I had a couple of friends ask me if this was going to be a pregnancy announcement based on how I ended Monday’s post. On the opposite end of the spectrum, this post is about my weight loss over the past 8 weeks. Even so, this post is exciting and a little nerve-wracking for me. I’m far from the epitome of physique, and have never posted any progress pictures like this before. You’ll be able to tell that later in the post. But if nothing else, I hope it helps someone else. Even if the ketogenic diet isn’t for you, maybe you can at least be inspired to take your own pictures.
What is the Ketogenic Diet?
The Ketogenic, or keto, diet is a moderate protein/high fat/low carbohydrate way of eating. It is designed to put your body into nutritional ketosis, and use ketones produced by the liver as energy. Under traditional diets with normal to high carbohydrates, the body produces higher levels of glucose and insulin. Your body naturally uses the glucose first, and stores the fat for later. I think it’s important to note that this is a nutritional and metabolic state, and is not the same thing as diabetic ketoacidosis.
So how do you do it? For every person who follows the keto diet, they probably do it a bit differently. Some people don’t count calories at all, some count total carbs, and some net carbs (carbs minus fiber). However the basic concept is the same of moderate protein/high fat/low carbohydrate. I personally tracked calories, each macro group, and net carbs as you’ll see below. I am by no means an expert, so I’ve listed some great resources at the end that go into further details.
Why did I pick Keto?
I forget how I stumbled across Keto specifically, though I think it may have been Instagram. I was intrigued because I had success with low carb eating in the past. I started researching in November 2016, and decided to do a gradual step the next month. In December I tried to avoid all the obvious carbs, excluding celebration days. This meant removing things like potatoes and pasta every other day besides my birthday, a company party, and Christmas. Though Christmas was really like five days since we were out of town. This pattern didn’t result in any weight loss, but it was a good gradual step for me. Like everyone and their brother, I started this change on January 2nd. The only reason I didn’t start on January 1st was because I had pajama brunch, and change can wait a day for that.
I’ve been gluten-free (GF) for about fifteen years, and GF pasta is one of the only substitute items I continually ate. I would have crackers or toast every once in a while, but I was never one to crave a sandwich. So personally, keto/low carb is a slightly easier transition. Besides loving a potato in basically any form, my other main issue is portion control. What I was eating wasn’t necessarily terrible, but it was more how much. The ketogenic diet has numerous health benefits and has been suggested for those with PCOS or seizures. I’m fortunate not to have any huge issues, so I just chose keto for weight loss.
Macros and Calories
One of the first things you need to do before starting keto, is to calculate your macronutrients, or macros. I tried another site in the beginning, but I found that I liked Ketogains better. I already had MyFitnessPal (MFP), so once I did my calculations, I adjusted my daily goals. Allegedly you can calculate net carbs when you log into MFP on your desktop, but I never do that. One of the things I love most about MFP is that you can scan bar codes to add food or ingredients to recipes, so I always use my phone. I just mentally calculate the net carbs when I click on the nutritional breakout of the day.
Some people only track carbs when they first start out, but I tracked calories in addition to protein/fat/carbs. The first few days are hard as you learn more about food, but I always tried to enter my food into MFP the day before. If something changes, you can relatively easily swap foods out and delete them. Keep in mind though that if you’re already two meals and a snack into your day, dinner needs to fit somehow.
Fat, Fat, Fat
Fat seems a little scary at first and still has a bad stigma, but it’s a great energy source. When a lot of people first hear of Keto, they just think bacon and butter. And yes, you can have both of those wonderful things but there is more to it. I’m not sure what it says about my diet pre-keto, but I basically found no issue getting enough fat for the day. Apparently some people struggle with this. I never once made a fat bomb or drank bulletproof coffee (coffee with grass-fed butter). I did use full fat dairy, but I would much rather eat my butter on vegetables than drink it in my coffee. I didn’t come up with it, but there is a saying to use fat as a lever. Your carbs are a hard limit, your protein is a goal, and you can dial-up your fat as needed to satisfy. Don’t feel like you have to sit down with a stick of butter to hit your numbers. This concept is particularly useful for those of us who have higher body fat already.
Keep It Simple
Perhaps it’s from my gluten-free ways, but I’ve kept it relatively simple over the past eight weeks. I didn’t make any replacement items like bread or pancakes since I’m use to not eating them in the first place. I do love potatoes though, so I didn’t serve them for the first couple weeks in my house until I had a better control on cravings.
I don’t have a food scale and kept things pretty simple. I used regular spoons and measuring cups and leveled them as best as possible. I also have small Glad containers that are 4 oz, so I used that to measure meats or store portioned food. A food scale is probably a good idea, but I just didn’t want to spend the money in the beginning.
Very quickly into your keto research, you’ll see people posting pictures of little sticks compared to a color chart. These are ketosis test strips that use urine to check for the release of ketones, indicating whether you are in ketosis or not. Based on the title of this section, I unsurprisingly did not use them. I didn’t feel like spending any extra money, and read many places that they are inaccurate. Do what works best for you, but for me I need to make weight loss as easy as possible.
Week 1 -5.0 lbs
Week 2 -5.1 lbs
Week 3 -0.8 lbs
Week 4 -1.9 lbs
Week 5 -3.4 lbs
Week 6 +1.1 lbs
Week 7 -5.2 lbs
Week 8 -1.9 lbs
Total: -22.2 lbs
Doesn’t everyone have dressing room lighting, a child, and a chip clip in their pictures? Like I said, this is my first rodeo. The picture on the left was taken in November 2016 when I was shopping for Christmas party dresses. I had to use it because it is one of the only full body pictures I actually had. The picture on the right was taken at the end of my eight weeks on keto. I used the same dress because I thought it would be an easy comparison. However the dress just hung around me, so I added the chip clip for emphasis. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I added a face comparison just for kicks, and the left picture below is from December 2016. Pardon my end of work day hair.
The results are probably mostly diet, but I did exercise. In January I had a free month membership at a gym, and went 3-5 times per week. In February I did just a few workouts at home, but my exercise was mainly walking a couple of times per week. During Week 6 I was sick, which meant I didn’t feel like exercising and consumed numerous sugar free throat lozenges.
What would I change?
Looking back I wish I had used other ways of assessing my progress besides the scale. I highly suggest taking measurements, even if you never share them with anyone else. You should also take pictures or have goal clothing items. For some the scale doesn’t move much, but you may go down a dress size or two. If I could do it over, I would take actual before pictures and measurements.