The Appeal of the Ketogenic “Keto” Diet
People seek an arbitrary number on the scale. Why? Where is the branded number on foreheads? Do people know (or care) how much you weigh? No. People notice:
- How you carry yourself.
- How you rock the clothes you wear.
- Your energy, vitality, confidence.
Yet it doesn’t stop people from trying (to lose weight).
Atkins, Paleo, and now the ketogenic diet. Did you do it? You lost weight, right? Quickly?
Exciting. Enticing. And oh so exhilarating.
Bev jumped on the scale Monday morning ready for day one of her keto diet. Today is a new day—this diet is going to work and it did, for a moment. She embraced keto and within a week dropped 8 pounds. Thrilled yes? Yet what did she lose?
Unfortunately, people want a quick fix. When going on a diet, the expectation is weight loss, forget about the composition of what the weight is. The number on the scale drops. Happiness.
Here’s the thing
If you don’t eat carbs, you use up stored carbohydrate in your body called glycogen. You’ll see weight loss on the scale. Woohoo, you think! The euphoria dieters experience when they go on a keto diet or a high protein/low carb diet like the initial stages of Atkins. But what do you lose?
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That’s right. You lost water. For every part glycogen, you store about 3 to 4 parts water. Soooo, deplete glycogen, lose water, lose weight!
How to lose weight:
- Don’t eat carbs
- The body uses stored carbs (glycogen)
- Glycogen storage used up
- Weight loss (as fluid mostly)
- For every part glycogen the body stores 3 to 4 parts water
How to gain the weight back: eat carbs.
And you will eat them because life is too hard (and no fun) not to. A typical low carb diet might be 20 percent of calories or less and the typical keto diet is even more restrictive at about 5 percent carbs. Hard to sustain long-term. The average diet people eat is about 50 percent of calories from carbs. (Sources of carbs)
Low carb also categorizes food good and bad and you know there are no bad foods right? Except for rotten ones or ones you’ve stolen (don’t steal that’s bad).
Another reason there is weight loss when going low carb—and I mean very low carb like less than 50 grams per day—is to get into ketosis.
Ketosis is interesting. It’s another reason people lose weight due to the suppression of appetite. Hunger decreases.
Ketosis is a starvation mechanism. Imagine if people have no food to eat. Do we want them hungry? No, because then they’ll search for food using up more energy, increasing metabolism and needing more calories, therefore more food. Ketosis prevents a starving person from being hungry so she does not go searching for food.
People will lose weight
I wrote a post about Paleo 4 years ago back when Paleo was hot on the heels of Atkins. Now, the keto diet is hot on the heels of Paleo. Yet another diet grabbing the attention of dieters. People will lose weight.
Diets often do work, for a short time. How many people do you know went on the Atkins diet? Did they lose weight? Did they keep the weight off? Likely not. Why? It’s not sustainable.
I don’t advocate diets period, not in the traditional sense—of going on a diet. I define diet as your style of eating or as my friend Merriam-Webster states, habitual nourishment. Nourishing your body with wholesome food and minimizing manufactured food-like substances is key. Sometimes we eat more, sometimes we eat less. That’s normal.
Back to Bev
Bev lost weight and enjoyed the food, at first. It got old and boring and she missed the natural sweetness of fruit she loved. She also denied sweet treats because they were too high carb. Eventually, she could not sustain the low carb living. Plus the restriction led to an all-out binge. And like every other diet she’d been on, the feeling of failure.
No Bev. You did not fail. The diet failed you.
Should you get on the bandwagon?
There are many keto advocates. I get that. There were many Atkin advocates, Paleo advocates, etc. For weight loss, for the majority of people, it is not sustainable. Some people are successful but most are not. Keto requires a lot of discipline and is not what I consider nutrition you can live with. Unless you want an obsession with food…choose an alternative. I promote guilt-free eating, freedom with the food you eat, and not restricting. Keto is restricting—severe restricting.
As a reminder…
As a reminder, go on a low carb diet and you’ll deplete glycogen, you’ll lose water, and you’ll lose weight. Water weight. Eat carbs again—and you will because it’s impossible not to—and you’ll gain the weight back.
A note about the recent study published getting a lot of publicity touting low carb….the weight maintenance phase was only 20 weeks, all meals were provided (unlike what happens in the ‘real’ world), and people received compensation of over $3,000. That’s a lot of incentive. Where are the people now months and months out? If the results mimic previous weight loss studies, most weight will be back in a year. (Very sad face)
Thanks for reading and be free and be well!
Have you done the keto diet for weight loss? Share your experience. I’d like to know how it worked for you. Did you lose weight? How long have you maintained weight loss and what are you doing to keep it off?
Here’s another post you’ll like: YOU are Enough! Ditch the Diet
Confused about what to eat and don’t know who to believe? Schedule a complimentary strategy session with Neily—bit.ly/meetwithneily
Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
@JenniferNeily (Twitter) or @NeilyonNutrition (Instagram)
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