Losing weight is hard, especially since my job requires me to taste fries, pizza, and BBQ in order to tell readers what's good. So, when I found a fat-burning diet that not only lets me, but REQUIRES me to eat copious amounts of cheese, avocado, and bacon, I jumped at the opportunity -- and easily lost 10lbs in one month. But before I get into that, let me tell you how I got chubby.
I grew up a latchkey kid, most of my adolescence spent in the air-conditioned indoors. Sports didn't come easily to me, and fitness was something reserved for the skinny white women I saw on TV. My family was not particularly active, and I only remember seeing my mom exercise a handful of times. The most amusing memory I have is of her furiously pumping away on a shoddy stair stepper, likely purchased from a Tony Little infomercial.
Like most kids in the ‘90s, I was raised on carbohydrate- and MSG-ridden crap: Bagel Bites, Hot Pockets, Cup Noodles, and Totino's Party Pizzas, all eaten while watching Saved by the Bell. A home-cooked meal made with vegetables that didn't come from a can was a rare occasion for my single, career-focused mother.
When I moved to Austin five years ago, I was both fascinated and confused by its tan, fit residents who woke up at sunrise... to run! The people I knew in my hometown of San Antonio didn't hike or jog or do yoga. And I had never heard of (much less set foot in) an REI.
Today, I make part of my living as a food and drink writer, which certainly has its perks; I get a lot of free booze and fancy food I otherwise wouldn't be able to afford. The problem is that when you're in your 30s, and your entire day is spent in front of a screen, it's very easy to pack on the pounds. In my case, 30 of them. I knew I had to do something about my increasing waistline -- and then I stumbled across a Reddit post with the caption: "Down 50 Pounds in 6 Months with Keto Diet."
What the hell is the keto diet?
Keto is short for ketogenic, and in the most basic terms, the keto diet is a high-fat, low-protein, VERY low-carb diet. When you consume very few carbs (under 30g), you induce a metabolic state called ketosis, in which your liver starts producing ketones from stored fatty acids, which are then used for energy. Usually, you get your energy from carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose or stored as glycogen. The idea as it applies to weight loss is that by switching your body's energy source, you'll start to burn off some of that extra fat you've been storing.
The history of this diet is a bit strange, especially compared to the "lose weight fast!" low-carb fad diets most people have become accustomed to in the modern era. It was developed in the 1920s as a treatment for childhood epilepsy, but fell out of favor as pharmaceutical options came on the market. It's recently come back in vogue, though, because it can be pretty damn effective for controlling seizures: various forms of fasting diets have been used since 500 BCE to control epilepsy, which doctors now understand induces ketosis when the body has no carbs for fuel.
Its return to popularity has probably been helped along, too, by the renewed interest in low-carb, high-protein diets like Atkins and Paleo -- while those diets encourage drastic carb reduction, they typically skew heavier on lean protein and lower on fat. The result is that they don't shift your body's source of energy, meaning you don't enter ketosis on a standard Atkins or Paleo diet.