Weight Loss

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Why This Woman Says She’s ‘So Thankful’ for Her 20-Pound Weight Gain

At the end of the day, the number on the scale is just that—a number. Gaining weight and muscle in order to be a healthier version of you is nothing to fear, and certainly not the end of the world, Julia of genuinely_jules wants her more than 30K Instagram followers to know.

This fitness influencer, who once had an unhealthy, distorted view of her own body, has gained 20 pounds and gone up several pant sizes in the last few years. The result? She’s happy and radiating confidence. She’s become a voice for recovery and self-care, encouraging others to view food as fuel for the body.

RELATED: 8 Things That Can Make You Gain Water Weight

“Maintaining such a low body weight and BF %, afraid of weights for the fear of gaining muscle and weight was not healthy,” she wrote in an Instagram post earlier this week.

In her transformation post, she revealed how her body and mind have changed for the better since gaining the weight. She recognizes that her 105-pound self was “unhealthy,” because she had an unhealthy relationship with food, and indicates that her currently “healthy” 125-pound self makes her much happier. 

She tells Health that she decided to make a change because she knew her life was at stake. “By continuing the cycle of restriction, I was only doing a disservice to myself and my future,” Julia says. As her body changed, she embraced her weight gain because it allowed her live her life more fully. “I am no longer afraid to go shopping for fear of not fitting into the smallest size or [go] out to eat for fear of calories consumed and can fully enjoy my life with friends, family, and FOOD!”

In a post from April, Julia shared that she listens to her body when it is hungry, and by increasing her food intake, she’s become more energetic and is truly at her happiest. “I no longer associate weight gain with failure and weight loss with success,” she wrote. “I view each day as an opportunity to make healthy choices that will better myself-physically, socially, emotionally, and professionally.” 

RELATED: Is It Actually Harder to Lose Weight When You’re Short?

Nor is she obsessing over going up a size. “In the past, I would have really let this negatively affect my relationship with food and exercise for weeks until I could get back into a smaller size,” she captions her post. And what did she do this time? She admired her rockin’ booty, and bought the size 4 pants because they looked and felt amazing.

Woman Who Lost 350 Lbs. Says Skin Removal Surgery Isn’t an Instant Fix: ‘You’re in So Much Pain’

Since losing the weight, she was dealing with body dysmorphia because of her excess skin.

Jacqueline Adan knows she made the right decision to have skin removal surgery after losing 350 lbs., but she didn’t expect the months of pain that would come with it.

After four years of hard work, Adan was thrilled to lose well over half her weight — at her highest in 2012, she weighed over 500 lbs. — but she was dealing with body dysmorphia because of her excess skin.

“When I got down to my lowest weight and had all that loose skin I was still being made fun of, and when I looked in the mirror it was hard to see anything but all this extra skin,” the Montessori preschool teacher, 31, tells PEOPLE. “You still feel fat and you still can’t fit into clothes because the skin won’t fit. I felt proud of myself and I knew I had lost 350 lbs., but when I looked in the mirror I saw my body completely differently. It was hard to see anything but that same, overweight girl.”

So in June 2016, she started the long process of skin removal surgery. While it’s often seen as an instant fix, Adan’s experience shows how difficult it can be. Her first surgery was a lower body lift, followed by upper body and arm lifts five months later. Then she had more skin taken off in June 2017, and had skin removal on her legs in Jan. 2018.

“People don’t fully understand what goes into this process. They think it’s just cosmetic, and it’s hard for me to hear that,” she says.

The surgeries left Adan extremely swollen and in severe pain, especially her most recent leg surgery.

“I think because I had so much weight taken off my legs during the surgery, and because I had back to back surgeries, my body didn’t react well this time,” she says. “I dealt with a lot of swelling, and my body is hanging on to a lot of fluid.”

“This is why I wanted to talk about my body dysmorphia — I’m seeing myself in the mirror and I’m seeing myself a lot bigger than I have, and it’s hard to make that distinction that it’s not weight gain, it’s just fluid,” she adds. “Now that I’m swollen, I feel like everyone’s noticing.”

But with each surgery — Adan expects to undergo about three more after those first five — she’s learning more about the process, and figuring out how to push through.

“I’m so glad that I did it, not just for my physical health but for my mental health and wellbeing. But they are very difficult procedures,” she says. “Recovery was a lot, and I felt like each one, you had to dig down deeper and deeper to find the strength to keep continuing to heal and move forward. There are times at home when you’re in so much pain and wondering how this could ever get better, how could this pain ever go away? You can’t move, after the leg ones. It’s hard to walk; it’s hard to go to the bathroom. You have to dig down deep and find that strength to recognize that this isn’t going to last forever and it’s going to get better and better.”

But Adan wants people dealing with skin removal, or body dysmorphia, or weight struggles, to know that they’re not alone.

“I hope that no one ever feels ashamed or embarrassed if they are struggling with an eating disorder or body dysmorphia or with their own body image or self love,” she says. “For me, actually admitting I needed some help and realizing that I was struggling and accepting what was going on and admitting it was exactly what I needed to overcome this and continue to move forward. No matter what you are going through or struggling with, it is okay to ask for help!”

14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry

In a Cornell University study published in PLoS One, researchers observed people at two separate breakfast buffet lines that featured the same seven items: cheesy eggs, potatoes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, low-fat granola, low-fat yogurt, and fruit. One line presented the foods from healthiest to least-healthy, while the other line had the order reversed. Regardless of which line they passed through, more than 75% of diners put the first food they saw on their plates; the first three foods they encountered in the buffet made up two-thirds of all the foods they added to their plate. So take a stroll around the buffet or dinner table before you serve yourself, suggests Young.

This Woman Shared Her 15-Pound Weight Gain to Show How Counting Calories Can Be Dangerous

Here’s what she learned after improving her relationship with food.

Far too often, we associate weight gain with indulgences or other slip-ups in our routines. But for Sara Carlucci, a 22-year-old fitness influencer in Erie, Pennsylvania, being 15 pounds heavier is reflective of the strides she’s made with her mental health.

In a before-and-after post, Carlucci opened up about her struggles following a restrictive diet and her previous unhealthy relationship with food. Showing how much has changed from August 2017 to now, the bodybuilder’s vulnerable message is both positive and emotional.

“There is so much I wish I could’ve told myself back then,” she wrote. “For starters, I would’ve told myself that bags big enough to carry groceries under your eyes isn’t normal. That 1,200 calories isn’t a ‘magic number.’ That you can’t work to change yourself from a place of hate. That food is your fuel. That things were going to get better. Hell, that things were going to get incredible.”

She wrote that adding 15 pounds hasn’t made every day easy, but she loves her “crazy self.” Not only has her body changed in the past 10 months, but her attitude has shifted, too.

“Looking at old pictures feels like I’m looking at a stranger,” she continued. “But the person I am now is strong, hungry, ready, and making every day count.”

Carlucci tells Health that she wasn’t always so candid about her mental and physical health.

“For so long I hid my struggles thinking I was alone in them,” she says. “The more I reached out for help and found my strength within me, the more I opened up about my story. I need and want to be for others what I wish I had then.”

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There isn’t a dramatic difference between Carlucci’s two photos, but her smiley “after” presents the positive changes she’s made–inside and out. By focusing less on the number displayed on the scale and more on living a balanced lifestyle, she embodies how much you can truly gain from self-love.

The One Thing That Led to My 50 Pound Weight Loss After Giving Birth to Twins 

Five years ago, when Shape.com asked me to create a Yoga-Tabata mash-up video, I had no idea that it would be the exercise method that would be my key to losing 50 pounds of pregnancy weight, or that I would eventually create an entire class around it.

But both became true. I built CrossFlowX as a fast-paced blend of strength training, core work, inversions, and arm-balance-focused flows, high-intensity cardio intervals, and traditional yoga kriyas. Four years ago, I was teaching this signature yoga methodology to sold-out classes in NYC and all over the globe. It was my “baby”, and I loved it. But what I really wanted was a real baby. And for the first time in my life, no matter how hard I worked toward that goal (japa mala meditations to the goddess of fertility, and everything), it wasn’t happening.

Until finally, it did.

The doctor strides into the room, glances up at the screen, and casually says, “It’s a party in there. Did you know you’re having more than one?”

Nope.

Pregnancy Rx: Gain Weight (and Then More)

I had actively been trying to get pregnant for almost two full years, with doctor after doctor telling me it would never happen until I gained weight—and a lot of it.

I spent those years painfully and slowly putting on the doctor-recommended 25 pounds. At one point, I fell and broke my wrist and needed surgery. I couldn’t do yoga or any physical activity for that matter. So, yep—I gained those 25 pounds. Two rounds of intrauterine insemination, and one positive pregnancy test later, I was at the doctor’s office for a pregnancy checkup, finding out I was having twins.

When I finally saw my doctor (someone else broke the news about the multiples), he sat me down and informed me that to support multiple babies, I would need to gain even more weight: a lot more weight and quickly.

With my head still reeling from the news, on recommendation, I ordered When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads, by ob-gyn Barbara Luke. This is basically the leading resource for pregnant mothers of multiples. In this book, I learned that the recommended weight gain for someone carrying twins is 15–35 pounds 20 weeks in, and 23–51 pounds by 28 weeks. 

I was coming from the lower end of the BMI chart for my height, and my doctors wanted me to be on the highest end of that weight gain recommendation—50 pounds by 28 weeks. I was only 6 weeks pregnant when I found out I was carrying multiples, so that gave me 22 weeks to gain the weight. When all was said and done, I was advised to gain 50–65 pounds by the time my children were born.

I know what you’re thinking: Poor you, you have to eat all the food you want. I know, but for someone who very much enjoyed being on the thinner side of life, and whose happy place was balancing on her hands, accepting this was a huge mental and physical battle.

While difficult to wrap my brain around all that weight gain, I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I already loved these babies who were in my belly, and I was not about to let my resistance to putting on weight stop me from carrying healthy humans to full term. So, I made my first parental decision: to put the health of my unborn children over my superficial weight concerns. And I did.

I gained exactly the amount of weight my doctors recommended by the time I delivered my twins: 65 pounds. I came home from the hospital after delivering my tiny 4-pound twin girls early, by C-section, after one broke her water. And to my very unwelcome shock, I still had 50 extra pounds.

My Rude Weight-Loss Awakening

Let me tell you, that weight did NOT melt off. My ob-gyn told me that I should be burning “at least 500 calories a day” creating milk for the twins. I was dutifully eating my lactation oats for breakfast, kale salads with tofu for lunch, steamed kabocha squash, greens, and chickpeas for dinner. I was measuring out 1-ounce servings of nuts for snacks. But the weight was not going anywhere. (Looking back, that was probably because I wasn’t moving nor sleeping much.)

I realized quickly that each pound you gain while pregnant that isn’t from baby or placenta, etc., is a pound you have to lose. Up until I was actually in that situation, I honestly believed the “baby weight” was going to “melt off” as soon as the pregnancy was over. (Related: Is It Actually Harder to Lose Weight When You’re Short?)

At four weeks postpartum, I called my doctor and told her that I didn’t think “the whole six-week no-exercise rule” applied to me. I explained to her that I was a fitness professional, and I knew how to protect my body. To which she replied, “C-section is eight weeks.”

[Cue my nervous breakdown.] I didn’t know how to lose weight without exercise. And, quite honestly, I didn’t know who I was with all of this weight and without babies in my belly.

In between my quivering gibberish, my doctor agreed to re-evaluate her recommendation at my six-week postpartum checkup. When I finally got there, she examined me and cleared me for all activity. I signed up for SoulCycle before I put my clothes back on.

Getting Back to Business

Even with my two beautiful new babies, I missed teaching at Athleta Studio and all of my students and clients. But, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about making my return with so much extra weight. Would my clients think I was somehow less capable of teaching such a rigorous class? While I knew I could handle it, I wanted to feel more like myself and more confident before I stepped back into the studio classroom. I consulted my nutritionist friends about how to eat, and I was fitting in all the boutique fitness classes and online workout videos I could manage with the little free time I had—not much with newborn twins around. Despite my best exercise efforts, the weight loss still wasn’t going as smoothly as I hoped.

Eventually, I agreed to put a restart date on my calendar. It would come about three months after my twins were born.

I put in a lot of practice to ensure my students got the best class possible. I never ask my students to do anything I don’t do myself, so I always do the flow with the music at home prior to teaching. But good grief, CrossFlowX felt harder than ever. Nonetheless, I kept at it, and pretty soon things started to feel better, I started to feel stronger, and finally, I was seeing real differences in my body. (Related: This Dietitian Suggests a “Two Treat Rule” to Lose Weight Without Going Crazy)

Looking back, it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise: Yoga had always been the thing my body responded to best. So couple power yoga with HIIT in the same hour, and I found my recipe for burning off the baby weight and having fun. Yes!

It didn’t happen overnight. And, it was by no means easy or some coincidental by-product of breastfeeding/pumping (my milk supply dried up at 3.5 months with the twins). The answer was finding the activity that helped me feel like me. Turns out, it was right under my nose the whole time. I only wish it hadn’t taken me so long to figure it out! After spending months searching for help from anyone or anything, the weight-loss solution was there inside me all along. It was buried inside the thing I’ve always known and loved: yoga and CrossFlowX.

Seven months postpartum, I felt strong and confident enough to post pictures and content online again, and slowly but surely, the weight continued to come off. Ten months postpartum, I felt more like me. And by the time my girls turned 1, I was happy to wear fitted tops and a bikini on the beach. (Thank you, CrossFlowX™ abs seriesfor that!)

Six months ago I had my third baby (check out my pregnancy via a timelapse yoga flow!), but this time around, I was more mentally prepared for the weight gain because I knew CrossFlowX would be my key to losing it when it came time. Honestly, the class is so physically challenging that my sleep deprivation kept me from getting back to it right away. But the day I started practicing to teach again was the day my body started visibly changing.

Losing baby weight is not easy, but, for me, it was vital to feel like my body was mine again. To any mamas out there struggling, I invite you to remember the activities and workouts that made your body feel and look its best in the first place. You may not have time to work out as much as you used to, but the workouts that got you to your favorite version of you will be the key to getting that version of you again—only better, because now you are a mama. Congrats!

This article originally appeared on Shape.com

6 Tips to Jump-Start Your Weight Loss

The road to successful weight loss is long and bumpy. In order to maintain that loss over the long run, there are no shortcuts. There are, however, many people who’ve already braved that road successfully, and they have great advice on how to jump-start your weight loss. 

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight you know it’s rarely easy. It takes time, commitment, and learning—new habits have to be formed and bad habits broken. But with the right advice, you can jump-start your weight loss journey.

And who better to get that advice from than people who’ve been winning the weight loss battle? We asked members of the Cooking Light Diet what tips they could offer to people wanting to jumpstart their weight loss, and their responses were both enlightening and super helpful. Here’s what they had to say.

BE GOOD TO YOURSELF.
To be successful losing weight, you can’t beat yourself up when you break down and splurge one day, or don’t end up getting the exercise in you’d planned, or lose the weight you wanted to in a week. Cooking Light Diet member Nicole Kessler says that not getting frustrated by slower weight loss is key. “When I first started I only weighed myself once every 10-14 days. I used to be able to lose weight very quickly, but now that I am older, it is much slower. I knew that it would frustrate me to step on the scale after feeling so hungry and not seeing rapid results. …[Just] make sure to be loving to yourself—patient and forgiving.” Because the road to a healthier lifestyle isn’t as smooth as glass, it’s bumpy and full of potholes. Just don’t give up the journey when you hit a pothole. You’ve got this!

DEVELOP A MANTRA.
Come up with some sort of daily saying/affirmation, write it down, and recite it when you’re feeling like you might be getting off track. Lindsey Lorraine has nailed it with her 3-part mantra.

  1. Give yourself credit. Stop putting yourself down, and give yourself credit for the things you succeed at. Even if it’s small things like giving yourself credit for eating half the bag of chips. Give yourself credit.
  2. Find balance. There has to be flexibility in your life. You won’t lose weight every week, and you will lose lots of weight some weeks. You have to find a balance in what you do and eat.
  3. Strive for progress, not perfection. Try just doing a little more than last week. Even if you do one push up the entire week, well, that’s probably one more push up than the week before. You have progressed 🙂

KEEP A FOOD DIARY.
It helps to visualize what you eat and do day-to-day so you have a better understanding of what works on your journey. Carmen Leon says keeping a record of her meals has been enlightening. “I find that meal planning is everything…[and] I also keep a food diary. I write down everything I eat, my exercise for the day…this has helped me so much as well.” Accountability is important, and keeping a written record goes a long way towards achieving your goals.

BE SELF-AWARE.
“To thine own self be true.” Know your limitations, your weaknesses, your pitfalls…and make peace with them. Community member Elyssia Marshall Mathias says this is vital.

“That was key: Being honest with yourself and realizing which foods are without brakes. Then don’t buy it.”

Mathias says that no matter how much time goes by or how well she does, she knows she can’t buy “Cheetos, potato chips, Mayfield Moose Tracks ice cream, peanut butter cookies, etc.”…so she doesn’t. You know yourself better than anyone, so know which foods are nonstarters on your healthier lifestyle journey.

HAVE A SUPPORT GROUP IN PLACE.
Anne Ritchie says that having support and encouragement from others trying to reach weight loss goals has been paramount to her own success. “The thing that helped me the most in my weight loss journey is this wonderfully supportive group of people. And it’s a great ‘diet.’ Really it’s a lifestyle change so sometimes it’s tough in the beginning to rearrange your thinking about how we cook and what we eat. But that’s where this group comes in. We are all doing the same thing!”

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE GOALS.
Contrary to certain products and services that have cropped up over the years, there’s no such thing as a quick-fix when it comes to weight loss. Cooking Light Diet member Ann Marie Mantoine Shuler stresses that you have to embark on the journey one step at a time. “Don’t try to change everything all at once. …By working on one better choice until it’s a habit and then working [on] your next better choice, you will make sustainable changes.” This is a sentiment that Cyndie Moran has echoed on her way to losing over 60 pounds.* “I had a significant amount to lose and looking at the big picture was overwhelming. I made 5 pound goals. Every time I made it to the next 5 pound increment I felt like I accomplished something and would change my goal to the next 5 pounds. I also made several gradual small changes over time rather [than] a lot of big changes suddenly and my changes [became] habits a lot easier.” Set small goals so you don’t get overwhelmed by the bigger picture, and everything else will fall into place.

To learn more about the Cooking Light Diet, you can email feedback@cookinglightdiet.com, or subscribe today at CookingLightDiet.com.

*Members following the Cooking Light Diet, on average, lose 1/2 lb. per week.

I Tried the Keto Diet for 2 Weeks and Lost More Weight Than I Thought

I’m not usually a fan of prescribed “diets”—I live by more of the anti-diet mantra. Call me jaded, but the word “diet” has a bit of a negative connotation these days, with “fad” and “restrictive” usually preceding it. So, when I had the chance to give Dr. Axe’s new Keto360 program a two-week test run, I did some serious digging on the ketogenic diet and whether it’s healthy.

Here’s what I learned about the keto diet: You essentially swap a high-carb diet, which most Americans tend to eat, for a diet that’s very high in fat (the healthy kinds), moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. The idea is that you change the source from which your body gets its energy (and burns calories) from glucose (from carbohydrates) to ketones (from fat). This shift doesn’t happen after one bulletproof coffee, though. It usually takes a few days of eating this way for your body to reach ketosis—where it’s looking to fat as its first source of fuel. Once there, though, your body “will be burning fat all the time,” says Dr. Axe. “It doesn’t matter if you’re working out or sleeping, or what you’re doing, your body continues to burn fat in ketosis.”

Armed with the 411 on how the keto diet works, I felt encouraged and relieved. The concept is rooted in nutrition- and weight-loss science. And from my initial conversations with Dr. Axe, I liked knowing that ketogenic diet results are always meant to be time-bound—eating this way is not a lifestyle and that makes sense. You may have heard that the keto diet was ranked last in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 list of the best and the worst diets. While I embarked on this journey before that news came out, I would have given the keto diet a try regardless. Part of the criteria for that ranked list was whether a diet was sustainable and easy to follow—the keto diet is neither, but it’s not designed to be. “I don’t recommend people follow strict ketogenic diets for their life,” says Dr. Axe. “I recommend 30- to 90-day periods, and after that moving into more of a ‘cycling’ phase, where you can cycle in and out of keto.” Dr. Axe admits that following a keto diet will be difficult for most people, since many Americans have diets high in sugar, salt, and carbs. But he says that the potential benefits—boosting brain health, supporting muscles and overall improved performance at the gym, at the office, and in life—are worth putting in the hard work. (Just Look at the Keto Diet Results Jen Widerstrom Saw After 17 Days.) 

All of that said, I was ready to put the keto diet to the test—and in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, no less. I relished the idea of proving that eating fat doesn’t make you fat—a diet myth that I’d like to see die a faster death.

The Prep Period

All new habits need a plan. Luckily, I had the Keto360 Blueprint (which mapped out how this was all going to go down), Dr. Axe at my disposal for ALL the questions, a Keto360-approved food list, and a husband who agreed to jump on the two-week keto bandwagon with me. (Research shows that having a buddy system will increase your rate of success in fitness, a diet, and even sticking to your New Year’s resolutions.) Still, sitting down to figure out my first week of keto diet meals and snacks was daunting. (Side note: I knew that if I was going to succeed at this, I’d have to be able to buy lunch. Luckily, Dr. Axe is totally on board, saying that most café salad bars will have what I need to create a keto meal—a big spinach salad with salmon and avocado, for example.)

Keto meals seemed so heavy and rich to me, and it just wasn’t how I was used to eating. Plus, I consider myself a flexitarian, so the thought of eating more meat—and more often than I typically would—gave me pause. Dr. Axe assured me that even vegetarians could pull off a keto diet if they planned well enough. (Vegans can, too.) That said, he’s a proponent of animal products and red meat specifically, because of the iron it provides for women (who are more susceptible to deficiency) and because it can bolster energy when carbs are lacking. (These Are the Other Things Vegetarians Need to Be Aware of Before Going Keto.)

Still, I enjoy cooking and I plan my meals on the regular anyway. With a keto food list in hand and advice from Dr. Axe in my mind, I filled my grocery cart with family-size versions of what I regularly buy (apples, berries, nut butter, kale), and a lot more meat than I ever have in my cart at one time (ground lamb, chicken, REAL bacon). What was missing? Some of my usual high-carb items, like whole-grain English muffins, orange juice, butternut squash, and tortilla chips.

While I was feeling pretty confident about my ability to cut back on obvious carbs, I felt less sure about doubling up on my fat. This is one aspect of the ketogenic diet that I think a lot of people misunderstand. Keto is not just a low-carb diet, it’s a HIGH-fat diet, too.

I can tackle coconut oil and avocado just fine. But there was one thing about the next two weeks that was looming over me: the intermittent fasting (IF) Dr. Axe built into his program. (Not all keto diets include this.) On Keto360 you can choose from three different eating windows, and I went for the longest: noon to 8 p.m., which meant I wouldn’t be eating solid food until midday. I have an active fitness schedule, which needs fuel (and recovery) on a regular basis, so I was concerned I’d really miss my morning yogurt with berries and be left feeling hangry by 10 a.m. (Not to mention, some food pros feel the potential benefits of intermittent fasting might not be worth the risks.) Dr. Axe assured me that not only could I handle the IF, but that temporarily starving the body this way will allow it to heal. “When you’re fasting for a period of time, you’re essentially letting the systems of your body completely rest and recover.” And he’s right. This is exactly why sleep is the most important thing for weight loss and health, why there are such things as beauty night creams, and why rest days are crucial to meeting any fitness goal. The breaking down of food, the rapid turnover of cells, and the repairing of muscle tears all happen during rest.

Plus, it’s not like I couldn’t feed my body anything until noon. Low-carb keto drinks such as tea, water, and coffee were all options, and Dr. Axe suggested adding protein (such as his bone broth or collagen protein powders) to my liquids to help fend off hunger. So, throughout my two weeks, I experimented with Dr. Axe’s bone broth protein and collagen protein, as well as unsweetened nondairy milks such as almond and oat milk. I’ll cut to the chase on this one: While expert opinion is mixed on the bioavailability of collagen powder and its potential health benefits, through trial and error, I landed on coffee with oat milk and collagen peptides as my go-to morning brew. I also took some of Dr. Axe’s Keto Fire supplements in the morning. They contain exogenous ketones, which is a fancy way of saying bonus ketones my body doesn’t produce on its own.

With meals planned, research done, and supplements on hand, I was ready and excited for the challenge. Here’s a snippet of my two-week experience—and the keto diet results that came with it: 

Day 1: It’s 8:15 a.m. and my stomach is growling. It knows it’s time for its breakfast, and I’m depriving it. I blended my protein coffee and ran out the door. My first thought is that the vanilla flavor is a nice complement to black coffee. But toward the end of the thermos, I realize that no matter how you dice it, vanilla bone broth protein coffee is not the same as a vanilla blonde roast with skim milk.

Day 2: There’s a bagel shop less than a block from my office. I pass it every single day and never really think anything of it. Well, not today! The smell of the freshly baked everything bagels—and was that veggie cream cheese I smelled?—was wafting out the door as I walked by extra quickly. (Though I found out later that there is a way to have bread and still stay in ketosis.) 

Day 3: I’m tired AF. Like the kind of tired when you’re so exhausted you have to use your left arm to lift your right arm. Somehow, I pried myself out of bed to work out only to realize cardio has never been more hardio, so some chill strength training was going to have to do. (I Now Know These 8 Things About Exercising While On the Keto Diet.) Nonetheless, feelings of lethargy were to be expected, says Dr. Axe, who says days 2 and 3 were also the hardest for him the first time he tried keto. “Every body is different,” he assures me. “Some people feel better by day 5, others take two weeks.”

Day 4: Grabbing lunch out has been successful thus far. Today was some tilapia, zucchini, and yellow squash, and a kale and tofu side salad. I tossed on half an avocado for good fatty measure. Oh, and I notice that I’ve lost a pound already, which is definitely just water weight—carbs hold water so limiting them is a surefire way to release some fluid in your body—but nonetheless. Weight loss wasn’t my objective, but I doubt I’m alone in thinking, “I’ll take it!”

Day 5: As fate would have it, 3 p.m. rolls around and we get a message that there are cookies in the conference room. I have been snacking on keto-approved foods like Granny Smith apples (the tart green apple has way less sugar than, say, a red Gala), and full-fat cottage cheese with blueberries (where have you been all my life, snack?) with no real trouble with cravings. But just knowing there are cookies that I can’t eat makes me feel a little cheated.  (Though These Low-Carb Keto Desserts Help With That.)

Day 6: When I thought back to what I ate today, I realized that between my salad and my lamb burger, I ate an entire avocado. The Keto360 plan recommends no more than half an avocado a day, and most nutritionists would probably agree. While the creamy, green fruit is filled with a lot of healthy fats, which I need in excess to stay in ketosis, at 300 calories a pop, that can quickly add up. (One gram of fat equals 9 calories, opposed to 4 calories per gram for both protein and carbs.)

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Photo: Instagram / @alyssa_sparacino

It’s true that calories are not the only thing that matters in your diet, but if you’re trying to lose weight (which is a major reason many people try the keto diet), being mindful of combining all those high-fat foods is important for success.

Day 7: Peak exhaustion set in back on days 3 and 4, but I rounded the corner and started to feel more like myself the last couple days. Now at the halfway mark, I feel like I’ve gotten this keto meal-planning thing down—even if the food isn’t everything I hoped and dreamed. (More on that below). Plus I’m able to effectively train the way I’m used to. Over the weekend I hit the barre, the bike, and the (kettle)bells, and it feels great. I have my energy back and then some. And I simultaneously feel lighter (down another pound) and stronger.

Day 8: I’m still struggling to find a morning beverage that I enjoy and that keeps me full, so I try flavorless collagen protein powder with my coffee plus a splash of macadamia nut milk. It still isn’t the same as a French press with cream, but it’s a win! On the solid-food front, I’m starting to get a little grossed out about all the meat I’ve eaten in the past week. It’s more than I’d normally eat in three times as long. Lamb burgers, turkey lettuce-wrap tacos, chicken salads. My digestion is off (even though I take probiotics every morning), so Dr. Axe recommends his Keto Digest supplements at lunch. They contain fat-digesting enzymes to help break down the extra fat and protein that my body isn’t used to consuming, and it helps.

Day 9: I caved. I was running out the door for a morning workout and I had a hefty spoonful of peanut butter this morning, but I was hangry, okay?! While I silently wonder if that’s enough to send me out of ketosis, there’s really no guilt (food should never make you feel guilty, IMO). I need fuel for my workout—period.

Day 10: I’m starting to get sick of the same foods that I know are safe bets. And the number of times I’ve Googled: “Is _____ keto?” is getting out of hand. I’ve realized that the only real gripe I have with the keto diet is that there are so many healthy, nutritious foods that you can’t eat while on it. (Maybe that’s why experts say you should give up restrictive diets once and for all.) Carrots? Sweet potatoes? Brussels sprouts? What vitamins and nutrients am I missing out on by leaving these foods off my plate?

Day 11: The women at the salad shop accidentally put bread in my bag even though I said no bread. I threw it out on my way out the door. Today is a sad day. In other news, my energy is still kicking, I’ve been keeping up with my workouts, and I lost another pound. (I kind of hate weighing myself this often.)

Day 12: Dr. Axe assured me from the beginning that I’d be able to stick to my usual kind of workouts, and I’m happy to report that I can keep up with my favorite boxing and cycling classes without feeling dead halfway through.

Day 13: I have a love-hate relationship with this intermittent fasting thing. I think it’s “working,” and by that I mean I’m losing some weight. (Plus, improved body composition and definition can come with weight loss.) When I ask Dr. Axe if I should attribute my success to keto or IF, he says both. “I would say 80/20 it’s more strongly in the favor of keto, but intermittent fasting does help as well,” he says. The fat-burning capabilities of keto have more strength behind it when it comes to weight loss, specifically, he adds, but the intermittent fasting can be great for digestion and just feeling good.

Day 14: Today’s the last day on the Keto360 plan, so naturally I wear my Body by Butter tank to my morning workout. The class incorporated heavy lifting circuit training and cardio bursts, and I felt like I could go for round two when it was over.

In the end, I’m pleased with my keto diet results both internally and externally. I lost 4 pounds in two weeks, gained some energy and efficiency with my training, and more often than not felt that I could see better muscle tone instead of feeling bloated or weighed down. While the ketogenic diet may not be my go-to on a regular basis, Dr. Axe’s final feedback was encouraging: He says because I’ve now had a successful keto trial run, if I wanted to cycle through some keto weeks (or even a month, next time), I’d be able to easily, potentially reaching ketosis even more quickly. While going full-force back on the carbs could derail me or anyone else who wants to keto-cycle, Dr. Axe says the odds are in my favor. “Ninety percent of the time if someone’s done it once, they will get into ketosis quicker and easier the next time,” he says.

In fact, he says my already somewhat balanced diet is part of why I didn’t experience the keto flu. (Some people report feeling sick to their stomach, irritable, and dizzy, among other flu-like symptoms, for the first few days or even weeks of keto.) People who transition from a very high-carb and high-protein diet to a high-fat diet are more susceptible to these rare but extreme symptoms, he says. This is why he says he built a Feast Phase—when you’re adding fats into your diet without really restricting your carbs—into his Keto360 plan as a way to ease your body into ketosis. “If someone is a fairly good eater, and they already do have a moderate amount of fat in their diet—not high fat but moderate—typically they’ll transition pretty well,” he says.

Many people may look at my side-by-side before and after pics and think, “She was fit before and she looks the same now.” (Isn’t it strange how differently other people see you versus how you see yourself?) But eating and exercise should always be about more than the aesthetics. How do your diet and fitness habits make you feel? Food is fuel (and recovery) for the activities you like to do most. If eating well means you gain some perspective, then ending up with a better butt is just icing on the cake. BTW, I can have cake now.

This article originally appeared on Shape.com.

How to Grocery Shop on a Diet

Shoot for 95 percent lean or higher. If it’s only 90 percent lean, a 100-gram (about 3.5-ounce) portion of meat would still have 10 grams of fat per serving—not exactly low-fat. When buying poultry, choose breast (whole or ground) only.

Splurge on shrimp. This high-protein, low-fat, low-calorie option feels decadent, so pick up a shrimp cocktail ring.

This Woman Has Lost 40 Pounds in 8 Months Since Starting the Keto Diet

Four photos, four incredible changes in body size.

When it comes to relationship milestones, most of us celebrate an engagement or wedding anniversary. But last week, Sharon Sandhu took to Instagram to toast her eight-month relationship—with the keto diet.

“Happy 8 months of Keto to me,” the 34-year-old from Canada wrote in the caption. “My journey through keto started on Oct. 1st 2017 at 172lbs. Now 8 months later down over 40lbs at 131lbs. A healthy outside starts with the inside — you are what you eat.”

In the four photos she posted, Sandhu showed her followers how much her body has changed in eight months since starting this high-fat, low-carb diet plan. She credits her keto-approved meals for her amazing weight loss, but she also walks on a regular basis and is planning to enhance her exercise routine.

RELATED: Keto vs. Atkins: Which Is the Better Low-Carb Diet?

“I wanted to share my transformation so that I could inspire others,” she tells Health. “Being healthy really starts from the food you eat.”

Sandhu also uses her social media account to post photos of recipe ideas, like spaghetti squash with cheese and chicken, and keto-friendly chocolate chip cookies.

Though it was initially used to help people control epileptic seizures, the keto diet has surged in popularity as a weight-loss strategy. The goal is to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body uses fat as its primary fuel, rather than carbs.

Not all nutrition experts are totally on board with it. But many RDs say it can be helpful—and anecdotal evidence, such as Sandhu’s post, make a strong case.

4 Rules of a Healthy Carb Diet

Chocolate desserts, wine, bread pudding, even potato chips are on the CarbLovers Diet menu.

Why? When you’re forbidden from eating your favorite foods, you end up bingeing on those same foods—and consequently packing on pounds.

There’s solid research out there that reveals this, and yet we continue to follow diets that tell us mostly what we can’t eat. On CarbLovers, you won’t have to give up the one food or beverage that you really love. You can indulge (in moderation) up to once a day, every day.