Up and down on keto
I’ve been following the keto diet for two years now. When I first started, I lost eight kilos without really trying. I moved around a lot working in a busy bar, and the kilos fell off. My diet consisted of a breakfast omelette with cheese. For lunch and dinner, I had vegetables and meat – sometimes lean chicken breast, and sometimes oily fish. My portions were always moderate but filling. The trick to filling up on smaller portions is to eat slowly and follow the Okinawan principle of hara hachi bu – eat until you’re eighty percent full. It takes some self-discipline, but it pays off.
During the pandemic, the kilos crept back on. I went from serving drinks and being on my feet all day to studying intellectual history in front of a computer. My no snack policy fell apart, and I found myself scanning the fridge for cheese niblets and raiding the cupboards for spare peanuts. The result was that my weight went from 54 kilos to 64 kilos in a year without me noticing. Therein lies the route to obesity. It was only when the pubs opened again and I switched pajama bottoms for skinny jeans that I noticed the problem.
I started my revised keto diet. The cheese and butter had to go. If you’re on the keto diet and you’re not losing weight, it’s probably because you’re eating too much fat. Nuts and cheese are high in fat at around 500-600 calories/100g. Instead of keeping tempting blocks of cheddar in the fridge I now get the small mozzarella pieces. They’re lower in fat and don’t make for as easy a snack. I don’t keep calorie bombs like butter, pork scratchings, or nuts around, and instead of snacking, I have a glass of water or a cup of coffee. As hard as it is, I’ve gone back to hara hachi bu. You get used to being a little bit hungry, which science says is good for you.
My point is that there’s no such thing as the magic bullet when it comes to diet. When you read about people on the keto diet, it’s easy to get the impression that it’s possible to eat as many calories as you want and still lose weight. Trust me, it’s not. I’ve seen the scale go both ways. Calories still matter, even if you’ll feel much fuller on the keto diet than if you’re starving yourself. Fat and protein work much better for satiety than empty carbohydrates. You still need to keep an eye on the calories if your goal is weight loss. Those extra hundred grams of cheese I snacked every day are most definitely the reason I no longer fit into my skinny jeans.