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- The high-fat, low-carb keto diet can be great for shedding weight, but it presents distinct challenges.
- Jennifer Still writes that though the keto diet has been a “godsend” for her, there are several things she wishes she’d known before starting.
Having been overweight for years, I’ve tried every diet in the proverbial book in the hopes of shedding pounds and getting healthy.
Like with many people, any success I found in dieting was usually short-lived, and I always ended up frustrated and right back where I started – that is, until I discovered the keto diet four years ago.
While following a diet high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates has been a godsend for me, it has come with its fair share of difficulties.
Here are a few things I wish I’d known before I started the keto diet:
A lot of people really won’t get it.
The idea that you can eat a large amount of fatty foods – bacon, steak, whole milk, cheeses, etc. – and not only lose weight but increase energy tends to surprise people.
You’ll soon lose count of the number of people who insist you need carbs to live. Ignore them. As the saying goes, KCKO. Keep calm and keto on.
You still need to count calories.
You may lose more weight more quickly on the keto diet than on other diets, but you can’t eat with abandon just because you’re cutting out carbs.
Calories still count, so it’s important to determine your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories your body burns daily by simply existing, as well as the deficit you should be eating at to lose weight.
Going “off plan” for even a day could make you gain weight.
It’s pretty disheartening to wake up a few pounds heavier than you were the day before just because you had to have a cheat meal at McDonald’s.
While this change is may just be water weight that you can shed after going back to the keto diet for a day or two (it flushes water from your system), some people will find that such an interruption is not worth the trouble.
What you eat is more important than what you burn in the gym.
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This applies to followers of any way of eating: What and how much you eat is way more important for losing weight than exercise.
The old saying that you can’t outrun a bad diet is true. While it’s great to add cardio and weight training for general fitness, even if you don’t, you can and will still lose weight on keto as long as your diet is on point.
If you feel as though you’ve had enough fat, you don’t have to force yourself to eat more.
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While many hardcore followers of the keto diet aim to have 75% of their daily calories come from fat, that’s more of a preference than a necessity. More important than fat consumption is that you hit your protein goals.
Suzanne Dixon, a registered dietitian, told Business Insider that excess protein could turn into glucose, which would kick you out of the state of ketosis you’re trying to maintain. But not getting enough protein could lead to muscle loss, among other negative side effects.
Fat is nothing to be afraid of and is encouraged by the diet, but you shouldn’t be downing sticks of butter to reach some elusive intake goal.
The keto diet, like any well-rounded nutritional approach, should include plenty of fresh fish, veggies, and even lower-sugar fruits like strawberries and raspberries.
You HAVE to cook, so learn to love it if you don’t.
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While theoretically you could get away with living on bunless fast food or processed meats and cheese on the keto diet, if you want a healthy, well-rounded diet, you need to get in the kitchen and cook.
Keto, perhaps more than any other diet, is nearly impossible without a willingness to get in the kitchen. Most ready meals are far from keto-friendly, so if you want to eat, you’ll need to put on your apron and prepare meals.
Meal planning is essential.
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Since so many typical foods are off-limits, it’s important to figure out what you’re having in advance so you don’t come home from work and pig out on non-keto food that will set back your progress.
I occasionally meal prep on Sundays, making a few different recipes I can heat up quickly during busy workweeks. It keeps me on track while still giving me delicious meal options.
It’s one of the few “diets” that don’t feel like deprivation.
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While the initial adjustment period, also known as “keto flu,” can be tough, it soon passes as your body adapts to burning fat rather than carbs for energy. Once you get into the zone, you’ll find that you’re less hungry and that your cravings for sugary foods all but disappear.
It takes some people longer than others to reach this stage, and it’s hard to get rid of those cravings completely. (I still occasionally crave Oreos.) But they become more manageable, and the delicious food you get to eat never makes you feel deprived or as though you’re on a “diet” at all.
I enjoy everything from eggs and steak to lots of green vegetables like kale and broccoli pretty much daily, and I never feel deprived.
You really will feel so much better.
In addition to losing weight and feeling less bloated daily, I also notice I’m way more energetic, my moods are better, and I generally feel healthier when I’m on track with my eating on the keto diet.
While I would never claim that eating this way is for everyone, for those of us who’ve tried it and loved it, it’s the best thing ever.