Food Freedom Friday Edition 111 - Keto Naysayers

There are always going to be those people in your world, be it family, friends (frenemies?), coworkers and the like who are heel bent on picking fights with you or going out of their way to sabotage you and your new ketogenic lifestyle nutrition. Or are you about to go keto and worry what people will say?

Sadly, you find yourself wondering if you are joining a new religion or just shopping in different grocery aisles. What, are we joining a new religion here, or just shopping in new grocery aisles??

When I first began changing my eating patterns I did my research. Lots, and lots of research. Lots of science. Lots of academic papers, lots of studies, lots of books and courses and certificates and blah blah blah. I have become a firm believer in a real food type approach and using keto in practice, I am definitely on board for a version of this program for the majority of my clients. Personally, I love it. I feel good. And contrary to popular belief I do not subsist on bacon and butter; I eat even more vegetables now than I did before.

Like with most things, when you do something that makes you feel good, there will be people who want to throw wheat bread all over your parade. When embarking on their new keto plan, many of my clients complain about feeling harassed by their friends and family. To support them, and you, through this process, I put together this fun little guide on how to respond to some of their most common, and annoying ‘concerns’ for your health and well-being.

1.     Low carb diets are so bad for you.

The ketogenic diet is a scientific plan that eliminates traditional carbohydrate sources. There are many variations of the ketogenic diet, some of which may be referred to as ‘low carb’ diets. Many of these are simply marketing terms and different formulas for the same thing. For example, Atkins and versions of Paleo can both be considered some type ketogenic diets, but people associate one as unhealthy and one as healthy because they market themselves in different ways and use different formulas. News flash, not all low carbohydrate diets are the same. Choosing an eating plan based on whole, real, unprocessed foods can be nothing but better than a standard Western diet filled with processed food-like products!

2.     Your body needs carbohydrates for fuel!

Just to be clear, a ketogenic diet includes lots of vegetable which are, in fact, carbohydrates. In actuality, the body was not designed to run on carbohydrates and you are not depriving your body of energy by eliminating traditional grain-based carbohydrates. Your body can create its own fuel, called ketones, and it prefers to run on them. This is why people who reduce/eliminate carbohydrates find that they can think and concentrate more clearly. For the parts of your brain that require glucose, your body creates glucose from proteins through a process called gluconeogenesis. Your body does not need hundreds of grams of carbohydrates to run efficiently and productively, even if super active. There are modifications and adjustments for those who are extremely physically active but these are based on personal needs and one’s own body mechanics. 

3.     There are better/safer/easier ways to lose weight!

Really? Because all I see are fake sugars and knee replacements. Get active? Telling that to a 300lb or 400lb person is like saying you could run down your street holding a 300lb or 400lb barbell. Get real and tuck away your ego for a minute to let people work up to it.

More importantly, people who go on ketogenic diets generally embark on the plan for more reasons than simply weight loss. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a great perk, and an effective measure of progress, but the health benefits almost always outweigh the fat loss. A ketogenic diet has long been prescribed by doctors to cancer patients (cancer dies without glucose), those with Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and other diseases and has proven to be ridiculously effective, of which I know personally. Feel free to look it all up.

4.     Living on bacon and butter is not healthy!

Personally, I never eat bacon – strange right? I do not enjoy the taste. This is the worst over-generalization of all. People on whole food ketogenic diets eat lots of vegetables, probably more than most! They may even eat berries. Regular consumption of grains, legume, starchy vegetables and sugary fruits is avoided. This is not due to the fact that one cannot eat them, but rather, eventually because you do not want to as they make you feel nasty. Once you eliminate dense sources of carbohydrates from your diet and reintroduce them, they make you feel groggy and bloated and gross. For those who do choose to enjoy some bacon, it comes from well-sourced, ethically raised, happy, healthy animals meaning it is good for you.

5.     That is way too many calories to allow for weight loss!

A ketogenic diet is naturally low in calories. This is another over-generalization that “low carb” diets get; People think that we consume 5,000 calories a day when in reality it’s incredibly hard to eat a ton of calories on a ketogenic diet because most of the calories people eat come from carbohydrates. I have a difficult time consuming 1500 calories a day, I have to push myself to do so. 

6.     Aren’t sugar alcohols as bad as fake sugar?

I have no idea (Well, actually I do but the answer is way more nuanced. Always bear in mind that artificial sweeteners are by far the worst alternative to something sweet that you can consume. Sugar alcohols are generally less offensive, but as with everything, it is individualized and depends on goals, need, concerns and ones bio-individuality). Most people following a ketogenic protocol do not consume sugar alcohols. There are popular diets in every niche that include fake ingredients and fake sweeteners.  Both lower carbohydrate and low fat plans have their offenders. For the rest of us following a keto diet without a brand name, means shopping in the produce, meat and dairy sections of the store or market. Because milk is inflammatory for many and high in sugar, coconut and almond milk are common substitutes, while high quality, raw milk, organic, unpasteurized cheese and eggs may be better tolerated. We rarely shop in the aisles at all, and that means no brand name meal replacement shakes or protein powders!

7.     All of that fat will kill you!

The ingredients on a real-food ketogenic protocol are better for you. It is no secret these days that ‘good fats’ are good for you and that ‘fat doesn’t make you fat.’ Another thing most people fail to realize is that those on this type of plan are very smart about their fats. In fact, most are truly fanatic about good fats. The focus is on choosing real, organic butter instead of fake margarine and cooking using organic coconut oil and ghee. They buy grass-fed meat because it has the best fats and omega-3’s. they opt for nitrate-free, uncured bacon and deli meats because nitrates and all that junk give you cancer. Go ahead, try to talk to anyone on keto about fats. I dare you.

8.     OMG don’t you know that Atkins guy died of a heart attack?

Although what I am talking about is not anything like the Atkins plan, I would like to clear up this fake news. Dr. Atkins did not die of a heart attack. He had ‘an extraordinarily healthy cardiovascular system’ according to his doctor. In reality, he actually had an incurable heart condition called cardiomyopathy which has nothing to do with your diet, but that is not how he died. What killed him was a head injury sustained after slipping on ice.

The cardiovascular system and heart health of ketogenic proponents are perfectly fine, thank you. A diet high in good fats will reduce your overall inflammation, triglyceride levels and your bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. The research is quite clear on this but many starting a ketogenic plan worry because of the outdated information we are still all bombarded with on a daily basis. Even the anecdotal evidence is clear - in my practice and many keto forums I see photos daily of people’s checkups and their extraordinarily healthy cholesterol levels.

9.     You must be starving all the time.

Ha! A ketogenic diet will never leave you hungry. Carbohydrates cause cravings and increase appetite, even when physically full, so without them, portions are often a fraction of what they used to be snacking is reduced to a minimum, if at all. A ketogenic diet is the easiest one you will ever go on. Cravings disappear, you eat real, whole foods, and weight sheds away effortlessly.

10.  But I read this thing online about this lady who said this thing….

There will be bad eggs. I read a forum post recently from a woman saying that a low carb diet ruined her metabolism and that it took her five years to get it back up to speed. She then revealed that she was eating 15 carbs per day and around 1000 calories per day. Well, no kidding, starve yourself much? For every thousand success stories, there will be one person with a negative experience. Unfortunately, the people with the negative experiences speak at decibels a thousand percent louder than those of us who are doing great.

In case you are unclear: A basic, non-branded ketogenic diet plan includes cold pressed, naturally occurring saturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats and oils, well-sourced, ethically raised meats and animal products, organic vegetables, nuts and some low sugar fruit and dairy. No processed stuff. No sugars. No grains. Carbohydrate consumption is limited to 20-60g of net carbs per day (carbs minus fiber), and this varies from person to person, depending on personal metabolic needs and challenges and an individual limit to maintain ketosis (the process of burning ketones instead of carbohydrates). It is incredibly easy to eat 20-60g of net carbs per day when you eliminate grains, this becomes a way of life, hardly a diet at all. 

I like to sum up my take on a ketogenic lifestyle as eating high quality, real foods. I hate calling it a diet. I also loathe the words ‘low carb’ as they are often misinterpreted, although it is the most understandable way to explain things. My definition of good foods might be different than yours. And that’s OK. It is not necessary to be dogmatic and self-righteous about it. This is working, for me and many more.

So, the next time you are told that the way you eat will kill you, gently remind the concerned individual that you are much more worried about their diet doing harm than your own, and I I would be willing to bet you have out a lot more time and energy into researching your plan that they might have into theirs.  

Michal Ofer