There is so much information available about what keto is and how to do it (check out LowCarb World on Facebook or www.lowcarbworld.uk) so I will keep this post fairly short, covering just the basics.
I had tried everything to lose weight prior to starting keto. I had tried weight watchers, lite n easy, youfoodz, counting calories and eating "healthy". I never did try shakes though. I would lose a little bit of weight and then have a cheat meal and then either spiral out of control because I couldn't stop, or put on weight and get disheartened.
Losing weight and dieting can take up so much mental energy, it's exhausting. People were worried about my weight, but the thing was I was trying, literally all of the time, to lose weight. The problem for me was that nothing was sustainable and nothing worked. I realise now that nothing was ever going to work except a low carb way of eating. I can see now that I look back what negative impacts carbs had on my body, but when these impacts are all you know as normal you don't realise there is an issue. I was bloated, felt off, had bathroom issues that I usd always put down to high fat when the real culprit was the carbs. I was tired, there was always the 3pm slump after eating a decent lunch.
The worst thing was I was a carb and sugar addict and had an addiction to food in general. It ruled my life. I'll cover this in a lot more detail in a future blog post, as I'm getting off topic for now.
I had previously lost a significant amount of weight when I was around 21. I have no idea how much weight I lost, or how long it took or what size/weight I got to. There aren't many pictures of me around from this time either. What I do know is how hard I had to work to lose that weight. I couldn't eat anything fun. I had to constantly think about what I was eating and I was constantly hungry and felt deprived. I also had to exercise for at least 45 minutes a day at high intensity. I was riding the exercise bike because it was the best cardio I could do, which I absolutely despised, and I wouldn't let myself have a day off. If I did I felt incredibly guilty.
This approach wasn't healthy. I was also constantly hungry and having to fight it. But it was the only way I could lose weight. Needless to say I put all that weight back on and more.
At the start of 2017 my friend's found keto. I saw their results and after some initial concerns for how healthy this way of eating could possibly be, given it goes against everything we are taught about good nutrition, I saw the results and learned about the science and had to give it a go. What did I have to lose? Nothing but about 75kg.
What are the basics of eating keto you ask? Keto involved eating a very low number of carbs a day, moderate protein and high fat. There is a thing called macros that give you guidelines for what you should be eating in a day, they are:
Up to 20g net carbs a day
45g to 110g protein (how much protein is in your food not the weight of the food)
100g to 300g fat a day
With the fat, this equates to 4 to 5 tablespoons of added fat (e.g. olive oil, butter, coconut oil) plus whatever is in your food. The good news is, now you're free to eat all of the tasty stuff like the crackling on pork belly and bacon. Cheaper cuts of meat are also better because they contain more fat, so not only are you losing weight and getting healthier but it's cheaper and the food is tasty. So many wins.
It's also good to remember that protein isn't just coming from meat and fish, it also comes from eggs and cheese. This way of life is achievable for vegetarians. You can also keep things as simple as you would like or follow one of the many amazing recipes out there. A meal can be as simple as a palm sized piece of steak cooked in olive oil with 2 tablespoons of butter placed on top to melt over it (trust me this is delicious) and a small salad with a dressing made from light flavoured olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and Dijon mustard. This is one of my favourite weekend meals.
When you start this way of eating, what you can and can't eat can be hard to wrap your head around. Definite exclusions are bread, pasta, rice, flour and potato. Easy to remember those hey? You also need to be aware when eating out to check if these items are in what you're eating. Don't be afraid to ask for them to be excluded. Fruit should be kept aside until you're in maintenance or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Pumpkin? A small amount is ok but go for Kent or jap, definitely not butternut. Interesting fact, butternut pumpkin isn't actually a pumpkin at all (Google it). Lowcarb World (a private group on Facebook or www.lowcarbworld.uk) has a green, orange and red list outlining the foods you can eat freely (green), foods for when you're in maintenance (orange) and foods you should never go near (red list). I found it useful to track what I ate for the first couple of months until I got used to how much I could eat and stay within my macros. FatSecret is a great app for this. Other people use my fitness pal. Also bonus is you don't need to count calories. They may look high at first, and that may concern you but I promise calories aren't an issue. The fat will boost your calories but the fat is where you get a lot of your key nutrients from and is the magic that keeps you feeling satisfied.
Items on the red list are either highly processed and full of chemicals, high carbs or inflammatory. This way of eating is all about eating real food, and anything processed is simply not good for you. Inflammatory food, research is showing now, is the cause of heart disease. Inflammatory foods cause inflammation in your body. A few examples include soy, peanuts, legumes.
There were two key things I did before getting started that really helped me on my journey. The first was to clean out my pantry of all red list foods. I know not everyone thinks they can do this for various reasons, such as other household members not doing keto with them (hopefully given time you'll get everyone in the house on board when they see your results and how delicious the food is). Without temptation staring me in the face, staying strict was easier. The second thing was to pay close attention to whether I was actually hungry or whether I was bored or eating out of habit because it was dinner time or lunchtime.
One of the key things with keto is eating only when truly hungry. When you first start that will be 3 times a day, but if your fat intake is high enough then this will quickly drop down to two meals a day. And after a while, when you become fat adapted this for most people, drops to one meal a day. 95% of the time I'm one meal a day, but if I haven't had enough fat either during the day or the day before I find I'm hungry and need to eat more. Listen to your body and you can't go wrong. It took me quite some time to learn my hunger signals and to learn how to get past wanting to eat when you're emotional or bored. Distraction really helps. Also try drinking a glass of water and waiting to see if you're still hungry. It really does work.
Adjusting mentally to only needing to eat once a day is also difficult but you can get there.
For the salt lovers out there you will love this way of eating. It's strongly encouraged to add salt to all of your food. When eating keto you don't get salt from processed food like everyone else does, and we need salt to keep our electorlytes in balance. You'll notice if you haven't had enough because you'll get muscle cramps. So learn to love adding salt. As someone who never added salt to anything this is always a challenge for me to even remember to do this. I think I've finally got it sorted 18 months on.
When you're first staring keto, I'm sorry to say but you can expect a few days of unpleasantness. Stay close to a bathroom as the adjustment to high fat can play with your tummy. Some people experience keto flu, which can range from headaches through to actual flu like symptoms. Luckily this only lasts a few days. This is a combination of your body switching from burning glucose as a fuel source to using fat to create ketones to use for fuel. Quickly though you should notice you feel better, less bloated hopefully and have more energy.
At first keto seemed like this magic black box, and sometimes the satisfying effect eating fat has still seems like this miracle. As someone who was always hungry even if I'd only eaten an hour before, to feel satisfied for the first time in my life is amazing.
Don't forget for a much more detailed look at how to become keto and for some amazing advice and support join LowCarb World on Facebook or visit www.lowcarbworld.uk