It doesn’t take long for our bodies to start fighting back after we starve ourselves of carbohydrates.
The trendy keto diet (short for “ketosis”) reached pinnacle mainstream popularity around 2017, but the lingering after-effects are now making waves throughout the quick-fix diet world, as many begin to realize the temporary solutions achieved by the starvation-based diet correlate directly with long-term weight gain.
For those who may have once touted the benefits of keto, which was initially conceived to prevent seizures in developing adolescents, there is now considerable damage to be dealt with, but little in the form of resources available to help those with negative effects. This unfortunate backfire in expectation isn’t anyone’s fault, and the advice proffered here is not to chastise, but to drive home a lesson.
Doing the work for long-term results always ends up more favorably compared with a continual search for shortcuts to achieve our health and wellness goals. We would do better off to scrap the term “weight loss” entirely, as our muscle mass actually weighs more than the stubborn fat we are so desperate to budge and rid ourselves of.
First, it seems appropriate to describe the process of going “keto” (into ketosis), which, by itself, is a dangerous state for our body to be in even temporarily, much less for prolonged periods of time.
Ketosis is instigated by a prominent lack of carbohydrates in our diet, as little as 20 grams a day, and is indicated by a formation of keto-bodies in the liver. As our liver works to process the high amounts of fat consumed in the place of protein and carbohydrates, our bodies desperately cling to any fat stores we have in an attempt to save us from certain starvation. In place of fat, our bodies begin to break down precious muscle tissue to get after the glucose it craves instead.
The reality is that our bodies are not designed to run on a diet of predominately fat; we are carbohydrate-dependent for good reason, as the rich nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals are most easily assimilated via a process our body is designed to execute effectively: glycolysis. It is a system that is deeply ingrained in our evolution, and already so perfect that it requires little in the way of disruption to guarantee our continued health.
Why do we mess with ourselves? What causes us so much confusion in the way of achieving “body goals,” or our “perfect” weight? Why do Americans develop so many eating disorders?
The truth is that we are confused and misinformed. Largely led by a coalition of trendsetting diet fads, some even peddled by certified doctors, who swore Hippocratic oaths to “do no harm.” Are we really so lost that we put our faith (and hearts) in the hands of pure outsiders, who lay claim to knowing so much about the innate and delicate processes of the inner realms of the human body, and yet outwardly introduce solutions and ideas that continually keep everyone lost and unsure?
Carbohydrates do not make us fat.
The perfect building block of cellular life is not the evil it is made out to be in mass-produced diet culture. In fact, “cutting carbs” will lead us only to certain, untimely death. It may not be an immediate one (we can usually bring ourselves back with a huge binge, right?), but it will be a slow and steady one—a decline of everything we hold dear, from a fully functioning mind and smoothly operating muscular system, to the stoppage of our fluttering heart.
Our brains need glucose, our hearts require it for the production of red blood cells. The temporary hit from ketone bodies is not a sustainable way to properly thrive. A lack of carbs affects everything from our immunity, to how quickly we can heal a broken bone. Our fat stores will not be depleted in a carbohydrate-starved state; our musculature will because this is where our body chooses to store all of our unused glucose. If required, through a process known as gluconeogenesis, our body can metabolize noncarbohydrate sources to provide for our survival.
In the long-term, this is an inefficient system, and while immediately gratifying for those who are accustomed to crash-dieting, largely damaging to anyone hopeful to drop any amount of fat. The ramifications are the same for anyone undertaking a water fast, or a prolonged fast of any nature without any form of food; our body believes itself to be starving (which, it is), and shuts down any unnecessary activity that is not aligned with keeping our body alive.
After dealing with our body believing itself to be in “starvation mode,” what are the after-effects of such a damaging scenario? Fat storage. By putting our body in a willful state of famine, we have now encouraged our preset system to prefer hanging on to fat, rather than burning it off. The solution to this problem is not to continue consuming fat; it is to eat more carbohydrates. Yes, there will most likely be a little bit of initial weight gain as our body learns to reaccept the additional caloric resources available for it to do its job. This is usually the stage where most of us give up, and go back to paleo/primal lifestyles, but what happens when we allow ourselves the opportunity to actually heal?
This article will not appeal to the instant gratification crowd, but that is not my intention. It is with the utmost respect and importance that I encourage anyone whose interest is piqued in high-carb living by this information to do their own research, and consult their own resources for guidance. This is simply a case study in trying something that seemed like a good idea at the time, and later on, having the misfortune of finding out it really wasn’t for me at all (sound familiar?).
We have never had better access to information than with the internet. For better, and worse, we can search for anything; we have ideas, diagnoses, and remedies available right at our fingertips. It is okay to mess up, try something new, and return to the heart. The emotional side of eating mostly carbohydrates from plant sources is that there will be no harm done to animals. This is something that has always been the guiding light in my decision to find a way of being that feels the most authentically aligned with who I am, and the life I want to experience.
Ultimately, I want to work to understand why we have strayed so far away from our natural preference for fruit enough to demonize it entirely as a source of unhealthy sugars to be avoided at any and all costs. Just imagine! The beautiful bounty of color that grows in the ground is off-limits, but it’s totally okay to fry 15 eggs, slather them with bacon and butter, and think we will lose weight? That’s not only insane, but it’s unhealthy, dangerous, and completely ridiculous.
“We are what we eat,” and I want to be fresh, green, natural, and clean—not processed with fat.