We all have made mistakes in our life and in what we eat. I’m certainly no exception to making these mistakes.
I’ve made mistakes with my journey into the ketogenic diet, and I’ve seen other people made a lot of these mistakes as well. The following is what I consider the top 10 common Keto diet mistakes.
1. Being Afraid of Fat
We all have been lied to that fat is bad, and it’s going to kill us. Ancel Keys started this dogma decades ago, and the low-fat mantra has prevailed ever since.
Doctors and researchers tell us if we keep eating fat our arteries are going to become clogged and we are going to die of heart attacks. It’s just not true, and it’s based on weak science.
To be successful on the Keto diet, you have to get over this fear. Our bodies thrive on using healthy fats. Our livers break down fat into ketones which are the basis of the ketogenic diet. It’s a much cleaner burning fuel for our bodies.
Satiety is the biggest benefit of eating enough of these healthy fats. You will find that when you are consuming enough healthy fats, you won’t need to snack between meals.
You may also find that you need to eat fewer meals because you are so satisfied. You can these start to intermittent fast and only eat within a 6-8 hour window which leads to many other health benefits.
Along with this satiety, you will find that when you are consuming enough healthy fats, you won’t be as tempted to cheat. Let’s face it; it’s hard to stay on plan if you are ravenous. But if your body feels like it’s satisfied, you are less likely to reach for that sugary cheat treat.
2. Not Enough Salt
This is along the same lines of the fat-fearing, but you can’t be afraid of salt in the ketogenic diet. When you are a glucose burner, your body requires a lot of water to use and store glycogen.
However, ketones are a much cleaner burning fuel, and they don’t require a large amount of water. So your body starts getting rid of this excess water which is one of the reasons why you lose a lot of weight in a short period of time on the Keto diet.
In the process of dumping this water through your kidneys also release sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
This electrolyte loss is the most common cause of what people call “keto flu”. It can also lead to things like heart palpitations, constipation, headaches, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
By upping your sodium intake, you limit this loss of electrolytes through the kidneys. I recommend doing this through good salts like Himalayan pink salts and good quality sea salts. Both of these have extra minerals that aren’t found in regular table salt.
You can also use so-called “lite” salts. These are usually 50% salt and 50% potassium which can also help with the potassium loss.
3. Too Much Dairy
Heavy cream, hard cheeses, butter, and cream cheese is delicious and consider a staple in the Keto diet. The problem is not everyone can tolerate dairy, and this can lead to weight stalls.
According to Maria Emmerich in her “30 Day Ketogenic Cleanse” book, half of the people she helps have some intolerance to dairy. This intolerance can lead to inflammation in the body. Inflammation drives up cortisol which hurts weight loss and overall health.
I tend to agree with Maria on this, and I know this has been a mistake that I have made several times in my ketogenic journey. Whenever I get into a routine of too much cream in my coffee or cheese on my foods, I find that I just don’t lose weight or worse yet, gain.
I also think most people don’t even know they have a dairy problem. They are blaming their weight loss plateaus on other things in their diet or life.
I recommend going dairy free for 30 days. Then slowly add back in some dairy to see how you feel and how it affects you on the scale. You might be surprised by what you find.
4. Not Having a Big Enough “Why”
This is another mistake I see not only on the Keto diet but other diets as well. Why are you on the Keto diet?
If your reason is just so you can lose some weight and look good, then it’s probably not going to work or last. When you get to a rough patch, and you will, you are much more likely to quit or give in and go back to your old ways.
I think the more sick, more unhealthy you are the easier this is to do. Let’s face it, if you have type 2 diabetes, you probably have a better “why” than someone that just wants to lose 20 lbs to look good in their summer bikini. But that doesn’t mean you have to be on death’s doorstep to come up with a better “why.”
I recommend digging in and coming up with a better “why.” To do this, ask yourself why every time you come up a reason for losing weight and getting healthy. When you find an answer for that, ask why again.
Keep going down that rabbit hole like that annoying kid that keeps asking you why every time you tell them something. Eventually, you will come up with something more like this.
“I want to lose weight and get healthy because I don’t want to live a short life full with limited physical and mental capabilities. I’ve seen my love ones die and suffer from complications of diabetes.
I don’t want to be a carb addict anymore and give into those addictions that make me feel like crap. I want to be in charge of my health and what food I consume.
I want to live a long and healthy life full of physical activity and mental health. I refuse to be confined to a wheelchair or bed in my later years. I don’t want to give into dementia or Alzheimer's.
I want to be a part of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s lives until the day I day. I want to truly be the best version of myself that I can be.”
This "why" is just an example. Yours will obviously be different and personalized.
Once you have your “why,” I want you to write it down. Physically write it down. There is a better connection in your brain when you physically write something down.
Now put the “why” where you can see it daily. This can be the bathroom mirror, refrigerator, or anywhere that you can look at it and read it each day. Better yet, write it down each day.
This will help you when things get tough, and you want to have a cheat. Is that cheat worth more to you than your “why”? If you have a big enough “why,” you are more like to answer no to the cheat and stay on track.
5. Eating Too Much Protein
This one is a big one for me. You mean I can have bacon and ribeyes? That was was my initial reaction with the Keto diet.
Oh, those glorious fatty meats. I could have days where all I consume is meat.
And while there isn’t a thing as an essential carbohydrate, it doesn’t mean that you can just consume all the meat and proteins you want.
Instead, proteins should be around 25% of the calories that we consume daily. A better way of thinking about this is to try to hit around 0.6 to 0.8 gram of protein for every pound of lean body mass you have.
For me, this is around 90-120 grams of protein a day. You can figure out yours by finding your lean body mass here.
This gram total is just a goal, and you shouldn’t worry too much if you go slightly over or under this total each day. Don’t think of it in the same way where we have a stricter limit on our daily carbohydrate intake.
The problem with eating too much protein is our bodies can convert this excess protein into glucose. This glucose conversion becomes the same problem as consuming too many carbs in our diet.
Another mistake with this protein intake is consuming too much of it in one meal. People that eat one meal a day are going to have more problems with excess protein than someone who breaks this up over a couple of meals during the day.
Daily protein intake is highly individualized, and the only real way you are going to know if you are getting too much protein is to test with blood ketone strips. Check before and after meals with high protein and days with one meal a day.
Does it affect your nutritional ketone levels? If so adjust.
Finally, I just want to add that protein is definitely needed on any diet. There are more problems with not getting enough protein then there is with getting too much protein. Still, I recommend not getting too much protein and stalling your weight loss.
You know you're supposed to eat multiple times a day? The more, the better, right? Wrong.
If you are following the ketogenic diet and sticking to the plan with plenty of healthy fats, the opposite is true. You are going to be eating fewer meals not more.
When you are a glucose burner, you need these snacks because your body can only store so much of it at a time. This glucose runs out quickly, and you need more of this crap fuel. Your body can’t access the real fuel storage; it’s body fat.
That’s not the case when you are burning ketones and fat. Even leaner individuals store tens of thousands of calories of fuel on their body in the form of fat. When you are fat adapted, you can access these fat reserves.
I find that for a lot of people starting out on the Keto diet, they want to know what they can have for a daily snack. Yes, you can have snacks when first starting out if it helps you adapt to the ketogenic diet, but this needs to be one of the first things you cut out.
The good news is if you listen to your body and hunger signals this will happen naturally as the fat keeps you satisfied from meal to meal.
The other problems with excessive snacking are it can lead to excess calories and carbohydrates. I also see where people will use these snacks for artificial sweet treats which I feel like slow down the getting over the carb addiction process.
7. Habit Eating
Humans are creatures of habit. We like routines, and if we look at our lives, we do a lot of the same things at the same time and location each day.
For me, I found that I naturally ate in front of the television each night. It wasn’t that I was necessarily hungry, but my mind was conditioned to eat something while watching TV habitually.
So how did I fix this? First, I asked myself if I was truly hungry. Most of the time I wasn’t, and I just ignored it, and the craving went away. But if I decided that I was indeed hungry, I got up and ate at the kitchen table.
That way I didn’t associate eating and watching television together. You also see this location/activity eating when driving, the breakroom at work, or events you normally associate with food like the going to the movies.
Another habit is eating at a particular time. Lunch at noon and supper at six. We condition our mind and bodies to expect food around these times regardless if we are hungry or not.
We look up at the clock and see it’s almost noon so we must be hungry right? Not necessarily. We need to truly ask ourselves if we are hungry or do we just think we're hungry just because of the time on the clock.
You can easily skip a meal or move it back to a later time once you are fat adapted. Remember, those tens of thousands of calories we have stored up and can access above? We will be fine without eating at noon every day.
These are habits and not hunger signals. The good news is new habits can be relearned with a little work and practice.
8. Not Enough Sleep or Handling Stress
Isn’t a diet about what we eat? Yes, it is but other things can affect how easy it is for you to lose weight and sleep is one of those big things.
We live in a busy, stressful society nowadays. We sit in traffic for hours daily. We have work stress and more stress when we get home with the family. Then to make matters worse, we stay up late watching television just to “unwind.”
If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it puts your body under stress. Whenever your body is in stressful situations it tends to hold onto weight.
I find that when I get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, the weight comes off much easier. Likewise, when I’m not dealing with a bunch of stress both in my personal life and work, I lose more weight and feel better.
Also, when we are tired or more stressed, we tend to make poor choices. It’s much easier to grab the crap foods in these situations or feel like we need them for a little energy boost.
So get to bed early. Practice some meditations or remove yourself from stressful situations. There are numerous apps these days that can give you guided meditations, and it takes less than 10 minutes a day.
By getting more sleep and eliminating or dealing better with stress daily, you will find your weight loss and overall health will improve.
9. Not Personalizing the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet isn’t a one size fits all diet. It has to be individualized. This personalization applies to a lot of diets. Many people don’t like this or don’t want that responsibility.
They want to know exactly how many carbs then can have in a day? How much protein? How much fats? Just give me an exact plan, and I will stick to it.
On the flip side, there are the people that think just because a particular food is on the approved Keto-friendly list then can consume all they want of it. That’s not the case. See the dairy mistake above.
If you want to create the best version of yourself, then you have to be willing to be your science experiment. Can you have 50 carbs a day and stay in ketosis? Maybe, but you also might find out that you have to limit it to less than 10 when first starting out because you are so insulin resistant.
How does dairy affect you? How much protein is enough? Too much? How much sleep do I need each day? Do I have a food allergy to a particular food like eggs?
Only you can answer these question because you are different than everyone else. Use my guidelines for the Keto diet or anyone else’s guidelines as just that, guidelines. They aren't hard fast rules that you can’t or shouldn’t personalize.
Part of taking control of your health and weight loss is taking responsibility. You have the greatest interest in your health. It’s not your doctor’s responsibility; it’s yours. Take responsibility for that, and you will find the power of being in control.
10. Having Cheats
“I’ve been so good that I deserve a cheat.” “I have to have a cheat meal once a week.” “I need to carb refeed”. There’s a thousand more like this.
If you go into the Keto diet with the mindset of having cheat days or meals, I feel like you are going to fail long term. It’s just a poor mindset and ultimately cheats lead to failure.
The problem with cheats on the ketogenic diet is it throws you out of ketosis. It can take days even weeks to get back into ketosis. And just about the time you are back into producing and using ketones, you cheat again.
And with cheats come carb cravings. These can last for days and make it easier to cheat again. Remember, you are a carb addict. You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic to have a cheat drink once in a while would you? So what makes you think it’s ok for you?
If you want to break the addiction and achieve better health overall, you need to realize that you can’t be cheating.
Now am I saying that you should just give up and quit if you cheat? Absolutely not. There is a good chance it will happen. We are human, and we have moments of weaknesses. Just get right back on track and do your best to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But if you are going into this with the plan of cheating, then I don’t recommend even starting the ketogenic diet. Do some other diet that is more forgiving when you “cheat” because the Keto diet isn’t it in my opinion.
There are several more common Keto diet mistakes that I have done and seen, but these are my top 10. I may do a follow-up article and more in the future.
What is your biggest mistake that is on this list or ones that didn’t make my list? I’d like to hear about it in the comments below.