My first foray into the dieting world started in middle school when my parents and I enrolled in the Weight Watchers Smart Points program. (Puberty and overeating were making things a bit tough for this pre-teen trying to figure himself out.)
Back then, my eating habits and my changing body amounted to me getting breast reduction surgery—a clear indication that I needed to change my relationship with food.
The WW program worked well for me, until it didn’t. As soon as my weight loss plateaued, so did my motivation. I went back to care-free eating until my junior year of high school, when a friend suggested I try the Atkins Diet. I wanted to lose weight more rapidly than I had on Weight Watchers years earlier. Atkins kicked off off my 20-plus-years, on-and-off relationship with low-carb.
Doing Atkins in high school was surprisingly easy. A typical day included plates of bacon at breakfast, deli meat straight from the package for lunch, and fast food burgers without the bun (or some other red meat variation) for dinner. And I saw results.
By graduation I had lost around 30 pounds and I was heading off to college looking the slimmest I had ever been. But when I got to school I fell into the trend of beer and late-night pizza. And the pounds started to pile back on.
After college, I spun through a cycle of cutting carbs, losing weight, and then backsliding to start the process all over again. I came out as gay and got even trimmer than any previous weight loss attempt.
I was wearing a size small shirt, working out with a personal trainer, and generally pushing myself to fit into what I believed I needed to look like to fit into the New York City gay scene.
But then not finding success in my romantic life led me to seek comfort in food once again and I soon ballooned to the heaviest I have ever been. During this most recent upswing, something changed. I found love, confidence, and general happiness at my biggest size.
So when the keto diet popped up on my radar, I was also at my peak: 230 pounds at 5’7″. Despite the positive changes happening in my life, I made a promise to myself on my 36th birthday that this would be the year I refocus on my health.
I officially started my experiment in November 2019—right before the holiday season was in full swing (just to make it that much more difficult for myself).
I haven’t quite seen the physical results I was hoping for just yet, but the real change has been internal. I’ve found, for the first time, that my relationship with food and my relationship with my body has improved.
Dabbling in Keto has given me a new perspective and taught me a few important lessons that are worth considering no matter what diet you’re trying.
Too Much Research Can Drive You Crazy
Keto was really the first diet I tried in the Internet age. In the early stages of my diet, I consumed all the media I could find on the topic. I was feeling super motivated until the conflicting information started popping up.
I sifted through a Keto-themed subReddit where I read that a food scale and Keto test strips were basic necessities for anyone looking to start the diet … and then I read that the strips aren’t very accurate in telling you if you’re body is in ketosis.
So I focused on specifically what I needed to know to make the diet work for me, which was pretty much just what I should and shouldn’t eat.
I stopped reading about how it worked for other people. I stopped looking into “hacks” to make it work faster. I bookmarked the websites I trusted and ignored “personal accounts” like people on Reddit sharing their experiences.
The Internet is full of people (who may not have any actual authority on the subject) expressing a lot of opinions. You have to learn how to see through that stuff when it comes to something as serious as your health and nutrition.
Letting the Scale Run Your Life Is Stupid
A month after I started Keto, I was feeling great and noticing my clothes fitting differently. Stepping on the scale to get a concrete number revealed that I had dropped less than five pounds.
This realization threw me for a loop. All of the hard work I was putting in was barely paying off. I considered giving up and going back to square one.
Ultimately, I decided to keep at it. A few more months have gone by and I’ve had people tell me that I look slimmer. I was given photos of myself at a wedding last summer and there’s a noticeable difference, but I refuse to let the scale derail me again by showing me that, pound for pound, not much has changed.
I’ve decided to rely on how I feel to keep myself motivated and I’ll find out about my true weight loss next time I go for a check-up at the doctor’s office. It seems like so much of my life has revolved around that number and I need to get some of that power back.
I think back to when I did Weight Watchers and their weekly weigh-ins…there were weeks that I was so proud of my food choices and resisting temptation only to find that my weight stayed the same.
With Keto, I’m choosing to focus on how I’ve drastically reduced my carb intake as opposed to freaking out over my next visit to the scale. I guess in that regard, this has been more of a lifestyle change than a weight loss journey.
If the pounds melt away, that would be nice, but more importantly, I’ve trained myself to resist the bread basket at restaurants and developed a weekly meal-prepping routine so I can keep track of what’s going into my meals.
The Grocery Cart Is Everything
Trying to find only Keto-friendly foods for my kitchen has been a game of trial and error. I learned the hard way that just because something uses cauliflower as a main ingredient doesn’t make it good for Keto.
Almonds have been my lifesaver. I’m a snacker, and I’ve turned to Blue Diamond Almond products. (The net carbs are right on the label.) Unsweetened almond milk adds a little flavor to my morning coffee. Almond flour lets me cook and bake foods that I thought would be totally off-limits.
I’ve been satisfying my sweet tooth with cookies and chocolate bars from Bett3r Keto. There are so many brands out there trying to capitalize on the low carb trend and marketing themselves as keto-friendly, but the net carbs per serving tell a different story.
I thought this diet would end up being a lot of jerky meat between meals, but you have to keep an eye on the sugar content. I’ve come to rely on Perfect Snacks peanut butter bites for a little protein snack. But even with that, you have to be careful to stick to the recommended portion to keep the net carb count reasonable.
Balance Is the Ultimate Goal
The most important thing I’m taking away from this experience is that I need to go easier on myself. Some people (myself included) look for the quickest solution to weight loss.
I’ve seen firsthand how Keto can give rapid results, but I’m no longer putting that kind of pressure on myself. There’s always going to be some event that adds a sense of urgency to the weight loss, but I’m playing the long game.
I won’t spend a few extra minutes every day weighing my food to get just the right portion. I won’t allow myself to worry that eating the whole bag of frozen cauliflower rice might throw off my macros for the day.
I will try to cook most of my meals from my go-tos like the Keto Guido Cookbook or Keto For Carb Lovers, but I won’t beat myself up when I give into my cravings for sautéed broccoli and beef from my local Chinese takeout spot.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I found the balance I have been searching for where dieting is less of a daily stress and more of a sustainable lifestyle.
I have loftier goals than rushing to meet some goal weight.
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