The Ketogenic Diet: An Honest Review

For those of you that aren’t aware of the ketogenic diet, it’s concept is pretty simple: low carb, high fat! This diet consists of cutting out the carbs, ditching the sugars and opting for foods that are high in fats. The most common foods consumed on a ketogenic diet include, cheese, eggs, fish, meat, butters, nuts, cooking oils such as coconut oil and lard and low-carb vegetables. By eating foods that are rich in fats and lower in carbs, your body will enter a metabolic state of ketosis. This is where your body will start using ketones for energy instead of glucose. Ketones are derived from fat and are a much more stable source of energy than glucose which is derived from carbohydrates. In simple terms, by eating high fat foods, your body will become a fat burning machine and you will generally feel more satisfied and fuller for longer. Not only has the diet been herald as a great tool for weight loss, but an increasing number of studies have also noted the wider health benefits of ketosis, such as reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s.

In December, I decided I was going to follow the keto diet for 6 weeks. As difficult as it was to abstain from the mince pies and endless boxes of celebrations and quality street over Christmas, I’m not one for New Years resolutions and decided that if I really wanted to commit to keto I shouldn’t put it off until January. So, I challenged my powers of self-discipline and started ketosis on 14/12/2017. I am currently on my 6th week and set to finish on the 24/01/2018. As my 6 weeks on ketosis draws to an end, I thought I’d give an honest review of the diet; the positives, the negatives and whether I would recommend it to others in the future. This review is based on my personal experience with ketosis and therefore it will not be scientifically objective. However, it will hopefully provide you with a greater understanding of the transition your body goes through on a ketogenic diet and both its pros and cons.

Fatigue, Headaches and Nausea:

Its fair to say that my body didn’t adapt to ketosis very easily. For the first 2-3 weeks I felt very weak and I had a considerable lack of energy. For the first week especially, the gym was completely off limits. I could barely get through the day, let alone a 45-minute spin class! Alongside the fatigue and lethargy, I also suffered with headaches and nausea. I had read beforehand that a handful of people do suffer from nasty side effects of sugar withdrawal in the first few weeks of ketosis. Unfortunately, I just happened to be one of those unlucky few. However, after 16 days on ketosis, my body finally adjusted to the lack of sugar and my energy levels picked up. In fact, by the fourth week, my energy levels were at an all-time high!

The dreaded keto hangover:

Brace yourself! The Keto hangover is in a league of its own (and trust me, I learnt this the hard way!). The morning after my friends 21st was agonising. I’ve suffered from some horrific hangovers in the past, but this was just absolutely paralysing (and I’m not being melodramatic). Not even my trusty paracetamol and ibuprofen could save me from this crippling hangover. Unfortunately, a reduced tolerance to alcohol is part and parcel of a keto lifestyle. Not only did I get a horrific hangover, but I also got drunk a lot quicker. Three double gin and tonics tipped me over edge. But why does this happen? Now that you’re eat high fat, low carb foods your liver is no longer busy processing glycogen stores made from the carbohydrates. So, your liver will start to metabolise the alcohol quicker and you will feel the booze hit you quicker.

More than just a weight loss aid:

Despite keto being famous for weight management, my motive for doing a ketogenic diet was not actually for weight loss. Instead it was for a far more personal reason; I was desperate to break my cycle of binging and purging. For a while I had been stuck in a routine of ritualistic binge eating followed by a period of restrictive purging. It was getting unhealthy and not only was it prohibiting me social, it was also affecting my work and academic life too. My energy levels were all over the place, my sleep was constantly disturbed, and my mood was very up and down. My body was calling out for sustenance. Although the first 16 days on keto were difficult, after 3 weeks I definitely started to feel like I was regaining a normal and healthy relationship with food again. One thing I am adamant on is that if you find yourself with a binge eating problem or an ‘addiction to sugar’ then a ketogenic diet is great for reprogramming your outlook on food and resetting your body.

It isn’t for everyone!

Although ketosis has worked quite well for me, I wouldn’t advocate this diet for everyone. It’s a strict regime and it can be quite restrictive. After all you are essentially cutting out an entire food group. If you already have a healthy and controlled relationship with food then there is no need to go to these extremes. Furthermore, it is not the easiest diet to do on a budget. A lot of the ingredients can be very expensive and so I found keto to be quite a middle class diet and not very student friendly.

Diet is personal and no single size fits all:

We’ve all heard the saying ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince’. Well the same rhetoric can be said for finding the right diet for you. I think I’ve settled on ketosis and I am planning on keeping it going after the 6 weeks as I want to see how much it can do for my body and health in the long term. However, this is after many years of trial and error with multiple diets and lifestyles. But as I mentioned earlier, this was my experience of ketosis and it will not necessarily be a success story for everyone. Always remember that no one diet is the correct diet. It is about finding out what works best for you and suits your lifestyle.


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Author: Louise Howells
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