Dear Keto-Dieter, no I don’t want to hear about your ‘keto success story’.
And no I don’t want to hear about your friend’s success story either.
It’s not that I don’t believe you lost XX kilograms of weight on keto.
It’s just that I don’t agree with your definition of success. I personally don’t think that losing weight on a keto diet is a ‘success’.
Here’s the thing, many of the people you see who’ve just lost a pile of weight on keto, who are posting photos of their new ‘improved’ body after their weight loss – are actually struggling with disordered eating and/or disordered exercise behaviours.
How do I know? Because I’m in Facebook support groups with these people. And I’ve had clients who’ve shared with me the reality of their experience on the keto diet.
And there is a tonne of research showing how restrictive diets like the keto diet (and yes, if you’re excluding entire food groups, that qualifies keto as “restrictive”) can badly impact your relationship with food and your body image.
Maybe you’re eating keto and don’t feel like you have a disordered relationship with food. But ask yourself this question – do you feel guilt when you eat something banned on the keto diet?
If the answer is yes, then that’s a problem. Because food and guilt should never mix. They’re like oil and water. They don’t go together. If you feel shame or guilt about foods that you eat then it’s time to reassess your relationship WITH food.
Sure you feel on top of the world right now because the pounds are dropping off since you’ve started following keto. But here’s the thing. Your immediate situation, is not the reality.
I know this, because I have a totally different perspective to you. It’s kind of like you’re racing your car around a race track and enjoying the thrill and the speed. But I’m in the ambulance that travels to the car crashes and sees the aftermath when the cars crash (and they do crash, very often). And I also see all the cars that break down and run out of petrol and end up discarded on the side of the track.
People who fail at keto diets don’t write loud, proud testimonials and put them on websites for everyone to read. They don’t shout it from the roof-tops. They hide away at home, feeling guilty and ashamed, feeling like a personal failure because they can’t even get the keto diet to work for them when everyone else is saying how fantastic it is.
In fact, below is a graph from a research study proving exactly this point. The blue, red and green lines show the average (mean) weight loss in kilograms, by months in clinical trials of the Atkins diet. They lost a few kilos and regained a few by the 12 month mark (except for the green study). Statistically we know that by the 3-5 year mark almost all of them will have regained all of the lost weight and a significant proportion will regain more than they lost.
But hey! What about the black line?!
That my friend, is the “reported” weight loss from an Atkins diet, based on Amazon reviews for the Atkins diet book. According to the black line, people lose a pile more weight and regain that weight much more slowly.
So why the big difference between scientific studies and Amazon reviews?
People don’t post on Amazon reviews about how the Atkins diet failed for them. Or how little they lost. It’s feedback bias at its best. Those who succeed post raving reviews. Those who fail hide at home. So the black line is the average of all the successes and totally ignores all the diet fails.
Similarly, out there on the ole’ interweb, all you’re going to hear and see on keto websites are the ‘success’ stories. People don’t and won’t post their failures on the keto diet. But trust me – the keto diet is failing for a lot of people.
I get that you and your friend have seen success with the keto diet in the short term. And yes I call 9 months and 12 months short-term.
Statistically we know that the most determined dieters will peak at about the 12 month mark, but after that almost all are regaining the weight.
So no, your short-term success does not equal a lifetime weight loss.
When you’ve sustained that weight-loss for 3-5 years then please call me and let me know.
Or when you see a study published showing that the average keto dieter sustained their weight loss for 3-5 years then let me know about that too.
Cos, as at the time I published this blog post, no such thing existed.
I mean sure, you might be the exception to the rule. But most human-beings get tired of dietary restrictions and food rules. And the keto diet is notoriously hard to stick to with its limits on carbs like grains and fruit.
The siren call of the bread loaf becomes too loud and eventually the cravings are so severe they give in and eat bread (no big sin from my perspective, but a guilt-framed affair for the keto-dieter).
No you’re not sick of it at the moment, but 12 months is not 12 years is it?
I know, I know, sounds crazy right?! Have I gone stark-raving-bonkers?
No I haven’t. Take a quick look at this handy-dandy info on Health At Every Size for a great explanation, complete with scientific references.
We all know thin people that eat rubbish diets and don’t exercise – do you truly believe they are healthy just because they’re thin?
Conversely, there are people in larger bodies who eat well and exercise regularly, yet still live in a larger body – are they unhealthy then, even if they eat better than you and exercise more than you? Just because they’re bigger than you? Who is more at risk of cardiovascular disease?
Do you really believe you can judge someone’s health status just by looking at their body size?
Trust me – you can’t judge someone’s health by their body size. You have no idea what their lifestyle or diet is like or what their metabolism and health is like.
ANYONE can adopt healthy lifestyle behaviours irrespective of size and benefit from that. Indeed, focusing on adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours is a great idea – whether or not that leads to weight loss.
More and more studies show that people who eat a diet of nutrient-rich wholefoods from all food groups, and fewer processed foods, live longer and have a lower risk of many chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
When you chuck out all grains and legumes (as per the keto diet) you’re fundamentally shifting away from that. It’s your choice. But you need to know there are NO guarantees that any benefit you derive from weighing less (for one or more years), is going to outweigh the potential risk to your long-term health from eating a lower fibre diet containing zero grains.
Moreover, the scientific research available at this point in time certainly suggests you are increasing your risk of chronic disease by choosing to remove entire food groups like wholegrains.
And anyway, who says that thinner is more beautiful?
Not me. Nor a lot of other people.
Walking to school the other day with my kids I saw another mum walking her kids. I recognised her. And I could see she’d lost quite a bit of weight. I don’t know why – is she sick? on a diet? exercising more? I don’t know.
But what I did realise as I looked at her is, that when viewed with a completely neutral lens – she looked no better or worse for her weight loss. She was still her. Still the same person. Still the same face. Still the same personality.
She didn’t suddenly become more valuable or desirable just because she’d lost weight.
And I know that all of the above probably means nothing to you right now.
But one day, when the keto diet is wearing thin, when you’re tired and feeling disillusioned, please know that I am here for you.
I’m not in the business of saying “I told you so”. I just want you to be healthy and happy. And I’m always here to help.
I just wanted you to understand why I don’t want to hear or share your ‘keto success story’.