The Keto Diet Crushed My Soul But Taught Me One Good Thing

Last fall, without warning, I announced to my boyfriend three words that no one wants to hear: “I’m going keto.”

I’d been feeling sluggish, lumpy, and generally out of sorts. I’d put on the requisite few pounds you do in the first giddy year or so of dating, and while the power of love is such that you don’t really mind, the power of oppressive body norms is such that you also kind of do. Moreover, I was woefully aware that woman cannot live on Indian takeout alone.

I remembered that a friend of mine had once sung the praises of keto for a couple reasons: (1) it made him feel a hell of a lot better, and (2) he lost unwanted weight in the process. And so, lying in bed, polishing off a pint of ice cream I figured I’d better get rid of before I made any moves toward better health, I began my research.

Introduced in the 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy and currently used as a means of establishing dietary superiority over everyone you know, the ketogenic diet is a way to force your body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates, ordinarily its go-to source, as fuel. In theory, the benefits include more plentiful and stable energy throughout the day, a more satisfying fullness after each meal, and a merciful escape from the blood-sugar rollercoaster that many people—myself included—typically ride on a sugar-rich diet.

To get your body into ketosis, you cut your carbs down to a maximum of 20-25 grams per day, filling out the rest of your daily calories with a little bit of protein and a lot of fat. Carb-wise, that means about a slice of bread at most—and frankly, if you’re looking to make it as painless as possible, you’ll omit the bread and save your carbs for those that come with vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The rest of your meals will be composed of fat-rich foods: eggs, cheese, butter, bacon, steak, you name it. If you’re vegetarian, as I am, you’re looking at mostly eggs, oils, and cheese. If you’re vegan, I’m so sorry.

The diet is extreme, strict, and socially alienating. It would be a significant lifestyle change, and it would mean challenging a long-held fear of mine: eating fat. As a woman—specifically, an American woman raised in a world where the only acceptable body to inhabit is one that is slim and well-dressed—I’ve been programmed from girlhood to fear rich, fat-laden foods almost as much as I’ve been conditioned to love exercises that tone my muscles without making them bulky.

But, for better or worse, when it comes to personal challenges, I behave the way

Marty McFly does when anyone calls him chicken: I take the bait.


Conveniently, the day I begin my keto journey is a week before Thanksgiving, which I am to spend with my family in Massachusetts.

My dad is vegan and my sister doesn’t eat meat. My mother, an omnivore, has always been gracious and flexible, cooking alternatives for my father or eating whatever bean-based concoction my dad has made. Family dining has never been anything but harmonious.

And then I ruin everything.

I call my mom to tell her about my dietary restrictions. “Let me get this straight,” she says. “No sugar. No carbs. No potatoes?”

“Tragically, no.”

“How about sweet potatoes?”

“Those are also potatoes.”

“But meat is okay?”

“I’m vegetarian, Mom.”

There’s a weighty pause. “I’ll figure it out,” she says, all business, and hangs up.

And she does. We have walnut and beet dumplings, puréed cauliflower masquerading as mashed potatoes, something that is probably tofu?, an improbable amount of mushrooms. For dessert, I make a lemon-almond cake with almond and coconut flours that, despite its approximately twelve whipped egg whites, refuses to rise, devastated by the absence of glutinous flour. Flat as it is, it tastes fairly good. It’s the most bizarre Thanksgiving we’ve ever had.


For almost a month, I’ve managed to skirt invitations to dinners (famed Roberta’s pizza, pasta temple Lilia, arepa joint Caracas) and resist ordering takeout from my go-to spots (Agra Taj Mahal, M. Noodle Shop, Oasis Falafel). I’ve cobbled together a wide variety of meals: broccoli and tofu with peanut sauce, peppers and tofu with peanut sauce, zucchini and tofu with peanut sauce. I’ve even figured out how to make a mushy yet delicious cauliflower-crusted pizza. And when I’m too tired to cook, there’s always the option of just setting a block of cheese on a plate and going to town. Finally, I have permission to eat what everyone truly wants: literally as much cheese as my stomach will hold down. I feel liberated.

Source :

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