Losing weight can’t be this easy, can it?
It took me a long time to balloon from the 197 pounds I was when I came to the United States in 1999 to the 279 pounds I weighed in at a doctor’s office this spring.
It hasn’t been four months since I began the “keto” or “ketogenic” diet, and I’ve nearly lost all that weight. On July 10, I weighed 268.2 pounds. This morning I came in at 204.8 pounds. I’m about 25 pounds from my goal.
I’m not writing to brag. I’m writing because if you, like I did, have begun to feel a little hopeless about your weight, there’s an easy way to turn things around. Fast.
What is the keto diet? It’s a very strict low-carb diet (20 carbs and under per day). It turns your body into a fat-burning machine. It works.
No 5K runs. No days in the gym (not that they would hurt). No silly or expensive mail-order weight-loss foods. Just stick to protein and fat and cut out carbs and you lose weight like crazy.
You’re supposed to replace carb intake with fat – but I gave up on that after about two weeks. I’ve read the fat just helps you feel full, and I found the protein did the trick all by itself. So, I mainly stick to protein and low-carb veggies like lettuce or cauliflower.
On the Internet you’ll find a lot of people who weigh everything they consume. That wasn’t my style. It doesn’t need to be a lot of work or complicated.
In the morning, if I have breakfast, I’ll have bacon or sausage and eggs, or maybe an omelet – usually from Mark’s Coney Island, City Limits or Saline Inn. If I don’t eat in the morning, I’ll eat something similar for lunch. Obviously, I say no to home fries, toast and pancakes.
Sometimes, the eggs get a little tiresome. Lately, I might get a few coney dogs with no bun and no onions. I was a little worried about the carb count in the chili, but the weight keeps coming off – so you have my blessing.
At night, sometimes I have a small meal. Sometimes I’ll have a full meal – like roast chicken and green beans from Saline Inn. But honestly, it’s rare that I feel the need to eat two full meals in a day. Many days I’ll eat one meal. Then I snack on shelled sunflower seeds. And maybe at night I have a cheese stick or a spoonful of Smucker’s peanut butter when I want a treat. Those are the days I lose weight. Other days, when I eat full two meals, I might a lose 1/4th of a pound or maintain.
I wash down most of my meals with La Croix water (no sugar or even fake sweeteners) or Smart Water (for electrolytes – more on electrolytes later)
There are things you’ll have to give up:
- Breads, pasta and other things made from flower.
- Starchy veggies like potatoes.
- High sugar fruits like apples, oranges and bananas. (You can have a few berries now and then).
- Soda. Beer. Wine.
I know. That’s pretty awful.
Like I said, it’s a pretty strict diet. But it works so fast. Get on a scale on you’ll see the results within three days. Within two weeks you’ll be down 5-10 pounds. Instant results are a great motivator and helped me stay on the keto wagon.
Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
- When in doubt, Google it. Bring your phone to every restaurant. Type in the food and “carbs” and google will spit it out.
- Meat is good. Eggs are good.
- Cheese is pretty good, too. Yogurt and milk, not so much.
- Eat lots of salt, especially early on, to prevent the keto flu. Also, if you start to feel a little sick, or like you’re running out of energy, drink some dill pickle juice! It’s the great revivor.
- Drink electrolyte water. I don’t have any evidence that it works – but I was told to do it so I do it, and so far, so good. Drink lots of water anyway. Stay hydrated.
- Don’t worry about measuring everything. Just stay away from carbs. And you still have to consider calories – but it’s pretty tough to go crazy on calories without breads and sugars and rice.
- Don’t worry about trying to eat all the fat the Internet says you need. The main purpose of the fat, as far as I can tell, is to make you feel full. But I found that once you cut out all the carbs, the protein itself is fairly filling. Today I ate a chicken salad (ranch dressing) for lunch and a Greek salad for dinner (gyros meat) and I didn’t finish either. It’s near the end of long day and I’m not hungry at all. Carbs make you want more carbs. They fill you up and then make you hungrier. I’ve always kind of known this, ever since I got addicted to beef fried rice while delivering Chinese food for Eddie Ing. But once you cut out the carbs, those insane urges go away.
- Don’t try to replace all those foods you miss. Don’t bother with fake breads, or cheese taco shells, or weirdo pizza. Just cut it out and move on. The more you obsess over the food you miss, the harder it is to move into your new space. Sometimes I catch a whiff of pizza and it’s like being denied at the gates of Heaven. But honestly, it hasn’t really been that tough. The one exception I’ll make, perhaps, is riced cauliflower. I want to try Indian butter chicken or maybe chicken korma over riced cauliflower.
- For some people, sugar substitutes may as well be sugar. A diet coke or sugar free Jello will throw them out of ketosis. Others can stay in ketosis while drinking diet Cokes. I’ve been too chicken to test this. Personally, with the exception of a piece of sugar free gum each day, I stay away from it.
- If you fall out of ketosis, you can get right back in it by resuming your diet. It might take you three days, and you could subject yourself to keto flu while re-entering.
- The first two or three weeks are tough. It feels like you can’t eat anything. But once you settle into routines that work, it’s easy.
There are a few potential negatives:
- Bad breath. It hits you hard early in the process, which is why that sugar free gum comes in handy.
- You may lose hair in the first six weeks. But it’s a temporary phenomenon.
- Shopping sucks. Busch’s needs to step up its low-carb game.
- You’ll feel limited at some restaurants.
- Physically, while you’ll feel better, you might not feel as strong. Unless you’re working out, you’re probably losing some muscle mass, too.
- Crippling cramps in your calf remind you that you’re not eating enough potassium.
Outside of weight loss, there’ve been a bunch of other positives from the keto diet:
- I stopped taking blood pressure medicine in August and my blood pressure continues to drop.
- In those first few weeks I had a couple dizzy spells (which might have been caused by ear surgery I had around the same time), but otherwise I’ve felt more energetic and more alert.
- Trips to the bathroom are, um, easy in, easy out. No fuss, no muss.
- That walk up the hill on Bennett from Mill Pond Park used to leave me short of breath. I barely notice it anymore. My endurance is better at ball hockey – although I’m pushing guys around so easily anymore.
I’ve got 25 pounds to go and truthfully, I don’t care if it takes two months or two years. I’ve already done better than I imagined. I’m not even sure what a 180-pound me will feel like and not looking forward to another raid of the clearance section at TJ Maxx or Sierra Trading Post. Part of the reason is, I’m not sure what to do when I get there.
Do I go back to eating a calzone and two cokes after a basketball game on a Friday night? Can I never have pizza again? Or a sour cream glazed donut? Or a Snickers (Halloween was a little rough)?
I’m not sure yet. I’ve seen people laugh off these diets because people often put all the weight back on. Maybe they’re right.
But here’s what I know. If I slip and put 10-15 pounds on, I know the secret to losing it in a month.
I learned a lot about the Keto diet at www.reddit.com/r/keto. If you’re considering this diet, follow that subreddit and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are several Facebook groups that can be helpful, too.