As any woman over fifty or after menopause soon learns, taking off the weight gets harder as we age. I know in my case, no matter how hard I exercised, There was this last ten pounds that I just couldn’t lose.
I started training just over two year ago and had lost nearly 30 lbs. I had changed my diet, ate lean proteins, greens, lots of fruit and veggies, and eliminated processed foods, and eventually, sugar, except for natural sugars like fruits and honey.
Last year, I seemed to peak, and worse, I gained back 10 lbs!
I’d go to the gym and train hard doing high intensity, weight training and cardio, but just couldn’t shake off the ten I’d gained back.
This past January after I’d allowed myself some serious holiday indulging, I decided to try keto.
I read a ton of stuff, watched the docs and pros on YouTube, and felt pretty knowledgeable on how to do it right. I didn’t want to count macros and stuff because I thought that was pretty hard core, and I like to keep my life simple. No offence to the hard core keto people.
What is keto?
The ketogenic diet is a lifestyle where you eat high fat, then moderate protein, greens and some berries or no fruit at all, and low to no carbs. This forces your body to burn ketones as fuel instead of the usual sugar we burn, hence the not eating carbs which convert to sugar for energy. This is the short version, but a simple Google search will give you a ton of info on keto.
How Did I Do It?
It was actually very simple. I just started one day by swallowing a tablespoon of coconut oil, which I did each morning, eating bacon and eggs with no toast, and then kept eating fats such as olive oil, cream cheese, cheeses, meats (moderate amounts as proteins need to remain moderate), avocados which are healthy fat, and anything that didn’t contain sugar or carbs.
Eating keto was actually quite fun at first and I didn’t even crave carbs because I made sure I was full on fats. It was a little scary at first, but I just told myself to trust the fat and the process. It really wasn’t hard and I enjoy snacking on nuts, so I did this frequently, as well as snacking on cheese and pepperoni.
For about two and a half weeks, I felt this was the easiest diet I’d ever been on, not that I tried many diets, but this was easy. I started losing weight after two days, and after three weeks, I’d lost 8 lbs without trying, without adding anything to my workouts.
Into week 3, things started to change, and after week 4, I had to stop.
Here is my list of things that were good about keto, as well as what was bad.
It was easy to do. I ate a lot of stuff I’d never allow myself to eat before because of the high fat content, such as butter and pepperoni. Well, I’ve always eaten butter, but I abstained from things like pepperoni.
The weight came off very easily.
I’m at a loss for other benefits. Seriously, I am.
The Down Side
Ha! Lemme tell you, there was a down side.
Now, I realize there are a LOT of keto die hards out there, but everyone is different. If keto works for you, awesome! But there is no one size fits all diet, so don’t be getting all upset, keto people. I’m telling it like it was for me.
The third and fourth week is when things really started to take a nose dive. Here’s what started going wrong.
- I was getting tired of my limited diet for one, as there are so many things you can’t eat. I love a variety of fruit and vegetables, and I was seriously missing these, as well as all the nutrients these provided. Eating at other people’s houses was difficult too as I’m not someone to start telling people what they should serve because of my choices.
- I just wasn’t getting enough nutrients, which stands to reason when you have a limited diet.
- I had reduced strength and stamina at the gym. I know many would claim otherwise, but my muscles were shrinking and I would poop out a hell of a lot faster than I usually do. I could barely get through one round of walking lunges. My coach had to reduce my weights. It’s only logical when you consider you’re eating less protein in order to stay in ketosis. Muscles need protein. The strange thing is though, I was eating the same amount of meat I do when not on keto, yet only keto affected me this way. Maybe keto affected the way I processed proteins. I don’t know.
- My skin got saggy and my face became sallow. Yep. I’m far from being overweight and should not have loose skin from loosing weight. It’s the same 10 lbs I’d lost the year before without having this issue. At first, my skin glowed and looked fantastic, but by the third week, I had sunken eyes, bags under my eyes, and my face literally fell. It wasn’t a nice, slimmer look. I looked sick. I was even having rashes.
- I got keto flu at first, and that wasn’t fun.
- My breath was bad. Ketosis, you know?
- I was a bitch. O.M.G., did my mood ever change for the worse. Everything and everyone was seriously getting on my nerves. I’d snap. I’d complain. I was just a terrible person. I couldn’t even stand myself, I was so bitchy. My husband was starting to not want to be around me, and who could blame him? Even my dog was getting nervous around me. Not cool! I was awful. This lasted until week 4, well past the keto flu phase. I tell you, I was so angry and aggressive, I could’ve led an army.
- As soon as I stopped keto, the weight came back. It’s just not a long-term sustainable diet for me.
- And here’s the final and worse thing that happened. I have no gallbladder, and due to having Sjogren’s Syndrome, I need to watch my liver enzymes. Eating all that fat takes its toll on a liver that has to work overtime to process this fat. Not having a gallbladder, it wasn’t a good idea for me to go on keto. If you don’t have a gallbladder, be forewarned. My stomach and right side began to hurt like crazy. I felt as though my liver was growing to twice its size in there, seriously. It hurt like hell. Bad enough to want to cry at times. I knew this wasn’t good. I’ve learned a long time ago to listen to my body, so I gave up keto.
Having watched countless videos from expert keto doctors, I’m well aware that some preach their methods for gallbladder patients to be on keto safely. But you know what? This was all getting way too freaking complicated.
A very wise friend told me a few years ago, food should not be complicated. It’s food.
As soon as I gave up keto, I put a piece of whole wheat bread dipped in spiced olive oil and within an hour, I had my sweet disposition back. Yep, sweet as pie. My mood quickly went back to normal. I was my old self again.
My stomach, however, took a while to get back to normal and get pain free. I can’t say exactly how long because it was a gradual thing, but let me just say that this scared me. Nothing was normal about that whole thing.
Now, I’m enjoying food again. I eat more of a Mediterranean diet which includes a lot of whole grain, a lot of vegetables and fruit, legumes, nuts, and a lot of olive oil. I was never big on meats, so I eat 2-3 ounces of meat a day usually fish or chicken for lean protein, and I stay away from processed foods as much as possible. I haven’t been eating sugar for about a year now unless it’s a special occasion. Then I’ll indulge in a tiny piece of dessert, but I always feel like garbage after. Blech.
Since back to eating normally again, I am feeling so much better. I have energy, and I have my strength and stamina at the gym again. I’m feeling so strong again that I’ve recently started training to do pull ups at 52. That’s a pretty awesome thing!
So, I’m not a doctor, and the truth is, a lot of popular websites promoting keto are not written by doctors either, so read cautiously. Yes, there are doctors who are huge keto advocates, but I personally feel that if you want to make a drastic change to your diet, consult your doctor first. Don’t be silly like me. I think I’m lucky nothing worse happened, or at least I hope I didn’t cause any permanent damage to my liver. Being an autoimmune patient, I never should’ve tried this without consulting my rheumatologist. I’ll chalk it up to lesson learned.
My philosophy now is to use common sense when eating. I eat good, real, whole foods, organic when possible. I abstain from sugar unless in fruits and honey, except for the odd little portion of dessert at special occasions. I stay away from processed foods as much as possible, and I only occasionally eat red meats. They are a huge inflammation trigger for me. I keep my calories low, and it’s easy to do when you’re full on grains, fruits, and vegetables. I don’t even count calories.
Life is short, and food should be healthy and enjoyable. I’m not fanatical about my diet, and I confess that I’ll even eat a Big Mac when travelling. It’s ok to indulge. It’s when we routinely eat garbage that we get in trouble.
Eating keto was an experience, that’s for sure. And to answer the title question, yes, it does work, but there is a huge trade off. Many love keto, many don’t, and I’m in the don’t camp. I tried it, and found it’s not a panacea. It has medical advantages for certain people, but it’s not for everybody.
I’m happy to be enjoying food again, and even get excited about eating muesli, full of oats and grains, nuts, and fruit. In almond milk, of course. That’s the complete opposite of keto. I need to add, that after I stopped keto, I quickly gained my weight back. I switched to eating more Mediterranean, and then I quickly lost those same pounds, only the healthy way.
I refuse to stress about food anymore. Nobody should. When I find myself overthinking whether or not I should eat something, I remember my wise friend’s simple words, “It’s food. Food shouldn’t be complicated.”