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The Keto Diet: Why my friend lost weight on it…but I still don’t recommend

So it seems like the ketogenic  diet is the newest controversial diet craze. I can’t scroll through Instagram without seeing a new #ketodiet recipe. And on a more personal level, one of my best friends is a keto convert. By sticking with keto for the last few months, she’s lost a significant amount of weight and noticed a huge improvement in energy, mood and less hormone fluctuations.

So what’s the keto diet, and why can’t I bring myself to fully endorse it?

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high fat, moderate protein diet that forces the body to go into a fat-burning state called KETOSIS. It does so by depriving the body of carbohydates which are the main source of energy in most diets. Because of this, the body is forced to burn fat for energy (producing by-products called ketones).  So, ok; burning more fat- while eating a high fat diet- sounds awesome, right?

Here are some positive things about the keto diet:

  • It’s very low carb: this is a good thing; it’s well known by now that refined carbs (which is a heavy part of the Western diet) are a huge contributor to obesity and disease.
  • It has the potential for very quick weight loss (at least initially) because it forces the body to utilize its fat stores for energy.
  • It has the potential to help with certain medical conditions:
    • Severe childhood epilepsy: in fact, this is the most-studied positive indication for the keto diet. No one knows exactly how it helps reduce seizures, however.
    • Evidence is emerging that it may help reduce symptoms for mental health disorders: anxiety, depression, even Alzheimer’s. The data is still very new and so solid conclusions can’t be drawn at this time from the studies.
    • Help to manage and reverse metabolic syndrome disorders like diabetes, hypertension, possibly high cholesterol: this is likely due to the weight loss itself (not specifically because it’s keto)

Ok, sounds good so far. So what’s so bad about the keto diet?

  • Very fat-heavy: Fats comprise about 70% of the keto diet. And although there are “good” and “bad” fats (to oversimplify), some keto diet proponents don’t necessarily differentiate. Which is why when you google keto diet recipes, there can be ALOT of bacon/butter/ lard/ coconut oil in those recipes. Some of these things (like processed red meat) are clearly linked to poorer health outcomes. The keto diet has been shown to increase cholesterol levels as well
  • Hard to get started: For anyone starting the keto diet, they need to be aware that for up to 2 weeks while your body adjusts, you will feel like crap. It’s called the “keto-flu”, and symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, mood-swings and stomach pain. Many people don’t make it through this initial transition.
  • Hard to stick with: Any diet that restricts a whole category of macronutrients (carbs) can eventually be hard to stick with. And while I’m happy with the low-carb aspect of it to some degree, it’s never a good idea to villify a whole class of nutrients. What about bananas, root vegetables, butternut squash? In a typical keto diet these foods are considered no-nos. I have a problem with that.
  • Has known long term effects: So one of the biggest concerns with the keto diet is because it’s still relatively new, there’s not a lot of long-term data out there. Depending on what you read, you can be convinced it’s the best diet ever, or the worst of all time. The best long-term data we have right now are the studies of the epileptic children, who have been followed into adulthood. And these studies review some of the complications of long-term adherence to keto diet: including dehydration, abnormal kidney and liver function, cardiomyopathy, hypoglycemia, kidney stones…the list goes on. 

On a personal and professional level, I just can’t get on board with a diet plan that is so restrictive. The reason why many diets fail is because of this. More studies need to be done in the long-term consequences of such a fat-heavy diet. however, I do appreciate some of the creative keto recipes which are low-carb, like this keto ice cream.

How do you feel about the keto diet? Feel free to comment below!

 

Dr K

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting through the Fat: Weight Loss/ Healthy Eating (Part 2)

So you’ve read Part 1 of our weight loss clinic series, and now you know so much more about calories; how many are in foods you eat, how many LESS you need to ingest to lose weight. Great! But now you need to come up with an actual game plan to enhance healthy eating.

Like I said before, I’m definitely not here to endorse a particular fad diet. But the end of the day, all diets have something in common: tips on what to eat LESS of, and MORE of. Many diet plans can be super-restrictive (for example, although I know people who’ve been successful on a Paleo diet, I’m very wary of a plan that endorses a lot of red meat, and eliminates healthy foods like legumes). For people that don’t want to be on a DIET, but want to know how to to eat HEALTHY (which should naturally help cut calories), these are 4 things you can do.

EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS: That is, non-processed 1 ingredient foods you can look at and tell what it is. Example: an Apple is a whole food. An apple pie is not. Old-fashioned rolled oats is a whole food, Quaker Oats Fruit and Cream oatmeal packets are not. Following this rule will naturally lead to eating more fruits and vegetables, and maybe then you’ll get your recommended 5 servings a day. Honestly, if you just follow this one rule, and eliminate processed foods from your diet, you’ve already won half the battle.

EAT LESS RED MEAT/ PROCESSED MEAT: As a lover of beef and bacon this pains me to say. But the more I read the data that processed meats are known carcinogens, and red meat probable carcinogens. , the more resolve I feel about cutting back. Note how I said “eat less” and not “stop eating”. Just because I know cutting out altogether is hard, since these types of meat are staples in many cultures. I don’t know if there is a safe minimum amount of meat, but I would personally aim for once or twice a month at most.  My personal goal is to totally eliminate red meat from my diet in 2018. Let’s see how it goes…

STOP DRINKING YOUR CALORIES: Seriously, the amount of hidden sugar in juices and sodas is incredible. And thanks to smart marketing, many people think that a glass of Snapple Ice tea is healthy compared to a Pepsi. What if I told you that Ice tea has as much sugar as a pack of Milk Chocolate M&Ms? If you’re serious about losing weight, juices and sodas have to go. Yes, even no-sugar added orange juice. Just eat the orange instead, and get the added benefit of fiber!

CUT DOWN ON REFINED CARBOHYDRATES AND SUGARS: Very few diet plans don’t include this recommendation, and there’s a simple reason. Refined carbs and sugars are the devil. I generally don’t like to vilify an entire group of foods, but the vast majority of unhealthy foods contain loads of sugar and refined carbs (i.e.processed so the whole grain is no longer intact). I’m talking white rice, white bread, white flour. When you remove the whole grain, you remove the beneficial fiber and other nutrients, so it’s basically empty calories with a high glycemic index. Hello, high blood sugar!! Hello, inflammation! (remember my article about this?) Hello, metabolic syndrome!

At the end of the day, we can argue all day long about what it means to have the healthiest diet. Certainly, I haven’t weighed in on the healthiness of poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy, healthy vs unhealthy fats etc. These are all worth digging into later on for sure, but I truly believe that following those 4 tips alone is sufficient for losing weight, cutting down your risk of chronic medical diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipemia and a host of other benefits.

What do you think of the weight loss clinic so far? Any other topics you’d like to read about? Let me know, and tune in for part 3 (Reviewing your Food Diary, common Pitfalls!). Oh and don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page 🙂 

[small disclaimer: this post is about eating healthily, and includes weight loss tips for those that need to get to a healthy weight. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, especially if you have medical conditions or take medications]