I Tried the Ketogenic Diet for Seven Months - Here's What Happened
If you're struggling to lose weight and have tried everything that you can think of to nudge the scale downward, then perhaps it's time to give the ketogenic diet a try. Initially, the idea of severally limited your carbohydrate intake sounds appalling to most people. As a society, we're addicted to carbs - who doesn't like bread, chocolate chip cookies, or apple pie? These are American staples! Cutting out sugars (including most fruits) can be tough for most people, especially for those who are accustomed to a junk food diet.
The truth of the matter is that doing the ketogenic diet is easier than you probably imagine. Personally, it's by far the easiest and most satisfying diet that I have ever tried. However, there are some challenges to overcome with this diet which can make it difficult to sustain over the long term. I'll discuss my thoughts on these challenges later.
In the rest of the article I plan on discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the ketogenic diet from my own experience as well as what kinds of foods and meals that I would typically eat. In addition, you're probably wondering how much weight I lost and if it's even worth changing your diet for.
My Weight Loss on the Ketogenic Diet
Let's cut to the chase and get to the meat of the matter. When I started the ketogenic diet, I weighed about 227 pounds. Seven months later, I weighed 197 pounds resulting in a total weight loss of 30 pounds. This is equivalent to about 1.1lbs per week.
It must be noted that this was achieved under the following conditions:
- I exercised (strength trained) during this period on average approximately 3 times per week.
- I kept my carbohydrate consumption less than 30 grams per day on most days. However, there were a handful of occasions where I had a "cheat" day.
The graph below shows my weight loss for this 7 month period.
From this graph, I noticed a few interesting things. First, the initial weight loss was dramatic. I lost 6lbs in the first week. This very likely mostly consisted of water loss. It's also clear that some of my weight spikes occurred immediately after I enjoyed a cheat day. This is to be expected on the ketogenic diet. When you suddenly consume more carbohydrates, your body also tends to retain more water. This explains the quick weight gain that I experienced after those days.
Another thing that I'd like to point out is that the rate of weight loss decreased the longer that I remained on the diet. At about the 5 month mark you can see a clear change in the downward weight loss trend. I flat-lined in late January (too many birthday parties and a wedding) but then started to lose more weight again once I got back on track.
What I Ate on The Ketogenic Diet
Previously, I wrote an article discussing the top 20 foods to eat on the ketogenic diet. All of these foods were winners in my book. However, I still found it challenging to have a good variety of meals throughout the week. Nonetheless, I'll go ahead and report on some of the most common meals that I ate during this seven month period.
Ketogenic Breakfast Foods
Keto-friendly breakfasts were by-far the easiest meals to prepare. Below is a list of typical breakfast foods that I prepared for myself each day:
- Eggs - A big pile of eggs fried in olive oil and topped with cheese and hot sauce.
- Omelets - More eggs but with bacon, ham, spinach, mushrooms, etc. No tomato or onion.
- Egg Burritos - Same ingredients as the omelets but this time wrapped in a low-carb tortilla.
- Bacon and Eggs - One of my favorites. Fresh bacon with fried eggs .
- Steak and Eggs - Pan fried steak (or leftover, fried steak) and eggs.
- Egg Trio - This is a hard-boiled egg, an avocado, and a large slice of cheese.
- Spinach Salad - Yes, a salad for breakfast. Spinach with chopped hard-boiled eggs, bacon bits, mushrooms, and shredded cheese. Usually no dressing but you can do oil/vinegar, low-carb ranch (Greek yogurt + ranch packet.
For me, lunch was probably the most challenging meal of the day. Part of this may have been that I had to prepare my meals in advance and take it to work with me each day. I avoided eating out and tried to come up with foods that did not require much work to prepare during lunch hour. Here's a sample of some of the lunches that I ate on the ketogenic diet:
- Grilled or Pan Fried Chicken Tenders - No breading of course! Placed on a spinach or broccoli salad or just plain with some zucchini chips or green beans and low-carb ranch for dipping.
- Tuna Wraps - Tuna combined with mayonnaise and/or avocado, cheese, and spices wrapped in a low-carb tortilla.
- Other Low-Carb Wraps - Chicken, turkey, hot dogs wraps, steak & cheese, etc.
- Bun-less Burgers - Cheeseburgers without the buns.
- Breadless Sandwiches - Lunchmeats, cheese, veggies, mayo, mustard, etc, no bread.
- Nothing - I'd often be too busy to think about eating. I usually didn't feel very hungry either.
My choice of food for dinner usually depended on how I felt at the time and how much food that I had already eaten during the day. If skipped lunch I would make it a point to try and eat a bigger dinner. This was not always easy. When I dinner for myself, here are some things that I ate:
- Grilled Steaks and Chicken Breast/Thighs - These are easy to prepare. I topped my meat with a variety of things including sauteed mushrooms, cheese, bacon, etc.
- Hamburger Steak or Meatloaf - Basically a bun-less burger but bigger. Broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans on the side.
- Slower Cooker Shredded Beef - Eat as a burrito with low carb tortillas, with grilled peppers, or plain.
- Salmon or Fish with a Light Salad - Pan fried in olive oil
- Lettuce Wraps - Ground turkey or ground beef with plenty of Asian spice.
- Beef and Broccoli - Prepare with modest amount of soy sauce and serve over cauliflower "Rice."
- More Eggs - Prepared any one of a dozen ways.
Ketogenic Diet Friendly Snacks
When I ate snacks, here are some of the things that I consumed:
- Nuts - Almonds, Pecans, Peanuts (only a few)
- Tuna + Avocado Mixed together
- String Cheese
- Beef Jerky (Homemade or non-sweetened variety)
- Cottage Cheese
- Hard Boiled Egg(s)
While on the ketogenic diet, I would usually have strong green tea in the morning (unsweetened of course) or some regular unsweetened tea. Understanding the importance of drinking water (especially while on the ketogenic diet), I drank water for the remainder of the day. My goal was to drink at least 1 gallon of water per day. On a typical day I was able to meet this goal, however, sometimes I came in around 3/4 gallons of water at the end of the day. Occasionally, if I needed an energy boost I would drink an 8.4oz sugar free energy drink or an energy shot.
Some Great Things About the Ketogenic Diet
One of the greatest advantages that I found with this diet is that once I was in a state of ketosis (burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates), I had no appetite. Most of the time, I literally had no hunger or craving for food. I occasionally skipped lunch (perhaps not a good idea, see challenges below) or only ate when it was convenient to do so. I also found that I could focus more at work during the day.
In terms of the diet itself, I had no problems eating very similar foods day in and day out. Everything that I ate tasted great and I found that meal prepping was much easier than on a "normal" diet. I prepared a "menu" of keto-friendly foods and used that to guide my daily food consumption.
Before starting the ketogenic diet I has some concerns about what eating a high fat diet would do to my body. Near the end of the 7 month period for which I did this diet, my employer was offering health screens and blood tests as part of the wellness program. I signed up to get my blood checked. The screenshot below shows my test results. My cholesterol levels were considered to be in the normal range.
Some Challenges with the Ketogenic Diet
Personally, I found this diet somewhat challenging to sustain over the long term. One reason is that I am usually the one to prepare dinner for my family each day. My wife and kids were not interested in "going keto," so I had to accommodate the situation. On some occasions I prepared two different meals in order to satisfy everyone. On other days I would eat everything that I had made except the food with carbohydrates in it (no bread, rice, or potatoes for me!).
Eating out with friends and family or attending parties, etc was also a challenge (hence the cheat days). Restaurants are typically not keto-friendly and finding low-carb options can be challenging. In addition, free bread sticks, unlimited French fries, and chips & salsa can be difficult to resist when everyone around you is indulging. Sometimes, I would make an attempt to stay true to my diet (bun-less burgers or steak with broccoli, etc), however, I can't say that it was easy to eat in accordance with the ketogenic diet 100% of the time while eating out.
Another challenge that I experienced while on the ketogenic diet was making sure that I consumed enough calories each day. I set my target at around 1,500 calories per day for weight loss, however, I found it was sometimes difficult to actually eat enough food. This was especially true during the busy work week. Without a feeling of hunger to remind me to eat, I often forgot to take a break for lunch. Sometimes I only ate 800 or so calories on those days.
Aside from these few things, the last challenge I experienced was trying to get enough variety in my diet. Eating meat, cheese, eggs, and avocados everyday can be hard. In addition, there's limited vitamins and minerals in these low-carb foods. To do the ketogenic diet properly, you will need to consume plenty of hearty, fibrous vegetables as well. I did eat a lot of avocados, broccoli, and spinach, however, I probably could have spent more time studying nutrition and learning new ketogenic recipes. In addition, you'll probably need to supplement your diet with a multivitamin. Consult with your doctor for your specific situation.
Ketogenic Dieting Tips
Over this seven month period, I learned quite a bit about eating and living while on the ketogenic diet. I made some mistakes along the way but in the end it was a good experience. If you are planning on trying the ketogenic diet, here are some tips that helped me along the way, some of which I wish I learned sooner rather than later:
- Meal plan and prepare food in advance. This makes staying on track significantly easier.
- Stock up on eggs and avocados since it's likely you will be eating a lot of these.
- I would eat 3-5 avocados each week so to avoid having them either over-ripe or under-ripe I had to learn to purchase them at varying stages of ripeness.
- Get a spiralizer. You can easily replace pastas with spiralized zuchinni for italian-style dishes
- Keep snacks nearby such as nuts and beef jerky.
- Drink a lot of water. I can't stress this enough.
- Meat is expensive so buy it in bulk. I would purchase up to 10lbs of ground beef at a time and then divide it up at home and freeze it for future meals.
- Do not forget your vegetables. It's very easy to let yourself slip into eating only a "Meat & Cheese." This is not healthy.
- Invest time in studying the nutrition of various foods. Read labels and ensure what you are eating really is low-carb and keto friendly. You will be surprised by how many foods have added sugars that will ruin your diet.
- Study keto-friendly recipes. This will help to take the boredom out of the diet. This also makes it easier to plan ahead.
- If possible, have a friend or family member go on the diet with you. The support will help, especially during social events.
- Use a food tracker ap or notebook to stay on top of your carbohydrate and fiber intake.
- Don't skip the exercise. Losing weight is best accomplished with changes in both diet and exercise.
Potential Ketogenic Diet Side Effects
As with almost anything in life, there is no perfect diet or weight loss miracle. Partaking in a low-carb diet may come with some potential risks. Before I started the ketogenic diet, I studied these potential side effects so that I could make an informed decision before moving forward. Here's a list of some of the potential side effects of the ketogenic diet:
- Halitosis (Bad Breath)
- Sleep Issues
- Heart Palpitations
- Muscle Cramps
- Sugar Cravings
- Low Blood Sugar
- Reduced Physical Performance
- Others not listed here
- Frequent urination
- People looking at you weird at restaurants
Aside from the last two on the list, I did not personally experience any of these side effects. To help avoid these potential side effects it's very important to make sure you drink enough water and consume enough salt and fiber throughout the day. It's also important to remember that the Ketogenic diet is a high fat diet not a high protein diet. Eating too much protein could be harmful and unhealthy. Nonetheless, you should always consult your doctor before starting any diet or weight loss program.
My Recommendation of the Ketogenic Diet
Overall, I found the ketogenic diet to be the best diet that I have ever done. If you haven't tried it yet I would highly recommend that you give it a try (after first consulting with your doctor of course). It is my opinion that the benefits of the diet far outweigh the challenges and potential downsides. If you eat enough vegetables (for nutrients and fiber) and drink enough water, it's likely that you will do well on the diet. In addition, if you have a family or an active night life, you may find staying on the ketogenic diet over the long term difficult. However, with some planning and creative food choices, you can do it!
If you have tried the ketogenic diet please let me know about your experience in the comments section below. I'd like to know you would recommend the diet and what your favorite recipes and foods are.
I am not a doctor or a nutritional professional, and do not provide medical advice. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. The advice & statements above are based on personal experience and have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Any information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
© 2018 CWanamaker