So you’re thinking about starting a ketogenic diet, but feeling a little overwhelmed?
Or perhaps you’ve tried a keto diet, but have struggled to stay on track or lose weight?
Or maybe you just can’t seem to figure out all the math?
And maybe you keep tweaking your approach because all the info out there has you confused?!?
I have been following a ketogenic diet since May 2015 and have had tremendous success. Healing chronic pain, reversing metabolic syndrome, normalizing blood glucose, normalizing blood pressure, healing adrenal fatigue, massive weight loss, and more. (You can read all about it here.)
How did I do it? What are the secrets to my success? Well, I’ve discovered that there are actually 5 secrets to making a keto diet as easy as possible. And this works for starting, rebooting, and maintaining.
My goals when starting:
- Make it easy to follow a keto diet
- Get into ketosis as fast as possible
- Minimize cravings short- and long-term
So without further ado…
My Top 5 Tips for Starting a Keto Diet:
- Keep it Simple
- Follow My Meal Formula
- Minimize Craving Triggers
- Fully Stock Fridge and Pantry
- Have the Right Mindset
Those are my top 5 tips put very simply. Let me tell you a little more about each one.
Tip #1: Keep it Simple
My first tip and key to success is to keep your keto diet simple. This tip covers all 3 goals: makes it easy, gets you into ketosis as fast as possible, and minimizes cravings. Keeping it simple means several things: no recipes, eat real food, and keep meal prep short and sweet (well, not sweet; that’s just a phrase!). You may be freaking out, thinking, “No recipes!?! But I need those fancy keto buns and keto desserts!” My no recipe rule is really, really, REALLY important for at least the first 30 days (and go longer if you can). There will be plenty of time to play with recipes down the road, but in the beginning, this really helps people learn keto basics and keeps them from eating off plan when they are too tired and hungry to spend 45 minutes cooking. When you are starting out, being able to pull together a meal in 5 minutes or less can really make or break your keto diet. Plus a lot of recipes online don’t have the macros calculated correctly. There are a lot of recipes labeled low-carb or even “Zero Carb” that actually contain lots of carbs, and they will keep you out of ketosis, which increases cravings. See also Tip #4 which goes hand in hand with keeping it simple.
As far as eating real food, this means avoiding processed shakes, protein bars, and other low-carb packaged grain products, like bread and tortillas. Most of these products will spike blood sugar and insulin, which are the opposite of ketosis. These product perpetuate cravings (see Tip #3) as well as delay or prevent you getting to ketosis. For success on your keto diet, eat real food.
And keeping meal prep short and easy means following Tip #2, My Meal Formula.
Tip #2: Follow My Meal Formula
My foolproof Meal Formula makes keto easy and gets you into ketosis as fast as possible. This formula seems like common sense to me, but then again I really like math, so I understand it’s not intuitive for many. I see so many people in keto support groups struggling with “hitting their macros” each day and wondering what can they eat for dinner when they only have 2 grams carbs, 50 grams fat, and 5 g protein. My Meal Formula guarantees that all my clients easily hit their macros every day because they are simply dividing their daily macros by the number of meals they eat in a day. If you eat 3 meals per day, you eat 1/3 of your carbs, 1/3 of your protein, and 1/3 of your fat at each meal. To make it even simpler, instead of “1/3 of your fat” I have my clients focus on adding 1 to 3 tablespoons of fat per meal (like mayo, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, etc.). This is much easier for them than trying to look up and calculate grams of fat.
Tip #3: Minimize Craving Triggers
You want to do keto long-term, right? You don’t want this to be another diet you go on, lose weight, then go off and gain it all back, right? Then this may be the most important tip I have for you: be aware of, and minimize any craving triggers. You can’t be successful on keto long-term if you are fighting cravings on a daily basis. Learning what causes them and how to inoculate yourself against them is a key to long-term success.
Craving triggers are going to be different for everyone and have biological and psychological bases. To address the biological bases, getting your blood sugar stable is key, which is what you’ll be doing by going keto anyway (following Tips #1, 2, 4, and 5). The other part, the psychology, is a little trickier, but with a little awareness and patience, you can master this, too. Some of the common things that trigger cravings, especially in the beginning, is looking at recipes online (sorry, Pinterest!), walking through the bakery at your grocery store, seeing other people eating non-keto foods, etc. Make a list and avoid these situations until you have some keto experience under your belt, and have developed a tolerance to craving triggers.
Another big tip to minimizing cravings is avoiding any sweeteners (even keto-friendly ones) and keto-desserts, at least in the beginning. This addresses the brain chemistry part of carbohydrate cravings. You need to train your taste buds and brain chemicals to not crave carbs and this takes abstinence for a period of time. Aim for at least 30 days, but if you can go a full 90 days (or longer!), you’ll be even better off. I know this sounds really hard, and you were likely looking forward to all those low carb desserts you’ve seen online, but I promise you, it will be worth it! Think about this: which would be easier, not having any cravings, or feeding your cravings on a daily basis? Abstinence really does make the cravings go away, or at least come up so infrequently, that you can easily flick them away like a small ant. And if you’re not ready to give up sweets, it may mean that you’re not quite ready to for a ketogenic diet. In that case, you might want to start with Tip #5.
Tip#4: Fully Stock Your Fridge and Pantry
Does this tip seem too obvious? You can’t build a house without the proper supplies. And you can’t run out to the store and pick up supplies every time you’re hungry. You need a well-stocked fridge and pantry to succeed on a keto diet. This tip is essential because it makes Tips #1, 2, and 3 possible to follow. You need to have multiple options available that you can grab and go, or grab and prep in 5 minutes or less. You need to think and feel like you have plenty of foods around that you really like and look forward to eating.
Along with having your kitchen stocked, you need to consider what your kitchen is NOT stocked with. If at all possible, get rid of all non-keto foods in your home before you start your keto diet. You will have cravings in the beginning, you will have times of stress, you will have times of heightened emotions, and all of these will increase the likelihood of you giving in to temptation if these foods are in your house. Additionally, simply seeing these foods are craving triggers (see Tip #3) and will make your life much harder and jeopardize your chances of success on keto.
“But there are other people in my house that aren’t following keto,” you may be thinking. How willing are they to help you succeed? If you were an alcoholic, would they insist on drinking in front of you? How dedicated to your success are you? If you were trying to get off heroin, would you support people using it in front of you?
Of course your household and family dynamics are unique and you have to figure out what works for you. My tip here is about minimizing mental anguish (seeing carby foods) as best you can to ensure your short- and long-term success. Do the best you can! Perhaps Tip #5 below will be helpful for your family or housemates. Would they be willing to do keto along with you for only 90 days?
Tip #5: Have the Right Mindset
Many people report that the psychology part of “going keto” is the hardest part. I have a lot to offer in support of this. There are psychological tricks you can play on your own mind. A place to start is realizing the difference in your mind between “doing something forever” and “doing something for now”. You can live without carbs for 90 days, right? But if you think about never EVER eating them again?? That feels impossible. So I recommend simply committing to 90 days of keto. That is about how long it really takes for your body to adapt to running on fat for fuel. After 90 days, you can decide if you want to go back to your former carby lifestyle. Now, I know that after 90 days, you’ll be feeling so great you likely won’t want to go back to the way you were eating before. And if you’ve followed my other tips here, you’ll be in ketosis, your cravings will be minimal, and you’ll be feeling happy and satisfied with what you are eating.
Another psychological trick is in overcoming cravings. Notice if you begin ruminating over a certain food and “turn the channel” to a new topic in your mind. Tell yourself that you’ll “feel better tomorrow” if you resist the craving now. That if you give in to a craving now, it will only come back stronger and harder the next day. Then engage in some self-care like calling a friend, going for a walk, listening to your favorite music, or watching funny cat videos on YouTube. Giving in to and feeding a craving, only reinforces it, making them stronger and more frequent in the future.
I wish you the best of keto success!
Let me know in the comments: which of these tips was the most useful to you?