How to start the keto diet to lose weight

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This story is part of New Year, New You, everything you need to develop healthy habits that will last all the way through 2020 and beyond.

The ketogenic diet was one of the most popular diets in 2019, and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping. While it has stirred up controversy (Remember the Jillian Michaels — Al Roker feud?), it has not seemed to wane. 

The lifestyle has been used to battle both weight issues as well as overall health issues. For example, many epileptic patients have seen a reduction in symptoms when following a ketogenic — or close to ketogenic — diet. Others have given the diet credit for helping them drop a significant amount of weight in a short time, while boosting their energy.

For those looking to jump into keto, the diet does require some

Read more: The best keto snacks to buy online

Here is everything you need to know about going keto. 

What is the keto diet?

The keto lifestyle, whether it is being tapped for weight loss or health reasons, is not something that should be taken lightly. Keto requires the elimination of complex carbohydrates as well as grains, sugar, fruit and tubers, like yams and sweet potatoes. It relies on the heavy presence of meat, leafy greens, above-ground vegetables, nuts, fats, oils and alternative sweeteners. 

According to experts, fewer than 15 grams of carbohydrates are optimal for those looking to send their bodies into ketosis.


Steak and butter are on the menu on keto.

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How does keto work?

By eliminating carbohydrates, the body slips into ketosis, a process in which ketones are produced from the breakdown of fats in the liver. In turn, the body goes into a metabolic state through the starvation of carbohydrates called ketosis. (Basically, you are burning fat for energy instead of sugar.)

How do you start a keto diet?

Before jumping on the keto bandwagon, health experts urge you to talk to a doctor or other health professional to ensure that there will be no unwanted reactions or side effects. 

“If you are considering starting any kind of ketogenic diet, you should discuss it first with your doctor. The diet may be harmful if you have existing kidney, liver or heart disease. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure and are on medications, you should be in close contact with your physician to monitor changes and adjust medications as needed,” says Diane Vizthum, a dietitian at the Adult Epilepsy Diet Center at Johns Hopkins. 


The keto preworkout diet involves a lot of planning what you’re going to eat and prepping your own meals.

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Keto planning and prep

There is simply no way around it — keto requires a lot of planning and prep before jumping in. Not only will you be looking to eliminate foods from your diet, but you will also have to learn to cook using keto-compliant foods, how to order when dining out, and how to utilize keto-based substitutions for baked goods, snacks and other indulgences. 

“It can be harder to manage your diet because you might have to spend more time calculating your carbohydrate intake and spend a lot of time planning meals and considering the foods you are eating,” says Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 

Stocking your cabinets with both keto cookbooks and these keto staples can help to eliminate some of the stress of going keto. Researching keto-compliant recipes as well as learning how to read labels for pitfalls like hidden sugar will also ensure you will see success on the keto plan. 

Vizthum adds that those attempting the keto diet should make an honest attempt to eat whole foods and not turn to processed foods that may be compliant, but are otherwise not healthy (yes, this includes ). This will ensure both weight-loss results as well as overall health-based results. 

Get familiar with macros

On the keto diet, is really non-negotiable, especially if your aim is to lose weight. One of the best ways to do this is to use the keto formula, say experts. The formula is your basal metabolic rate (using the Harris-Benedict equation) times your activity level. This will give you the number of calories you should be taking in if you are looking to maintain your current weight. Adjustments may be necessary based on how much weight you are looking to lose and how quickly.


On keto, you’ll eat plenty of fat and protein and almost no carbs.

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How do you know you’re in ketosis?

There are several ways to figure out if you’re in ketosis. The easiest way is to pay attention to symptoms, which tend to include bad breath, increased urination, dry mouth and increased energy (a mixed bag, for sure). 

If you want to get even more accurate, there are blood and urine tests for those doing keto. Widely available at drug stores, grab a box of urine strips designed for diabetics. Or use a glucose or ketone meter for more accurate results. 

Are there any keto side effects? 

Side effects vary, however, there is one you should watch out for: keto flu. This effect stems from the elimination of carbohydrates and sugar, which causes withdrawal symptoms. These can include headache, fogginess, lack of energy and nausea.

No one ever said it was easy, but if you stick to it and approach it sensibly, you may find keto a worthy lifestyle option.

This story was written by Emily Cappiello.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.