One of the buzziest—and most contentious—diets to sweep the wellness scene in recent history is the ketogenic (or keto) diet. This eating plan is low-carb and high-fat and can make you drop weight like crazy but also causes intense cravings, mood swings, hormonal fluctuations, and something deeply unpleasant called the "keto flu." The diet works by cutting out carbs and sugar, quickly depleting the body's energy stores and forcing it to find alternative sources of fuel, which, for the brain and nervous system, would be ketones, a product that runs on fat. By eating a diet high in the fats found in foods like coconut oil, nuts, avocado, and fatty fish, your body starts to produce ketones at a high rate. When there are enough ketones in the bloodstream, you enter a metabolic state called ketosis (the end goal of those on the keto diet), where your body burns fat but not muscle.
The keto diet is controversial for women in particular because our hormones, cravings, and calorie requirements differ from men's. For that reason, women's keto experiences are sometimes more fraught. To hear first-person stories from real women who've tried going keto (or are currently on the diet), we tapped members of The/Thirty's Facebook group and scoured Reddit to find folks willing to share. Keep scrolling for six women's accounts of what it's like to go keto.
"My husband and I hopped on the keto train for about four months prior to our wedding. Combined with regular workouts, we both shed pounds, toned up, felt great, and were overall super happy with the results! We don’t completely abide by it now as neither of us felt it would be sustainable in the long term, but we still loosely follow some of the guidelines that we felt benefitted each of us most." — Emma
"I think it would be valuable to have a perspective other than 'everything is great, my life is amazing and I lost 100 pounds.'
"Keto has given me an endless period, lasting for weeks now. Every time it's almost gone, it comes back in full force. This has never happened before.
"When I read about it, it's 'normal' because fat cells shrink and release estrogen. Well, I don't think I'm losing weight. I don't want to spend my time counting every milligram of micronutrients and counting calories to work.
"I'm sick and tired of bleeding and not letting myself give in to cravings only to be punished by my body for sticking to this diet. I believed in it, but I cannot say I'm less than disappointed. Not giving up yet but every day I feel crazier for doing this." — anonymous
"I did keto for about four months last year. I combined it with intermittent fasting. I lost about eight pounds in that time period. It should be mentioned that I worked out for 30 minutes six days per week, as well: three days of strength training and three days of cardio (walk/run intervals on the treadmill) on alternating days.
"But as soon as I went back to eating starchy carbohydrates and fruits, I gained back all that had been lost." — Robyn
"I tried keto back in August with my husband. He loved it and asks me if we can go back on it and I loved it too but… it was a horrible experience.
"The reason I went on keto in the first place was that I was trying to figure out what was causing my body to feel like shit regardless of what I ate, and yes, I have been to my doctor to get this checked. Previously, I cut out (not at the same time) all meats, all dairy, and even gluten but with no luck. It wasn't until I tried keto that I realized I have a high carb intolerance, with sugar being included. That was great because I learned exactly what was causing my issues and I also switched to all pasture-raised meats. However, I totally forgot that I was hypoglycemic (since I was diagnosed as a kid and subconsciously made it part of my lifestyle).
"So keto was great but only because it helped me realize a health issue that led me to go back to my doctor to work on getting a nutritional plan set up to help balance the low blood sugar while still removing the carbs from my diet." — Daniela
"I am a woman who lost all my extra weight on keto and am maintaining now. I have PCOS and this is probably the best treatment for it. My doctor for that said she wished everyone would quit sugar.
"The other big changes I had mainly involved periods and ovulation. Instead of my period happening every day a little bit for months, or not happening at all for months, it now comes once a month for like four days which is ideal and 'right.'… I'm 32 and this has not happened to me since I was a teenager.
"Also now, I can really tell when I'm ovulating. Before, I don't think I even did ovulate. I had been told it was unlikely I would ever get pregnant, but continuing to starve the ovarian cysts away has definitely caused all sorts of signs of ovulation.
"The worst thing was getting all emotional before my period. I haven't had mood swings… but now I do.
"The bonus was the easy weight loss. I lost 50 pounds in four months eating 1300 calories per day and never being hungry, and doing 18/6 intermittent fasting, which I still do. Now maintaining, I just don't watch my calories as much but I stay between 1200-1600.
"Oh, and my skin improved. A lifetime of acne eliminated." — anonymous
"Women have to be much more aware of total caloric intake. At times when I see pictures of the things guys eat on this diet it's overwhelming. We simply can not eat pounds of bacon, whole avocados, piles of cheese, etc. because they are too calorically dense. If you are trying to stay at 1300 calories, a few tbsp of cream is 1/6 of your calories for the day. That isn't a good way to get your nutrients. For a similar reason we can't go crazy with all the Frankenfoods so many Keto'ers are fond of—baked goods from almond flour, halo top ice cream, etc. One serving of those things is very high in calories and takes away from what we need to get from meats, veggies, and fats. Some women get into trouble with too much of their protein and fat coming from nuts and dairy and not enough from meat. All this can equal stalls." — anonymous
Do you have a keto diet experience to share? DM it to us on Instagram at @thethirty!