I Tried the Keto Diet and Lived (Somehow)

The lure of fad diets like the Keto is real, but health and weight loss are not always the same thing.

By Talon Tippmann

After a week of eating foods that contain over half of one’s daily recommended fat intake and eating 90% cocoa dark chocolate that works better as a laxative than any over-the-counter medicine, I concluded that a diet consisting primarily of fat probably wasn’t very healthy. The intense stomach pains, all the saturated and trans fats in my system making me feel as if my arteries were clogged, and the few food choices were the cherry on top of the low-carb cake.

Losing a lot of weight within a short span sounds like a dream. It’s said that losing weight requires a healthy diet and frequent physical activity, and the weight loss will be subtle and take patience. So, when I heard from a family member that she lost fifteen pounds in just a few weeks, I was instantly interested. Did she start an intense work out regime? Perhaps she started fasting? Much to my surprise, she lost these fifteen pounds just by following the Ketogenic diet. Aside from being one of the many fad diets followed by pompous hipsters all around the United States, the Ketogenic (or Keto) diet is popular because of its potential to let you lose lots of weight in short spans of time. After researching low carb diets, I decided to give it a shot. Keto seemed like an efficient way of losing weight quickly and it seemed healthy, so I didn’t see any downsides.

Who would have known that following a diet which encourages foods high in unhealthy fats would upset your stomach?

The Keto diet and other extremely low carb diets work by putting your body into a natural state called “ketosis,” which makes your body burn fat for fuel instead of glucose. Basically, you eat a bunch of fatty foods and restrict your carb intake to only around 5% of your daily calories. Carbs generally make up around 50% of our caloric intake, so this was a huge difference that I noticed right away. Nonetheless, I still went the first two days with very little trouble. I got rid of bread, grains, and sugar completely with little difficulty. I got used to using extra virgin olive oil with just about all my meals, and I even got some Keto-friendly snacks at the store. However, it didn’t take long to feel negative effects. Eating extremely high amounts of fat with no carbs didn’t make me experience positive effects. In fact, I started feeling less healthy. While I wasn’t as hungry as I was before and was eating fewer calories than previously, some new problems came up that killed my Keto future.

The first and most noticeable thing that popped up was the intense stomach pain. Who would have known that following a diet which encourages foods high in unhealthy fats would upset your stomach? These pains didn’t go away no matter what I tried and only seemed to get worse with time. But the apotheosis of my stomach troubles was when I ate a bar of 90% cocoa dark chocolate. I had heard about dark chocolate’s many health benefits, plus it has extremely low carbs at 90% cocoa, so I thought that nothing could go wrong. Little did I know that I was about to eat a serving of chocolate filled to the brim with saturated fat and fiber, a combination that makes over-the-counter laxatives tremble in fear due to its potency. It goes without saying that I never gave this chocolate another chance. Between the laxative chocolate, intense gut pains, a constant feeling of grossness, and some motivation from a good friend of mine, I cut ties with the Keto diet and went back to a lifestyle filled with happiness and pasta.

What went wrong with this attempted approach to healthy eating?

Well, I wasn’t eating healthy. In fact, during this Keto diet phase, I was probably eating less healthy than I was before. At least my previous diet had whole grains and fruits, neither of which are allowed when eating low carb. When eating Keto, I allowed myself to eat, without regrets, extremely fatty foods such as bacon and olive oil, because foods like these are fair game as far as Keto is concerned. It doesn’t take much research to know that saturated and trans fats are terrible for your health, harming your arteries and heart. In fact, the only healthy things that happened to me during this diet were my high consumption of vegetables and a large calorie deficit. Both of things are completely achievable if I just ate a balanced diet instead. In fact, eating a balanced diet is superior to Keto and other fad diets in every way possible. Why limit what foods you can eat, when instead you could eat a nutrient rich diet filled with healthy foods from every food branch? While many people vouch for the effectiveness of diets such as Atkins or Keto or the Mediterranean, I believe that these people are extremely ill-informed. Fad dieting is extremely restricting and doesn’t come close to the effectiveness of a well-balanced diet.

Photo: Bacon Sizzling by Ian Turk on Flickr