(Please note I am not a doctor and everything I talk about in this article is from my own experience).
As much as I hate internet trends, I unfortunately fall prey to a few of them occasionally. Fuelled by an inexplicable (i.e I was eating out 4 times a week) weight gain that was making me very uncomfortable I scoured the internet for fast weight loss hacks. Trust me, I read up on about 53577 different types of diets. Many blogs and forums talked about this magical Keto diet. So I researched it further, figured it couldn’t be that hard, convinced my boyfriend to join me and started planning.
The Keto diet is a form of eating in which you cut out all carbs and sugar and sustain yourself just on fats and proteins. So this basically means: no pasta, no bread, no potatoes, no pizza, no cake and a whole bunch of other things. However, I’m not writing this post to talk about what the Keto diet is so if it’s something you want to know more about, you can read about it here and here (Both credible sources).
One thing I noticed a lot, is that most articles and research papers that discuss Keto talk very much about the positives of the diet, and not so much about the negatives (yes, there are some – do your research thoroughly!)
What I learnt:
Anyway, I did a strict Keto diet for 2 months (and on and off a few times after that) and here are my 6 take-aways from it.
- It is not a sustainable diet.
The Keto diet is considered an ‘extreme’ diet, which is not sustainable in the long run because it is extremely difficult to plan your meals, eat out, enjoy little things like a piece of cake at a birthday party. It also cuts out perfectly healthy and nutritious fruits and vegetables that give your body a lot of the nutrients that it needs.
Sam and I had fun the first couple of weeks, cooking dishes together and deciding which restaurants we could eat at in Colombo that would allow us to have non-carb meals. We made, ordered and ate everything from Zucchini Noodles to Cauliflower Mash to No Flour, Sugar-Free cupcakes. Our friends would joke that we had joined a cult. Anyway, it was fun while it lasted but it got boring (and quite frankly annoying) really fast. When you have the same type of food with a different dressing and the same salad for lunch every day for 8 weeks, you really notice how unsustainable this diet is in the long term. Everything started tasting the same and eating out became a pain because we would always have to make complicated orders at restaurants in order to not ruin our diets (except M’eat Us. We love M’eat Us!). Another point to note here is that it’s very difficult to know if you’re in ‘Ketosis’ or not. You would need to purchase expensive “Keto Sticks” that you pee on that let you know if your body is producing enough Ketones or not. Without these, you’re basically in the blind and always overthinking what you ate to see if it would have kicked you out of Ketosis.
- It’s better to have somebody who does it with you.
I can not stress this point enough! Honestly, it was so much better and more bearable to have someone around who is in the same boat as you. Sam and I supported each other throughout the 2 months and made sure the other didn’t cheat on the diet. It was also great to have someone to cook with and eat with! It would have sucked to have been out at a nice restaurant and have to watch the other person order a nice big carby meal while you were stuck with something that might have resembled a side salad in its prime.
- It made me very moody and temperamental (it didn’t with Sam).
Mood swings are a ‘known’ side effect of this diet, but it’s only supposed to happen ‘in the beginning’ while your ‘body is adjusting’ to the diet. That wasn’t the case for me at all. I was moody and easily angered the entire time I did this diet. I don’t know the science behind it, but I guess just like with everything else, different things affect people differently and this is one of those things. It was one of the worst parts of doing the diet for me. I would be especially moody in the mornings, and again before sleeping which would stop me from falling asleep at night.
- Doing it ‘On and Off’ will make you fluctuate in weight a lot.
After we did the initial 2 months of the diet, we allowed ourselves a break and unfortunately it was a downward spiral from there. Sort of like if a smoker stops smoking cigarettes for a few years and then has just one and gets sucked right back into it. Allowing ourselves this ‘break’ – PS: We went to Giovannis – just reminded us how good carbs actually are and this sent us into a spiral of on- and off Keto, which turned out to be worse for our bodies. For the next 10 months or so, we’d have conversations like ‘Okay, we’ll eat carbs this week and from Monday we won’t eat anything till March’ and ‘Ah shoot, we had a bit of carbs, might as well eat everything now’. This led to something called ‘Yo-Yo Dieting’ which is, based on my research, a real thing and it actually causes you to gain more weight over time, due to the fact that our bodies are going in and out of ‘extreme-mode’ so we eat more when we having ‘off-keto’ days. There’s a science behind this too but I won’t go into it here. When I tell people about this diet, I like to explain it like this – ‘The diet basically deflates your body, really fast. It drains your water weight and starves your fat cells – so when you switch back to eating normally, your body that is craving ‘normal food’ immediately balloons up again’. Doing this continuously is really bad for you so I’m really glad Sam and I were able to snap ourselves out of it.
- For the first time in my life, I started getting huge breakouts of pimples, especially on my forehead.
So, as a teenager, I would always have very clear skin. I always attributed this to the fact that I always bounced between 2 countries (Sri Lanka, where the climate gave me oily skin, and Germany, where the climate gave me dry skin) so my skin was used to being able to adapt to circumstance, and hence I wasn’t plagued with puberty pimples. I know this makes me a terrible person, but boy did I gloat (to myself, obviously)!
Anyway, so as a punishment for that, doing this diet threw my skin into complete WHACK. This diet is a high fat diet, so I would constantly be eating fatty foods like bacon, and also would drink ‘Bulletproof Coffee’ which is basically coffee with no sugar and butter and coconut oil in it. Basically, a recipe for disaster but it’s considered a god-send in the Keto world.
Based on where you get your pimples, it’s usually easy for a dermatologist to tell the cause of your pimples. For example, pimples on your chin are commonly a sign of a hormonal imbalance. In the same way, excessive pimples on your forehead are a sign of ‘stomach irregularities’ and oil imbalance. Due to the fact that I was pumping all these extremely fatty foods and oils into myself, my body couldn’t keep up with breaking down the fats and this resulted in me getting really, really bad outbreaks of pimples, which I still struggle with today, more than one year later.
- If you don’t continue the diet and go back to a normal diet routine, you will gain back double the weight you lost.
Saved the most important point for last! During the two months we did this diet, Sam lost about 10-11kg and I lost about 6-8kg. While we were losing weight, we were amazed! Every time we checked the scale it seemed like we had lost more easy kilos. This is the thing about the Keto diet, it DOES work. We really thought we had finally found this magical trick.
It was short lived though. Once I returned to Uni to complete my Masters, and even after that when I returned to Sri Lanka, eating normally led to me ballooning up an extra 10kgs past the weight I originally was at. This is very, very common when you come out of a restrictive diet. Just like with the yo-yo effect, your body is craving one of the most important food groups that you are not giving it, so when you eat normally again, your body comes out of starvation mode and over compensates, hence the fast and hard weight gain.
This really sucked! Especially living in Sri Lanka where most people have the tact of a spoon and are very vocal with their ‘oh my god, what happened to you!? You’ve gained so much weight’ comments. I hated not being able to fit into my favourite clothes anymore and started wearing lots of shapeless, baggy clothes in an effort to feel better about myself. Hint: it didn’t work. I model sometimes, and getting approached by businesses to be their ‘not quite plus size, but bigger’ model started getting to me. It didn’t at first, and I was still quite confidentant in what I was doing. However, when I saw the image results it really got to me because I hadn’t realised just how much weight I had gained.
Anyway, a few months later, I decided I had to make a proper change and started working with a personal trainer and correcting my diet gradually and I’m much happier. I don’t think the Keto diet is all bad, and the internet will tell you this too, however it 100% was not the diet for me. I hope this post is helpful to other people who have had struggles with this diet too. Feel free to message me if you have any questions!