My decision to become a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) stemmed from a lifelong struggle with my weight.
Weighing over 10 pounds (4.5 kg) when I was born — placing me in the 99th percentile — I’m not exaggerating when I say “lifelong.”
The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low carb, high fat eating pattern that involves limiting your carb intake to 25–50 grams per day or fewer to achieve ketosis — a metabolic state in which your body burns fat instead of carbs for its primary source of fuel (
It’s also the first diet that has allowed me to successfully lose and maintain my weight while keeping me feeling full and satisfied.
In fact, I hesitate to use the word diet, as I think of keto more as a lifestyle than a temporary or trendy way of eating.
Sure, there are times when I eat more carbs — for instance, during my recent pregnancy and now while I’m breastfeeding — and I’m certainly not militant about my intake.
However, keto is the baseline that I continually return to because it makes me feel my best.
While the keto diet has been used for many years in the management of childhood epilepsy, we’re just starting to understand how the diet may be beneficial for blood sugar management and weight loss (
This article explains why I find the keto diet to be the best and most effective option for my weight loss journey and provides a glimpse into what I typically eat in a day.
The first time I tried keto was just an experiment to see if it lived up to the hype.
At that point in my life, I was heavier than I wanted to be and felt shame and cognitive dissonance around being an overweight dietitian.
I had also tried so many approaches to lose weight — or at least not gain weight — without success. As a result, I thought I was just a weak-willed person, despite the discipline I had in other areas of my life.
However, I now understand that my struggles with hunger and food cravings had nothing to do with a personality deficiency. Rather, they were the result of choosing foods that were negatively affecting my gut health, blood sugar, and hormone levels (
My experience on the keto diet
When I tried keto in 2019, I lost 30 pounds (14 kg) in 4 months, and it was surprisingly easy since I wasn’t constantly preoccupied thinking about my next meal. Instead, I finally felt satisfied, both physically and mentally.
What’s more, I noticed improvements in other areas of my health.
For example, a fellow RDN gushed to me about how amazing my skin looked — something I’d never been complimented on before.
My occasional episodes of mild heartburn also vanished, and I felt consistently energized, motivated, and productive throughout the day.
Then came 2020.
As for many of us, 2020 was a difficult year.
I was not only dealing with the stress of navigating pandemic life but also pregnant, working a healthcare job during the day, writing at night, taking care of my family, and frequently preoccupied with the political and social unrest in the United States.
Feeling totally overwhelmed, I found myself turning to food for comfort, with many nights spent stress eating.
While 2020 showed me that still have some work to do on my relationship with food, it also highlighted just how much my quality of life had previously been improving on the keto diet.
I know that keto isn’t the right approach for everyone. However, I can’t deny that following a low carb, high fat diet freed me from my food hang-ups for the first time in my life.
Research suggests that there are four main reasons why the keto diet appears to be effective for weight loss, including:
- Reduced appetite. A low calorie keto diet has been shown to help reduce hunger and improve feelings of fullness. While more research is needed, this reduction in appetite is thought to be related to positive changes in hunger hormones and an increased ability to burn fat for energy during ketosis (
- Improved insulin sensitivity. By reducing your carb intake, the keto diet may help reduce insulin levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This is important because insulin resistance is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) (
- Maintenance of metabolic rate. Losing weight often results in a reduction in metabolic rate — the number of calories you burn at rest — which can make it difficult to continue to lose or maintain your weight. Research suggests that by preserving lean body mass, a low calorie keto diet may not reduce your metabolic rate as drastically (
- Use of body fat for energy. The keto diet may also make it easier for you to burn stored body fat. During ketosis, the body utilizes fat for energy rather than carbs, and that fat comes from either your diet or body fat stores (
Still, keep in mind that research on the keto diet for purposes other than epilepsy only began in earnest within the past decade.
As a result, more studies are needed on the long-term effects of keto in the general population.
Additionally, while keto may have benefits for weight loss and blood sugar management, it’s important to talk with a trusted healthcare professional before making changes to your diet, especially if you have diabetes or are taking prescription medications.
Curious what the keto diet looks like to me?
Here’s what I eat on a normal day:
- Breakfast. Given that I’m not hungry when I first wake up, I usually start my day with a cup of coffee. Later in the morning, I’ll have a ready-to-drink protein shake with medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil or half an avocado to ensure that I’m getting enough calories for breastfeeding.
- Lunch. Unless there are leftovers from dinner, I’ll have a salad and roast beef wrapped with sharp cheddar cheese. My other go-to is eggs fried in butter with a generous serving of sautéed veggies.
- Dinner. I like to keep dinner simple, opting for a meat and vegetable, such as a salad, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower rice, or zucchini noodles. To ensure that I’m getting enough fat and calories, everything is cooked in butter, olive oil, or avocado oil.
- Snacks. Lately I’ve been snacking on nuts and cheese to keep my calories up for nursing, but normally I don’t snack since I just don’t get hungry between meals.
- Sweets. I still love sweets and try to make room for them every evening. My two favorites include local strawberries when they’re in season or a handful of sugar-free mint chocolate chips.
Another thing I like about keto is that it’s easy to find options when dining out. Depending on the restaurant, I’ll usually order a salad, bunless burger, or steak and veggies.
While keto often gets a bad reputation for being all butter, bacon, and cheese, I’ve found that I eat more fresh produce now than I ever have in my life.
I know how hard it is to constantly feel hungry while trying to lose weight, which is why I feel so fortunate to have found a diet that works for me.
In fact, I can honestly say that keto has changed my life and reignited my passion for nutrition and health.
While there are many ways to live a healthy lifestyle, the keto diet is worth considering if you’re struggling to find a diet that satisfies you.
Just make sure to talk with a trusted healthcare provider first, particularly if you have a preexisting medical condition or are taking prescription medications.
Just one thing
Try this today: Even if you’re not interested in a strict keto diet, many health benefits are associated with eating more whole, minimally processed foods — and doing so doesn’t have to be complicated! Try using zucchini noodles the next time you make spaghetti or swap out a hamburger bun for grilled portobello mushroom caps.