What follows are my thoughts about the ketogenic diet – the trendy approach to eating that is getting a lot of attention lately. The opening is an awesome introduction by William Wolcott, the founder of Healthexcel and I think you’ll find his input on the topic enlightening.
Hope you get some major clarity about fad diets and why they don’t work after reading my extended article.
Take it away, Bill!
People follow diets like sheep
Dr. Emanuel Revici, one of the greatest medical minds of our modern era, was fond of saying, “People are like sheep. One person says something and they all follow.”
Perhaps, nowhere else is the truth of that more evident than in the fields of diet and nutrition. Year after year, the “latest and greatest” fad enthralls the public for a short time, until the next one surfaces.
The ketogenic diet appears to be the current mesmerizer whose media spell manages to block all logic, rationale and common sense. But its “15 minutes of fame” will meet with the same fate as all the other fads that have preceded it or will most assuredly follow.
The truth is what lasts the longest. Fads dry up and blow away.
Hopefully, you instantly saw the flaws inherent in the ketogenic diet and did not fall for its fallacies. Although it appears to be “all the rage” currently on social media, it is just the blind leading the blind.
Why? First, although the 90 percent protein + fat/10 percent carb Eskimo diet is ketogenic and can rightfully be viewed as largely responsible for the legendary good health of that indigenous culture, many other indigenous cultures thrived equally well on high-carb/low protein + fat diets.
The Hadza of Tanzania, the Kuna of Panama, the Kitava in the Pacific Islands, the Tukisenta in Papua, New Guinea, the Okinawans in Japan, the Quechua in Peru or the indigenous peoples of Crete all obtain a high percentage of their total calories and macronutrients from foods that are high in carbohydrates, yet they are remarkably lean, fit and free of modern disease.
The diet of the Tukisenta in New Guinea is more than 90 percent carbohydrates, virtually the opposite of the Eskimo whose diet contains very little or no carbohydrates at all!
Second, the high protein + fat/low carb Atkins diet was THE ketogenic diet and had millions of proponents. Yet equally popular and effective at resolving health problems, including obesity, were the high carb/low fat + low protein Pritikin diet and the Ornish diet, a very high-carb, totally plant-based plan.
The ketogenic Atkins diet lost favor in the public eye for two reasons. For one, it did not provide lasting results for the majority of people who used it. And, it simply did not suit everyone who tried it, making them feel worse rather than better.
Third, if a ketogenic diet is THE healthy diet for everyone, then why does it make some cancers worse? And, why has a plant-based, very high carb/low protein + low-fat diet proven effective in reversing many kinds of cancers?
Carrot juice, green drinks, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and wheat grass juice among many foods have been found time and again to be effective for many people with many types of cancers, especially the “hard-tumor” cancers like breast, colon, liver and prostate.
Fourth, anyone willing to take the time to Google ketogenic diets will find many people reporting the failures and problems associated with them. Of course, to the religiously fanatical proponents of the diet, such reports are ignored or dismissed as “heresy.”
Finally, over nearly four decades of applying Metabolic Typing® clinically on hundreds of thousands of people, we have witnessed time and again the reality of metabolic individuality: No one diet is right for everyone and what works for one person has little effect on another, and can make a third person feel worse.
The ketogenic diet is no different in that regard from any other diet. The ONLY right diet for any health problem is the diet right for one’s metabolic type.
Paul’s take on ketogenic dieting and diet mania
I have spent my athletic and professional careers studying, exploring and testing a wide variety of diet applications, be they for enhanced athletic performance, mental performance, spiritual development practices, weight loss, healing from diseases or general body-mind well-being.
Many of my close friends were elite skiers, martial artists and champion Motocross racers. My friends and I were always looking for every competitive advantage we could find, including diet. Being in boxing requires competing in a specific weight class, which generally involves a fairly intensive program to manage diet to keep our body weight down and performance up!
Fortunately, my mother and father were very grounded in natural eating, and most of our food came from our farm. My mother, being an advanced yogi, practiced a variety of diet approaches, including long periods of vegetarianism. I also tried vegetarian living at age 13 with her, then again in my 40s for a year for spiritual development reasons.
Each time, we both found that, despite the benefits of vegetarian eating, they could only be sustained for periods ranging between a couple of months to a few years before hormonal imbalances and protein deficiencies became limiting factors.
Both of us learned to “listen to our bodies and be honest with giving them what they need to stay vital.” If that meant eating a lot of flesh foods at some times, a lot of vegetables at other times or a mix with some short fasts thrown in, then that is what we did and what I still do.
In 1989, and the years prior to being trained in William Wolcott’s approach to metabolic typing, I was immersed in the teachings of Jeffrey Bland, nutraceutical- or medical nutrition-based approaches and many other authors operating in that field.
This included using a very comprehensive health appraisal questionnaire (I share it in Holistic Lifestyle Coaching (HLC) 2), which I had every patient I worked with in my physical therapy clinic complete as a way to determine differential diagnoses and devise effective therapeutic applications.
Working with a well-known medical nutrition company, I was guided to specific supplements that would decrease stress and symptoms for each gland or organ category in the health appraisal questionnaire.
I could see advantages to using a medical nutrition approach, such as decreased inflammation with natural anti-inflammatory supplementation, improvements with the help of digestive enzymes and some mental-emotional calming with various supplement protocols. Generally, however, I was not impressed with the results based on the time spent studying each client and the cost of the supplementation protocols.
As fate would have it, one of my patients who distributed a supplement line asked if I’d be willing to test it out and give my feedback. I agreed.
How I discovered metabolic typing
When the package of supplements arrived in the mail, it came with a booklet that included a questionnaire to help you determine your metabolic type and gave suggestions on meal proportioning based on the test results. (It was very much like what I offer in my book, How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy!).
After filling out the questionnaire, I learned that I was a Protein Type. I wasn’t surprised because I discovered when I ate this way on the farm and, in general, I felt great and performed the best in sports.
The paradox of all this: At the time, I’d been studying many different diet approaches and testing them on myself. The “fad of the day” (which I was testing at the time) was high-carb, low-fat, low-protein dieting as outlined in the book, Eat To Win: The Sports Nutrition Bible by Robert Haas.
Within a month on the Eat To Win diet, I had so much gas I felt like I was cheating in my distance running and triathlon events because I experienced “afterburner thrust” as I approached the finish line!
Also, I developed unusual skin blemishes, a distended, inflamed gut, digestive unrest and many food intolerances later on. And, my mind was foggy and I had a very hard time with short-term memory too.
I quit the Eat To Win approach to try eating according to the protein type recommendation based on the metabolic typing questionnaire that came with my patient’s supplement line, and paid very close attention to see what happened.
Within 24 hours, I had a massive reduction in gas, my belly began to stop hurting with gas pains and started flattening out, the joint aches and pains I’d attributed to hard training disappeared and my mind began to clear. Needless to say, I blown away!
Naturally, my next step was to begin giving this questionnaire to every one of my patients. Most of them were eating just like I had been on the Eat To Win diet and experienced the same kinds of problems I did. About 90 percent of them were found to be a mixed or protein (metabolic) type.
I coached them on how to improve the quality of their foods (going organic!) and implement their new diet proportions based on their test results, while I monitored their bodies through the use of the health appraisal questionnaire and many comprehensive orthopedic tests and measurements.
The results were MIND BLOWING!
I saw more positive changes in as little as one week than I’d experienced in months of using other medical nutrition approaches! Honestly, there was no comparison regarding the effectiveness of quality food in the right proportion for each individual’s needs versus medical nutrition approaches.
Before I offered the questionnaire to my patients, I contacted my friend who’d offered it to me with his supplement line to ask him if I could use it. I learned they had licensed it from Bill Wolcott.
I contacted Bill, explained my findings and asked his permission to use the questionnaire. He was very supportive and gave me the green light to use it. This conversation led me to his book, The Metabolic Typing Diet.
I read Bill’s book when it came out in 2002, and was trained in his methods of metabolic typing at the intermediate level of his training program by Dodi Anderson, his senior instructor at the time.
I also offered Bill’s system of metabolic typing to my students through the C.H.E.K Institute’s HLC program, and generally received excellent feedback across the board from those who applied his approach.
To this day, I encourage my students to become certified by Bill Wolcott through Healthexcel, and to mix that approach with other methods I teach, such as medical dowsing to fine-tune even further.
I have witnessed MANY diet fads come and go in my life and professional career, now 32 years long. I’ve really seen it all…
From flat bread diets, legume diets, fruit only diets, vegetarian and vegan diets and juice only diets to Barry Sears and the Zone diet, Atkins diet, Ornish diet, South Beach diet, starvation diets, paleo diets and, more recently, ketogenic diets.
In fact, you can see this silliness by looking at this great chart from Healthy Magazine that shows the history of diets.
The journey to a better diet is slow
What is sad, but true: People appear to be exploring their metabolic types albeit VERY slowly, and often without conscious awareness of what each diet provided for them or didn’t.
For example, those on the Atkins diet often found the increase in flesh foods (fat and protein) provided them more energy and better mental clarity, but often kept following the diet even when they experienced chronic joint and muscle aches.
It’s a common response to excess uric acid and high levels of urine Indican. (The urine Indican test, also called an Obermeyer test, measures intestinal toxemia and the overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria.)
Those on high-carb, vegetarian or vegan diets often gained the benefits of a wider variety of plant-based foods and detoxification from the extra fiber and nourishment, but became progressively deficient in fat-soluble nutrition (from sources that are harmonious with their own genetics).
It’s also very common for them to see a variety of signs leading to endocrine imbalance, which is easily tracked clinically to poor androgen production, particularly if they are athletic. This is demonstrated by such factors as significant loss of lean muscle mass, poor recovery from exercise, chronic structural and cognitive challenges, blood sugar problems and adrenal fatigue that often lead to hypothyroidism and other health problems over time.
So much of vegetarian and vegan diets is driven by religious or spiritual dogma, it is very common to be sitting with such patients while they defend the perfection of their diets and lifestyles, and vehemently express how important it is to save the animals and the planet.
Sadly, I have to remind them that if what they are saying is true, they would not need my help. In fact, these people often come to me after seeing a long string of doctors and functional medicine practitioners with few long-term results.
I remind them that slowly killing a human being to save a chicken, pig, or cow is to slowly kill someone who can actually make a difference in the world. Making a real difference that matters requires high levels of vitality, and honesty within oneself.
So far, every one of them who remained open-minded and allowed me to guide them to health has been very grateful for it. I don’t discourage veganism or vegetarianism. I simply suggest using these approaches when they are ideal, and only for as long as that is the case.
The elusive obvious
I have worked with many professional sports teams, and have served as a therapist and coach to a long list of the world’s greatest athletes, not to mention countless thousands of patients. Each step of the way, I pioneered the approaches I was offering personally, and have done my very best to lead by example.
What becomes obvious to professionals with as much experience as Bill and me, or anyone with an open mind who has been paying attention to the diet craze over time, are these truths:
- There is no optimal diet for everyone!
- There is no optimal diet for anyone for any period of time, which may be as short as one meal depending on stress factors and environmental influences. (I have found metabolic types can change from meal to meal and that there is no replacement for constant communication with, and careful observation of, one’s body-mind for essential guidance!)
- A diet that “cures” you may eventually harm you if you don’t pay attention to what your body-mind is telling you. One man’s cure is another man’s disease! Diet dogma is very dangerous.
- Diet quality is more important than diet quantity.
As I studied and practiced Bill Wolcott’s system of metabolic typing and worked with students and patients using this methodology, I saw people becoming fixated about their metabolic type and related diet plan just as they had been with previous diets and experiencing the same limitations.
I found this was also true among many people using How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy! for guidance and students of my C.H.E.K HLC Advanced Training programs.
This problem raised its ugly head with a vengeance when I became a vegetarian for a year and began to get piles of nasty letters and emails from people who studied my books and related teachings and, sadly, from my students too.
I used the very same body-mind indicators listed in my book (many of which I learned from Bill’s teachings) as well as taking guidance from my soul (consciousness within) to decide how to eat each meal.
I asked my soul and body before each meal if they would like any flesh foods now. For one year to the day, that answer was no. Then, I was guided to six months where I included eggs and fish. Eighteen months into this process, my body and soul guided me back to eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flesh foods together.
Some times, even now, I fast or eat as a vegetarian, or eat what would look like a ketogenic diet!
Being attacked by so many people and students alike, coupled with seeing many of the same people struggling to effectively apply my teachings and Bill’s strategies led to several phone calls and email exchanges between us about this challenge.
Bill has also been faced with the paradox that people — even those in severe need of diet change — just want to read a recipe card, instead of actively engaging themselves and using metabolic typing as the dynamic system it’s designed to be.
For a variety of reasons, Western culture is largely one of children in adult bodies who have been taught “what to think,” not how to think. The result is a sea of people responding to what they’re told by experts or people in positions of authority (think practitioners of conventional medicine) to follow their “recipes” without paying attention to the actual results.
Fact is, long-term well-being is an adult process that can only be taught by adults either to open-minded children, or open-minded adults. Sadly, such people are the minority in most cultures of the world today, and we have skyrocketing rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease among a long list of chronic diseases to show for all of this “expert advice.”
Where do we go from here?
I became a father to a healthy, beautiful boy (Mana) two years ago, and I’ll turn 56 years in August. I’m still strong enough to do multiple single-arm chin-ups, and can deadlift 405 for as many as 10 repetitions a set. I can still sprint, jump, climb and play.
Often, I can out-perform professional athletes from a variety of sports in the gym, and none of them have ever been able to lift stones as big as I can, even when they can out-lift me in the gym.
My mind is still strong, my intuition clear and my work productivity high. I also know from my many conversations with Bill Wolcott, who is several years my senior, that he is still very athletic and active in tennis.
Many of my senior students also enjoy a very healthy, strong body-mind by living the diet and lifestyle principles I teach in my HLC and C.H.E.K Practitioner programs. To do this, they learn not to get stuck in any diet box, and to have an intimate relationship with their own body-mind and soul.
Over the course of my long career, I’ve learned there are several other key factors that must be monitored and worked on in addition to diet if one truly wants to be whole and healthy.
- A person’s inner life that encompasses their thoughts, feelings, emotions, dreams, goals and aspirations.
- An individual’s key family and social relationships.
- The immediate environment of home and work places, as well as the general environment they live in.
Diet is only one piece of the puzzle
The human body-mind is a dynamic living process. Diet alone is insufficient to ensure long-term health and vitality, and must be considered as one component of a holistic approach to living well, a key part of my 4 Doctors model.
Essential to effective dietary practices (Dr. Diet) is our awareness of how we apply the science and principles of effective mental-emotional self-management (Dr. Happiness), movement awareness at the levels of body, emotion and mind (Dr. Movement) and of rest and spending time within ourselves (Dr. Quiet).
I am in total agreement with Bill Wolcott’s comments about the Ketogenic diet being just another diet fad in a long, long series of them. It is my dream (I’m confident it is Bill’s too) that each individual engage himself/herself fully and free themselves of self-limiting programming, obedience to perceived authority figures and quick fixes.
Part of being an adult is coming to the realization that there are no short cuts to doing the work of living well. The use of gadgets and props only distracts people from a relationship with their own body-mind. Without them, unfortunately, people are like computers without power.
There is no more important a spiritual practice than loving and caring for yourself effectively, and engaging life fully. When we carefully and honestly consider that we can’t give what we don’t have, then doing the work of learning about, loving and managing ourselves becomes our essential work in the world.
It is the very work we need the children of today to emulate, or they will become slaves to gadgets, and get further and further away from the earth, the dangers of which are monumental and paramount today!
In my quest for health, wisdom and spiritual connection and to help others experience the body-mind freedom and open-mindedness I enjoy, I developed my 4 Doctors system which categorizes life into the four essential categories of awareness and participation that we must address to live fully, stay healthy and fulfill our dreams. They are:
- Dr. Happiness: The domain of the mind that encompasses thoughts, beliefs, dreams and choices. Dr. Happiness includes developing specific core values to support making dream-affirmative choices.
- Dr. Movement: The domain of how movement, emotions and thoughts influence our health and the diet we need meal-to-meal.
- Dr. Diet: The domain of individualized eating whole, organic foods as essential for ourselves, our families and the planet.
- Dr. Quiet: The domain of the rest of the body, emotions and mind includes my work-in system and such practices as meditation, tai chi, qigong and the zone exercises I describe in How To Eat, Move and Be Healthy!
To help my students and the public understand the essentials of 4 Doctors living, I created the multimedia ebook, The Last 4 Doctors You’ll Ever Need – How To Get Healthy Now, that contains audio tracks, slide shows and videos to enhance your learning experience.
My How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! and 4 Doctors books are the foundation for the C.H.E.K HLC Level 1-3 Advanced Training programs.
Level 1 is designed to help you get healthy. Once you are living the principles naturally, I encourage those who want to share their joy and wisdom of holistic living to enter the HLC 2 program, which teaches you how to enter the profession of holistic lifestyle coaching and have all the tools you need to do a great job for people. Finally, HLC 3 takes you deeper into advanced training geared to help you with more complex cases.
You may also want to consider the CHEK 4 Quadrant Coaching Mastery program, which complements HLC training by going deeper into the science and practice of guiding people through the change process and coaching them to higher states of consciousness and helping them better understand archetypes and the essential relationship between diet, body, psychology and spiritual development.