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I Tried Going Keto & Here's What Happened

Courtesy of Megan Zander

When it comes to diets, my motto is everything in moderation, except for clams, because they're gross. I prefer eating unprocessed foods over fad diets and I try not to use the scale as an indication of how healthy or fit I am, but with everyone I know talking about how they were losing weight by trying the Keto diet, I started to wonder what the fuss was about.

The Keto diet is a high-fat, low-carb diet that causes people to lose weight by forcing your body into a state known as ketosis, according to Ruled.me. This means that without carbs to turn into glucose for energy, your body starts to break down fat within the liver and produce ketones, which are used as an alternative energy source by your body.  The diet was originally designed to help children with epilepsy, and is recommended by some doctors for people who need help regulating insulin levels, but the Keto diet is popular mostly for its ability to help people lose weight quickly.

Having been too young for the Atkins craze (and yes, that's pretty much what the Keto diet is), I decided to try the Keto diet for a week to see how it worked for me.

The Experiment

Using an online Keto calculator, I determined that based on my current weight, moderate weight loss on the Keto diet required the following perimeters, or "macros" as they're called: 1,314 calories per day, broken down as follows: 102 grams of fat, 75 grams of protein, and 25 or less grams of net carbs. Having the calculator helped break down exactly what I need to be eating, and after that, it was up to me to put the plan into action.

Here's what happened when I tried the Keto diet.

Day 1: Off To A Good Start

Courtesy of Megan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with salsa and avocado

Snack: Cheese stick

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with veggies and cheese

Snack: Pistachios

Dinner: Grilled chicken and steamed broccoli

The start of the day was pretty easy for me, since this breakfast is one I have all the time. But  it took a lot of time to calculate all my macros, and I was surprised how quickly the carbs in the vegetables added up. It was overwhelming to see just how fast the foods I normally eat add up, and I was a little worried for what the rest of the day would bring. My son offered me a bite of his banana at lunchtime and I hated saying no, not just because he was sad about it, but because I love bananas.

By dinner time I was jealous of the sweet potatoes my family was eating, and really had to push myself not to have some, which felt silly, since they're a good source of vitamin A and also very delicious. I'm not a big believer in any type of "diet" or lifestyle that keeps me from eating the foods I loved, but because Keto is all about supplying your body with exactly what it needs, I was game to try it. Even with the frustration on bypassing a banana and a sweet potato, overall, the Keto diet doesn't seem that hard.

Day 2: Ugh

Courtesy of Megan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with cheddar cheese

Snack: 1/2 avocado

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with veggies and cheese

Snack: A spoonful of peanut butter

Dinner: Greens and tuna salad

I was really grumpy today, and I'm sure it's in large part due to the fact that I'm consuming a lot less sugar than I've recently become accustomed to. I had a headache all day that not even caffeine or Tylenol could budge, and found myself short tempered with the kids, which only made me feel worse. I didn't really miss bread or grains, since I naturally don't like to eat much of them, but I was seriously struggling with not being able to have fruit. Fruit is good for you! It's healthy!

At this point in the experiment (though it was only day two), I was starting to get really annoyed. The frustrations that hit during day one flared, and I was annoyed that I'd ever signed up for a diet that made me miserable instead of making me feel good. Unless you're name is Snow White, if your diet prohibits you from eating an apple, something's not right.

I don't want my children to become picky eaters and it's really important to me to try help them form a healthy relationship with food at an early age. So any diet that essentially bans entire food groups isn't an example I want to set for them — yet that's exactly what I was doing.

Day 3: The Keto Flu

Courtesy Megan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with cheddar cheese

Snack: Beef Broth

Lunch: Carrots, hummus, and a cheese stick

Snack: Despair

Dinner: Chicken broth with a side of self loathing

Even though I went to bed early last night I woke up sluggish and feeling like I was coming down with something. Nothing that was Keto compliant sounded appetizing or even exciting, and on top of that, my head was pounding. I had to bail partway through my workout because I felt so awful. When I was looking up my macros for lunch I realized that I wasn't actually sick: my symptoms were a perfect match for something called the Keto flu, which occurs when you feel ill because your body is going through withdrawal from lack of carbs.

Although I objectively I understand that this meant the Keto diet was "working," I was appalled. For me, feeling ill is my body's way of telling me something is wrong, and what it was telling me was to eat a damn banana because it needed carbs in order to function properly. I really, really wanted to quit at this point, since losing weight is never a goal worth making myself sick over. But for the sake of the experiment I decided to try and stick it out for the rest of the week. The online article I read said salt can help counteract some of the Keto flu symptoms, so I drank some chicken broth and fell asleep dreaming about fresh baked bread.

Day 4: Is This Ever Going To Get Better?

Courtesy of Megan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with cheddar cheese

Snack: 1/2 avocado

Lunch: Grilled chicken with cheese, broccoli, and hummus

Snack: A spoonful of peanut butter

Dinner: Bunless double cheeseburger and sniffs of french fries

I still wasn't feeling completely better, but I rallied enough to go out to my favorite burger place with my partner and kids. Passing on a burger bun was no big deal for me, since processed hamburger buns don't do that much for me anyway, but it was very hard to watch my family eat fresh french fries without having a single one.

The Keto diet doesn't allow for moderation. It doesn't even allow for mistakes.

I will begrudgingly admit that it was nice to be able to go out to eat while on a restrictive diet without having to pour over the menu to find something that followed my eating rules. However, there's no way to convince me that eating a double cheeseburger is good for my health and something I should be doing on a regular basis if my goal is to be healthy, and many people who follow a Keto diet brag about the large quantities of bacon and red meat they consume.

I'm not a nutritionist, but "cheeseburger good, blueberries bad," defies everything I thought I knew about eating to nourish your body. Even if it is an effective way to lose weight, it is certainty not an example I want to set for my kids, no matter how delicious the burger was.

Day 5: Why?

Courtesy Megan Zander

Breakfast: Two eggs with cheese

Snack: Peanut butter and carrots

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with cheese and tomatoes

Snack: Pistachios

Dinner: Taco meat, cheese, avocado, and sour cream on bed of lettuce

I've realized that I'm not always getting as much fat as I should, so today I tried to increase my fat intake in the hopes of shaking the last of this Keto flu. Although my pants are feeling a little looser, this diet brings me no joy. When I went for a run this morning I felt weak from the start and my endurance was nowhere near what it typically is. I had planned on running five miles, but after taking a few walk breaks and feeling like I was going to collapse onto the treadmill, I cut myself off after only completing four. I didn't want to risk an injury due to poor form.

The longer I was on the Keto diet, the more issues I had with it.

I usually enjoy meal time with my kids and I like to share food with them, but calculating my carb intake was so time consuming and I was so bitter seeing my family enjoying foods that I couldn't have that I've been gobbling most of my meals solo in the kitchen. I guess the alone time is nice, but really, I can't wait for this to be over.

Day 6: All Hail Butter

Courtesy of Megan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with avocado

Snack: 1/2 avocado

Lunch: broccoli and cheese with chicken

Snack: Cashews

Dinner: Tuna salad with broccoli and cheese

While looking up my macros for the day I realized that with a daily fat intake goal of 102 grams, and an entire stick of butter containing 96 grams of fat, I was on a diet that wanted me to consume the fat equivalent of more than a stick of butter each day. I understand that healthy fats are good for you, but the longer I was on the Keto diet, the more issues I had with it.

My headaches had finally stopped on day six, so I was pretty confident I had finally reached ketosis at this point (yay?), which means I definitely wasn't willing to cheat, especially since I was so close to the finish line, but butter revelations aside, the all-or-nothing aspect of the Keto diet was probably the one thing that I found the most frustrating.

In a typical healthy diet where moderation is the guiding principle, you can enjoy something like a slice of cake, and even though your sugar levels may spike, your body will roll with it and move on as long as you go back to eating foods that are good for you. But the Keto diet doesn't allow for moderation. It doesn't even allow for mistakes.

So like Eve in the garden of good and evil, I ate the fruit.

The entire diet is premised on the idea of forcing your body into this unnatural state of ketosis, and if you eat something that's off plan, say a turkey sandwich on bread or a large banana, you can throw yourself out of ketosis. Because getting back into ketosis can take up to almost a week, the stakes for "cheating" on the diet are really high. Personally, I don't want to put that kind of pressure on myself; it seems unhealthy for my mental well-being to label any foods as "bad."

Day 7: Oops!

Courtesy ofMegan Zander

Breakfast: Egg white omelet with avocado

Snack: Peanut butter

Lunch: Chicken salad on lettuce

Snack: Strawberries

Dinner: Zucchini "noodles," ground turkey, and pasta sauce

Confession time: I cheated on day seven of the Keto diet. Not with cookies or chips or any of the foods one would typically associate with breaking a diet, but with pasta sauce. I knew that between the strawberries I had for a snack and the pasta sauce I'd have with dinner that I'd be eating more carbs than I was supposed to, but I was beyond caring at this point.

My kids have been watching me eat different foods from them all week long without understanding why I'm not eating the foods I usually encourage them to eat, and today it upset them. When I turned down their offer of strawberries, Remy decided he too wasn't going to eat them, and I didn't want my Keto diet to negatively impact them in any way. So like Eve in the garden of good and evil, I ate the fruit. I still could have salvaged my ketosis status by skipping the pasta sauce at dinner time, but after nearly a week of depriving myself of foods that I love, I was over it. (Also: Who eats pasta — even if it's imposter pasta — without sauce?!)

Even though technically, I "cheated," it didn't mean I felt good about my food choices. I've never once considered tomatoes and spices to be a food that should be eaten only in moderation, let alone not at all. Yet there I was, eating zucchini noodles, ground turkey, and marina sauce and feeling bad about it. I hate this diet so much.

Would I Recommend The Keto Diet?

Courtesy of Megan Zander

To say the Keto diet wasn't for me is a gross understatement. Yes, I did see a change on the scale (4.6 pounds to be precise) but within days of resuming my normal diet almost all of that weight returned, leaving me to wonder if it was water loss instead of actual fat loss. Regardless of how the Keto diet made me look, it did nothing to improve how I felt. The Keto diet left me feeling ill for days, and overall, I felt weaker while on it.

I love oatmeal and fresh bread, and giving them up while on the Keto diet was tough, but it was the lack of fruit in the diet that was particularly hard for me to come to terms with. I don't want my children to become picky eaters and it's really important to me to try help them form a healthy relationship with food at an early age. So any diet that essentially bans entire food groups isn't an example I want to set for them — yet that's exactly what I was doing.

Unless a doctor recommended it to me for a particular health reason, I will never try Keto again. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to try and get to Edible Arrangements before they close as I have a week's worth of fruit eating to catch up on.