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Test Drive Diet No. 4: Before Going on a Keto Diet

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Cheesecake is a no-no for keto.

Thinking about going on the wildly popular ketogenic diet? You are not alone as many dieters swear by this fast weight loss dieting method. However, as you will soon learn, keto is not for everyone. Here’s how you can avoid setting yourself up for possible failure by learning the most basic information on what you need to know before attempting to start a keto diet.


Why “Test Drive Dieting”

With the holiday season here, now might seem like the worst time to start a diet. However, rather than approach dieting and a healthier lifestyle with a rigid “just-do-it” approach on the first day of the New Year, now is the perfect time to get a taste of a variety of diets as a test run to understand how it works (or doesn’t) for you before you commit to a New Year weight loss resolution or goal.

This month, we will focus on a wide range of dieting plans, techniques, and recommendations for weight loss that you can research and test drive at home to help you decide on which dieting plan is the right choice for you.

Today, we will take a look at what you will need to say “no” to when beginning a keto diet.

The Ketogenic Diet

According to a recent Good Housekeeping article by Zee Krstic, “If you're thinking about trying a new diet to shed some pounds, the keto diet is probably the first thing that's come to mind.”

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This is very true as you will find not only the internet swamped with keto dieting advice and commercial plans offering to help you get started, but will find a glut of keto-info overflow as well in the nutrition and dieting section on bookstore shelves everywhere. And there’s a good reason for this: no other diet is credited with so much celebrity weight loss success. Especially when keto is pushed to its limits with “…an extremely high-fat (and nearly zero-carb!)…” diet plan, as pointed out correctly by the writer.

So, “What’s the problem with this?” you may ask. The answer is that at its core, the keto diet is a type of deprivation diet where you will have to constantly deprive yourself of many foods that not only have you grown to love over the years, but that more importantly naturally helps your body maintain a well-nourished state.

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As a deprivation style of diet, the ketogenic diet focus is to force your body to go from burning glucose for energy to burning ketones for energy. And to achieve this, you will have to make sure that there is very little glucose entering your body so that your metabolism will switch from sugar to stored fatty acids as its energy source. These fatty acids are metabolized to turn into ketones, which will then be the new fuel for your body. But to achieve this, you will have to give up many carb-sourced foods so that your glucose levels will be significantly lowered. When you do achieve this state, you are what is referred to as “in ketosis.”

And here’s where being “in ketosis” differs from so many other diets—you cannot backslide. In other words, you cannot easily and quickly transition in and out of ketosis at will just because you slip-up with a diet cheat or allow yourself to have a one-day break from dieting. The keto diet is an unforgiving mistress. If you slip-up on it, you will have to metabolically start all over again because the body burns sugars much easier than it does the fatty acids that make ketones. And starting over can take anywhere from two to seven days. Which means you will likely re-experience all the unpleasantness of beginning a keto diet.

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There’s a second reason why you cannot backslide on keto dieting. According to experts who live and acetone breathe out the keto diet, the goal is not simply to achieve ketosis, but for your body to become fat-adapted. Becoming fat-adapted is where your body becomes well-adjusted toward burning fat for fuel and as a result achieves an optimal result both in body and in mind performance. The added weight loss is really just a perk.

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Being on Keto Means Learning to Say “NO”

In future articles we will discover more about the ketogenic dieting, but for now we will stick to the most basic information on what you need to know before attempting to start a keto diet; and that is—learning to say “No” to which foods.

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The following is a summarized list of foods to say “no” to when on a ketogenic diet from the Good Housekeeping article to give you some idea of just what kind of deprivation you will have to go through to lose weight through ketosis.

Say Goodbye to Sugar and Carbohydrates:

Almost all fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, watermelon, peaches, melon, pineapple, cherries, pears, lemons, limes, grapefruits, plums, mango, and more.

Most grains: Wheat, rice, rye, oats, corn, quinoa, barley, millet, bulgur, amaranth, buckwheat, and sprouted grains.

Starches: Bread (all of it!), bagels, cereal, pasta, rice, corn, oatmeal, crackers, pizza, popcorn, granola, muesli, flour.

Legumes: Black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, navy beans, soybeans, peas, chickpeas, lentils.

Real sweeteners and sugar: Cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, Splenda, aspartame, saccharin, and corn syrup.

Sweet treats: Candy, chocolate, cakes, buns, pastries, tarts, pies, ice cream, cookies, pudding, and custard.

A selection of cooking oils: Canola oil, soybean oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, sesame oil, and sunflower oil.

Alcohol: Beer, cider, sweet wines, and sweetened alcoholic drinks.

Bottled condiments: Ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce, some salad dressings and hot sauces that contain added sugar.

Low-fat dairy: Things like skim milk, skim mozzarella, fat-free yogurt, low-fat cheese and cream cheese should be swapped for higher-fat counterparts.

While the aforementioned list can sound intimidating, it not necessarily needs to be so. In fact, there are numerous food work-arounds that many keto dieters discover and enjoy that makes their keto lifestyle not as bad as it may seem from the above list of no’s. A topic for a future article.

The point to all of this is to let you know ahead of time the basics of what you are getting yourself into before choosing a ketogenic diet. In actuality, the keto diet is much more than a "I get to eat all the bacon and eggs I want" diet. Now is the time to ask yourself if you can realistically imagine yourself giving up some of your favorite foods and mentally envision yourself as a successful keto dieter…or, if you are better suited for a different style of weight loss dieting.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Tina Guina on Unsplash

References: What You Can (and Can’t) Eat on a Keto Diet” by Zee Krstic for GoodHousekeeping.com 2 Dec. 2020.