I have struggled to manage a healthy weight all my life. As a kid and into my teen years, I was always a bit chunkier than my peers, something that continued into adulthood. I’ve always been envious of other women with slim figures that seem to take minimal effort to maintain. The only time I can really remember being truly svelte was in college, mostly due to my obsession with dance classes and step aerobics, and lack of time to eat due to my busy schedule.
Things radically changed in my early 40s when I had a baby. Not only did my son weigh 10-and-a half pounds at birth, but I was also labeled a borderline diabetic during my pregnancy. Even though some of the weight temporarily came off during breastfeeding, it kept creeping up to the point where buttoning up my pants had become a real struggle. I would gasp when I saw my reflection and think, “Is that really me?”
Well into middle age, I knew it was time to take action, and not only for vanity’s sake. My health was in question, as I was diagnosed with high blood pressure for the first time in my life. I also knew from past attempts at dieting that this wasn’t going to be easy. After all, I have a raging sweet tooth and a deep abiding love of carbohydrates, which went along with my tendency to be inconsistent in making good food choices.
I needed professional guidance, and frankly a bit of a kick in the rear. In January, I turned to a medical weight loss clinic for help.
Feeling both excited and nervous to get going, I was greeted with a smile and warm welcome at my meeting. A diet counselor took me into a private room and gave me a packet containing in-depth guides to what I can and cannot eat, all based on the Keto diet.
In a nutshell, the Keto diet consists of foods that are low carb, high fat, and high protein. It sounds ironic that high-fat foods like bacon, cheese, and full-fat cream are part of the plan, but my diet counselor explained high-fat foods function as an appetite suppressant to keep you fuller for a longer period of time. All I heard was that I could eat bacon on this diet. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
I quickly figured out that there were some “tricks” to making the Keto diet work for me:
1. Cooking is Key. If you don’t like to cook and rely a lot on take-out or pre-prepared meals, Keto may not be the diet for you. Carbs hide everywhere in our food, so the only way to really ensure that your food is low carb/high protein/high fat as possible is to make it yourself. Fortunately, there are a plethora of Keto recipes online; I’ve discovered that many of them are quite easy and relatively fast to make. One of my favorite is Creamy Tuscan Garlic Chicken served over zucchini noodles, with a side salad. If you have kids, they will most likely enjoy your Keto dishes if there’s a small number of carbs (like noodles) added to their meals.
2. If You Love Sugar, Let Yourself Have Treats. Even though many Keto diet experts would disagree with my rationale, I knew that I needed to find a way to satisfy my sweet tooth. By making my own baked goods using carb-friendly ingredients such as almond flour and monk fruit sweetener, I could make Keto-friendly treats.
3. Make Yourself Accountable. My plan required me to attend weekly weigh-in and nutrition counseling sessions at their offices. Reporting kept me honest and focused. If you are doing Keto on your own, create your own accountability strategy. It could be weighing yourself at home, or having a diet buddy on the same plan with whom you check in regularly.
4. Engage in Mild to Moderate Exercise. With Keto, you end up eating a smaller number of calories, so doing high impact exercise in addition to dieting is too much for many people. In fact, some experts recommend sticking to low impact exercise, especially for the first few weeks as your body adjusts. I take a daily brisk walk, but going swimming or doing yoga would be appropriate as well.
5. Track Your Food…Or Really, Your Carbs. Eating the right amount of carbs, protein, and fat required on Keto, while tracking calories, has it challenges. I used a daily food tracking app to keep me honest and informed.
While it may sound crazy to be able to eat items like bacon, there is a dose of healthy vegetables thrown into the mix, and foods like traditional bread and crackers are decidedly off the table, but it’s surprising how varied a Keto diet can be if you put a little work and thought into it.
After 30 days, I had lost a total of nearly 11 pounds, and my body fat percentage dropped by nearly 2 percent. With these kinds of results, I am decidedly motivated to keep going until I’m back to my pre-baby weight. I can’t wait to catch myself in a reflection of a glass or a mirror, and think, “Is that really me?” And then happily answer, “Yes, it is!”