The topic of weight loss is a major one within the keto community and rightfully so. It is a way of eating that has helped many people lose the weight they desperately need to gain back their health. It is also, by definition, a metabolic state that allows the body to use its own stored fat as an energy source — a definition that would absolutely lead one to think that they will lose fat simply by following this low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat diet.
And yet, for many of the women who begin a ketogenic diet expecting to lose weight, they are quickly met with frustration as they realize it isn’t quite the magic bullet it was promoted to be. I see this all the time in my women’s keto class, The Fat Burning Female Project, and in the questions I receive from listeners of my podcast, the Keto For Women Show. Women are not getting the full picture of their health and therefore not understanding why their weight isn’t budging just by going keto.
Join the most supportive group of keto women around in the next Fat Burning Female Project!
I can absolutely relate to this as I have my own story of extreme weight loss, weight gain, weight loss resistance, and finally finding my happy weight. I know the feelings of confusion, frustration, anger towards your body, and the endless thoughts of “What am I doing wrong?”, “Am I eating too much fat?”, “Am I eating too much food?”, “Is keto not right for me?”. I’ve been there too, my friend.
The story of my weight fluctuations is a long, but very important one, to share. And, while it was an extremely hard journey emotionally, mentally, and physically, I am forever grateful for this period of my life because it provided me with important lessons that I can now share to help others in similar situations.
My obsession with my weight started in high school. At the time, it was all about low-calorie and fat-free being the key to weight loss success, so that’s what I followed in order to make my tiny frame even smaller. A similar mentality took shape throughout college, although the increase in partying and decrease in sleep made it a bit more challenging to stay a size zero.
Then came my first real job working as a manager for a gym — great work experience, not so great body image experience. I spent the next 10 years working in a gym environment that was very much geared towards aesthetic goals, calories in vs. calories out, low body fat, and overtraining.
This mentality reached an all-time high for me in 2013 when I decided to compete in my first figure competition. Making this decision meant taking everything up a notch in order to achieve a new, extreme body composition. For 14 weeks, I worked out harder and harder and ate less and less in order to see the required results to get me on that stage.
This was the start of the health challenges that I would eventually use a ketogenic diet to reverse. I didn’t care to acknowledge at the time that this overexercising and undereating pattern was causing serious damage to my health and body. During this time of my life as a figure competitor, I spent over a year without a menstrual cycle. I was losing hair, not sleeping, and my dealing with skin breakouts.
Fast forward to 2015, when all of the sudden, I started gaining weight rapidly for no reason. I was eating a paleo, real food diet and working out in the gym regularly. In 8 short months, I gained 35 pounds and it was completely out my control. I felt helpless and confused. Along with this came other unexplainable symptoms like brain fog, word recollection issues, joint pain, and extreme fatigue.
Unwilling to accept this sudden change in my health, I went on a mission to uncover what was happening to my body. Months of tests, doctors, and Google-searching finally got me an answer — toxic mold exposure. My body was trying to protect me from the toxic home I was living in by causing a severe inflammatory response. And this inflammation was at the root of all of the other symptoms and possibly to blame for the weight gain too. Knowing that information, I set off on a long, strenuous protocol to rid myself of the mold toxicity and the inflammatory response caused by it.
This is also when the ketogenic diet came into my life…and changed it forever.
In order to alleviate the symptoms I was experiencing, I knew, as a nutritionist, that keto was the way to go. Its ability to heal the brain, reduce inflammation, provide clean energy, and promote weight loss made it a perfect fit. So, in September of 2016, I set about adjusting my macros, testing ketones, and waiting for the magic to happen.
Within a matter of weeks, I was feeling much more clear-headed and energized — two things that had been missing from my life for over a year at that point. A few more weeks and my joint pain diminished, I was sleeping better than ever, and I was able to get back to working out.
But, my weight didn’t change. The 35 pounds that I had gained due to the illness didn’t budge, even though I was going through the protocol AND in a constant state of ketosis. Cue frustration, confusion, and questioning.
But, I was SO happy to be gaining my health back that I truly stopped caring. It felt so good to be able to move the way I was used to, interact with my friends, build my business, and live life that I accepted the weight gain and put it on the back burner of my thoughts so I could go about enjoying every moment of my regained health. I continued on with keto, happy to make it my lifestyle, knowing that the dietary shift was the reason for me gaining my life back.
Moving on to present day, 1.5 years after beginning my keto lifestyle, and my body has settled into its happy weight. While I fully credit the keto diet to this ultimate healing, for me, it’s not so much about the “fat burning” but more so because I took the time and had the patience to let the healing power of a ketogenic diet work on my body. And this process took 1.5 YEARS! It took me enjoying life regardless, knowing I was doing the right thing for my body, and just letting it happen for the true benefits to work their magic.
Now, let’s get into that. What did actually happen in that 1.5 years that changed and allowed my body to get to to its happy, healthy weight? And why did it take so long?
Well, I can sum it up into two words: HORMONAL BALANCE.
Yep, my hormones were an absolute wreck through most of that story above, going back to the days of the figure competition that kicked it off. As you may have noticed, all of the symptoms I was experiencing then were classic signs of hormonal imbalance. And it is obvious, when looking at what I was putting my body through, that it was the perfect storm for this to happen. Then, moving into the case of toxic mold exposure and another situation where wonky hormones were sure to be a factor. Why is this?
Another short answer for you: STRESS.
Stress of any kind is the number one factor involved when it comes to hormonal imbalances in women. And the vast majority of women are dealing with a hormonal imbalance of some kind. These imbalances could be known conditions like PCOS or estrogen dominance, but can also be subtle and perhaps not yet identified. And, the most obvious, least desired symptom of hormonal imbalance in women is weight gain.
In my case, while the weight gain was initially a symptom of the toxic mold exposure, it didn’t budge with keto because my hormones were a wreck and had been for years. Salivary hormone testing showed very low cortisol indicating severe adrenal dysfunction as a result of prolonged, chronic stress, plus very low progesterone causing estrogen dominance – another byproduct of stress. So, while keto helped quickly with many other symptoms I was experiencing, it wasn’t going to be an immediate resolution for these deep-rooted hormonal issues.
Hormones are tough little buggers to regulate and like to do so very slowly. It is not, and never will be, a quick fix to regulate female hormones. And that means, healthy weight loss will take just as long because you cannot lose weight healthfully with hormones that are out of balance. It just doesn’t work that way. However, the great news, and something that I was able to experience myself in that 1.5 years, is that a ketogenic approach is an amazing tool for women to use to balance their hormones…when done safely and effectively for our sensitive female bodies. And once those steps are taken and we practice a little patience, then the rest falls into place, including finding your happy weight.
Now, notice that I am not saying your ideal weight, or the weight you used to be in college, or your new all-time low weight record. I am talking about your body and the place where it functions best. There is a very good chance this may be more than you think you should be, but it’s time to let go of an arbitrary scale number or size and instead take the time to heal yourself fully and let your body get healthy and settle in where it feels best.
When your hormones are regulated and your body is at its happy weight, you will:
- enjoy sustained energy
- have regulated blood sugar levels throughout the day
- be able to gain muscle and lose fat with proper workouts
- sleep well and wake up rested
- have regular menstrual cycles with signs of ovulation and minimal PMS
- have minimal menopause symptoms with an easy transition
- maintain a stable, positive mood
When you take the time to do heal your body from the inside out, keto will have the magical effect you’ve been expecting all along! Between my own personal success story and seeing other women in my class get amazing results too, I have found the keto equation that works to regulate your hormones, heal your stress response, get your health back, and determine your body’s happy weight.
If you suspect you may be dealing with a hormonal imbalance and it’s keeping you from feeling your best on a ketogenic diet, I would encourage you to take charge of your health, get more information about your body using a functional medicine approach, and make sure your ketogenic diet is helping – not further hurting – your hormones.
I’m happy to help you through the Fat Burning Female Project! You can choose to do it on your own in the Self-Study option or with a group of women as part of the Project. Either way, you can be assured you will make the keto transition safely and effectively for your body.