As this piece goes to print, I will be acknowledging my one year “keto-versary,” as the Internet calls it. August 6, 2018 was the day I officially cut sugar and carbs out of my diet.
The most common question people ask me is, “Can you have a cheat day?” It depends on how you look at it, I guess, but the short answer is no. In order for your body to remain in ketosis, you have to stay below 20 grams of carbs per day, and a huge influx of carbs, like an ice cream sundae or even a piece of toast, can not only throw your body out of ketosis, it will reintroduce sugar and confuse your system into thinking you might be using that for energy again, therefore causing it to store the fat it had been using.
Especially in the beginning stages, while my body was adapting to a new way of operating, a day of 50 grams of carbs versus the 20 grams I had been training it to use, would have been a detriment to the work I had put in.
I’m in a somewhat different state now, as my body is what is known as “fat adapted,” meaning it has instinctively learned to use fat as fuel as opposed to sugar. In this state, it is not as easy for me to get kicked out of ketosis by a temporary shift in diet, because of time and adaptation. And it’s also easier in this state to get back into ketosis if you find yourself out of it, for those same reasons. I guess fat adaptation is kind of a reward for your commitment, assuming someone likes to indulge every now and then.
After a few months of just changing my diet, I was able to introduce exercise, which before had been extremely difficult. When your body is such that you can’t move around comfortably, you don’t. Mobility was an issue, mostly because it had seized up from lack of use. It took losing about 40 pounds to make exercise feasible, but I went from only getting exercise walking from the couch to the fridge, to walking between five and eight kilometers a day. My motto used to be, “if you see me running you better run, too, because something is chasing me.” Now, I feel terrible when I don’t exercise. Had you told me that last summer, I would have laughed at you.
As of the middle of January of this year, I had lost 81 pounds. It was around that time that I stopped weighing myself and tracking what I was eating, partly because I was satisfied with the progress I had made, partly because I had learned enough about the way I was eating that it became second nature and didn’t require the planning and counting it once did. While others might dispute my characterization, I don’t consider myself to be on any kind of diet anymore.
I no longer eat foods with sugar or carbs, and I probably never will again. I say that in the same way that a vegetarian doesn’t eat bacon and most people don’t eat Aero Bars for supper – you can if they want to, but your abstinence is a matter of choice. There isn’t a list of foods I can eat and ones I can’t. There isn’t a meal plan I have to follow. I feel and look bloated and lethargic when I eat food that is bad for me, that’s all there is to it, so I simply won’t deliberately introduce that back into my life.
Yes, I look different, but that, while it was my primary motivation when I decided to change my lifestyle, ended up being a secondary benefit. The mental clarity that has accompanied the dietary changes has been an awakening I didn’t expect, and that is the part I’d be the most reluctant to lose.
I could easily write 10 pieces about the changes I’ve made in the past year, but I don’t want to be that jerk who drones on and on about their diet any more than I have been already. I am not a dietician or a doctor, and I don’t recommend anyone make the changes I did without consulting with health care professionals and doing an exhausting amount of research to completely understand what they’re getting into. What I do recommend is making the best dietary and exercise choices that you’re able to manage, and not letting people dictate what works for you.
As I’ve learned, it’s worth it to invest effort in yourself, regardless of the path you choose.