What is a ketogenic diet?

Quick explanation: a ketogenic diet is simply one that avoids high carbohydrate (sugar) intake and provides the body with energy from fats and protein. It encourages the body to burn stored fat to make up for not eating as many calories.

If you want more detail than that, read on…

Everyone knows how to lose weight. It really is no secret. You consume fewer calories (energy) than you use in a day, and your body will burn fat that it has previously stored. You lose bodyweight and inches.

It’s that simple.

I have never met anyone over the age of 10 who did not understand how that worked.

So if losing weight is easy, why doesn’t everybody do it.

Because the explanation and understanding is simple, but making that happen is much more complex.

Why? Because food tastes good. Food has become so much more than fuel for your body.

Can you imagine Thanksgiving day without a huge meal – probably not. If I suggested to my mother-in-law that we not do a big meal on Thanksgiving day, this would probably be the last blog I ever write.

Food has become part of our emotion and part of our culture. How many times have you gone out with friends, and a restaurant was involved?

As a culture, we love to eat.

But imagine you could eat yourself thin. I know this sounds crazy, but that is exactly what I have done. After all, I ate myself fat – so why can't I eat myself thin? Truth is, you can. It’s quite simple but in order to understand it you have to understand a few basic concepts…

Food is broken down into three “macronutrients”. I am sure you have heard of all of these before:

Protein – the building blocks of body tissue. Things like meat, like beef, pork, chicken, etc.

Carbohydrates – the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains and milk products. Things like bread, pasta, milk and soda.

Fats – the most compact way of storing energy in a molecule. Things like cheese and bacon. Also, nuts have a lot of fat in them.

Our bodies can process any one of these three macronutrients to produce the energy we need to live.

Interestingly, there are essential fats, and essential proteins (the body cannot make them, you have to have them in your diet) but there are NO essential carbohydrates. Your body can make all the carbohydrates it needs from protein and fats. You can live forever without consuming another carbohydrate.

People used to believe that “a calorie is a calorie”. Meaning that if you eat 100 cal of protein or 100 cal of fat, your body will process it exactly the same way as 100 cal of carbohydrates.

That is completely FALSE. Your body processes carbohydrates differently than it processes proteins or fats. As long as you keep your carbohydrate level fairly low, your body does not try to store it as fat.

However if your carbohydrate level goes up, you end up with “high blood sugar”, and your body needs to avoid that because a high blood sugar level is toxic in the long-term. People with diabetes have really sad life outcomes. Blindness, amputations, kidney failure and dialysis are all long-term outcomes from high blood sugar.

So why do people end up with high blood sugar? Because sugar (carbohydrates) tastes good. The more sugar you eat, the more your body wants to eat sugar. You end up eating lots and lots of sugar (carbohydrates) and eventually your body has to do something about it.

So a diet that is high in carbohydrates forces your body to act to protect itself, and it does that by storing all the excess sugar as fat.

Yes, eating a lot of carbohydrates forces your body to store fat, and can destroy your health in the long term. There is no other way to explain it.

It’s a vicious cycle. You eat a lot of carbohydrates (sugar), your blood sugar levels go up, and the body freaks out. To protect itself, it releases insulin into your bloodstream, which forces your body to store the excess sugar as fat. This lowers your blood sugar rapidly, which causes you to be hungry.

So what do you eat…probably more carbohydrates. And it keeps going on and on and on until you gain weight, sometimes lots of weight. You can keep eating sugar all day, your taste buds love it, even though your body hates it.

Contrast that with eating a meal that is high in fat and protein.

If you eat a meal that is high in fat, before long your body realizes that it is getting a lot of energy and you reach a point where you do not want to eat anymore. This is called satiety, or being satiated. A great definition of satiety is to completely satisfy your appetite to the point that you don’t want to eat anything.

That is right, you can actually eat yourself to the point where you do not want to eat anymore.

If you are eating a meal that is high in carbohydrates, you have to eat a lot of food to achieve satiety.

If you are eating a meal high in fat, you don’t have to eat as much to achieve satiety.

So in effect, a ketogenic diet is eating more fat, to force you to eat fewer calories, so you burn fat and lose weight.

I get it, it sounds absolutely crazy, but it works.

Look at the alternative.  

In 1977, the federal government started telling people to eat “low-fat” food. At that time, the percentage of people who were obese (really overweight) was around 13%, and it had been that way for 20 years.

To make foods “low-fat”, food manufacturers cut out the fat and instead put more and more carbohydrates (sugar) into food.

By the year 2000, after 20 years of eating “low-fat/high sugar” foods, obesity rates were at 30%.

That is over a 100% increase in 20 years, although the 20 years before there was essentially no change.

Eating low fat does not stop people gaining weight, it actually forces them to gain more.

I could go on and on about it, but you don’t have all day.

It works, that’s all you need to know.

If you are interested in learning more about a ketogenic diet, email me and I will happily sit down with you and talk to you about it.

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