Having been overweight for years, I have tried every diet in the book in the hope of shedding pounds and getting healthy.
Like many people, any success I found in dieting was usually short-lived and I always ended up frustrated and right back where I started – that is, until I discovered the keto diet four years ago.
While following a diet high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates has been a godsend for me, it has come with its fair share of difficulties.
Here are a few things I wish had known before I started the keto diet:
1. A lot of people really will not ‘get it’
The idea that you can eat a large amount of fatty foods – bacon, steak, whole milk and cheeses – and not only lose weight, but increase energy does tend to surprise people.
You will soon lose count of the number of people who insist you need carbs to live.
Ignore them. As the saying goes, KCKO. “Keep calm and keto on.”
2. You still need to count calories
You may lose more weight more quickly on the keto diet than on other diets, but you cannot eat with abandon just because you are cutting out carbs.
Calories still count, so it is important to determine your basal metabolic rate, which is how many calories your body burns daily by simply existing, as well as what the deficit should be, in terms of how much you do not eat so that you lose weight.
3. Going ‘off plan’ for even a day could make you gain weight
It is pretty disheartening to wake up a few pounds heavier than you were the day before just because you had to have a cheat fast-food meal at McDonald’s.
While this change may just be water weight that you can shed after going back to the keto diet for a day or two (it flushes water from your system), some people will find that such an interruption is not worth the trouble.
4. What you eat is more important than what you burn in the gym
This applies to followers of any way of eating: what and how much you eat is more important for losing weight than exercise.
The old saying that you cannot outrun a bad diet is true.
While it’s great to add cardio and weight training for general fitness, even if you do not, you can and will still lose weight on keto as long as your diet is on point.
5. If you feel as if you have had enough fat, you don’t have to eat more
While many hard-core followers of the keto diet aim to have 75 per cent of their daily calories come from fat, that is more of a preference than a necessity.
More important than fat consumption is that you hit your protein goals.
Suzanne Dixon, a registered dietitian, told Business Insider that excess protein could turn into glucose, which would kick you out of the state of ketosis you are trying to maintain.
However, not getting enough protein could lead to muscle loss, among other negative side effects.
Fat is nothing to be afraid of and is encouraged by the diet, but you should not be downing sticks of butter to reach some elusive intake goal.
The keto diet, like any well-rounded nutritional approach, should include plenty of fresh fish, vegetables, and even lower-sugar fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries.
6. You have to cook, so learn to love it if you do not
While theoretically you could get away with living on bunless fast food or processed meats and cheese on the keto diet, if you want a healthy, well-rounded diet, you need to get in the kitchen and cook.
Keto, perhaps more than any other diet, is nearly impossible without a willingness to get in the kitchen.
Most ready meals are far from keto-friendly, so if you want to eat, you will need to put on your apron and prepare meals.
7. Meal planning is essential
Since so many typical foods are off-limits, it is important to work out what you are having in advance so you do not come home from work and gorge on non-keto food that will set back your progress.
I occasionally prepare meals on Sundays, making a few different recipes I can heat up quickly during busy working weeks. It keeps me on track while still giving me delicious meal options.
8. It is one of the few ‘diets’ that does not feel like deprivation
While the initial adjustment period, also known as “keto flu” can be tough, it soon passes as your body adapts to burning fat rather than carbs for energy.
Once you “get into the zone”, you will find that you are less hungry and that your cravings for sugary foods all but disappear.
It takes some people longer than others to reach this stage, and it is hard to get rid of those cravings completely. (I still occasionally crave Oreo biscuits.)
But the cravings become more manageable, and the delicious food you get to eat never makes you feel deprived or as though you are on a “diet” at all.
I enjoy everything from eggs and steak to lots of green vegetables such as kale and broccoli pretty much daily – and I never feel deprived.
9. You really will feel so much better
In addition to losing weight and feeling less bloated daily, I also notice I am much more energetic, my moods are better, and I generally feel healthier when I am on track with my eating on the keto diet.
While I would never claim that eating this way is for everyone, for those of us who have tried it and loved it, it is the best thing ever.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider .