It was January 2019. I’d made the decision to go with a low-carb high-fat way of eating. I was on a yo-yo pattern for years and years and years. I did calorie counting for a long long time.
I ate a mostly plant-based diet for a while. At one point, I had joined a vegetable co-op looking to get better, fresher produce. I was always hungry. To supplement it, I always turned to junk food. I thought, I’ll log the calories of the junk food and I’ll back off when I get to my limit.
Logging calories is a pain. I ended up often not doing that. My weight climbed.
Thanks to some suggestions I’d heard late in 2018, the decision was made to start this ‘LCHF’ way of eating on January 2, 2019. I didn’t do it on New Years Day because it was a holiday, and I had to have those black-eyed peas and ham, yaddy yaddy yadda.
January 2nd it was on. I was ready to rock. I kept a journal that first month, updating it almost every day.
I’d heard about symptoms. I’d heard about the dreaded “Keto Flu.” I expected a few absolutely dreadful days. At the end of the month, I logged the symptoms I was supposed to get, whether or not I got them, and how severe they were.
Quoted are actual journal entries:
“January 2nd weigh-in: 253 pounds
Day 1 — January 2 — Ate two Italian sausages for breakfast. Felt great/satisfied until I ate lunch at 12:30, which was two leftover hot dogs and a hamburger. Intense cravings for carbs began around 2PM. Pushed through, and felt fine by the time I left work at 5:30. Ate more leftover meat–some chicken. Caved and ate two tamales at around 7:30, because they were available. 1st day = Medium. Energy level = Sluggish at night, OK before 7PM.”
Caved on day one. Lesson: Don’t have tamales accessible.
“Day 2 — January 3rd — More of the same: meat for breakfast and lunch. For dinner, had a burrito bowl with no rice (only carbs were from the veggies–minimal), which was mostly satisfying, but I did have a piece of leftover cornbread. Also had extra coffee to stay up for a late hockey game. 1nd day = Medium Energy level = Same as Day 1, took an hour nap between 8:45 PM and 9:45 PM in preparation for the game.”
This was when my coffee-at-night routine began. I didn’t intend for this to happen at the time, but I found out that coffee was a really good alternative for beer, which I’d enjoyed nightly previous to 2019.
“Day 3 — January 4th — No breakfast, did have five pieces of rotisserie chicken for lunch. For dinner, I had 3 Wendy’s junior cheeseburgers and threw away the buns. Ended dinner perfectly satisfied, but not full. 3rd day = Easy Energy level = Improved.”
Notice the uptick in energy on Day 3. Coincidence? Read on…
“Day 4 — January 5th — Two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. Tuna salad and two string cheeses for lunch. Sausage. egg, and cheese scramble for dinner. Noticeable energy drop in the evening. 4th day = Easy Energy level = Same as day 3”
Higher energy, until late in the day.
“Day 5 — January 6th — Three scrambled eggs for breakfast, three bunless McDonald’s cheeseburgers for lunch, and 5 grilled chicken tenders for lunch. 5th day = Medium Energy level = 7 out of 10.
Day 6 — January 7th — No breakfast. Tuna salad and two pieces of rotisserie chicken for lunch. 4 pieces of rotisserie chicken for dinner. Lots of cravings, but I did not cave. 6th day = Fairly rough. Energy level = 4/10. Weigh-in: 245″
But look at this–an eight-pound weight loss by Day 6. I was still shaking the demons, though. The cravings die hard.
“Day 7 — January 8th — 3 scrambled eggs for breakfast. One cheeseburger roller and 2 brats for lunch (no buns; meat only). Dinner was ~15 oz t-bone steak 7th day = Medium Energy level == 6/10 Weigh-in: 245.
Day 8 — January 9th — No breakfast, ham for lunch. Broke down in a moment of weakness and had half of a candy bar. Dinner BBQ chicken and carrots. 8th day = Difficult Energy level = 5/10″
Lots of people say the hardest time is in the first three days. For me, you can clearly see the hardest days were a week in.
“Day 9 — January 10th — No breakfast. Ham, smoked oysters, and four chicken wings for lunch. I had BBQ chicken for dinner. 9th day = Medium. Energy level = 6/10.
Day 10 — January 11th — Jimmy Dean sausages for breakfast (5 links). 3 bunless Jr. Cheeseburgers, plus pepperoni for lunch. DInner was a 6-oz sirloin and broccoli. I caved and had some onions petals and 3 bites of dessert. The weakness was a combination of cravings and opportunity. Continuing to feel crashes at night. 10th day = Difficult all day Energy level = 5/10″
More struggles with both cravings and energy levels. I’d yet to find out about salt and also relied too much on restaurant food.
“Day 11 — January 12th — Two hard-boiled eggs and two string cheeses for breakfast. Tuna salad for lunch. I can’t remember what was for dinner (a few days behind on logging). Don’t recall any bad cravings, despite temptation. 11th day = OK Energy level = 5/10.
Day 12 — January 13th — Leftover chicken for breakfast. Lunch at Dad’s and Joyce’s–keto chicken casserole and an assortment of low carb veggies. Chicken wings for dinner. 12th day = OK Energy level = 6/10.
Day 13 — January 14th — Not a good day. Did OK until lunchtime, then slipped a little as I went with my boss for lunch at a Mexican place. Noodle-less lasagna for dinner. 13th day = Bad Energy level = 4/10 Weight = 245″
Energy levels were improving around this time and I was starting to feel very good about this way of eating. I was already starting to feel better overall as well. I hadn’t been perfect, but the results were there. The results I wanted–weight loss.
“Days 15-19 — January 15-20 — Hanging in there. No real changes, no real drastic cravings. I’ve been increasing water intake and my energy seems to be increasing. Dealt with sore throat for parts of two days, but I fought off a cold successfully. Weight = 242″
Day 15 was when it was really starting to become a breeze. Cravings were fleeting and not overwhelming. I also fought off a cold with no runny nose, which is rare for me. I never get bad colds, but I’m generally a snot factory for a day or so. Not this time around. I took off another three pounds by this time.
The rest of January
The rest of the month was more or less typical of days 15-19. My energy levels continued to be good. I’d come out of the worst of the transition.
On the last day of January, I weighed 239 pounds. 14 pounds down in one month.
My one observation was a lack of energy 60-90 minutes after dinner. Salting my food more has helped with that, plus eating smaller dinners.
Symptoms of my January excursion
Did I get the “Keto Flu?” How bad was it? From my journal:
- Fatigue — No real fatigue after the first week.
- Headache — No headaches.
- Irritability — No more than usual. In fact, I’ve noticed my bad moods have been shorter. Lately, they last an hour or so. Before, they could last for a day or more.
- Difficulty focusing (“brain fog”) — No real brain fog in the beginning. I still have occasional forgetfulness, but I feel like my mind was operating faster as I went farther into January.
- Lack of motivation — I struggle with this one still, but no more than before.
- Dizziness — Experienced no dizziness.
- Sugar cravings — Slowly subsiding, but I still get them occasionally, usually when I’m out and about. Snacking during long drives has been a habit of mine as far back as I can remember, and it’s a habit that’s going to die hard.
- Nausea — None.
- Muscle cramps — I’ve had a few minor leg cramps while sleeping, otherwise none.
Overall, the transition wasn’t that much of a struggle. Just some cravings and some low energy for a few days.
Drinking more water and salt as the month went on made things better. The one thing I wish I’d done starting day one was to take more salt in order to keep my electrolytes up.
That January got the ball rolling towards a healthier life, but I treasure it even more for the learning experiences I gathered through the month. Experiences I can draw back on later. Plus I can pass them onto you, the reader.
Are you on a low-carb high-fat diet? Considering starting now that you’ve read this? Please comment in the box below.