My transformation & exploration of the Ketogenic Diet

My transformation and exploration of the Ketogenic Diet began 6 months ago on July 3rd, 2015. I had an idea what to expect from reading the FAQ section from the Keto subreddit several times but I still was surprised that it works. And it works for me!

I’m 5’2.75″ and my start weight was about 167.5 pounds (I didn’t have a scale at home so my start weight was taken on July 6th when I was at work). This worked out to a BMI of 29.9 which translates to the Overweight category and was only 0.1 point away from being obese. On this journey, I started at a size 14.
I started the diet for a few reasons, some personal (high blood pressure along with headaches plus realizing that I really need to take care of myself or else I’ll be in bigger trouble later in life) and some superficial (trying to fit into a green dress that I wore 4 years ago). To get into the edge “normal” weight BMI, I needed to loose 28 pounds to reach a weight of 139.5 pounds.

GOAL 1
-Fit in Green Dress by October 10th for a friends wedding.

GOAL 2

-Lose 30 pounds to get to 137.5 pounds because 30 pounds sounds like a nice round number that’s within the “normal” BMI threshold. [NOTE: at the time of this publishing, weight was at 138.1 pounds! Getting there!!!]

GOAL 3
This wasn’t part of my original goals but when I saw that the ketogenic diet was working with amazing results, I realized I could set a goal for my “pipe dream” weight! One that I never thought would be possible.
-Get to 125 pounds, then move to the next stage.

Macros:


To calculate my macros, I followed the advice given in the r/keto subreddit FAQ and used the recommended Keto Calculator. Set Net Carbs to 20g, Activity to Sedentary (it can over estimate calories used when adding different levels of activity), adjust the protein midway resulting in 0.8 g protein per pound of lean muscle, then chose no more than a 30% deficit. (Getting closer to “normal” weight, % deficit should decrease. Which is why currently macros are set to a 17% deficit.)

  • At start: (with 30% deficit) (TDEE=1693 calories) Total Calorie Intake=1185
    Net Carbs=20 g
    Fat=88 g
    Protein=78 g (note: these were calculated before the formula was tweaked in the fall)
  • At current: (with 17% deficit) (TDEE=1374 calories) Total Calorie Intake=1140
    Net Carbs=20 g
    Fat=84 g
    Protein=76 g
  • Weight Progress:


    My 6 mo weight loss progress

  • As you can see, weight loss is not a straight line. I didn’t have a particular day I weighed myself. I just did when I remembered at work. Also, little blips happen with day to day fluctuations. I’ve seen my weight fluctuate 2 pounds in a few hours. So as long as the overall trend was down…all is well!
    [An interesting read by Martin Robbins, a writer for the Guardian, weighed himself every hour he was awake over 3.5 days and also recorded the mass of his food intake. The results are quite fascinating!]
    Start weight 167.5 lbs – weight after 6 months 142.4 = 25.1 pounds lost! That’s about a pound a week which is quite reasonable for healthy weight loss.
  • The “it seemed like forever plateau” ugh! Apart from little fluctuations, I thought the scale was stuck at 151.8 pounds for about a month! I held on to a stack of books to make sure the number changed. I persevered! I noticed that other measurements were changing so I wasn’t too worried. I did eat at maintenance (total daily energy expenditure or TDEE) for 1 week to see if that would help. (Sometimes the body needs a leptin reset and eating at TDEE supposedly helps. I think it worked as I started dropping weight soon after).
  • YAY!!! I squealed with delight when I got down to 138.5 but I knew it was too good to be true. The scale wasn’t stable and that means it may have needed new batteries. (It acted like this once before and new batteries fixed it but I didn’t have a chance to change them.) BOO! Not to worry, I’ll get there!
  • So the holidays…in all honesty, I didn’t go crazy but I found myself at a function or two where I wasn’t prepared. I was surrounded by chips, cookies, etc. I ate a couple of things because I had been fasting and thought I could save my carbs for the function. Yep and then a few more. I was back to keto habits the next day. I popped back up to 143 pounds which is the line that looks like another plateau. For the couple of days around Christmas, I stuck to keto but not so strict more like the “lazy keto” approach. (Recording everything was a little difficult but I know better for next time to put a little more time planning.) I had some keto friendly desserts and definitely ate a little over my TDEE.
    Over at my brother’s place, he has a really cool WiFi Withings Scale and I had used that a little more than I should. The values highlighted in yellow were from his scale (the others were from my NEW scale…deets below) and you can see how weight can vary considerably throughout the day. These values weren’t included in the above graph, it was supposed to sync in but it didn’t.
    Results from Keto from Christmas
  • I picked up a Withings Smart Body Analyzer WiFi scale on the 27th for a boxing day sale. Now I’m able to weigh myself at home. So the results above on “my scale” were collected from trying to get the WiFi connected properly on the 27th. My router then died on the 28th! GAH! I don’t know if I should laugh. I had to set it up again with a new router on the 29th! Perhaps I should throw these results out but I knew I had regained some weight. I didn’t have anything else that showed the weight gain. (The weight flew off pretty quickly which would likely indicate it was from water. Water my body acquired when I was temporarily kicked out of ketosis.)

    A friend recently asked about the two scales I use and mentioned that I should actually compare the results.

  • Comparing Difference in Scales
    I placed them side by side and stepped on them one right after the other. There’s a difference of 4.2 pounds between the two! Now when just using one scale, you just note the difference (if applicable) from one measurement to the next. But with this new information….it would skew my graph unless I took a correction into account for my previous data. (My head hurts!) I’m not going to make a fuss over the difference between the two scales even with the appearance of gaining weight on the Withings. Another variable is that at home, I’m wearing less on the scale than I would at work. (Sooo….I weigh more on the Withings with less on…GAH!!!)
    The Withings scale is much, much newer and I’m sure it’s been calibrated when it left the factory. I’m even within the normal BMI range according to the older scale *sniff* but I’m just going to carry on using the results the Withings from December 27th and on, rather than confuse myself. Again, as long as everything is moving in the proper direction I’m not going to fret over it.

    Waist Measurement Progress:


    My waist measurement progress after 6 months

  • To measure body parts, I use a sewing tape measure. It does the trick but it has it’s frustrating moments. Start waist measurement 88.9 cm – measurement after 6 months 78.5 cm = 10.4 cm (4″) decrease around my waist. YaY!!! Looking at it, I’m really not too sure what happened around August 14th. It really is tough trying to measure yourself consistently. It’s quite funny when you’re pulling the tape measure taut thinking, “oh shoot, did I suck in my gut? No wait, relax. Just relax. Oops! TOO MUCH! DOH! So yes, consistent measurement technique would be good here. It’s also challenging measuring in the exact same spot, especially on yourself! Aside from that, I stopped taking measurements for whatever reason in November**. I’m pretty pleased overall!
  • Hip Measurement Progress:


    My hip measurement progress after 6 months

  • Start waist measurement 111.1 cm – measurement after 6 months 100.8 cm = 10.3 cm (4″) decrease around my hips. Super BIG YAY!!! My hips was one of the reasons why I needed to reel in my diet. I noticed they were getting bigger but my waist remained the same. I had to find larger pants to accommodate my hips and yet they were baggy around my waist. My lab coat was getting tight just around them, snagging and REALLY bothering me. Now the challenge in measuring one’s own hips (at least with the waist there’s the belly button as a reference point) I found it more difficult to get the tape measure in the same position. That being said, I was excited to see the drop around October 30th going from 104.9 cm to 102.4 cm, I was a little skeptical of the measurement but it was consistent for a few so I can’t argue with that! Again, around the November 6th, I stopped taking measurements as frequent.**
  • Left Bicep Measurement Progress:


    My left bicep measurement progress after 6 months

  • Start left bicep measurement 33 cm – measurement after 6 months 31 cm = 2.0 cm (3/4″) decrease around my left bicep. A little yay! I was really hoping to loose a bit more in this area as gravity does it job nicely. ACK! I need to start lifting to tone them up, instead of having flappy bird arms! But there’ll be a little delay until my left shoulder/bicep recuperates. Now this is another difficult area to measure. I tried to keep a particular benchmark (such as the distance of my palm from my shoulder) but only using one hand to use the tape brings on a new challenge.
  • Left Thigh Measurement Progress:


    My left thigh measurement progress after 6 months

  • Start left thigh measurement 53.9 cm – measurement after 6 months 51.8 cm = 2.1 cm (3/4″) decrease around my left thigh. A little yay! Now although there’s only a decrease of 2.1 cm, pants are fitting much looser around the thigh area and it seems to have decreased much more than that. From the wonky graph, I believe from July 29th to Sept. 11th I wasn’t measuring properly (I didn’t realize until after the 11th that measurements should be done standing up, rather than sitting down.) This is another where I have difficulty measuring in the same spot every time. Consistency is tough as I find that parts shift with the increase in weight loss (skin moves around more easily).

    Right Calf Measurement Progress:


    My right calf measurement progress after 6 months

  • Start right calf measurement 38.5 cm – measurement after 6 months 37.3 cm = 1.2 cm (1/2″) decrease around my right calf. I didn’t start measuring my calf until September when I had read a few people use it as an indicator as well. So even though I don’t have earlier measurements, it’s only 2 months.

    Bust Measurement Progress:

  • I found this measurement quite difficult to keep consistent. So I didn’t track it at all. BUT! I know my bust is shrinking, to my disappointment. I’m going to have to pick up a smaller brassiere soon as I’m starting to swim in the smallest one I have. I’ll make note of the size difference then.
  • Side View Progress:


    TLC_6monthprogress

  • As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” My only comment is on the October 10th picture, that’s “the green dress” in my first goal!!! I could fit in that dress for about a month after. Now it’s loose on me! Let’s just say that I’m now past “the green dress”!
  • Blood Pressure Progress:

    My blood pressure progress after 6 months

  • I don’t have a sphygmomanometer at home so I’d get my blood pressure done at the local pharmacy when I go grocery shopping. It’s pretty much normal, I’d like to get my resting heart rate lower, that will come with exercise. In all honesty, I have no clue what was happening on Oct. 30th to have my heart rate at 90 bpm! I shared the results with my doctor in October and she was pleased with the results. To note, there’s also an absence of readings in November**.

    Blood Work Progress:


    I haven’t had a chance to get blood work done in the new year with holiday closures and now that the semester has started it’s tough to find a moment to visit the Doc. I plan to get it done soon (when I find the time to go to the doc) and will compare the results of blood work from July and October.

    5 Key Points for Success:

    • Electrolytes
    • -I knew to watch my electrolytes when I first started. I just couldn’t believe that when I was feeling a headache coming on, having a “foggy brain” or just not feeling “right”; how fast it went away after drinking a cup of water with salt in it. I must admit I’m a little more lax nowadays as I haven’t had a headache in a while but when my body craves salt, I’ll salt my food. I even carry around little salt packets from fast food places just in case. (Side note: check those salt packets! I’ve seen some WITH sugar in it. *sigh*). I do enjoy drinking a bowl of homemade broth which does the trick nicely.
      -Now, I didn’t anticipate the leg cramps (OWWWWWWW!), I found that taking magnesium citrate would help immensely. If I knew I was going to hit the pool, I’d make sure to take a magnesium citrate supplement before I left and I’d be good to go.

    • Finite Macro Tracking
    • – Whenever I was at home, I’d weigh my food as much as I could. The scale I use weighs to the 1g. It didn’t give me the accuracy I was looking for so I purchased another scale that went down to 0.01g and now use both. Sure it’s tough to get an accurate count whenever I ate out and I realize this but that didn’t mean I shouldn’t be as accurate as I could be at home. (it’s my analytical side showing here!)
      – Track everything! That goes without saying. If I ate over my deficit (I accounted for a 20-30% deficit of my TDEE), I tracked it. If anything comes up in future you’ll be able to look back. I discuss this in more detail in the Challenges/Set Backs area below**.
      – A few days after I had started, I found it really helpful to enter food in MyFitnessPal before eating it, you’ll know where you stand and can cut back or add more if need be. When I started, I’d track them AFTER I had eaten them. Um, yeah…that’s when I inadvertently ate my daily allotment of carbs for breakfast or even more than 3/4 of my caloric intake before lunch. I try to avoid those surprises! Over time, I have an idea of the caloric (as well as carb & protein) content of most foods I consume on a regular basis. If I’m unsure of a food, I’ll check it on MyFitnessPal or the USDA Natural Nutrient Database before consuming.

    • Make Meals
    • -I found that when I took the time to make a proper meal, I wouldn’t “snack” or graze afterwards. I often ate more when I’d be grazing on this or that trying to get my fill. So when I’d get that “munchie” feeling (different from hunger), I’d eat a slice a cheese (to tide me over) then put a plate together. (I’ve found too when I do get that “munchie” feeling, my body is looking for salt.)
      -Meal plan ahead of time. This works really well for me when I’ve prepared something that will last a few days. It’s easy to adjust portion sizes to fit your macros when you know what you’re having. Some people meal plan a week in advance, that’s something to strive for especially during really busy times**!

    • Trust the Process
    • – In my case I’m lucky that I didn’t have any underlying health issues (that I know of) such as diabetes, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, metabolic syndrome, etc. to monitor very closely when I began this journey. When the weight loss seemed nonexistent or plateaued I had read enough to know to KCKO (Keep Calm and Keto On as the saying goes) to continue on rather than thinking it isn’t working and grabbing a slice of chocolate cake. That being said, I was making sure I was following the regime and keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary**. I am fortunate to have supportive doctors that I could go to if I felt the need.

    • Keep Sight of the Goal
    • -Seeing my goal, keeps me going. I had that “green dress” to try to fit into and it’s satisfying to see the changes. Now, that the green dress is no longer my goal, it was a little tougher to keep the process in check. Now that I realize this, I’ve picked up a few other items of clothing that I’m working on fitting into! (I just wandered into a thrift store and found a few pairs of jeans.) This works well for me.

    This should be a given which is why I didn’t include it in the 5, HYDRATION! Keeping hydrated is always important, especially in nutritional ketosis. I always make sure to drink enough water when the thirst hits. There’s also a hydration calculators to get a rough idea how much water to drink a day. MyFitnessPal also has an area where you can log in your water intake too.

    Benefits

      Aside from weight loss, here’s the added benefits I’ve found being in nutritional ketosis:

    • more energy – starting out I’ve had incredible energy, now that I’m keto adapted it’s leveled out
    • clear thinking – less “foggy” brain (provided I get enough sleep)
    • mood stabilizing – I feel much more rational and level headed, less mood swings
    • decrease in hunger/appetite – no crazy chocolate, donut cravings and I don’t experience hunger like I used to. I can last much longer before eating and since starting keto, I don’t remember the last time my stomach “growled” from hunger.
    • awesome teeth – they feel much cleaner without the sugar and starchy deposits, the dentist was pretty impressed (and my teeth are good as it is!)
    • IBS gone – it was never diagnosed but I suspected it as such and it was gone not long after I started. It wasn’t until someone had mentioned that others had experienced the symptoms of IBS disappearing that I realized (aside from the first few weeks) things are going pretty good! No more mad dashes to the bathroom!
    • being able to eat flavour rich foods that I once avoided on a traditional diet – butter, bacon, eggs, fatty cuts of meat, heavy cream, regular fat sour cream, regular fat cream cheese all delicious and wonderfully satiating!
    • ability to stay on it – seeing good results (weight & body measurements), no constant nagging hunger and the feeling of being able to enjoy good food makes this “diet” easy for me to maintain.
    • and of course…weight loss – now yes this is a benefit but I hadn’t seen loss results like this in a “diet” before! I can realistically shoot for my “dream” weight!

    Challenges/Set Backs:


    Now with all the wonderful results, I wanted to share some challenges/set backs I’ve had over the last six months.

  • Pulled left bicep muscle/strain/sprain – With all this renewed energy, I hit the swimming pool in September. once or twice a week doing laps. I’d swim half a km to a kilometre depending on how I was feeling. Until I did something to my shoulder at the end of September, I thought I pulled the muscle but I’m still experiencing the odd twinge of pain. I really need to get that looked at. Since the muscle “pull” or whatever it is, I haven’t been back to the pool.
  • Changed center of gravity – I didn’t think this could be a thing but with my weight distribution changing, I find myself a little off balance. It doesn’t happen too often but it catches me off guard.
  • leg cramps – I’ll find that when I’m stretching, I get that feeling if I go any further my leg will cramp up. Not fun but it’s also an indicator that I need to take a magnesium supplement. It’s easily solved but leg cramps aren’t fun.
  • **Hairloss – Now this is a biggie as it’s a cumulation of things. Hair loss has been known when you loose a significant amount of weight (I haven’t completely ruled this out, it could factor in partially) and also if you’re not getting enough nutrients, mainly protein. This happened in November (month 5). I had accomplished my main goal (first goal) in October and it was a a big factor. My other goals were secondary and my drive wasn’t as strong as for the first. My job is quite cyclic and it became crazy hectic in November. November was a big blur for me. It’s a job where I’m mentally juggling many things at once and at the end of the day, I’m exhausted and most often mentally drained. Many of my measurements or lack thereof happened in November. I enjoy Intermittent Fasting (IF) on the ketogenic diet (it’s not necessary in Keto) I went from a window of 16/8 (16 hrs fasting, 8 hr eating window) to a comfortable 20/4 (20 hrs fasting, 4 hr eating window) to a crazy, insane 23/1 (yup…23 hrs fasting and 1 hour eating window!). Now in the eating window, you still must eat in all your calories and macros!!! When work got crazy, it was easy to go down to a 23/1 window with keto’s benefits of mood, energy and appetite stabilizing.
    The problem came when…I had to eat all my 1144 calories in an hour. Sure I could stretch out the eating window, that wasn’t completely the problem. Being mentally tired, I couldn’t figure out what to eat plus I’d eat until I was full and I couldn’t eat another bite. Sure my carb intake was less than net 20g and that’s what I paid attention to. I looked at my total calories and they were approximately 100+ calories less than what I should be eating. Some days were even half of what I should be getting. At the time I thought, well that’s okay, I’m a few calories lower today though it’s not everyday. It turned into almost everyday. And the one macro I should have kept in check but didn’t was PROTEIN. It was always really low. The body needs 0.8 g of protein per pound of lean muscle to do basic things such as fight infections, self repair, etc. Even with everything I had read, even with the amount of hair coming off in the shower, I wasn’t really paying attention. I was in an odd autopilot of sorts. When things settled back to “normal” at the beginning of December, I figured it out. Now I know, I need to pay closer attention, especially when work becomes crazy again, which it will.
  • MY overall thoughts and moving forward the next 6 months

  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) – Works for me, in terms of convenience and getting nice fulfilling meals at the end of the day. I will keep track when I do IF and not do it all the time. I will avoid 23/1 as it’s not beneficial for me at all. At current, I’m mostly doing 16/8 and I do Keto Chow at lunch so I get a good starting base for my macros. I would do 20/4 as that worked well for me too but I didn’t see any benefit (at least that I noticed) compared to 16/8. I’ll probably do it if I need to and see if there’s any difference. (This will probably change when I get to my “dream” weight and I’ll be increasing caloric intake for building muscle.)
  • Let myself have a bad day – The great thing about being on the ketogenic diet, it’s JUST FOOD! Nothing “magic” about it. So if I have a bad day…it’s just a bad day and accept it as that. I don’t think I expected sunshine and roses all the time but we’re all human. That being said, it’s also important to not let that bad day stretch into days, weeks or even months.
  • Getting back to basics – This goes hand in hand with IF. I know what works well for me and I should’t try to fix it. What worked for me and got me into a great stride is a tablespoon of coconut oil in the morning, Keto Chow for lunch and a nice meal for supper.
  • Tracking more closely getting close to goal weight – From what I’ve heard is that it’s tougher shedding weight as you get closer to your healthy weight. The rate decreases. I think I track my caloric intake pretty well, there are moments where I’ll approximate things and a few times I’ll forget to add something. As I get closer, I’ll have to be more diligent.
  • Blood Glucose & Blood Ketone Tracking – I plan to keep track of blood glucose and blood ketone levels with respect to how my body reacts to certain foods and it’s limits. (again, I’m a numbers geek!)

    With that, I’ll be KCKO! (Keep Calm and Keto On!) I look forward another transformation and further exploration of the ketogenic diet in the next 6 months!

    Comments

    1. Leave a Reply

      Yvonne A.
      January 25, 2016

      Impressive results! I follow blogs etc. To keep motivated that it is possible, but it can also be discouraging. After almost 4 years on Paleo, AIP and now Keto for the past 5 months and no weight loss, it is tough. I have had several NSV (especially on Keto), but I really want that weight loss! I have insulin resistance and a fatty liver, and have been this weight for 7 years, so it just might take me 7 years to convince my body to let it go. Keep up the inspiration- and the recipes!

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