For years, I was one of those people who never had a weight problem. I was born skinny, ate everything and stayed skinny. Eventually in my mid-twenties I put on a few pounds, then by the time I was 30 I wasn’t happy with my weight. I discovered that by micromanaging every calorie and spending hours per week killing myself at the gym, I could keep my weight at the place where I wanted it.
However, I was miserable. I hated doing that and so it didn’t last. I resigned myself to being a few pounds heavier than I wanted to be. It wasn’t that bad, and I hovered between 135 and 140; certainly not terrible for my average 5’5” frame.
Then came the biggest life shift possible for a woman: I became a mother. I gave birth to our precious son just one week before turning 37. Between the hormonal changes motherhood brings on, the additional stress and anxiety that comes with motherhood, eating my way through 18 months of depression, and just plain closing in on 40, I watched my weight climb, feeling helpless, and topped out around 175 pounds.
I was so uncomfortable with my body, none of my clothes fit and I felt like a failure. My thinking was cloudy, I was exhausted all the time and my menstrual cycles were a painful, miserable mess. With my anxiety and frustration at an all-time high, I’d had enough.
I decided to do something about it!
So I did what we are all told to do. I re-joined the gym and started hitting it. I chose “healthy” foods, including a giant fruit smoothie for breakfast every morning. I spent literally thousands of dollars on personal trainers and private Pilates sessions. After about six months, I’d lost half a pound.
It shouldn’t be this hard, I thought to myself. There has to be an easier way. What am I missing?
My wonderful sister Sheri, who is ten years older than me, had been talking to me about a ketogenic diet, commonly known as Keto. Keto is a high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrate way of eating that has been around for ages but is currently experiencing a resurgence. I’d even mentioned Keto to my personal trainer, and he strongly discouraged me from trying it because you can “eat more” carbs per calorie, and who wouldn’t want to do that? That was fine with me, as the thought of “giving up carbs” was nearly traumatic for me.
But my sister kept dropping clues – and pounds – and sending me photos of her in her size 6 jeans.
A few of my other friends were also doing keto, and after visiting one more friend and admiring her svelte shape, I was willing to consider it. In December of 2018, I buckled down to research. I’m the kind of person that feels I need to “know it all” or at least know a lot to get started on something, for better or for worse. So I spent three weeks reading blogs, books and watching YouTube videos, absorbing everything I could about how to implement a ketogenic diet.
I was skeptical, as I had “tried low carb” before with not very impressive results. However, the more I learned about Keto – and ensuring a high amount of dietary fat – I saw how it was different than what I’d done in the past. Low carb is great, but fat is king.
The last two days in December I binged on all things carb. I stuffed my face with rice and pasta, popcorn and chips and ate every ounce of sugar in the house until I was so disgusted with carbs I couldn’t wait to get started on Keto on January 1st. I had bought my ticket for the fat train and was ready to ride.
I jumped into keto with both feet on the first day of 2019. Contrary to popular advice I weighed myself every single morning after I used the bathroom to get the most consistent possible weight, and I was rewarded. In the first month I dropped 12 pounds without even looking at a treadmill, and only visited the gym to suspend my membership.
(Just to be clear, I’m not saying don’t exercise. I’m just saying that I did not. Exercise is good for many things, but honestly pretty terrible for weight loss.)
In the months that followed, the weight loss was less dramatic, but as long as I stuck to my macros (75% fat, 20% protein and 5% carbohydrate) and limiting carbs to 20g per day, I continued dropping pounds. I overcame a few hurdles along the way, such as discovering that soy is not good for my body and I had to eliminate all types of soy from my diet to continue to lose weight. But the most amazing thing was any time I encountered a hiccup, I knew there was a reason for it. It was never that I wasn’t working hard enough. I just needed to find out what needed to be tweaked. Very few things are a big mystery in keto, and that’s why I love it so much. For every problem there is a solution, and it’s not more “effort.”
Losing weight with a ketogenic diet is the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I still shake my head in amazement. Yes, it takes planning. Yes, it takes good decision making. So does anything else that is worthwhile. But it is far easier than starving my body with so-called healthy foods and spending hours on a treadmill, only to gain the weight all back when I’ve worked myself to exhaustion.
I am currently happily coasting in the 130’s. I expect to put on a few extra pounds over the holidays, and I’m okay with that because they will easily come off in a week or so whenever I’m ready to lose them. I’m considering seeing if I can get back into the jeans I was wearing when I met my husband 19 years ago (yes, I still have them!) and that would be about 125 pounds. But to be perfectly honest, I’m so happy with how I look now and feeling so good, it would be more of a fun experiment than something I feel I “need.”
Other benefits that I have noticed since going keto:
In my very first post-keto cycle, my wretched menstrual cramps went away. Not got better, not got shorter. They went away completely and have not returned.
I have more energy.
I have more focus.
Food no longer controls my life. I’m not hungry all the time, obsessing over my next meal.
My anxiety is easier to control.
With intermittent fasting, I have more time because I spend less time preparing food and eating. (More on IF in another blog post, but in my opinion it’s an essential component for getting the best results from Keto.)