Thursday, December 14, 2017

11 Things I Learned In My First Two Months On Keto




Two months ago, after deciding that with my 30th birthday coming up next year it was finally time to get serious about my health and my goals, I (along with my mom) decided to go on the Ketogenic Diet. The Ketogenic Diet, or Keto Diet, is a low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet where you essentially retrain your body to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. I won't go into major details about what the diet is or how it really works because I'm definitely not an expert. But if you are interested in learning more there are tons of websites and resources online that will explain it much better than I can. What I want to talk about in this post are the things I've learned since starting Keto. It's been an interesting two months to say the least, but I feel like I've learned so much about my body and what I'm capable of. In these past eight weeks I've gained a whole new awareness of my relationship with food and feel like I've gained so much along with losing 15lbs. Here are eleven things I learned in my first two months on Keto:

To Forget What I've Been Taught About Dieting
Most people will tell you that to lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle you need to incorporate more fruits and veggies and less fats into your diet. While that might work for some people, there can be a tremendous amount of carbs and sugar in fruit and some so-called healthier foods. The Keto diet is about teaching your body to burn fat for energy instead of sugars and carbs. It means that you can have bacon, butter and cheese but not oranges or potatoes. That might sound counter-intuitive to some people and my first instinct was to not go too crazy on fats. It just felt...weird. Like I was doing something bad. But eventually you learn to forget what you've been told about what is “healthy” partially through doing lots of research for yourself and partially through results. Don't get me wrong, I still try to incorporate as many non-starchy vegetables in my diet as possible because they're crucial for nutrients and I just enjoy them. But learning to change your mindset about what is “good” and what is “bad” does take a bit of time.

Tracking What You Eat Makes Things Much Simpler
Trying to count carbs and make sure that everything I eat in a day stays under 20g of net carbs would be much harder if I had to calculate everything in my head. I began using the MyFitnessPal app when I started Keto and it's been a godsend when it comes to keeping track of what I'm eating and where I stand for the day. I thought it might feel very tedious to track all of my meals but it really only takes a second and I feel like I'm so much more aware of what I'm putting in my body now and what my portions should really be like. I feel like portion sizes are something people constantly overlook and I was a big offender before starting Keto. Tracking also helps keep me accountable. I know that if I have a snack or have an extra piece of something I'm going to have to account for that. It's greatly helped me cut down on my propensity for snacking.

Weigh Yourself, Even If You Hate To
I'm the kind of person who absolutely hates stepping on a scale. I guess most people are like that really. No one wants to be confronted by a number that often dictates how they feel about their body and sometimes even their self-worth. For me, wanting to lose weight has always been more about how I wanted to feel in my clothing and in my skin, and just being healthier rather than reaching a certain goal number. So, for the longest time, even if I was trying to lose weight and working out I never weighed myself. And although that's a personal preference, here's why I should have just weighed myself anyway. Weighing yourself at the start and periodically throughout any weight loss journey is important because it helps you gauge progress. Even if you don't care a lot about the actual numbers, seeing the number actually go down gives you a little thrill and a burst of encouragement. Another reason why weighing yourself is important is because most tracking apps use your weight to gauge progress or to establish how much you should be eating in a day. The reason I actually initially weighed myself was to calculate how many grams of carbs, protein and fat I should be eating in a day on Keto and to set up my MyFitnessPal account. Trust me, even if you really don't want to track the numbers, it'll really help give you perspective and a more tangible idea of how your body is changing. And if it seems like the numbers aren't changing at the rate that you want, don't get discouraged. Sometimes the scale won't move. But that doesn't mean the changes aren't happening. Trust your body.

Don't Compare Yourself To Others
It's easy to look at Keto forums and blogs, see all these amazing success stories and imagine that you'll be losing 30lbs in your first month. I'm sure for some people that does happen. But you have to take into consideration that person's starting point and acknowledge that every body is different. I've been on Keto for 2 months now and have lost a total of 15lbs. It's not a tremendous amount. But I see the changes in my body, feel how loose my clothes have become and how things that didn't fit me before can now be buttoned easily. It might not be the same amount that some other people are losing, but the point is I AM LOSING WEIGHT. I focus on that wonderful detail and the fact that I feel healthier, and more confident and proud of myself every day. You really shouldn't ever compare yourself to others or judge your successes against theirs. That's just good general life advice. But it's especially important when starting Keto to not allow yourself to get discouraged or to give up because you feel like it's not the magical fix you imagined. Like with anything, consistency is key. You just have to trust that you'll continue to see results, because you will.

Always Keep Your Goal In Mind
I think such a big part of sticking to a diet has to do with having the right mindset going into it and knowing why you're doing it. I've tried eating healthy before, though not using any specific diet plans, but I feel like as much as I wanted to lose weight I always got thrown off track because I made excuses and allowances for myself. I'd say something like “One piece of this won't hurt” or “A glass of soda isn't going to make much of a difference”. But the problem was that once I made that excuse for myself, I just fell back into my old habits within a week or so. My first few weeks on Keto I would sometimes crave sweets when I was hungry and was even confronted with a cheesecake at my cousin's birthday dinner. But whenever that happened I just focused on why I had decided to start Keto in the first place. The goal that I want to achieve by my 30th birthday next March. Remembering how I want to take pride in that achievement and how, as delicious as I'm sure that cheesecake was, it was a temporary pleasure and would just keep me from accomplishing my goal. I know myself and I know my history. For me, being strict with myself and setting clear boundaries keeps me on track much better than giving myself some wiggle room. For this reason I remind myself, my goals and my health are worth more than a piece of cheesecake.

You Won't Miss Things As Much As You Think You Will
I honestly don't think I ever would have gone on a low-carb diet had it not been that my mom started it with me and she wanted to reduce her carb intake. I never would have thought myself capable. Carbs were my life, bread was my greatest love affair. A meal without carbs seemed like blasphemy. I never thought a low-carb diet would have been viable for me long term. Hell, I once gave up bread and chocolate for 2 weeks because of a promise I made and that felt like torture. But somehow with starting Keto, it really wasn't the struggle I expected it to be. The trick was to come up with acceptable alternatives. You don't really have to completely cut out meals you love. You just have to find alternatives for the carb-loaded parts and work around them. Having a burger without a bun would have seemed like sacrilege to me before but once it's loaded up with avocado, bacon and cheese, I don't actually feel deprived. I truly expected to feel deprived on Keto and honestly I just don't. I think another trick is to focus on all the things you can have rather than the things you can't. If you're enjoying what you're eating you're not really bemoaning the things that you can't have, if that makes sense.

You're Much More Likely To Crave Something Bad When You're Hungry
When starting off I sometimes noticed that I'd start thinking about chocolate chip cookies while just sitting on my computer. I'd be sitting there, doing something, and the thought would just pop into my head. Sometimes my mind would wander to random thoughts of pizza slices I'd once enjoyed but could no longer. And I noticed that in all of these instances my mind seemed to be drawn to those thoughts because I was hungry. So, instead of eating the bad things I had been thinking about I would get up and make myself a Keto-friendly meal. And every single time the thoughts would stop. Eventually those thoughts stopped all together and now I just don't crave things in the way that I used to when I ate carbs and sugar. So, sometimes it's not really a carb craving, just plain old hunger.

Everything Tastes Sweeter When You Aren't Eating Sugar
Another thing that I was never really able to do before was drink my coffee without sugar. It just seemed wrong and frankly, a bit gross. I was always a fan of both milk and dark chocolate but could never really eat chocolate with over 70% cacao because it always kind of tasted like dirt to me. My body was just so used to the sugar that it craved it. With starting Keto and eliminating sugar from my diet, things like drinking my coffee black and eating 85% cacao dark chocolate became not only doable but way more enjoyable than I would have imagined. Things that once tasted bitter and unappetizing actually started to taste sweeter. It was like I could appreciate the sweetness in things more easily because my body wasn't so inundated in sugar. It's a pretty interesting experience.

To Savor My Food
I feel like I enjoy my food so much more now on Keto than I ever did before. It has nothing to do with the types of food, but rather my mindset about my meals. I feel like I have a new awareness of what is in my food and what the benefits are. I'm much more conscious of what I'm eating and what portion sizes should be like. But I also seem to savor my meals much more than I ever did before. Even if I'm just having a simple mixed salad or some chicken, I feel like I take more time enjoying my meal and really taking in the flavors. Maybe there's a physical reason for this...like with the sugar. Maybe something about the diet has changed the way my food actually tastes to me. But I've definitely noticed that I've been commenting a lot more on how great my food tastes, sometimes multiple times within a meal. It's such an odd change to notice, but I never really savored my food the way I do now.

To Switch Things Up
A surefire way to get incredibly bored with a diet is to eat the same thing day in and day out. It's repetitive and uninspiring, and can quickly make you feel a bit trapped and limited. For this reason, I try to switch up our dinners every night and incorporate some family favorites, like fajitas, once a week. I was never really good with eating vegetables as a kid but now that I'm on Keto my body craves them. So, I'm constantly looking for new and interesting recipes that will work in vegetables I actually like or make ones I'm not as into tastier and more appealing to my palette. I've also made several different Keto desserts in the past two months, all with different degrees of success. Switching it up has helped me find some recipes that really work well for me and that have become instant favorites. It's been an integral part of making sure I don't feel deprived and contemplate giving up.

The Importance of Electrolytes
When you start Keto your body starts to flush out a lot of the water that has been stored. This results in people losing a lot of water weight right off the bat. Along with the water, your body also flushes out electrolytes at a much higher rate than it did before. For this reason it is often recommended that you replenish your electrolytes (Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium) daily to avoid side effects. People can experience headaches, dizziness, brain fog, lethargy, leg cramps and even heart palpitations if they don't get enough electrolytes. Personally, I didn't really experience “Keto Flu” in the way that most people describe it. There were no flu-like symptoms. There were some random days when I guess that my electrolyte intake from my diet was low (I wasn't supplementing my electrolytes when I started out) and I experienced a headache or some dizziness. And on two occasions I've experienced heart palpitations or an instance where my heart was beating way too fast. These symptoms can all easily be remedied by taking my magnesium supplement and getting some extra sodium and potassium (I put some Lite Salt in water with lemon and just chug it). I've quickly learned that a lot of the negative things you experience on Keto can easily be remedied by drinking some more water and upping your electrolyte intake.

Suffice it to say that for the most part I've felt wonderful since starting Keto. I'm really enjoying the whole process and getting to know a new side of myself and of my body. I feel like the experience has been so much better and easier than I ever expected it to be. I might not be shedding pounds as quickly as some people have on Keto, but I'm getting there slowly but surely. I also think it's important to note that to start off I wanted to see how much I could lose with diet alone and have not yet incorporated any exercise into my routine. I'm looking forward to experimenting a bit and seeing what my body is capable of and what I can accomplish. Making my health a priority has been one of the most fulfilling parts of this past year.

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