Finding Keto Ended My Lifelong Search For The ‘Perfect Diet’

Searching for the right diet has made me feel like I’m Indiana Jones on an elusive quest for a lost and Holy Grail. I’d tried counting my calories and eating low fat foods, but I’d just end up starving—and then binging—after my first week.

I tried eating whatever I wanted and upping my exercise. This did not work at all. After all, unless I was going to exercise all day, I was not going to lose weight. I then tried eating low-carb. I lost some weight, but felt like I was starving.

When I hit 215 pounds, finding the right diet started to feel hopeless.

On top of over-eating, there were other factors at play. A lot of my work life involves writing or editing, so I often end up sitting for most of the day. I love working with words and reading them, but I don’t love the weight that comes with a sedentary lifestyle.

After eating way too much Pad Thai one night, I went to Barnes & Noble to see if I could find a book with a diet solution that didn’t feel like absolute torture. Before going to the diet and cookbook section, I ended up looking at the New Releases section and spotted, almost serendipitously, a book about Alzheimer’s and dieting. It was called The Alzheimer’s Antidote: Using a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease, Memory Loss, and Cognitive Decline, and its focus was on the ketogenic (high-fat) diet, something that felt seriously antithetical to what I’d been told before (“stay away from fat!”).

When I hit 215 pounds, finding the right diet started to feel hopeless.

My mother had recently passed away from Alzheimer’s and it had left me with lingering fears about my own health. The book brought up both the pain of her loss and my own struggles with eating. Nevertheless, I bought a cup of coffee and read through it, right then and there.

The book described keto as a diet in which you use fat, instead of carbs or even protein, as fuel. It explored the health benefits of a high-fat diet not only for weight loss, but for cognitive functioning. Win!

It really felt like what I was searching for, but it was difficult to wrap my head around the idea of eating fat as being a healthy act. I had vivid memories of the old-school Food Pyramid teaching us that fat would give us heart problems. But there I was, reading this book, which showed me study after study linking keto to health and, on top of that, satiety. I was sold.

Related: 15 Keto Snacks For All You Fat-Fuelers Out There

The first three days of going keto were rough. It reminded me of when I had quit smoking. On the second day, I had a headache the whole day and felt very tired; however, by day five, an amazing thing happened: I felt full and I had lost weight. I was burning off the fat in my stomach without feeling hungry. This was really working!

The only catch? In order to stay on this diet, I had to learn to cook.

It was difficult to wrap my head around the idea of eating fat as being a healthy act.  But there was study after study linking high fat dieting to health and satiety.

The keto diet isn’t just a diet. It’s a lifestyle. A lot of healthy fats need to be prepared and cooked (healthy keto fats include olive oil, avocado oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil). Favorite foods needed to become keto-friendly if I was to seriously focus on my goals. I learned to cook mashed potatoes, pasta, pizza (you can have cheese occasionally), pancakes, and even crackers the keto way. (You really need to avoid all grains, processed foods, refined fats like canola oil, and high-carb veggies, among other things.)

Related: 4 Crucial Insights I Learned Along My Weight-Loss Journey

Eventually it turned into a fun game—what favorite food could I make keto? Cooking became a new hobby and a healthy passion—and it also became a way to heal the little kid in me that liked to binge on food.

I stuck with it and embraced the lifestyle change. By the first month I had lost 10 pounds. I felt more energy and vitality. The weight loss definitely helped, but eating lots of good fat was also an effective way to naturally boost my energy. By the second month, I was down 15 more pounds, and by the fifth month I had hit an important weight-loss goal: 25 pounds lost.

I hope to be another 25 pounds lighter by the end of the year. I do have an occasional slip here and there (I’m not a monk!), and when it happens, I feel the difference in my body. But you don’t have to reject all the carbs; I just make sure every carb I eat counts.

Perhaps most important, I finally realize that there is no universal perfect diet; it really comes down to finding the one that works best for you. For me, that’s keto.