My Keto Journey - Pt. 1
Last April, after a month of quarantine, I came to a conclusion. I had been stuck at home for weeks. My shopping list moved away from fresh foods to processed, unhealthy, carb-heavy foods. I had already gained 10 pounds! A lot of my roommates were having the same experiences -- no one wanted to go to the grocery store every other day in the middle of a global pandemic to buy fresh food. We’re all college students and have limited budgets, and unfortunately, processed carbohydrates are the cheapest kinds of food. A housemate of mine had successfully lost over 50 lbs a few years prior following a strict ketogenic diet; the seed was planted.
After continuing, struggling, and gaining weight for a few more months, I was 191 lbs, and was 20 pounds heavier than usual. I spoke to a friend of mine. He has epilepsy and ADHD. His father, a neurologist, had just completed some research studying the use of a ketogenic diet to treat those same conditions. I also struggle with ADHD and opted to give it a try. There’s hundreds of studies done that examine the use of this diet for different mental health issues, and physical ailments too. New research is coming out every day and there’s an entire subreddit dedicated to posting this research. Check it out here.
My housemates and I made an executive decision to grab a Sam’s Club membership and get all of our fresh food in bulk. Compared to a typical diet, keto can be expensive. Buying in bulk definitely saved us some money. We’d done our research and knew what vegetables and fruits we could buy, and of course bought lots of meat and dairy products. A few of the staples we got a lot of were:
My First Keto Shopping List
- Lots of frozen vegetables - Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
- Egg plant
- Mixed greens
- Carrots (High in sugar for vegetables, so you can’t eat too many)
- Greek yogurt
- A block of sharp white cheddar
- Pea protein powder
- Half & half for coffee
- Coconut oil
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Chicken thighs & breasts
- Pork chops
- Avocado oil
- Blueberries (high in carbs for berries, but great for smoothies)
- Red cherries (for a small snack)
- Unsweetened peanut butter
- Cashews (I later learned this is a mistake -- cashews have a ton of carbs!)
Cold cuts (just avoid honey or maple roasted)
The first few days of a keto diet are incredibly difficult, but are also incredibly rewarding. I found myself hungry almost all of the time, and snacking on vegetables and cold cuts simply didn’t cut it. I wanted to eat pizza and bread so badly! Sweets tempted me constantly and I had to get rid of everything in the house. It’s far easier to stick to a diet when you rid your pantry and refrigerator of all temptation. I opted to buy some diet soda as well, though I knew it was unappealing compared to soda made with real sugar. I ate almost exclusively meats, cheeses and vegetables. I found cheese to be extremely beneficial in curbing sweet cravings; I believe cheese affects the same receptors in the brain as sugar. I lost 8 lbs in the first week!
Another thing I learned is that early on, it’s best to avoid sweets of any kind. Even though there are countless low net carb treats, I found that they just reignited my desire for flour and sugar in the first month or so. The best way to deal with those cravings, in my experience, is to replace them with nuts, berries or cheese. It may be a good idea to download a meal tracking app.
Eventually the feeling of being constantly hungry went away, as my body got used to surviving on protein and fats. I was fortunate enough not to experience what some call “the keto flu,” which is when the body reacts negatively to carbohydrate starvation and it can cause flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and runny nose. Once the body gets used to living off of fat stores, and the fat/protein it consumes, these symptoms all go away. It usually takes a few days to a week.
Once my body got over the hunger, I found an extreme energy boost. I was never hungry, and sometimes found myself going 16-18 hours without eating and not realizing it. It was perfect to keep some nuts around just to snack on throughout the day and make sure I’m eating enough calories. My ability to focus had increased so much that I zoned into my school work and forgot to eat!