Hi, my name is Nellie, and I am a sugar addict. Ok, now that I’ve acknowledged my problem, let me briefly describe how it has affected my life. I frequently binge on sugary food. I never feel full, so I keep eating until I am in physical pain. 20 minutes later the pain is gone so I eat some more. I don’t feel satisfaction. My irritability will briefly lift as I find relief in junk food, and then my mood will inevitabily come crashing back down. Each year my BMI creeps up number by number. While I was once borderline underweight and ate anything and everything without a care, I’m nearing the other side of the chart.
I have spent years trying to cut sugar out of my life, sweating through a few days or even a week of withdrawals, and then giving in to my old ways. I never imagined myself trying the keto diet because I never thought I could.
It was more than just that. I learned in my college nutrition class that carbs are not the enemy. I learned in my kinesiology course that carbs are especially important for high intensity workouts. I used these facts with confirmation bias to excuse my seemly absent willpower. (Yes, sugar is a form of carbohydrate but they are not the same thing – my biggest pet peeve is when people use the terms sugar and carbs interchangeably, which I’m kind of doing here but oh well, that’s a topic for a different article.)
However, all that being said – and maybe I’m saying too much, sorry – I just completed my first week on a keto diet, and I’m here to report on how it went.
Saturday I decided to start without any planning. The only high protein food I had in my fridge was eggs, steak, cheese, and cottage cheese, so this was all I ate – all day. Not surprisingly then, I was down 4 lbs the next morning while I had been struggling for months to lose even 1. My total carb intake was 25 grams. I had been aiming for 20g, as I hear you need to be under this to be in “ketosis”, but I forgot you can drink sugar not just eat it and had a few sips of cider.
I really did mean to go to the grocery store, but that is my most despised chore. I’d rather clean a nasty toilet than step foot in the grocery store. I did have some frozen chicken and canned tuna, so I ate that with the same old cheese and cottage cheese (is double redundancy a thing?) and eggs. This time I ended the day at 22g carbohydrates – slightly closer to my goal! (Hey, I know I’m still not in “ketosis” but a couple grams can’t make too much of a difference and that’s pretty good for a sugar addict.)
I finally did it. I got below 20 grams of carbs for the day (19g to be exact). Probably because I worked up the courage to go to the store and get some more high protein food so I didn’t starve. I started the day with broccoli (still gotta get those greens in even on the keto diet) quenched my hunger with tuna salad, and ended my day with eggs, sausage, cheese, steak, AND ground turkey. I found the secret to sticking with a high protein diet is combining ALL the different types of protein. While I normally cannot stand spicy food even in the slightest, I found myself craving it for the first time in my life. Maybe I was possessed, but I drenched my ground turkey and eggs in hot sauce and found that any cravings for sugar was gone.
Day 4 was even better than day 3. I stuck to similar foods, and found at the end of the day I was only at 6 grams of carbohydrates. *I’m shocked too* So I decided to reward myself with rice pudding. Ok, I know to most of you that sounds like the complete opposite of a reward, but if you’re a sugar addict like me trying to cut weight give yourself time to acquire this taste. After one serving with only 14 grams of carbs your sweet tooth will be satisfied.
Thursday was when I crashed. But it wasn’t the diets fault. To go on a tangent, one study questioned whether low intensity steady state exercise (e.g. light jogging) was better for weight loss than high intensity interval training (HIIT; e.g. sprints). They found it really just depended on the person. And I’m the weirdo that loves sprints. But back on topic, I decided to go to a conditioning class that I knew was high intensity knowing it would be dangerous because I had been depriving myself of almost all carbs. I’ve always been the type that has to learn things the hard way. To be fair, I had some plain greek yogurt thinking that might be a balanced pre workout snack. It didn’t make up for days of low carbs. The first half of the workout I actually felt great. At this point I had lost over 10 lbs, and each workout where I usually felt bogged down, bloated and slow, I now felt much more light and airy. But that nice feeling didn’t last long. I crashed. I mean I left the workout early and drove home dizzy with nearly double vision. The whole day I only had 12 grams of carbs.
I knew what I did was stupid and unhealthy for my body, but I thought I would recover the next day. While I stuck to the diet, consuming just 19 grams of carbs, I felt sick to my stomach the whole day. I was even slurring my words. Maybe the “keto flu” was finally settling in, or my body was screaming at me for putting it through yesterdays events.
The last day. I stuck to the diet in the morning, but by the evening the sick feeling that came on after my workout had beat me down. I decided my body needed carbs, so that is what I gave it. I tried to do so in a balanced way by having a big bowl of oatmeal loaded with fruits and nuts and some popcorn chips. But then at work there was free food – cake, pizza, chips, and roast beef sandwiches, and I loaded up. I ended the day with a bowl of cereal, bringing me to 351 grams of carbs, a big leap from 20. To be honest, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty.
What I learned from this diet experiment is that keto can be extremely potent for weight loss. I started the week at 145 lbs and the morning of the last day I was 130 lbs. I would like to say that THIS IS NOT HEALTHY. Losing 15 lbs in one week is not healthy. My goal was to cut sugar and possibly lose a few pounds, but I did not expect nor did I try to lose this much in one week. I finally understand why some people rave over this diet. But was it sustainable? If there is one lesson I’ve learned from this, it is that food truly is fuel, and that while in our society we all too often over-fuel our bodies, its possible to under-fuel them too. I’m not sure the direct effect a high intensity workout with little carb intake had on my body, but from the symptoms I was experiencing I can tell you it wasn’t a good one.
I still have questions. It seems if I want to cut sugar I have to go cold turkey or else I will binge, but cold turkey combined with high intensity workouts is not an option. It seems counter intuitive to me, but I feel if I truly want to lose weight I will need to trade in high intensity workouts for low intensity ones. For now, I’m back to eating lots and lots of carbs.
If you want to learn more about some of the weight loss methods that have and haven’t worked for me, check out this post.
Edit: I also have Keto: Round 2 up if you’d like to read about some updates on my Keto journey.