The Hardest Thing About Going Keto Is Probably Not What You Think

updated May 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)
(Image credit: The Kitchn)

One of the fun things about going keto is that I can have a lot of foods that are usually forbidden with those classic calorie- and fat-restricted diets. For instance, I can eat cheese, bacon, butter, and even heavy cream. In fact, I’m encouraged to eat these foods as long as I stay within my macros (a calculation that produces the perfect ratio of carbs, fat, and protein appropriate for my size and goals.)

Instead of avoiding fat in keto, I am doing just the opposite: I’m eating as much of it as possible. All this sounds like heaven, right? Well, not so fast.

I’ve been on a ketogenic regime for about four months now and there’s no denying that adjusting to the ketogenic lifestyle has had its challenges. For example, bread (and therefore, toast) is not allowed. (That was a real tough one for me and still has its moments of temptation.) Fruit is also off limits. That is, no perfectly ripe peach eaten on a hot August afternoon, no banana for a quick snack, no crisp apple munched on a hike in October. And pizza. Oh man, do I miss a good Margherita, just pulled from the wood-fired oven and brought to the table with its edges blackened and the cheese bubbling merrily.

But at the same time, there is also a long list of usually forbidden foods that fit perfectly within keto’s allowances. Foods that I love like avocados, artisanal cheeses, salted grass-fed butter, thinly sliced bacon, boudin blanc and other sausages — so much rich, fatty, decadent deliciousness!

Initially I thought that giving up carbs was going to be the hardest and eating rich, fatty foods was going to be my reward, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

The Hardest Part About Keto Is Eating Enough Fat

You see, after an entire lifetime of being told to avoid fat at all costs, I’m finding it difficult to eat enough of it to keep my macros in balance. I’ve really had to work hard at reconditioning myself to allow fat into my diet. Now, I was never a strictly zero-fat kind of person but in general I followed the usual protocol of keeping fat to a minimum and over the years, my tastes adjusted accordingly. Until keto, fat was an occasional indulgence: a slice of rich, triple creme cheese here, a sausage and bacon breakfast there, the once-a-year slice of many-layered birthday cake.

Now fat is a daily requirement and it can be a struggle to get enough of it. I’ve gotten used to a higher-fat diet to a degree, but it’s not always easy. I tried some unconventional things like eating more mayonnaise, but though I like mayo, plopping it on everything was ghastly. Ditto with heavy cream. And I’m sorry, but the so-called fat bombs everyone is talking about just don’t appeal. At all.

How I’ve Increased My Fat Intake

I’ve found that going for high-quality fats (organic avocados, pasture-raised eggs) is helpful and eating oilier fish like salmon and sardines or tuna packed in oil is another trick. I also save my bacon fat and use it to cook down collards and other greens or as a basis for salad dressings. And although it was hard at first, my palate has adjusted to adding heavy cream to my morning tea. (I’m still being stubborn about bulletproof (buttered) coffee, though. Maybe I need to reconsider?)

It’s kind of odd, I know, to be given carte blanche with fat and find yourself complaining that it’s too much but it’s the honest truth of the matter for me. I’m fine with a ban on sugary sodas and eschewing desserts, as I was never much of a fan to begin with. And while I miss bread, I manage to muddle by because the rewards of a keto diet — I’m slimmer, more energetic, and in less pain than I’ve been in in years — make it all worth it.

I guess my next big challenge is to find my way to loving the fat bomb. Wish me luck.

Keto for Newbies: Curious about the ketogenic diet? This high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle puts your body in a metabolic state called ketosis, where you burns fat instead of carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. Read more here about what keto is and see all of Kitchn’s coverage on keto here.