A ketogenic diet can lead to seemingly effortless weight loss, without caloric restriction or hunger, which is one of the reasons it is so popular. Ever wondered how and why you lose weight on keto? It’s not just an unsustainable “fad” diet as some like to say.
The keto diet works by adjusting your hormones, especially insulin.
A standard diet, high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, actually compels you to overeat by throwing your metabolism and brain chemistry out of whack. Overeating isn’t caused by lack of willpower, it’s caused by bodily dysfunction, dysfunction that a keto diet will correct.
Lower carbs = Lower Insulin Resistance
Carbs directly trigger your body to produce insulin, the hormone that allows your body to utilize the energy in the food that you eat. This should be a healthy and natural process – insulin levels rise when eating, and subside between meals.
But when you eat a diet full of sweets and starches, your insulin production can grow out of control (hyperinsulinemia). Eventually, your cells become resistant to insulin, dulling insulin’s effect, which just causes your body to produce even more of it. Now you have excessive amounts of insulin coursing through your body at all times, whether you have or haven’t eaten recently.
This excess of insulin disrupts our metabolism in two notable ways:
First of all, it puts you in “storage mode” constantly, which means you’re stuffing calories into fat cells when you should be burning them.
Secondly, insulin resistance interferes with the signals of another hormone named leptin. Leptin is known as the “satiety hormone,” and primarily works by telling your brain when to reduce your appetite. Insulin resistance is known to interrupt this message, causing inappropriate hunger.
The best way to fix insulin resistance, to break off “storage mode” and to revive normal leptin signaling is to reduce the body’s production of insulin in the first place. You can do that by eating very few carbohydrates: a keto diet.
Satiety: Keto Makes You Full
All calories are not created equal. Some calories (fat and protein) make you feel satisfied and full, while others (carbohydrates) just leave you hungering for more.
Foods considered “hyperpalatable” (junk food) assault your brain, overriding the usual system that tells you when to stop eating. Hyperpalatable foods combine huge amounts of simple carbohydrates, fat and/or salt. For the most part we’re talking about junk foods like donuts and potato chips, foods that have literally been engineered to make you overeat.
On keto, your consumption of hyperpalatable junk foods is dramatically reduced. Your body’s system of satiety cues will return to its natural, healthy level. You’ll stop eating when your body is supposed to stop eating—not when the big junk food businesses want you to stop.
When you switch to a keto diet, you’ll be breaking what is likely a lifelong sugar addiction. That’s not an exaggeration: sugar is literally addictive.
We’re all familiar with the mild but drug-like effects of sugar—sugar cravings, binges, rushes and highs. These aren’t just creative descriptions. Sugar actually triggers the same cycle of dopamine dependency that defines serious drug addiction. Other simple carbs, especially highly refined and processed grains, can have the same effect.
Dopamine is the brain’s reward system neurotransmitter, a chemical that is released in response to pleasure. A delicious meal should release some dopamine, but sugar and simple carbohydrates go too far, triggering large dopamine dumps that can cause the whole reward system to go haywire. Eventually you get dependent on the dopamine, leading to intense cravings, and your tolerance increases, making you crave more and more.
When you start eating keto, you may experience sugar withdrawal symptoms. If you feel fatigue, malaise or light-headedness, you can take these signs as proof that you are breaking the cycle of dopamine dependency that has caused you to overeat in the past.
A Ketogenic Approach to Weight Loss
Society has been pushing the “eat less, move more” calorie-centric approach to weight management for decades without success. “Eat less, move more” hasn’t slowed the rising tide of obesity and diabetes. Eating keto likely will.