I’ve been on my own keto journey for almost 3 1/2 years now. Yes, I’ve lost weight (YAY!) and yes, my health and livity have improved significantly. I still do all the things I used to do when I was heavier (hike, road trips, cook, etc.) but the difference is that I move around with so much more ease, I enjoy food without guilt or any uncomfortable after effects, my moods are generally more stable and even, and I sleep way better. I’ve been privileged to work one on one with various people who feel that keto is the route to weight loss and wellness for them, guiding them as to what they could choose to eat in furtherance of their personal goals based on their proclivities and lifestyle, and serving as an accountability partner as they break old habits and form new ones. It never gets old seeing them come off high blood pressure and diabetes meds, hearing them report on being able to sleep comfortably again without acid reflux or sleep apnea. I never get tired of seeing their before and after pics, with them modelling new clothing with a broad smile on their faces. And I have been thinking: what do the ones who win with keto have in common? What are their critical success factors?
What do the ones who win with keto have in common?
What are their critical success factors?
Keto Success Factor #1: They understand & accept that they have to make changes.
Some people see their friend or relative lose weight with keto and think: I should try that! They jump in and say “I want to be like X,Y,Z” but they don’t say “I want to do what Y,Y,Z did.” Do you see a difference? They want change but they haven’t necessarily contemplated that they have to MAKE change in order to GET change. So they get into keto without understanding what this way of eating calls for in order to work and without that understanding, when old habits loom large, they buckle, cave and fail. Those that win start off with an unshakeable mindset that change is inevitable and demands action on their part.
You’ve got to make change to get change
Keto Success Factor #2: They are intentional with their Strategy & form a Plan
Some people do keto on their own and succeed. I am one such person. I read, watched videos, devoured content on keto from various subject matter experts and charted my own course. And it worked! I’ve had strangers come up to me in the supermarket here in Jamaica and proceed to call me by name and tell me thanks for showing them how to lose weight through my blog posts or my Instagram posts! And yet still there are others who engage me as a guide and coach as they simply find it easier to have someone like me listen to them and simply produce a plan that’s tailor made for them. Bottom line: they plan what they’re going to eat and how & where they’re going to get the food. They have decided that cutting carbs is their strategy for losing weight and improving wellness.
NOTE: One size does not fit all. There is more than one way to lose weight. But I understand the science behind why so many of gain weight and have trouble taking it off and keeping it off, and I am convinced that eating low-carb or keto addresses the root cause of why we struggle so. I answer frequently asked questions about keto here. And that same root cause is behind so many of the non-communicable diseases plaguing modern life: hypertension, diabetes, PCOS, arthritis, cardio vascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. This is the most effective and least painful way I’ve found to lose weight and keep it off. I enjoy living this way.
Have you decided that you will lose weight and improve health via another route? You will find that the Critical Success Factors I speak about in this post are transferable and relevant too!
And having decided that they are going to achieve their goals, they form a plan about WHAT they’re going to eat, and WHERE and HOW they’re going to get it. They may get a free low-carb meal plan via Google, or they may pay someone to generate one for them, or they may create their own based on their own knowledge and research.
Decide on your HOW… HOW will you take the weight off and keep it off? What is your strategy? Can you sustain it? Will it work?
Keto Success Factor # 3: Their WHY is compelling
Wanting to lose weight like X,Y,Z may not be the most compelling reason for wanting to lose weight. I start every session with a new coachee by asking: “What is it that you want to achieve why you’re prepared to disrupt your life by cutting out carbs?” It is always good to be very clear about what your goals are… your WHY. I find that people who need to correct a health issue tend to be very focused or intentional. They are determined to reverse diabetes or hypertension, or they want to get off the medications they’re on. I’ve had coachees who were living with severe inflammation that expensive medications weren’t helping and they were desperate for relief. Or the WHY may be pure vanity, as it was in my case. I hated how I was looking and that was a compelling enough reason for me to make change. More than 3 years down the road I’ve lost more weight than I initially set out to, but I’ve stuck with it for the health benefits: I feel AMAZING every day in my own skin.
Note: I’ve encountered people with serious health issues that were not able to hack it on keto. I think about these people who didn’t go the distance and I have to respect that we all have the power of CHOICE. Some people simply decided that they are willing to live with their condition while continuing to eat and drink the way they want to. Shrugs. C’est la vie! And there are some that would really like to be healthier, who accept that making change will get them there, but are literally unable to make the change. I think that in those cases there may be the added complexity of food addiction.
A Note on Food Addiction
Food addiction is a very complex, controversial subject, but the more I research it, the more I am convinced that it is real. Tackling food addiction is even more difficult than tackling alcoholism, cigarettes or gambling. We can do without all of those, and they come with a social stigma that encourages forsaking them altogether. But food, well we NEED food. We’re surrounded by food. It’s socially acceptable to eat. Breaking a food addiction can be done, but it first demands accepting that there is addiction at play and taking specific actions to help break the addiction: eliminating sugar altogether, cognitive behavioural therapy to get to the root cause of why food is a crutch, getting support (yes, like Alcoholics Anonymous) and supplementing to help rebuild essential neurotransmitters in the brain to break the addiction.
How badly do you want it? How COMPELLING is your WHY?
Keto Success Factor #4: They Embrace Accountability
Many people start a weight-loss initiative thinking that their willpower will take them through. I spoke about the fallacy of willpower here. “Willpower is an expendable commodity” declared my good Sister Friend LaRonda who changed her own life at age 68. I shared LaRonda’s remarkable story here. You can move mountains on a good day! But what happens when you’re stressed and nothing is going the way it ought to? What happens when you’re depressed and anxious? Willpower goes out the door. This is when accountability and support matter. If you have someone that is watching you and watching out for you, you are more likely to stay on track with your decisions. Facts! My clients who religiously send me pics of their food always do well. It is not the sending of the pics that’s magic. The fact that they send the pics belies a mindset that demonstrates a willingness to be held accountable, a firm determination to stay the course.
So even if you don’t have a guide and coach like me, who you’re sending pictures of your food & drink to, who’s cheering you on from the sidelines, the person who is winning likely has a friend they’re doing this with or they’re part of a support group online. In my case, my then 14 yo son and I were doing this together. I knew I couldn’t wimp out on him, and that kept me compliant! I formed the Caribbean Keto Tribe on Facebook and people use it for inspiration, support and even to hold themselves accountable by posting their goals and their food. Have you joined yet? What are you waiting on! Join the Caribbean Keto Tribe right here!
Embrace accountability! Support keeps you going when willpower fails.
Keto Success Factor #5: They don’t look for loopholes
I once had a client who asked me one day: “How many carbs are in a patty?” LOL! For those who don’t know, a patty is a Jamaican hand-held meat pie, a crust made with wheat flour and filled with beef or chicken or fish or vegetables. They’re delicious and definitely not low-carb by any stretch of the imagination! I knew right then and there that her success was going to be limited. Keto is a way of eating that calls for avoiding gluten, grains and sugar, in addition to being low-carb. If someone trying to lose weight on keto is asking for workarounds and loopholes in the first couple days, it simply means that they are not prepared to make change in order to get change. The person looking for loopholes is the same one counting net carbs,(Don’t attack me please! I’m simply saying that the ones I’ve worked with that count TOTAL carbs always do better) justifying cheats before they’ve lost ten pounds and moaning and obsessing about what they “can’t” eat anymore. HUH?
Those who win accept that they are grown folk with agency who have chosen to embark on this way of eating in order to achieve specific goals, that no one is holding a gun to their head and they’ve decided to avoid certain foods and embrace others. They don’t waste precious energy looking back or looking for loopholes which will sabotage their efforts. They are fixed on doing what it takes to get to where they want to go. They have assumed charge over their choices without regret.
Looking for loopholes indicates a lack of commitment to making change in order to get change
Keto Success Factor #6: They actually do some cooking
No, you don’t have to be able to cook or like to cook in order to lose weight on keto. But I have observed that those who win inevitably do some sort of meal prep. This world is NOT a low-carb world (yet) and so accessible, appropriate food is not always available. And SUGAR is put into so many dishes, even where you least expect it! It THRILLS me when my clients, who never had a meal prep habit, tell me how amazed they are at their new cooking skills! You see, meal prep doesn’t have to be hard, complex and laborious. I share some of the same meal prep hacks I share with my clients here. Your chances of success increase tremendously when YOU are in control of the food you put into your own mouth. Don’t let the thought of having to cook frighten you away. You can get by on 2 or 3 days meal prep per week with the hacks I share, and my ideas are simple, delicious and 100% low-carb. Promise.
Become your own cook and lose weight. Facts.
Keto Success Factor #7: Become your own best food advocate
The people who I’ve worked with who do well very early on become their own best food advocate. They ask questions and they ask for what they want. To become your own best advocate you have to understand why you choose to eat the foods you do, and why you eschew others. Read, watch videos from the experts or get a coach.
- Ask questions about the food being served to you: Is the meat breaded? Is flour in the sauce?
- Ask for what you want: Can I get a side of grilled vegetables instead of the potato please?
- Read the back of the pack: The front label is mere advertising. Head straight for the nutritional panel at the back, look for serving size and carbs per serving. Scrutinize list of ingredients. Make a decision or a choice.
- Offer to bring a dish: Invited out for dinner? Ask if you can contribute and bring your own keto dessert to share !
Keto Success Factor #8: Consistency always wins
Consistency will always win ahead of the one-off grand gesture! Do the ones who win on keto NEVER ever come off plan? Are they 100% compliant 100% of the time? NO! But they never give up even when they come off plan. They quickly get back on the wagon and so while they may stall or sometimes even gain a few here and there, their overall trend line heads down, the way they want it to go. I spoke here about two “cheaters” on keto: one that was intentional and one that slipped and kept sliding. Take what you want from this story. There are lessons a-plenty. The ones who win accept from the outset that in order to win this is going to have to be a life-style change. It is not about 7 days of green juice or 10 days of cabbage soup. It is about cutting carbs in order to change their hormonal context and give their own bodies a chance to burn fat for energy. They UNDERSTAND that this is now a way of life, and they are on a journey, working out how best to stay consistent and compliant within the boundaries of their own lifestyle and nature. Know that whatever you do, a slip from plan is never the end of the story. Get up (as quickly as possible) and make your next meal low-carb.
Consistency is the secret sauce: keep going! This is a way of life, not a 7-day detox event.
A note on exercise…
Do you notice that exercise is not part of the critical success factors? IT’S NOT! Exercise rocks! And it is great for many, many things, but weight loss is not one of those things. I have an exercise habit and I encourage you to start one for yourself. But if weight loss if your primary goal right now, recognize that you will never be able to outrun a poor diet and that weight loss is 80% FORK and a mere 20% WORK. You will be better served by focusing your energies on getting your diet right.