Keto Journey

Getting through your first week(s) of Keto – “Couldn’t finish the sausage” and other struggles.

In my first 6 days of Keto I…

  • Lost 7.9 lbs,
  • Experienced consistent energy levels throughout the day — something I haven’t experienced in years, and
  • Have a higher level of mental clarity and focus.

In my first 13 days of Keto I…

  • Lost 11 lbs, getting me to my doctor-suggested target weight,
  • Had little-to-no desire for sweets, sodas, and other carbs, and
  • Continued to feel everything in the bullet points above.

Your mileage may vary, of course, but these results definitely motivate me to stay true to Keto. I will go into more depth later, including how I was able to make it through my first week successfully without cheating. But first…

“Couldn’t finish the sausage.”

After my bromance (and Keto Coach) helped me pick out Keto-friendly foods at Super Target, I went home and prepared my first Keto meal. It consisted of chorizo sausage, organic chipotle mayo, eggs, and cream cheese. I’m not really a fan of sausage. I can eat small quantities of it before my body begins rejecting it. I tried it again that night and could only finish 3/4 of the sausage I prepared. Here is the text message I sent him, as well as his response the next morning:

couldnt finish the sausage

Well played… and also hilarious. A true bro response.

After collecting myself, we continued our conversation and he coached me through my day and throughout the week. The list below outlines my largest Keto week-one struggles and how I overcame them.

My (Biggest) First-week Struggles

  1. Cravings. Cravings. Cravings. Mostly for sugary foods, sweets, and some breads. This was, by far, the hardest struggle.
  2. Not feeling full after meals.
  3. Identifying keto-friendly fast food meals.
  4. Drinking enough water.
  5. Feeling “foggy” or “unclear” with my thoughts.
  6. Meal prep and meal variety.*

1. Cravings are real. Sugar addiction might be too.

I wrote about Honey Chex and El Maguey in my last post. I wasn’t joking. The cravings are real and fierce. Chocolate, peanut butter, soda (especially soda), coffee creamer, ice cream, and more were ALL very tempting to me this week. It was extremely hard to say no.

I consider myself a strong-willed person. I’ve learned, over time, how to curb that mindset socially so people don’t absolutely hate me. (It’s true. Ask my Keto Coach how I was 10 years ago.)

However, being strong-willed has been advantageous several times in my life. For example: relentlessly pursuing my college education (I took two freshman-level math courses three-times each), finding a significant other, and competitive athletics.

It turns out, that strong will is also helpful when dieting. But… I’m not entirely positive I could have made it through the week purely on willpower alone. In fact, research shows “excessive sugar consumption increases the dopamine levels in a similar way to other drugs such as cocaine” and “humans exhibit ‘addicted-like behavior’ towards sugar.”

More about sugar addiction, and how I overcame cravings in a later post.

I wanted to cheat multiple times this week. I didn’t cheat, but I wanted to.

2. Not feeling full after meals.

My body is PROBABLY accustomed to a 2500-3000 calorie diet. It was extremely challenging for me to only eat approx. 1700 calories each day. Feeling full was one of my biggest challenges the first three days. It’s important to remember that many carb-heavy foods take up more room in your stomach. Also, if you’re significantly lowering your daily calorie intake, there’s a good chance you won’t immediately feel satisfied after meals.

How I overcame not feeling full:

  • Eating slower, as suggested here.
  • Eat the pre-planned meal, then wait.
    • According to registered dietitian, Dr. Joanne V. Lichtentakes, it approximately 20 minutes after you start eating for your brain to signal you to stop eating.
  • Drink a full glass of water (16 oz. or more) during or after your meal.
  • Have a “later tonight” Keto-friendly snack prepared “just in case” you still feel hungry in a little bit. My prepared snacks were cubes of cheese, broccoli and a dipping sauce (usually ranch or mayo), and pecans.

3. Finding Keto-friendly fast food meals.

My Keto Coach was the biggest help here, but other contributions were the MyFitnessPal (MFP) app, Reddit, Google searching, and doing my own research.

It was important that I found Keto-friendly fast food meals because I knew my work schedule would leave me cramped for time. Also, I knew I was going away that weekend to see my grandparents. They usually want to go out for dinner and catch-up over a meal. A little menu scouring and a lot of searching in MFP helped me identify a few Keto-friendly fast food meals. It does depend what’s in your area, but my go-to fast food meals were:

  • Moe’s or Chipotle bowl. No rice, no beans. Double meat (pork or chicken for me, but chicken can often be too lean). Lettuce. Tomato. Double guac. Double cheese. Double sour cream.
  • Wendy’s Baconator without the bun. Make sure they give you the mayo in a cup on the side. They often forget.
  • Arby’s Farmhouse Salad with roast turkey.

4. Drinking enough water.

stur-e1501475528545.jpgI’ve been a soda addict for as long as I can remember. I refused to drink diet sodas and drank an excessive amount each day. Water, as a result, has always been hard for me. I always felt like I “needed more flavor” in my water.  I did find Stur, a water flavoring that helped and does not use artificial sweeteners.

Another source that helped me was pure lemon juice. Simply adding a good amount of lemon juice helped flavor my water where I would enjoy it. I still like using Stur and lemon juice from time to time, but over time I was able to begin drinking water out of habit and health instead of feeling like I was “forcing it down.”

5. Feeling foggy or unclear with my thoughts

Most of these feelings resulted from poor sleeping habits. A few days into Keto and being around 1600 calories, I was feeling naturally tired at night. Pre-Keto I would eat or drink something sugary or carb-based, stay awake half the night, lose sleep, go to work feeling tired, etc. I also experienced what some call the “Keto Flu” because I had an unclear headspace for a few days. It wasn’t all week, but earlier during my first Keto week I definitely experienced it.

The key to getting rid of (and/or avoiding) the Keto flu is to track your electrolytes, which are “Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes. You get them from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016). After making sure I was getting the electrolytes, the mental murkiness subsided and I felt more clear than when I was participating in my (crappy, eat whatever I felt like) normal way of eating.

6. Meal Preparation & Meal Variety

I wasn’t used to carving an entire 2-3 hours out of my weekend to purchase and plan meals for the entire next week. It helped to keep a running list of both: a) what was in my fridge; and b) what my potential meals could be with those items. Instead of opening the fridge and staring blankly into the deep dark abyss known as “I’m hungry and nothing sounds good,” I planned my meals for the week so there were no surprises. This took getting used to, but I felt way more comfortable week 2 than I did week 1.

Along with meal prep, I felt like I was eating the same stuff over and over. Actually, I was. I’m the kind of person that doesn’t mind eating the same things all week, albeit mixed up and spaced through the week. My staples were pork (loin and thin strips) from the meat section or local butcher, eggs (lots and lots of eggs), cream cheese, shredded cheese (zero-carb, no sugar added; watch your labels), and bacon. I would vary the spices I used, sometimes including hot sauce, but overall I was content with just eating things as they were with a little salt and/or pepper.

Struggles from the Keto Community

I mentioned the Keto for Beginners Facebook group before. I asked members what they are struggling / struggled with their first week doing Keto and received over 55 comments. Here were some of the most common responses in order of their popularity:

  • Craving sweets (most popular)
  • Giving up fruit (2nd most popular)
  • Boredom eating
  • Feeling hungry
  • Loss of initial energy
  • No soda / beer
  • Meal planning
  • People telling me I was being stupid and unhealthy
  • Feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start (imo get a Keto Coach!

What are / were your first week struggles? Reply below!

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