Dieting has always been a trend in America, and keto seems to be the trendiest of the trend.
It is a low-carb, high-protein diet that sounds easier than it really is.
You might be thinking, “I don’t eat that many carbs!” But the problem is that almost everything has carbs: that apple a day that keeps the doctor away, that delicious vitamin water you drink that staves off the thirst for sugary juices. Being completely carb-free is a lot harder than you would think, especially because carbs aren’t so obvious.
I have all but given up on keto and reaching ketosis – the state in which your body begins burning fat for energy because it is so low on carbs – but I really gave it the old college try. To ensure I had carb-free or low-carb meals ready to go in my fridge, I paid exorbitant amounts of money to companies such as HelloFresh, Green Chef and Sun Kitchen.
I also got a subscription to a keto snack service, Keto Krate, that sent a box of surprise, low-carb snacks for the low price of thirty-five dollars a month. I figured snacks were going to be my downfall. Because as prepared as you can be for meals, when you’re out and about, running errands and whatnot, it’s almost impossible to grab a quick, keto-friendly snack.
I wanted so badly to dive headfirst into this “lifestyle choice,” and I figured putting my money where my mouth is would be my best bet. Part of me doesn’t know where it all went wrong.
Meal delivery services, such as HelloFresh, Green Chef, and Sun Kitchen, are good for those who can afford it, don’t have time to grocery shop and can actually cook. I talked myself into it by remembering all of the ingredients that go to waste every time I try to make something a little complicated, something with more than four ingredients. I would have half a sliced tomato or something in my fridge for a solid week after I had cooked the meal once.
These subscription services remove both the trip to the grocery store — which can be such a chore in a city like New York where a walk-up is the norm — and the unnecessary waste of buying too many ingredients. Everything is measured out, so when the meal has been cooked, every item in the box has been used.
In an extra effort to consolidate thinking about my diet, I would cook four meals at a time, which ensured I always had something keto-friendly to eat. Being a single woman living alone, I was able to really stretch out the contents of each box, which are usually two servings of each meal, depending on the meal plan you choose.
It would take me a whole afternoon, and the kitchen would be thick with heat. I would struggle with just about every step, from the chopping to the slicing to the zesting, which I always skipped because I have no idea how to zest nor do I own a zester. I had never had to cook so elaborately before, and the meal plan service did not seem to account for my novice kitchen skills. It would always take me at least twice as long as the recipe said it would, and there were very few breaks in which I could fit in a quick episode of “Friends” while the meat was cooking. You are always on the go, preparing something while something else cooks. In the end, my fridge would be stacked high with tupperware, and I felt so productive, as if I were losing weight through the effort alone.
But then the inevitable downfall arrived.
But then the inevitable downfall arrived. I do not know about you, but when someone says I cannot have something, it’s all I want or can think about. My fridge was full of keto-friendly meals, but all I wanted to eat was bread and butter — that’s it, bread and butter. Even with the delicious salmon burgers wrapped in lettuce and Mediterranean salads with pork patties ready to heat up, all I wanted to eat was a greasy grilled cheese sandwich.
I could not get the thought out of my head, so I eventually caved in and got one from the corner store. I tried as hard as I could to resist the urge, but carbs were calling me all day, every day, and I could not seem to block the number.
I was right about the difficulty of keeping a “lifestyle change” when it came to snacks. The Keto Krate really came in handy, but only to an extent. There were a number of products I truly enjoyed, such as air puffed cheese snacks and meringue cookies. But then there were products I found inedible, such as this strange, squeezable chocolate that was incredibly gritty. The idea of a box of keto-friendly snacks was a godsend, but their tactic, that they claimed was to keep it interesting and fun, was a bit misguided given how much tastes vary.
When it came to going out with non-keto friends, the diet became quite the test of willpower, one I failed time and time again. I did my best to locate the most keto-friendly item on the menu, but when you are at a pizza place for a kid’s party, it can be difficult to resist those delicious carbs. There were also times when the keto option was legitimately what I wanted to eat, but I could not stay away from the carb-filled ingredient, such as buns on burgers.
I would often find myself thinking, “Is this the kind of life I want? The life where I deny myself the simple pleasure of carbs and agonize over every meal?” On other diets I would treat myself to a cheat day that would get me through every other day. I would be able to pass Dunkin Donuts for six days in a row, knowing that on the seventh day I would be able to indulge. With keto, one day off and you are thrown out of ketosis and have to start all over again. You have to fast for a bit to even have a chance at restarting the process.
It was not just the physical aspects of the diet that made it difficult. The emotional and mental aspects made it impossible for me. I could not stop thinking about how much I wanted what I could not have and about the implications of restricting my diet.
Oftentimes I would feel almost rude not eating everything I could — choosing to starve myself — when there are people who cannot even eat what they need to. It made me sad to think of doing this every day for the rest of my life, being so vigilant over what I eat and adamantly reading nutritional facts to keep track of my carb intake. I got so tired of trying so hard to do something that was supposed to seamlessly integrate into my life, and I just did not have the will to do it anymore.
As I’m writing this, I’m finishing off a pint of lactose-free cookies and cream ice cream, but I have not given up on changing my lifestyle. Keto may not have been for me, but it has worked for so many people. Finding what works for you is more than half the battle, and it is worth trying a trend or two.
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