Q: Someone told me I should try the keto diet, what do you think?

A: Originally developed as a treatment for pediatric epilepsy, the ketogenic diet is now widely used by individuals pursuing weight loss. Keto recommends severely restricting carbohydrates; however, evidence-based Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDR) recommends that the majority (i.e. 45%–65%) of a person’s daily intake come from carbohydrates. Why? Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Following a keto diet requires the body to turn on a life-saving mechanism called ketogenesis that leads to utilization of dietary fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Prolonged ketogenesis puts the body in a state of ketosis. From there, many people begin to experience intense cravings, signals that remind us to feed the body well and feed it a variety of foods. It’s hard to maintain a food variety while restricting an entire macronutrient, and even more challenging to sustain a pattern of eating that leaves many people wanting! More importantly, there is still ongoing research on the safety of ketosis. As for now, be aware that it can cause severe dehydration, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, and frequent urination.

Q: Could intermittent fasting help me lose weight?

A: Intermittent fasting is essentially meal-skipping with a method. It requires fasting for a certain number of hours (multiple variations exist) or alternating days of fasting with eating. Most studies to date are approximately three months long and implement caloric restriction in addition to fasting. It’s important to note that peak weight loss in all diet-related research occurs around months three to six, and most weight loss studies end there. While weight loss may occur, it’s only shown to be short-term. Research has given zero evidence that fasting is needed for longer than eight hours while sleeping, hence the importance of breakfast…to break your fast. Eating consistent, adequate meals promotes healthy metabolism, improved glycemic control, mood stabilization, and reduced overeating and cravings. 

Q: I count calories, but why can’t I see changes?

A: Calories measure energy found in food, and food provides fuel for our bodies. Tracking calories is tedious, with ample room for error. The FDA allows calories printed on nutrition facts labels to be 20% under or over the actual caloric content of the food. It’s important to remember that our bodies are not machines that require the same amount of fuel daily, and even if we know precisely how many calories our bodies need, it’s impossible to determine if we’ll use every calorie consumed on a given day. Genetics, medical diagnoses, and medications all affect calorie absorption. In other words, our bodies are more complex than calories in, calories out!

Thinking of ditching calorie counting for tracking macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat)? Tracking calories or macros can lead to a reliance on external numbers rather than internal cues like physical hunger and fullness. People often begin eating based on quantity rather than quality. Because of the many drawbacks and pitfalls, calorie and macro counting are deemed unreliable methods of ensuring our bodies are adequately and appropriately fueled.

Now a “Q” to ask yourself before trying another diet…

“Is this diet something I can fully and happily maintain for the rest of my life?”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with finding a sustainable way to eat well, Memphis Nutrition Group RDNs can help you find a pattern of eating that allows for self-regulation, includes variety, and provides nourishment and satisfaction.

Caroline Pruente, MS, RDN is a nutrition therapist and Registered Dietitian at Memphis Nutrition Group. Memphis Nutrition Group believes in a non-diet approach that promotes overall health and optimal performance without compromising the enjoyment of food. For more information call Memphis Nutrition Group at 901.343.6146 or visit MemphisNutritionGroup.com.