I was doing keto wrong

What I want to share with you in this post is very important if you are trying to follow a very low carb, high fat diet. Ketogenic diets are becoming very popular due to the fantastic weight loss and health improvement results people are experiencing.  They really do work very well, but only if you do it properly. If you don’t you can damage your metabolism, adrenals, thyroid and upset your hormones. It happened to me so I am speaking from first-hand experience. You need to know what you are doing and you need to KEEP doing it. What was my mistake? I wasn’t eating enough fat or enough calories (and I wasn’t properly keto-adapted). Everything changed for me when I was privileged enough to spend time with US expert Keto Coach, Stephanie Person, when she visited South Africa in May.

Stephanie "the business" Person

Stephanie “the business” Person

I explained to Stephanie that I had been trying to follow a ketogenic diet but had started to get disillusioned. I wasn’t losing anymore weight, my blood sugar was higher than I wanted it to be and my waist wasn’t getting any slimmer. I informed her that even on a 1200 calorie /day LCHF diet, plus 5 to 6 days of exercise each week, the weight wasn’t budging. What she said next opened my eyes to the severity of my situation. “You are starving yourself Nicky and your body is so stressed out that your adrenals are pumping too much cortisol and that is why you can’t lose weight“. It was amazing to me that intellectually I knew this stuff and have even written articles on these issues, but couldn’t recognise the problem in myself.

I told Stephanie that I had been experimenting lately with upping my carbs and that I had experienced some benefits but I confessed that of late I was finding my old sugar and carb cravings returning and that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to avoid temptation. Intuitively I knew that upping my carbs was not sustainable for me. I needed to go back to the basics so I asked Stephanie to advise me how to get back onto a ketogenic protocol and how to do it properly this time.

What was I doing wrong?


Enjoying the spectacular view of Hout Bay from Chapman’s Peak.

When I first started following a ketogenic diet a few years ago, I was filled with the enthusiasm that comes at the beginning of any new project. I did my research and strictly followed the principles of a well-formulated ketogenic diet. I lost weight and felt great. Then life got in the way and the guidelines that I had been so diligently adhering to started to fall by the wayside. The most important ones being eating enough fat and keeping carbs very low. On a ketogenic diet one has to really make a conscious effort to consume enough fat to fuel your body and metabolism. I had been neglecting this VERY important component of a well-formulated ketogenic diet. My 1200 calories per day, instead of helping me to lose weight was doing the complete opposite. My body went into stressed out survival mode and was holding on to every single precious calorie. My other issue was that I wasn’t being strict enough to maintain a fully keto-adapted state.  I had started to consume too many carbs and was struggling to give up the dairy completely.  I was drinking the occasional glass of wine and indulging in some dark chocolate a few times a week. Coffee with cream was also a daily ritual. Stephanie helped me to identify these issues and made suggestions of how to move forward. Not everyone needs to get as strict as I have had to, but we are all different. The key is figuring out how strict YOU need to be to get the results you are aiming for.

Stephanie’s advice

Here is what she advised:

  • Keep carbs to around 25 grams per day.
  • Carbs consumed must be from low carb, leafy green and cruciferous veggies only.
  • Consume a minimum of 120 grams of fat per day (200 grams initially for the first few weeks to expedite the fat-adaptation process).
  • Include a variety of animal and plant fats into your diet.
  • Besides eating fatty meat and foods like avocado and olives, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of fats and oils to each meal.
  • Cut out all dairy, alcohol, caffeine and nuts.
  • Identify and eliminate any foods that could be causing a histamine response in your body for example nightshades such as tomatoes and peppers.
  • Drink enough water and consume salt.
  • Test your blood sugar levels often and aim for readings of 4.4.
  • Keep protein portions to half the size of your palm for each of your 3 meals.
  • Don’t try to intermittent fast for at least 3 months or until you are confident that you are fully fat-adapted.
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night and get to bed before 10 pm.
  • Find ways to manage your stress – this is critical to reduce the cortisol and bring down your blood sugar.
  • Don’t restrict your calories too severely and also not until you are sure you are fat-adapted.
  • BE PATIENT – it can take months

This last point is very important. You have to completely change your mind-set and not expect results overnight. Most people embark on a ketogenic diet for fat loss but that is the wrong focus. We need to keep our eyes on what is important – HEALTH. When first trying to get into a ketogenic state (where your body can produce ketones and can effectively use them for energy), you might even put on weight and you need to be OK with that. It is a means to an end. Fat loss will come later.

5 weeks of following Stephanie’s advice

I am thrilled with the results thus far. After years of struggling to lose any more weight my body has shed 4 kilos in 5 weeks. This is nothing short of miraculous. My cravings are once again under control. Am I fully keto-adapted? No, not yet but my blood sugar readings are looking good and my Ketonix breath meter is registering orange and sometimes red, which indicates that I am heading towards ketosis land. It hasn’t been easy and  I have to say “no thank you” a lot, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. I have also had to learn to be OK with diminished performance in my CrossFit workouts for now. Until I am fully keto-adapted that is going to be my reality. My competitive nature doesn’t like this very much but I am dealing with it. I am hoping that I will gain back my full strength and more when I am fully fuelled by precious ketones.


Late lunch at La Cucina where I got her to show me “the business”.

I believe that people come into your life at specific times to teach you something of value and to set your path straight again.  I see these moments as perfectly timed gifts from above. I am grateful for Stephanie Person who shares her wealth of knowledge with people so freely and graciously. Her YouTube channel is also a wonderful resource for those wanting to find out more about doing nutritional ketosis properly. She is an incredible example of vibrant health and physical fitness. Stephanie is almost 50 years old and looks to be in her 30’s. I don’t know about all of you, but I sure as heck want to look like her when I am that age. She is busy writing her first book and I can guarantee you I will be buying it when it is published.

Her website is https://www.stephanieperson.com.

Here is a short video of the talk she presented at our CrossFit gym. She inspired so many that night.

A short video on why coffee is not good for you when doing a ketogenic diet. Filmed on beautiful Camps Bay promenade.



About Nicky Perks

Passionately sharing information about the paleo/primal, high fat/low carb lifestyle that will rock your world! I am on my own journey to good health and a slim body. My goal? To enjoy the ride as life on this beautiful planet is just too short to do it any other way.

Posted on June 26, 2016, in Primal 101 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. How many grams of protein?
    if 120 grams of Fat and 25 grams of carbs?

    • Protein requirements can be worked out by your body weight. Calculate 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. So if you weigh 70 kilograms then 70 X 0.8 = 56 grams of protein. Remember this in not a piece of meat weighing 56 grams, it is the net protein in meat. An easier guideline is to keep meat portions to 0.5 to 1 palm size portion of protein (no fingers).

  2. HI Nicky, is it okay to have more than one bullet coffee a day?

    • Having 2 a day might be OK initially when trying to consume a lot of fat to get keto-adpated in the first place, but there is not much nutritional value in bullet proof coffees so rather eat real food. Once fat adapted, you want to create a calorie deficit in order to lose weight by burning body fat for fuel. This is when you want to reduce from 200 grams of fat per day to 120 grams. Too many bullet coffees might make it difficult to create the calorie deficit required.

  3. This is a very good article which is going to resonant with many of your readers and assist them. Lose It magazine might like something similar

  4. Nicky – great article and wonderful to see another real life example. Just to add to the discussion of the Bullet Proof coffee. i say this as a past avid coffee drinker for over 25 years to include roasting my own beans. I have had no coffee/caffeine in over 12 months and feeling great because of Stephanie’s teachings.

    Issues with Bullet Proof coffee/caffine, depending on the beans but most have micro toxins and pesticides on the beans. De-caf still has caffeine (water or chemically removed). Caffeine is an appetite suppressant which messes with our natural body satiety, caffeine over stimulate your adrenals – causing fight of flight response and limits your ability to relax, caffeine will increase your cortisol levels, can cause issues with REM Sleep, robs your body of vitamin D, calcium and other trace minerals. Can cause you to be mal-absorptive, acidity can cause stomach lining issues (leaky gut) and its a fake energy.

  5. Hello!
    I am a newbee and excited to learn more about Ketogenics. My concern is, what can I eat?!
    No dairy means, no eggs in the morning. No cheese means, not turkey and cheese rollups for lunch, no nuts means no salty snack. aaahh! Help. I need guidelines and quick.
    thank you! – Vivian

    • Hi, eggs are an excellent breakfast if you don’t have an intolerance to them. Eggs are not dairy. Many people are intolerant to dairy such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, and because of this it prevents them from losing weight and getting into ketosis. Everyone needs to experiment for themselves. Nuts can also cause a histamine reaction and the carbs in nuts add up quite quickly too. Some people can eat dairy and nuts and still get into ketosis and ultimately lose weight. If you struggle then cutting out these foods can help.

  6. Interesting post. What is/ was your experience with dairy? I had big problems, see here: https://lihfliving.com/my-progress-with-lchf/

  7. I struggle with keeping my protein low, I normally eat some sort of protein with each meal, what is a baseline amt of protein I should eat with each meal and how do I get that much fat in my diet, everything with fat seems to have protein, or do I just need to eat tablespoons of oils? lol But really, can someone give me some ideas of what to eat (non dairy) to get my fats up without piling on protein? I really struggle with this.

    • Hi Tami, a good guide for protein is for serving sizes to be the size and thickness of your palm (no fingers). Yes, you need to eat tablespoons of oils and fats to get the right amount of fat in. Aim for 2 tablespoons of added fats and oils with each meal, on top of your fatty cuts of meat and fatty foods like avocado and olives. So for example, put 2 tablespoons of olive oil over your salad or 2 tablespoons of melted butter over your veggies.

  8. Great information, I accidentally ran out of almost all dairy, that I turned to for fat intake. I liked heavy whipping cream for my coffee & deserts, by not having it I stopped drinking coffee & in 2 weeks I noticed I the scale moving down , which had been stuck for over 6 weeks! Now I do eat dairy but in small quantities mainly to add a burst of flavor instead of depending on it for my main source of fat!

  9. Yer keto for me is both really simple and infinitely complicated. I am currently training for a marathon on a keto diet, which brings up new issues for me daily!!

  10. Love this post, a ton of helpful information! Thank you!!

  11. Love this. I wasn’t eating enough fat. That was my problem. I started making and eating coconut oil based fat bombs and they have helped a lot!

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