A good friend of mine shed an amazing amount of weight. She lost almost 5 stones in 5 months and she looks fabulous (she always did). I was chatting to her about the secret to her success. She could not recommend the Keto diet highly enough.
I attempted the diet for 10 days and it was quite possibly the worse 10 days of my life!
Dieting and Me
I’ve explored in recent posts how dieting has had a negative impact on my life. Most recently, I wrote an article for Consumer Health Digest entitled ‘What are the Consequences of Dieting on Mental Health?‘. I have also explained ‘Why I’ve Ditched the Diets‘. My last experience at dieting before my epiphany regarding the negative effects of dieting was the Keto diet.
Little did I realise that my failure to stick to this diet was just the wake-up call I needed.
The Keto Diet – How it Works
In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet (usually referred to as the keto diet) is a low carbohydrate diet. It encourages the consumption of foods that are high in fat.
How does this help you to lose weight? Well, the reduction in carbohydrates forces your the body into a metabolic state referred to as ketosis. Put simply, this means that the body burns fats as opposed to carbohydrates. It also increases the production of ketones from the liver. These ketones replace glucose as a fuel for the body, especially for the brain. Consequently, the body turns into a fat burning machine!
Studies have shown that the ketone diet can be beneficial for those who suffer from type 2 diabetes or suffer from epilepsy.
Will I Lose Weight on the Keto Diet?
Not every diet is going to work for everyone. However, a lot of people have experienced a dramatic reduction in weight in the initial stages of the diet.
A study has shown that an individual could lose over 2 times more weight with the keto diet than those following a low-calorie diet.
Because of the types of foods eaten on a keto diet, advocates of the diet claim you should feel fuller for longer. Snacking on keto foods is permitted. However, if you’re snacking leads to a significant increase in your calorie intake, you can expect to gain rather than lose weight. Remember exercise is also an important aspect of weight loss and should not be overlooked.
What Can I Eat on the Keto Diet?
The lower the carb intake, the better the keto diet works. Keeping your intake of net carbohydrates to below 50grams, ideally below 20grams per day is advised.
Here are some of the basic premises of the Keto diet:
- Do not eat processed foods (this is the big one).
- Unprocessed meats are low in carbohydrates. Avoid eating too much protein (such as chicken) and instead concentrate on meats that are high in fats.
- Most nuts contain more healthy fats than carbohydrates. Therefore, they’re an ideal snack for keto dieting.
- Eggs can be eaten in any form on the keto diet.
- High-fat dairy products are an important aspect of the Keto diet. Opt for full-fat dairy rather than low fat or skimmed dairy products.
- Natural sugars found in fruits are high in carbohydrates. Focus more on vegetables for healthy snacks rather than fruits. However, some fruits are permitted.
- Focus on vegetables that are low in carbohydrates. Vegetables that are grown above ground contain the least carbs. Green leafy vegetables contain fewer carbs.
- Replace grain flour with keto diet friendly substitutes, such as almond flour and coconut flour.
My Experience of the Diet
I really struggled to stick to this diet. I am accustomed to eating some carbs with my meals, mainly potatoes or pasta with dinner. The prospect of not eating carbs while on the diet was extremely daunting.
First came the sugar and carb withdrawals. They were horrific! I felt nauseous, had migraines, I had the shakes and worst of all, I felt incredibly depressed.
Worse for me was when I was hungry between meals (and I was starving between meals). I would normally reach for a piece of fruit. Not on Keto! Most fruits are banned. So I started to snack on nuts and seeds. I found myself eating these in huge quantities. Which I suppose didn’t help my weight loss at all! In fact, I didn’t lose any weight.
The reason I stopped the diet was because of my low mood. I found myself crying on the kitchen floor quite often. I was absolutely miserable! The problem with Keto is that if you eat too many carbs in a day, your body decreases the production of ketones. So basically, you’re back to square one! I couldn’t even have a cheat meal for fear of undoing the whole diet!
I began to think about all the foods I would miss out on – potatoes with my Sunday dinner, the odd burger in a bun. The list went on.
As soon as I abandoned the diet, my mood lifted significantly.
I have taken a few things away from the diet. I now eat fewer carbs – I only have bread a couple of times per week rather than 2 or 3 times per day. The whole experience had made me appreciate fruit so much more!
While the Keto diet can make you lose weight, it is extremely strict. I’m not sure how individuals could keep up this diet for sustained periods of time. In fact, keto is described as a short-term fix to a long term problem. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, then I would highly advise against the keto diet.
The Dangers of the Keto Diet
I dug a little deeper into my research. When planning to embark on the Keto diet, I had ignored all the negative reviews. I now went back and read them.
- Users of the keto diet can develop ‘keto flu’ in the first week or so of the diet. Symptoms of keto flu are similar to regular flu, e.g. achy muscles, vomiting, nausea.
- Diarrhoea – possibly thanks to a lack of fibre in the diet.
- Drop in blood sugar levels – the reduction in carbs and sugars has this effect. You may feel dizzy and suffer from ‘brain fog’. This can also affect your ability to perform everyday tasks as well as exercising.
- In women, hormone changes could alter or stop your periods altogether.
- Bad breathe – although not a serious medical issue, this can be embarrassing.
- Nutrient Deficiencies – Due to a lack of fruits and vegetables in the diet.
My experience with the Keto diet was a big of a game changer for me. I had toyed with various commercial diets for the past 2 years, mostly slimming world and weight watchers. Initially, I found them extremely appealing with their promises that “no foods are off limits” and “you’ll never feel hungry”. I found these statements, for me at least to be a little untrue. Yes, I know that the purpose of a diet is to restrict food intake and to limit certain food types. But on these commercial diets, I was constantly hungry. I’m not sure why. Perhaps the inclusion of the word “diet” instantly sends my body and mind into a total panic!
I also struggle because I have an egg and dairy allergy. Many of my friends who have done so well on slimming world were using eggs in almost every meal. So when I asked my support network for tips and advise, eggs would be on the menu!
Diving into the Keto diet, I saw eggs as a staple food once again.
Crying on the kitchen floor on my last day of Keto, I had one of those light bulb moments! Diets just don’t work for me. What I needed was a lifestyle change. From that moment, using all the knowledge I have learnt from my experiences with dieting, I have created my own healthy eating plan. See a recent post ‘Why I’ve Ditched the Diets’ for more info. I now count calories and reduce the amount I consume in order to lose weight, and it’s working!
Sometimes we just have to get back to basics and remember what works best for us!