I started “dieting” when I was 22 with calorie restriction. I successfully lost 50 pounds then and developed an eating disorder that would haunt me indefinitely. While my weight would only severely yo-yo due to creating tiny humans, in the following years, I have tried probably every diet out there.
I have done:
- Calorie restriction
- Caloric density
- Intuitive eating
- Inner clean/detox
- Hormone balancing
- Low glycemic
- Gluten free
- Low carb
- Low FODMAP
- Metabolic profile
- Intermittent fasting
- Fast mimicking
- Healthy/balanced eating
At the end of that all, I had seemed to settled happily on intermittent fasting. I was finally happy and stable for the first time since before I had started to think about these things. Then last year, something happened to my body amidst medication changes, and it never really came back to itself. So it was back to trying (and failing) at all the things.
Nothing has worked, which has left me with one final thing to try (at the direction of my doctor). One thing that I have avoided for all my years of dieting: ketosis.
I have avoided ketosis for multiple reasons. Yes, it is a strict eating regiment. I can do strict. The simplest excuse is that I love fruit, and after giving up so many different foods on so many different diets (cheese for fuck’s sake), I had no intention of relenting my last grip on fruit.
Also, everyone I have personally seen on ketosis does lose weight very well… then gains it right back. Over and over again. I do not need a temporary fix. I need the answer that intermittent fasting was before whatever the hell happened happened.
However, it is what the doctor recommended, so I went into it with the intention of giving it the full attempt for three months. And since I was going to be in it, I might as well report how it.
Month 1: Fuck This
With all the various diets and restrictions I have tried in the past year, so many of the foods included in keto have been off limits. I was excited to eat cheese and bacon and FAT again. This excitement lasted a day, maybe two. Until I actually ate all the fat.
While delicious to eat all the fat (and liberating to not count the calories or the portions), it made me feel gross, the way I might feel after days on a fast food bender. The “keto flu” came and went in the first week (or so I thought), but on the other side, I still felt nasty. I never crossed over into the promised land of when keto is supposed to feel awesome and energizing and clarifying. Instead, my stomach always felt heavy; my tongue always tasted sour; my muscles always were weak and shaky.
What I felt in my first month of keto was rage. So much rage. I was angry and bitchy and unhappy all the time. I wasn’t hungry, but I might as well have been hangry for how irritable I was. I also experienced weird tingling and numbness in my hands/fingers and feet/toes. ALL my workouts were absolute shit, especially my runs, like I was trying to run on an empty tank. After I was active, I would hit an impenetrable wall and be borderline nonfunctional. Most likely, all of this wonkiness and extended “keto flu” was due to an electrolyte imbalance that I could not seem to rectify.
I adapted, somewhat, in my first month. Getting used to the composition and rhythm of the food. The grossness dwindled after the first couple weeks, but I still didn’t feel awesome about the food. It often felt heavy, even nauseating in my stomach. In the second week, I attempted to reintroduce fasting but found it halted my weight loss and tried adding the third meal back in (though that didn’t help). It seemed counter intuitive to need to eat more of such rich, high calorie food.
I just went strict. I followed the meal plan. I spent my entire days on Sundays doing meal prep, cooking things in butter and frying bacon and mixing in heavy cream. I didn’t cheat. I went to Chipotle when I ate out so I could get a bowl with no rice or beans, just mean and cheese and guac. I didn’t deviate.
I committed, and I suffered. I am able to do that. It is moderation I cannot accomplish.
However, the first month was not terribly successful either. In the first two weeks, I lost 8 pounds. In the second two weeks, nothing happened. I didn’t change or eat carbs, so I don’t know why it did not work in the second half, but it was very frustrating to continue to be miserable for no results. What I thought this told me is that I lost water weight in the first two weeks but did not lose any actual weight in the entire first month.
At the end of the first month, what it really felt like what more of the same, just like all the other failed diets. A lot of hope fizzled out into physical discomfort without change.
Month 2: I Can’t Feel My Hands!
My negative keto symptoms seemed to reach their peak as I moved into the second month. The strongest, and most unsettling, reactions seemed to be from an electrolyte imbalance. The most notable and irritating was extremity numbness. At its worst, I would lose sensation in both hands and both feet, especially while running.
In response to all the tingling, I started drinking bullion, taking a magnesium supplement, and adding salt to everything. After about a week, I did start to feel better. Even more that the electrolyte symptoms, I started to feel better overall. It seemed like I might actually be seeing the other side of the keto flu. I might actually be adapting to keto itself. At the end of week 5, I finally went on a run that did not feel terrible. It was still atrociously slow, but it was not a miserable experience.
At the end of week 5, the Coronavirus pandemic panic also broke on the grocery stores. I had the strange anxiety of first worrying about being able to get food, and once I had the essentials, I worried that I would not be able to stay on keto with what I had in the house. There were bizarre tiers of stress in my eating. Thankfully, the stores restocked in the same weekend, and it became a nonissue, but it was a surreal experience briefly. Keto would have quickly died if I had to turn to boxes of ramen or cans of soup.
I messaged my doctor to tell her about my numbness and ask her how to proceed. She had me come in to see her. At this point, I had been on keto for six weeks pretty strictly. However, I had not lost any weight past the first two weeks, and I never started to feel good in any real way. I only experienced negative side effects. So she advised me to terminate the diet. Since I only went on it because she recommended trying it, I complied.
Part of me feels like I should finish the 12 weeks just to finish them, but why? How wrong does it have to be to be wrong? I think I am just frustrated to have the last option still not be the answer.
Instead of a month 3, keto ended at week 6 in another failure, in more negative results. To me, this leads me back to the conclusion that brought me to a medical professional for assistance: something is not right with my body. Something is not functioning how it should be. From what I have been told, strict keto works for almost everyone. The doctor had expected me to easily drop 20 pounds in the first couple months.
If I cannot lose weight, that’s fine. I can live with that. The problem is more that if I do not starve and work myself to death, I gain weight rapidly and my blood sugar climbs. That is not healthy. Or normal. That is what I am trying (and repeatedly) failing to figure out here.
So now I am to return to Whole30, which worked when I tried it before things got all wonky last year. I’ll be happy to eat produce again, not feel gross, and be able to feel my fingers and toes. Maybe I’ll have some fuel during my workouts. I’m also going to layer intermittent fasting back on, simply because I like it and it makes my body feel good.
Here we go again… We’ll see again… I’ll have another follow up with the doctor to reveal lack of progress yet again I’m sure.