When it comes to losing weight, I've tried it ALL at this point: the cabbage soup diet, grapefruit diet, master cleanse (Beyoncé made me do it), Atkins, counting points, juices and meal delivery services. You name it, I've tried it. Don’t even get me started on weight-loss infomercials.
Eight months ago I gave birth to my second child, Viviana. Along with my Viviana has come an extra 13 pounds, four pairs of split pants and a couple of busted zippers. I gave myself seven months postpartum where I didn't even think about dieting. I’m not looking to get my body back. I grew and birthed two human beings, that is incredible and I don’t want to erase that in any way.
What I DO want "back" is my confidence and my ability to wear my pants without tearing holes in them.
So here I am in familiar territory, scouring the internet for a new diet to try. It's clear that the ketogenic diet is having a moment (even Al Roker is a big fan of keto.) I figured I'd give it a shot for 30 days and see what happened.
The keto or ketogenic diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet… I’m talking low-carb to the extreme!
According to New York City-based nutritionist Keri Glassman only 5 percent of your calories should come from carbohydrates, 20 percent from protein and 75 percent from fat. To put that into perspective, on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s only 25 grams of carbs (which I usually consume by 6 a.m., thanks to my coffee creamer).
How on earth can a diet so high in fat actually work? The explanation actually does make sense: Normally our bodies use glucose (carbohydrates) for fuel. If you deplete your body of carbs it will turn to fat for its fuel source. That metabolic state is called ketosis and it’s supposed to turn you into a fat burning machine! Getting there doesn’t happen overnight, it can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
Possible benefits include:
- Weight loss
- Appetite control
- Better mental focus
- Increased HDL (the good cholesterol)
- Lowered blood pressure
Possible cons include:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- The "Keto flu" (tired, irritable, sugar cravings)
Starting the diet
Switching over to a ketogenic diet was overwhelming for me. I didn’t realize that my entire life revolved around carbs. Sunday pasta dinners were the norm growing up and I LOVE carbs — like really, really love them! So when I first decided to try keto, I thought I would starve because there was nothing I could eat. I’m happy to say that’s not true.
Here are some keto-friendly foods:
- Fatty fish
- Full-fat dairy
- Full-fat cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Nut butter
- Healthy fats, like avocados
- Non-starchy vegetables
The first week
I committed to trying this diet for 30 days. I’ll be honest: These were the longest four weeks of my entire life. I went through every single emotion you could think of.
Day one of week one was great! I prepared myself to be fully miserable, exhausted and in dire need of carbs. I wasn’t at all. Day two… Same exact thing! Then day three hit, and I was miserable. I'm embarrassed to admit that I came very, very close to stealing a bagel out of a stranger's hand. And now anger set in every time I saw a carbohydrate. I tried to work out but had to stop after 30 minutes of cardio because I had zero energy.
As bad as I felt towards the end of that first week, when I weighed myself I couldn’t believe how fast the numbers started to go down. I’ve never lost weight that fast in my life. For me, that’s the exact motivation I needed to stay on track.
Making the diet work for me
By week two I was getting really bored with the foods so I started to look online for inspiration and found a really nice community. I reached out to this woman Suzanne Ryan (@KetoKarma on Instagram) who lost over 100 pounds on keto. She gave me a bunch of recipes from her cookbook and that was a game changer. I found that if I took the time to actually prep my meals for the week, the chances of me cheating and getting bored decreased dramatically. Recognizing my weaknesses was a big shift for me; normally I’d just call it quits.
It was during week two that I realized how many things in my life revolve around food, and more often than not, carbohydrates. My weight loss stalled a little during week three and it is likely because I had some cheat days. That’s the thing about keto, if you go off of it, it takes a while to get your body back on track.
The other thing I noticed was when I put carbohydrates back in my body (a lot came from sugar when I cheated) I physically felt horrible, and that feeling lasted a good two days. The cheating just wasn't worth it on this diet.
By week four, I actually lost the desire to shove any carbohydrate within eyesight in my face, it was a miracle! This diet did something so much bigger for me than just losing 8.5 pounds: It pointed out my relationship with food, and currently, it’s not a good one. When I’m tired… I eat. When I’m bored… I eat. When I want to reward myself… I do it with food.
I realized that often I’m eating just to eat, not to truly nourish my body and enjoy what I’m putting in it. I never realized it before, but this diet was like a magnifying glass for me.
Here’s the truth: I love carbs WAY too much to give them up permanently. It’s just not sustainable for me. I wanted to do this to fit back into my pre-baby clothes. And guess what, I do!
More importantly than the weight loss, I now have a better understanding of my relationship with food and the changes that need to be made in my everyday life for me to be healthy and stop dieting once and for all. Going forward I’m going to try to embrace a low-carb lifestyle but let’s be real, a girl needs a slice of pizza every now and then.