What You’re Doing Wrong on Keto
Michelle Dowker, MSc, ND
As you probably know, Keto is a very effective diet that not only helps with medical conditions like PCOS and diabetes but can also help you control hormones and inflammation, burn fat and lose weight.
While the general format of the Ketogenic diet is very effective for many people, there are some that don’t experience the results they’re looking for. There can be various reasons for that. Some people may need some tweaking and personalization in terms of macronutrient ratios, micronutrients, and food choices.
Here is a general list that can be used as a starting point of things to consider if you’re hitting a plateau, not losing weight, or not experiencing the health benefits you’re looking for. Note that there are many other aspects to consider, but this is a good place to start. If you’re feeling lost or confused, know that Dr. Jay and myself are available to provide personalized guidance if you’re struggling.
1. Keto Myths
“I can eat all kinds of fat without any repercussions.”
If you had a diet that consisted of healing servings of trans fats, then it should be fairly obvious that you wouldn’t be eating a safe diet. Some fats can cause a lot of problems when they are in too high of an amount.
The best fats to have would be the omega-3 fatty acids that you get from some fish. The acronym for the fish with the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids is SMASH: Sardines, Mackerel, Anchovies, Salmon, and Herring. These are beneficial to the body because they can fight inflammation that reduces your quality of life.
While this low-carbohydrate way of eating calls for a higher intake of fat, this doesn’t mean eating only butter and fat bombs all day. There is very little nutrient value to straight fat. It’s better to include naturally occurring fats that occur in unprocessed, whole foods. Like fatty fish, avocados, and the marbling in meat.
Another thing to consider with fat is that some people don’t do well eating the high levels of fat suggested in the ketogenic diet. Peri- and post-menopausal women fit into this category. Because estrogen production is declining, the body holds on to whatever sources of estrogen it can, which includes the sources of estrogen stored and produced in fat cells.
So when dietary fat intake is high in these women, the body has more of a tendency to opt for burning that dietary fat over the stored body fat. It can be better for these women to drop the fat intake down a bit and consume a bit more protein. More on protein in a minute.
“Ketogenic diets are temporary and you just gain the weight back.”
This belief generally comes from the uninformed opinion that keto diets lack nutrition and that you will eventually become deficient in some essential mineral or vitamin, but the reality is that proper keto diets are formulated to give people all of the nutrients that they need so they can function more efficiently.
When a well-formulated ketogenic diet is based on whole, unprocessed foods, this can help to reduce inflammation and balance physiological processes, which will help improve health on so many different levels, and can prevent the development of future illness.
2. Not Eating Enough Protein
The term “moderate protein” has been a cause for confusion many times when people are doing the keto diet. While this is not a typical low carb, high protein diet, you still need to meet your protein goals.
When your protein is too low, you risk hair loss, muscle loss, and issues with low energy. Studies show that protein is essential for muscle preservation with age, and can prevent injuries from frailty in the elderly.
3. Failing to Get in Enough Electrolytes
Another common mistake people make when they are on a ketogenic diet is not getting enough electrolytes. Keto is a great diet to be on when you want to lose weight and burn excess fat, but restricting carbohydrates results in water loss. This means you are going to lose a lot of your electrolytes, so you need to stay hydrated, while also making sure you get adequate amounts.
The 3 main electrolytes you need to focus on are sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Sodium tends to be the easiest one to get adequate amounts of since you can get it from sea salt, bone broth, and even pickle juice.
For magnesium, try taking a magnesium supplement in addition to natural food sources. Magnesium glycinate is the best and most absorbable form of magnesium and is excellent for calming anxiety and improving sleep quality. Magnesium citrate can be a good second choice and is used more often for muscular tension and constipation.
Potassium is often the most difficult, but you can get it either by eating foods like fish and avocado or by making an electrolyte drink with water and light salt, which is a combination of potassium and sodium. Cream of tartar is also a source of potassium.
5. Using Only the Scale to Measure Your Progress
While it’s always a good idea to have some awareness of where you are in your progress, continuously worrying about how much you weight is going to take all of the joy out of your journey. This stress can even have a very negative effect on your emotions, and additionally your hormones.
Heaping that kind of stress onto yourself can also make it very hard to want to continue with your diet. It’s a lot better to let your health be the gauge of how you feel. Weight is influenced by water weight and muscle mass as well, so actual body shape and general health would be a better way to make an assessment.
This is especially true when you are only using a scale to measure your progress. With keto, it is possible to lose inches without actually losing pounds, especially when you start exercising and adding weight training.
Tracking your progress includes a combination of the scale, taking measurements, seeing how your clothes fit, taking progress pictures, and of course just seeing how you feel.
Abdominal weight gain is the most metabolically dangerous source of stored fat. Therefore, your waist measurement is the best way to track changes that can represent improvements in your health.
6. Eating the Wrong Fats
When you do add in more fats to your diet, make sure you are having the healthiest fats possible. You should be avoiding processed seed and vegetable oils, for example. These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which when consumed in large amounts, can contribute to the development of inflammation in the body.
Inflammation prevents weight loss, so you want to keep inflammation as low as possible. It’s actually better to choose more heat-stable saturated fats to cook with, like tallow, butter, and coconut oil, or monounsaturated fats like olive oil or avocado oil.
7. Being Inconsistent
Consistency is key with the keto diet, for multiple reasons. For one thing, it not only takes several days just to get into ketosis, but it can take up to 6 weeks to reach full fat adaptation.
While you some people can benefit from dropping into ketosis then having some slightly higher carb days where you hover slightly out of ketosis, consistency will help you make it easy to keep this lifestyle choice long-term.
Here are some helpful tips to keep you on track with your keto diet:
Get involved with a health accountability project. You can make a pact with some friends to help you stay on track.
Make meals that you can take with you to work, school, or snacks that can hold you over until it’s meal time at home.
Cooking meals ahead of time can help you to always have something ready no matter what. That will help you make sure that you’re not having to cook while you’re hungry and end up cheating completely.
Be sure to stay hydrated, because this can cause a lot of systems to work harder than they need to. Also, sometimes when we’re dehydrated, it can make us feel like we’re hungry when we’re not.
Try fasting here and there. This gives your body a chance to reset itself. A fast every so often can greatly improve your weight loss efforts.
Call restaurants ahead of time so that you know what low carb options are on their menu. This will make sure that you don’t get stuck just eating a salad.
Know as much as you can about the keto diet. The more you know, the more freedom you will have. You can also look at recipes and find some go-to recipes that you can whip up effortlessly when you’re in a hurry.
If you have bready, or cookie type items in your kitchen, you’re flirting with failure. The best thing to do would be to get rid of anything like that as soon as you know you’re making your lifestyle change. When people come by your house, you can simply give it to someone who you know would like to take it.
8. More Tips for the Keto Diet
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Your results may never be the same no matter what you do because all human bodies are different. Bone structure, genetics, hormones, health conditions and so many other factors can affect how we each respond to dietary changes, and where we’ll end up with them.
Spend some time learning to accept yourself, and avoid repeating negative mantras that can lock in a negative attitude about your own appearance.
9. It could be dairy
This may be an unpopular opinion, but not everyone tolerates dairy well. For some, it can be an inflammatory food, which can hinder or stall weight loss efforts. This is unfortunate news for keto goers, as full-fat dairy products like cream and cheese are popular ingredients in many ketogenic diet recipes. However, they may be a culprit for you.
If you’ve tried everything else and you’re still not getting the results you want, consider giving dairy the boot, even for a test period. I typically suggest avoiding it for four weeks to see the best results, but you may find your answers after two weeks of dairy avoidance. The key is to cut it out completely. It’s not going to do you any good to cut the cheese but keep the cream in your coffee. It all has to go. Unfortunately, lactose-free dairy must go for the test period, as well. Some people have reactivity to dairy proteins, not the lactose.
Helping people through a dairy elimination challenge is a specialty of mine, therefore don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Processed Foods
You’ve probably seen those pre-packaged items at the store. They probably say something about being keto approved or low carb, but the reality is that those kinds of foods are basically empty calories. They can also be full of artificial sweeteners and preservatives. The main thing about keto is that it works best when you’re eating unprocessed, whole foods.
This guarantees that you’ll know exactly what’s in your food. If you’re in a serious hurry it would be better to just have a handful of nuts or a hard-boiled egg.
These are some aspects to consider when starting out on the ketogenic diet, or if you’re plateauing or not seeing the results that you want. There are, of course, many other aspects to consider than what’s listed here.
Each person is unique, and therefore their bodies may respond differently to dietary changes. As well, some people may have other medical issues that can affect metabolic and hormonal balance or dietary sensitivities that may not have been considered.
If you’re still feeling lost and need help figuring out what dietary choices and supplements are right for you and your needs, Dr. Jay and I are here to help. Dr. Jay has a special focus on finding the best supplement that is targeted to your particular needs, and I have a special focus on coaching and troubleshooting, to help you determine which dietary choices are best for your needs, and exactly HOW to implement them in a way that works for you.
You can access our services by clicking here, or on the “consultations” option in the menu above. We’d be happy to help.