Episode 46 of the Keto Living Podcast – learn what the toxic keto diet culture is and how to break free while still enjoying keto!
Today I want to discuss something very near and dear to my heart. And that is this toxic keto diet culture that people have created.
Now, I want to warn you that this is not for the faint of heart. Meaning, if you are new to me then you might not know that I am quite opinionated and really tell it like it is and I certainly do have some strong opinions here.
So let’s just jump right in.
What is the Toxic Keto Diet Culture?
So what is this toxic keto diet culture that I’m talking about? Well, if you aren’t part of many online forums, you might be blessed in that you don’t know what I’m talking about.
I moderate enough keto Facebook groups that I’m immersed in this culture daily. Although, my group is free of this culture, so if you need an online community, check out my keto and low carb community on Facebook.
Here are a few common phrases to help illustrate my point:
That’s not keto
If you want to lose weight, you won’t eat that
Way too many carbs
Don’t workout because it will make you gain weight
Have you even looked at the ingredients
And it doesn’t stop there. Usually these statements are just the beginning of a storm that is brewing.
What is Keto?
At the most fundamental level – what is keto?
Keto is short for ketogenic and according to the dictionary (dictionary.com), the definition of ketogenic is as follows:
Able to stimulate ketone bodies
That’s it. Now, you know me and peer reviewed scientific papers and clearly dictionary.com is not one of them. BUT I can give you one from 2019. Well, many actually, but here is just one.
Here is what it says about the ketogenic diet.
A ketogenic diet primarily consists of high-fats, moderate-proteins, and very-low-carbohydrates. The dietary macronutrients are divided into approximately 55% to 60% fat, 30% to 35% protein and 5% to 10% carbohydrates. Specifically, in a 2000 kcal per day diet, carbohydrates amount up to 20 to 50 g per day.
Notice it doesn’t give a list of ingredients. And it doesn’t talk about inflammation.
It goes on to say:
“Russel Wilder first used the ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy in 1921. He also coined the term “ketogenic diet.” For almost a decade, the ketogenic diet enjoyed a place in the medical world as a therapeutic diet for pediatric epilepsy and was widely used until its popularity ceased with the introduction of antiepileptic agents. The resurgence of the ketogenic diet as a rapid weight loss formula is a relatively new concept the has shown to be quite effective, at least in the short run.”
This “new concept” is where we are leading ourselves astray in my opinion.
I mean, even I have talked about inflammation and my keto choices based on inflammation in the body (see keto diet and inflammation). But that is MY experience, not a clinical definition of the ketogenic diet and I certainly don’t shove my personal choices down someone’s throat, effectively shaming their choices.
Keto Diet Misinformation
What I struggle with the most is that this desire to lose rapid weight has clouded a more important topic and that is overall health.
I’ve witness person 1 telling person 2 that they should not be working out and should not be eating veggies because they will sabotage their weight loss effort.
First of all, that is categorically untrue, and second – how sad that someone is being told that quick weight loss is more important than eating a few carrots and some good old fashioned cardio or weight lifting.
If you are gaining weight from a healthy workout plan then chances are it is either 1) water weight that will subside or 2) from building muscle.
And let me be the first to tell you that muscle loves to eat fat. I’m oversimplifying there, but the more muscle you have the quicker you can lose weight. It is a helpful thing.
But the focus is solely on the number on the scale vs an outcome that would benefit you more.
In my keto diet and inflammation article, I talk all about the phrase That’s Not Keto and I suggest that we should consider inflammation when choosing what we eat rather than trying to classify an ingredient as keto or not.
This is not the definition of keto, but when one is trying to lose weight, the inflammation needs to be considered. But it is still not part of the definition.
Toxic Keto Diet Culture
Here is what I see happening, online in particular. People jump into keto super fast without doing proper research (and yes, this IS something I will scold someone for, lovingly of course) and are met with an overwhelming amount of information. Usually in the form of misinformation.
It then becomes difficult to discern because, apparently, whatever is said on the internet is true, right?
So someone asks a question or posts a recipe picture of a beautiful keto pot roast that is showing a few carrots poking out and they get attacked by fellow keto’ers who probably also learned their ways in the same way.
It is usually met with 9 million different ways of saying “Carrots aren’t keto”, “too high in carbs”, “stay away from starchy veggies”, “that’s not keto”, etc…
And then the poster goes away, cries and never touches a carrot again. And so the cycle continues.
Check out Keto Beef Stew for that wonderful recipe above, by the way.
If you are going to tell me that having a carrot or two or ¼ of an onion is going to wreck your carb count for the day, then I’m going to challenge where you are getting the rest of your carbs from. I generally know the answer already and it is not from veggies.
I say this all the time, but your carbs should come from veggies FIRST. Given the amount of fiber in veggies, staying under 20-30 net carbs and enjoying a reasonably high amount of veggies is perfectly doable. I discuss this more
If you insist on making keto desserts and copycat type foods, then yes, you’ll rack your carb count up fairly quickly and start complaining about carrots.
The next piece of the toxic culture is this know-it-all attitude without taking the time to learn and listen.
We can all google and you know what? We can find the answer we are looking for no matter what we google. Meaning if you want to support your bad habit, you can probably find a site that will do just that. It doesn’t make it right or true.
People will argue with anyone about anything online. I try to limit my engagement in dumb internet fights, but I do have to engage at times when moderating Facebook groups to mitigate the spread of misinformation and protect people from attacks.
I very rarely bring my education in it, but even when I do, people still don’t give what I say the time of day. They’d rather believe what their brother’s girlfriend’s mother said than listen to someone (aka ME) with a Master’s certification in Nutrition who spent a lot of time doing actual research and writing research papers about nutrition and the body.
That’s the easy path. If they were to choose to listen to me about something then that would mean entertaining the idea that they might be wrong and many people don’t want to do that. So they’d rather spread misinformation.
If you want to google something and get more reputable answers, then search in a place like pubmed or follow your search with “site:.gov” to restrict the search.
Breaking Free From the Toxic Keto Diet Culture
This toxic culture that has been created is one of rapid weight loss at all costs founded on misinformation. So, what do we do about it?
Well, a few things. Some of these things may be more agreeable than others.
1. Do your research before starting keto. Research what it is and what it is not. And by research, I don’t mean watching The Magic Pill and googling mom blogs. And as always, I’m not knocking mom blogs because I am one, but you know what I’m getting at here I hope.
2. If your goal is weight loss, then consider how long it took to gain the weight. It was not overnight. And consider that along with this weight loss probably came a certain amount of “unhealth”. And often with “unhealth” (ex, inflammation) comes weight gain.
If you want your weight loss to be long lasting, then think beyond the weight loss to overall health. Tackle that first. Once you do that, the weight loss WILL come.
If nothing else, consider that a body is not healthy when being given packaged, sugary foods for energy.
So reaching a state of health will do amazing things for your body including weight loss.
When your mindset is that of health first, then you remove yourself from this sprint to the skinny finish line at all costs. Let me tell ya, there are plenty of skinny people less healthy than overweight people. Health first.
3. Let healthy, whole foods carry more weight than carb count. Here is where you have to have a little discernment. Gluten is inflammatory. You can research that. Dairy is inflammatory. You can research that too.
Inflammation can result in weight gain and “unhealth”. This goes back to #2. Now, I eat cheese and heavy whipping cream on occasion. Personal choice. But gluten? No.
Meats, veggies, some fruits (and I say some because fructose has its own set of problems outside of carb count), nuts, seeds and healthy oils. Whole, healthy foods.
Be strong enough in your resolve AND research where you don’t let a bully tell you a carrot is not keto yet they continue to eat keto chocolate chip cookies.
4. Educate, if you feel comfortable doing so. Some people are receptive and some are not.
5. Remember that most people on the internet are just your average person who educated themselves using random other internet sites. You never know where the information came from. And ALWAYS remember that just because someone says something, doesn’t mean it is true.
6. Research fat vs sugar and the age-old debate. And learn why the tables have turned from the faulty research that sent our country into a low-fat tailspin that resulted in huge rises in obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
I hope this helps a little. If nothing else, I hope it sheds some light on this toxic keto culture that perpetuates itself and really harms those who don’t know better.
And it is even harmful to me and I DO know better.
And if you silently recognize yourself as a participant in the toxic keto diet culture, then please do your own reputable research. If you don’t want to do that, then just scroll on. Stop shaming people and stop forcing your choices down someone’s throat.
Thanks for reading! Make sure to check out The Keto Living Podcast where you can find audio version of most the articles on this site and many more!