wasn’t. In fact the only grocery items that are a bit expensive are berries which I buy in bulk and then freeze it. Another is almond milk but as I am the only one who drinks it, it lasts quite long. This I buy in bulk when it is on promotion. I have learnt to bake with flour and sugar alternatives and because I am using less measuring quantities it also lasts longer. You welcome to check out the recipes I posted thus far as well as my Instagram page – Millingcoconuts.
When I started off, I used to cook separately for myself but I no longer do. My family has been extremely supportive throughout my weight-loss journey. We will eat the same proteins and I will always make sure that there is at least two low-carb vegetables on the menu. The only difference is that they will have starch and I won’t. On days when they want takeaways, I will either cook for myself or opt for a low-carb option on the menu. Alternatively I will grab something from the Woolworths Carbclever range. The best thing ever is that I can still enjoy alcohol whilst on keto – pure spirits contains no carbs and a glass of red or white wine only contains 2 grams of carbs. I avoid sugar sweetened mixers with spirits and I caution my alcohol consumption as excessive alcohol intake can reduce ketone production.
After being on the keto diet for 6 months, I have lost a total of 15 kilograms. I now have more energy, my sleeping patterns have improved and I feel healthier.
Keto health concerns
Although there are many health benefits linked to the keto diet, my biggest concern was that my cholesterol was going to increase because of the high-fat intake. I managed to keep my cholesterol levels low by doing an intermittent fast (eating my meals within an 8-hour window period) at least 4 times a week, eating more unsaturated fats (avocado, plant based oils, nuts and seeds), omega-rich fish and not consuming too much eggs, heaps of butter and fatty proteins. Because the keto diet limits you from eating a variety of foods that are high in sodium and potassium, I had to increase my salt intake and eat lots of leafy green vegetables.
Will I sustain it long-term?
Truth is, I don’t see myself continuing with the keto diet over the long-term. It is not something that I intend making part of my lifestyle. Being 2 kilograms shy of my goal weight; I want to maintain my weight. In order to do this I need to continue being mindful of my carb intake. I think continuing tracking my macros will be imperative as I slowly introduce a variety of food options into my diet.
Bottom line is, the keto diet works. If you want to lose the weight then I recommend it. Bear in mind, this diet is not a one-size-fits-all type of eating programme and it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. You need to have a strong will power and mentally you need to be up for the challenge. It is also always best to consult with your medical practitioner as it is advised that people with underlying health conditions should avoid following this diet.
Lastly, I recommend that you do your research before embarking on following the keto diet.