Going Keto: Getting Started
Lord knows I have gone through this journey of ups and downs with my health and weight. So when my company released a new weight loss product, I quickly started my research to make sure I understood how the product worked. The product was based on the keto diet - a term I’ve heard before at the women’s gym, but the word “keto” also had a twinge of negative connotation in my head as a medical professional (FYI - ketosis is not ketoacidosis).. So, off I went with the “green” strand of my rainbow personality to learn, learn, learn and learn some more.
What is keto?
Keto is short for “ketosis” or “ketogenic.” Ketosis is a natural metabolic state in which our bodies produce ketones out of fat to use them for energy instead of carbohydrates. So the keto diet focuses on high fat, moderate protein and low carbs.
Most people are familiar with low-carb diets and found great results in weight loss, including me! But as many people do, I reached my goal and slowly found myself slipping away from watching what I ate. But after reading more about this keto diet, the gears started turning and stimulated an eagerness to make this diet work for me.
So this term goes against everything I have previously learned about weight loss. Why would I eat more fat to lose weight? Sounds crazy, right? What I’ve learned is that the keto diet focuses on the calories from fats to burn fats for fuel. When the body no longer has a store of carbohydrates in the system, it will turn to those ketones to get the body burning.
I’ll have to admit, the first 2 weeks were rough. I first week I felt so “hangry” because my body was looking for carbs to burn. The second week, I started buying higher fat foods from the grocery store, but I ended up over-eating my calories as I was adjusting from old to new eating habits. My third week was golden: I finally started feeling “satiated” from smaller portions as my body adjusted to eating the calories from high-fat foods, and hunger was a feeling I seldom felt. When I was finally hungry, I ate a small portion for “satiety” and moved on with the rest of my day. Plus, I was better at planning what to eat. I found a rhythm to diligently track my intake throughout the day - a task I’ve learned over the years as the #1 technique to reaching any health goal.
I think many of us ask “where do I start?” any time we want to achieve a goal. First of all, set yourself up for success. I did this by finding a community that will support me and keep me accountable. This time around, I was lucky that my partners in the health and wellness business were down to go keto with me and we organized a beginners keto group to start on October 1st. Many of us joined the group as keto-newbies and a few members were already full-swing into the keto lifestyle and helped as consultants.
What if I don’t have a keto community? Keto is a relatively new lifestyle in the health world, so it’s natural for beginners to feel a bit lost. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find many communities on social media, including groups on Facebook and collaborative hashtags on Instagram. Best of all, I lucked out with my beginners keto group, full of people that are not only willing to try something new to achieve health goals, but also motivated leaders that enjoy teaching and sharing what actually works.
Stats and macros
In my second week, I decided to get focused and started crunching numbers as a baseline for setting my weight loss goals. I used a calculator to find my body mass index and body fat percentage. Then, I used those numbers to calculate my macros. “Macros” is short for “macronutrients” aka fat, protein and carbs. In order for me to achieve my weekly weight loss goal of -1 lb per week, I calculated a “moderate” daily deficit of 1360 kcal, and macro goals set to 70/20/10 (percent in fat/protein/carbs). This is where I began my “paradigm shift.” I began thinking “fats first,” “protein next” and “carb sprinkles.”
But the hardest part was deciding on “zero sugar.” I used to always say, “sugar makes me fat.” For the most part, this is true. Sugar will load my entire day allotment of 10% carbs almost in one serving. This is where I had to “choose my hard.” I love chocolate and my kids love to reward themselves with well-deserved sweet treats after dinner (yes, I still watch them eat chocolate ice cream and Ghiradelli Squares). To be honest with you, going into my 4th keto week, I’m really not “hungry” enough to eat a treat after dinner. I even planned to make my first low-carb chocolate fat-bomb “cake” dessert tonight, but I’m not hungry... at all. So, when I have a bit of a “craving,” I have a reserve of full-fat chocolate pudding in the fridge and eat about a tablespoon. Seriously, that’s enough to hit “satiety” since my taste buds have really changed already.
As with any goals we set to achieve, we must be ready mentally even before playing the game. I need to visualize my goal and ask myself questions: What will the scale look like at my ideal weight? How will my clothes feel? Will my husband notice? Will my children stop poking at my belly? Can I choose the right foods to eat at the holiday table?
Then, humanity sets in - Can I forgive myself when I choose to take a sweet treat? Can I love myself regardless of what my body looks like in the mirror? Can I recognize when my body is “missing” something in nutrients and answer the calling?
The New Normal
Achieving our goals begins within. We must have the mental perseverance of a warrior alongside the soulful humanity to forgive our faults. I’ve said this to many of my patients and their families, “we cannot return to normal.” Whatever we thought was “normal” before is now in the past. Our goal is to reset the “new normal.” When we finally reach that goal, can we reset new goals beyond these achievements? The old saying “there’s always room for improvement” is not meant to be pessimistic. Rather, it encourages us to be better than we were yesterday.