I haven’t written a health post in a long time, but that doesn’t mean that keto and my low-carb lifestyle are no longer a part of my life. If you are new to my health-related blog posts, I first discovered the joys of the keto diet back in lockdown in 2020. At that time my BMI of 31 categorised me as ‘obese’. I was having back ache and joint pain from carrying excess weight and struggling to do basic household tasks without having heart palpitations. I knew that a sedentary, house-bound lifestyle during lockdown would have set me on a slippery slope to serious health issues, so I embarked on a strict keto diet of less than 20g of daily carbs, combined with intermittent fasting and moderate exercise (daily walks in the park, and running after my then-toddler – who also sufficed as a living weight plate on my back to do squats and lunges). I lost 18kg/42lbs/3 stone in 5 months from a clean diet of whole foods, no condiments and no cheat days.
Since 2020, my weight has yo-yoed; every time I have weaned myself off keto and onto a regular diet, the weight has crept back on. As with anything in life, if there’s a problem, it’s good to analyse what you know and look for patterns. Here’s how I summarise what went wrong for me:
After my initial 42lbs of weight loss in 2020, I wanted to stay low-carb, but found that I missed sweet-tasting food. I decided to try erythritol (a natural sweetener) for baking keto treats. I gained 10lbs within six months of finishing keto in 2020, and in April 2021 I had to go back on strict keto.
What I learned is that for some folks, sweeteners are a perfectly fine substitute for sugar, but for others like myself who are insulin resistant, the sweet taste is enough to cause an insulin response in my body and associated weight gain. Additionally the sweeteners caused gut-health issues for me (SIBO) which required antibiotics. I no longer use sweeteners at all.
2022: Sugar addiction battle
If you have seen my sugar addiction posts, you will know of my ongoing struggle with carb cravings, particularly of the refined sugar kind. I started 2022 overweight with a BMI of 26; essentially the seasonal pressure of Halloween and Christmas in 2021 saw me succumb to my sugar cravings.
What went wrong in 2022 was that in between doing ‘crash’ keto diets, I gave into my sugar addiction, having bouts where I would binge on biscuits, chocolate and cake. Within six months from July 2022 to January 2023, I had gained 17lbs.
2023: What now? Sugar is the enemy, not keto.
I don’t need to tell you that my struggle with sugar addiction and gut-health issues is unsustainable; it’s obvious. I should know better. I am not one of the lucky folks who has a good metabolism and can eat anything while not gaining weight. I only need to look at a bun and I gain a kilo! Going forward, I have a new plan for how to manage my disordered eating. Keto is not the problem; so many articles blame this as a fad diet and say that people shouldn’t start keto as they will gain more weight once they stop the diet – this really irks me. Let’s blame the real enemy: the problem is sugar. Going back to the same bad eating habits that make a person gain weight in the first place is what will make their weight spiral out of control.
I started 2023 with a BMI of 27.3; getting dangerously close to 30, which is obese. Yes, I recognise that BMI is only a vague indicator of good health; it doesn’t take muscle mass into account, for example, sometimes labelling bodybuilders as obese because muscle is heavier than fat. In my case, I don’t have muscle – only fat. There is no need for a small, moderately active person as me to carry so much excess weight.
My revised 2023 plan for fat loss:
Keto is not a diet that works for everyone, but in my case, it has literally been the best thing for my health in the past half a decade. This year I am aiming to stay low-carb in the long term; as a lifestyle without ever ‘coming off’ the diet. If I can manage one year without refined sugar or carbs, I am hoping that my sugar addiction becomes easier; or at the very least that good habits will become ingrained.
How am I planning to manage this? A few simple strategies:
1. No scales. Weighing myself at the end of March caused me to lapse into depression for a whole week. Seeing arbitrary numbers on a scale, that fluctuate daily as a result of water retention, isn’t helpful. I have banned the bathroom scales.
2. Whole foods only. No packets, sauces or anything else that has added sugar among hidden ingredients.
3. No sausages. Argh! I love sausages. But they are breaded. My fat loss stalled as a direct result of my love of sausages. I weep at the thought, but they had to go.
And it’s as simple as that. If, like me, you struggle with weight gain or sugar addiction and disordered eating, and find familiarity in what I’ve been saying, then let me take a moment to send you some e-hugs and a bit of tlc today. I could do with some myself. I’m not the kindest person in the world to myself about my weight-gain-loss battle. How ironic that, as a writer, I’m always talking about my latest work-in-progress, yet there’s no bigger work-in-progress than my health.