Well, closer to 28ish, but 30 is just so much more dramatic. But yes! I went Keto! And I will probably get a few eyerolls from my fellow dietitians. In fact, I already have. I told an RD friend and she said, “Ugh, not a fan.” And then I treaded a bit more lightly with another friend and said I was doing low carb. Her response was, “Ugh – why!? I could never!”
So why would I want to subject myself to this ultra-restrictive diet in the first place? Well, there are two main reasons. Believe it or not the first is my new job. I started working at Swerve Sweetener (which is an amazing sugar replacement) about two months ago, and Swerve is incredibly popular with the low carb and keto crowd since it doesn’t raise your blood sugar or contribute any impact carbs. So I suppose I wanted to get some street cred with the bloggers I knew I’d be working with and just get a better understanding of what it really entails.
The next reason: self-experimentation. You’ll hear people talk about the keto diet as the magic bullet for health. You’ll lose weight, feel amazing, clear you skin, clear that brain fog, and sleep better! I don’t really buy into these claims for any diet, keto being no exception. However, I’m open minded and we all know conventional medicine falls short in some ways. Plus, I wanted to lose about 10 pounds (what female doesn’t?) and I figured what the heck, I’m going to test out for myself and draw my own conclusions. So here are my personal experiences with going keto for a month…
It Makes You Lose Weight, Quickly
Well duh, it’s a diet. If you follow a diet you lose weight. But the weight loss was quick and relatively painless (I wasn’t starving the whole time). I was down about 4 pounds in the first week, and with some fluctuations over the next 4 weeks, I lost about 7 pounds total. Not bad for someone starting out at a “healthy weight.” And even when I didn’t get a workout in, or I felt like I ate too much, I would still hop on the scale the next morning and see it go down. So this is one of the positives. I think the Keto diet can be an very effective tool for quick weight loss in the short term for someone that does not have any issues following a diet.
Bulletproof Coffee is Freaking Delicious
Y’ALL! That stuff is gooooooood. No wonder people won’t shut up about it. I know, I know, it’s annoying, but I wanted to play around with Intermittent Fasting and needed that coffee to get me to lunch. I made mine with coffee, grass fed Kerrygold butter, MCT Oil, vanilla stevia drops, and topped it with cinnamon. Just blended it up for about 30 seconds and I was off to work. I truly didn’t feel hunger till about noon, which worked perfectly for my 12 – 8 PM eating window. So the coffee has a lot of hype but I honestly enjoyed this part of going keto. It’s not necessary with the diet, but very common and highly recommended. I definitely want to keep experimenting with IF and some sort of AM health elixir that covers a lot of my bases for nutrition and holds me over till lunch. Because I just can’t feel okay putting butter in my coffee every morning.
It Kills Hunger
Fat is the most satiating macronutrient. When you’re eating a diet primarily of fat, you are going to feel very full for a long time, and your meals will most likely be smaller. It took a few days for me to adjust to this extreme fullness. I usually like to have 3 meals and a snack or two, because I find that works with my body, schedule, and hunger. You might have 2 or 3 meals while on the keto diet, and probably won’t feel hungry for snacks in between. I kept having to ask myself “are you actually hungry?” when I reached for food or wanted to have a boredom snack because I hardly ever felt real hunger. I like eating with others, so it was hard for me to not eat with coworkers or my boyfriend when I just wasn’t hungry. It was a good lesson in listening to your body, and this is always something that’s been hard for me. I appreciate that the keto diet made me ultra-aware of my hunger fullness cues.
It Makes Exercise Difficult
Like miserable. First off, my energy was so low on the first two weeks of this diet. The only physical activity I could muster was a walk through the neighborhood, which is fine, but basically the opposite of the keto promise of amazing energy! And then, when I finally forced myself to go to an Orange Theory class after work, I literally felt like I was going to pass out, vomit, or both. And when I started to think about it, that made sense. Fat takes a long time to digest, about 6-8 hours. So when I was sprinting away on the treadmill and doing freaking squat jumps, that didn’t feel too good while my body was still trying to digest a fat-filled lunch. I took another OTF class is the morning before eating and I felt much more energetic and didn’t feel any acid reflux-like symptoms, which makes sense because my body had digested everything I ate the previous day, and was just in a fasted state (side note: exercise in the morning while fasted is awesome for weight loss).
Nutrition Density Suffers
Your most nutrient dense foods are fruits and vegetables. You basically can only have green vegetables on this diet. To hit my fat and carb goals for the day, I found it very difficult to get at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables in my diet. The whole mentality is eat more fat and eat less carbs, so I felt like I was going to knock myself out of ketosis if I had a big salad for lunch, and smoothies were pretty much out of the question because I’m sorry, I didn’t want to drink liquid grass for breakfast. I will say, I got pretty excited about cream and cheese and cream cheese at the beginning of this whole thing. I probably could have crunched some more numbers to make this experience as nutrient dense as possible. But if that was difficult for me, a dietitian, don’t you think that would be difficult for the average person to figure this whole healthy keto thing out?
It (Maybe) Helped My Dandruff
One of the big promises of a high fat diet is improvement in skin issues. Dandruff is one that I suffer with, which is extremely annoying and doesn’t make sense to me because I have oily skin! But I digress… my dandruff really improved while I was on the keto diet. However, I had also done a homemade treatment of coconut oil, lemon juice, tea tree oil, and baking soda the first week I started and I think that helped it too. So I can’t declare causation because of my two interventions. But I do think it helped!
It Does Not Cure Acne
Another very common skin issue is acne. All around my chin and jawline I get big painful zits, which I think is hormonal based off of their location and my lady situation, which is just a discussion for a whole other post! Going keto did not decrease the size or frequency of my breakouts. My skin may have even gotten worse. I’m not sure why – maybe because I was eating more dairy? All I know is that it didn’t miraculously clear up my skin like I’ve heard it can sometimes do.
You Can Still Have Sweets and Booze
I mentioned before I work for Swerve Sweetener, which is why I decided to go keto in the first place. Swerve is an erythritol-based sweetener that does not affect your blood sugar, but still tastes sweet and has no aftertaste. So you can still have your chocolate chip cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, and brownies! It all comes down to swapping out ingredients. Almond flour instead of white flour, Swerve instead of sugar, Zevia instead of coke, etc. One thing I really enjoyed was having a piece of “freezer fudge” after dinner, which was a mix of coconut oil, cocoa powder, Swerve, and almond butter. It was so delicious, I didn’t miss sweets at all. You can also still drink, but stick to certain kinds of booze. Hard liquors with soda water or other zero calorie mixers are your best bet. You can have wine but it’s not the best choice. Beer and sugary drinks are pretty much off the table. Note that processing alcohol takes precedence before any other metabolic functions in the body, including weight loss. So if your reason for being keto is weight loss, then drinking heavily is probably not a good idea, but when is drinking heavily ever really a good idea? Unless you’re at a wedding..or tailgating…or at Jazzfest..or its Friday..okay I’ll stop.
It’s a Diet, Not a Lifestyle
I’m really over all these keto advocates saying it’s a lifestyle. Are you kidding?! You are restricting your carbs to 20-50g per day, how does that restriction equate to a “healthy lifestyle?” It doesn’t. I went to an engagement party while I was keto and I couldn’t even have a piece of cake or even a Wheat Thin on this diet. Maintaining this ultra low carb intake on a daily basis would be extremely difficult over time. I know by the end of it for me, I was so done. I was literally craving crackers and bread because I knew I couldn’t have them. And I don’t even usually crave those types of carbs! Diets are an unhealthy cycle of restriction followed by a binge, and it’s why 95% of diets fail and people gain back all the weight they lost and more. I truly hope this is not the case with all these people trying keto, but sadly they will most likely fall into this cycle once they get off the keto diet.
It Won’t Work if You’re an Emotional Eater
I mentioned earlier that this diet really satiates you and keeps you full. You can go hours without food and simply eat again when you’re ready. But if you are someone that eats out of boredom or for comfort, this is not going to work for you. Keto won’t fix disordered eating patterns or emotionally eating to fill a void that has nothing to do with food. And it could leave you feeling even more frustrated and triggered to eat if you’re not losing weight.
All of this being said, I know people are probably still curious and thinking about trying it out for themselves. Here are some tips for those wanting to try out the keto diet:
Tips for Trying Keto
- Drink a ton of water to help you stay hydrated and keep your energy up. At least half of your body weight in ounces daily. You will lose a lot of water at the beginning of the diet.
- Try to incorporate non-starchy veggies into every meal so that you’re getting the nutrition you need. Load up on greens, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, etc.
- Invest in a good Keto cookbook or guidebook. The Keto Diet is loaded with information, and I found it helpful for troubleshooting. And I love the recipes from The Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen. And there’s a million keto recipes on Pinterest these days.
- Try to include more plant based fats, like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and coconut. Don’t eat cream cheese all day (I know, life is so unfair).
- Listen to your body and your hunger! You will feel very full most of the time from this way of eating. Don’t eat because your bored/procrastinating/tired/etc.
- Incorporate the foods you love! There are probably tweaks you can make to your favorite meals, healthy or not, to make them keto approved.
- Get some Swerve, make some chocolate chip cookies full of butter, and chuckle knowing these foods are compliant with this style of eating!
- But also don’t only eat keto-friendly desserts. See bullet #2.
Here’s the thing. Keto is another diet. You lose weight on diets because you’re manipulating your biology. Keto happens to be a pretty effective one because it switches your fuel from sugar to your own body fat for energy.
But it’s important to note that when I tracked my food, I found that I was eating about 1300 calories daily, which is what I’d put myself on if I was just trying to lose weight the normal, old fashioned way. Calories aren’t the whole story, but you have to be burning more calories than you’re eating if your goal is weight loss.
The nutrition you get from food and the percentages of macronutrients you eat are incredibly important for weight loss – they can be the difference between feeling miserably starved, or pleasantly full and empowered through a weight loss journey.
Ultimately, the diet that works best is the one that is most sustainable for you in the long run. That’s how a diet can become a lifestyle – by you being able to keep the main principles of an eating style, with a few treats sprinkled in here and there. Keto is sustainable for some people, but it wasn’t sustainable for me. I didn’t feel great on it, I missed my big entrees salads at lunch and smoothies for breakfast, and I don’t do well with extreme restriction. That’s why I’m always trying to find balance! It just wasn’t an eating pattern I felt was best for me.