Ketosis is a metabolic function that occurs with low-carb diets. Instead of using carbohydrates for energy, the body will turn to its own fat stores and break them down for energy instead. This usually results in a rapid loss of fat (and pounds) that sounds great in theory, but in practice is a bit more dangerous.
Our bodies use ketosis the same way a car uses the fake donut tire in your trunk. It’s enough to get you to the garage, but it’s not meant to be driven on indefinitely. In the same way, ketosis is a by-product of the body’s reaction during a time of starvation that allows it to keep functioning until it can get to its next carbohydrate.
What is a carbohydrate? Pretty much anything that’s not fat and not protein. So if you get rid of oils, butter, meats, fish, and poultry, pretty much everything else is a carbohydrate. That includes super-healthy carbohydrates like salads and not-so-healthy carbohydrates like a cheese pizza.
There are a lot of advocates for low-carb diets. I think what they’re advocating is reckless and unsustainable. Yes, you’ll get a quick hit of weight loss and the weight loss will come from fat, but you have to put your body into starvation mode to allow it to trigger ketosis. This will almost certainly mean a nasty weight rebound when you inevitably stop eating the low-carb meals the diet prescribes. I’m not the only one against a ketonic diet.
I’ve also had the “pleasure” of experiencing the effects of a long-term ketonic diet. It happened when I was pregnant. Due to hormones going crazy during my first trimester (a genetic trait I have), I was diagnosed with something called hyperemesis. That’s just a fancy word for morning sickness to the factor of 100. I could barely eat anything, was constantly throwing up, and if it wasn’t for frequent IV bags, would have died. (Famed author Charlotte Bronte did, in fact, die of hyperemesis.)
During the worst phase, when I wasn’t receiving good care, I wound up in an acute care clinic and couldn’t remember my name when asked. In the back of my mind I said to myself, “This really isn’t good.” My husband looked on horrified when he realized I truly couldn’t remember. Luckily we changed doctors, finally got good care, and they stabilized me somewhat. At week 20 of my pregnancy, I could finally keep most of my food down. To give you some perspective, I ate a full meal on September 15 and my next full meal wasn’t until Thanksgiving Day. I was truly thankful.
Symptoms of ketosis include:
- urine and breath will smell different (ketones are being released)
- nausea and vomiting
- weakness or fatigue
- shortness of breath
- in severe cases, death, which means it’s no longer a symptom.
Do you really want to go down this path to lose a few pounds? Is that worth it to you? I hope when you’re reading about these diets and considering them that you’ll find this post instead and consider another route. For those who say it’s safe if you’re only in a “little bit of ketosis,” I say you’re playing with fire and you should stop.
For people who are actually struggling with a ketotic diet, if you’re having an epically bad day, please just eat a piece of whole grain bread. You’ll feel better in about 15 minutes. As always, consult with a doctor before you begin any diet and go ahead and ask them their opinion of ketotic diets. I bet you’ll get a similar answer to mine.