Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two


Main image: More Ways to Prep for Success on a Keto Diet

This is the third in a series of posts in which I will be reviewing my experience and insights after following a very low-carb lifestyle for more than a year.

Quick update: Since my previous post on the importance of preparation in setting yourself up for success on a ketogenic diet was published 2.5 weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that I have lost another pound. So, my total weight loss since May 25, 2019 is now 58 pounds.

Choosing a Start Date

I was highly motivated to begin my new keto lifestyle, thanks to a medical scare that forced me to face the serious health risks of being both postmenopausal and obese, and of continuing to consume added sugar and highly processed foods. I understood the urgency of getting down to a healthy weight, and I was anxious to start lowering my risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes or another serious illness as soon as possible. It was hard to resist the urge to just get started on keto as best I could, and figure things out as I went along.

At the same time, I knew how difficult it was going to be to overcome my food addictions, particularly to sugar and baked goods; cut out all grains, rice, and beans; and severely restrict my consumption of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, white or sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables, which had been a staple of our weekly menus for years.

So, as impatient as I was to "get the show on the road," I understood the importance of preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and environmentally before committing myself fully to the radical changes that would be required—especially at the beginning, when my starch and sugar cravings would still be at their strongest.

Last but not least, I understood my need for a clear framework and road map to help me stay on track and make consistent progress toward any type of goal.

So, ultimately, I made the wise decision to choose a start date a few weeks out, so I could have the time to prepare myself properly and give myself the best chance of success.

When choosing the date for starting your own keto diet, I encourage you to consider your own fears and challenges, decide how best to prepare yourself to overcome them, and pick a start date that leaves you enough time to complete the preparations that will help set you up for success.

Deciding Whom to Tell, and When

The ketogenic approach to eating is widely misunderstood, remains controversial, and tends to provoke strong responses, whether positive or negative, whenever the topic arises. I knew that switching to this radically different approach to eating was going to be hard enough without the added stress of dealing with unsolicited, well-meaning, but unwanted opinions, advice, or criticism about my decision to follow a ketogenic diet. I chose to keep that decision private for as long as possible. 

When I started, no one except my husband (and my surgeon) would know. Once I became fat-adapted and overcame my cravings for high-carb foods, I would tell a handful of other people if, and when, they needed to know, e.g., telling my brother shortly before we flew across the country to stay with him for a week-long visit. Down the road, when I was noticeably slimmer and people began to ask about how I achieved my weight loss, I would need to decide what, and how much, I wanted to share about my new approach to eating. But I would have at least a month or two to make that decision.

Unless you live alone, the other people who live with you—your spouse, partner, children, roommates, etc.—will likely be affected by your decision to radically limit your food choices and, obviously, will need to be told. 

If you tend to be very social, you may prefer to tell your friends, family members, and co-workers up front about starting keto diet and ask them to cheer you on and help you through the rough patches. The important thing is to take a little time to think about and decide on a communication approach that will suit your individual needs and preferences.

photo of "ASK" sign hanging from brick building
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Soliciting Support From Family and Friends

To achieve my health and weight loss goals, I knew I would need help from my nearest and dearest. What I couldn't be sure of was how my family, friends, and colleagues would react to my decision to adopt a moderately strict ketogenic lifestyle, especially given how anti-keto I used to be before I became better educated about this way of eating.

Fortunately, as I gradually shared my news with more people, as situations arose when they would need to know, they were surprisingly supportive, especially after I explained the medical necessity for me to lose my excess weight safely but also expeditiously.

Here's the approach that worked for me.

Think about the people whose support, or lack of it, could potentially bolster, or threaten, your commitment and progress the most, especially during the first few months, when you will be battling your cravings for sugar, baked goods, chips, candy, pizza, etc. before your taste buds adjust to enjoying and, perhaps, even preferring healthy, keto-friendly foods.

In my case, my husband would be my entire support system (other than online groups) during most of that crucial initial transition period. But since we also would be spending vacation weeks with my brother and, later, my husband’s parents, as well as joining my sister and brother-in-law for dinner from time to time, and going out to lunch or dinner with friends, when the time came, I would also need to enlist their support—or, at least, understanding—about my dietary restrictions. 

Think about what types of support you might want to request from each of the people in your inner circle, and be as specific as you can about the actions they could agree to that would help you the most. For example, if you have a friend with whom you go out often for brunch, and your favorite restaurant serves a brunch buffet featuring pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, and other tempting, off-limits foods you would find hard to resist, you might choose to ask whether they would be willing to change up your routine and meet for lunch instead, and suggest trying a different restaurant (one whose menu you’ve already vetted first so you know it includes a variety of keto-friendly options). 

If you need to tell someone that you’re following a ketogenic approach to eating and anticipate a negative response, you could try to explain up front that you have done extensive due diligence, educated yourself about the potential risks as well as benefits of this way of eating, and spoken with your doctor before choosing this path, and that it would mean a lot to you if they would accept your decision without challenge or criticism and, if they can, support your efforts to lose weight and improve your health.

Considering Ways to Get My Needs Met and Their Impact On Other People

Deciding to adopt a keto approach to eating also means accepting responsibility for making sure you have access to the types of foods you need to keep your commitment to yourself. At the same time, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." So, throughout this journey, I’ve tried to think about ways to minimize the impact of my limited food choices on other people who had no say in my decision. 

As an example, six months after I started keto, by which time I had lost 50 pounds and my entire family knew about my ketogenic diet, my sister and brother-in-law invited us to their house for Christmas dinner. My sister asked me to help her understand my dietary restrictions so she could tailor the menu accordingly. After thanking her for her thoughtfulness, I asked what she would make if my diet weren’t a consideration. I was able to suggest fairly minor changes that would make most of those dishes keto-friendly, such as serving the salad dressing on the side, making a marinade for the pork that didn't contain any fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sugar, honey, or molasses, and replacing one of the two high-carb side dishes with grilled, roasted, or sautéed asparagus or broccoli with butter and herbs. I told her I would bring my own keto-friendly salad dressing and dessert. When she expressed her reluctance to serve foods she knew I loved but would no longer eat, I explained that it was important to me that my decision to severely restrict my own food choices had the least possible impact on what everyone else was eating, and that it would give me pleasure to see my nearest and dearest savoring one of her decadent desserts while I enjoyed my keto-friendly sweet treat. The dinner was delicious, and a wonderful and festive time was had by all. A win-win!

Unless you live alone, minimizing the day-to-day impact of your dietary restrictions on the people you live under the same roof with can be significantly harder. Our household consists of just my husband and me, and when I was considering the keto diet as an option, I discussed the idea with him at length, and he said he would be willing to help me in any way he could in my efforts to get down to a healthy weight. I told him about the challenges and potential obstacles that concerned me the most, and we worked together to come up with solutions that would work for both of us. 

For example, I worried that having baked goods, chips, and other addictive foods in the house would be an unnecessary temptation, and we agreed that he would try to keep and eat those foods mostly at his office or outside the house without me. We also designated the lowest drawer of our refrigerator and the cabinets above the fridge as food storage “for John’s eyes only,” and he agreed to consume those foods out of my sight for as long as necessary, until I could see them—and especially, watch someone else eating them—without craving them. 

I’m blessed to have a very loving and supportive spouse, who was as invested in my success as I was. Many other people may have additional challenges, such as an unsupportive partner or having the primary responsibility for feeding the entire household, especially if it includes picky eaters, young children, or other people with different dietary restrictions. So, if you’re considering starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to give some thought to what is and isn’t likely to be doable within the limitations of your individual situation, and to develop an actionable plan for how to get your own food needs met. 

It’s worth explaining to your family members how important it is to you to lose weight, give up sugar, lower your risk for developing a serious disease, or whatever other goals you have for starting keto, and ask the rest of the family participate in brainstorming ideas with you on what they can, and are willing, to do to help you succeed, including agreeing to changes in how their own food needs have been met until now. You might be able to negotiate making meal preparation a shared responsibility, for example. 

Be prepared for the possibility, or even the likelihood, that some or all of the other members of your household may be unwilling to inconvenience themselves or adapt to changes in the status quo to support your weight loss efforts. By the same token, they also might surprise you with willingness to help you achieve a goal that matters to you so much. your goals. 

Either way, accepting full responsibility for your own food choices will be the most important determinant of your long-term success. 


Exploring Online Keto and Low Carb Diet Support Communities

Since I had decided not to tell anyone about my lifestyle change who didn’t need to know, at least at the beginning, I checked out various keto support groups on Facebook. During the next few months, I joined eight or 10 of them, most for only a short time, and eventually winnowed those down to a handful that I still participate in roughly a year later, even after having met and surpassed both my original and "stretch" goals for losing weight. 

Searching for "keto group" on Facebook will return a dizzying number of choices. I recommend looking at the ones that have been around for a while and have successfully grown their membership, which is one indication that a lot of people have found the community to be valuable.
 
Screenshot of Facebook search results for "keto groups"

If you’re active on Facebook and are considering joining one of the many keto groups and communities, I suggest you start by thinking about which types of support would be most helpful to you. Are you most interested in: 
  • Learning more about this way of eating to help you decide whether to try it? 
  • Asking for and offering encouragement and help and celebrating success milestones?
  • Being with other people who are just starting out, or with a mix of newbies and people who have been following a ketogenic diet for a while? 
  • Getting meal planning or recipe ideas? 
Being clear about what you hope to get by participating in one or more Facebook groups will make it easier to find ones that might meet your needs. Reading the rules or membership guidelines as well as the "About blurb for a group you’re considering can provide helpful insight into its culture as well as its focus. Plan to try out at least a few different groups, and don’t hesitate to leave any that turn out not to be a good fit for your needs. 

Tip: Don’t assume that, just because a Facebook group is sponsored by a brand or other business, it will be less helpful and more self-serving than peer-run groups. When I began my keto journey 14 months ago, it really bothered me that the groups I found most helpful, informative, positive, engaging, and worthwhile were created or sponsored by companies and entrepreneurs whose primary business was to produce, sell, and/or promote keto-related products or services. My perspective has changed significantly, and I am grateful that the brands who make many my favorite keto-related products have chosen to invest financial and other resources to build, grow, and nurture a vibrant community of people sharing a common interest, create a continuous flow of new, informative, fun, and helpful content and activities, and provide knowledgeable, active, and helpful admins and moderators to vet posts, ensure compliance with the community guidelines, respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, and troubleshoot customer service issues. 

For example, Maya Krampf, who wrote one of my go-to cookbooks, The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes, 10 Ingredients or Less, and whose Wholesome Yum website is chock-full of helpful information and reference resources, as well as great recipes and her Besti line of sweeteners, has a terrific and very active Facebook group.

Screenshot of Keto Low Carb Support & Recipes - Wholesome Yum Facebook Group


Cleaning Out the Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, and Other Food Stashes

I systematically went through our kitchen cabinets, shelves, refrigerator/freezer, and pantry, the huge chest freezer in our garage, and anywhere else where there might be a snack, pack of gum, cough drops, hard candies, a chocolate bar, crackers, dried fruit, etc., including the pockets of my coats and jackets, my handbags, my bedside chest of drawers, the bottom drawer of my desk, and even the glove compartments and center consoles of both our cars. Then, my husband and I decided what should be done with each of those items to make sure they would be out of both my sight and my reach before my keto start date. 

Looking Ahead

Here's a peek at some of the topics I plan to address in future posts in this series:
  • My favorite keto-friendly food products and ingredients
  • My favorite keto cookbooks and recipe sources
  • Delicious ways to get enough fiber on a very low carb diet
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping lists
  • Avoiding the “keto flu”/li>


Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two by Margaret Schindel


Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

My First Year on The Keto Diet


Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Contributors




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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14 comments:

  1. Margaret, your preparation for beginning a Keto diet shows great strength, resolve and fortitude and I admire you for it. This description of your preparation will be very helpful to others about to begin or giving consideration to embarking on a Keto diet. Well done.

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    1. Elf, thank you very much for your very kind words! My number one reason for starting this series was to respond to, inspire, and help others who were considering, or even just curious about, this non-mainstream way of eating after seeing how much it has changed my life for the better. If I can do that, mission accomplished! <3

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  2. I am really impressed with your entire thought process before beginning, as well as your implementation of your Keto diet into your life. I applaud your husband for also helping you by taking real action to make it easier for you to stay on track. It is true that there is a lot of negative opinion about a Keto diet & that people tend to think it appropriate to offer unsolicited advice. I would like to believe they do that out of concern for your overall health and wellness. One thing I am curious about, will the Keto diet be a lifetime diet or is it a temporary change. Will you be able to add back some of your favorite foods at some point even if you mostly maintain the Keto restrictions?

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    1. Thank you so much for your very kind feedback about my keto journey and my wonderful husband's support! I used to be one of the people whose opinions and beliefs about keto were out of date and misinformed, and who expressed my concern about the potential damage to their health when friends and one family member told me they had started "doing keto." So, I do give others' motivations for offering unsolicited opinions and advice about my own choice the benefit of the doubt. ;) I can't predict how I will choose to eat for the rest of my life, but right now, I'm really happy doing what I'm doing and very gradually increasing my carbs and calories to slow or maintain my weight loss, but my food choices haven't changed, other than adding some carrot to my dinner salads. :) My current plan is to continue to experiment with extremely small changes, such as occasionally enjoying roasted root veggies or a slice of peach, pear, or apple and see how my body reacts. I'm stunned by the realization that I honestly can't think of a single high-carb food I used to crave that I miss that much, so I don't really have any incentive to start eating sugar or high-carb foods, especially since I have a wide choice of baked goods, chocolate, etc., that I can and do enjoy. So, we'll see what the future holds, but for now, I'm very content. :)

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  3. You are such an amazing planner, organizer, and enactor. Your preparation for this vital journey has been superb. Brilliant even. I have great respect for what you have accomplished (and how you accomplished it). Keto on! Fantastic tips.

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    1. Diana dear, thanks so much for those extremely kind words! The ironic thing is that my planning, organization and follow-up have always been weak points for me. But a powerful motivation (like a life-threatening health scare) can help us find things inside us we never knew we had before. I'm so grateful for the support and encouragement of wonderful friends like you.

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  4. Oh Margaret, I was so looking forward to part 2 and you did not disappoint. As you know I have joined in this new lifestyle and am very happy I have. I have only joined one Facebook group and was pleased to see a few more that you found helpful. Thanks for your ongoing commitment to helping others with this new lifestyle! I will check out a few of your suggestions and see if they are helpful to me.

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    1. Olivia, thank you so much for your wonderful compliments! I'm delighted that you have embarked on this lifestyle and are already having so much success with it. Just to be clear, the screenshot in the post is a sample of search results for "keto groups" on Facebook. I haven't tried all of those, and not all the ones I like best are shown. I belong to many, many groups, mostly related to jewelry making, and unfortunately, Facebook doesn't provide any way of sorting or filtering them so that I could show only the keto-related ones. Again, congratulations on your successful commitment to your health and well-being! I'm really proud of you.

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  5. Such a helpful article for anyone embarking on a Keto diet!

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    1. Thanks very much, Heather! I really hope it does help other people enjoy the benefits of this way of eating.

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  6. Margaret, I love your Keto articles. They're packed full of excellent advice and tips. Your preparation to transition to the Keto way of eating is unmatched! As you know, I didn't have the sugar/sweets cravings to deal with, but I did do quite a bit of prep as you suggested in regards to grocery shopping. I prepare regular meals, or my adult children do, but there's always a Keto element to it; keto veggies, a salad, cucumbers and vinegar lol which I love, then a lean meat. I still make cakes, cookies etc for the gang but do.not.touch.them. - Congratulations to you for achieving such an incredible weight loss - wow, it feels great doesn't it! The feeling of lightness is something I love - My health is what keeps me disciplined with the Keto way of eating - I'm scared to go back to what I used to deal with - for that reason, I don't ingest anything that could upset this new apple cart. I've lost more weight since we last chatted, - so yah, it's still coming off. I'm so proud of you too, you truly prepared and planned in such a detailed and thoughtful way. Congratulations again skinny :)

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    1. Barbara dear, You're one of the most organized and talented planners I know, and your determination and commitment are second to none. As you know, your enthusiasm and early success, and the benefits far beyond weight loss you have experienced, were a major factor in inspiring my own decision to choose this path. Our motivations for continuing this ketogenic lifestyle are very similar, and I couldn't be more proud of you! Love you, keto queen!

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  7. Margaret, your post is packed with helpful information for people who are considering a Keto Diet. Making such a big lifestyle change is complicated in ways I would not have thought about.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Brenda! I've seen so many people on Facebook groups (and a couple of my IRL friends as well) who have gotten discouraged or panicked when their relatives or friends have been unsupportive or when they have an upcoming family event (not as many of those at the moment, obviously!). Staying on track in the face of those types of challenges can be tough, and mental, emotional, and physical (e.g., food) preparation truly are the key. It is my hope that others can benefit from my experience, instead of giving up on their health and weight loss goals, getting down on themselves, or having to learn these things the hard way. :)

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