As the title would suggest, I’ve been on somewhat of a health kick since early January. My husband, daughter and I went away to the US over Christmas which meant we spent the best part of three weeks in ‘holiday eating mode’. As if Christmas time doesn’t leave you feeling as though you’ve over indulged enough. I started going to the gym last year and having a session once a week with a personal trainer, but I really didn’t get that into the zone.
Having piled on quite a few unwanted pounds (like 20), I decided, even before our holiday, I needed to re-frame and get myself fit, healthy and feeling good again. Why does it take more effort, willpower and time to lose weight than it does to gain it?
Having tried various ‘diets’ in the past, I’ve only had mild success with the likes of Slimming World, or low fat style diets and found that I always felt hungry. I figured I’d switch things up this year and try something totally different. I started researching the ketogenic diet. If you are not familiar, keto is high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate and no sugar. Essentially, it goes against everything you’ve every been taught about a ‘healthy diet’.
I have held off from writing this post for one of two reasons. Like any diet, I didn’t know how long I’d be able to stick to it and how strict I could be with myself. But, the main reason is because I wanted to see how effective the diet would be.
Fast forward six weeks, and I’ve lost 10 pounds and 3.5 inches off my waist, I feel much more energised and I’ve been keeping up a regular routine of working out at least 3 times a week, but often 4, even 5. I’ve kept up my personal training sessions on a Monday evening, I feel this helps set me up for the week.
For the most part, keto does not feel like a diet. I mean name me another diet where you can eat bacon (with the fat on), cheese and double cream. I’ve been having a variety of foods such as steak, oily fish, avocado, nuts, seeds, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and my absolute favourite Brussels sprouts). I’ve also experimented with some keto baking (cookies and brownies with plant based sweetener).
Cutting out carbohydrates, or cutting your intake down to below 20g a day is quite challenging at first. Take your usual diet and turn it on it’s head, you practically have to retrain your brain to not be scared of fats. You have to completely avoid anything with carbs and sugar. Even carbs or gains that you perhaps considered as ‘healthy ‘ such as quinoa, brown rice and oats become a no go on keto.
So let’s talk about ‘Keto Flu’. I had done a LOT of research before I started. I’d read that when transitioning into a ketogenic lifestyle your body undergoes some big changes. Having a typical carbohydrate heavy diet means my body was used to burning carbohydrates for fuel/energy. When you stop the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar, your body enters a state of ketosis which means it has to switch to using fat as it’s main source of energy. During this transition, you can experience symptoms such as headaches, nausea and fatigue. Essentially your body is experiencing a sugar withdrawal process. Also, when you stop eating carbohydrates your body doesn’t retain as much water and therefore you lose naturally lose salt (which needs to be replenished).
In order to reduce the effect of keto flu there are a few things you can do. Drinking more water is advised, taking a magnesium supplement and adding pink salt to your water and meals. I managed to avoid these symptoms, for the most part, by following this advice.
I can honestly say, six weeks in, my sugar cravings have all but disappeared and I really do not have the same relationship with food as I once did. I have more energy and enthusiasm to workout and for the first time in… ever… am not thinking about food 24 hours of the day.
The thing with keto is that you are eating fat rich meals that keep you feeling fuller for longer. I have found myself naturally fasting until 2.30pm which I would never have thought possible.
Anyway… why am I telling you all of this? I guess because I’m starting to cook more real food again and will likely be posting more low carb recipes over the coming weeks and months.
Before I go, I really don’t want to (at the risk of embarrassing myself), but feel as though I should post this 6 week transformation picture for you. Proof that cutting out carbs and sugar works. I’ve also included a few snaps of the types of meals I’ve been eating on keto.
My top tips for starting keto (from my own experience)
- Research before you start (I mean, really spend some time understanding how the diet works, what you can and cannot eat). After all, failing to plan is planning to fail.
- Be prepared for keto flu and have some electrolytes ready (magnesium and pink salt)
- Don’t give up in the first week, no matter how hard it feels, you’ll feel amazing after the initial shock
- Ignore the haters that tell you eating all that fat cannot be good for you, sugar is the real devil
- Meal prep like a boss, make sure you have plenty of keto friendly snacks on hand a make double portions of meals you can freeze for days when you are in a hurry
- Join a social media group (like Keto Beginners UK on FB) so you can benefit from knowledge, recipes and support from others following the same diet