Keto is Not a Fad. Keto is Necessary For Life.
The keto diet is not a fad. Ketosis, the goal of a keto diet, is more normal than most people think. In fact, being in a state of ketosis, whether it is a result of diet or strategic fasting, is a healthy physiological state for the human body. Newborn babies are in a state of ketosis shortly after birth and will remain there through breastfeeding. Anyone who has skipped breakfast or hasn’t eaten for 12+ hours has been in a mild state of ketosis.
The perception that keto is a fad relies on the idea that keto is abnormal, fringe or dangerous.
But without ketosis, we could not survive long without food. The body is designed to thrive in the absence of glucose and ketones are the reason why. Without ketone production, we would not exist.
That ain’t a fad. That’s a fact.
Keto is not a fad. Keto is necessary for life.
The body is smart. It evolved over time to burn two types of fuel like a hybrid engine. You give it carbs, it turns the carbs into glucose and your cells utilize it for quick energy. No carbs? No problem. The body will burn stored body fat or will burn the fat you feed it. The body has a back-up plan. Why?
Because the body is a genius.
The Body is a Genius
It is efficient and adapted for times of feast and famine. It is not adapted for a constant stream of hyper-palatable refined food-like substances, namely, processed carbs. Diabetes is a common result of an overload on one part of the system. Its like asking one part of an engine to do all the work. The body is programmed to sustain a switch in fuel sources from time to time in order to maintain metabolic balance.
Keto is Popular Right Now, So the Impulse is to Dismiss it
Doing a keto diet has become popular in mainstream circles, the internet is buzzing about it, books are being published, keto products are being developed as we speak. You may know people who have tried it with varying degrees of success. This sudden wave of keto enthusiasm feels like another fad or flash in the pan.
I get why people eye-roll when they hear about keto. Most people are smart and they are tired of being sold “the next best thing”. So many people throw keto into the “yet another dietary fad to sell to me” basket because they have learned to expect a slick, promising, shiny new thing that ultimately does not deliver. Ah yes, the diet to cure all my ills and make me skinny and beautiful, here we go again!
I get it.
But just because you are intentional about achieving a ketogenic state, does not make it a fad. It is normal to be in a ketogenic state. Perhaps not common, but definitely normal. And there are a lot of benefits. In short order, here are a few: mental clarity, weight loss, more energy, better sleep, less hunger and a drastic reduction in sugar cravings.
Keto (short for “ketosis”) is a very important physiological state for the human body because it enables the body to utilize fat as a fuel source instead of glucose. Ketones are produced when the body is in a fasted state or when carbohydrates are reduced to the point where insulin production is very low. Low insulin provides the feedback for the body to induce ketogenesis.
If you’ve ever gone 12-24 hours without food or carbs, you have been, at the very least, in a mild state of ketosis.
Just Because Something is Common, Does Not Make it Normal
When something is common, we tend to perceive it as normal. We live in a society where people eat too often and too much, especially sugar and carbohydrates. The popular satirical news magazine The Onion ran a headline a few years ago that said:
It’s funny because it’s ridiculous, but it’s also funny because it’s damn close to the truth.
Near-continuous eating might be common, but it is not normal. Near continuous eating of one dominant fuel source is also common, but it is also not normal.
Another example is Type 2 Diabetes. Very common, not normal. It’s a devastating response to carbohydrate intolerance that will wreak havoc on every system of the body.
We have become accustomed to believing that what is common is normal. The ability to fluctuate in and out of a ketogenic state is 100% normal. The fact that we don’t do this is what is not normal. Therefore, when people call it a fad what they are admitting is that they don’t know what it is, why we would benefit or what to think of it! But the reality is, it is built-in. Your body does it. You just have to let it happen either naturally (as the body intended), or strategically, which is what the keto diet is. It’s a strategy.
The Keto Diet: The Intention to Use Your Body’s Innate System To Your Advantage
Keto is a natural state and it is a strategy. People use a keto diet to lose weight, increase cognitive function and to improve energy. By dramatically reducing carbs, you can induce a state of “nutritional ketosis” (as opposed to starvation ketosis). It is a way to burn fat by being selective about the macronutrients you consume. If you are unsure, a macronutrient is simply one of three things– fat, protein or carbohydrate. Being intentional about how you select your “macros” is the the keto strategy. Mostly it looks like this–
High fat. Moderate protein. Low carb. Bam.
As opposed to: Low fat, moderate protein, high carb. When one macro goes up, another goes down. Kinda like a seesaw. This is the macro ratio we were told to do by industry “experts” for the past 30+ years, the same folks that gave us seed oils, trans-fats, low-fat, high sugar, chemical shit-storm foods. The same folks that try to convince you that its all calories-in, calories-out, to get your shit together and will yourself to lose weight people.
Yeah, thanks but no thanks.
Some people dispute whether carbohydrate is actually a food. They claim that carbs provide no real nutrient value and is therefore more of a food-like addictive substance.
There is an argument to be made for this. After all, carbs are
- Highly addictive and
- Not essential for life.
Carbs Are Not Essential For Life
Yes, you heard me. Not essential for life. The lower limit for carbohydrate consumption compatible for life is ZERO.
The thing is, your body produces glucose on its own. It will produce glucose on demand as needed if you eat enough protein and fat. This is called gluconeogenesis. You could live a long, healthy, vital life and never eat much carb.
This concept is mind-blowing for people because we have been told for 30+ years that we must eat carbs, our body needs carbs, our brains need carbs, you will frikkin DIE without carbs! And while its true, our bodies and our brains do need some glucose, it is not true that you have to carb chug to get it. Your body will make it on demand. Again, we just need to let it by using keto as strategy.
A patient asked me a few days ago, “What is that bacon and cheese diet everyone is on?” I said, “I don’t know.” She said, “You know, the one where you eat a bunch of fat and somehow you lose weight?”
“Keto?” I said.
“Yeah that’s the one!” She replied.
I told her I was very familiar with it, because I use it personally and so do many of my patients.
No, Keto is not a Bacon and Cheese Diet
You can do keto many ways. People will try to complicate keto, but really you just need to increase fat, cut out carbs (or reduce drastically) and eat a moderate amount of protein. The fat can come from plant sources or animal sources or both. You can do keto on olive oil, nuts, avocado and a boat-load of low-carb lettuce or other vegetables. And yes, you can do keto eating bacon and cheese all day. Hell, you could guzzle a bottle of canola oil, eat some cheese and call it keto (gross!), but I personally don’t recommend that.
You can track ketones and glucose readings on a monitor for a while to see how your body is responding to dietary changes. This is an interesting way to gather data and can be very enlightening to see how you respond to certain foods. I recommend this for people who like number gathering and need the added support of data to support their goals.
Don’t Let People Complicate Things
As a teacher of mine once said, “There are many paths up the mountain.”
I would also add to that, “Yes, and there are many different ‘guides’ there at the bottom of the mountain, ready to sell you their special maps to reach the top!”
Guide #1: “This map takes you 15 miles out of the way of your destination, but it sure it pretty!”
Guide #2: “This map outlines all the devastating cliffs you could fall off. Actually, you could just go around the cliffs, but then you wouldn’t need this doo-hicky thinga-ma-bob I’ve got for an additional $99.99.”
Guide #3: “This map doesn’t actually tell you where to go. It tells you where not to go, thereby forcing you to go through the valley of scorching heat where we sell overpriced water because we know you’ll be really thirsty by then.”
There are also more well-meaning guides.
Their map might look like this:
Guide #4: “This map is proven to get 80% of people up the mountain. By the time they get there they feel great. But then there is no way back down because we haven’t figured that part out yet. Sorry….”
You feel me?
Nutrition is an interesting field. Lots of credentials, gadgets, products, gimmicks, books, misinformation, convoluted reasoning, cherry-picking, special interest, bias and frankly, dogma.
Choose your guides wisely.
Industry experts, nutritionists, MDs, personal trainers, dietitians, etc… The list is endless. The tendency is for experts to simultaneously complicate things and tell you there is only one way to do it. Don’t get me wrong– if you have type 1 diabetes or you take insulin or other meds for type 2 diabetes, you will need to be monitored by your physician to ensure your health stays stable as you make changes. However, it is good to go into any dietary change, understanding that it can be simple and if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused or freaked out, there is a good chance you don’t have the right guide.
Bottom line is, no matter how you do it or if you choose to do it– keto is not a fad. Ketosis is a natural, healthy state for the human body. The keto diet is just a way to use your body’s innate system to your advantage. All you have to do is get a little bit of direction and tap in.
What is the Advantage of Using Keto?
Advantages of keto include weight loss, clarity of mind and more mental and physical energy. Of course, in the beginning your body will need to adapt, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of carbohydrates. There are ways around this adapting phase, but again– it’s not complicated, it’s more just common sense. Some simple strategies include taking electrolytes to help get through carb withdrawal, timing your eating wisely and getting savvy about food prep.
Bottom line is ketosis is a normal, healthy, innate physiological state. Your body was built for it. If you can harness the power to use it through selective eating, you will benefit and your body will be in better shape. Understanding how to do it is not as complicated as people will make you think and you don’t need to fall prey to endless keto products or regimens. You can do it in a way you prefer that brings you joy.