Obligatory note: I am not a doctor, a dietician, or anyone
else qualified to give health advice. I'm simply a mom who is sharing a story.
When I first had my son, I fell in love not only with him,
but also with my amazing body. Round, soft, fertile and giving, I remember
standing in front of the mirror, reminded of those ancient clay figures of
women with round bellies and billowing bosoms.
Fast-forward six months, and the fact that I had not lost a
single one of my 40 pregnancy pounds—despite eating well and exercising—was starting to weigh on me. The clothes
my mother had donated from her "heavy" period and the remainder of my pregnancy
clothes were wearing threadbare, and frankly, I got sick of leaning forward to
see the numbers on the scale, which seemed to be frozen in place at 185.
As a tomboy who grew up in the German countryside with
parents who used their psychological training to create a powerful junk food
aversion in their kids, weight had never been an issue and other than eating
well and exercising, I had no real idea where to start.
One day, while driving to work, a radio ad popped out of the
speakers and promised me that I could lose 30 pounds in a month. The logical
part of my brain knew this had to be a scam, but that part of my brain had not
slept in months thought it was a great idea! I called immediately, found out
that the program cost thousands of dollars, and that there was a three-month wait.
Now, not a lot of people know this about me, but I used to
work as an Internet snoop. My job was simply to fish around the Internet to see
if I could find anything of interest. I flipped open my laptop, and was soon able to piece together that this weight loss program was, in essence,
a ketogenic diet with some extra bells and whistles.
Keto, you say?
So what's the keto diet?
Long story short, it's a diet comprised mostly of fat, with
small to moderate amounts of protein and no carbs. Many recommend keeping
total calories between 500–1,000 a day.
The logic behind this diet is that when you eat carbs, your
blood sugar levels rise and your pancreas produces insulin, which tells your
muscles and fat cells to store glucose and triglycerides, rather than breaking
them down and releasing them as energy. In short: Snacking throughout the day,
or even eating carbs at every meal, prevents the release of fat as energy.
Once you've removed all carbs and limited protein and calories
for a few days, your body enters a state called ketosis, in which your body
creates energy solely by burning fat.
You can check whether or not you are in ketosis by using
keto sticks, which we'll get to in a minute.
After about ten days on this diet, I had lost 15 pounds, but frankly, I got really sick of eating bacon, which is the perfect high-fat, medium protein diet food.
OK! This seemed simple enough. I've never had a sweet tooth and after weeks
of eating lactation cookies, I was thrilled to go on a diet that involved eating
large doses of savory treats.
I immediately hopped in my car and returned with a boatload
of green, leafy vegetables, bacon, more bacon, heavy cream, peanut butter,
avocado, coconut oil and olive oil. This was going to be fun!
I also ordered a pack of keto sticks online. These are traditionally used to measure the
amount of ketones in the urine of diabetics who have ketoacidosis, which can be
fatal. But don't worry, in ketoacidosis, both ketones and blood sugars are very
high, while a healthy adult on the keto diet should have high ketones and very
low blood sugars.
The first few days on the keto diet were awesome! Homemade
Caesar salads with bacon bits, bacon snacks, fried green beans with bacon,
avocados, eggs and the occasional small cut of meat were all on the menu, and
they were delicious! Before I knew it, my body went into ketosis — the metabolic
state where you are burning fat reserves and expelling ketones.
Lack of salt and its associated minerals can lead to the
keto-flu — a feeling of fatigue and coldlike symptoms — so I made sure to
sprinkle on a little extra salt while cooking.
I used a fitness app to track my calories and generally
clocked in around 1000 a day (higher than recommended, but I was nursing), and
after three days the weight literally began to melt off. The first week, I had
lost over 9 pounds, and peeing on that little keto stick and getting a pink or
purple reminder that I was expelling ketones became the highlight of my day.
My energy also skyrocketed, and while I never felt woozy, I
did feel a little ADD at times. If I had been sleeping more at the time, I could
tell you whether or not this had anything to do with the diet, but alas, my baby was still waking up 6 times per night to nurse. (And no, I didn't see a huge
dip in supply while on this diet, which was a pleasant surprise!)
I love salt, veggies and meat, and if it weren't for the severe caloric restriction and lack of wine and hot chocolate, I would always live this way!
Getting Over It
After about ten days on this diet, I had lost 15 pounds, but
frankly, I got really sick of eating bacon, which is the perfect high-fat,
medium protein diet food. And so, I started sneaking a cup of chocolate milk
made with plain cocoa powder, water and heavy cream, as well as a sprinkle of
stevia, which may have been what eventually derailed my diet.
While no-calorie sweeteners technically have no carbs,
research indicates that they raise insulin, thus totally undermining the keto
diet. As much as this seems like a miracle diet, it comes with one fatal flaw:
even a single splurge on anything that raises blood sugar will take you out of
ketosis and put an immediate end to your weight loss.
Unwilling to give up this little treat I decided to call it
quits at 18 pounds. The rest of the weight has yet to budge, but I was also
pleasantly surprised that none of the weight came back.
Heck yeah! I love salt, veggies and meat, and if it weren't
for the severe caloric restriction and lack of wine and hot chocolate, I would
always live this way!
I'm definitely still carrying a good amount of weight (and
count my lucky stars that most of it's on my butt, where it goes largely
unnoticed), but am also working on healing my diastasis recti and getting rid
of my mommy tummy before I start another round. At least that's the official
The unofficial truth is that I know my amazing mother-in-law
is going back soon, and while I still need to drop some pounds to get back to a
healthy weight, I know that this will be one of my few chances to spend
evenings learning to make dumplings and noodles. Much like having a baby was
totally worth the weight gain, having the opportunity to bond with my husband's
mom makes keeping it on a little longer worthwhile.
But mark my words, once my niang flies back to China, my neighborhood grocer will have to
order more bacon!
Note: As always, consult with a medical professional before embarking on any diet or health change.