Before you read any further… please note that every BODY is different, and what works for some people might not work for others.
The following is what works for ME. Also, I’m not a medical professional or dietician or nutritionist or anything. I also don’t have any underlying health issues. I’m just sharing my personal experiences- how I eat keto style- without buying any supplements, how I feel when I eat keto, how long it takes my body to convert to fat burning mode, how I can “cheat” and stay in ketosis, and at the end I’ll share some links to my favorite recipes and some great resources.
I added headlines to this post to make it easier to navigate.. I hope they help. OK- let’s get started!
WHAT IS “KETO”?
Keto is the common term for when your body is in ketosis. Essentially, your body is producing ketones to use as fuel… instead of using glucose.
A typical American diet is high in carbohydrates- think bread, pasta, potatoes, sugars. High carb foods produce a lot of glucose, which is the easiest molecule for your body to convert and use as energy. The glucose that you consume is processed immediately as energy. Any excess glucose that was consumed gets stored as fat.
When you lower your carb consumption, you aren’t consuming glucose so your body is forced to find a different energy source. Ketosis is a natural, metabolic process that occurs when our bodies turn to using fat for energy instead of glucose. Your body turns it’s fat stores into ketones, making them a readily available source of energy.
When you maintain a ketogenic diet, your body continues to efficiently burn stored the fat as it’s energy source. Burning fat = losing fat. It is literally melting off of you.
It is not easy for your body to make this conversion and it takes time. It can take up to a week (or two weeks in some cases) for your body to transition completely. This means if you are going to do it- you need to stick to it. “Cheating” (eating something high in carbs) will kick your body out of ketosis, and you’ll have to start the process all over again. You don’t want to do that.
WHY I LOVE THE KETO LIFESTYLE
I find that KETO is what works the best to help me to lose my flab the fastest, it has me feeling good, full of energy, not hungry, and it’s absolutely sustainable long term. And I don’t have to run or do cardio to lose the weight! BONUS!
It does take work and effort. And it is super hard to get started. But once your body has made the conversion- oh my gosh!!
I think that’s what I like the best- never being hungry and always feeling focused and full of energy.
You do not need special supplements or need to eat spoonfuls of coconut oil or eat “fat bombs”. You just need to make healthful choices, reduce your carbs to only veggies or complex carbs with fiber, and stick to it. No cheating.
BEFORE YOU START: EXERCISE AND ACTIVITY
The biggest drawback to following a KETO diet is you will lose the ability to do intense or long workouts.
In the beginning (like for the first few weeks) you do not want to exercise at all. After that, you’ll want to limit to walking, short runs (like just 20-30 minutes), yoga, strength training, even heavy lifting is good too, in short bursts.
You will NOT want to do an hour of cardio, or HIIT or intense workouts because you just won’t have the endurance. Your body doesn’t have the ability to access the fuel it needs that quickly. It takes a lot longer for the body to burn ketones than it does to burn glucose, so you will hit a wall and be suddenly done.
Just stick with heavy lifting and walking 😊 It’s really all you need anyway.
BEFORE YOU START- HOW TO MAKE THE TRANSITION:
When eating keto, you will need to track the net carbs for every single bite that you put in your mouth.
Every single bite.
I find that easing into keto eating makes for a smoother transition for my body so I would start tracking this now, just so you can get an idea of what is high, and low, in carbs.
I use LoseIt.com as my tracking app, as they tend to have the largest database of foods. You can also custom enter your own foods into their database and re-use it over and over. If you are like me, and eat the same things over and over, it’s even easier because it stores your commonly eaten foods where they are readily available to select.
OK… to get the Net Carb grams you need to look at the packaging, look at the serving size, and perform the following calculation:
Total carbs – minus fiber grams = net carbs per serving
How many servings are you eating?
Sugar is bad. You simply cannot have added sugar carbs.
Making something from scratch? There are many recipe nutrition tracker websites out there that you can plug a recipe into, enter the number of servings it made- and end up with a per-serving nutrient guide.
SO HOW MANY CARBS CAN I EAT?
For the first week, if I can keep my daily carb count below 20, then I find that my body will adapt quickly. After that first week, I can creep up to 30 carbs per day. And a few days later move up to 40. And 40 seems to be my magic number. I can occasionally hit a 50-gram day, but I usually follow that with a couple of strict 20 gram days to ensure I stay in ketosis.
Once your body is in ketosis, your goal is to just stay there. Do not restrict your carbs any lower than you need to.
If your body can stay in ketosis by eating 50 net carbs per day- then strive to consume 40-50 carbs every day because they ARE necessary and good for you. Just be sure to get those carbs from fiber, veggies and low glycemic fruits. Not cookies!!
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN I’M IN KETOSIS?
You’ll feel different. One day you’ll realize that hours have gone by and you weren’t hungry. You’ll feel like you have extra energy- you won’t want to sit down and do nothing. You’ll feel good.
You can also confirm (supposedly) by using ketone test strips. You can purchase these (Bayer’s ketostix is my favorite) from a pharmacy, or online. These sticks measure the excess ketones that your body is producing. You pee on a stick, it turns a color if you are in ketosis. No color change, no ketosis. Any color = ketosis. There’s a lot of disputes on whether or not this actually works, but hey. I feel like they work for me.
It doesn’t really matter what color- any ketones being produced, even a trace, means that you are in ketosis.
I also find that about 2-3 weeks in, my mouth tastes slightly different. Perhaps a little fruitier? I don’t know how to explain that.
HOW DOES TRANSITIONING TO KETO FEEL?
Not gonna lie- those first few days are hard. I’m starving. I’m weak.
Days 2 and 3 are the hardest for me from a hunger standpoint. I am starving those days!! Meal prep is going to be key here. Having grab and go items that you can readily choose from will be a life saver.
Days 3 and 4 are the hardest from a weak and sick feeling standpoint. Zero energy and if I try to do something (like raking barkdust) I hit a wall very quickly and just can’t.
But by day 5-6 (for me) the magic switch has flipped and I feel great! I feel so energized, my head feels clear, I’m not hungry any more, I don’t crave sweets as much. It’s at this moment that I need to simply stay focused on fueling myself properly (because I’m not hungry, so I’m naturally eating less) and focus on staying hydrated.
Another benefit- my gut. I lose all the bloating that I have when I’m on a high-carb diet. I’m more regular and just have a better overall experience each time :) I just physically FEEL good.
I also sleep really good. Unfortunately, this means that when I wake up at 5:45 am, I’m raring to go! Ugh.
If you don’t already take a magnesium supplement, I recommend you start. I ONLY get nighttime cramps when I’m on keto and they start right away.
I also take a veggie vitamin supplement (from Costco) because I know I’m not eating a healthy amount of veggies or getting enough vitamins in- because truthfully, when we eat packaged foods there are a lot of vitamins and minerals added – when you are eating a raw and natural diet (which keto is primarily) you aren’t getting those extra nutrients.
Drinking water is extremely important. Keep hydrated. Your body will thank you.
SO WHAT DO YOU EAT- EXACTLY?
If you Google “Keto Diet” you’ll find all kinds of written diets you can follow, supplements you can take, programs you can sign up for. But really, for me, it all boils down to this:
I know I cannot have any of the following: potatoes, rice, bread, flour, starches, sugar, sweets, syrups, soda, most fruits, no low-fat dairy, no alcohol (more on alcohol later).
Basically, if the carb count for your serving is greater than 5, it should not be eaten.
OMG! I have a sweet tooth like no-one else. I love love love my sweets, I love fruit, I love chocolate, I love bread….how am I gonna do this?
Thankfully there are a million recipes for Keto anything. Keto chocolate chip cookies? YES! Keto bread? YES- you can actually buy it from Franz now! Keto hamburger buns? YES! Brownies? YES! Keto churros? YES!
There’s something called “fathead dough” that you can make at home that works as a great bread substitute and can be modified to make into pretzels, biscuits, bagels. I make some amazing blueberry crumble bars using fathead dough that are to die for! I keep them in my freezer and pop one out every morning to enjoy later that afternoon.
Gnom-gnom has some great keto recipes- they are my go-to site when I wonder if someone has converted a recipe to be keto friendly.
I make keto cereal, keto donuts, keto brownies, keto cupcakes, keto breadsticks, keto cookies, keto biscuits… you name it, there’s a recipe to make it!
Grocery stores even have keto-friendly products! There are some yummy snacks made by Atkins and a few other companies. Walden Farms has zero-carb syrups, jellies, etc. Most sugar-free items are OK, but check the label.
It’s relatively easy to eat Keto style. If you love veggies- it’s even easier. I hate veggies, though.
Here’s a list of what you CAN eat:
- Full-fat dairy: heavy whipping cream, cheese, cottage cheese, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, grass-fed butter (Kerrygold), cream cheese.
- Meats- chicken, steak, pork, fish, bacon, lunch meat, pepperoni
- Veggies- most (low glycemic veggies are the best)
- Berries & some fruits (look for low glycemic fruits)
- Nuts & Peanut Butter
- Baked goods and sweets made Keto Style- this is a big one for me
- Protein shakes or powders (some)
I personally do not take any special keto supplements, or track my fats, or deliberately increase my fats, or eat spoonfuls of coconut oil.
HERE’S MY TYPICAL DAY:
I start off every morning with a cup of coffee with heavy whipping cream added for sweetness. (OK, I actually have three of those every morning). My breakfast is 2 egg whites and 1 egg. 100% keto. Zero carbs. And I wait as long as possible for my next meal, which often isn’t for several hours because I’m simply not hungry!
My morning snack is typically one of the following:
- A small container of cheese cubes, grapes and almonds
- A keto treat (cinnamon roll, cookie, or other baked good)
- Pepperoni and cheese slices
- A slice of keto bread with a slathering of peanut butter
- Plain greek yogurt with berries and chia seeds
- Protein shake
The key is to have something “grab and go” ready for your snacks. I keep pint containers in my fridge filled with snacks so I can just grab one and be happy.
Lunches and dinners can be steak and veggies, chicken and veggies, maybe it’s a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, or a turkey and cheese sandwich, buffalo chicken dip with celery, hotwings and celery, or a giant salad, caprese- mozzarella tomatoes and basil, or bacon wrapped jalepenos, or pizza made with cauliflower crust, or cauli-mac, or a burger with a lettuce bun or keto bun, or pancakes with sausage. Mission makes low-carb tortillas- so I can even have tacos or enchiladas with the family!
I don’t feel deprived at all. I have my sweet tooth covered with keto brownies, keto cake, keto everything! Yes it takes work to bake these items. Yes, the ingredients can be hard to find… but Amazon (and Fred Meyer) tend to carry almost all of these things now.
My new favorite is making my own cold stone ice cream. Just full fat whipping cream, a 1/2 tsp of vanilla, 1/2 tsp of monk fruit sweetener and sometimes I add chopped strawberries. SO GOOD.
Here are the must-haves that you need in your pantry if you are going to do any baking or cooking from scratch. Almost every recipe calls for the majority of these ingredients:
Xanthan Gum (Bob’s Red Mill)
Psyllium Husks (ground)
Monk fruit sweetener or Swerve (xylitol sugar substitute)
Mozzarella Cheese- shredded
I DID IT! I’M IN KETOSIS! NOW WHAT? TELL ME HOW I CAN CHEAT!
Again, this is what works for ME. I do not know if it will work for you, so tread lightly!
I’ve been in ketosis for a couple of weeks now. I’m fully adapted, I feel good, I’ve been able to stay in ketosis while eating 40-50 grams of carbs per day. I DO have to make sure that those carbs are evenly spaced out throughout the day in order to stay in ketosis, though.
But gosh, I want a banana! Or french fries! Or cajun tots! Or nachos! Or a BEER!
You really have to be careful here. There really is no such thing as “cheating” because really, you are still eating within the same carb limits.
If you do a full on cheat and throw your body out of ketosis, you are going to have to start all over again and it will take several days again. It’s not worth it.
So you need to carefully plan your “cheat” and be deliberate about your choices.
You want a banana? OK, eat HALF a banana (14g carbs) but make sure that for the rest of your day you are restricting your carbs. Or make sure you are going to do some sort of physical activity that will quickly burn those carbs up.
Craving tater tots? There’s 2 grams of carbs PER tater tot. If you restricted your carbs really well, then maybe you have room in your carb budget to have 14 extra carbs with your dinner- so that’s SEVEN tater tots. Sweet potato fries? French fries? Tortilla chips? Potato chips? Know the carb count and count them out. Seriously.
My favorite cheat? We go out on Friday nights for “Dive Bar Date Night” and on those days I try to have almost no carbs so that when I go out that night I can have a burger (no bun), 7 tater tots (yes I count them out) and one beer. That’s a 30 gram meal right there- it COULD kick me out, but my body seems to be able to handle that, once a week. And I really restrict my carbs the next day just to be double safe.
I can’t do that though if I’ve already had 30 grams of carbs that day. It really does take planning. (And that’s too many fries pictured above. 7. Seriously. Seven)
I do not recommend getting into the habit of frequent cheating because it’s easy to overindulge, or slip, and you don’t want to make your body flip flop back and forth, it’s hard on it.
You do not want to undo everything that you have done!
WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL?
Here’s the scoop with alcohol…..
When you have alcohol in your system, your liver makes ketones out of the alcohol NOT your fat stores. So as long as it’s in your system, your body won’t be burning any fat.
Alcohol will hit you harder when you are in ketosis, so be aware of that.
The other danger with alcohol is tempation. If you can’t moderate yourself, then don’t do it. And what about the food temptations that will be around you? Be mindful of that.
And finally- you still need to count the carbs. As a general rule, anything 80-proof or higher typically has zero carbs… but what are you mixing it with? THAT will be your problem.
Beer can vary from 6-20 grams per can/bottle.
Wine typically has just under 1 g per ounce, so a 6oz pour would probably be 5 grams.
If you are going to drink, just do some research on your favorite drinks and see if there’s something that will fit within your allotted carb count for the day, and stick to the plan.
HOW LONG CAN YOU DO KETO?
One could remain on a ketogenic diet indefinitely. There’s no harm in it as long as you ARE consuming carbohydrates, and making sure those carbs are complex carbs, high in fiber, and full of nutrients and vitamins. Your body needs carbohydrates so you don’t want to eliminate them completely, nor do you want to reduce them any lower than you need to. As I said before- for me, I need to restrict to 20 to get started… but once I’m converted I can maintain at 40-50 net carbs per day.
THE TEMPTATIONS AROUND YOU…
Is someone having a birthday and you really want that slice of cake?
Not gonna happen.
BUT, you could indulge in a few bites. IF you plan for it in advance and watch your total carb count. Eating half a cupcake CAN throw you out if you aren’t careful.
I find that once I’m in ketosis, I feel so good I don’t want to do anything that will take me out of it. I’m losing fat, I’m feeling thinner, I’m feeling strong and focused and feeling GOOD. I don’t want to lose that!
I was full keto when Easter hit one year. We had a full day of events planned with family, including a huge buffet brunch and well, I started out strong, but when that dessert tray came around, I blew it. Over 150 carbs that day! But the next morning I got back on track and kept going! It only took me 2 days to get back to fat burning.
I was full keto one Halloween, too. I did not buy candy that year until Halloween day because I knew the temptation would be too great. It’s all about control and making conscious choices. Strangely, I had zero cravings for any of my kids’ candy. My willpower was strong that year and there was no need to sneak a Twix or Peanut Butter Cup. I just didn’t want it.
I’ve been on keto and gone out to lunches and dinners with friends… I’ve gone out for drinks. I just make sure that whatever I order will still fit within my carb count. Again, plan ahead. Most people won’t even notice you are eating differently.
I have also gone on weekend trips (even camping) where I was able to stick to plan by bringing my own pre-made meals and snacks, or checking out menu options in advance to make keto-friendly choices (more on that at the end).
If you are just mindful and aware and plan ahead, it’s actually pretty easy to stick to.
YOU CAN EAT AT A RESTAURANT?
Pretty much every restaurant has nutrition data on their website, or you can find a lot of the foods listed in Loseit.com. But here’s a quick tip:
Burgers– order them as a lettuce wrap- no bun!! And stay away from French fries. OK, maybe you can have like 6. Savor them.
Pizza- Papa Murphys makes a keto pizza! You get all the pizza toppings in a tray- no crust! OR, go ahead and order pizza for your family and pre-make some cauliflower crusts for yourself- when the pizza comes, slide those toppings off a slice of pizza and put them on your crust and enjoy!
McDonalds- breakfast all day- if we HAVE to get McDonalds for some reason, I get 2 of the sausage mcmuffins with egg and cheese, discard all the buns and just eat the meat, cheese and egg. Zero carbs. Lots of fat. ;)
Costco– their turkey provolone sandwich is super good- if you are well into the plan and watch what you eat the rest of the day, you can remove just the top bun and eat it open face style with only the bottom bun and still be OK. Or get a hot dog (but no bun). Drink a DIET soda.
Subway- did you know you can have any sandwich made as a salad?
Starbucks & Dutch Bros- order the smallest size and have it made sugar-free and with half-and-half or breve style. Iced coffees supposedly have less milk in them, so those are generally lower in carb/calorie count than the same version hot (probably because of the ice that takes up the space).
SO HOW DO I STOP KETO? WHY DO I STOP KETO?
Once I’m on a keto diet, I tend to just stay on it for as many months as possible, until I simply can’t.
The three times I’ve gone off keto were due to multi-day events that as much as I tried to stick to my diet, I simply couldn’t. So I went off plan.
A word of caution here: if you are going to go off plan and indulge in a pile of simple carbs, starches and sugar- you are gonna have some gut problems for a couple of days! So take it slow. Don’t make it a sudden free for all!
When I got back home, I had a decision to make. Do I go back on keto and go through that whole adaptation process again? Or do I just try to maintain where I’m at by making healthy choices?
Usually the latter wins. I decide to just make good decisions and eat well, and if I make good choices, I can keep the weight off for a long time, months, even years.
But ultimately, it’s easy to fall back to old eating habits. Especially if you start eating the things you missed- like potato chips, real bread, pasta, actual chocolate cake or brownies, etc. And temptations are all around you.
Your body has now converted back to using the food you consume as fuel. You can’t go as long between meals, you will have less energy, you can’t go as long between meals. You are out running errands, you get super hungry, McDonalds is there, and a soda sounds good and well… french fries, and you do it once and it’s OK. So you do it again, and it snowballs from there. You’ll start eating more.
You HAVE to be mindful of what you are eating. Food is FUEL. 80% of how you look is directly related to how you eat.
LINKS AND RESOURCES
Here’s a link to my favorite Keto recipes on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/elisa_buckley/keto-lc-recipes/
Fruits OK for ketogenic diets: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/fruits
The best vegetables for ketogenic diets: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/vegetables
Low Carb foods and recipes: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/foods
Keto-friendly recipes: https://gnom-gnom.com
Food/Carb tracking app/website: https://loseit.com