THE DETAILS BEHIND THE KETOGENIC DIET
I decided to write an article on my thoughts about the KETO diet from a Nutrition Coach’s perspective. I think it’s fair to call it the latest trend given the increasing emergence on social media and in the news over the past year. Although I always make a conscious effort to stay open minded, I’ve learned over the years that each one of us will forever be evolving and we could potentially be missing important clues if we close all the doors and assume our way is right and others wrong. So, this year I started collecting information on what exactly the KETO Diet is and how it works so I could compare it to my knowledge of how our Metabolisms were born to function. Let me throw out a disclaimer though… I have always taught my students that any diet that requires us to eliminate one of the macronutrient profiles (protein, carbs & fats) or entire food groups is a diet that was not written for our bodies by Nature. But, it truly get it. When we want something so badly, we can rationalize just about anything! I’ve been there. Done that. And learned from it. So, I’m not writing to be right, but rather to let you make that decision for yourself.
What is the ketogenic diet?
What does that even mean? In essence, the ketogenic diet forces your body into a state called ketosis because it requires you limit your carbohydrate intake to a very low amount.
What is Ketosis and how does it do this?
Your body stores energy in a few ways. Two of those ways include;
- storing glucose in your liver and muscles as glycogen. Your muscles and liver can store short term energy for our bodies (more or less depending on your individual body)
- and when your glycogen stores are filled up, your body stores energy in your fat cells for more long term energy. This is not as bad as it sounds though, as our fat cells do a lot for our body beyond providing energy, including good hormonal health. When you eat a very low carbohydrate diet, you are not taking in enough readily available energy for your body’s daily needs. After all your glycogen stores are gone, usually within 24 hours, your body then turns to fat and breaks it down for fuel. This is the start of Ketosis.
Stick with me here as I know that was technical. In Ketosis your body begins using fat for energy and also converts some of that fat to these highly energy efficient molecules called ketones. One of the biggest reasons your body needs to create ketones is for your brain. Your body can use fat as energy for many cells in your body, but your brain cannot use fat for energy – fat can’t support the function of your brain. Your brain prefers glucose for energy, but when there isn’t enough glucose on board your body makes ketones from fats and uses those ketones to fuel your brain. This is why if you restrict your calorie intake or time, or if you have ever experienced an eating disorder, it’s really hard to think and stay focused. Your brain is starved and you get BRAIN FOG.
Thinking about this from a very high level, even before we get into the science, this doesn’t sound like a way your body is supposed to function, right? You are forcing your body into a starvation state where it will utilize a metabolic mechanism (breaking down fat for ketones to be used for energy) that is there for survival when your body experiences famine or prolonged periods without food. This is a survival mechanism your body uses because it’s smart and knows how to adapt to extreme circumstances to survive, this isn’t necessarily how your body is supposed to function on a daily basis. If you are actually not starving but eating food (like you would be with eating protein and lots of fat on a ketogenic diet) your body doesn’t have to break down muscle for energy like it would if you were starving yourself or actually experiencing famine. Regardless if you are starving or not, your body is put in a harder working state because there isn’t readily available energy to be used. A state that is used for survival when the environment is not favorable.
Ok, whew! Are you still with me? Now that we can understand more about how our body works let’s talk about what this means for your overall health – physical, mental and emotional.
How does the ketogenic diet affect our bodies?
First, it seems most people are intrigued by this way of eating for weight loss and not health. But I go back to my first “I get it!” as I’ve been in situations over the years where I would do almost anything to lean out (in my competition days), even if it didn’t make sense. Diet culture is a system of beliefs that equates thinness to health, encourages weight loss as means of success and demonizes certain ways of eating while glorifying others. So no matter what label you want to throw on eating – paleo or vegan or keto or raw or low carb or whatever – if it aligns with any of the above it’s a diet. That’s why I’ve always promoted “balance” for my clients (my Diet Hero’s I call them) … whether I was teaching the Diet Doc principles or now more recently adding Isagenix. They both revolve around eating all our macro’s = an almost equal ratio of protein/carbs and a daily dose of “healthy fats” (not just any kind of fats as that IS important).
We’re all affected by diet culture. And we’re all in our own personal (and professional) process. Diet culture is sneaky and sometimes we don’t even know we’re stuck in it. But if we can lift our heads and get really honest with ourselves we can begin to recognize these sexy, enticing “lifestyles” as diets that are not something that will lead us to health and/or be followed as a Lifestyle… you might begin to question the validity of what the KETO (or any other restrictive diet) claims.
I’ve coached long enough to know that Diets tend to lead to disconnection from the body’s internal cues and instincts about food. They lead to disordered and obsessive eating habits and a yo-yo cycle that many people find themselves in for decades or their whole lives, oscillating between being “on track” and then “falling off the wagon” – whether that’s in the types of foods you eat, the amount of food you eat, when you eat or all three.
With both the Diet Doc & Isagenix, my mission is to educate each person on how the food can and will affect their bodies so that they learn and understand “why their eating what they’re eating” vs just eating a high protein/fat and not focusing on quality or what your body is going to have to do to make energy for you to get through the day. This education will take people further in sustainable weight loss than any style of eating per se.
Improving hormonal health, insulin sensitivity, and other biomarkers such as blood glucose and cholesterol is SO MUCH MORE than food. There are many other aspects of life that contribute more to your health than food alone. Sleep has a huge effect on how our body copes with blood sugar. And increased stress isn’t a positive contributor to our health. And Social situations can become stressful and isolating unless every single one of your friends is eating keto and every social event you go to caters to your keto diet you have to constantly be thinking about what you’ll eat. Our social and emotional health has HUGE impacts on our physical health. I know for myself, I’d be in a suboptimal mental and emotional state if I was spending so much mental energy and time measuring, weighing and counting my food.
Even if there were some short term benefits of initial weight loss, the question I have is: what is the benefit compared to overall healthy living and caring for your body? Eating a wide variety of nourishing foods, eating satisfying foods, engaging in meaningful relationships, moving your body in a joyful way, getting enough sleep and resting your body when it needs to rest vs being productive and busy all the time. Truly caring for yourself and being kind to yourself. We know this way of eating and moving intuitively, of learning to care for yourself and enjoying your life … that’s what leads to long term health. No, that doesn’t mean giving up eating a healthful and intentional menu, but often, we’re actually so focused on the tiny details that we overlook the big picture that actually matters.
If you find yourself triggered by alluring diets or ways of eating or exercising or because someone else is sharing how amazing they feel and how great XYZ is … ask yourself this, “Is that in line with my values?” “Is that was really matters to me in life?” “Do I want to spend my days counting and measuring my food or obsessing over seeking out low carb foods?”
I truly feel like I have truly narrowed down the best of both Worlds for myself & my heroes with the Isagenix program, as it supplements” our healthy Diet Doc fork & knife table food with a pure, balanced, and highly absorbable nutrition profile that doesn’t cramp our Lifestyles nor chain us to the kitchen. As I have transitioned into this unique program of Energy & Health through Nutrition, some may misunderstand the premise and think they are required to drink all their Nutrition and never eat again! Nope. Nada. The goal we are achieving is to purge our bodies of stored chemicals & toxins (which BTW we get a healthy dose of from grocery store meat/dairy/gmo grains) combined with replenishing your cells with TONS of easily absorbable nutrients. THEN, the whole World is yours to decide when you should rather use a shake/bar in place of a not so healthy food choice because sometimes that’s all that’s available in our fast paced Lifestyles.
But, I still teach the good old fashioned Nutrition/Diet Doc for those who enjoy the detailed food prep. So, there are still a lot of healthy options without following the trends. I am so excited for all of our futures, as we have the tools we need to live a ridiculously healthy & fulfilling Life right in front of us … and my passion is your success! Please reach out if you have questions about this article or how I can help you get past any road blocks. You don’t have to do it alone (even if you want to) …. as I want you to wake up one day (soon!), look in the mirror and LOVE who you see looking back at you. You are beautiful!