I’ve talked to y’all about my decision to start the keto diet, and how to prepare for it. And that I was surprised (maybe even shocked) to see results almost immediately.
First in the form of ten pounds off the scale in the first two weeks. And after five weeks, my blood pressure was down, my BMI was down, and I had shaved off another five pounds. And I felt better. I began to have more energy. I was, frankly, amazed!
But don’t let those first great results mislead you . . .
The First Two Weeks Of The Keto Diet Are Tough
When you start the keto diet, you may be going cold turkey on foods (and drinks) that you love (though turkey, hot or cold, is clearly on the keto list!). Foods and drinks that are a big part of your daily life. So I hope you’ll take to heart that you do really need to prepare yourself before jumping in. For access to an awesome cheat sheet for how to get ready for keto, scroll down to the bottom of this post and I’ll send it to you!
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To be sure, I am not a doctor and nothing in here should be construed as any sort of medical advice. But as you know by now, I love to share great finds with my people, so I wanted to pass on my survival tips for the first couple of weeks of the keto diet in the hopes that it might be helpful to you.
And while I am not a doctor, we have been very lucky to have had medical guidance throughout our keto experience. Marylou Hopkins, a registered nurse who runs the keto program at the Virginia Hospital Center, has given us lots of guidance and support. If you can, talk to your doctor about keto before you start. And see if your area has someone like Marylou, who can monitor your health and answer questions as you go.
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About Those Cravings: How Hard IS It To Give Up All The Good Stuff When You Start The Keto Diet?
Despite agreeing to try the lifestyle change and doing all the research on the keto diet, I was a Doubting Thomas about all this. I kept telling my husband Craig he would have to really prop me up because I knew I would be the weak link. I just knew I was going to fail.
Which leads me to my first point about how you can tackle all this . . .
Mindset Is Everything
I’ve written about spending time before you begin working on your mindset and your approach. I can’t stress enough how important that is to your success on the keto diet.
Hopefully, you have done that as part of your preparation. If so, dealing with mindset issues should just entail keeping up the reframing you started before you made these dietary changes.
This is key, especially in the first few weeks. Once you begin keto, you simply cannot go into each meal thinking about the things you can’t have. Your mindset will be more negative and you’ll have a much lower chance of sticking to this.
Marylou told us, “if you’re always thinking about what you can’t have, you won’t succeed. You’ll be miserable.”
Let’s face it, diets have always been known for deprivation. If you look at this as just a temporary diet, you may feel that you’re taking away a lot of foods. You may start to resent that.
If you go to a restaurant and dwell on the fact that you can’t have a piece of that soft, warm bread the waiter has just plopped on the center of your table, you will likely start resenting that you can’t dive into those rolls. Which will make it even harder to stick to keto.
Deprivation is simply unsustainable.
Flip The Script
Instead, Marylou recommended we think about this as a way of understanding how our body is metabolizing what we eat. That gives us back the power to make a choice: Eat something we can metabolize as energy OR eat something we can store as fat.
So what does that look like?
When you start to prepare a meal, or when you sit down at a restaurant, focus on all that you can have. Steak, bacon, butter, cream, (some) veggies, eggs, cheese. Did I mention bacon? And cheese?
Once you can focus on the upsides of the plan, it truly feels luxurious to have steak whenever you want. And to not feel bad about devouring a cheese and charcuterie plate. Just hold the bread!
If you can alter your mindset away from feeling deprived and towards feeling indulged, you’ll look forward to your next meal rather than dread what you’re giving up.
I wake up almost every morning excited about bacon and eggs for breakfast. I eat a lot of business meals in restaurants and I love knowing I don’t have to feel guilty if I want to have a good steak. Actually, it sometimes feels a little naughty that I can enjoy all these good foods.
And it may sound counterintuitive, but if I already feel a little naughty for all the steaks and bacon I’m eating, or even a little decadent, I am much less likely to eat stuff I shouldn’t. Because I don’t feel deprived! Maybe that’s a backwards way of looking at it, but it has helped me.
Another mind trick I’ve used is taking count of how long I’ve been doing the work and questioning whether that roll, or that cookie, or whatever it is, is worth having to start over.
It takes several days to get your body into ketosis. So, especially in the first two weeks, if I was tempted by bread or sweets, I would say to myself, “Okay, it’s been five days. Is it worth throwing away five days of progress on this?” or “Okay, it’s been one week; is it worth throwing that away” or “It’s now been FIVE weeks, should I throw that away and start over?”
It’s all about choices. You can totally choose to have that roll. Or that piece of cake. You can enjoy your vacation for crying out loud! But if you plan in advance for the choices it will make things easier on you.
And, look, if you decide that it IS worth it to have those fries, please don’t beat yourself up, or worse, quit. Get back on that keto horse and ride it. You’ll spend a couple of days getting back into ketosis, but you don’t have to let a slip up drive you to quit!!
Craig and I were recently in Los Angeles and we both knew we would want to eat sushi while there. We love sushi and L.A. has some amazing restaurants. And sashimi (if you aren’t a sushi lover, that’s just the raw fish by itself) is totally fine on keto.
Except I love sushi rolls. Really love them. And I knew if we ate out, I would want one. Well, rolls have rice in them – which is not keto-friendly.
So what did I do? I decided to have them. I decided it was worth it to me to kick off of keto for one night. (and frankly, I figured there were worse things I could “cheat” with!)
And you know what? It was TOTALLY worth it. Because I had planned for it and didn’t beat myself up. I gave myself permission to enjoy every bite. And the next morning, I ordered an omelet and bacon and got right back on the wagon.
I would not recommend doing that every week. But after five weeks of keto, I decided I could make a planned exception during a date night with my husband.
Take it from this carb- and sugar-loving chick, it can be hard to change your mindset. And you might give in to cravings. That’s okay. You’ve GOT this. And once you can get that mindset flipped, it will make all the difference. Especially in the first two weeks.
The “Keto Diet Flu”
The Harvard Health Blog defines the “keto flu” as, “…symptoms that may appear two to seven days after starting a ketogenic diet. Headache, foggy brain, fatigue, irritability, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and constipation” are some of what you may experience.
In ketosis, your kidneys excrete more water and electrolytes. So it’s important to ensure you’re getting the sodium and potassium your body needs.
You may experience any of the above symptoms. Let me tell you – bone broth is the cure-all. Truly. Keep it around and drink it if you experience any of these symptoms.
Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water because you could be dehydrated. And above all, try to stick it out!
Not everyone gets the keto flu. I had a headache for one day, but that’s really about it. And I was such a sugar addict, I was surprised I didn’t have more of a withdrawal. Craig did not have any keto flu symptoms.
A few weeks in, I did have some dizziness. But once I drank a cup of bone broth – Boom. It was totally gone. I’m telling you: it’s a cure-all! We keep like four cartons of bone broth on standby at all times.
A very cheesy cheese omelet with bacon: the perfect keto-friendly breakfast.
Marylou puts it pretty simply, “If you’re hungry on keto, you’re doing something wrong.” For the most part, I’ve found that to be true.
My normal routine has been to have a big breakfast of cheese, eggs, and bacon. And then have some sort of meat and cheese with a few veggies for both lunch and dinner.
Letting go of past ideas about strict portion control was hard for us to do at first.
Because so many diets are about deprivation, it seems counterintuitive to have four slices of bacon and two or three eggs with a bunch of cheese all at once. Or to put full cream in your coffee. But that is all totally okay on the keto diet!
I’ve tried out a number of recipes and found several that I love. Don’t worry, I’ll share those with you soon!
Because you can eat foods that are so rich tasting and full of protein – full-fat cheeses, butter, creams, and meats – you really do stay full longer on the keto diet. But if you aren’t staying full, don’t hesitate to snack (see below for more on that).
Enjoy Your Meals!
Cheese and Meats
If you love cheese and charcuterie plates, go for it! One of our favorite stay at home date nights has always been to assemble
a fun cheese board and enjoy it with a glass of wine.
Since we’ve started keto, we love our cheese board tradition even more. We’ve just taken the crackers and bread out of the equation. And really, I don’t think we miss them that much.
Okay, we also limit our wine to one glass – I know, for many of us that is the biggest sacrifice!!
By the way, if it helps to get a couple of fun accessories to incentivize all of this, these slate cheese boards are great for the price. Also, I had no idea that these were a thing, but my mother-in-law turned me on to these cheese wrappers and cheese bags that really do extend the life of your opened cheese. Very helpful for the keto diet!
Eggs and Bacon
Whenever I have eaten out for breakfast or brunch, I have always loved getting omelets. But I always felt guilty because add in some bacon and it turns into a huge breakfast. Well, when I started on the keto diet, guess what? No more guilt! I eat a cheese omelet and bacon or sausage almost every day. It’s delightful!
We also keep hard boiled eggs on hand for mornings we are rushing out the door or if we need a quick snack. And we cook a package of bacon at a time, saving whatever is left to enjoy for a quick bite.
In the times I need an in-between meal snack, I enjoy sugar-free jello, cheese sticks or slices, bacon, or cottage cheese. Note that cottage cheese does have carbs in it. That’s okay, just make sure that’s the only part of your snack that does. And read labels. I enjoy taking some sugar-free jello and mixing it in with a little bit of cottage cheese.
We also really enjoy these protein drinks. They’re handy for a snack or if you are running out the door and don’t have time for a full meal. They come in chocolate, caramel, and cookies and cream. Craig hasn’t taken to them the way I have, but I think they have a rich taste that isn’t too “diet-y.” And they satisfy my sweet tooth!
But my very favorite snack is Moon Cheese (I seriously love this stuff. The Gouda flavor is the best). I have taken to tucking a package or two into my carry on when I travel. Moon cheese is not super cheap, but it has been well worth the splurge for me. (they do sell it in Starbucks, but it’s cheaper on Amazon)
Read Food Labels
Food labels are important. Because as we know, sugar and carbs are in almost everything. We were in the grocery store a few weeks ago looking for some blue cheese salad dressing (another one that feels naughty but is totally fine on keto!).
We found ourselves reading labels and finding that a number of brands have more sugar and carbs in blue cheese dressing than seemed right. So we stood in the salad dressing aisle for about ten minutes reading labels to find the one with the best (meaning lowest) numbers on carbs and sugar.
And in this case, one was the winning number. Ideally, we look for “zero, zero, and zero,” meaning zero grams in each category under Carbohydrates (Dietary Fiber, Total Sugars, and Added Sugars). But other than most mayonnaises, few true salad dressings clock in at zero. (And I don’t care what they say, Miracle Whip is not a salad dressing. Or a mayonnaise.)
I’m not saying you need to be that obsessive. At the end of the day is one extra carb going to put you over the edge? Probably not. But it helps you stay mindful about what you’re eating, especially in the first two weeks.
One Last Thing To Mention About Your First Two Weeks
So, let’s talk about poop. Let me start by saying that is a sentence I one hundred percent never imagined writing anywhere on my blog. But here we go.
Poop is different on the keto diet. First of all, there’s a lot less of it. To put it VERY simply (again, not a doctor here). Let’s think about your gastrointestinal system as basically being what pushes garbage through your body. Because there is less garbage going in, there is going to be less garbage going out.
So don’t be alarmed if you’re a regular three times a day pooper and all of a sudden you realize it’s been days. That will happen and it is normal.
But know that when you gotta go, you gotta go. So be sure and check yourself before going on that long after dinner stroll around the neighborhood and finding yourself far from a powder room. Just saying.
Okay, I think that’s about enough on that subject.
How Long Do You Have To Stick With The Keto Diet?
It depends. Many people love how eating keto makes them feel and take on the keto lifestyle forever.
Marylou practices what she preaches. She has been on keto for seven years because she likes the way it makes her feel. She says she doesn’t even think about the foods she used to eat: “I’ve seen so many people drastically improve their lives and have seen just as many be destroyed by the power of sugar and carbs.”
And she has a great way of framing it all: “Sugar drives the craving, which drives the inability to control what you eat.” I love this quote. Without the sugar in your diet, you no longer have the cravings. And without the cravings, you have the ability to choose what foods you want to eat. Makes sense, right?
I can’t say I’m a lifer on keto just yet. I know I really like how much better I feel. But I suspect I will get to the point where I need the flexibility to indulge once in a while. At the end of the day, I think I’ll probably try to eat keto a majority of the time. But I’ll let myself indulge once in a while so that I don’t feel deprived. Stay tuned on that!
I provided some resources to you in my previous keto post, so I won’t repeat those here. But if you’re looking for additional help in getting ready for keto, please sign up below to receive a free checklist!
Have you made it through the first two weeks of keto? Do you have some tips and tricks that I haven’t covered? Let me know in the comments below!
I really hope you’ll decide to push through those first two weeks. It’s totally worth it. And I think once you start seeing results either on the scale, in your metrics, or just by how you feel, you’ll agree. YOU CAN DO THIS!!
FREE CHECKLIST TO HELP YOU GET STARTED ON KETO
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