- The keto — or ketogenic diet — is popular, but unsustainable for many people.
- It involves eating high fat and low-carb foods, with the aim of burning body fat for fuel instead of glucose.
- Common reasons for quitting the diet include getting “keto flu,” lacking energy, and being too deprived.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
is one of the most popular
strategies of the moment, despite having been ranked among the worst by the US News & World Report, scoring particularly low for heart health and sustainability.
The keto – or ketogenic – diet requires eating high-fat and low-carb foods: around 20-50g carbs a day (for context, one large apple contains around 30g).
To stay under this threshold, followers of the keto diet not only don’t eat any traditional carbs like bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes, but also generally avoid fruit, beans, lentils, and starchy vegetables, as they are all too high in carbohydrates.
The idea is that by cutting out carbs, your body enters “ketosis” and burns fat for fuel rather than glucose.
However, many health and fitness experts have pointed out that weight loss that may occur while following the keto diet actually stems from being in a calorie deficit (consuming less energy than you expend) overall, which can be achieved while eating a more balanced diet including all foods.
The keto diet is not reccomended for people who work out a lot, because the body needs carbs for energy.
The keto diet can also lead to nutritional deficiencies when followed long-term, but most people don’t manage to stick to it for a long period of time because they enjoy eating carbs, feel too low on energy, or find they can’t have a social life.
While you’ll lose a significant amount of water weight when you first go keto, if a diet is unsustainable, the results will be too. Which is exactly what many people have found.
Shelle tried the diet for a month but got ‘keto flu’
Shelle Kearney tried keto for a month after a friend had a positive experience on the diet, but the Australian developed keto flu so she called it quits.
“Getting over the sluggish, flu-like symptoms was the hardest and I suffered with headaches a lot,” Kearney said. “From what I know, sugar withdrawal headaches are common when dieting.”
Kearney lost some weight during her keto month, but it wasn’t worth it for how bad she felt.
“I felt a lot worse than I did better, even after dropping a few kgs,” Kearney said, adding that she found it “too hard” to do keto when living a normal life and socializing.
“I actually think fad diets create a lot more anxiety within yourself,” she said. “I now just make sure I make good, healthy choices and don’t beat myself up everyday if my target is slightly shifted.”
Leah* felt too deprived
For Leah, two weeks on keto was enough.
Having tried all sorts of fad diets and experienced weight fluctuations of over 75 pounds as a result, Leah originally decided to try keto after reading an article about it.
While she found it “worked pretty well” and her “stomach started to get flatter,” the diet required too much deprivation and mental strength for her to maintain.
“I lost about eight pounds but obviously some of that was water weight,” she told Insider. “I’m [not] sure why I quit — just not mentally strong enough to say no to myself.”
Sarah found keto too restrictive
Keto was one of various diets Sarah Laurence tried over the space of around 15 years, none of which lasted long.
Laurence found keto unsustainable due to being overly-restrictive, particularly as someone diagnosed with CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome) and fibromyalgia. She struggled because there was no way to find a healthy balance and ease out of keto into a livable life.
“I’m now recovering by tracking less, weighing less, and following Jordan Syatt’s ‘three plates three snacks’ method, focusing on getting healthier and increasing activity levels slowly in line with recovery from ME symptoms,” she said.
Lee didn’t have enough energy while doing keto
After a month on the keto diet, Lee Chambers quit because it left him feeling tired.
“I found that being in ketosis really didn’t give me the energy or clarity to keep active and doing what I needed to as a businessman and father,” he told Insider.
Although Chambers lost six pounds over the month, three of those came back when he incorporated carbs back into his diet.
“I’ve found that fixating on a system has been counterproductive as I ended up thinking about it incessantly,” he said.
Candice* didn’t learn any skills that she could take forward
Not only is keto unsustainable for most people, doing it for a brief period doesn’t tend to teach dieters what they need to know to maintain any weight loss afterwards or enable them to go back to eating “normally” without gaining weight.
Candice told Insider she initially thought keto sounded like a “great and workable diet,” but then she realized she would have to avoid “the devil carbs.”
“I was about 10 days in, sat in the car eating a pack of chicken for lunch as it was the only thing easily accessible and allowed,” Candice said. “It just clicked that it wasn’t worth it. I felt awful, snappy, wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t focus, and hadn’t seen the dramatic change in my body promised. So I decided that day to give it up. The first piece of bread after that debacle was amazing.”
Keto wasn’t sustainable long-term for Candice and didn’t leave her with skills for living a healthy lifestyle going forward.
“The only thing that has worked for me is tracking calories and getting a good understanding of portion size,” she told Insider.
*Names have been changed