Move Over Paleo, Keto is the New Diet Darling
For keto’s many East End devotees, embracing fat is the secret to a slimmer physique. Could this plan work for you?
If #holdthebun, #bodybybacon and #verylowcarb have been popping up on your social media feeds, you probably know that the ketogenic diet—better known as “keto”—is trending. Developed to treat epilepsy nearly a century ago, the fat-friendly regimen owes its recent popularity to the promise of rapid weight loss—up to 10 pounds the first week, and one to two pounds per week after that. With permission to chow down on butter and bacon, and the endorsements of slim celebs like Bella Hadid, Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian, it’s no surprise that keto is the “it” plan for many East Enders looking to get bikini-ready in a hurry.
The goal of the diet is to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body burns fat rather than sugar for energy, according to Don Colbert, M.D., a Winter Park, Fla.-based physician and author of Dr. Colbert’s Keto Zone Diet: Burn Fat, Balance Appetite Hormones, and Lose Weight (Worthy Publishing). By eliminating the “carbage,” he says, you’ll deplete glycogen stores, forcing the liver to convert fat into a usable fuel source called ketones.
As the body adapts to the shift, insulin levels will drop as fat-burning ramps up. Your organs and brain may benefit, too: A ketogenic diet has been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Other research points to enhanced mental acuity and focus. “It’s like going from a gas-burning engine to an electric one,” Colbert says. “It’s a clean fuel for the brain, heart and kidneys.”
The sweet spot for maintaining ketosis is a diet high in fat (70 to 80 percent of calories), moderate in protein (15 to 20 percent) and low in carbohydrates (5 to 10 percent). Keto followers enjoy meat, full-fat dairy and leafy greens. On the skip list: grains, starchy root veggies like carrots and potatoes, and most fruits. (Alcohol is allowed but discouraged, as it’s high in calories.) Unlike the Atkins diet, “keto emphasizes healthy saturated fats, like grass-fed dairy, free-range eggs and coconut oil, as well as monounsaturated ones—olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds,” says Colbert.
But as those ketones kick in, brace yourself for side effects, including breath that smells like nail polish remover and a bout of “keto flu”—symptoms include brain fog, headaches and fatigue. Push past it and you may experience a surge in energy and a diminished appetite, thanks to all that fat and protein. (In a 2013 study, a ketogenic plan resulted in more satiety than other diets.)
Another obstacle: Keto is a very restrictive diet that can be difficult to stick to for long, as it can make eating out and socializing challenging. And the jury’s out on how long one can safely go keto—many cardiologists frown at all that saturated fat. So consult with your doctor before starting—and stop when it becomes a hassle. Because after all, summer is about fun, including a bowl of pasta once in a while.