Over the past year, I’ve lost more than 120 pounds following the ketogenic diet. Eating lots of fat, moderate protein, and very few carbs undoubtedly helped me shed the weight quickly and relatively painlessly while also helping to heal my dysfunctional relationship with food, specifically sugar.
However, I’ve decided to leave keto behind and venture on a new way of eating.
This may come as a surprise to some people, but this is a choice I need to make for myself. Here’s why I’m breaking up with the keto diet.
I felt like I was missing out on certain nutrients
That’s not to say that keto can’t be a nutritionally dense diet. After all, while the common misconception is that those on keto eat only bacon, cheese, mayonnaise, and butter, the reality is that the formula of high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrates can be enacted in any variety of ways. Vegetables are allowed and even encouraged, and it’s not as though lean meats are outlawed.
Still, I was aware that I was struggling with my intake of specific nutrients, particularly fiber. Given that adequate fiber intake can help relieve constipation, help lower cholesterol, and keep you fuller, among other benefits, I wanted to up my intake. Coming off the keto diet and focusing more on whole, nutritious foods has reintroduced wonderfully nutritious things like beans, oats, and whole grains, and I feel much better for it.
I was tired of eating so much fat
Again, the “high fat” part of the keto diet isn’t gospel — there are people out there doing low-fat, low-carb diets — but it’s suggested for satiety.
While on keto, I often ensured I wasn’t overly hungry and stayed full by eating high amounts of fat, from the aforementioned bacon and butter to things like sausages, steaks, and cheese. It was delicious, for sure, but it also made me feel a little “blah” after a while — I was unenthused about the idea of having to try to find more sources of fat and increase my intake of it all the time so that I wasn’t starving.
By coming off keto, I can find other ways to feel full, like carbs, protein, and, yes, fiber. I can still enjoy fat when I want to, but I don’t have to rely on it as much.
My cholesterol levels went up
After getting some routine bloodwork done, I expected to see great numbers across the board, especially in terms of my cholesterol. After all, the ketogenic diet has shown promise in small studies by lowering triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the majority of participants.
Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect for me.
My doctor was concerned at my high LDL level, though I did have a good triglyceride/HDL ratio and good levels of HDL in general. While those high LDL numbers may be totally incidental, I can’t help but feel like my high-fat diet may have contributed, so I’m trying a different approach to see if I can bring them down naturally.
It made going out to eat pretty difficult and less enjoyable
It’s true that there are keto options at pretty much every restaurant. After all, you can always order a bunless burger, fried eggs, or a steak — and believe me, I’ve done this on many occasions.
However, after a while, I got tired of being so limited in my choices, and the people I went out to meals with were also annoyed by my rigidity in adhering to keto. I was always stressing about what was keto-friendly on a particular restaurant’s menu, or if I’d be able to customize an order to make it low-carb. That took a lot of mental energy that I got used to spending but eventually began to begrudge.
These days, I do look for the healthiest options on restaurant menus, but I also don’t stress if something has breadcrumbs in it somewhere or if the sauce on a given dish has sugar. I just eat a reasonably sized portion and move on with my life — and I have to admit, I feel pretty good about it. It’s made eating out fun again.
I want more variety in my diet
Simply put, this is the bottom line.
The keto diet was a fantastic weight-loss vehicle for me, and I couldn’t have made the progress I did in the amount of time I made it without following this way of eating. It has incredible value for those who are seriously overweight or who have a food addiction, diabetes, or any number of other health issues. I would certainly never discourage anyone from trying keto or claim that it doesn’t work and isn’t worth it, because it totally is.
That said, I feel like I’m in a place now in my health and fitness journey where strict keto is no longer a good fit for me.
I’m still focusing heavily on the “calories in, calories out” method and choosing carbohydrates that are whole, unprocessed, and slow to digest. I haven’t come off keto so that I could start chowing down on french fries or eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on white bread every day.
Instead, I’m focusing on things like oats with unsweetened almond milk and seeds for breakfast, or adding in things like quinoa or butternut squash with my evening meals. (And yes, sometimes it’s nice to eat a regular cookie now and then.)