For reference, I identify as female, I am 28 years old, I am 5 feet and 5 inches tall, and when I started this journey I weighed 170 pounds.
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A little over four weeks ago, my husband and I made a major lifestyle change — we began the ketogenic diet (keto for short).
There’s a lot of mixed information out there about keto, so I encourage everyone curious about it to do their own research. To sum it up, though, here’s a short description from Women’s Health Magazine:
“This eating plan is all about minimizing your carbs and upping your fats to get your body to use fat as a form of energy, says Scott Keatley, R.D., of Keatley Medical Nutrition Therapy. While everyone’s body and needs are slightly different, that typically translates to: 60 to 75 percent of your calories from fat, 15 to 30 percent of your calories from protein, and 5 to 10 percent of your calories from carbs.”
In starting keto, my main goal was simple — to change the way I eat and to get healthy. And I needed something that I could logically do and stick with — something that would be effective and would change my life.
Also, since my husband and I have been trying to conceive for nearly one year, I did a lot of research on the possible effects keto has on fertility and people who are TTC. Because this diet is like a shock to your body at first, I wasn’t going to start it if it put me in a worse place TTC.
There aren’t a ton of definitive answers out there because research is still fairly young on keto and TTC, but everything I read was positive. Doctors actually recommend this diet to women who are struggling to conceive. But, like I said, that information comes from the research I have done.
If you are thinking about switching to the keto lifestyle, I, again, encourage you to do your own research and educate yourself on exactly what it is. Then, make a decision that you feel is best for you and your body.
Keto is not a fad diet, but a lifestyle change — you don’t just “do” keto, you live it.
You should know that it is not easy at first and the first week or so is actually miserable as your body learns to source its energy from fat instead of carbs.
“Keto flu” is real — I experienced it hard — and it’s what keeps many people from getting past the first week and fully reaping the benefits of this lifestyle change. You should expect headaches, severe mood swings, irritability, fatigue, and other uncomfortable symptoms as your body enters ketosis.
“After about two to seven days of following this eating routine, you go into something called ketosis, or the state your body enters when it doesn’t have enough carbs for your cells to use for energy. Then it starts making ketones, or organic compounds that your bod then uses in place of those missing carbs—and oh, it also burns fat for more energy, says Beth Warren, R.D., founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living A Real Life With Real Food.”
During my first week on keto, I had miserable headaches every day, I was aggressively irritable, I felt like I was walking around in a fog, I couldn’t focus, and I was going to bed at about 7:30 each night because I couldn’t stay awake.
By Friday of that week I was feeling much better and starting to see and feel some of the benefits of keto.
Now that I have been eating keto for several weeks, I can honestly say that I have never felt better — and I actually just realized how sluggish I felt before starting this diet. I have more energy, I’m no longer eating six times a day because my hunger is satisfied longer with the foods I’m consuming, I’m down 13 pounds from where I started, and I don’t feel disgusting after eating anymore because I am paying attention to what I’m eating. Also, I have seen a significant increase in my ability to focus and I have been able to cut back on the amount of coffee I drink — which is huge for me.
I have learned a lot about this diet (and I learn something new daily), particularly on how to easily integrate it into our existing lifestyle and day-to-day routine. To help you out if you’re considering keto, here are the things I’ve picked up during this first month that made life much easier as my husband and I completely overhauled our eating habits.
What I’ve learned and my tips for getting started:
The My Fitness Pal app is the best invention. On keto, you need to track your daily macronutrients — carbs, fat, and protein — to make sure you are eating enough fat to support your body, and this app helps you easily do that.
Pinterest is OK for keto-friendly recipes, but you really have to pay attention to the ingredients. Some recipes that are touted as keto, actually aren’t. I have gotten lots of food inspo by following hashtags #keto and #ketodiet on Instagram.
You need keto test strips to know if you are in ketosis. These measure the levels of ketone bodies in your urine and are essential to maintaining ketosis. I use these from Perfect Keto, and they’re available on Amazon as well.
Meal prep kits make it easier and are a good way to ease into the diet. My husband and I ordered a meal kit from Green Chef for the week we started keto. Green Chef is different from other meal kit delivery services in that they offer a variety of diet options — they have plans specific to keto, paleo, omnivore, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets. We received three meals with our first delivery, and it truly helped us adapt to keto quicker because it took some of the meal prep out for that first week. We have another kit coming next week simply because we don’t want to meal plan for the entire week.
The diet isn’t as restrictive as you would think. My husband and I enjoy cooking at home, but we also appreciate our meals out a few times a week — whether it be lunch or dinner. So far, keto has not impeded our ability to visit the restaurants we like most. However, it has changed how we order. Going to a burger place? Skip the bun and ask for a lettuce wrap instead. Is Chipotle a must-have for you? Great, get a salad bowl without rice or beans. How about Chick-fil-A? Grilled nuggets are great, just don’t order fries and opt for an unsweet tea.
What I eat: My daily carb intake now solely comes from vegetables. Avocado (a healthy fat) is a staple — my husband and I buy a bag of 6 or 7 at Sam’s Club each week and they’re gone by the end of the week. Breakfast consists of eggs and bacon with avocado, lunch is typically leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, and dinner is always organic meat of some kind with vegetables. No potatoes, no pasta, no rice — all things that were essential to our diet before keto.
The website I use most as a reference is perfectketo.com.
Read and understand nutrition labels, ingredients, and serving sizes!
One final thought: It feels really good to feel good. Also, to reiterate, do your own research and make a decision based off of what you feel is best for you.