Common Mistakes That Sabotage Your Progress
Deciding to adopt a ketogenic lifestyle is a wonderful and truly life-changing decision, so first, congratulations! You are on the road to optimal health and amazing transformation! If you’ve been eating the standard western diet, the keto way of eating is probably very different from what you’re used to. It can take a while to learn all about this new, healthy lifestyle.
So what are some of the biggest mistakes beginners (and even some not-so-beginners) make? And how can YOU avoid them?
In no particular order:
Giving up too soon.
When you first start out on keto, enormous changes start happening in your body almost immediately. The carbs and sugars that you’ve been consuming for so long are addicting, and breaking that addiction can involve a period of uncomfortable symptoms (which you may have heard referred to collectively as the “keto flu“). They are temporary and will pass, but some people erroneously decide that it means keto isn’t working for them. They give up before the miracle happens.
Also, when you first start on keto, your initial weight loss is often substantial. When your blood glucose (sugar) level is high, as it is when you’re eating a high carb diet, it causes your body to retain fluids. When you cut out those carbs, your body releases the excess fluid it’s been holding on to, so you might lose a lot of weight very quickly. After that weight loss slows down. This is perfectly normal and healthy, but some people mistakenly take this as a sign that keto isn’t working for them.
Not getting enough variety in their diet.
Eating as many different keto-friendly foods as you can is important to assure that you are getting all the nutrition you need. It also helps prevent boredom; people who fall off the keto “wagon” sometimes do so because they report feeling like they eat the same things over and over. Rather than turning to high-carb junk foods, you’re far better off finding some great new ways to prepare delicious keto foods.
Not reading product labels.
Even foods that claim they are “keto friendly”, “sugar-free” or “all natural” are often not giving you the whole picture. If you look closely at the label you’ll find that often unhealthy ingredients have been added that can sabotage your progress. To get the most benefit from keto though, you’ll want to eat as many real, whole, unprocessed foods (you know, those one-ingredient foods that don’t even have a label) as possible.
Not implementing intermittent fasting (IF)
When we go for a period of time without eating, it does wonderful things for our body. It allows us to go into fat-burning mode and it helps reverse insulin resistance, which is what got us into a poor state of health and/or overweight to begin with. It allows our body’s natural housekeeping process (called autophagy) to kick in, cleaning out old, unneeded cells from our system to make room for newer, healthier ones.
Going for even 16-18 hours a day is enough to make this happen (and longer periods of fasting can have even more great benefits!). That said, please know that it’s best to work your way into this kind of fasting once you have become fat-adapted. If you jump in too far too fast, you might be asking for problems. Contrary to what you may have heard, intermittent fasting will not cause your body to go into starvation mode.
Eating when you’re not hungry
You’ve probably had it drilled into you over and over again that you need to eat three square meals a day, or that you should never skip breakfast, or any number of other myths about eating. A lot of us have become accustomed to eating “by the clock” rather than listening to our body to decide when we’re hungry. Maybe you eat when you’re bored, stressed or feeling emotional. Whatever the reason, we never go long enough without food to allow all the healing that is generated by IF to begin.
Eating too much protein
Although in general most experts agree on many of the key points about the keto way of eating, the amount of protein we need in a day is one over which there is a lot of disagreement. I wanted to include it here though because it may be something you’ve heard about.
Some experts say we need as little as 1 gram of protein for every kg of lean body mass (and they offer a handy little formula for figuring out what this amount is for you). Others say eat a 3-6 oz. portion at each meal (though obviously that could vary based on how many meals you have in a day). Still others, especially those who are proponents of a more carnivore-like diet, say there is no need to limit your protein intake, that you should just eat until you’re comfortably full. Your gender, age and level of activity all also affect the amount of protein that your body needs.
Those who advocate limiting protein do so because they say excess protein converts to glucose in the body and causes insulin spikes, thus knocking you out of fat-burning mode. They also say that digesting a lot of protein is hard on the liver and kidneys. Other experts say that none of these things are true.
I’ve been reading a lot on this topic lately, and I will most definitely write more about it as I discover new information. For now my best advice is to keep an eye on your ketone levels and blood sugar if you are measuring those things. If you find that your intake of protein is knocking you out of ketosis, try cutting back on the amount and see what affect it has.
Not eating enough vegetables
Vegetables are great sources for many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Veggies are one of the best sources of potassium, which is necessary for just about every bodily function you can think of, including fat burning. Our bodies don’t store potassium for long, so we need to obtain it from our diet. We need about 4700 mg daily, which equates to approximately 7-10 cups of vegetables. Eating a nice big salad every day is a great way to help fill that requirement.
If part (or all) of your reason for not eating more veggies is that you don’t know how to prepare them, I have the solution! Quite a few years ago I found this wonderful book called Greens Glorious Greens. It’s filled with simple recipes and prep instructions for any kind of green vegetable you can think of! Check it out – I absolutely love it and have recommended it to a lot of people.
Focusing too much on weight loss alone and/or on ketone levels
Weight loss goes in spurts, and if you weigh every day, you might find yourself feeling discouraged when the weight isn’t coming off as quickly as you’d like. The same goes for measuring your ketones too often. Neither of these things by themselves is necessarily a good indicator of how well keto is working for you. Unfortunately as we get older, everything slows down, including weight loss, but it will happen in time. Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint!
Many changes are happening in our bodies on keto, and even if we hit a spot now and then where we aren’t losing much weight, it could be because we are gaining muscle (which weighs more than fat). We may also be losing inches, even if the scale has hardly budged. Judge more by how you feel and how your clothes are fitting instead, and limit how often you weigh. Taking your measurements and before and after pics periodically to show your progress can be super motivating even when the scale stalls for a bit.
Our body is smart – it will make the most important changes first. If that means that fat burning has to go on the back burner (pun intended LOL) for a bit so it can work on healing some more pressing issues, then that’s what happens. The changes happening on the inside are at least as important as losing excess weight, if not more so. It will happen – we just have to be patient.
Not getting enough vitamins, minerals and electrolytes
When we first start out with the keto way of eating, our body’s need for nutrients increases. That’s why at least initially it may be helpful to supplement with the most important of those nutrients until we are getting them instead from the foods we eat (some people choose to keep using supplements anyway, and that’s perfectly okay).
The most important nutrients you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough of are potassium, magnesium, electrolytes (use a good quality unprocessed sea salt or Himalayan salt for this) and B vitamins. Unfortified nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins.
Eating too many carbs
Ideally your daily intake of carbs should be under 50g, and if you’re really trying to be strict with keto, keep them under 20g. Trying to guess at the carb content of your food is a recipe for failure. Tracking your macros, at least initially, is a great way to make sure you’re keeping your carb intake where it should be.
There is some disagreement among experts as to whether you should count total carbs or net carbs. My favorite advice on this, which I apply myself, is that if you’re talking about a whole, unprocessed, single-ingredient food like say fresh broccoli or a piece of chicken, you can count just the net carbs. But if you’re considering a packaged food of any type with numerous ingredients, you’re better off to count the total carbs. This is because food labeling is deliberately deceptive, and you’re likely to be underestimating your carb intake if you go with the net carbs listed on these products.
Eating too much or too little fat
We’ve been taught for a long time that eating too much fat is bad for us, and this can be a really hard one to let go. But it is absolutely necessary in order to shed excess weight and improve our health. Don’t be afraid to include saturated fats such as meat, eggs and dairy products in your diet!
Our daily diet should be made up of about 70-75% healthy fats. Too little will leave you feeling hungry between meals. Eating too much can prevent you from burning stored body fat (because your dietary fat gets burned first).
Maximize Your Chances For Success
The more you know about the mistakes many people make when starting on the ketogenic way of eating, the better your chances for avoiding them yourself. You are on a journey to a happier, healthier you, and I want you to be successful every step of the way!
Keto on friends, and have a wonderful week!