Losing weight is hard, there’s no doubt about it. Our sedentary lifestyles combined with the wrong foods mean it’s easy for the weight to creep on, and it’s so so hard for it to shift. Easy and convenient (yet incredibly unhealthy) options often win when we’re exhausted and hungry. When fast food joints and other less than perfect food choices are on every corner, open twenty four, seven it’s really no wonder that far too many of us are tipping the scales. None of us need to be reminded of the scary health effects that being overweight can cause, but if you’re constantly trying and failing on diets it can have you feeling like nothing works. If you have an interest in health, chances are you’ve heard of the benefits of low carbing and ketogenic diets- and for many of us they could hold the secret for losing weight for good.
Ketosis Vs Ketoacidosis
First things first, ketosis is not to be confused with ketoacidosis, which is a life threatening condition that diabetics can suffer from. Ketosis is perfectly healthy, and is simply where instead of using carbohydrates as a source of energy, out body burns its own fat reserves instead. As humans, this is the very reason we store fat in the first place. From an evolutionary point of view, we would store fat when times were plentiful and burn it as energy when times were lean. Our bodies are perfectly adapted to do this, and in fact the way we are designed makes it the preferred source of fuel. We didn't evolve during a time where we had constant access to high sugar and high carbohydrate food, it’s consuming too many of these things that cause us to develop health issues like insulin resistance. When we burn our own fat, the body produces by products called ‘ketones’ which is where the name ketosis comes from.
How Can My Body Switch To Burning Its Own Fat Reserves?
So how do you induce ketosis, and start your body burning its own fat reserves? Well the way to do this is by reducing your carbohydrate levels. After a couple of days of doing this, your body will run out and has to switch to burning its own fat instead. During the first few days while your body is running out of carbohydrates chances are you won’t feel too good- this is referred to as ‘keto flu’. You might feel a little dizzy and tired, and your body will send strong cravings designed to make you eat more carbohydrates. If you push through this, by around day four of eating minimal carbs you will reach ketosis. One of the biggest benefits of getting your body into this state is that hunger levels and cravings then stop- you’re no longer riding the carbohydrate roller coaster with it’s ups and downs. While you may still feel ‘psychological hunger’ especially if you’re in bad habits with eating, in this state you will learn to know the difference between real and fake hunger. This can help to ‘reset’ your appetite, and can really highlight what your issues are with food. When you’re grabbing a pack of biscuits to dunk in your tea, is this habit or hunger? How about that big bowl of popcorn to sit in front of the tv in the evening. When you reach for that second portion of dinner, are you still hungry or are you enjoying the taste? While in ketosis, listen to your body and you will re-learn your hunger and fullness signals which will help you maintain healthy weight forever.
Getting Into Ketosis- More Than One Way to Skin a Cat
There are a few different ways you can look into reducing your carbs, so it all depends on you. The first would be a complete fast, research has shown there are huge benefits to this although even for the most strong willed person it can be difficult. If you’re very headstrong and are up for the challenge, a two or three day fast with nothing but water will quickly deplete the carbohydrates in your body and induce ketosis. The second way would be to start on a ‘VLCD’ (very low calorie diet) meal replacement plan. Here you replace all of your food with special meal packs which contain all of the vitamins and minerals you need. It’s a difficult plan as calories as well as carbs are restricted, but not as full on as a fast and unlike a fast these can be followed for many months. Most people on a VLCD lose around a stone a month- excellent weight loss and a good alternative before considering weight loss surgery. The final way would be to follow a keto friendly diet where you’re reducing your carbs, such as the Atkins diet or the Ketogenic diet. Here you get to eat real food, and while losses won’t be as quick they will induce ketosis and you will burn your bodies own fat for fuel. Your diet will consist mainly of meat and eggs with a moderate amount of low carb veggies. You will be avoiding grains, sugar, alcohol and processed foods. There are tonnes of delicious recipes online for inspiration. If you’re fasting or following a VLCD, once you’re finished then move onto a plan like this It’s completely sustainable, you could follow it forever with no adverse health effects and you never have to feel hungry. There are a large range of keto products on the market that can make your life easier too, from ready made bars for quick snacks to products that can boost the levels of ketones in your body. You can also by ‘ketone sticks’, these test if your body is producing ketones and indicate you are in ketosis.
With a traditional diet you cut down your calories and focus on quite carb heavy foods- the problem is these cause blood sugar spikes and cravings for more. This is why you can feel like you’re in a constant state of deprivation and it’s so easy to binge. When your body has constant access to carbs it will always burn these before your own fat supplies, and so reducing them to low levels can help massively with weight loss. There are a few different ways you can go about this, so do some research and follow a keto plan that’s right for you.