Keto saved my life. No, I am not exaggerating, if my friends hadn’t introduced me to the Ketogenic way of life 18 months ago I would be quickly heading towards an early death as we speak. I’m sure I would have been close to having a heart attack by now.
At the start of 2017 I weighed 144.2kg. I am so embarrassed to share that and for a very very long time I hadn’t told anyone. In fact, there are probably only a handful of people who knew that until now. I managed to lose around 6kg over a period of about 3 months using a conventional diet. It took absolutely every ounce of energy and willpower I had to get there. And I can tell you that despite wanting it so badly, I can look back at it now and tell you for certain that I never could have maintained that way of life.
Around the same time, two of my friends started this keto way of eating. I knew absolutely nothing about it, in fact I hadn’t even heard of it. Looking at how mainstream it is becoming now, it seems hard to believe. One of my friends explained it briefly, saying you eat low carbs and high fat. She said you eat lots of butter, olive oil and bacon amongst other things and that was about the extent of what she told me. I had my concerns, this went against everything you’ve ever heard about how to eat healthy. I said to her to be careful because I was worried about her and I didn’t want anything to happen to her. We all knew that fat clogs your arteries and causes heart attacks, right????
She went on with this “diet”, and told me she was making good progress. I live in a different state to her so it was a while until I saw her. When I was home next, I couldn’t believe the change I saw in her in such a short amount of time. This got me curious and I spoke more to her and our other friend about it. The other friend told me about all of the science behind this way of life. Her doctor was also supportive of giving this a go. Between seeing their fantastic results and hearing that this actually had a foundation in science, and wasn’t just another fad diet, I had to give it a go.
I decided I would start when I got back after Easter. I ate all the things I thought I would miss one last time, ate all my Easter eggs and then committed to trying it. My starting weight on keto was 138.9kg. I was still sceptical that this was safe, and I was also terrified that it wouldn’t work for me and that I wouldn’t lose the weight. I knew I needed something miraculous, and I found it in keto.
In the first week I lost 5kg. That was enough motivation for me to keep going. The first couple of weeks were tough. Adjusting to a new way of eating and a new mindset. Tracking what I ate in an app called fat secret to make sure I stuck to my macros so I would go into ketosis. Learning to read the signs of whether I was truly hungry. Then there is the side effects of switching from burning glucose to burning ketones or fat to fuel your body. I’ll be brutally honest here, when your body is adjusting to the increased levels of fat, you want to make sure you’re close to a toilet at all times. This can take about a week or two. There is also the possibility of the keto flu to contend with. This is largely I believe related to the withdrawal of sugar. For me it wasn’t too bad, which was surprising considering just how addicted to sugar I was. I experienced about 3 days of headaches and light headedness.
I was lucky that my body got straight on with the weight loss journey, but for some it takes time for the body to heal and start undoing the damage that has been done to it over many many years. I’d like to think that even if I hadn’t seen the results on the scales as quickly as I did, that I still would have stuck with it. There have been numerous other health benefits besides the weight loss, and a lot of them I could see pretty quickly. Within a couple of weeks, I had a noticeable amount of extra energy. My breathing improved and I get sick less often. My blood test results have continually been getting better and better, with everything in the perfect range this most recent doctors visit. My sleep quality improved significantly, which was incredible given I sleep poorly as a result of having chronic back pain. Over time, the reduction in inflammatory foods has resulted in the muscles in my back relaxing a lot and the physio being able to do a lot more work to help me. My abilit to focus improved and while my pain didn't decrease at all, I was able to mentally handle it better and to have increased activity through it.
My period became much more regular. Most importantly I have been able to return to dancing, the thing I love doing most.
Everyone I know who has tried and stuck with keto calls it a way of life. It isn’t a diet that’s for sure. There is no “missing out”, it really is a complete change in lifestyle. The Facebook group LowCarb world teaches you not just about the food that will work well with your body and cut out inflammation to improve health, but it teaches you to retrain your mind. You are encouraged to think about whether you are truly hungry or just bored or emotional or eating because it is that time of the day. You learn about why certain foods cause certain reactions in the body. You learn about intermittent fasting and the many benefits it has. You can learn the why, the science, behind everything they encourage you to do.
I won’t pretend that my journey has been all smooth sailing. I’m 18 months in, and while I know this is for life I’m not always perfect. I’m not at maintenance yet but I eat from the orange list (green list is the foods you can eat freely, orange is higher carb and for maintenance and red list is the foods you should never touch). My weight has gone up as well as down at times, however I usually can pinpoint exactly why. I have (only on a handful of occasions) had something red list/not compliant. My weakness is still chocolate and once I start it can be hard to stop eating it, although I have learned to love 70% chocolate. Even though I do stray occasionally, I have learned that one small slip up doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of this journey, or that the week is a write off or even that the day is. I get straight back onto it, and every time I make the choice to eat something green list or resist the urge to have something off the red list, I am proud of myself.
I haven’t eaten any form of rice, potato, or pasta in 18 months. I absolutely love the food, and I have also become a much better cook as a result of this journey. I don’t have to feel like I am missing out, because on occasion I can cook keto sweets, and I can assure you they are as good as the “real thing”.
I thought for sure I would miss carbs. While I have occasional cravings now, they last about 10 seconds and then they are gone. It really only took about 4 weeks for the serious cravings to pass. It's amazing how quickly you adjust to a new way of life.
As of today I am down to 77.2kg. I never could have dreamed I would be here. So that’s 61.7kg I’ve lost thanks to keto, and 67kg total. I’m getting really really close to having lost half my body weight, and that will be something worth celebrating. I’d still like to lose another 15kg, and I know that in time I will get there. However, if I never lost any more weight I would still be happy. The majority of my progress was made through diet alone. I lost my first 30 or 40kg without doing any exercise besides my walk to the train station and back. Diet really is 95% of the battle.
If you’ve ever thought about trying keto, please do. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And go join LowCarb World on Facebook. The knowledge and support in that group is second to none. I’ve never seen a more supp