To keto, or not to keto?
The keto diet promises dramatic and fast weight loss results. But, achieving those results can be elusive, especially for people who cannot commit to the diet’s limitations 100% of the time.
That’s because the keto diet relies on your body achieving and staying in ketosis – a metabolic state where your body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates.
“Achieving ketosis requires you to maintain a drastic reduction in carbohydrates – foods like bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets and most fruits – not just for a few days, but every single day,” explains Amy Paulus, a nurse practitioner who specializes in weight loss and bariatric surgery at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “One cheat meal or an extra slice of bread can switch your body to using carbs for fuel, putting you right back at square one.”
Scientifically speaking, your body prefers to use carbohydrates to meet its energy needs. When there aren’t any carbs to use for fuel, your liver produces ketones which are responsible for breaking down fat stores into usable energy through ketosis.
The only way to induce this metabolic state is to strictly limit your intake of carbohydrates to the tune of just 5-10% of your daily diet. For a 2000 calorie diet, this translates to about 40 grams of carbohydrates a day or just one cup of pasta or a single hamburger bun.
“It’s very limiting and not sustainable for most people,” explains Paulus. “A more sustainable, long-term solution is going to allow you to have a variety of foods, combined with accountability for what you’re eating. Tracking your intake is key to understanding what and when you’re eating to excess.”
For those looking to lose weight and keep it off, she typically recommends a lower carb diet, with 35-40% of total calories from carbohydrates. It’s important to remember that the kind of carbohydrates you’re eating matters. Pick healthy carbohydrate sources like low-fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. This style of eating shares benefits with keto – like lowering blood sugar and dropping excess pounds – but is easier to maintain as a lifestyle for the long haul. She’s quick to add, what works for one person may not be effective for another.
“There’s not one plan that fits all,” Paulus says. “Its important to find a plan that works for you in partnership with your provider. We can help you understand what’s going to help you achieve your goals, whether you’re looking to lose or maintain your weight.”
For those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle, Paulus says start with a clear and attainable goal. Then, find someone who can hold you accountable for reaching it – either a health care provider or a friend. Track your progress honestly and check in with your accountability partner often. Finally, don’t overreact to days where you fall short of your goals.
“People get discouraged when they don’t lose as much as they think they should be losing,” Paulus explains. “Don’t beat yourself up. Get back on the trail and continue to move forward towards your ultimate goal – a healthier, sustainable lifestyle.”
About the Author
Kristen Johnson, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She previously worked as a speechwriter and staffer on Capitol Hill. She enjoys running marathons, good coffee and exploring Chicago’s many neighborhoods.