Why I Started The Keto Diet and Tips on How to Start the Keto Diet Naturally
**Note: This is a LONG post with a LOT of information… I suggest you bookmark it to refer to as you start your Keto journey! As I researched all my notes to write this post, I realized I had forgotten a few helpful tips! So be sure to refer back to it often, and feel free to ask a question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!**
After a stressful 4th quarter (it’s a busy time for us bloggers!), I found myself completely depleted with extra pounds packed on to my midsection. I knew without a doubt that I was back in that food coma… that cloudy state of mind… the tired, uncreative, unmotivated yuck. I knew it was time to get back on track. After seeing a few friends that have had success with the Keto Diet, I decided to look into it more. I needed to know if I even wanted to start Ketogenic Diet, and then I needed to figure out HOW to start the Keto diet! Quite frankly, before I started my research the who idea of eating a low carb and high fat diet (also known as LCHF) seemed REALLY at odds with all I’ve ever known!
Many of you watched my journey in 2014/2015 when, after the birth of my 8th baby, I cleaned up my eating and started exercising. In 10 months I let go of 60 pounds. I felt AMAZING, had incredible amounts of energy, was happier, and really enjoyed wearing size 3 jeans (and sharing clothes with my teenage daughters). I maintained that new weight of 130 pounds for a couple of years. Then 2017 hit. 🙂 We made a LOT of changes to the blog, to my team, and to my workload. I had some personal struggles I was going through as well. My stress levels were high (enter that pesky stress hormone, cortisol, that causes belly fat), I was working anywhere from 40-70 hours per week, not getting enough sleep, and stopped making my health and well-being a priority. I was no longer meal planning, I rarely cooked a nice balanced meal (my family can attest to that), and barely got my exercise in. By the end of 2017 I was exhausted, 15 pounds heavier, and my headaches and neck tension had returned. UGH. I still remember the afternoon (well, it was just like a month ago) when I was working on a big project and I finally just put my head down on the desk and sat there. I had hit a mental wall like no other. I felt lousy and tired. I knew that had to change. I WANTED it to change.
I wanted to FEEL good again and be a better wife, mom, and business owner… I don’t do that so well when I’m walking around as a carb and sugar addict.
I spent nearly two days researching information about the Keto way of life. I knew what ketosis was (Ketosis is when your body burns fat for energy instead of sugar/carbs), but I couldn’t understand why people would need to eat a diet of high fat foods in order to put their body into a state of ketosis. After my study, it DID make sense to me and I determined I was going to do it for myself! I was DONE with feeling tired, sluggish, and uncreative! Note that there are many companies that sell products that provide your body with exogenous ketones (your body naturally produces endogenous ketones). I don’t know anything about any those products, and wanted to prove to myself that I could do this naturally, without relying on high priced exogenous ketone drinks. But you can choose to do it however you want! I won’t judge!
How the Keto Diet Works
There is a LOT of info online about how this keto diet works (I hate the word diet by the way). But to give you the most basic version, if you’re practicing the Keto diet (keto is short for ketosis) you consume foods that are lower in carbs (I aim for 20 carbs per day), medium in protein, and a high in fat.
Doesn’t make sense yet? Well let me give you an illustration my sister shared with me a few years ago. She read the book, Born to Run, and in it the author shares an analogy of a fire. I might not have it perfect, but here’s the summary. When you are burning a fire, the kindling runs out quickly, right? You constantly have to replace it if this is the only way you’re getting fire. BUT if you take the time to help the fire catch on to a nice big log, that fire is going to be a LOT more effective. And it will burn longer. In this analogy, the kindling is the sugar and refined and processed carbohydrates. It’s not sustainable and our body doesn’t run at it’s best when that is what we use for fuel. But if we fuel our bodies with good wholesome foods and reduce that carb and sugar intake, it is able to switch over and burn in a much more long term sunstainable state. It uses fat for fuel, which is more effective. Does that help? Sugar and carbs are the kindling. If you always throw kindling on teh fire, it won’t ever get to that log and burn there. So we have to remove the sugar and carbs from our diet to allow our body to make that switch and start burning fat.
Mindset Shift: Fat is Fuel
What’s interesting is that our bodies are designed to do this! When you cut the sugar, your body naturally goes to fat as it’s source for energy. It’s the way our bodies were designed… to keep us from starving to death! Your body will produce ketones in the liver when we take away the sugar/carbs. Those ketones are what fuel your brain and body. Cool hu? The mindset shift is that FAT becomes your fuel. Once you understand that, you start to look at fat differently. NOW keep in mind that fats that are high in sugar will NOT work. You need fats that are low carb. This diet will be BAD if you eat a lot of fat but don’t cut down on your carbs. You’ve got to jump all the way in. And it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Top 5 Reasons to do the Ketogenic Diet:
DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a doctor, nor can I PROVE any of this thru my own scientific studies and I have not researched if the FDA approves of these statements. I’m merely sharing what I learned while researching the Ketogenic diet. Please do your due diligence and consult a doctor to make sure this is a good fit for you and your current health conditions. I also read that this is not a recommended diet for people with type 2 diabetes. Please do your research first!
- Keto diets lower blood sugar and insulin levels. It minimizes those blood sugar spikes! Read up on insulin resistance… I think a LOT of us are experiencing the effects of this without even knowing it! There are a LOT of benefits to this!
- Weight loss – because your body uses fat as fuel! Low-carb diets are very effective at reducing that harmful abdominal fat.
- Many health benefits including improvement of brain function, heart health, lower blood pressure, reduces acne, and MORE.
- Increased levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
- You won’t be FOOD OBSESSED! For us people that don’t enjoy taking the time to prepare meals, this is WONDERFUL! Because you’re eating higher amounts of fat and fiber, you stay fuller longer! By day 5 I started skipping breakfast because I simply wasn’t hungry! Intermittent Fasting is a whole other optional component of the keto diet, but not something I will go into today. Let’s just say that instead of stressing out about what to eat 6 times a day (which is what I did on a past diet), I only eat 2-3 times per day, in about a 6-7 hour window of time. I feel way less obsessed with food now and I love it! (this one is my opinion)
How to Prepare for Keto:
- Find Your Why: First you need to want to do this for you. Your WHY can’t be for anyone else. If you’ve never FELT good from eating right and taking care of your body, then you really have no idea what you are missing out on! THAT is my why… the size three jeans and no muffin top are the bonus. (ps I love this book called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek.
- Calculate your Macros: If you’ve never heard of “macros” before, don’t stop reading. It’s actually really cool! There are a TON of online keto calculators that will help you determine your personal macronutrient information. This Ketogenic Calculator is my favorite.
- Prepare Your Kitchen: Toss out all the processed junk. Look at labels of food. If you’re only eating 20 net carbs (that is the carb count, minus fiber count) per day, you don’t want to blow it all on one meal. Soon I will create a sample shopping list, but for now, just start looking at labels! One Keto user created this spreadsheet that has the grams of net carbs listed. You can use this list as a resource! Go buy all your veggies, but then immediately come home and wash them and prep them so you’ll USE THEM! Note that root veggies are not good veggies to consume. Go for the leafy greens that are your good carbs, and full of fiber. You’ll want to eat a good amount of veggies per day. Aim for at least 4 servings! My most successful days happen when I can grab a pre-made salad (I suggest prep up to 5 days in advance… we used containers like these) from the fridge and some ready to eat veggies (like sliced cucumbers or celery).
- Buy some Keto Strips: I use these Keto Strips because this is one component that I also love about the Keto way of life… you can easily measure your ketone levels and track your progress. We are all different. We all have a different a chemical make-up. What works for you might not work for another. The best way to measure what is and isn’t working is with these ketone strips. Keep in mind that your body can store a two-day supply of glucose in teh form of glycogen… so it could take a couple days of consuming no more than 20 grams of carbs to switch over to ketosis. These keto strips keep me informed about what my body is doing.
- Get the MyFitnessPal app. You don’t have to buy the premium version. You can still input your desired macros for your goals (that’s the fat/protein/carb % you want daily). They just might be slightly off because you can only enter in %, and not the exact amount. Use the macro goals you got from the Ketogenic calculator I mentioned above. Also, don’t STRESS! (Remember that stress creates the hormone cortisol which just makes you fat). In the beginning I just focus on my carb intake and haven’t worried too much about fat and protein % (more tips on how to keep it simple below).
- PLAN: Utilize MyFitnessPal. Input your meals in there and you can see exactly what your intake will be, and then adjust as needed. Search pinterest for low carb/keto recipes. Check out the Keto Recipes we have (we’ll be adding more as I adapt and modify ones I’ve found). I’ve also been using and modifying many recipes from my blogging friend Kasey Trenum. My favorite recipe of hers is for sure the 90 second bread that actually tastes good! I whipped some of this up when the family and I had BLTA’s one night. SOOO YUMMY! You should also check out her bacon wrapped cheese sticks. But here is what is REALLY IMPORTANT! If you fail to plan, you will fail. 10 days in to my Keto journey I had a crazy stressful day and didn’t have meals planned. I attempted dinner and burnt it… at 8:30pm, we were all starving and so we got PIZZA. I could have just eaten the top of the pizza, but I was tired, weak and hungry and succumbed. 😫 That was 3 days ago and I think I’m just about recovered and back into ketosis. I think once my body is fully adapted, it won’t be quite so hard to pop back into ketosis on the times that I do fall off the wagon. You can start planning simply by perusing pinterest or google. I made a folder on my bookmarks bar and just bookmarked all the recipes that looked like something I would make and my family would like. I found this to be a lot easier than creating a Keto pinterest board.
Hydrate: Make sure you are staying hydrated throughout the day. When you first start the keto diet, your body is transitioning. You need to stay hydrated and keep your electrolytes in balance – that is key! Now, this does NOT mean you go out buy and drink gatorade! NO! My first few days, when my body was switching over, I felt like junk (you will too). But my friend Matt, from A Thrifty Mom, advised me to take some magnesium citrate and potassium and drink bone broth (for the sodium). Hydration is an important part, especially as your body transitions from being insulin dependent to ketones. Make a goal to get as many as 32 ounces of water within the first hour you wake up (I use this 24 ounce water bottle). Then aim to get in 32-50 before lunchtime. The key is to try and drink half your body weight in ounces of water, will be a huge help while on the keto diet.
- Food Scale: You MUST have a food scale. You will use this tool on a daily basis because accuracy is key. Don’t eyeball the food you are eating, this is what can get you in trouble. You can easily over or under-eat what you should… trust me, weighing is a must. Look for a scale that has a conversion button, so that it will do a mixture of units, so you can go from grams to ounces easily (this is the food scale I have). Also look to see if it offers a tare function, where it will work to use a bowl, plate, etc on the scale! You put your plate on the scale first, then hit the tare button. That will zero out the numbers so when you put your food on it is only measuring the food, not the plate.
- Get Supplements: I personally 100% LOVE the doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack. The science behind the balanced amount of nutrients is amazing and since I started taking them 2 years ago (I didn’t start until I had lost all the weight by the way), I felt so much better. When I miss a day taking these nutritional supplements (I consider them food) I feel it! You’ll also need potassium and magnesium citrate and sodium in your diet. So get some of those before you start. Leave a comment or shoot me an email at cathy @ fabulesslyfrugal dot com if you want to know how to get doTERRA Lifelong Vitality Pack at wholesale pricing. I can get you a 25% discount (just $2.63 per day). AND it’s doTERRA’s number one selling product for good reason (don’t pay full price though… I can help you get it at wholesale)!
- Get a Good Bathroom Scale: Get one that Measures Body Fat. I’m sure it’s not 100% accurate, but it does set a baseline. I like to weigh myself and also track my body fat % and muscle %. Check out this post to read my body fat bathroom scale.
Keto Diet Tips For Beginners
This is the 3rd time I’ve discussed mindset. That’s because it’s SOOO important! What you focus on expands! Instead of telling yourself “I CAN’T have this or I can’t have that” tell yourself that you choose to fuel your body with healthy foods. You are choosing NOT to eat cookies anymore. You are choosing not to have cereal for breakfast anymore. You don’t want the inflammation and insulin spikes those foods provide anymore. Tell yourself that you will survive and actually LIVE BETTER without refined carbs! Repeat after me. WHAT YOU FOCUS ON EXPANDS. (yes, I’m saying it twice)… Focus on the positive and what you can do. You can do it!
Don’t Forget the Salt!
This also goes against all I was taught back in the day (years ago when I was on a diet… they were so strict about sodium intake). Making sure you get enough good salts in your diet is key with this keto diet. When you are on a lower carbohydrate diet you have a lower insulin level, so your kidneys will excrete more of the sodium, so you need to make sure you are adding it into your diet. Also, the sodium works with the potassium and magnesium you need to support your body when in the keto state. Aim for an additional 3-5 grams of sodium from the foods you eat. Put some Pink Himalayan sea salt in your water or on your food (I use this one from Trader Joe’s… pink himalayan sea salt is also good for hydration because of the trace minerals it provides). One teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt is two grams of sodium. As I mentioned above, bone broth is also a good low cal source of sodium. You don’t have to make your own (heavens knows I ain’t got time for that!). I purchased the Pacific Foods Organic Bone Broth at my local Kroger store (it’s currently selling for a ridiculous price on Amazon). I was going to buy it at Costco, but it’s somewhat pricey and I wasn’t sure I would need that much. I’ve been fine with my 32-ounce carton. I drink it when I’m starting to feel a little off, and it is also a good morning drink when you start intermittent fasting. You can eat foods that contain salt and then add in the sea salt to dress up your foods to get the extra sodium that way. Cucumbers and celery are also a good call for getting more sodium into your diet.
Combat the Keto Flu
You’re probably wondering, “What is Keto Flu?” and I’m here to tell you that it is a real thing. But don’t worry… it’s a natural reaction adn it means what you’re doing is working! Keto Flu will manifest itself differently in each person. It’s what happens when your body switches from burning glucose to burning fat. For me, I just had a TERRIBLE headache for a day and a half, and I was very short of patience. 24 hours in I was weak and cranky. So, I ended up leaving the house and wandering the aisles of Costco to protect my children. 🙂 It actually helped me feel a little better once I forced myself to get up and move. Some people get nausea and even vomiting. The good news, it doesn’t last forever. 🙂 I didn’t have bone broth, magnesium or potassium that first day. Finally, that evening I bought some and took it… within 30 minutes I was feeling better and my headache eased up. Having those minerals in your system is so important! Some people say that drinking a teaspoon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar helps as well (I usually put mine in a cup of water). Drink water with pink himalayan salt and some lemon juice (more on sodium below) to get your sodium intake (see above).
Kick the Cravings to the Curb
Changing your diet is hard those first few days and weeks. Because you’ve been addicted to sugar (and we know that sugar is an addictive substance), you WILL have extreme cravings. Knowing this and being prepared to combat them is key. So staying away from ALL sweeteners those first two weeks. Even the ones that are keto-friendly! Why? Those sweeteners will trigger your cravings. If you can stay strong (take it a day at a time), you will find those cravings decrease. FOr me, the mere thought of going through the Keto Flu again really helped me be strong those first several days. Challenge yourself to go the first two weeks with zero sweeteners. THEN aim to go through your first 30 days with no sweeteners. DETOX YOURSELF! I promise you will survive! I can say this because I too am a recovering sugar addict… I detoxed before and I’m doing it again. Acknowledging your addiction is important. Now you can make the change. AND giving your body that break, you may find that you don’t need those keto-friendly desserts or recipes that use those sweeteners. (ps – this is the Stevia I use… best tasting stevia I’ve ever had).
Keep It Simple!!
Don’t go crazy with your meal plan. I suggest eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch until you start to get the hang of things. Keep dinners simple. Modify what you already eat (unless you ate so poorly that there just isn’t modifying anything!). Don’t start a brand new exercise routine at the same time as starting the Ketogenic diet. THAT IS TOO MUCH TO TAKE ON! In fact, I completely stopped exercising and won’t start until I’m fully fat adapted and feel like I’ve got a good keto diet routine going. My breakfast was simply scrambled eggs cooked in butter, with veggies and bacon (zucchini, tomatoes, and spinach). My lunches were chef salads (and they are delicious) with hard boiled eggs, bacon or ham, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, and homemade ranch dressing (I used the olive oil mayo as my base).
Have you done the Keto Diet? Share your tips and advice in the comments below!
https://www.youtube.com/user/drericberg123 (note that he sells items that I don’t think are necessary to purchase)