Can a gamer with a sedentary lifestyle survive a 21-day keto challenge?

Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by The Feel Good Food Group and was produced by BrandRap, the sales and marketing arm of Rappler. No member of the news and editorial team participated in the production of this piece.

I have never in my entire life considered myself as a fit person. Growing up, I was the tall and lanky student who was way too much into anime and computer games. I didn’t care much about exercising or keeping fit, and I had my fast metabolism to thank for that.

My body had a way of keeping most of the weight off on its own, and it was only when I turned around 26 or 27 that I started noticing that my metabolism was slowing down and all the junk food was finally catching up to me. But I didn’t really do anything about it. I’ve never been one to obsess over my weight.

Then the pandemic hit, which meant that I couldn’t go on long walks as I usually do, and I ended up working and gaming even more. I felt like a hermit who only had work, games, and eating to do, nothing else.

The result? I gained an extra 30 pounds since lockdown restrictions began. I wasn’t very happy about it, and I struggled with this realization. So when the challenge for a 21-day Keto diet landed on my lap, I quickly said yes.

I needed to regain self control

There were a lot of objectives in my mind as I thought about the challenge. First, even though I would say that I didn’t care about the extra weight, I did want to lose some of it. Second, I love trying new things and the process of learning along the way. And the most important objective I wanted to achieve was regaining my self control.

Although I wasn’t really strict with my eating habits before the pandemic began, I also didn’t have a problem eating somewhat healthy. I enjoyed vegetable dishes, I wasn’t into sweet and sugary food or drinks, and I also didn’t over indulge. All that changed when the pandemic persisted.

Keeping myself in check wasn’t easy. Everyone I know has been dealing with the pandemic differently, and I turned towards games and food as forms of distraction and sources of joy. I even remember setting up an online Halloween gaming event for me and my friends, and a number of us ordered McDonald’s online at the same time. My order? A Big Mac with a float and large fries and ten pieces of chicken nuggets.

I needed a change, and the 21-day keto diet challenge became like a new game for me. There were levels and milestones to be achieved in the context of strict rules that I needed to follow.

This is why the 21-day keto diet challenge was very appealing. If I treated it like a game, then I wouldn’t feel like I was depriving myself but instead feel as if I’m earning new wins in life.

How it worked

The 21-day keto diet challenge is exactly what it sounds like – for 21 days, you can’t have carbohydrates or sugar. This challenge was sent by The Feel Good Food Group’s Ketos of Manila owned by health food entrepreneur James Yulo Chi, a food delivery service that specifically caters to those looking for ketogenic and low-carb options.

For three weeks straight, they sent over meals throughout the day – breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack. Part of the package too were some coffee and keto-friendly baked goodies, which helped a lot.

I also got test kits to check if I was in ketosis (a state where your body starts burning fat as it runs out of carbohydrates).

They asked me for my current weight, my target weight, my height, and if I had any food allergies. After they determined which kind of diet I would need, they started sending me meals. And it was…a very interesting journey.

Lows but followed by highs

I’ll be lying if I said the challenge was easy. It was not, especially in the beginning.

They recommended a 1,800 kCal diet. I didn’t know what that looked like, so I impulsively said okay yeah, let’s do it! Turns out, 1,800 was barely half of what I would eat in a day. Honestly, I could’ve finished an entire day’s worth of food in one seating!

One of the biggest shocks for me were the breakfast items. Normally, I would eat a cup or two of rice and a large heap of whatever entree we had, plus black coffee in the morning. Then during the 21-day Keto diet challenge, the portions were so small I almost laughed and cried at the same time. Somedays it was some sort of bun, or a slice of Korean-inspired omelet. Nonetheless, they were all very tasty.

The first three days, I felt really weak, but not sickly. A lot of people warn me about getting the so-called keto flu, but I think because Ketos of Manila planned my meals with nutrition in mind, I was able to get through the flu with not much difficulty. And on the fourth day, I started feeling like myself again.

As soon as I felt my body had adjusted, I began challenging it. I started exercising (little by little), did more chores than usual, and yes, continued to play online games with friends late at night. I wasn’t hangry anymore (and was less toxic against enemy teams, lol).

Eventually, I stopped thinking about the quantity of food I was eating and just enjoyed the dishes whenever it was time to eat.

Enjoying the process, forgiving myself when I slipped

I can’t say that I followed the diet religiously. While I was indeed able to stay away from unnecessary carbs and sugar, I did find myself wanting to snack sometimes. It didn’t feel right to deprive myself too much, so there were times when I would give in and munch on something that was allowed within the diet like nuts or keto-friendly goodies.

There were other things that made it easy too, like coffee. Ketos of Manila sent me different kinds of coffee, some of them with touches of hazelnut or macadamia. They also sent me keto-friendly cookies which tasted just like any other kind of pastry from a bakeshop.

I also appreciated that Ketos of Manila had a diverse menu. They went from Korean to Jamaican to American and other cuisines throughout the 21 days. I have to be honest and say there were some dishes that I didn’t enjoy, but that’s more of a preference thing. They cooked the dishes amazingly in my opinion, I would just find myself adding a bit of chili powder or chili flakes every now and then because I enjoy the extra kick.

Among my favorites were the Korean beef stew and a keto puttanesca they made with shirataki. There was a time I also got a blueberry muffin for breakfast, which I enjoyed tremendously. I was sent something new everyday, and having variation really helped.

Seeing and feeling the benefits

Whenever I told people that I was doing this challenge, I would immediately be asked about whether or not I’ve lost weight. And I did! Until the second week, it felt like I was losing a pound each day. The total weight I’ve lost within the 21-day span was 18 pounds! I was still 12 pounds above my target weight, but you couldn’t argue with how fast all of that happened.

Other people also noticed right away. In video calls, some were quick to notice my cheekbones and jawline again. They’re not as defined as they used to be, but it’s nice to see old friends.

BEFORE. Julian at 200 lbs. taken on day 1
AFTER. Julian at 182 lbs. taken on day 21.

I think the biggest benefit I really enjoyed was how light I felt. It was one thing to lose weight, but being able to keep my strength and feel lighter at the same time was amazing. And I was convinced that this was something I needed to sustain even after the 21 days were over.

The epilogue

It’s been more than a week since the 21 days have been over, and I’m glad to say that I haven’t gained the weight back. Maybe it’s too early to say that the benefits are long lasting, but I currently have a drive to keep this up as I’ve come so far already.

I am not back on carbs, although I do partake if I can’t help it every now and then. Since the 21 day challenge is over, I’ve gone back to eating food served in the household, which means I don’t have a lot of control over what ingredients are used. So if you’re like me who can’t find the time and energy to cook, then a delivery service like Ketos of Manila will definitely be helpful.

I’m also glad that I am able to temper my cravings now and don’t give in so easily.

Will I say that the challenge has been a success? Seeing as how I achieved the objectives I set out to do, it’s a huge yes!

Will I recommend people to try a keto diet? Yes! But maybe ask a physician or nutritionist first just to be on the safe side. Ketos of Manila has in-house nutritionist-dietitians, so you can always consult with them first before starting your keto journey.

Will I go back to a keto diet? I am heavily considering it. – Rappler.com

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