I began my ketogenic lifestyle in July 2016 after everything else I had tried failed. After reaching a tipping point on an overseas holiday I knew real change needed to happen. It’s very hard to pinpoint what was different this time because it was a combination of things. Mostly on the ketogenic diet I didn’t feel like I was missing out, that I was deprived all the time or always hungry. Living away from my family meant I wasn’t constantly justifying what I was doing. I had found a strong motivation and a supportive community. I found community to be really important to me. I joined some keto Facebook groups and suddenly I didn’t feel alone. I could ask questions and share my experiences with others that were living like me.
Another big factor was the way I felt. Once I was past the first couple of weeks I felt great. As time went on I realised I hadn’t had a headache in ages. I used to get them every couple of weeks and they would last 3 days. My mood had levelled out (maybe don’t check that with Erika as I am sure she thinks I am still moody!) and I felt much less tired. These improvements in my health and wellbeing have really cemented keto as a lifestyle for me.
Life was easy as a kid
I was a skinny athletic kid. Most of my time was spent either on the sporting field, training or running around the backyard with my siblings. My weight was never a concern for me pre-puberty. I could eat whatever I wanted and never put on weight. I can remember my friends being jealous when I was 12-13 and I could eat chocolate and junk food at school when already they were thinking about their weight. Sport and exercise were always a part of my life, I started playing soccer when I was 5 and fell in love with it immediately. After that, all I was interested in was sport. We would watch it on TV, my brothers and I would play soccer, cricket and rugby league in the backyard and every weekend consisted of travelling around to different sports for the 4 of us.
My mother’s side of the family have always been larger, but as a kid, I never thought that would be me. In my own head, I would play soccer until I was 50, and then coach, and always be involved in it some how. I didn’t see myself ending up like my Mum, Nan, Aunties and Uncles. Then puberty hit me late, at 15. Everything changed. Well, when I say everything, I mean everything but my diet habits changed. I could no longer keep pace like I used to, my position on the field shifted from midfield, where you run constantly, to defender where the running was less, to eventually by 17 I was a goalkeeper, where most of the running happens between the goal posts. Even in goals I struggled. Getting down on the ground and back up quickly is pretty key in this position and boy, wasn’t I slow. Every metric used to measure my fitness got worse, including skin folds. My answer was to move away from that more elite environment and over the next few years, my weight went up and my performance diminished.
Whilst all of this was happening I wasn’t even thinking too much about my diet. We were given diet guidelines when I was in the more elite environment but I never worried about them as I didn’t need to before, so why would I now. I grew up in a family of 4 kids and the budget was always pretty tight. All of our meals were bulked out with cheap carbohydrates like bread and potato. My brothers and I would always fight over the leftovers, we would steal my sister’s food as she wasn’t as big an eater as us. Our family would go through 1-2 loaves of white bread a day.
Being an adult means being overweight and DIETS!
I started dabbling in diets when I was about 20. I wanted to keep playing soccer competitively and I was now at a point where coaches were recommending I lose weight to stay competitive. Weight Watchers was the first diet I tried. Counting points and giving mum the shopping list each week. She hadn’t heard of the half the food on there but to her credit she would buy it all for me. This is where I started eating different meals to the rest of the family. It made me feel more excluded from the family as meal time was a big part of our day. We would all sit together at the table and talk about our days. No longer was I stealing my sisters food or fighting my brothers for the leftovers. I was weird and eating weird food. It was not sustainable and I don’t remember that I lost much weight either.
Through my early 20’s I continued dieting on and off, without any success. I continued to play soccer in goals but the quality of the competitions I played became much more social. In my late 20’s I met Erika and the dieting become much more of a focus due to Erika’s life long battle with her weight. During this time the focus was much less on my weight as it was more that I was doing the diet to support her. Over the next 9 years we tried almost everything. Weight Watchers, vegetarian, Lite’n’Easy, Optifast, Michelle Bridges 12 week transformation, I Quit Sugar, Paleo. None of these stuck long term. We did lose a large amount of weight with Optifast, but that is never sustainable and not long after that I had my gallbladder removed and things slid back to our old ways.
Holidays are great but hard when you are overweight
In June 2016 we spent 3 weeks in Europe. We spent some time with friends in Slovakia and also a 2 week Mediterranean cruise. We both really struggled. With all of it. Flying in economy is really uncomfortable when the two of us had over 260kg between us. When flying to Europe from Australia you are on a plane for over 24 hours and sitting in seats not designed for your shape for that long is really uncomfortable.
One day our friend suggested a hike to Popradske Pleso, a lake in the High Tatras. We were nervous about it, but didn’t want to admit we may not be able to do it, so we headed off. This hike was our tipping point. Turns out it was quite an elevation. She had convinced us it was not a difficult walk. We barely made it. There was tears. Many stops along the way. It was one of the most difficult things we have done. If it was just the two of us, we would have quit early on and never made it. At the time it felt like we almost died, but now I am so glad we did it. We never wanted to feel like that again.
With the memory of the feelings we felt from that hike, we continued with the rest of our trip. We had a great time, enjoyed pizza in Naples, gelato in Florence, gyros in Athens and all the food you can eat on a cruise. We also continued to struggle with travelling at the size we were at. There was an uncomfortable hour long trip in a mini van into Rome, where we both didn’t really fit on the seat. Getting in and out of small spaces, walking around all day, seeing amazing places like the Vatican, usually meant a lot of joint pain and soreness the next day.
When we got home something needed to change. We love travelling and want to be able to do it more. After this trip it felt like we may actually need to do it less as it was just becoming so hard.
We have to try again, our lives depend on it
We knew we needed to change our eating habits, but what do we do. We talked about it together and decided sugar was a really big problem for us and that we would just try to remove the sugar again. This evolved into low carb pretty quickly. Diet Doctor became the place we went for inspiration. He has great recipes and videos and we watched a lot of the documentaries. This kept us motivated and then we found the 2 Keto Dudes podcast. We listened from the very beginning as Carl started his journey.
It’s really hard to work out what was different this time from all the others, but something was different. Something clicked. At some point keto became the new normal. It wasn’t a diet any more. We didn’t feel like we were missing out. We did implement a strategy, recommended by Erika’s psychologist, that included eating 1 meal off plan. At the start, I was not a fan of this. I have always been more an all or nothing kind of person. What this strategy did show us was that we could eat that one meal and not dive head first into a carb filled binge. I will note that this meal was never a big junk food feast either. We would choose a specific place and item we wanted, eat that and then move on to keto for the next meal. The first time we did this we went to Rockpool, which is a fancy steakhouse in Melbourne, and yes we ate potatoes and dessert, but I think the difference was the decision making process. It was a conscious decision. Not a spur of the moment, I want that so I am going to have it type decision. I am aware this type of strategy wouldn’t work for everyone, but this is my story and it meant I was able to make keto my lifestyle. This has never happened before on any other diet.
How do we incorporate keto into our lives
Our next big hurdle was attending family functions. I think another key factor in our success early on, was that we lived in Melbourne, away our families. We could do this without the constant scrutiny from others. Three months into our keto journey we had 3 weekends in a row of family functions. We were both really nervous about how we would go. These family functions always evolve around food and there is eating from the time you arrive until the time you leave. We were so worried we wouldn’t make it out of these weekends still living the ketogenic lifestyle and that everything would fall apart. We were able to manage those weekends by keeping the breakfast to eggs and the other meals we managed by sticking with the protein and the veg options.
Managing this situation well meant we had the confidence that we could manage this lifestyle long term. We have since survived 2 family Christmases, many other family events and even two overseas trips and the keto lifestyle has not imploded. Our families understand what we are doing and are better able to cater for us and we are much more confident now to explain what we need. Keto has become our “new normal”. If we eat off plan now, we just go back to normal.
Now I have reached a point where I am happy for my weight to remain. I feel comfortable and happy with my weight where it is. I am now in maintenance mode, which comes with its own challenges. As I am now at my goal weight I struggle with the attitude that I could get away with eating more carbs. It’s a tough mind set to be in. I feel like I am back in a position where I constantly have to make the decision to not eat a particular thing.
I have also started to introduce Crossfit. I began Crossfit in May 2017 and I have found getting back into a more regimented physical activity has been really good for me. I love the community aspect of Crossfit and have found I have missed that aspect of soccer. I go 3 times a week in the mornings before work and have started to see some real improvements in my strength and body shape.
Increasing the exercise with Crossfit has also contributed to the thought that I could get away with eating that mentality. I have to make a conscious effort every day to not let that mentality take over. If I feel that starting to creep in, I will reintroduce intermittant fasting.
This is my life now. I do miss some things, like hot chips, but overall this just is normal for me now. I love that I can eat bacon and eggs, guilt free.
If you have a story you would like to share send us an email and we might just share your story with our readers. It’s important to show the versatility of keto and how different people make it work for them. We plan to share more stories like this in the future.
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