Keto diet was originally created in the early 1900s to treat epilepsy, but the diet has recently blown up. And so, after several of my friends couldn’t stop talking about how they lost weight, had more energy, and felt amazing, I decided to test the claims myself. I also was intrigued by what I’d read on the diet’s effects for folks with Type 1 diabetes. My fiancé, Nick, has to deal with all the pin pricks and blood sugar crashes that come with having Type 1, and isn’t much of a dieter. But he decided to try the diet with me, and we gave ourselves a goal of three weeks—not forever, but long enough to notice a difference. Following are my keto diet reviews.
Full disclosure: We had two totally different experiences.
The goal of the keto diet is to put the body in a state of ketosis, where the body is badly need of carbs and sugar (traditional forms of energy) and has to begin breaking down fat for fuel.
Keto dieters should eat no more than 20-50g of carbs per day, depending on their body weight, height, and lifestyle. I used a keto calculator app to determine that I should have about 20g net carbs a day, which is calculated by subtracting fiber from carbs (for example: a cup of eggplant has 4.8 carbs and 2.5g of fiber, so your net carbs would be 2.3g).
What We Ate
An extensive Google search revealed that many healthy foods we eat daily (such as yogurt, oatmeal, beans, and pretty much all fruit) were off limits. But, cheese, meat, ranch dressing, and green veggies all get a green light.
This feels really counterintuitive. What kind of diet lets you eat a double quarter pounder with cheese (sans bun), but not an apple?
Cooking Light’s Food and Nutrition Director Brierley Horton, MS, RD, is not a fan. So when I told her abut my plan, she suggested I give it a pass. “I’m cautious of any diet that eliminates entire food groups, such as fruit,” she explained, “because you won’t be getting the key nutrients your body needs. It’s not a sustainable diet for the long run.”
I ignored Brierley for the sake of journalism (sorry, Bri!), and got to cooking.
Step one: I prepped several keto-friendly recipes for the week, and went shopping. One day I made a sheet pan dinner with sausage, Brussels sprouts, onions, mushrooms and herb butter. Another, I made kale salad with chicken, macadamia nuts, and lots of Parmesan. For lunches, I ate things like tuna salad-stuffed avocado. And to satisfying my pasta craving, I cooked zoodles with meatballs and low-carb marinara sauce. For my mashed potato cravings, I subbed in mashed cauliflower with lots of shredded cheese.
During the diet I also enjoyed steak, fish, and chicken, with a regular rotation of veggies. And eggs, I ate SO MANY EGGS.
Since things like butter and cheese weren’t “off limits,” eating on the keto diet was super flavorful. And finding options at restaurants wasn’t difficult at all. Almost anywhere has protein and greens, or a salad with lots of cheese.
Our Weight Loss Goals
Here’s the thing: It really does work for weight loss—we both lost more than a pound a week, while counting no calories, and eating all the butter and fat we wanted (more than I wanted, actually). I lost about 3.5 pounds in the three weeks and Nick lost more than 5 pounds.
How We Felt
I had heard the transition to ketosis might be a little rough, but my friends all said they felt amazing after being on it for a few days, so I was unsure how I was going to feel. Unfortunately, it was more than just a little rough.
For the first few days I constantly had the grossest sensation of grease covering my mouth. I brushed my teeth at least two or three times a day to get rid of it. I blame it on all the extra fat I was eating from sources like butter, cheese, eggs, and mayo. And I also felt like there was no way I was losing weight—all the fat and dairy I was eating made me feel super bloated (in hindsight, I think it was all of the sodium.)
Then there was the worst part: The keto flu. The transition to ketosis involved a major energy drain caused from carbohydrate withdrawal. Keto flu hit me like a truck on day 2 and lasted until about day 4. During that time I felt super tired, achy, and slightly drunk. I was so foggy at work, I could barely concentrate. Nick had keto flu around day 3, and it lasted until day 5.
Our keto flu was coupled with intense carb cravings. After this diet, I truly believe the research purporting that carbs and sugar behave the same way as cocaine and heroin.
And guys, the sugar and carb cravings were so, so real. I wanted a cake donut so badly I would have thrown a rock through a Dunkin Donuts if I’d had the energy, and don’t really even like them that much—I know what’s in them. Meanwhile, Nick was craving a smoothie. A smoothie! In the three years we’ve been dating, I’ve seen him eat fruit a sum total of two times.
I felt like an absolute monster, and immediately Googled “keto flu cures.” Turns out eating lots of potassium helps, as well as guzzling water, so Nick and I upped our intake of foods like avocado, leafy greens, and salmon, which helped tremendously (I didn’t threaten any more old men.)