My Low-Carb/Keto Lifestyle – Current Results & Tips for Beginners
Disclaimer – I am NOT a medical professional and am not giving any medical advice. I am sharing what has been working for me and the things that have been helpful to me in losing weight. Seek the advice of a professional before changing your diet.
About a year ago, I shared this post about my health journey and how I wanted to get serious about taking care of my body. I started getting serious, but, as it always happens, I let my knee replacement become my excuse and gave up again. It’s really easy to say “I can’t workout because of my knee.” The truth, though, is that I can work out – I just can’t do the workouts I want to without risking injury to my leg or causing more inflammation and pain. Not being able to run for 40 minutes on a treadmill like everyone else at the gym is also super (emotionally) painful for me, as well. So, instead of going to the gym to find workouts that are “reconstructed-leg approved” I stopped going and let it be my excuse.
My mom came out to visit us last July and share a little bit about the low-carb eating plan she and my dad were following and the results they were seeing. I decided that I COULD control my eating. So, Dustin and I slowly started adjusting our eating styles last July and after a few weeks I started seeing results! I was so excited that something was finally working for me and my body.
Fast-forward a few months, Dustin and I got pregnant with our first and then suffered a miscarriage 10 weeks later. Our worlds were turned upside down and it took me a really long time to claw my way out of the depression that settled in. Once I started feeling a little bit more like myself, I decided I was going to do EVERYTHING I could to be a mom that our angel baby would be proud of. That meant seriously, SERIOUSLY, getting my butt into gear and taking care of my body and health – both through eating and physical fitness. So, we decided to get back into following a Keto/Low-Carb eating diet and I’ve been getting into a fitness routine. Here’s everything I’ve learned so far:
What is Keto?
Everyone calls it the Keto Diet, but I really believe that it’s more of a lifestyle. This isn’t something that I’m doing for a certain number of days with plans to return to regular eating habits after. I’m super committed to following the eating guidelines for the foreseeable future – I don’t have an end date.
Anyway, the science behind the Keto Diet actually makes a lot of sense. I won’t get into the super specifics, but here’s the general gist: When our bodies need energy, the first thing they break down for fuel is carbs and sugar. When we limit the number of carbs we put into our bodies, we force our bodies to break down fats for energy instead. The goal is to have your body constantly burn fat for fuel, or in other words, be in a state of ketosis. Burning fat = weight loss!
My version of a Keto Lifestyle
The “official” keto diet means eating less than 20 carbs a day and that’s just not doable for me. I’m currently trying to keep my net carbs under 60 a day, which is challenging enough. It basically looks like 20 carbs for breakfast and 40 for lunch, with no carbs for dinner (so a meat and lots of veggies.)
I also make sure I’m hitting certain amounts of proteins and good fats throughout the day, like the real Keto diet talks about – if you want to learn more about the specifics, you can check out these resources below:
Tips for Starting Keto
Spoiler alert: I didn’t wake up on January 1st and decide to only eat 60 carbs a day. I do not have that kind of willpower. In fact, Dustin and I started pursuing a low-carb lifestyle last July after talking to my family’s nutritionist. She said to start by cutting carbs down to about 100 a day and to specifically break it down to 40 for breakfast, 40 for lunch, and 20 for dinner. Dustin and I decided this would be a good starting point for us, since it wouldn’t be such a drastic change, and I truly believe that our slow transition to low-carb eating is why we are so successful in following a stricter Keto diet now. It was still hard to cut down to 100 carbs a day, but it wasn’t impossible. And man, was it eye-opening.
We learned that ALL of the things we ate on a general basis were filled with carbs. For example, one serving of our typical breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats had 32 carbs. Dustin and I easily had 2-3 servings every morning for breakfast. THAT WAS LITERALLY OUR WHOLE DAY OF CARBS in just TWO bowls of cereal. So, while we were still eating carbs from August through November, we were able to really look at where our carbs came from and learned how to make good choices when it came to what carbs we wanted to eat. I found myself asking questions like: Do I want a yummy sandwich with bread for lunch or do I want 3 oreos? Obviously, the 3 Oreos would taste a bit better, but I wanted to be FULL and feel fueled for the rest of the day, so I learned to choose the sandwich and not have any Oreos.
We kind of stopped counting carbs during the holidays, but from August to November, we were pretty focused on eating good foods and cutting out the processed sugars and complex carbs. Dustin lost almost 10 pounds in the first few weeks and I lost about 7.
After Christmas, we decided we were ready to get back on the low-carb train, but get even more serious about it. So starting January 1st, we’ve been eating really low-carb. Dustin has been keeping his carb count under 30 a day and I’m keeping mine to under 60 a day.
Adding Intermittent Fasting
This is another component of helping your body get into ketosis and I’m currently approaching it the same way I approached the Keto Diet – gradually. Intermittent Fasting is when you eat all of your food in an 8 hour period, and only drink water during the other 16 hours of the day. By “fasting” for 16 hours, you are giving your body more time to burn the fat and stay in ketosis.
Right now, I’m focused on not eating anything after 7 PM. This may not sound like a huge deal, but I honestly had NO idea how much I snacked after dinner. The first night I tried it, I found myself pacing the kitchen at least 5 times, reaching for a snack and realizing I was trying not to have it. I’m a bored eater and I love to munch while watching tv, or working, or reading. So, this has been really hard for me, but also super helpful in curbing my cravings.
My goal is to get down to eating in an 8-hour window, but as of right now, I’m just focused on cutting off all my snacking at 7 PM.
What can you eat on Keto?
Surprisingly, a ton. I thought that the Keto diet would be really limiting, but I have found that I can pretty much all my favorite things (I just sometimes need to make some minor substitutions.)
Keto is all about fueling your body with fats, so natural fats, like butter, nuts, avocados, and oils, are a MUST! On top of that, I eat a lot of eggs, veggies, meats, seafoods, the occasional piece of dark chocolate, and CHEESE! ALL THE CHEESE! Seriously, the best part of Keto is eating all the cheese. Honestly, the only things I find myself missing are potatoes and rolls (but if I have a good day of low-carb eating, I can treat myself to a roll with dinner.)
I don’t miss? Pizza. Because I can have it! I just use the Trader Joe’s Cauliflower crust instead of regular crust.
I don’t miss rice bowls or curries because I use cauliflower rice (which literally tastes the same when cooked properly) instead of white rice.
I don’t miss lasagna or pasta because I can have it! I just use Zucchini noodles (or zoodles) instead of wheat pasta.
And I don’t miss peanut butter cups because of FAT BOMBS! (I have a recipe coming soon, but it’s basically a keto-approved version of a peanut butter cup that is filled with good fats for your body to burn and tastes JUST like a peanut butter cup.)
Additional Keto Tips for Beginners
So, we’re officially almost 2 months into our Keto lifestyle and honestly, it’s going really well. A lot better than I expected. Yes, I do occasionally have a cheat day, but they are far and few in between and usually look like a soda or some real rice with my Thai Food. It’s surprisingly easy to eat Keto when out for a meal – I just choose meat and a veggie side (like steak and asparagus at Texas Roadhouse.) However, there are a few things that have truly helped us stick to it:
- Cut carbs down slowly – start by keeping them under 100 a day and looking at where the most of your carbs come from. This is so eye-opening and is crucial to understanding what kinds of foods can prevent your body from burning fat.
- Meal Prep for lunch. Dustin and I meal prep every Sunday for the week so that we never are tempted to eat out. I have a bunch of our meal preps saved on my Instagram Stories, but we typically do some kind of meat (like ham or chicken meatballs) cauliflower rice, and a roasted veggie (like snap peas or broccoli.)
- Crunch Ice. This helps me so much when I am feeling the need to munch (but am not really hungry.) It gives my body the feeling of eating without actually ingesting carbs.
- Research for low-carb alternatives. They now make a low-carb ice cream bar that you can get at Walmart and low-carb tortillas that taste awesome and are perfect for wraps. You do not have to go without on the low-carb diet.
- Be prepared for a sugar crash – the first few weeks of cutting out most of the carbs were awful because I was no longer fueling my body with what it used for energy. It took a little bit for my body to figure out it had to burn fat instead, but now I feel amazing! And when I do cheat a little (I had pretzel bites the other day) I feel awful.
I will get more into my fitness routine later, but I do think that the results I’ve seen in the last month and a half has everything to do with the combination of eating low-carb and working out. Being active has always been hard for me (knee replacement) so I decided to consult with my orthopedic surgeon before hitting the gym so I would have a knee-approved workout plan.
For all of January, I was going to the gym and doing 40-60 minutes of straight cardio (mainly the stationary bike, but also doing tiny bits of jogging here and there – as much as my alleograph could sustain.)
Since the beginning of February, I’ve been adding a third night to the gym and starting some core/weight training with Dustin. Any weight training involves me sitting down or having something to lean against so I can take any unnecessary straight off my knees.
All things considered, I actually haven’t lost a TON of weight, but I’ve seen a huge difference in my body – I’ve lost all my bloat and inches around my waist and stomach. I’m down about 8 pounds and hoping to get down a couple more before the end of February. I actually have my progress photos saved on my Instagram story highlights, if you want to check them out (but I’m not brave enough to put them on the blog just yet.) I also feel so, so good. I don’t crave chocolate or sugar like I used to and I also feel more energized and awake during the day. When we were in Moab this last weekend, we did treat ourselves to some different kinds of food (not Keto approved) and I felt AWFUL the next day. I couldn’t wait to get home and start eating clean again (this never happens) and it’s actually easy for me to say no to oreos and candy and sugary things.
So, long story short, the Keto lifestyle is definitely a huge shift in thinking but it truly is life-changing. If you’re looking for a new way of eating that will help you have more energy, curve cravings, and generally feel good, I highly recommend following this diet.
Let me know if you have any questions – I’m happy to share additional recipes and resources to those who are interested.