This week, I attempted to do something that I have never done before. I attempted to go on the ketogenic diet. If you’re not familiar, this diet basically eliminates carbohydrates from your diet. This causes your body to go into what’s called “ketosis”. Basically, your body has to burn stored fat for energy to make up for the carbohydrate deficits and ketones are a byproduct of this process.
So, for five days, I eliminated carbs completely. I was so pumped to get started because all of the stories I had read talked about how much energy people had. It was like a light switch turned on in their bodies, making everyone feel 18 years old again. There were little blurbs here and there that offered a sugarcoated disclaimer about the initial effects of the diet. There were remarks about the first week and the drowsiness, the mental fogginess and the pangs of hunger. None of this sounded unbearable, but merely a slight inconvenience for a day or two.
Sorry, but these must be the same people who think childbirth is a “slight inconvenience for a day or two.”
Maybe it’s not necessarily that bad, but I’m here to tell you that the Keto Flu is real. It’s a thing and it doesn’t mess around.
The first two days going Keto were fine. I missed food, but I could move past it. My biggest hurdle was cutting the emotional tie to carbs that I had. At the end of the day on both days, I went to bed with a feeling of mild hunger. I was actually proud of this. There had been times in the past when I would have given in and fed myself right before bed, even though I knew it was bad for me. I felt a sense of accomplishment.
On day 3, I got up from bed feeling like my seven hours of sleep was only 2 or 3. I chalked it up to a less than stellar night’s sleep. Since my husband and I share a king size bed with 2 extra-large dogs and a cat, there are occasional space issues that cause suboptimal sleep.
When I got to work, I felt ravenous. I had already had breakfast, so I tried to ignore it. This is easier said than done when I work in a very large office and we always have something to celebrate with food and baked goods. It happened to be the birthday of not one, but two of my colleagues. So, we had a few desserts to choose from as early as 8:30 in the morning.
As hungry as I was, I was also suffering from an ironic kind of nausea. I didn’t want to eat, but I simultaneously wanted to eat everything. Throughout the day, this nausea remained constant. Even after my ultra-healthy Keto lunch, my stomach could not be tricked. In fact, I really just pissed it off more. I started to almost feel feverish. Not that I felt warm to the touch, but more like I was having cold sweats. I felt clammy. As someone who is anxious about, literally, everything, I started to contemplate all the worst diagnoses for my current condition.
Was I hypoglycemic? More likely than not, considering the lack of sugar.
Was I going into some form of shock? Maybe I should have researched this Keto diet better.
Was I dying? Has anyone died from 3 days on Keto? I don’t know, but I sure don’t want to be the first.
To top it off, my mental clarity was completely shot. As a healthcare professional, I need to be logical and well-rested and focused at all times. I double- and triple-checked everything I did for fear I would screw up.
Driving home, I felt mentally drained. With my history of working the night shift, I knew all the tricks for keeping awake behind the wheel. For me, it’s all about rolling the windows done, blasting the music and putting on a concert from my driver’s seat. Halfway home, a ballad came on the radio that caused a 10-minute nervous breakdown complete with the kind of ugly crying that makes your vocal cords ache.
This continued even after I got home and found my amazing husband getting a nice dinner together. His romantic efforts were met with emotions of rage alternating with that same ugly crying.
This persisted for two more days before my saint of a husband presented me with the one peace offering that could make all of this go away: a plate of pasta.
If you want to make the argument that he didn’t support my Keto efforts, you are not grasping how severe these symptoms were.
After I resumed eating carbohydrates, I felt a strange mixture of physical improvement and emotional despair. I felt like a failure. It made me feel like losing weight was out of my reach. But at the same time, if losing weight feels like this, I might just have to be fat forever.
The silver lining from this experience is that I unearthed a ton of recipes about going low-carb and no-carb. I got tons of good tips and tricks from others out there who share in my struggle. From this, I’ve decided to go with a low carbohydrate approach without cutting them out completely. It might take longer, but I always try to remind myself that it took more than a couple weeks to get the weight on, so I need to spend more than a couple weeks getting it off.
This is not meant to prevent anyone from trying the Ketogenic diet. In fact, if you’re doing Keto, keep going! I’m proud of you. If you couldn’t keep going because it was too hard, you’re not alone! I’m right there with you. My experience has made me realize that when I hit my weight loss goal, I just won’t be able to thank Keto for my success. But, I’m not deterred! I’m going to keep going on my way to my making my hopes, dreams and goals a reality.
Let me know your Keto stories in the comments!!