About a week into the New Year, after the horrifying experience of trying on clothes at H&M that resulted in my husband having to forcefully rip a dress off of me because I was stuck in it, I decided it was time for a major change. I have never been one for diets in the past- mostly because, admittedly, I have never really needed to lose weight before. Sure I’ve needed to tone up here and there at the gym, but I’ve never been to the point where I weighed so much that it was impacting me both physically and mentally.
For the first time in my life, almost six months after having my second child, I was at that point.
After my first pregnancy, I weighed less than I did prior to getting pregnant in the first place. I accredited it to the fact that I was breastfeeding and thus, burning a lot of calories, so I thought that would be the case again the second time around. I didn’t gain that much weight with Luca, I want to say around 15 lbs or so, and most of it fell back off right after I gave birth. But the months after having her, sitting at home all day, recovering from giving birth, working my new remote position from my couch, and juggling two kids, it started to take a toll on me.
I’m sure most would assume that I began eating too much, but that actually wasn’t the case at all. My problem was that I was not eating enough, and the food I was eating was not giving me the fuel that I needed to stay healthy and maintain a reasonable weight. Somehow I thought having a granola bar and coffee for breakfast, snacking on a banana or some fruit during the day, and not eating again until dinner - usually a small portion of meat, double the recommended serving of rice or potatoes, and a few bites of veggies for dinner - was a healthy diet. Of course there were days when we would go out to eat and I would get a sandwich or a burger and some fries, but again, I typically was only having one real meal per day. Occasionally - usually a couple times per week - I would have a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
Now I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve gathered from research, I found that my biggest issues and why I was gaining weight was because of the following reasons:
Not eating enough food hinders the body’s metabolism and decreases the rate at which your body naturally burns calories.
Not eating kicks your body into “starvation mode” pushing your body to conserve food and store it as fat.
Skipping meals increases cravings for junk food and processed food.
Not eating enough causes your body to source its energy from elsewhere, typically going after your lean muscle first.
On top of all of those reasons, I’m also exclusively breastfeeding, which means not only do I need around 500 extra calories per day, but it also means that Luca sucks up whatever nutrients I have (which couldn’t have been many at the time, given how little I was eating) and leaves me with whatever is left. My body, essentially starving, was holding onto all of the leftover bad things and storing them as fat just to get by.
Just to put this out there, I wasn’t not eating because I wanted to lose weight. I had no appetite, was busy trying to maintain my new life as a mom of two, and balancing my new job - I just didn't have the time or energy to eat. The day would zip by and I would completely forget to eat. This was terrible for not only my physical health, but also my mental health. I was always in a bad mood, exhausted, and irritable. I never realized it was all because of my poor eating habits.
I’m about 5 feet, 3 inches tall and have a pretty naturally muscular body (probably from my 13+ years as a gymnast.) I typically range between 125-130 lbs, and again, never really had any issues maintaining that weight. At my 6 week postpartum appointment, I was 136 lbs. Months went by and I didn’t weigh myself again until that awful day in the H&M fitting room when, for the first time, it really hit me how unhealthy I looked and felt (I’m sure the terrible fitting room lighting didn’t help the situation.)
I got home and stepped on the scale. 146 lbs.
I had gained 10 lbs in less than 6 months because of my poor eating habits, low activity levels, stress, and severe anxiety (something I’ve always dealt with but was exacerbated because of my diet.)
I decided that day that I was going to make a change to not only look better, but to feel better.
After hearing a success story from a friend of mine who did the Keto diet, and realizing that our trip to Hawaii was just 8 weeks away, I decided to hop on board and give it my all. I did most of my research online through Google, Instagram, and watching some videos on Youtube.
The rest of this post will be mostly informational for those interested in the diet or those who want to hear about my journey with it. Please remember that I am not an expert or a doctor and if you are considering starting the diet please do your own research and/or talk to a medical professional.
What is the Keto Diet?
In short, “The Keto diet changes the way your body converts food into energy. Eating a lot of fat and very few carbs puts you in ketosis, a metabolic state where your body burns fat instead of carbs for fuel. When your body is unable to get glucose from carbs, your liver converts fatty acids from your diet into ketones, an alternative source of energy. Burning ketones in place of glucose reduces inflammation and spurs weight loss.” You can read the full article here for more information on the diet itself.
How did I get started?
After doing my research, the first thing I did was figure out what my macros needed to be. I did this by entering in my information on this website.
Typically, the average diet consists of 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 25% fat. On the Keto diet, it is recommended that your macros be somewhere around 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. These percentages vary dependent upon if you want to maintain your current weight, gain, or lose weight. Pro tip: You calculate net carbs by subtracting fiber from the carbohydrates. So if something has 10g carbohydrates and 8g fiber, it only has 2 net carbs.
Personally, I was aiming for around 1700 calories per day. From those, I consumed 120g fats, 20g net carbs, and 76g protein. I gave myself 1-2 days to ease into the diet as I didn’t want to overwhelm my body. I did this by decreasing the amount of carbs I was eating, but still eating some. Each day I decreased the amount more and more.
How did I know when I was in Ketosis?
So long as you are staying under your net carb amount, you should enter Ketosis within 2-3 days of starting the diet. So for me, because I eased into it for the first 2 days, it took about 5 days. I knew my body had made the transition because I experienced what they call the “Keto flu.” It really wasn’t too bad for me - I was just very dizzy and lightheaded for a couple of days. Some people experience worse symptoms that last longer. I’ve linked an article here on more information on the Keto flu and how to reduce symptoms. Once the Keto flu was over, my energy levels soared and I felt 100% better.
Did I track my macros?
For about the first two weeks, I tracked my calories and macros in the Myfitnesspal app. I feel that their platform makes it really easy to stay on track. After about two weeks I no longer tracked my meals because, by that time, I felt I had a good enough understanding of what I was allowed to eat and what I needed to eat in order to reach my goals each day.
What did a typical day of meals look like?
Ah, my favorite part of this post! I have a ton of new recipes that I’ve found and came up with since starting the diet and I will share my favorites with you in another post, but for now, I’ll just keep it simple!
For breakfast (I am not a breakfast person so this was hard for me at first) I would typically have any of the following:
Bacon, cheese, and spinach omelette
Hard boiled eggs, avocado, handful of berries
Overnight Chia seed “pudding” (I’ll post the recipe for this one!)
Snacks (usually 2 times per day):
String cheese (or any cheese)
Chicken Sausage and bell peppers
Zoodle chicken Alfredo
Chicken, beef or fish
A starch alternative like cauliflower mash (loaded up with butter and parmesan), cauliflower rice, or zucchini noodles
Asparagus, broccoli, or brussel sprouts
Lily’s dark chocolate
Dark chocolate covered almonds
Plain Greek yogurt with dark chocolate chips
How quickly did I lose weight and how much?
I began losing weight within the first week of starting and averaged about 2 lbs per week. I did not work out at all during the diet. You absolutely can work out (it’s probably even recommended) but I didn’t. By the end of my 6.5 week Keto journey I weighed 128 lbs - which means I lost a total of 18 lbs.
What kept me motivated to continue?
Initially, I wanted to lose the weight because I knew we were going on a trip to Hawaii and I wanted to be comfortable in a bathing suit. Once I started seeing results physically and feeling better mentally, I was so eager to continue to push myself and see how far I could go. It also helped that I was really enjoying the foods I was eating and didn’t really miss the carbs (which is crazy to admit because I was a carb-freak.) Having an end date encouraged me to push through as well as I knew I wasn’t going to do this forever, so it was nice to have a date to look forward to to stop the full fledged diet.
What was the hardest part about the diet?
The hardest part for me was learning about what I could and could not eat. I remember the first 2 times I went grocery shopping it took me over an hour and a half to get all of my groceries because every item I picked up, I had to look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, then cross reference them with articles online to make sure I could eat it. This definitely got easier after a few trips to the store to where now I don’t even have to look at the ingredients on the back to know what I can and can’t have.
The other hard part was the fact that in addition to little to no carbs, you also can not have sugar. I never considered myself a “sweets person” until I wasn’t allowed to have sweets! Artificial sweeteners are ok, but there aren’t many sweet treats made with artificial sweetener, unless you make them from scratch #toobusy. There is also a ton of sugar in fruit as well, so cutting out most fruit was really hard too (a few handfuls of berries per day are ok, but that’s really it.)
Was it hard to do Keto when the rest of my family wasn’t?
Honestly, no. I totally thought it would be but it was so easy to continue to make the same foods that I was previously, but just with slight modifications to accommodate my diet. My husband would have a few “Keto dinners” here and there, like lettuce cup tacos, but on nights that he wasn’t really feeling what was on the Keto menu, I would just put on a small pot of rice or boil a few potatoes for him. So he would have the starch and I would have my Keto alternative along with our main dish.
Going out to eat also wasn’t really an issue for me either. Anywhere I went I was able to “keto-fy” just about anything- even fast food. I would just get my burgers lettuce wrapped with no ketchup. I actually prefer them this way now! I don’t feel heavy and like I’m going to explode after eating fast food anymore.
Am I still doing Keto?
I am doing a very “lazy keto,” meaning I am still doing low carb but not as low as I was before. I’m not trying to lose anymore weight, I just want to maintain and continue feeling good. I have heard horror stories about people losing a ton of weight with Keto and then going right back to their old eating habits after they stop the diet, and end up gaining even more than they lost in the first place. I definitely think it is important to keep up with it, even in a mild format.
What does my diet look like now?
My diet still looks a lot like it did when I was in full-blown Keto mode, but I just don’t deprive myself now if I really want something sweet or carb-filled. For example, for dinner last night I made a creamy chicken bake and would normally (before Keto) put it over a bed of white rice or mashed potatoes. Instead, we had it over cauliflower rice. On the other hand, I also didn’t turn down a chocolate chip cookie after dinner. It’s all about balance, am I right? Now that I am conscious about just how many carbs/sugars are in foods, it makes it a lot easier to not want to eat those things.
If you stuck around through this whole post, thank you! It was one of my longest ones but I wanted to make sure that I answered all of the most common questions I was receiving surrounding this topic. Below are some crazy before and after pictures. I also think it's interesting to note the state of my bedroom in both photos too. The before photos represent my life at that time - a mess. Not only physically and mentally, but my surroundings were also disgusting because I had no energy or desire to clean and was just in such a negative headspace.
The first row of photos were taken on January 5th, 2019 at 146 lbs. The photos in the second row were taken February 2nd, 2019 at 135 lbs. Three weeks later, I lost another 7 lbs, and ended at 128 lbs, as shown in the final photo at the bottom of this post.