10 things to know before starting keto
Adjusting to a keto diet takes some effort and commitment, but it’s worth it. Once you become used to burning fat for energy (AKA fat adapted), you’ll be amazed at all the benefits keto has to offer: You will likely lose weight, you won’t feel hungry all the time, and you’ll have more energy. Your mood may be more stable, and you’ll have fewer emotional ups and downs. You may notice improvements in your skin or your sinus health.
Keto is likely vastly different from the way you’re used to eating, so it can be confusing at first. It’s important to go into it with realistic expectations and be prepared for the challenges that arise. Following are 10 things that keto aficionados say they wish they knew before they started.
- The scale tells only part of the story. Even if you don’t lose weight, it’s still possible you are losing body fat. Also, if your body has any internal healing to take care of (like reducing inflammation), it will do that first before it starts shedding weight. So don’t get too hung up on the number on the scale. If weight loss is one of your goals, take pictures and measurements to track your progress, as your body composition may very likely change even if your weight doesn’t.
- The mental and emotional hurdles are often harder than the physical aspects. You may be used to eating your emotions, and now that you’re eating differently, you’ll find that doesn’t work anymore. Make sure you’re taking care of your emotional health as well. Get enough sleep and find ways of combating stress that don’t involve food. (Exercise, yoga, and meditation are all great options.)
- Keto isn’t something you can do just part of the time. Keto involves training your body to use a different source of fuel (fat instead of carbs). That won’t happen if you’re constantly going back to eating carbs. If you aren’t fully committed, you won’t become keto adapted and you won’t see the results you’re looking for.
- You may have to challenge some of your long-held beliefs about food. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be unappetizing or feel like deprivation. You can eat until you’re satisfied and still lose weight. You can eat really delicious food and still be healthy. Food is your friend! If you’re used to treating it like the enemy, this is another thing that may take some getting used to.
- Cheating isn’t worth it. You will feel like crap, and it can set you back. Besides, it’s not necessary. If you really want something, chances are you can make a keto version of it with a little extra effort — pizza, bread, pancakes, cookies, even chocolate cake that takes one minute in the microwave.
- It gets easier. You may have cravings at first or miss some of your former favorite foods. You may think you can’t live without bread or soda. But with every month that goes by, you will find yourself wanting those foods less and less. You will find new favorites. I promise. Right around the 10-month mark, I suddenly noticed that I wasn’t having to put as much thought into what I was eating, and I genuinely had no desire for foods that at one time would have been difficult to resist.
- You will figure it out. You will learn what you can buy at the store. You will learn what ingredients to watch for. You will learn what you can make for a quick dinner when you don’t have a lot of time. You will even learn what you can eat at fast-food restaurants if you really have to. Try not to get discouraged. Keto Facebook groups and other online communities can be a great resource when you get confused or frustrated.
- The healthiest options are always real, whole foods. That means foods that don’t contain ingredients. Foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats like grass-fed beef and organic chicken. While some people may opt for things like sugar-free candy, protein bars, or low-carb tortillas, any kind of processed foods will always be less healthy. Don’t beat yourself up if you need to use pre-made or packaged foods on occasion, but try to make them the exception, not the rule.
- Lots of foods have hidden sources of carbs. Check carbs on everything, especially if you’re trying to lose weight and find yourself stalling. Even vitamins can be hidden sources of carbs. Shredded cheese often contains potato starch. Be careful with food you don’t prepare yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask about ingredients when dining out. Scrambled eggs in hotels or restaurants may be made with dehydrated egg powder that contains potato starch. Soups and stews may contain flour. Salad dressings may be high in sugar. Always ask!
- People may not be supportive. If you tend to post a lot of pictures of your food on social media, be aware that people are likely to show concern when you mention that you’re on a low-carb diet. They may even try to talk you out of it. People often think keto is dangerous because they don’t understand it. We’ve been told for decades that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, but plenty of research demonstrates the benefits of training your body to use fat for energy instead. Consider sharing the details of your diet with just a few trusted people, or start a new Instagram account just for keto and connect with other people in the keto community. There are plenty of supportive folks out there who will cheer you on!