For most people, dieting is synonymous with hunger. Being hungry is supposed to result in dramatic weight loss, but this has been disproven time and time again. In fact, those who force themselves to remain hungry through dieting actually end up gaining weight in the long run. Why is this the case, and how does being hungry make you fat?
There are a few different factors at play here. For one, forcing your body to stay hungry for long periods triggers your metabolism to slow down. This means you burn fewer calories and fat than you would have if you had allowed yourself to eat. A slow metabolism can be a major burden in the short-term. It prevents you from losing weight, as well as it being a burden in the long-term because it encourages weight gain. And once your metabolism has slowed down, it is no small task to encourage it to speed up again. Rather than fasting for long periods, your body will respond better to eating healthy foods every two to three hours. This keeps your metabolism boosted, the opposite of hunger’s effects.
A second factor is bingeing. When you allow yourself to become extremely hungry, you are far more likely to binge once you finally allow yourself to eat. Your body thinks you’re starving, so bingeing seems like an excellent idea to your body, considering it doesn’t know when you’ll ever feed it again. Plus, the foods you crave when you are very hungry are predominately sugary high-carbohydrate options. These offer immediate energy with a huge burst of sugar into the bloodstream. Again, this is logical for your body, but the after effects for you are severe. Following the huge spike in blood sugar comes an inevitable drop in blood sugar, leaving you tired and feeling hungrier than you should be. In the end, allowing yourself to become too hungry results in you ultimately eating more.
The last factor is muscle loss. If you routinely force yourself to stay hungry for long periods, your body will convert protein from your muscles into usable energy. This muscle loss is a two-fold deficit for your body because you lose muscle immediately and you lose the extra calorie-burning that muscle would have provided long-term, resulting in a slower metabolism and greater weight gain over time.
To sum this up, going long periods without eating can prove disastrous for your body. Now, you know to equate extreme hunger with weight gain, not weight loss.
Social media is full of people posting pictures of their keto diet meals and stunning before-after weight loss pictures.
The keto way of life can bring dramatic changes in body and health for some. For others, however, living on a diet that seems prohibitively restrictive doesn’t seem like living at all.
In simple terms, the keto diet involves eating foods very low in carbohydrates and high in good fats. Eating this way puts your body into a state of ketosis. While in ketosis, your liver turns ketones into energy to fuel your brain and becomes highly-efficient at burning fat as well as utilizing insulin, which in turn lowers you blood sugar levels.
There are several variations of keto but generally followers don’t count calories. They instead count macro-nutrients, making fat 70% of their daily nutritional intake, protein-25% and carbohydrates around 5%. There are several apps and websites where people calculate and track their macros to make sure what they are eating doesn’t have hidden carbs that can throw them out of ketosis.
Keto devotees use several different methods to monitor their ketone output. Some utilize a blood test similar to those used to test blood glucose levels. A simple finger stick can give highly accurate count of the ketones in the blood. There are also urine test strips that measure ketones found in urine. Some keto dieters know they’ve reached ketosis by their breath. It’s a known phenomenon for people in ketosis to have breath smelling like rotting fruit. For most people this is a temporary problem that goes away after a week or two as their body adjusts.
By eating foods low in carbohydrates and high in fat, keto-dieters maintain a very low blood glucose level, making keto a popular way for diabetics to lower their A1C numbers dramatically, in some cases reversing Type II diabetes or pre-diabetes. Many experienced keto-ers report the high fat content meals keeps them satisfied longer and eliminates cravings and binges. For those wanting to satisfy a sweet tooth, there are dozens of blogs sharing recipes for everything from chocolate chip cookies to cheesecake that sticks within general keto standards.
Interestingly, keto isn’t a fad diet. Doctors have used keto principles for years to control epilepsy in some, and have used it in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation to help shrink cancerous tumors.
While it seems like keto is the weight loss miracle the world has been waiting for, don’t get too excited just yet. Doctors warn that eating high-fat, low carb diets long term and without medical supervision may cause significant damage to the kidneys and liver. Eating a diet so low in carbohydrates may also send the body into starvation mode, slowing the metabolism significantly. These critical claims are all strongly refuted by keto enthusiasts.
Anyone interested in giving the keto diet a try should first check with their doctors, then start calculation macros and meal planning! With a way of eating as technical as keto, planning ahead is the path to success.