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.
Soliciting Support From Family and FriendsTo 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, when 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. She 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.
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 since then.
I am grateful that the people and brands behind many of my favorite keto-related cookbooks, websites, blogs, and 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, the author of 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 keto-friendly products she has developed (including her Besti line of sweeteners), sponsors two terrific and very active Facebook groups.
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.
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”
Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two by Margaret Schindel
Posts About My Keto Diet Journey
Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)
Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Review This Reviews Contributors
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