When I started talking to people about their experiences with keto, I heard the same phrase repeated more than once: It's not a diet, it's a way of eating (or a way of life). Proponents of keto are believers, and their trust in the system seems to be what keeps them going, what drives them to stir butter into their coffee and to enthusiastically eat bacon by the pound.
For the uninitiated, keto refers to a low-carbohydrate and high-fat diet that triggers your body to switch its primary fuel source from glucose to ketones. After your body has exhausted its supply of glucose (the sugars that are found in foods high in sugars or starch), your liver begins to produce ketones from fats.
I spoke with five people who are currently eating keto to ask why it works for them and what keeps them committed to the plan. Here are their stories.
Asta H.: "I love that, with keto, I didn't have to restrict calories in the beginning. After seven months, my appetite has decreased naturally. This is a way of life. I've learned to make my own ice cream using xylitol and my own keto rolls using almond flour and psyllium husk powder — and I honestly do not feel deprived at all. I've lost 50 pounds so far, and my husband has lost 74. We feel like we have our lives back at age 54 and 55: We're experiencing better moods, better sex, better everything. We will be keto for life."
Corey S.: "I have been keto for almost two months, and it has made me pay much closer attention to what I'm eating and drinking. I'm also much more aware of how much sugar is in so many foods. I've tried calorie counting before, but I've always lost focus; keto limits what I can eat, instead of letting me eat anything, and trying to stay under a calorie ceiling. So I've found some low- or no-carb foods that I enjoy and, if I stick to those, I don't need to track every single thing that I eat. I'm going to stick with it, but I'm unsure what I'll do after that. I miss beer!"
Jay B.: "Eating keto is the most expensive dietary discipline I've experienced, but it's also the most effective for me. I've done Weight Watchers, but felt as though it was designed to integrate cheat meals and encourage irresponsible eating on occasion. I needed some kind of program or discipline to be a plan for living. Truly living keto involves regular urine testing with ketone strips to ensure that your body is reassigning its metabolism to use fat as the fuel source. It's rewarding when the strips give you scientific feedback that your body is doing what you intended it to do. Understanding how it works is critical to sticking with it, but it is NOT for everyone. I've been drug and alcohol free for 11 years, and keto is an extension of that commitment. I consider it a lifestyle choice, not a diet. It's my means for living."
Nicole B: "Oh my word, before keto, I tried tons of diets: low-fat, Weight Watchers, and The Metabolism Miracle. But after four weeks of this, I've learned that it's much easier to adapt to where I am, and that I can cook or eat out. So far, I've lost eight pounds in four weeks, so I want to keep going. I'm tracking my food, which keeps me accountable, and I'm losing weight without feeling hungry. Plus, I can still have butter, cheese, mayonnaise, and ranch dressing! My goal is to stay on keto until I have lost 75 pounds. I may have to increase my vodka-to-wine ratio to keep going, but I can live with that."
Tanya H.: I enjoy the ease of not counting points or keeping a food diary. I avoid the foods that aren't allowed and enjoy the ones that are. I rarely feel hungry anymore, and I definitely eat less than I used to. Once I started keto, my cravings for sugar stopped; I can now walk by the donuts in the breakroom at work and not bat an eye. I am finally in control and know I will be able to eat this way for the rest of my life. Keto does take some planning and preparation, but the benefits far outweigh any inconvenience. Also, people have asked how much weight I've lost doing keto, and my response is an unusual one: I've lost zero pounds! I haven't gained any weight either, and as someone who struggled for eight years with maintaining a healthy weight, that's the magic of keto for me."