You can count on them just like you can count on the sun to rise in the East each morning.
Gimmicky diets are not going away.
I like to believe there are a growing number of science and evidence based practitioners, such as myself, who will slowly shift the tide of nutritional and fitness dogmas away from the nonsense and towards protocols which actually produce results.
But alas………the gimmicks are just too damn enticing to pass up.
No matter how many times we put ourselves through restrictive, torturous diets in order to lose 10 pounds, and then watch it all come rushing back to us……..we end up clicking on the bait (yet again) and put ourselves through the same, painful experience:
- Hear about a “hot, new diet trend” from a friend, a television show, or a click-bait article on the internet.
- We research this hot, new trend via a Google Search.
- The availability bias of the Google Search leads us to the “top articles” – all of which make dubious claims using pseudo-science and blatantly false information.
- We buy it hook, line, and sinker, and go “all in”, baby.
- We get an initial flurry of results, and then those results grind to a halt within a month or two.
- The restrictive, gimmicky nature of the diet becomes unsustainable.
- We “crack” one weekend, eating all of the “bad things” we have been restricting ourselves of.
- We step on the scale, weighing 10 pounds more.
- Disgusted, we give up………and we head back to find the next “weird trick” the diet industry has in store for us.
Have you gone through this cycle?
Most of us have…
From South Beach to Atkins.
From the Mediterranean to Paleo.
From The Blood Type Diet to The Carnivore Diet (please don’t look that one up – I beg of you).
And now, of course, it seems that The Ketogenic Diet has reached an absolute fever pitch.
In roughly a year, Google searches for “Keto” have quadrupled, and the trend is still moving upwards.
If you Google “Keto diets”, you’re going to find a boatload of dubious information.
The purpose of this article is two fold:
- To explain some of the myths and lies about Ketogenic diets.
- To show you how to “cure” yourself from the grips of the “Keto Cult”.
What Is “Keto” And How Does It Work?
The Ketogenic Diet is a high fat, moderate protein, low-carbohydrate diet first introduced in the 1920’s as a means to treat children who were experiencing epileptic seizures.
Under normal conditions, carbohydrate matter in your diet is turned into glucose through digestion, and is then transported around the body to fuel overall brain function as well as provide you energy.
In the complete absence of carbohydrates, the body is forced to begin to use another fuel source – namely dietary fat.
When the body begins to burn dietary fat as a fuel, it enters a state of “ketosis”.
Doctors found when a patient was in a state of ketosis, the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures dropped dramatically – in some cases as high as 50%.
The Doctors also noticed another, peculiar trend to being in a state of ketosis.
That trend was weight loss.
Fast forward 100 years, and here we are, assuming the key to living a long and healthy life is reducing your carbohydrate intake down to next to nothing, and staying in a state of ketosis indefinitely.
The Fallacy Of “CICO Doesn’t Matter”
Keto advocates will scream it from the rooftops: You don’t have to count calories while you are on Keto.
You’ll lose weight magically.
You can eat whatever you want (as long as you don’t eat any carbs), and you will lose weight.
The cult, err, sorry, community of Keto holds steadfast this erroneous belief, and clings to it the same way the Old Church Lady clings to her rosary every weekday morning.
Many proponents will claim that Keto is “the only thing that works for them”, as if all other dietary set ups won’t work, regardless of how many times they’ve attempted to implement them.
One of Keto’s (admittedly) catchiest taglines highlights why it’s such a popular dietary choice:
If you “Go Keto”, you will become a fat burner!
You will be burning fat for fuel!
Sure sounds delightful, doesn’t it?
We all would love to “burn fat for fuel”. Stomachs will shrink, love handles will get smaller, man boobs will disappear, and the next time you wave, you won’t have those flaps of skin underneath your arms.
If only it were that simple.
The biggest issue people don’t understand with Keto is that just because you are in ketosis doesn’t mean you’re burning body fat for fuel.
It is true Ketogenic diets force your body to convert dietary fat into fuel – but not body fat.
The only way you will burn body fat for fuel is to stay in a proper calorie deficit. Whether you’re consuming carbohydrates or not.
There are other issues with Ketogenic diets as well.
Keto Issue #1: Your Social Life Will Take A Hit
In order to stay in a state of ketosis, you will need to consume 20-30 grams of carbohydrates per day, max.
To put that into perspective, 1 medium sized apple contains 25 grams of carbohydrates.
Granted, if you’re Keto, you won’t be eating apples.
You’ll be eating veggies, and nothing more, most likely.
Have you ever tried to go to a social event and eat zero carbs?
It’s quite the challenge. Your choices will be extremely limited, and the odds of you “winning” under such restrictive conditions will not be in your favor.
Keto Issue #2: Dangerously High Fat Content
While the adverse effects of fat intake were largely overblown in the 90’s, it’s still a measure of nutrition we need to be mindful of.
Ketogenic diets call for around 70% of your daily intake in the form of fat.
To put that into perspective, someone with a 2,000 calorie maintenance would be consuming around 155 grams of fat, per day, on Keto.
The normal recommendation for someone with a 2,000 calorie maintenance is between 44-78 grams per day, meaning going Keto can raise your fat intake by up to 3.5 times the recommended, daily amount.
Lipid levels of those following Keto raise an average of 60%, and cholesterol often is spiked by up to 30%.
While these numbers can be helped by being sure to limit your saturated fat intake, the fact remains – sky high fat content in your diet is not optimal for your long term health and well being.
Keto Issue #3: The Adherence Factor
Perhaps the biggest issue I personally have with Keto is that it’s near impossible to stick to long term.
Anyone can hack it for a few weeks or perhaps even a few months.
Restricting your diet to the point where you virtually eliminate one of the 3 macronutrients (the others being protein and fat) will naturally lower your calorie intake, unless you’re drinking cups of whipping cream on a daily basis.
But fast forward just a bit……. do you really see yourself never eating carbs again?
That’s the absolute opposite of sustainable dieting, and is the very definition of a “gimmicky diet”.
Forbid certain foods, never eat them again, as it’s the only chance you have of getting lean and trim.
A fad in every sense of the word.
Keto Issue #4: The Keto Flu
As your body adapts to being a “fat burner” (dietary, not body) in the absence of carbohydrates, many people experience what is referred to as “The Keto Flu”.
The symptoms of The Keto Flu include dizziness, drowsiness, muscle aches, nausea, and irritability.
These symptoms do subside in about a week’s time, assuming you stick to the diet and force your body to adapt.
But there’s another issue at play here, that pesky compliance factor again.
Considering 20 grams of carbs is the max you can eat, just one, little snafu will send you out of ketosis.
As you resume your “Keto Lifestyle” and get back to eating next to no carbs, your body will experience the Keto Flu all over again.
Many “failed” Keto dieters experience a never ending cycle of feeling like absolute garbage.
All for the sake of the latest and greatest nutritional trend to hit the mainstream.
***A Quick Word About “Exogenous Ketones”***
You may have been approached by a friend or family member selling “exogenous ketones” claiming they are the “key” to effortless weight loss.
Let me explain exactly what this scam is all about.
Ketones are a byproduct found in the urine. When your body is in a state of “ketosis”, you will urinate these ketones out.
Hardcore Keto followers test their urine regularly to detect the level of ketones in their urine and see if they are currently in a state of ketosis.
Supplement companies (such as Pruvit) recognized this, and have started selling “exogenous ketones”, claiming they will allow you to get into ketosis more quickly and aid in fat loss.
“Exogenous Ketones” is a fancy phrase that sounds just spiffy enough to actually help, making it easy for people to fall prey.
The word “exogenous” just means “outside”.
Basically, they’re claiming if you ingest ketones from the outside, your “ketosis” will be improved via magic.
This is completely, 100% false.
The same is true for “Keto Coffee”, or any “Keto supplement” you see.
These products don’t help you “Keto” harder – they simply drain your wallet and nothing more.
Never mind the fact that MLM’s/direct sales are predatory and scammy – the supplement itself will do nothing for you other than cause you to go broke.
There is a reason – a BIG reason companies such as Pruvit, ItWorks, Team Beachbody, Herbalife, etc. use the “direct sales” model.
If these companies used a different business model, and put their products in a store or on Amazon, they would be out of business in mere months.
Any consumer with a shred of knowledge would recognize their products are insanely overpriced and inferior.
The direct sales model means that you’re being “sold” to from people you trust – your friends, your family, or your co-workers.
And they know “friend guilt” will allow for sales that wouldn’t otherwise be made.
These are nothing more than pyramid scemes, and there are loads of unhappy customers if you take a look around the internet.
Avoid at all costs.
Now, back to the article…………..
Why Are Ketogenic Diets So Alluring?
It is true – Ketogenic diets are almost the perfect storm of bullshit, ripe to gain loads of fans.
On paper, they sound amazing:
- Ease – you don’t have to count calories and you’ll lose weight effortlessly.
- Simplicity – all you have to do is not eat carbs.
Easy AND simple? Effortless weight loss?! Sign me up!
And in the first week of a Ketogenic diet, you’re nearly guaranteed to lose scale weight.
Granted, this doesn’t mean you’re losing body fat – it just means you’re losing scale weight.
But in our minds, when the number on the scale goes down, that means we’re losing fat.
Or at least that’s how we perceive it.
Why do you lose scale weight so quickly on a Ketogenic diet?
A bit of math for you:
- Most people eat what they would call the “Standard American Diet”, or SAD for short (pun intended).
- A safe assumption: if you’re not paying close attention, you’re likely eating at least 300 grams of carbohydrates per day. Perhaps more.
- For every gram of carbs you eat, your body holds onto about 3 grams of water weight along with the carbs.
- 300 grams of carbs per day x 3 grams of water weight = 900 grams of water weight per day.
- 900 grams of water weight ~ 2 pounds of water.
For the average person switching to Keto, they will be taking in 2 less pounds of water weight each day, simply from eliminating the carbs from their diet.
After 3-4 days of low/no carb dieting, it’s not uncommon to see a weight loss swing of 5 pounds or more, which can be incredibly (and falsely) motivating and exciting.
This is why so many people feel “Keto is the only thing that works for me”.
Granted, after the initial water woosh, that scale loss weight will slow down dramatically.
At that point, the only way you’ll continue to see lower numbers on the scale is to – you guessed it – be in a calorie deficit.
More often than not, the Keto Dieter isn’t tracking calories closely.
After all, the mantra of Keto is “don’t count calories and burn your fat for fuel”.
Since calories aren’t controlled, and progress is no longer being made, the Keto Dieter often gives up after a few weeks, or a few months, tops.
And they end up facing frustration, dashed hopes and dreams, and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
And we start the cycle all over again.
How To Cure Yourself From Keto
I’ve been lucky enough to coach a number of “Ex-Keto’ers” back into the world of carbohydrate eating.
As a matter of fact, if someone comes to me wanting a Keto set-up, I politely decline.
It’s against my ethics code – I will not give someone a dietary plan I believe to be a gimmick, and Keto is as gimmicky as they come.
If that means less money in my pocket, that’s a trade off I will make every time.
But there is nothing I enjoy more than helping a recovering Keto’er learn how to diet properly – without restricting your carbohydrate intake to next to nothing.
At the same time, if this is you – and you’re going to leave the cult of Keto and rejoin the forces of The Dark Side (we have cookies), there is a bit of criteria you will have to meet first.
Criteria #1: You Have Tried Keto And You Aren’t A Fan
Granted, this isn’t entirely a requirement, but it certainly helps your success rate if you’ve hopped on board with the fad, and you’ve come to the realization that restriction to this level isn’t for you.
You have to make the mental leap of trusting that perhaps the gimmick of Keto isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
In short, you’ll have to go against the grain a little bit (or towards it – sorry, another bad joke) and disregard what ‘everyone knows’ right now.
Criteria #2: You Have To Believe In CICO
I feel weird even typing that….
“CICO” stands for “calories in, calories out”.
It’s an acronym for the First Law Of Thermodynamics – that all energy is accounted for and it cannot be created nor destroyed.
And since every macronutrient has calories (energy), it must be considered in your body’s digestion process.
It’s interesting we’ve all passed 7th grade science and studied this concept, but somehow between the ages of 13 and adulthood, we’ve become entrenched in dogmas and silliness.
In order to eradicate the insanity of Keto from your life, you need to believe that calories have energy (they do), and that energy, when consumed in excess, will be stored as body fat (it will).
You must also believe that in order to eliminate body fat, you will need to take in less energy/calories than you need on a consistent basis.
Seems basic, sure, but you would be amazed at how many people simply do not accept this as fact.
Criteria #3: You Have To Commit To Macro Counting For One Month, Minimum
Why one month?
Very simple…….when you begin to eat more carbohydrates, your scale weight is going to go up.
Remember that water weight scenario earlier in this article? Where you can lose 5 pounds or more in the first week of “going Keto”?
When you reintroduce carbohydrates into your system, that water weight will return.
Again – it is NOT body fat, it is simply water weight.
But it’s enough to scare the daylights out of you.
Those I’ve cured from the clutches of Keto all follow the same format:
- We set them up with a proper mix of all 3 macronutrients.
- They begin to track them as we have recommended to them.
- After 1-2 weeks, their scale weight is either stagnant, or perhaps slightly higher than baseline.
- They become terrified, and send me a message begging me for advice.
My response to them is always the same.
This is exactly what we expect to happen in this situation.
If you keep the course over the next few weeks, you’re going to find your energy levels return, and your weight and measurements will begin to trend downwards.
It’s certain that this will happen.
But you have to keep the faith here.
You have to stick to the plan and keep being consistent.
If you do this, after a month, you’re going to feel amazing.
You’ll have better workouts, your body measurements and scale weight will shrink, and you’ll be on your way.
And it plays out just as I’ve described, every single time.
Are You Ready To Be “Cured” From Keto?
Nutrition and fitness is deeply personal.
We all have our “beliefs” and nutrition is often rightfully compared to religion.
We believe what we believe, and we are stuck in our ways more often than not.
Only you can make the decision to ditch the Keto Nonsense and start on a different path.
It’s a path that’s not nearly as sexy as Keto is……..it’s a path of proper portion sizes, showing moderation, exercising properly, and attempting to change your lifestyle.
But what it lacks in “flash”, it makes up in substance.
Once you learn how to properly eat for your metabolism and your situation, you’ll be able to tackle any situation with ease.
With a few, simple strategies, you can learn to eat your carbs and still make progress.
And the next big fad to come along won’t seem nearly as alluring, as you’ll know what it takes to remain lean – and healthy – without unnecessary restriction.
Yours in true health,