Ketogenic Diet Results – How I Lost 35 Pounds
This post contains a 100% accurate description of how I achieved my ketogenic diet results. If you decide to change your diet drastically, I suggest you consult your physician first. Everyone’s body is different and it is important to keep an eye on blood panel numbers and overall health throughout this process.
In early 2017, I found myself way overweight from sitting all day at my office job and generally neglecting my health. Suddenly, something ‘clicked’ for me to realize it’s time to start actively trying to get back to a reasonable weight and pay attention to my physical health.
Let me tell you about my journey through the ketogenic lifestyle, and give you ideas of things you can implement into your daily routine to potentially have similar results.
I’ve always been an active guy. All through my childhood and through high school, I played many organized sports (tennis has always been my favorite of those) and was always looking for a new opportunity to run around. I also ate well because my parents regularly made well-balanced meals for my brother and me.
Then college came around…
I remained pretty active, playing lots of intramural sports: soccer, ultimate frisbee, etc. Although I still really enjoyed running around, I routinely gorged at the cafeteria, not afraid to treat myself to an ice cream dessert after lunch…Every. Fricken. Day.
Oh yeah, and I drank a lot of beer.
Still, by the end of college, I was at a healthy weight for my age and still had my somewhat slender build. I’m a 6’2” guy and weighed around 180 lbs when I graduated.
Now, the fun part.
After graduating from college, I got a job offer from a healthcare consulting company in Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln is known for its youthful culture, has always been beer- and food-friendly, and there is never a shortage of things to do. Not to mention the Husker football scene, which definitely adds to the beer and food culture.
Upon starting my first post-college job in outside sales, I found myself to be a part of a large and tight-knit social group of people my age from all around the country. These people had personalities that meshed really well with mine (fellow weirdos) and we all just clicked. It felt like a family. A large, young, energetic family.
Oftentimes, one person would send a mass email to the ~20-member ‘family’ asking if anyone wanted to grab a happy hour beer after a stressful day at the office. Also feeling stressed, I would be the first to shout “YES” (via email). Many other yesses would soon follow.
We all know that “getting a beer at happy hour” is not an accurate description. One beer turns into 4, and so on. This was a somewhat regular (yet FUN) occurrence in that chapter of my life.
Since our office was downtown, our crew would oftentimes walk down the block to grab a bite to eat over lunch too. At that point in my life, I still didn’t care much what I was putting into my body and how it would affect my overall health. So naturally, I would order the thing that looked like it would taste the best. Apparently that’s a no-no if you’re trying to watch your weight, by the way.
To make a long story short, I gained a bunch of weight during that time and had an absolute blast doing it.
Why I decided to ‘flip the switch’ and go all-in
Fast forward 6 years and I’ve advanced in my career, only to find more job-related stress. How did I deal with that stress at first? By doing what comes naturally to me: drinking the occasional beer(s) and eating my weight in not-so-healthy food.
In October 2016, I decided I had to do something a little more healthy to mitigate this stress – what I was resorting to simply wasn’t sustainable. I had heard great things about mindfulness and meditation, although I was quite skeptical at first.
I decided to incorporate short 3-minute mindfulness meditation practices into my morning routine. After the very first session, I already felt a bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders – I really appreciated the feeling of having lower stress, but also found myself more ‘mindful’ or present in any given circumstance.
In January 2017, that mindfulness led me to be mindful of my own body and how it was feeling. I noticed I was feeling fatigued all day everyday. It was next to impossible for me to pick out exactly what was wrong, but something just felt “off”.
I went to the doctor in hopes of getting a full-fledged blood panel (that’s when they take a bunch of your blood and test it for lots of different things – cholesterol levels, kidney/liver function, testosterone levels, vitamins/minerals, etc.).
The doctor also had me stand on the scale…
I was terrified. That was the first time I had stood on a scale since college. It felt like that was the exact moment where I was all of the sudden accountable for every single one of my actions from the past 6+ years.
The scale read 236 lbs. Yes, like many have done, I had packed on the weight of a medium-sized toddler within the span of 6 years of just living a somewhat normal life.
Despite the obvious fatigue-enabling culprit of my weight, my doctor also told me I need to work on my cholesterol levels. Apparently not exercising and eating/drinking whatever I want for a few years added up.
But that moment set me up for success. That gave me a crystal clear measuring stick, determining precisely what I need to work on – what goals I need to set.
I was 100% determined to “get healthy”, whatever that means. My objective goals were to lose 30 pounds through diet and exercise and improve my cholesterol numbers.
After mentioning my situation to a coworker, he mentioned that he was on the ketogenic diet and was loving it. He would stop by my desk a few times a week and talk about the cool things he was eating, how much energy he had, and how he felt mentally sharper on the diet.
I’m not one to just blindly jump into things though. I take these new ideas with a dose of well-deserved skepticism and, if I’m intrigued, I begin researching. And I don’t stop researching until one of these things occurs:
- I find some piece of information that I don’t like about making the change and decide not to move forward with it; or
- I have read enough into it to confidently know what I’ll be getting myself into, knowing how it will affect my overall livelihood and what kind of commitment it will take.
With my keto research, I reached option B and I’m really glad I did. It literally changed the way I perceive food, drink, and exercise. I can very confidently say that adopting the ketogenic lifestyle changed my life for the better.
More on that below.
What is the ketogenic diet?
Don’t worry…I won’t get into the deep science in this post (let me know in the comments section if you would like a deep-dive into the science).
In short, being in a state of ketosis “rewires” the body to make it use fat as its primary fuel source. With our default diets (bread, pasta, sweets, etc.), our bodies automatically use sugar/carbs as its fuel, but keto changes that.
The ketogenic diet calls for 20-50 grams of carbs/sugar total per day. Normally, most people consume at least 300 grams of carbs in a day.
By cutting out (mostly) all carbs and sugar, the body doesn’t have that typical default fuel source. In fact, there is oftentimes a period of 12-36 hours of the body kind of ‘freaking out’ about not having sugars to burn. That’s referred to as the keto flu. More on that in the section below called ‘Struggles during ketosis’.
So if you don’t eat carbs, what do you eat?
Hear me out.
It takes some getting used to psychologically, but by getting approximately 70% of your daily calories from fats, it eventually triggers the body to make that switch from the traditional sugar-burning machine to a fat-burning machine.
Some people may slightly disagree on the exact proportions of macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein) a person on the ketogenic diet should consume per day, but here is the plan I followed:
(That does add up to 100%, right? Oh good!)
My keto routine
I am a routine-based guy. Working at a 9-5 office job, I feel like having a routine is a great way to ensure consistency in my health and all other areas of my life.
That said, when I adopt a new lifestyle or diet/exercise regimen, I leverage my routine like crazy.
Here’s what I did:
First, I installed the free MyFitnessPal app on my Android phone (it’s also available for iPhone). I installed this because I had no idea where I was in terms of macronutrient proportions leading up the keto switch.
The app is really cool – it allows you to input everything you eat in a day. Yes. Every. Single. Thing. Had a Snickers as an afternoon snack? Log it.
Drank 2 cups of coffee in the morning? Log ‘em. Basically, you should log anything that you put in your body besides water, since that doesn’t have any calories.
At the end of the day, MyFitnessPal tallies up your proportions of fat vs. carbs vs. protein and gives you a nice easy-to-read pie chart showing how much of each (and what percentages) you had today.
As you can imagine, before going on the ketogenic diet, my proportions were nowhere near what I would be shooting for on keto. But it gave me a good starting point – an idea of where I stood with my normal diet.
Then, after lots of research about which foods I should and shouldn’t be eating on the ketogenic diet, I went to the grocery store.
I knew avocados are like gold in the keto world, so I stocked up on those. I had also heard good things about cheese on the ketogenic diet, so I got some cheese sticks.
Then, thinking about what I would be having for dinner at night, I snagged a spinach and arugula blend, then found a high-fat, no-carb Italian salad dressing. Besides the salad with spinach and Italian dressing, I needed something of substance for dinner. I need my food, after all.
What should I add to my dinner? Protein and fat!
After that realization, I made my way to the meat counter and started browsing. I stood at the counter for around 5 minutes, roughly estimating the proportion of fat to protein for each delicious-looking offering. Finally, I stumbled upon the obvious best choice.
My local HyVee (grocery store chain in the midwest) has what they call a Cowboy Chicken Griller at the meat counter. The name alone makes it sound awesome, right?!
A Cowboy Chicken Griller is a chicken breast that has been cut open and stuffed with pepperjack cheese and some tasty spices. They then close it up, and what do they use to wrap it and make sure it doesn’t open up and spill the cheese? BACON. Then they top it with one jalapeno slice. The ‘Cowboy’ isn’t the only option – it’s just the most spicy one, so it piqued my interest immediately. They have other equally tasty options available as well.
By the way, if you’re considering starting keto (or are already on keto) and are struggling to think of good recipes, I highly recommend considering the Keto Cookbook – this is PACKED with delicious keto recipes. Plus, it’s free, just pay shipping.
The next day…
[Cue present-tense writing]
It’s the morning of the day my keto journey officially begins. I wake up somewhat tired, per usual.
I pour my usual thermos of coffee for work, but today, I change it up. I’m on keto, after all.
The best way to start my day on keto is with a huge helping of (somewhat) healthy fats. I decide to make what’s called a Bulletproof Coffee. You’ll hear Bulletproof Coffee referred to a lot in the keto world. It’s basically a fat-filled powerhouse of a drink for someone on the ketogenic diet.
In my black coffee, I add:
- – Heavy whipping cream
- – A couple spoonfuls of coconut oil (really healthy fat, by the way)
- – Around a tablespoon of real butter (I recommend Kerrigold, the unsalted version)
I let the coffee sit for awhile and stir it up. Eventually, I muster up the courage to give it a taste test. Honestly, it basically tastes like normal coffee, but perhaps a bit more rich.
Lots of fat + caffeine – bad taste = A happy Skylar on his way into Ketosis
Note: Some people stick with only the Bulletproof coffee as their breakfast in the morning. I need some protein to start off the day, so I decided to make a hot meal as well. Doing this remained part of my keto routine for the entire duration of my ketogenic journey.
Ok, breakfast time.
I scatter some Jimmy Dean sausage crumbles into a pan with some olive oil on the stove. After letting it simmer and heat up a bit, I crack 3 farm-fresh chicken eggs into a bowl, add some seasonings, mix it up, and slowly pour it over the sausage in the pan.
I let that sit and cook for awhile. In the meantime, I grab a tub of sour cream out of the fridge – yep, sour cream in the morning.
Once the eggs are done cooking, I add some shredded cheese to the pan and top it all with a dollop of sour cream. Adding my trademark ‘spiciness’ to the dish, I snag some Sriracha out and give it a nice drizzle.
After eating that and continually sipping my Bulletproof coffee, I feel quite full, yet content while heading to work.
Other food throughout the day
Rather than walk you through the in-depth description of the rest of my typical keto meals, for the sake of your time, I’ll just make some bullet points of what I ate on a normal day. Let me know if you would like more detail on any of these – I would be happy to provide that.
Sausage omelette with sour cream
One full avocado (with some salt and pepper), raw
One cheese stick
One slice of beef jerky
Cowboy chicken griller
Plain spinach salad with Italian dressing
Struggles during ketosis
From the very first day of the ketogenic diet, I was faced with some struggles. For the most part, those problems subsided as my body got more used to running on fat as the main fuel source.
Getting used to being ‘full’ with no carbs
The first, very obvious struggle I had on the ketogenic diet was simply the psychological switch from eating bread, pasta, or rice with every meal. Something in my mind was telling my body that I’m not ‘full’ after eating a rather large meal without carbs. It seemed that the carbs previously took up a large piece of real estate in my stomach and triggered my brain to say “Ok, I’m full” after a meal.
To mitigate this, I simply had to battle through the hunger pangs for a few days, until my body had adapted to the diet and entered a state of ketosis.
After getting through that initial struggle, my keto-friendly portions didn’t need to be too large to keep me satiated for several hours at a time.
After day 2 of a strict ketogenic diet, my body started to realize that there were no stored sugars to pull and use as fuel, and apparently, that freaked it out a bit.
For around 12 hours, I went into what is referred to as the “keto flu”. Basically, the keto flu is when the body is low on electrolytes, so that caused me to have the following symptoms:
- – Grogginess
- – Headache
- – Slight queasiness
- – Brain fog
- – Low energy
Now, this was nowhere near the “normal” flu as I’ve experienced it. I would take the keto flu over the normal flu any day. But it was just uncomfortable enough for me to know that I had to do something about it.
Thanks to my prior research, I was prepared for this and knew how to get rid of these temporary symptoms.
When I started feeling the keto flu symptoms come on, I knew I needed to add fat and electrolytes (basically sodium) to my body to make it ‘content’ again.
I poured some full-sodium chicken broth into a bowl and added a scoop of coconut oil (what a tasty combination, am I right?), then put that mixture into the microwave for a few seconds, mainly to melt the coconut oil.
Then I drank that concoction. I also mixed some powdered, carb-free Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) into water and drank that. BCAAs are typically used for recovering lost electrolytes after hard workouts. They came in very handy while I was on the ketogenic diet. I would recommend you try them as well (just make sure you find a carb-free version).
A few hours later, my Keto Flu symptoms had disappeared. I then made it a habit to drink BCAAs every afternoon while on keto, to ensure my electrolytes were always where they needed to be.
After that 12-hour stint, I never experienced the Keto Flu again, even though I cheated a few times while on the diet and went into and out of ketosis on occasion.
My ketogenic diet results
While on the ketogenic diet, I consistently weighed myself every morning at the same time.
Note: Everyone’s weight fluctuates throughout the day. It’s highly recommended that you weigh yourself at roughly the same time everyday to ensure consistency.
At the end of the first three months of doing the ketogenic diet with very minimal cheat meals, I was excited to see that I had lost 35 pounds!!
On top of that, all of my blood levels had completely regulated themselves (with the exception of LDL cholesterol – that rose slightly, but then fully corrected after a few more months of ketosis).
Besides all of the measurable numbers improving, ketosis also made my brain feel like a supercomputer from the moment the keto flu had subsided, up until I was no longer on the ketogenic diet.
The brain runs on ketones and when you’re in ketosis, your body sends many more ketones to the brain than normal. This floods the brain with healthy fuel and enables it perform at its peak.
During ketosis, I just felt…On. 24/7. I was in a constant state of flow thanks to those lovely, lovely ketones.
In short, after many hours of research, planning, both physical and psychological struggles, the ketogenic diet set me on track to be healthy again! Even at the age of 29 years old, I had a fresh start.
Of course, these ketogenic diet results are my own and everyone’s body performs differently. Have you tried the ketogenic diet before?
If so, let me know in the comments section:
- How long were you on it?
- What were your results?
If you’ve never tried keto, have you considered trying it? If so, what is stopping you?