Short for Ketogenic Diet, the keto craze appeals to people because it advocates eating large quantities of fats to lose weight. And, since we as a society have been told since the 1980s up until recently to avoid fats at all costs and go “low-fat” or “fat free”, the thought of eating as much fat as you want and still lose weight become very appealing.
What most people do not know however, is that keto was never intended for the general population. In fact it was designed to treat children with epilepsy back in the 1920s. The treatment was used for a few decades, then fell by the wayside with the advent of anti-seizure medications. The diet is very restrictive, specific and was administered only by trained nutritionists and physicians. And, it was only designed to be administered to children. According to Teresa Fung, Professor of Nutrition at Simmons College says in her article posted in Popular Science online, “It is not so easy to get an adult body into ketosis.....that's why the keto diet was used in treatment of children or infants – because it's easier.” Because kids are growing, their use of fuel is different and easier to manage. Even still, keto was never designed to be easy or fun and if you're doing keto and feel it's easy, then you're not really doing keto.
A true ketogenic diet focuses on fat while removing carbohydrates. And while we know that our bodies do need fat to burn fat, true keto allows not-so-healthy-fats like lard and palm oils along with the healthier nuts, seeds, avocado, olive and coconut oils. According to an article in Harvard Health Publishing, to be truly doing keto, you'd need to consume 90 percent of your daily calories as fat. That's a lot of fat. Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital says, “....While it also has been tried for weight loss, only short-term results have been studied, and the results have been mixed. We don't know if it works in the long term, nor whether it's safe.”
Not only are fats increased and carbohydrates eliminated or greatly reduced (one banana could top out your carbohydrate count for the day), fat-laden proteins like bacon are recommended as well. Even with all of that, consuming enough fat in the correct balance can take days for your body to enter ketosis, never mind keeping it there. And with fruits and vegetables as our nutrient dense carbohydrates, does it really make sense to eat the bacon but not the blueberries? Food for thought.
McManus goes on to say that along with the risk of increased cholesterol, people can become deficient in micronutrients such as selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and vitamins B and C due to the lack and variety of fruits and vegetables. Keto can also overload the kidneys, cause constipation from lack of fibrous foods (fruits and veggies have fibre) and mood swings and fuzzy thinking. Keto was originally designed to alter things inside the brain after all.
Always, whether working with individuals, groups or teaching workshops, I do two things; First, I educate people on how to eat the foods they love and use food to create hormonal balance, stabilize blood sugar, increase circulation, optimize digestion and create balance within the body. When blood sugar is stable, the body is in homeostasis - the place where all systems are balanced and function optimally. Metabolism is turned on, fat is released and used by the muscle as energy so you have energy, weight comes off, hormones are balanced, blood sugar drops, blood pressure and cholesterol come down, the ability to attend and focus increases, internal inflammation is reduced and disease can be reversed. Next, I ask them to consider these three things: 1. Is what I'm about to do based on science and the physiology of how my body works? 2. Would I put a child or teenager on this? 3. Does it make sense to me so I can do it for life?
If you can answer “yes” to all three, then you have a program that will improve your health, allow you to achieve those weight goals and keep them for life. If not, McManus sums it up perfectly by saying, “...eating a restrictive diet, no matter what the plan, is difficult to sustain. Once you resume a normal diet, the weight will likely return.” And I agree 100 percent.
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