Diets

This Less Restrictive Keto Plan Blasts Belly Fat Without Feeling Like You’re on a Diet

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It’s no secret that the keto diet is a fast way to speed off excess pounds — millions of women report enormous weight loss and rave about the delicious meals that got them there. But for every woman who easily zipped off the pounds, there are a handful of others who struggled, unable to maintain the restrictive plan for long. The problem: Traditional keto limits dieters to just 20 grams of carbohydrates a day-that’s less than one apple (25 grams) or even a medium sweet potato (27 grams). And who wants to count their carbohydrates all day?

The good news: There’s an easier, less-restrictive way to get the benefits of keto — without all the counting and deprivation. Called the “lazy keto,” this food formula scales back on starch and sugar in the standard American diet while pumping up the non-starchy veggies and healthy fats, such as meat, heavy cream and cheese, aiming to keep carbs at about 50 grams per day.

“Lazy keto is what I teach my patients,” asserts Eric Westman, MD, founder of the Duke Keto Medicine Clinic at Duke University in North Carolina. “It’s a way to make keto doable long-term, which is the real key to reaching an optimal weight.”

Why following a “lazy” keto diet approach is foolproof: “When you keep carbs low and eat real foods, everything else tends to fall in place. As carb intake comes down, blood sugar naturally drops and your body needs a new energy source. It starts turning fat from fat cells into compounds called ketones that become your fuel,” Dr. Westman explains. Indeed, findings at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, show keto speeds fat loss by 900 percent.

Plus, studies show that ketones slash appetite, so you end up automatically eating fewer calories as metabolism spikes. “In 24 to 48 hours, hunger is significantly reduced for people using my approach because ketones are appetite suppressants,” adds Dr. Westman. “It’s unbelievable what a difference you can make just by changing your food.”

A less-restrictive, lazy keto diet plan also targets belly fat. The reason? When you don’t have to count every carb, dieting becomes more relaxed, which drives down the production of the stress hormone cortisol. And loosening up on the carb restrictions has a similar impact, asserts weight-loss and nutrition expert Fred Pescatore, MD, author of The A-List Diet (Buy on Amazon, $13.28). “Studies show that cutting too many carbohydrates can put the body into starvation mode, which increases the production of stress hormones, making it harder to burn fat and lose weight,” he explains. “But loosening up the reins a bit lowers cortisol production.” In fact, research shows that women who follow a relaxed keto diet shed three times more belly fat than other dieters.

Speedy slimming is just the first of many benefits! This relaxed approach delivers all of the advantages of the keto diet, says Dr. Westman. Studies show the eating plan lowers artery-harming triglycerides by 300 percent, balances cholesterol levels and improves memory by 62 percent. Plus, increasing your intake of healthy fats has been proven to soothe arthritis pain, stimulate hair growth and supercharge energy.

“I never felt like I was on a diet!”

Good chefs try their food, Holly Harz always told herself as she sampled spoonful after spoonful of the cookie dough she was whipping up in her custom bakery. But when she pulled the cookies out of the oven, she often wondered, Where did they all go? Shouldn’t this batch make more cookies than this? That’s when she knew

“I was the buttercream queen,” reveals Holly. All those cravings came with a price: unwanted weight, constant fatigue and sore knees. “But calorie-restrictive diets only damaged my metabolism and slowed it down even more,” she says.

Initially, Holly wasn’t interested when a relative told her about keto. But as she watched her loved one shed 70 pounds, she decided to give it a try. She admits, “It was simple to start — I already had eggs and butter.” Eating tasty keto food, Holly didn’t feel like she was missing out. After one week, her cravings disappeared. And in three weeks, she was down 20 pounds and felt better than she had in ages.

Holly turned to SparkPeople.com keto groups for support and to seek out keto alternatives to her favorite comfort foods. For a summer cookout, she made cauliflower mash and sugarfree barbecue sauce. She enjoyed keto biscuits loaded with butter and gravy made with heavy cream, turkey drippings, melted cream cheese, and spices. Instead of breadcrumbs, she fried chicken in a mix of Parmesan cheese, protein powder, and seasoning. “It was crispy and delicious!” She also taught herself to make low-carb versions of her favorite desserts.

Holly shares, “One customer called and said, ‘I think you shipped me the wrong keto cupcakes because they are too good.’ And I said, ‘Don’t worry. They’re really keto!’”

Today, Holly is down 166 pounds. “The first thing people say when they hear I’m doing keto is, ‘I could never give up carbs.’ I said the same thing. I didn’t expect to stay on it for more than three weeks — I planned to go off it. Then I was feeling so good, I wanted to keep going!” Following keto even improved her bottom line. Now when Holly bakes, she thinks, Wow, it’s amazing how many cookies I can get out of a batch when I don’t eat the dough!

Holly Harz
Greer Cicarelli Photography

This story originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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