Wooohooo! Yes I did it, I’ve reached my 12 [+6] months keto anniversary. I was intending to write one at 12 months but life got busy. So this is a very belated blog post to share what has stood out the most during this time.
Do your Research!
Do not start keto until you have done your due diligence and researched what it’s all about. After I stumbled upon keto I spent weeks watching countless YouTube videos and read plenty of web pages to learn what it’s all about. It was important for me to understand how keto worked because when I started I had plenty of questions:
- Why is insulin resistance such a problem?
- How are the foods I eat important to managing insulin spikes?
- Why do I have to cut out sugar and reduce carbs?
- What’s the reason ketones from fat are a better energy source than glucose from carbohydrates?
- What foods can I eat?
- What fats are good to eat?
- How much fat, protein and carbs should I eat?
- What ingredients do I have to buy?
- What recipes are available to cook my meals?
- Why is salt and electrolytes and drinking plenty of water important?
- What is keto flu and how do I get over it?
If you were to start keto and not know the answers to any of the above questions, I think your keto journey will be over before you know it. Understanding how keto works helps you to understand why you do it and makes it so much easier to stick with it. So before you even consider doing keto, do your research before you start.
Once you do your research it will either excite you to go get it or it will scare the heck out of you because of what you have to sacrifice. Whatever your reaction, if you decide to go for it, you need to to really want it and stay committed.
The reason for this is that your first few weeks (maybe months) are going to suck badly and that’s the truth. You will be challenged both physically and mentally as you stop feeding it sugary junk and move to healthy whole foods. You may suffer headaches, hunger pains, sugar cravings, lethargy, brain fog, basically you’ll just feel like garbage. And at this point you will seriously consider quitting because it’s all too hard.
Don’t give up! Stay committed and keep pushing, there is a light at the end of the physical and mental challenges you will endure in the first few weeks. Once you get through it all the benefits that are supposed to accompany keto will become evident. Then once you’re on board if you have any hiccups or you have a cheat day it’s all good get back on the next day. Just stay committed!
Also having a great support network through family and social media groups can be helpful. I know I am thankful for my wife and children who have been supportive and helpful during this journey.
When I started keto my main goals were measurable ones, such as weight loss and waist size. However, I learned that living the keto lifestyle the real primary goal is to just be healthy by eating healthy wholesome foods. I remember Dr Berg saying in a video that weight loss was the outcome of healthy living and eating. After a year and a half of living a keto lifestyle, I totally agree. Over time being healthy became my primary goal, not the measurable outcomes. However, the measurable results help to keep you accountable with your progress.
For those interested in the numbers, I started keto at 99kg (218 pounds) in September 2017 and my initial goal was 85kg (187 pounds). Doing both keto and intermittent fasting I achieved that goal in 3 months (December 2017). I then set a new weight goal of 80kg and achieved that 3 months later (March 2018). Since then I have been in maintenance mode and I’ve been consistently hovering around the 80kg mark since my keto anniversary. To be honest I’m personally happy with my current weight and hope to maintain it.
Quit Sugar & Refined Carbs!
Not much to say here as it’s pretty self explanatory because you won’t get far if you don’t give them up. It wasn’t easy to quash those constant cravings. However, once I mentally chose to overcome those urges and started eating healthy, those cravings literally disappeared. It sounds crazy but it’s true, your taste palette changes and those sugary treats no longer become an issue. Once I understood how sugar and refined carbs spike insulin, I knew I had to give them up.
Keep it Simple
Don’t make keto difficult for yourself, it’s not rocket science. The only thing close to rocket science required is a simple understanding of the physiological mechanics of how keto works. Keto is simply centred around healthy eating.
I never signed up to any keto programs or followed any popular meal plans but my meal formula was very simple:
PLATE = LOTS OF SALAD (50%) + MEAT (25%) + FAT (25%)
That is roughly the formula I would try to follow for every meal, for most days. The following are a sample of the combinations I ate:
Since I also implemented intermittent fasting I only ate lunch and dinner, so this combination was fine for me. At first it was very boring but I found plenty of recipes to add variety but still nearly every meal was based around that formula.
There are so many keto promoters out there and if you want the ease of having everything laid out for you in a meal plan, go for it. However, once you learn what foods you can and cannot eat, and learn which ones you love to eat, it’s very straight forward. All I’m saying is that eating keto can be simple, don’t complicate it.
If you do Intermittent Fasting, eat to be full!
It is common for people in keto for counting macros and/or calories to ensure they are within the prescribed limits for carbs, protein and fats. In a previous blog I mentioned that I don’t track my macros. When I did trial counting my macros I could see that it could be a useful tool if you are having issues with keto.
When I started keto I tried to guesstimate my macros by having small portions for my meals. However, I also incorporated intermittent fasting and I was getting hungry quickly in between meals. Over time I learned it was more important for me to be fully satiated to resolve those hunger pains in between meals. In other words, eat to be full!
With intermittent fasting I skipped breakfast but ate at lunch (around 12pm) and dinner (by around 7pm) with no snacks in between. As I would break my fast at lunch, this would become my main meal. Lunch would still stick with my formula but it would be big enough that I felt really full. However, being full doesn’t mean stuffing yourself until you’re in a coma. Being full means eating enough to be satiated.
Plus the fast I do is a wet fast which means drinking water whenever I need to. I find drinking water during fasting is fantastic for so many reasons but mainly hydration and satiation in between meals.
Eating to be full at lunch would keep me satiated to the point where my dinner meal wasn’t a big event. Sometimes I was so satisfied from lunch that I would only have a cacao shake for dinner. Again, I ate enough for dinner that I felt satisfied which was dependant on how big my lunch was.
By eating to be full this made intermittent fasting so much easier to sustain without the constant hunger cravings.
Diet > Exercise
I might anger a lot of people but from my experience diet is more important than exercise. I wrote a whole blog post about it previously but up to now that view still stands.
I’m not saying exercise is a waste of time, far from it. From my experience diet and exercise is a great combination. What I’m saying is that if your main focus is just exercise and you neglect nutrition you will struggle to reach your goals. For years I learned this the hard way, exercising intensely six days a week to burn calories but I continued to eat junk. It was a roller coaster ride, with how hard and consistent I exercised determining my results. Work hard and exercise everyday, get results and lose kilos. Stop exercising or miss a few days, put back on the weight and back to square one. An endless ruthless cycle that was burning me out.
Dr Jason Fung wrote an excellent article about this topic and I love this saying from that article:
“Diet is Batman, Exercise is Robin!”
Basically improving your diet is much more effective than exercise for weight loss. It wasn’t until I came across keto that I learned that weight loss was the result of eating healthy. In fact you can achieve the weight loss with keto alone and not exercise. However, exercise is an excellent companion for healthy eating. Exercise has so many benefits to improve strength, fitness, burn calories, counter muscle loss as we age and so much more.
Diet or Lifestyle?
Keto has been overtly labelled as a ‘fad diet’ due to it’s growing popularity. Athlean X presenter Jeff Cavaliere produced a YouTube video where he discussed his disdain for the word ‘diet’. Jeff hates the word ‘diet’ because it carries the stigma of a quick weight loss fix, a temporary solution. He argues that good nutrition is something that needs to be adapted as a long term solution for healthy living.
And that ladies and gentlemen is where I stand with keto, I firmly believe it is a long term lifestyle. When I reached my physical weight loss goals that wasn’t the finish line for me, I didn’t stop doing keto. I am feeling so much healthier, why would I want to revert back to my poor eating habits.
It must be added that unfortunately my gout has not been cured during my journey. Regardless of weight loss my gout still flares up with triggers that I eat and drink and other factors like getting older and wear and tear.
I also have to admit that I was a lot more stricter in the earlier months of my journey but since I’ve achieved my goals I’m in maintenance mode. I’m probably a little more relaxed in that I don’t consciously enforce myself to the prescribed carbs/protein/fat percentages. Instead my focus is just eating keto friendly meals. Also I still have cheat days on special occasions but I make sure I get back on track the next day.
Although there may be ups and downs, overall I enjoy the keto lifestyle and for me it has proven to be healthy, sustainable and easy to maintain. So if anyone asks will I quit keto, at this point in time the answer is no!
If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below and I will do my best to respond.