My experience on the keto diet
Low-carb, adequate-protein, high-fat: the ketogenic diet doesn’t exactly resemble the food pyramid we learn about in school. But is it just a fad diet or can it be a sustainable lifestyle choice? 27-year-old Melbourne advertising executive JASON THOMPSON spent three months on the keto diet, and learnt a few things along the way.
I was inspired to try the ketogenic diet by my housemate. He got really into the keto diet and he lost a lot of weight in a really short amount of time, even though he didn’t really need to. I also started to hear a lot of buzz about it. A lot of people were saying it was the next big thing. I thought, coming into summer, it was a good time to give it a crack and see what it was all about.
The keto diet is high-fat, medium-protein and low-carb. You eat next to no carbohydrates. If you’re doing it as strict as possible, that’s no bananas and no apples, because they’re too high in carbs. You replace that with lots of high fat foods: cheese, oily fish, avocados, olive oil – lots of things classed as ‘good’ fats.
I was really motivated when I started. I think it was exciting to be trying something new. I was very strict on it. I was down to black coffee, lots of high fat foods and veggies, no carbs, no sugar. I wasn’t even eating fruit. I was intermittently fasting as well, so skipping breakfast here and there, then having a hearty, fatty lunch, like broccoli covered with cheese and cream.
I started getting headaches during that first week. Before I started the keto diet, I ate pretty badly, especially when it came to sugar. Sweets and lollies are definitely my weak spot. I got some withdrawal effects from cutting out sugar entirely. That first week and a half was pretty bad, but after that it became easier and I started to feel good and enjoy it. I lost a bit of weight straight away, and I found being on the diet made it easier to avoid sugary snacks.
Meal planning and cooking was quite tricky. It was hard to think of and prepare all my meals, particularly when I was at work without a stove or oven. There’s barely anything you can buy pre-made when you’re on the keto diet. It was basically having a soup or covering vegetables in cheese and heating it up. There wasn’t that much choice.
I was almost faultless for three months. But the second I took a step off the pedal, it all fell off. I felt like I almost snapped out of it when I broke the diet, and then I just didn’t get back on it.
I don’t think I’d be able to keep it up long term. I know a few people who’ve tried it, and I haven’t come across many people who’ve been able to keep it up in its entirety. It’s pretty full on. My housemate is still strict on it at home, but he doesn’t deny himself if he’s out. He’ll eat a pizza on the weekend because he’s out with friends, then he’ll get back on it on Monday. You can still stay in that pattern, but I think being really strict would be hard.
For me, it was helpful to kick my health into gear. It was more about resetting and trying something different. I learnt a lot about myself and my habits, but also more about food and nutrition in general. Even though I’m not on the keto diet now, I still stick to a few key parts of it. I try and steer clear of eating too many carbs at dinner because I know they might not make me feel how I want to, but I don’t beat myself up if I end up tucking into a bowl of pasta.
(As told to Taryn Stenvei. This is one person’s experience and should not be considered medical advice. It is not recommended to cut entire food groups from your diet, and you should always consult with your GP before starting any new eating plan.)
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