Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor am I a registered dietitian, nutritionist or personal trainer. I am sharing my own experience with nutrition, health, wellness, and fitness which is unique, and may not reflect the experiences of others. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for them. Before considering any workout routine or lifestyle change, please consult your physician.
Saying that I’ve been in a health, fitness, and weight-loss “rut” is an understatement.
Although this last year was absolutely wonderful, and amazing, and full of love and adventure, it was also stressful, overwhelming, and beyond busy!
I started a new career which involved a complete restructure of the M-F, public school schedule I had been familiar with for 13 years, and there was that little thing called wedding planning that was pretty much like having a second full-time job for 10 months! Getting used to traveling, working from home, and balancing the crazy adventure that is wedding planning turned out to be the perfect storm for putting goals on the back-burner. I basically ate everything and anything I wanted, and worked out sporadically- when, and IF I had the energy to do so. Taking care of myself and focusing on my health goals just weren’t my priority. And honestly, once I got into a routine with the new work schedule, and the excitement of the wedding settled a bit, I must admit, I fell into a bit of a funk, which didn’t make focusing on ME any easier.
In August I hosted a brunch for my girlfriends, and a former co-worker/friend attended. We had an awesome spread of brunch-like foods (including donuts, tarts, and more!), but I noticed that she kept it simple munching on olives, cheese, ham, some veggies, and the crustless frittatas I had made. Somehow the conversation came up about what she was eating (and avoiding) and why. I learned that she had started a low carb, high healthy fat way of eating, also known as the “Keto Diet.”
I was pretty familiar with this way of eating because my good friend Kristen has been living this lifestyle change for the past 2 years and has had great success losing 60lbs, reducing inflammation, lowering all of her “bad” blood level stats, ridding herself of chronic migraines, and gaining energy she didn’t even realize she could have. Additionally, about a year into this journey, Kristen was diagnosed with MS. However, she kept on going strong with her nutritional choices which have helped her to manage MS amazingly well.
My brunch buddy’s results told much of the same tale. Although she seemingly didn’t have much weight to lose (my perception as she is a runner, participating in multiple races, including half and full marathons each month, and didn’t “look” like she needed to lose weight- again, my perception), she decided to transition to the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of life as a way to lose some extra pounds so that she could be a better and fitter runner, reduce inflammation, increase endurance, and increase mental clarity.
Even though I have closely followed Kristen’s journey for the past two years, I was never curious about how this low carb, high fat way of life might help me meet my health and fitness goals for a few reasons:
- First, I am a HUGE skeptic. There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about Ketosis and this way of eating…and I questioned (and kinda believed) them all.
- I thought this was a diet that SUPER out of shape people had to resort to. I didn’t see myself as that “far gone.” I worked out, I ate decently, and cooked all the time. Heck, I even ran a half marathon! I didn’t need this, I just needed to eat LESS and move MORE.
- I don’t really like to eat meat. Steaks? I’ll pass. Pork chops? No thank you. What the heck was I going to eat? Doesn’t everyone on Keto eat steak?
- I could never eat this way while traveling and being on the road so much for work.
- I could never give up_____________. (Fill in the blank with donuts, cupcakes, pizza, cannolis, bread, biscuits, lasagna, sushi, ice cream, pancakes, etc.).
- People wouldn’t understand and so I’d have to “hear it from them” about all of those myths (see #1).
After our brunch ended, I got to thinking (and diving into pages upon pages of research) about Keto and something just clicked. I had been in that “funk” for far too long. I didn’t feel energized, I felt tired. I wasn’t thinking clearly. My knees hurt. My Plantar’s Fasciitis was Out. Of. Control. I wasn’t motivated. My clothes were tight (and getting tighter!), and I constantly felt bloated and uncomfortable. I was just off and had lost sight of my goals. My priorities weren’t straight, and I knew it. And I as got more and more comfortable in this 38th year of life (with 40 literally right around the corner), I knew that I needed to re-shake things up. And so I did.
I started by joining a fitness support group I was invited to, as a way to help me stay focused and accountable with my health and fitness goals. This group recommended a way of eating that was similar to what I was about to embark on- clean, nutritious foods with 5 ingredients or less- and also provided me with motivation, inspiration, workout ideas, water reminders, mindfulness tasks, and more. In addition, Kristen added me to another super informative group that was basically a one-stop-shop for all things Keto.
Basically, the goals of a low carb, high fat way of eating are:
- To have your body burn fat (and excess fat) for fuel.
- To keep your blood sugar stable, and your insulin levels low.
- To minimize hunger by giving your body healthy fats that keep you full and satisfied.
I told myself I’d give it 2 weeks. Just 2 weeks to see how I’d feel and if I could stick with it. After two weeks, I’d allow myself to go back to the way things were if I wasn’t feeling a difference. Anyone can do anything for two weeks, and so that’s what I promised myself.
Well, two weeks turned into 3 weeks, which turned into almost 8 weeks now. So, how are things going?
I feel absolutely amazing!
I have lost weight (25lbs!) and inches!
The plantar’s fasciitis pain in my foot that I have been fighting for 2 years is almost totally GONE!
I have so much energy that I’ve started running and taking Orangetheory classes consistently again!
I feel full, satisfied, and have little to no cravings!
Was it hard for me to jump right in?
Well no, not really. My mind was made up that I would give myself 2 weeks to try it out and so I was committed. The first couple of days I had cravings for sugar and carbs, and a slight headache, but by day 3, all of that was gone. Even when hurricane Irma rolled on through the Tampa Bay area, I stayed 100% committed to this way of eating, which meant even sitting with family watching them eat brownies, chips and salsa without any temptation! I had packed food and snacks for myself so that I wouldn’t feel deprived or derailed. To combat the cravings and the headache I was feeling, I followed close directions from this source, and was feeling better in no time.
The biggest lessons I learned the last 8 weeks:
- I made sure I was 100% committed before I began this journey, as I knew that even just 1 bite of a cookie would (and still would!) derail me. If you are thinking about starting this way of eating, it’s important to get out of that mindset of allowing yourself a “cheat day” or a “reward” for working out or making good dietary choices. Stay committed, stay the course, and you will see and FEEL results.
- I cleaned out my fridge and pantry removing anything that was not from the approved shopping list. If you live with someone who is not following the same plan, consider dividing the fridge so that you know where your approved foods are located, and setting aside an empty pantry space for just LCHF friendly items. Don’t worry, after a week of eating this way, NONE of those items will tempt you as your cravings for sugar and carbs will be gone!
- I read every. single. label. and plan ahead if I’m going out to eat (there are hidden carbs and sugars in EVERYTHING).
- I drink lots of water, and take vitamins. Click here for a rundown on suggested vitamins to take.
- I add salt to foods. As you burn fat, you will also be losing electrolytes. Add sea salt to all of your foods to replenish them. I even add a few shakes of mineral-rich pink salt to iced lemon water each morning to ensure I have enough salt.
- I don’t count calories! Use an App like My Fitness Pal to track how many carbs, how much fat, and how much protein I am consuming every day. You can change your settings in My Fitness Pal to edit your goals (I do 20g carbs, 80-100g protein, and 120g+ fat, and less than 10g of sugar per day). Your fat intake should always be the highest number out of the three. Here is a handy calculator to figure out your targets. Make sure to measure things when you can, and use this site for accuracy when it comes to carb amounts in foods.
- I have learned that this is absolutely NOT a high protein diet! Excess protein in your body can be converted into glucose (sugar) which can stall weight loss, and lead to damage. This is a low carb, high healthy fat diet…with protein on the side!
- I don’t fixate on what I CAN’T have. That will be your downfall friends. Focus on your end goal and let that drive your motivation. I tell myself these words everyday- “I know what donuts taste like. I know what KitKats taste like. I don’t need them. I have had hundreds and hundreds of them in my life. It’s time for me be the best version of myself and Kitkats won’t get me there.” The good news? There are SO many awesome and easy recipes for LCHF baked goods out there that are DELICIOUS! I’ve already made bagels, biscuits, pizza crust, cookies, chocolate mousse and pancakes! There is even room for dark chocolate, coffee, and whipped cream on this way of eating after the two weeks has passed.
- I have learned that this way of eating is so filling and satisfying that I never feel like I’m on a “diet”, which is really what has been the biggest success factor for me. If I’m hungry, I eat fat (think bacon, fat bombs, cheese, avocado, coconut oil!). No starvation, no deprivation. Period. I’ve been told all of my life (yes, I’ve been dieting since I was a kid!) if I eat less and exercise more, I would lose weight. This has been a big shift in my mindset, and I have to keep bringing myself back to the research when I feel my mind wandering back to those misconceptions.
- I have learned to tell the difference between eating because I am bored or stressed, and eating because I truly feel hunger deep in my belly.
- I have learned that it’s not all about weight loss. My goals have always been to be fit. To be able to run. To be able to be active. To be able to hike and travel comfortably. To be able to wear a swimsuit without slathering on the anti-chafing cream. To be able to shop for clothing outside of just 1 section (often far removed from everything else) of the store. It’s not about the pounds on the scale, it’s about feeling good, healthy, and confident. Eating this way has helped me find myself again. It’s helped me get back into running without foot pain. It’s helped me feel beautiful again. It’s helped me think clearer, and sleep better. It’s helped to clear up my skin. It’s reminded me of the importance to prioritize my health and my body. It’s helping me close the chapters of my 30’s and move into my 40’s as my best self.
For the first time (in a long time) I’m feeling like this is something that will work for me. I’m excited to continue to share my story with you as it takes a little bit of a new direction. If you are thinking about starting a low carb, high fat way of life, I hope I have provided you with some starting points, knowledge, and inspiration. If you missed the shopping list above, here it is again! If you have any questions, or would like to follow my day-to-day journey, look me up on Instagram and let’s connect!
I’ll post another update in a few weeks, and some recipes too! Stay tuned!