The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low-carb, medium-protein, and high-fat diet. It was first developed in the 1920s as a way to treat children with severe epilepsy. As a small side effect, it also helped with losing weight. Being on the ketogenic diet, and therefor being in ketosis, teaches your body to burn fat cells for energy instead of burning the carbs and sugars. Needless to say, it sparked my attention.
My mother-in-law swears by this diet. Every couple of months, she will be on "her" diet, losing those 15 pounds in a matter of weeks. She doesn't work out excessively, she is not one of those exceptionally active people, and while on "her" diet, she is still pleasant and fun to be around.
"I have to give that a try," I thought. So I did. And now I'm in my third week, and I'd say things are going pretty well.
So what are the main points I've learned from following this strict low-carb diet?
- Everything contains sugar. Forget about the well-known desserts, candy, and sauces. Did you know that fruit and even (root) vegetables contain a lot of sugar? This took some getting used to, as I usually have a protein and banana shake for breakfast. Now my shake consists of spinach, coconut butter, hemp hearts, protein powder (without any form of sugar), and almond milk. It might not sound that tasty, but after three weeks of being sugar free, this has started to be the sweetest meal of the day. Going out to restaurants does prove to be somewhat of a challenge. Sugar literally creeps its way into everything. Forget about anything that is covered in any kind of sauce. Even ceasar salads, my go-to meal at a restaurant, are tricky as the "homemade" ceasar salad dressing will most likely have a little added sugar.
- Everything contains carbs. Say good-bye to fruit, most vegetables (yes, even sweet potatoes and yams), and most things on a restaurant menu. Root vegetables, such as carrots and radishes, contain enough carbs that it could throw you out of ketosis. Since being on this diet, my body has started to learn it can burn its own fat cells for fuel, meaning that I don't feel the need to have that bagel with cream cheese for breakfast or croutons in my salad or those mashed potatoes for dinner. In fact, the other day I had a salad consisting of lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and avocado, and I felt perfectly satisfied and energetic until dinner.
- Fat is good. One of the most important lessons for me was the realisation that everything I thought I knew about eating healthy was absolutely worthless on the keto diet. I cook my food in either olive oil, grass-fed butter, or coconut oil. I add a tablespoon of coconut oil to my shakes and breakfast yoghurt dishes. Avocados are my main go-to fruit for snacks and salad add-ons. And the best part of all, I feel more energetic, clear-headed, and focused than I've felt in previous years. I used to always feel bloated and feel heavy in my stomach. All that has gone, I feel bouncy, and look like I've lost inches off my waist.
- You can lose weight fast. The first three days after starting my keto diet, I lost about 5 pounds of water weight. Carbs and sugars make your body hold on to water, making you feel bloated and sluggish. I'm approaching week four as we speak, and I lose about 2 pounds per week, which is enough to satisfy me without it being so drastic that it's unsafe. I have not changed my exercise regime, I try to attend a CrossFit class three times per week, and I still only take about 8,000 steps per day according to my Fitbit.
I will be sticking to the keto diet for another couple of weeks. I have learned to let go of the "losing weight fast" idea, and just go with the flow of how my body is feeling nowadays.