10 Reasons 2018 Was Officially the Year of the Keto Diet
There Are Thousands of Transformations
Over half a million people have shared their #ketotransformation on Instagram, and author Suzanne Ryan is one of them. Her story gained popularity because she lost 120 pounds on the diet—without setting foot in the gym. Olympian Amy Van Dyken shared that the diet helped her lose weight, did wonders for her energy levels, and even improved her memory. Other women, like Instagram user Marí Garcia, lost fat in areas they never knew they could thanks to the diet—in as little as six months. (This diet isn't for everyone, though. Keep reading.)
Major Grocery Stores Began Offering Keto-Friendly Ingredients and Snacks
When you're on the low-carb keto diet, you probably know which healthy, high-fat keto foods you should be eating. But actually turning those foods into meals? That can be challenging, especially for keto newbies. Luckily, Whole Foods and Amazon have the situation on lock. Both have plenty of ingredients and snacks you can mix and match to create easy keto eats in no time. (We love the organic sunflower seeds and old-fashioned beef jerky.)
Keto Recipes Took Over the Internet
Following the keto diet is hard. So it comes as no surprise that all kinds of keto recipes flooded the internet this year to set people up for success: keto Instant Pot recipes, keto breakfast ideas, vegetarian keto recipes... you name it. Want to try keto but can't bear the thought of living without bread? There's a recipe for that, too.
A Shape Editor Gave It a Go
Shape editor Alyssa Sparacino decided to go on the keto diet. She went in with low expectations—and the results fascinated her.
"In the end, I was pleased with my keto diet results both internally and externally," she says. "I lost 4 pounds in two weeks, gained some energy and efficiency with my training, and more often than not felt that I could see better muscle tone instead of feeling bloated or weighed down." That said, she won't be following the diet forever: "Eating and exercise should always be about more than the aesthetics," she says. "Food is fuel (and recovery) for the activities you like to do most." (Experts say that the diet isn't so great for HIIT workouts.)
Celebrities Swore By the Diet
There Was a Documentary About It
made its debut on Netflix in May of this year. The doc argues that the keto diet can cure cancer, obesity, and liver disease; improve symptoms of autism and diabetes; and reduce dependence on prescription drugs in as little as five weeks.
Needless to say, people had mixed emotions about these bold claims and the documentary received a considerable amount of backlash. Still, it was a great reminder that while there might be plenty of benefits of the ketogenic diet, there's no "magic pill" for good health. (With the New Year right around the corner, check out the 10 best diet programs for every goal.)
Even Jen Widerstrom Went Keto
In January, Jen Widerstrom, the brains behind our 40-Day Crush-Your-Goals Challenge, tried a ketogenic diet to reset after a stressful time in her life. "I don't think I realized how much I was subliminally turning to very unhealthy habits to cope: drinking more, eating comfort food," she previously told us.
In 17 days, the diet helped her get back on track. "I was shocked with how fast my body responded in those 17 days," she said. "Trying the keto diet has allowed me to pay greater attention to what I'm eating and how I'm feeling. And it's also pushed me to be more creative in the kitchen. It feels good to pull out healthy ingredients from the fridge and have more confidence making different foods. Now, I'm excited to try new things." (Here are more reasons why Jen thinks you should say yes to something you'd never do.)
Studies Published About the Diet Went Viral
Now, the downsides of the keto diet. Stomach pain and diarrhea, decreased muscle mass, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes have all been linked to this way of eating. One study made headlines after suggesting that the diet could negatively impact your health long term. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Keto Flu)
Researchers found that people who ate low-carb had a higher mortality rate than people who ate a moderate amount of carbs. The study results also found that those who cut carbs and ate more animal products had a higher mortality rate than people who included more plant-based food—including non-keto foods like peanut butter and whole-grain bread—in their diets. The bottom line? Eating moderate carbs may help you live longer.
Dietitians Spoke Out About the Polarizing Eating Plan
It's likely that you know someone who swears by the keto diet, but some nutrition experts are encouraging people to see past all those transformation photos on social media. "As a dietitian focused on healthy, delicious food, I've never been able to condone such an extreme diet," Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., previously wrote in her anti-keto essay. "With all the side effects and complications this diet has, I'm truly surprised by the popularity it has gained—it's just so darn unhealthy and unappetizing in so many ways." She recommends a balanced diet over restrictive ones, keto or otherwise.
Related: 8 Common Keto Diet Mistakes
You Probably Considered It At Some Point
By now you've probably noticed that the ketogenic diet is controversial. The eating plan's army of followers (with swoon-worthy transformation photos) make the promise of quick weight loss quite enticing (a lot of it is water weight, BTW). Not to mention that there are people who feel that the diet might be the cure to a variety of illnesses. At the same time, some experts and studies warn against it entirely, claiming that the side effects and lack of balance simply aren't worth it.
If you're considering trying it out for yourself, the bottom line is this: Before making a major lifestyle change like this one, it's best to consult a medical professional. And even if keto is a viable option for you, it might also be worth exploring other eating styles like mindful eating and intuitive eating, or IIFYM or macro counting. (Some experts also advise against following the diet long-term, so carb cycling might be a better fit if you're considering a form of keto.)