It’s the start of a new year, and that means New Year’s Resolutions! A common resolution is getting healthy/losing weight, and I feel like I’ve seen one particular diet everywhere – the Keto Diet.
If you don’t know what the Keto Diet is, it’s a low-carb, high-fat diet that causes the body to enter ketosis. During ketosis, the body’s efficiency for burning fat increases, and in addition to losing weight, you may reduce blood sugar and insulin levels.
About three years ago, I started the Keto Diet and had a mixed reaction to my experience. Sometimes, I loved it, and sometimes, I hated it. Now, I can reflect back on it and want to share my experience for anyone thinking about taking on this intense diet.
Like 1: You feel ~amazing~
Honestly, I’ve never had as much energy as I did while in ketosis. My brain felt more alert, and I was ready to tackle everything. I had a pep in my step from taking control of my health and succeeding in getting to ketosis, and it was an exciting time.
Didn’t Like 1: Actually, you also feel ~terrible~
So, here’s the thing: you might feel great on the diet long term, but the first few days (maybe weeks?) will kick your butt. Prepare for side effects. The Keto Flu is common for beginners, and some of the side effects include nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headache, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, dizziness, etc. Sounds pretty bad, right?
Well, not everyone comes down with Keto Flu. I escaped my first few weeks with only headaches and irritability, but a lot of that could be linked to giving up caffeine (a separate endeavor) and my favorite carbs all at once. But this phenomena isn’t limited to beginners. It can also happen if you re-enter ketosis after a cheat meal.
Like 2: You’ll change the way you look at food
The Keto Diet is completely different from the average American diet that is full of carbohydrates and lacks fat. You know that bacon you thought was so terrible? Actually, it’s a good thing now. The healthy whole wheat bread you made your sandwich with? Avoid it at all costs.
The Keto Diet changes how you look at food and what nutritional information means to you. This is a perfect time to take a step back from your current lifestyle and actually evaluate those comfort foods you go back to time and time again. It’ll add a new perspective to your daily habits.
Didn’t Like 2: You might just mess up your relationship with healthy foods
Right now, I’m sure there are healthy carbs you enjoy eating. From yummy apples to sweet strawberries, carbs aren’t always evil processed sugars lurking in tasty treats like donuts. There are benefits to eating healthy carbs like fruits, and the United States Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate encourages people to eat them!
After I stopped being Keto, my relationship with food was messed up. The Keto Diet almost demonized some of my favorite healthy options, and I began to equate carrots to Cheetos, making it hard for me to embrace healthy carbohydrates again. It took me a long time to shake that mindset, and it ultimately damaged my mental and physical health.
Like 3: You are the one accountable for your success
Like most diets, you are the one in control. Your decisions (inadvertent and purposeful) define your success with being Keto. While outside actors still have an influence, it is empowering to know that you’re responsible for your accomplishment. You’ll feel badass and ready to take on the world!
Yes, you have a lot of work ahead of you (read the next point for proof), but you’re doing great. When you look back on this experience, you’ll see your hard work.
Didn’t Like 3: You’re facing so much work
If you don’t like to cook or prepare your own meals, then step away from the Keto Diet. Prepare yourself for constant cooking and preparation because going out is basically impossible. When you’re not actually making your food, you’re thinking about food. This was one of the biggest problem I faced. The more work I put in, the less “worth it” the diet seemed. Plus, as I was constantly thinking about food, I was developing cravings to a point where I was miserable!
Unless you’re happy with eating eggs, sausage, bacon, avocado, or steak all of the time, you’ll have to plan your meals to make sure you’re still staying under your allotted 20 grams of carbohydrates while maintaining variety. Often, this means planning ahead to make sure you don’t eat too many carbs and knock yourself out of ketosis.
Like 4: You have the motivation to stay on track
Getting into ketosis takes roughly 3 days of low carbs, high fat, and moderate protein. There are tricks to speeding it up (check out this article to find more), but even then, this takes time. Cheat meals/days just don’t exist in the Keto Diet. You may modify some recipes to match your cravings, but you’re not stopping unless you want to throw away all that work you put into going into ketosis in the first place.
This sounds overwhelming, but it can be a good thing. When the opportunity to “cheat” is taken away, you begin to think about the diet differently. It stops being a “diet” and becomes a part of your lifestyle.
Didn’t Like 4: You’re faced with “all or nothing” ketosis
Remember how I just told you that you can’t cheat in ketosis? Well, that also has a bad side. When you do come out of ketosis – which is bound to happen at some time – you’re out. Yes, you can resume your old habits and go back into ketosis, but it’s disheartening to start all over again. It’s a motivation killer, and it encourages larger and longer binges. If you have one donut, you might as well have ten because you’re coming out of ketosis anyway, right?
This diet will test you, and if you were already struggling, it makes it even harder to come back. Because of this, there are several resources for Keto Cycling – which I’ve never tried and can’t encourage/discourage.
Like 5: You will lose weight
Here’s the reason why the Keto Diet is so popular, you do lose the weight! Especially at the beginning, the weight just seems to fly off. It’s exciting and encouraging, and it increases your trust in your new lifestyle. The confidence boost alone is fantastic. There have been incredible transformations, and while plateaus and setbacks exist, the Keto Diet can be very successful in reducing weight.
Dislike 5: You might just gain it back
Don’t get me wrong, this can happen with any diet. When you settle back into your old vices, you’re likely to gain the weight back. It happens! Here’s a question you might have been asking yourself during this entire article: did she keep off the weight? The answer is no. I lost weight on the Keto Diet, and when I stopped it, I gained my weight back. I’m currently trying to prioritize my health and shed some winter weight, but I won’t be going back to the Keto Diet to do it.
Let’s be real. For most people, the Keto Diet is not a permanent lifestyle change. It helps you lose weight and can change your outlook on food, potentially leading to better choices in the future, but you won’t do this forever. Even Kristen Mancinelli, RD, an author on a book endorsing the Keto Diet, says that she wouldn’t “recommend staying on the keto diet permanently. It can be really restrictive.” More than likely, you’re destined to end this diet, and from there, it’s up to you to come up with your own plan to maintain.
Overall, Keto negatively impacted my relationship with food and made it harder for me to develop a healthy lifestyle after I stopped the Keto Diet. I want to be healthy long-term, so my final verdict is that this diet isn’t for me.
But I want to underscore that this is my experience. You may try out the Keto Diet and have completely conflicting opinions, and that’s great! Everyone is different, so their reaction to this diet will be different. At the end of the day, do what’s best for you, and never forget that you’re amazing – diet or no diet. You got this, girl!