• Hannah Peterman, Undergraduate Dietetic Intern

Dear Keto Dieter

Dear Keto Dieter,

I may not know you, but if you're on the keto diet, I don't doubt for a second that you have heartfelt intentions behind it. Maybe you feel societal pressures to be thinner, or you've been told to prioritize your weight so you can be around for your grand kids. Perhaps you just want to look in the mirror and not feel terrible. Maybe you are fed up with feeling out-of-control around food, and hope that a low-carb solution will fix your insatiable cravings. I don't know your reason, but I bet you have one.

I also bet that you haven't heard all the facts about the keto diet, because frankly, you wouldn't be on the diet if you had. It's not your fault! There's loads of bogus information out there (I'm looking at you, Google), and it's hard to sort through it all. So, here are a few things I want you to know about this diet.

You Can't Keep This Up For Long

Even IF very-low carb diets were nutritious, you wouldn't be able to sustain the diet or the weight loss long-term. Nope, not because you are a failure and lack will-power, but because your body will not stop communicating what it needs! Its preferred form of energy is carbohydrate, so over time, you will feel more and more deprived. Once the diet ends (or you slip up), your brain will communicate an even greater amount of pleasure to you when high carbohydrate foods are consumed, simply because it has been deprived of carbohydrates for so long. You'll likely end up feeling out-of-control around food. Plus, if statistics hold true, there's a significant chance you'll gain back the weight you lost. Not because you're a failure, but because diets don't work long-term.

You're Hurting Your Metabolism

You've probably been told that, once your body goes into ketosis, you'll become a "fat-burning machine." This is only partially true. When you're not eating enough carbohydrates, your body begins using a significant amount of protein (i.e. muscle) for fuel. While it's true that your brain does use ketone bodies made by the liver from fat, it's also true that only half of brain cells can actually utilize these ketone bodies. These cells need carbohydrates, but suddenly, they don't have any available, so these cells turn to the next best thing--lean muscle mass. Decreased muscle mass = an ever slower metabolism.


You Feel Terrible Because You're Damaging Your Body

Although the ketogenic diet can be beneficial for treating seizures under physician supervision, it is a terrible fit for most people. If you're like many people on this diet, you may be experiencing headaches, brain fog, irritability, leg cramps, constipation, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, reduced physical performance, and/or hair loss. Since this diet mimics starvation, your body is beginning to shut down processes that are not necessary for survival. Your heart rate is slowing, and over time, even your heart will begin losing its muscle mass. You may be experiencing decreased exercise performance is occurring because your body can't metabolize protein as efficiently as carbohydrates, so it can't provide energy for your muscles as quickly. In short, your body isn't a fan of the keto diet, and it's screaming at you to stop.

You Have Other Options

You don't have to be a "diet hopper" for the rest of your life. If you've been on more than a diet or two, you have every right to be frustrated--you've been through lots of pain and still probably feel like mealtime is a war zone. The truth is, your body is very capable of monitoring exactly how much and what type of food it needs, but diet cycling has suppressed these cues. Distrusting your body's signals isn't making you healthier, and it's taking the joy out of food. So please, dear reader, ditch the keto diet. Your body and sanity will thank you!


The Rethink Nutrition Team

#nutrition #foodguilt

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