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Why I Won’t Be Recommending the Ketogenic Diet

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(Make sure to read my post about the Keto Hoax and Shark Tank and its follow up: Warning: Don’t get scammed by a keto supplement)

People seek an arbitrary number on the scale. Why? Where is the branded number on foreheads? Do people know (or care) how much you weigh? No. People notice:

  • How you carry yourself.
  • How you rock the clothes you wear.
  • Your energy, vitality, confidence.

Yet it doesn’t stop people from trying (to lose weight).

Atkins, Paleo, and now the ketogenic diet. Did you do it? You lost weight, right? Quickly?

Exciting. Enticing. And oh so exhilarating.

Bev jumped on the scale Monday morning ready for day one of her keto diet. Today is a new day—this diet is going to work and it did, for a moment. She embraced keto and within a week dropped 8 pounds. Thrilled yes? Yet what did she lose? 

Unfortunately, people want a quick fix. When going on a diet, the expectation is weight loss, forget about the composition of what the weight is. The number on the scale drops. Happiness.

Here’s the thing

If you don’t eat carbs, you use up stored carbohydrate in your body called glycogen. You’ll see weight loss on the scale. Woohoo, you think! The euphoria dieters experience when they go on a keto diet or a high protein/low carb diet like the initial stages of Atkins. But what do you lose?

ketogenic dietWater

That’s right. You lost water. For every part glycogen, you store about 3 to 4 parts water. Soooo, deplete glycogen, lose water, lose weight!

How to lose weight:

  1. Don’t eat carbs
  2. The body uses stored carbs (glycogen)
  3. Glycogen storage used up
  4. Weight loss (as fluid mostly)
  5. For every part glycogen the body stores 3 to 4 parts water

How to gain the weight back: eat carbs.

And you will eat them because life is too hard (and no fun) not to. A typical low carb diet might be 20 percent of calories or less and the typical keto diet is even more restrictive at about 5 percent carbs. Hard to sustain long-term. The average diet people eat is about 50 percent of calories from carbs. (Sources of carbs)

Low carb also categorizes food good and bad and you know there are no bad foods right? Except for rotten ones or ones you’ve stolen (don’t steal that’s bad). 


Another reason there is weight loss when going low carb—and I mean very low carb like less than 50 grams per day—is to get into ketosis.

Ketosis is interesting. It’s another reason people lose weight due to the suppression of appetite. Hunger decreases.

Ketosis is a starvation mechanism. Imagine if people have no food to eat. Do we want them hungry? No, because then they’ll search for food using up more energy, increasing metabolism and needing more calories, therefore more food. Ketosis prevents a starving person from being hungry so she does not go searching for food.

People will lose weight

I wrote a post about Paleo 4 years ago back when Paleo was hot on the heels of Atkins. Now, the keto diet is hot on the heels of Paleo. Yet another diet grabbing the attention of dieters. People will lose weight.

Diets often do work, for a short time. How many people do you know went on the Atkins diet? Did they lose weight? Did they keep the weight off? Likely not. Why? It’s not sustainable.

I don’t advocate diets period, not in the traditional senseof going on a diet. I define diet as your style of eating or as my friend Merriam-Webster states, habitual nourishment. Nourishing your body with wholesome food and minimizing manufactured food-like substances is key. Sometimes we eat more, sometimes we eat less. That’s normal.

Back to Bev

Bev lost weight and enjoyed the food, at first. It got old and boring and she missed the natural sweetness of fruit she loved. She also denied sweet treats because they were too high carb. Eventually, she could not sustain the low carb living. Plus the restriction led to an all-out binge. And like every other diet she’d been on, the feeling of failure.

No Bev. You did not fail. The diet failed you.

Should you get on the bandwagon?

There are many keto advocates. I get that. There were many Atkin advocates, Paleo advocates, etc. For weight loss, for the majority of people, it is not sustainable. Some people are successful but most are not. Keto requires a lot of discipline and is not what I consider nutrition you can live with. Unless you want an obsession with food…choose an alternative. I promote guilt-free eating, freedom with the food you eat, and not restricting. Keto is restrictingsevere restricting.

As a reminder…

As a reminder, go on a low carb diet and you’ll deplete glycogen, you’ll lose water, and you’ll lose weight. Water weight. Eat carbs againand you will because it’s impossible not toand you’ll gain the weight back.

A note about the recent study published getting a lot of publicity touting low carb….the weight maintenance phase was only 20 weeks, all meals were provided (unlike what happens in the ‘real’ world), and people received compensation of over $3,000. That’s a lot of incentive. Where are the people now months and months out? If the results mimic previous weight loss studies, most weight will be back in a year. (Very sad face)

Thanks for reading and be free and be well!


Have you done the keto diet for weight loss? Share your experience. I’d like to know how it worked for you. Did you lose weight? How long have you maintained weight loss and what are you doing to keep it off?

(Make sure to read my post about the Keto Hoax and Shark Tank and its follow up: Warning: Don’t get scammed by a keto supplement)

Confused about what to eat and don’t know who to believe? Schedule a complimentary strategy session with

Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
@JenniferNeily (Twitter) or @NeilyonNutrition (Instagram)

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27 Responses to Why I Won’t Be Recommending the Ketogenic Diet

  • Hi professor Neily! This is definately something I need to show my girl friends who just follow the diet trends!
    -Emily Cantu

  • Hi professor Neily! I’ve heard before that mainly when people diet, their weight loss is just water. Last year one of my friends tried the keto diet but kept failing because she liked potatoes too much and could never stay in ketosis. I’ll have to tell her that its less about going on a diet and more about modifying your current diet.
    -Lo Schubilske

  • Learning more about this diet definitely clears up my thoughts. it is definitely a trend thing and people do not always do their research before hand. Thanks for sharing great information!

  • This is great information to share with people and I love the carbs!

  • This is so interesting, my husband and I were actually discussing Keto diets last night. Personally I don’t think I have the discipline for the diet.

    • Thanks for your comment Alexis! Keto is a diet…like many fads, it is restrictive – overly restrictive. For most people, I do NOT recommend. I am all about nutrition you can live with.

  • I heard of keto diet from biochemistry class when we were discussing about ketogenesis, but I have never tried keto diet before because my professor said it’s bad and according to the biochemical cycles of ketones in our body it seems that keto diet causes more harm than good, but most people who might have never take biochemistry before may fall prey to the advertisement of quick weight loss from keto diet.

  • I agree with a lot of what you are stating but I do think there are some benefits of the keto diet. I briefly did the diet and it helped curb my sweet tooth, but I wouldn’t continue the diet for a long time.

    • Thanks for your comment Latoyia! I think the issue I have is…it is a diet…”I wouldn’t continue for a long time.” … any diet not worth doing for the long haul…is not a diet worth doing. Make sense? Sustainability with eating habits is key.

  • Good information!

  • Hi professor Neily! I’ve been hearing so many people talk about the Keto diet lately and how they’ve lost weight within the first week, it’s hard not to join the bandwagon! But this article was really helpful at putting thing so in perspective that they’re not actually losing weight so much as they are losing water!


    • Thanks for your comment Alejandra! Give it a few years…people will get bored with it and be onto the next quick weight loss scheme. Glad you liked the post.

  • This is very important information. There are so many diets that are supposed to help you lose weight and people believe it. Most aren’t aware of what is actually going on in the inside.

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree…although I think there are numerous promises when we know dieting is not the answer. Usually the only people benefiting from diets are those with a financial interest….they’re making money somehow. -Neily

  • I have never done keto diet, mainly because I believe in being active and burning calories rather than reducing calorie intake to extreme minimum levels.

  • You asked for experiences with keto, so here goes. I started a vegetarian ketogenic diet on January 01, 2017. I expected to last less than a week. I was about 100 pounds overweight with a BMI around 45. I went on keto, remembering the appetite suppression I experienced on a medically supervised VLCD I was on in the late 1980’s. As you described, there was initial quick weight loss (19 pounds the first month). After that I lost about a pound a week for several months. All together, I lost 80 pounds over 2 years. Eventually, the food started to bore me, and I started to add more fruit, beans and whole grains, limiting myself to around 50 net carbs a day. This was great for almost a year. However, last Christmas I gave myself permission to indulge in sugar and white flour. This was a mistake. I have now regained 25 pounds, and I’m resuming keto again to knock that back. My husband joined me on my ketogenic diet in February 2017, and his health improved enormously. He lost 45 pounds in 9 months, and got off all medications after having been a T2D for 12 years. It’s been almost 2 years now and he continues to be weight stable with a BMI around 25, and an A-1C in the 5.4 – 5.7 range. We are not complete successes (especially me with the regain), but the ketogenic diet helps us control appetite, so we grudgingly think this is our best course right now. Believe me, if I felt I could eat a full range of carbs responsibly, I would. I want to end, letting you know keto did not hurt my husband’s or my biomarkers. Our lipid profiles are perfect, and blood pressure is low normal. Our ages: 64, and my husband is 75.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Linda! As I’ve mentioned numerous times to clients and in my work…there is NO one perfect way that works for everyone. We’ve got to find what works for us.
      Why I’m not a fan of keto or other restrictive diets is this sentence you wrote,
      “However, last Christmas I gave myself permission to indulge in sugar and white flour. This was a mistake….”
      For many people that is what happens and why restriction leads to deprivation and then to overeating…
      Appreciate your message! -Neily

  • Sorry for the book, but I wanted to compliment you on your well-written description of diuresis on the early phase of a ketogenic diet. I think this is a valuable message that needs to be emphasized. Most people are ignorant of the basic physiology, and think they will lose 8 pounds a week. Once the initial water weight goes, keto is like other diet–you lose in accordance with the calorie deficit you maintain.

  • Loved this post, i wanted a bit more insight on it because i tried this diet for a week and i felt so tired and moody and my head hurt so i gave up haha

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