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.

Please check out my opportunity page of this blog if, like me, your finances took a knock during Covid or if you are keen to earn some passive income. It is definitely worth looking into.

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. 43 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. learningswithlittlefoot

    Great advice! Thank you!

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

  12. 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!

  13. the20somethingexistentialcrisis

    Awesome post!

    This made me realize I’m not getting enough fat in the afternoons which is why I feel kind of sluggish and ravenous when I get home. Need to make me some fat bombs for the afternoon, pronto!

  14. Thanks for the great information. I started on a Ketogenic Diet and I am still learning about it. I have a question: Is it okay to have 2 tbsp of Flaxseed with 2 tbsp of heavy cream and 1/4 cup of coconut milk after my workout as breakfasts? Also, during my workout which is 5 days a week, I take BCAAs and a scoop of whey protein mixed with water.

    • Hi Cintia, flaxseed meal, cream and coconut milk are all fine. It would be good to include some protein with your breakfast too. Perhaps make a smoothie with those ingredients and add a raw egg or some whey protein. BCAAs are also fine. Are you checking your blood level of ketones as well as your blood sugar? This will help you to determine whether you can handle dairy. For some people dairy (which includes whey) can prevent them from keto-adapting. If one’s blood sugar is above 4.4 mmol (even if ketones are above 0.5), they will struggle to keto-adapt since your body will always preferentially burn the glucose in your blood stream. Also check to see what is inside your whey protein powder. Are there any nasties like artificial sweeteners and soya?

      • Hi Nicky, thank you. I have not yet checked my ketone levels. I have just started on this diet and here we go i didn’t even realize that my whey protein shake contains milk and soy. I am planning to switch my protein powder for a plant based one. I will check with urines strips to see the ketone levels. So this makes me wonder how can I eat cheese and heavy cream but yet not milk? What is the difference, isn’t cheese and heavy cream dairy? I see there is a lot for me to still learn and I look forward to your answers.
        thank you.

      • Hi Cintia, you can eat all forms of dairy provided you have no intolerance to it and that it doesn’t inhibit the production and utilisation of ketones. In some people dairy can spike glucose and insulin quite a bit due to the IGF1 it contains. You will need to experiment. For some people even caffeine and nuts can be a problem for full keto-adaptation. Keep going, keep testing and you will be able to refine the perfect keto diet for you. Having said that, if you don’t feel good doing ketosis after a few months, then don’t force the issue. There are other ways to be healthy and lose weight.

  15. Thank you! I’ve been on the keto diet for a couple of months and haven’t seen much difference and I kept searching online for what I might be doing wrong. Your diet before you made the switch sounds a lot like mine. I end up heavily relying on cream in my coffee to get more fat. I try to stick to taking coconut oil but the texture gets to me. I will take your advice into consideration and try to adapt as best I can. See if I get better results on the diet. I’ve been getting frustrated since my boyfriend also switched to the diet and he’s losing weight like crazy while I stay the same.

  16. what is your calorie goal? When I add that much fat my calories skyrocket to the point that its nearly impossible to get a deficit.

    • Hi there, Stephanie would say that the goal in the first 6 weeks or so shouldn’t be fat loss but fat adaptation. Hence why the 200 grams of fats as this helps the body to switch over from being a sugar burner to a fat burner. Once you think you are fat adapted then you can dial down on the fat. This gives your body the chance to start burning stored body fat for fuel instead of dietary fat. Eventually to lose weight you will need to create a deficit. The only macro you really have to play with then is fat as protein and carbs should stay the same.

  17. Hi Nicky, I hope you’ll see this even though it’s been months. Before I list any info, here are my questions: How long did it take you to reach good glucose readings while following Stephanie’s recommendations?

    I started Keto Steph’s Way exactly a week ago tomorrow. I eat as clean as she recommends – no dairy, no nuts, no seeds, no nightshades, no caffeine (the one easy thing on the list, I’m not a coffee person at all), only animal fats (lard and butter) plus 2 to 4 tbsps of coconut oil in my 2 teas, 200+ grams of fat daily which is making my calories scary as I’m 40 pounds overweight, and half a palm sized protein portions from pork and dark chicken meat as beef is inedible in my country (we evidently only keep breeds meant for work as opposed to human consumption, so meat is nearly impossible to chew even after pressure cooker treatment).

    The issue is my morning glucose readings have consistently ranged from 5.1 to 5.6. I measure regularly throughout the day as well (90 to 120 mins after each meal) and I’ve only caught it at 4.3 once. (Having the exact same meal again the next day gave me 5.4.) The rest of the time it’s in the 5.1-5.4 range. I could cut my protein even more but I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stand it. Even now, I’m not happy on fatty green salads or fatty steamed / fried cruciferous veg plus extra fat plus so little meat I feel like I’m having none at under 20 grams of protein per meal (what Steph advises for women). I’m never hungry, true, but I’m not happy with and during my meals. They feel like a chore. My glucose refusing to budge in the right direction isn’t helping that frustrated mindset either 😉

    I’m asking how long it took you to regulate your blood sugar because as it’s only been a week AND I’m already eating clean, I’m not sure what I should do. Do I look for culprits and tweak things every time I see the same damn neoglycogenic numbers? What is there left to tweak considering how clean I’m eating? Or do I persist with my current menu for 6 to 8 weeks in case those numbers are my body freaking out because I’ve taken away its beloved sugar; higher glucose values are supposed to be stubborn and will only come down slowly?

    I keep looking, but nobody I found worth reading / watching seems to talk about that part of keto adaptation.

    Thank you for reading. Hoping you can respond.

    • Hi there, I must be honest and say that I don’t follow a ketogenic diet anymore. I found it difficult to sustain and I stopped enjoying my meals. I was also struggling with my CrossFit workouts and was feeling very weak on such low carb. Even after 6 weeks I did’t feel strong as I don’t think I had fully adapted. But to answer your question, it took me a good few weeks of being very strict before glucose went into the 4’s. It will also make a difference if you are insulin resistant. Good sleep is critical too. If stress levels are high this can also affect things as cortisol raises glucose. Her protocol definitely works but is hard to sustain. I enjoy eating more protein now and not having so much fat and have at least 70 grams of carbs per day to support my workouts. Weight loss might be slower but at least I can enjoy my food and have a life. One has to experiment and find what works well. Ketosis is just one way to lose weight. For any weight loss to occur there has to be a calorie deficit. The right diet for you is one that will allow you to do this as effortlessly as possible without feeling too hungry or weak. So even when in ketosis, one still has to create a calorie deficit if your goal is weight loss. Too much fat (and therefore calories) will prevent weight loss. Ketosis works for many people because it naturally cuts appetite quire a lot. Others see good fat loss results with slightly higher protein, lots of veggies and moderate amount of fats. I just think it is very important to still enjoy your food as it really is one of life’s pleasures.

  18. This is very informative. I was wondering how to include IF into my keto journey, and based on the tips above, I’m not ready for it.

  19. I have a question? Why cut out caffeine, dairy and nuts? I do Keto and coffee with lots of creamers is my number one go to in the am, so if i cut those off too i might lose my mind

    • Hi Ana, not everyone needs to. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and it raises their blood sugar levels. Dairy can spike insulin and some people are intolerant to nuts and don’t know it and therefore struggle to keto-adapt. Personally, I am not doing keto anymore as I found it too restrictive and struggled with my CrossFit workouts. I still follow a low carb diet, but I am not extreme with carbs and fats. A more moderate approach is working better for me.

  20. landscapedziner

    Fantastic information!!! Been wondering why after months not getting better. Feel sluggish and tired most of the time and eating keto. Hair loss and dry skin also. Was about to call it quits. Sounds like a few tweaks are needed and now I know where they need to be made. Thanks Stephanie!

  21. Thank you for this article!!! I was doing Keto wrong for 2 months when I found this. Now on Steph’s protocol for 2 months and doing great. Much healthier and working on being fat adapted. Can’t thank you enough!

  22. Very interesting article, thank you! I started on the keto diet 7 weeks ago after a routine blood test showed me to be pre-diabetic (HbA1c 6.1%). I was pretty shocked as I was slim and fit (not a TOFI) and active and ate pretty healthily. Still, it was obvious that something had to be done to get the numbers down so I did lots of online reading and came to the conclusion that LCHF was the way to go. I have lost 6lb in weight and really don’t want to lose any more as my BMI is 18.5 but find it tricky to eat as many calories as I should. I exercise regularly, both cardio and weights and have enough energy so that is not an issue. Am not in ketosis yet and my glucose monitor still shows raised BS levels most of the time – I have not once hit a 4, always 5s, 6s, and often 7s or even 8s at peak times. I am not dairy intolerant and would hate to give it up as I eat Greek-style yogurt and kefir (both home made) and also high fat dairy like cream and cheese (hoping that it is correct that saturated fats are not a problem in this context). I also depend on nuts and seeds for fat, but within the protein guidelines for my weight. My question is: what more can I do to influence my blood glucose readings? I don’t really care whether I eat keto or not, I just want a healthy blood glucose level!

    • Hi Carla, are you getting those high numbers fasted? I experienced this too for a while. If they don’t come down then try including some healthy veggies carbs at night or after working out like butternut, sweet potato etc. Half a cup should be sufficient a few times a week. Sometimes keto can be too stressful for some people and this raises cortisol which elevates blood sugar. I no longer follow keto and do more low carb, healthy fat. I found keto unrealistic for me to sustain and it was causing adrenal fatigue issues as I work out 5 times a week doing CrossFit which can be pretty intense. Try a Berberine supplement to help with glucose control. It has been shown to be more effective than metformin and without all the side effects.

      • Thank you for your reply! I find my fasting numbers are usually between 5.6 and 6.something so still higher than they should be. I have wondered if cortisol could have been the reason for the raised glucose levels all along but am unlikely to find out officially as I doubt if the NHS will extend to testing that unless I have obvious adrenal fatigue which I don’t think I can claim. Never heard of Berberine so will certainly look into that, thanks.

      • You might find this short video helpful. https://youtu.be/1xq3qGww9-o

  23. Everybody always tells you what not to eat. The hardest part to me and I am sure to many others is What the hell do I eat!

  24. Hello, I’m new to this new way of eating however I’m concerned I’m not getting the calculation correct as to how many calories, carbs,protein and fats I need to consume on a daily basis. I tried making a “food journal” of everything I ate yesterday and it looks as if I’m not getting the correct nutritional values on foods w/no labels on them such as chicken, salads etc. I want to do this right. I’ve been heavy all my life and even after gastric bypass surgery (in 2000) I have gained about 50 lbs back that I need to lose. Any suggestions will help. Thank you.

    • Hi Rebecca, my advice would be to play around with macros and percentages and calories until you find the sweet spot. Bear in mind that even once found, you will need to adapt and change things ups as you go along. Nothing stays static for very long. If you aren’t using MyFitnessPal already then give that a go to track your food intake. I am not keto anymore as I found it very difficult to sustain. I am still low carb though. Focus on protein and lots of veggies and don’t have too much fat as this can stop your body burning its own fat stores for energy.

  25. Thanks, lots of information. Have to say coffee with cream is a must for me….. Other than that I can adjust. Definitely will share . Thank you for caring. MsPat

  1. Pingback: Day 7: Eating 200g Of Fat

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