At some point in life, you've probably looked in the mirror and wanted to change something about how you look. Be it the color of your hair, the texture of your skin, or how much you weigh, no one sees themselves as perfect. Everyone who has made it through the complicated and body-morphing teenage years has struggled in some way to mold themselves into the person they are today.

When I was a teenager, I found myself fighting to keep my weight under control. Just like many other adolescents, I was obsessed with the idea that how I looked was the most important thing about me. The fact that I couldn’t control my weight left me frustrated and unhappy. As fad diets came and went, I noticed one that has seemed to stick around — the keto diet.

In one way or another, many different diets that claim to cause you to lose weight fast are ketogenic diets. These diets followed a specific set of rules to attempt to encourage your body to process food differently, subsequently causing weight loss.

What Is Ketosis?

Ketogenic, or "keto," diets rely on a metabolic process called ketosis to make you lose weight. As detailed by the Free Medical Dictionary, our body normally relies on starchy or sugary foods to get energy. Things like bread, pasta, fruit, and milk all contain starches and sugars that our body turns into glucose, which our cells burn to generate energy. Keto diets starve the body of these glucose-rich foods, forcing it to find alternative energy sources, such as the glucose already stored within your body in the form of excess fat.

However, ketosis doesn’t mean you aren’t eating at all. In fact, you should be eating the same number of calories per day that you normally eat. The difference is simply that you avoid bread and sugars, which will encourage your body to burn fat to retrieve the glucose stored within. In fact, many keto diets encourage you to eat more of the foods permitted by the diet. Starches and sugars have more calories than other foods, and to meet your daily caloric needs, you need to eat a higher volume of zero-carb foods.

carb skull

Does It Work?

These facts all make sense in theory, but in practice, dieting is a far more complicated matter. Everyone’s body is unique. A variety of genetic and environmental factors affect the way our bodies process food, and there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution for dieting. Unfortunately for me, I had to learn this the hard way.

I attempted a ketogenic diet when I was a sophomore in high school, and for me, it failed dramatically. Although I was eating more food by volume, the lack of carbs left me feeling hungry all the time. It was challenging because I was eating lunch from my school cafeteria, and I didn't know every ingredient that was in my food. If you don't make your own food, you can't be 100-percent sure of what you're eating. I also faced a lot of social stigmas as I would find myself dissecting school lunches in an unsuccessful attempt to remove starches from them. Failing to control these factors left me unable to maintain the demanding guidelines set by my diet.

Although many people see success with keto, I struggled to find the dedication required by the diet. However, nobody is hopeless, and since those awkward high school days, I’ve lost about 40 pounds.

How I Found Success

counting calories 

If ketosis didn’t work for me, how did I eventually end up losing all that weight? Instead of leveraging keto, I decided to simply count calories. To figure out how many calories I needed per day, I determined my Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) using a free online TDEE Calculator. This service utilized the Mifflin-St Jeor method to determine TDEE. The Mifflin-St Jeor formula is the most accurate way to estimate your Basal Metabolic Rate, or the number of calories you burn in a day without exercise. In short, by using your height, weight, age, and sex, you can figure out how many calories you burn in a day.

Once I knew how many calories I was burning, I shaved off 25 percent and ate only that many calories per day. I also made sure to choose whole grains and brown rice over their starchier, pale counterparts to ensure I didn’t feel hungry throughout the day. Without exercise, I was able to lose two to three pounds a week by eating 75 percent of my caloric TDEE. In the end, I found it was my vulnerability to cheating that led me to stray from a ketogenic diet. I needed a balanced meal plan that would leave me feeling full all day. Without a solid plan, I found it far too easy to justify cheating in defense of my comfort.

Because everyone is different, there is no universally successful diet. What works for one person may not work for the next. Not even a scientifically proven method like ketosis is guaranteed to succeed. However, if you dedicate yourself to the cause and keep trying, you will find success regardless of how many failures you’ve faced already. The most important diet to follow is the one that keeps you trying until you find the victory you are looking for.