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It's All-Out War Over Keto — Why Is the Diet Making People So "Insane" and "Emotional?"
For every devoted Keto fan (Jenna Jameson, Al Roker), there's a celeb vocal about the diet's flaws (Tamra Judge, Terry Dubrow).
Jenna Jameson? Loves it, swears by it — even found renewed fame from it.
For Tim Tebow and Jersey Shore's Vinny "Keto Guido" Guadagnino, it's become a lifestyle.
Celeb trainer Jillian Michaels made (what was probably unexpectedly enormous) news for calling the controversial diet a "bad idea." And the backlash from celeb Keto fans like Al Roker swift — and harsh.
So, how did we all get into this bitter Keto war? Isn't it just a diet, like so many others?
First of all, let's explain it again: Keto is a high fat, low-carb diet that allows you to eat cheese and cream and butter, but effectively cuts out all carbs. Sounds harmless enough, so what's the beef?
Nicole Avena, PhD., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Visiting Professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University, tells The Feast the emotional arguments over Keto are reaching “insane” levels. Basically people are split between those who believe it’s super healthy and those who think it’s harmful.
“The Keto diet has become widely popular because you can lose a lot of weight pretty quickly,” she explains. “Many people swear by it, and for some it has become more of a lifestyle and a community than just a quick way to lose a few pounds.”
That’s because “psychologically, it has a lot to do with control,” and there is concern that some people may take it too far,” Avena says. “People seem to strive to be in ketosis (when your body is essentially burning fat as a primary fuel source, rather than carbs). It becomes almost a personal challenge, and people will feel defeated if they fall out of ketosis by eating a slice of bread or even an apple. There are even blood test strips and breath analyzers on the market now for people to test whether they are in ketosis.”
She sums it up like this: “My take on Keto is that yes, you will lose weight if you do it right, but you won’t keep it off once you stop Keto. You also run the risk of micronutrient deficiency, and also lethargy and extreme weakness, termed ‘the Keto flu,’ which supposedly goes away after some time once your body adjusts. A healthy diet will make you feel good, not bad. Also, any diet that says you shouldn’t eat fruit is not something I would recommend.”
But there are some cases in which the Keto diet is advised and can be helpful, Dr. Avena explains. “For example, in some cases of epilepsy, a Ketogenic diet can have an effect on reducing seizures. But in this case, it has nothing to do with weight loss or weight control,” she says.
Nutritionist and food coach Tara Allen raises another point: “Arguing about diet fads is about us trying to feel confident in our choices in a dizzying diet world,” she tells The Feast.
“People seem to be taking this [Keto] debate very personally, and hurt feelings comes with it. While the Keto diet is rapidly gaining in popularity, this diet-dogma mentality is anything but new,” she reminds us. “Remember the Atkins and South Beach craze circa 2003? Nutrition and diets have always seemed to touch a nerve. Most of us have anecdotes of friends, family, our ourselves feeling much better — or worse — after trying a particular diet. We want to simplify the noise and boil it down to the 'best diet' that does everything from healing our ailments to allowing us to drop the last 10 pounds. The confusion and contradiction that exists in the diet industry is maddening. So, when we believe strongly that there's a set of rules we can follow — a diet — that can be the best or the worst out there for us, we get worked up and need to voice our opinions.”
Here's the deal on Keto in her opinion: "The Ketogenic diet has been found to have some amazing potential in many areas such as fat loss and as one treatment protocol for neurological disease,” she says. “But, that's only part of the story. Can some or all of these benefits be replicated with more foundational, less drastic interventions? By simply reducing sugar and processed foods and increasing our consumption of real, whole foods, we often find some of the exact same benefits. Also, while one person's Ketogenic diet consists of plenty of healthy fats, sufficient protein, and a rainbow-assortment of veggies, someone else might be eating lard all day, everyday. Technically, they are both on a Ketogenic diet. This is the problem with labels: They don't give the full story.”
She advises to keep in mind that what works for neighbor might not necessarily bring us the same results. “Our body type, metabolism, genetics, health history, and goals differ from person to person,” she says. “Ultimately, more research is needed to be done. In the meantime, let's add 'diet preferences' to the list of things we should start being more tolerant about.”
Here are all the celebs who have weighed in passionately on the Keto diet:
Any health-related information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, or before embarking on any diet, exercise, or wellness program.