What is the Ketogenic diet? In the most simplistic terms, it is a diet that is characterized by consuming the least amounts of carbohydrates to cause your body to release ketones into your bloodstream. Ketones are produced when your body metabolizes (burns) stored fat. Usually, the body uses energy from carbohydrates to fuel activity. When you eat very little amount of carbohydrates (about 20 – 50 grams but this varies for everyone) however, the body reaches ketosis in a few days (and this varies for everyone) which means, it’s now using the fat from your love handles (or wherever else) to power up your daily activities while it in theory, waits for glucose from carbohydrates to come it’s way again. This then postulates, that the longer you keep carbohydrates away and keep the body in ketosis, the longer your body uses stored body fat as fuel leading to greater weight (fat) loss.
Aside from fat loss, a ketogenic diet has also been shown in research to be almost as effective as anti-seizure medications in children at reducing seizures. You’ll see a lot of other claims regarding its benefits for other medical conditions such as neurogenic disorders and diabetes even. While a reduced carb diet has been shown to be beneficial in managing type 2 diabetes, there is no conclusive, long-term evidence to suggest that ketosis has to be achieved to gain these benefits and while it’s efficacy in treating child-hood seizure disorder has been shown, it hasn’t been likewise shown in other neurogenic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.
With the above in mind, the question I’ve gotten asked is it ok as a purely fat-loss diet? To that I say, there is no reason to put yourself in ketosis is if all you’re seeking is weight loss.
The reason I say no is that ketosis isn’t sustainable long term, it often leads to Yo-Yo dieting where you lose weight quickly only to regain it back. This in turn leads to a metabolic down regulation. Which means that with each cycle of weight-loss and weight-gain, your body has a harder time maintaining a healthy weight. You’ll find it harder and harder each time to lose weight and you must eat much less than someone who doesn’t Yo-Yo diet to maintain a healthy weight for you.
Another reason is that restriction dieting just isn’t good for anyone mentally in the long-term. Diet fatigue is real and having to exercise the Herculean strength will-power that is needed to say no to carbs is just unnecessary mental space that could be spent on growing in self-love.
Weight/fat loss when done well, takes time. Time needed to effect long term behavioral changes. We’re not talking a few months here, we’re talking, often times, years of unlearning and relearning new habits. In fact, for most people who are on a weight loss quest, it can be argued that what they need is to learn the principles involved in habit change rather than follow the newest most-restrictive diet out there.
Habit change isn’t as sexy as losing 10lbs in a month I know but if you’re tired of losing and regaining the same 10lbs, diving into the science of habit change is where it’s at. Yes, it might take you 2 years to lose that 40lbs BUT at least, it’d be a permanent loss wherein you learned the tools, tricks and basic nutrition knowledge that will last you a lifetime as well as ensure that you never regain any of that weight back.
I don’t know about you, but that’s the camp I want to be in. Yes, it’s hard work but it’s easy once you learn the basics and give yourself the grace, time and self-love to achieve long-lasting results that doesn’t wreck your body and mind in the process.
So, there’s hope if you don’t want to go through life never being able to eat more than 20g of carbohydrates a day – which by the way, is what a medium sized banana contains.
Next, I’ll address the basics of nutrition and share with you the only two things that absolutely matter when it comes to weight loss – more specifically, fat loss.