Disclaimer: This blog is an opinion and should not replace professional medical, professional legal, or professional financial advice. Before starting any new or keto diet, consult with your doctor.
As we approach another new year, many choose to make resolutions for their health and appearance. Perhaps you want to lose some holiday weight, or maybe you’ve been carrying around more pounds than you’d like for a while. Regardless of your reason, if you’ve done some research on diets you may have found the ketogenic, or keto, diet.
What is the keto diet?
A ketogenic diet is a way of eating designed to keep your body in ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which your body burns fat for energy. The most popular way to get your body in ketosis is to restrict carbohydrates. Many people on the keto diet restrict their carbs to less than 20g to 30g per day. Hardcore keto dieters aim for no carbohydrates at all. This is referred to as “carnivore keto” because eating zero carbohydrates involves an almost all meat or all fish diet. Yes, that’s right: carnivore keto eaters avoid vegetables. Fruit is pretty much off limits for keto, too, with the exception of avocado and a few others (like berries) in moderation.
Ketosis vs. ketoacidosis: Is the keto diet dangerous?
Being in ketosis is different from ketoacidosis, which can be a deadly buildup of acid in your blood due to a lack of insulin in diabetics. However, it is very important that you consult with your doctor throughout your keto diet and have your blood levels checked regularly. Why? Because ketoacidosis can be the first sign of diabetes for some. And ketosis does lead to an increase in acid in your blood. In some cases, the ketogenic diet has been found to cause ketoacidosis. The article cited in the previous sentence is published by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), and this type of evidence is largely ignored or denied by the keto community.
keto and ketoacidosis – possibility
However, there are multiple cases of a low-carb diet causing ketoacidosis. So it’s important to know this about keto and discuss your heath with your doctor. (Speaking with your doctor is another thing discouraged by keto communities. More on ketogenic communities later in the article.)
Does the ketogenic diet work?
The evidence is up in the air. While those who believe in the diet will try to convince others that the ketogenic diet is the best “way of eating” (WOE), there’s limited data to show its effectiveness. Many nutritionists do not recommend it because the diet is super restrictive. On the flip side, the keto community is all over the place with its recommendations. Some say you shouldn’t count calories on the keto diet. Others say calories matter.
Calories and keto
The truth? The energy, or calories, you take in must be less than the energy you expend if you want to lose weight. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to how many calories your body needs. And calorie counts can be inaccurate. Harvard has found that food quality matters a lot for your health. This is something the keto diet has going for it over other diets. The keto diet avoids all processed foods, grains, and starchy vegetables. It also avoids inflammatory foods even if those foods are low in carbohydrates. Lots of people have lost weight on the keto diet, but many experts agree that this diet is not one that can be sustained long-term. Medical professionals and nutritionists say it has the potential to put stress on your liver and can damage your metabolism.
Why are some people obsessed with being keto?
Like the Paleo diet, many people who dive into the ketogenic diet become obsessed with their WOE. They believe, with religiosity, that the keto diet is the best and only way to eat. In fact, some people are even vicious in their support of the keto WOE. There’s no single reason why keto diet followers are so committed to their food preference. But it’s worth noting that some keto communities are particularly catty to the point of denying science and evidence-based information. The concept “if it fits your macros,” or IIFYM for short, is flat out berated by some groups. But the fact is that science agrees with IIFYM.
What is IIFYM?
Basically, on the ketogenic diet and many other diets, macros (or macronutrients) are calculated for success. You’ll need to stay within a specific percentage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. These three nutrients are macronutrients. For example, if you have a budget of 20g carbs per day, and you’ve used none of those carbs, an IIFYM-friendly diet would allow you to eat whatever you wanted as long as you stay under 20g carbs. So, if you wanted to have a small bit of cake, ice cream, candy, or bread, you could have it.
So what’s wrong with IIFYM?
Scientifically speaking, IIFYM is an accurate way to stay within your goals. But some keto groups pretty much outlaw IIFYM and restrict the types of foods and ingredients their members can discuss or share with the community. Fun fact: while some ketogenic groups are fanatical about their anti-IIFYM and strict ingredient guidelines, they actually violate their own “beliefs” with things like guar gum, which is made from a bean. (Beans are off-limits on the ketogenic diet.)
There are many websites, blogs, message boards, and Facebook groups dedicated to the ketogenic WOE. Before you get too involved in any of these groups, consider your diet goals. Are you trying to ketogenic diet as a method of weight loss? Are you doing the ketogenic diet for other reasons? How committed to this diet are you? From a practical perspective, it’s important to be realistic about your new diet. Will you plan to cheat on your diet from time to time? Or will this be a lifetime commitment?
Some ketogenic groups say carbs are an addiction
It’s an interesting theory, but ultimately carbs and sugar are not the same as alcohol or drugs. And vilifying certain food groups is an extreme position to take. Many ketogenic groups say that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is terrible and the members may outright bully those who make a mistake in their ketogenic transition. But while some foods are healthier than others, there is no absolute best way to eat. Your dietary needs are unique. And only you can decide what balance is right when it comes to your diet. There’s real psychology behind why diets don’t work. (Before you write off dieting all together, do your research and be realistic about your goals.)
How expensive is the ketogenic diet?
It can be pricey to eat whole, unprocessed foods that are high in fat. But as someone who has actually done the ketogenic diet, there are cheap ways to get your macros. Things like eggs are a near perfect ketogenic food, and eggs are affordable. Having a Costco membership can also help you with your ketogenic groceries.
Should I start a keto diet?
The answer is one only you can discover. If you like the foods on a ketogenic diet, then you should try it. If you don’t like the foods, it may be hard for you to stick with this diet. Rest assured if you choose to use the ketogenic diet for weight loss, it’s not the end of the world to have a cheat day. Some experts even encourage cheat days!
Best of luck with your new year’s resolution! Have you tried the keto diet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!