If I were to write a diet book (not that I’m at all qualified to do so), it would be one page long and that’s what it would say, and it wouldn’t sell. What you need for a successful diet book is a gimmick, a distraction to keep your mind away from the awful, impossible mantra of “Eat less, exercise more”, because that’s what people will pay for. “Oh, I can eat all the bacon I want as long as I avoid asparagus? That’s the diet for me!”
Yvette d’Entremont takes on the keto diet, which is the latest incarnation of a long line of wish-fulfillment diet strategies. The Atkins diet, the Paleo diet, and now the Keto diet are all rationalizations for consuming all the high calorie, fat-rich foods we crave with the magic trick of shunning one other kind of food. The scientific studies show they don’t work, or at least don’t work the way their proponents think they do. The simple formula is still the hard truth.
You could pick any of the countless diet books on the market, follow their plan to the last calorie, and lose weight. This is because — as study after study has shown — calories and dietary adherence matter more than anything for weight loss. You can gain or lose weight on any combination of foods. People have lost weight on twinkies, McDonalds, juice, plants, and obscene amounts of meat.
It’s important to remember weight loss alone doesn’t necessarily cause all health markers to improve, and a diet causing weight loss does not mean it’s appropriate and healthy for everyone. Some foods are better than others at making weight loss and maintenance easier for different people, so balancing a diet is a fairly personalized thing. If your doctor gives you the green light and keto works for you, do it. If low fat works for you, do it. If plant-based, paleo, Mediterranean, or one of the zillion other diets help you improve your health and your relationship with food? Do it. There’s no one right way to eat for everyone, just as there is no miracle diet plan for weight loss.
Also — here’s an article by a woman who got to experience a metabolism chamber and actually measure directly how food intake affected her caloric output. It’s got lots of solid, basic information on human physiology, and concludes much the same thing.
When it comes to diets, the researchers have also debunked the notion that bodies burn more body fat while on a high-fat and low-carb ketogenic diet, compared to a higher-carb diet, despite all the hype.
“We could have found out that if we cut carbs, we’d lose way more fat because energy expenditure would go up and fat oxidation would go up,” said Kevin Hall, an obesity researcher at NIH and an author on many of these studies. “But the body is really good at adapting to the fuels coming in.” Another related takeaway: There appears to be no silver bullet diet for fat loss, at least not yet.
That “not yet” is optimistic. I think we’re just going to have to face the fact that our cellular metabolism has been optimized by billions of years of evolution to be flexible and responsive to the environment…as if that isn’t a good thing.