Are you on a keto diet but not seeing the results you were hoping for? Or are you seeing results but the diet just seems too hard to maintain?
Don't worry, you are not alone! Many keto followers struggle with the diet, but often a small course correction is all that is needed.
I have been "on keto" for about half a year now with great success. Not only have I lost 12 kg and reduced my body fat percentage by a whopping 5% without a lot of exercise, but the diet has also helped me to better control my long-running issues with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While I cannot guarantee that the relief of my symptoms is purely due to the keto diet, it does seem to be closely related.
Given the success I have had, I figured I should share my top-10 keys to successful weight loss on a keto diet. I hope the below will prove to be valuable to anyone else who's currently on the keto journey to a healthier life!
1. Calories are calories
Be careful! Just because something is "keto" does not mean you can eat an excessive amount of it. Many foods that are keto contain high levels of fat, which translates into a pretty high calorie density. Keto ice cream may have no sugar and fewer calories than your average pint of Ben & Jerry's, but if you eat the whole pint you're still consuming far too many calories! Practice moderation, even when the food is keto!
2. Measure & track
The two most important tools on my keto journey have been my food scale and the MyFitnessPal app. I used both religiously, especially in the first few months. Properly tracking my food intake down to the gram showed me exactly which foods helped me achieve my macro goals, and which foods I could cut down on to save some calories. The app will also give you a recommended daily calorie intake based on your activity level and your weight loss goals, and keeping your intake within this limit will greatly improve your chances for success!
3. Plan ahead
Planning my daily schedule and meals has been another very effective strategy. Most people fall off the keto wagon because they are out and about and cannot find suitable food at their local hawker centre or fast food joint. You likely know your plans for the day ahead of time, so take 5 minutes in the morning to think about where you will be and how you might be able to plan your meals around that schedule. Bring some food along in a tupperware container, if need be, but don't give yourself any excuses to cheat just because you weren't at home!
4. Bulletproof coffee
Something that has helped me tremendously is "bulletproof coffee". Bulletproof coffee in my case is a cup of black coffee, mixed with 10g of butter, and one tablespoon each of MCT oil, heavy cream, and coconut milk. What might sound strange actually turns out very rich and delicious. It has about 300 calories and will fill you up enough to carry you through to lunch if you drink it in the morning, while giving you enough caffeine boost to energize you for the morning work hours. (If you're not big on caffeine, you can of course also make a decaf version). If I drink one at 8:30am, I usually do not feel hungry until at least 11:30am or 12pm.
5. Learn to like water, tea & coffee
This was a big one for me. I used to love drinking juice and soft drinks. I figured juice is natural, so it must be healthy, and for soft drinks I usually chose the "diet" alternatives with sugar substitutes. Bad idea! Natural juices contain a very high amount of sugar and calories. You can easily add an unnecessary 500+ calories by drinking a few glasses of juice during the day. And while diet soft drinks may not have any calories, their sweetness still triggers an insulin response and leaves you craving for more. Time to kick that Diet Coke habit!
6. Afternoon snack & (frozen) berries at night
I often get a bit hungry between lunch and dinner, and then again late at night (even though this part might just be cravings!). Knowing what to eat when this happens has made a huge difference for me.
For the afternoon snack, I usually turn towards a handful of keto-friendly nuts (macadamia, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts & hazelnuts). Again, portion control is key! I usually eat no more than 50g in total (10g for each type of nut), carefully measured with my trusted food scale. Nuts are delicious and incredibly calorie-dense, so it's very easy to overeat. Try to stick to just a handful, make yourself a cup of tea along with it, and I guarantee you will be fine until dinner!
When I get cravings at night, I usually treat myself with a bowl of frozen berries, usually a mix of strawberries and raspberries. If I have some calories left for the day, I may also add a scoop of ketoi ice cream as an extra reward. Strawberries and raspberries contain relatively few calories, so they are an easy snack at night that don't trigger regrets on the scale the next morning!
7. Don't starve
This is an important one. Don't starve yourself! Yes, keep an eye on the calories, but don't drive yourself into suffering from hunger. Your body will need time to adjust to a lower calorie intake and to the new macro make-up of your food intake during keto. If you're hungry, eat something! Try to grab a handful of nuts or a piece of cheese, both of which tend to be quite filling. Being hungry all the time will make you hate the new diet and will greatly reduce your chances of long-term success. It may also affect your mood, which in turns makes the people closest to you dislike you for being so "hangry" all the time. Trust me on this one, and make sure you eat enough!
8. Avoid (or reduce) opportunities to cheat
I usually find it fairly easy to follow my keto diet as long as I am home and in control of my meal planning. Things become much harder when I eat out with friends or colleagues. This may sound radical, but avoiding opportunities to get myself into this scenario has been helpful for me. It's so easy to overeat and -drink while being in a social setting, and you cannot expect everyone around you to adjust to your newfound keto diet (unless you are lucky enough to have a bunch of keto friends, in which case - good on you!). So I often think twice before agreeing to meet friends over a meal, unless I can be reasonably assured that I will be able to find food that won't make me break my diet. If it can't be avoided at all, I try to at least limit these occasions to only once or twice a week. Don't worry too much about your friends' perception of you - if they are real friends, they will understand.
9. Get moving
While eating healthy and following a strict keto diet are great strategies to lose weight, you can make this new lifestyle a lot easier by incorporating extra movement and exercise into your daily routine. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to join a gym and start playing a new sport. It can be as simple as adding a few brisk walks or bike rides to your day. Try to think about the errands you have to run each day. How many of those could be done on foot or by bicycle? As a dog owner, try to add an extra loop to your daily walks. Don't have a dog? Take half an hour each night to walk around your neighborhood to get those steps in! Adding some simple exercise to your day will help by increasing your "calorie budget", meaning you can eat a bit more without having to worry about gaining weight. It makes any diet that much easier!
10. Focus on direction, not day to day changes
This is another big one. Be prepared that keto weight loss doesn't follow a straight line. There will be ups and down, and you will hit plateaus along the way. Don't stress it, and don't become a slave to your scale! Some days you will wake up with a kilo more and you will have no idea where it came from. Other days you may have had a big cheat meal the night before, but lost a kilo in the morning. It happens, and it's all part of the journey. Focus on the week-to-week and month-to-month trend you're seeing on the scale, rather than daily fluctuations (which can also be due to water retention, etc)! Also, make sure you weigh yourself around the same time each day, and invest in a body composition scale that will show you a few more measurements beyond just weight.
Most importantly, enjoy the process! If you properly follow a keto diet and use the tips above, the results will come. Be patient, stay positive, and just keep going!