Hi ketopians! I've been doing this for nearly 4 years now, which realization prompted me to write down the method I've settled on after extensive trial and error.
I am not a doctor, or a nutritionist, or any kind of professional. I'm just a person who's been eating low-carb with varying levels of commitment for a long time. I've settled on a simple, satisfying, effective method, which I will share here. YMMV, but I believe it'll work for most people.
The Theory, in a Nutshell
- You're fat because of what you eat, not how much.
The Plan, in a Nutshell
- Stop eating junk, lose weight.
What do I eat?
As much as you like of:
Fresh (including frozen, but not preserved) meat, dried/salt cured meat, eggs, butter, cheese, green vegetables, seeds, cruciferous vegetables, any other natural foods with zero carbs
Moderate amounts (meaning you need to track the carb counts) of:
Processed (additives and preservatives) meat, nuts, low-carb root vegetables, peppers, low-carb legumes, low-carb dairy (if you feel bloated, try eliminating dairy except for hard cheeses)
Absolutely zero of:
Grain, sugar, corn syrup, starchy legumes, starchy root vegetables
What about low-carb bread, bars, shakes, tortillas, pasta, etc?
YMMV, but I've consistently found that these products cause me to stop losing weight when I'm trying to reduce. Probably more appropriate for maintenance than initial weight loss. Don't eat.
How many carbs per day should I be eating?
My results tend to be best when I stay under 30g/day, which matches what many proponents of the diet have suggested, so that's what I suggest. If you follow the rules above, however, you will often find that you naturally eat fewer than 30/day. I haven't needed to count carbs in years; I just don't eat many or any foods that contain carbs.
So I can just eat bacon all the time?
No. Eat vegetables. If you don't like them, learn to prepare them. Butter and salt are your friends. Edited to remove "In large quantities" due to needless controversy.
What about cheating?
Don't. If you get to the point where you've been doing it for a while and understand how your body reacts, feel free. If you're reading a beginner's guide, just don't. It sets you back physically, emotionally, and chemically.
Not one piece of candy. Not one bite of chocolate. Not a taste of someone's cake. No cheating. It is far, far easier to have none than one because of the nature of habit. Like an alcoholic who intends to have one drink and ends up in a gutter, you'll intend to have one piece and end up eating 20. That's the nature of human habits, not a special weakness that only you have.
What if I feel hungry?
Eat fatty food and drink water. You're used to dieting by not eating; get over that. You are now dieting by eating. If you feel like you're eating and eating and still hungry, you're not hungry - you're craving junk food.
What do I do if I cheat?
It happens. Oops, I ate a donut. You'll probably be tempted to say, "Well, I'll start again tomorrow." Fuck that. Start again now. The donut was a mistake, don't compound it by making deals with yourself. Respond to cheats by going back to the correct diet immediately.
Should I weigh myself?
Yes, and here's how: Wake up, pee, step on the scale. Do this at the same time every day. Put the numbers into a spreadsheet and make them into a running chart. You're going to see a line that oscillates seemingly at random for a while. After some time, you'll see a general downward trend. Don't panic about upward swings; your body changes weight within a range every day. We're trying to move the range down.
What can I expect at different times in the diet?
- Week 1: Hungry all the time. Dehydrated. Energy levels unpredictable. Possible large amounts of weight loss; this is "water weight" or inflammation. Eat when hungry, eat tons of fat, drink lots of water.
- Week 2: Still hungry a lot, carb cravings start to be severe (if they haven't already). You will fantasize about carbs. Dream about them. Don't eat them.
- Week 3: Hunger gets under control. You start to go longer and longer without feeling hungry. Carb cravings hopefully begin to fade.
- Week 4: Hunger should be under control by now. You may not feel hungry for meals you're used to eating. Don't worry about it; if you're not hungry, you don't need to eat. Carb cravings should have subsided to manageable levels by now.
I don't have time to cook/I eat out a lot/my parents make my food.
I see this sort of whining all the time. It's nonsense that somehow tries to use laziness as an excuse for failure. If you have time to sit in the drive-through, you have time to nuke pre-cooked chicken and a freezer bag of broccoli with butter. Nearly every restaurant has low-carb food options, even if it involves ordering a sandwich and pitching the bread. Jimmy John's delivers lettuce wraps. Subway, Chipotle, Qdoba, and even most bars have no-compromise delicious low-carb options.
Your parents can cook you healthy food, or you can offer to cook for them. Most parents and family members will be delighted that you're eating healthier, but pitch it as a natural diet rather than keto to avoid the prejudice.
What if I plateau?
First, a definition of plateau: No new record low weights in at least a month. I see a lot of people on this sub who panic when they don't lose weight for a few days. Relax. This is a long, noisy process with variation from a number of sources.
If you genuinely plateau, have a hard look at your diet. First, be honest with yourself about adherence. Did you maybe sneak in more cheat food than you thought? Do a food log for a few days if necessary, logging every morsel. If you're okay there, it's time to start counting calories. I don't expect you'll get to this point, but if you do, count calories with a food log for a few days and see how much you're really consuming.
The overarching goal of this diet is to fix your chemical and emotional relationship with food, thereby allowing weight loss without starving yourself. For most, that just means eliminating foods that are habit-forming and that prevent you from getting proper hunger signals. If that's not enough, you may have a deeper problem in your relationship with food that requires time with a therapist.
Edit: Thanks to everyone who provided feedback, both positive and negative. I know this subject can get touchy, so I appreciate the politeness and constructive criticism.