The Ketogenic Diet: Why Eating Fat Can Make You Thin

This is a guest post by Louise Hendon, co-host of The Keto Summit and author of The Essential Keto Cookbook

It probably seems very counterintuitive that eating more fat can actually help you lose weight.

Traditional advice has always been to eat low fat and exercise more.

But as we’ve realized over the years, traditional advice is simply not working. According to a recent finding, from 1993 to 2013 in England, “the proportions that were overweight including obese increased from 57.6 per cent to 67.1 per cent in men and from 48.6 per cent to 57.2 per cent in women.”

As many people have discovered, the culprit may well be the traditional advice we’ve been given. What we are often told is “healthy” are often foods that are causing us to stay fat and suffer chronic health problems.

That’s why websites like Fat is My Friend are so amazing. They offer a better way of enjoying food without compromising your health.

Luckily, if you’ve been following Dr. Jo’s recommendations for a while, then you might already be eating a ketogenic diet without realizing it.

But in this post, I’ll explain more about what a ketogenic diet is, what you eat, what you don’t eat, how it’s potentially different from LCHF or Aktins, and explain why fat isn’t something you should be afraid of.

What is the ketogenic diet?
The traditional ketogenic diet originated around 100 years ago as an effective method of treating kids with epilepsy. They found that the diet increased levels of ketone bodies in the children and that this increase corresponded to decreased epileptic seizures.

Back then the diet wasn’t all that appetizing. You often fasted and drank high fat foods like cream. But over the years, the diet has been dramatically modified so that you can still gain the benefits of keto while eating delicious foods.

As you probably have guessed, a ketogenic diet is considered a high fat diet. But you don’t just eat fat.

You also eat a fair amount of protein (especially if you’re trying to lose weight) and a small amount of carbohydrates (preferably in the form of whole foods like green leafy vegetables).

That means you avoid foods high in carbohydrates like chips, pasta, bread, and cakes.

What exactly do you eat on a ketogenic diet?
Here are some general food groups to eat on a ketogenic diet:
1. Fish and seafood – these are generally high in nutrients, high in good fats, and have pretty much no carbohydrates. Oysters are especially good if you can get them. But in the UK, smoked salmon and canned sardines are excellent options that you can get in most stores.
2. Meats – get high quality meats if you can and go for fattier cuts. Dr. Jo has a great roast lamb recipe here you should try.
3. Eggs – these are also high in good fats and very nutritious. They’re perfect for fast and easy breakfasts.
4. Leafy green vegetables – while many starchy vegetables are off limits on a ketogenic diet because they contain too many carbohydrates, leafy green vegetables are encouraged. They’re a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and can help make your meals more interesting.
5. Organ meats like liver – beef liver is highly nutrient dense. That means you’ll get more vitamins and minerals per calorie you take in than most foods. If you dislike the taste of liver, then try hiding some in burger meat or stews.
6. Berries – don’t go overboard with fruits as they are pretty high in sugars. But adding a handful of berries each day to your diet can add a ton of flavor to various dishes.
7. Healthy fats – coconut oil, ghee, tallow, lard, olive oil, avocado oil are all excellent options.

For more keto food ideas, check out our free 7-day keto meal plan here.


How is this different to Atkins or LCHF?

The main difference is simply one of focus. In practice, there’s often very little difference.

While Atkins focuses on eating lower carbs and LCHF focuses on eating more fat and less carbs, the idea behind Keto is to eat a diet that increases your blood ketone levels.

A diet high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs (as Dr. Jo suggests) is perfect for increasing your blood ketone levels.

Many people on Atkins or LCHF are probably experiencing blood ketone levels that put them into “nutritional ketosis” already.

According to Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney, “‘light nutritional ketosis’ is between 0.5mmol/L and 1.0mmol/L and ‘optimal ketosis’ is between 1.0mmol/L and 3.0mmol/L.”

Many Keto proponents, like myself, also heavily emphasize eating real foods and focusing on eating nutrient-dense foods (like leafy green vegetables, seafood, and organ meats).

Why Does Eating Keto Help You Lose Weight?
The exact mechanism for why a ketogenic diet works is still very much debated.

Is it just the high ketone levels, the high fat diet, the low carb aspect, hunger suppression, a combination of these, or some other mechanism we’re not aware of yet?

Whatever the exact reason, it seems that Keto diets work well for weight loss.

One 24-week study found that a ketogenic diet “significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients.”

And people like Jimmy Moore have found significant weight loss with the diet.

What About Cholesterol?

The traditional view, which many people still believe, is that if you eat foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats (like eating eggs and bacon) will cause you to have higher cholesterol and thereby cause heart disease.


However, recent studies are slowly debunking this traditional view.

A 2009 review concluded that, “It is reasonable to conclude that there is little evidence supporting a major association between dietary cholesterol and CHD [coronary heart disease] risk in the general population.” Hyperresponders and type 2 diabetics may react differently.

A 2010 study concluded that, “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] or CVD[cardiovascular disease].”

Another study found that the ketogenic diet was beneficial even in the long-term for overweight people with high cholesterol. That study was conducted for 56 weeks.

Start Eating More Healthy Fats

While you definitely don’t need to go overboard and stuff your food with fats unnecessarily, you also don’t need to fear fats.

Choose fattier cuts of meat, cook your vegetables in delicious fats like lard, and add higher quality extra virgin olive oil to your salads. Look into the ketogenic diet if you’re interested in learning more. And listen to Dr. Jo!

Week 3- How to Change your Eating in 8 weeks

Remind us of YOUR hopes and goals. Mine were, and are, to reduce my risk of dementia. My dad and grandmother had dementia, and it is associated with diabetes. In reducing my risk of diabetes, I hope to reduce my risk of dementia.
This week a few people in my group shared that they were now able to get down on the floor and play with their grandchildren, and get up again. How lovely!
How have you been getting on? What are your challenges and successes?
Email them to me if you like, or ask me a question, on joannemccormack@nhs.net
Low carb snacks and fermented foods– examples are provided on the night.
Recipe for sauerkraut
Exercise chat- what have you been doing? You cannot exercise enough to compensate for eating the wrong sort of food. Remember that Sumo wrestlers eat lots of rice and drink lots of beer and despite doing lots of exercise they maintain a high weight.
Non food treats
Not to forget:
Set your quit day– processed food addiction affects many of us, don’t give up on giving up!
Get your measurements and/or photos done. The tests to be done now and in 3 months are HBA1C, liver, kidney, lipids, thyroid, weight, height, and waist measurements.
Be mindful
Habit releaser of the week- have a night- or a week- off TV, and see what else you can enjoy.
See me or your GP for advice about your diabetes medication before your quit day.

Find Your Own Carbohydrate Level

Carbohydrates are in many foods we eat and are classified into sugars and starches. When I started on this low carb way of life I found it a bit confusing. What level of carbohydrate was needed?

There are no essential carbohydrates

so what was to stop me choosing zero? You don’t you need carbs for energy( they are not necessary as your body can make glucose) so why do dietitians advise them? Is the advice itself just a habit?
People eat a lot of carbohydrate containing foods like bread, cakes, cereal, fruit and vegetables, and regard them as healthy in moderation, but as you know they are habit forming.
I was 50 years of age but I still found it hard to believe that staple everyday foods like this could harm me in any way.
It was my sister’s and, separately, a patient’s, marvelous recovery from a rare arthritic disorder that set me thinking. Why would they get so much better just by cutting out the starches from their food? The theory is to do with bacteria in the gut feeding off starches and causing an overgrowth of a bug called klebsiella, which then triggers a reaction whereby the body starts to attack itself. The particular diet they used is called the London AS diet.
Then Dr David Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain set me thinking about whether sugars and starches could lead to diabetes, dementia and other chronic inflammatory conditions. This could happen through the insulin hormone getting too high, too often, causing weight to go up and causing Type 2 diabetes.
Then I had the surprise of seeing the zerocarbers on www.zerocarbzen.com, www.myzerocarblife.com and the Principia Carnivora Facebook group. One of these zerocarbers was a retired doctor who wrote to me from the USA and told me about his zerocarb journey- and very well he did too. Obesity and hypertension resolved and off all his medication. Many of these people had morbid obesity and through a zerocarb lifestyle became a normal weight and were able to stop all their medication.
The Masai and the Inuit people were zero carbers and while many dietitians say that no one can stick to zero carb diets, I am told that 10-20k people in the USA do exactly that today.

How can you decide? It starts with what you want to achieve and what you like to eat.
Would you like to write down your goals?

People say things like…
Running about with the grandchildren
Looking good for a son’s wedding
Weight loss
Resolution of type 2 diabetes
Coming off drugs
I am a keen exerciser and feel I need to eat some carbs. If so what is the minimum you can get away with?

Are you veggie or vegan? That makes it impossible to get down to zero without nutrient deficiencies, so I often suggest cutting out sugars and following recipes on www.authoritynutrition.com or www.dietdoctor.com

Decide how low you want to go and whether you reduce them gradually or all of a sudden. My plan, which came from Dr Perlmutter is flexible, and you could do it with or without any grains, sweet fruit, or starchy vegetables if you wanted quicker results.

If you want to reduce your risk of diabetes and dementia, Dr Perlmutter suggests 30g a day is about right. I got too thin after 4 months on this so decided to raise it a little but I still eat under 50g a day.

Butter Bob Briggs and Jeff Cyr eat the lowest level they need to feel well, keep their weight down,their blood glucose normal and keep them off medication.

Once you achieve your goal you can decide if your want to raise your carb level a little and see if that still works for you.

Why I advise low carb healthy fat eating

I’m a conventional GP and I’ve been practising for 29 years. I would never want you to think I was anti establishment. I worked in a five partner practice for 23 years, have been the chair of the Professional Executive Committee of the Primary Care Trust and I was a GP trainer. I’m married and am mother to three grown up children. I’m also the named GP for Safeguarding children for an area of 300,000 people and 42 practices. So what makes me so sceptical about the current dietary advice, that I am now a founder member a charity the Public Health Collaboration that campaigns against it? The simple reason is that I see it does not work for the people who need it to work. It’s fine if you are healthy and slim and on no medication, but once you are overweight, the advice to base your meals on starchy carbohohydrates will tend to make you get fatter and fatter. Then you may eventually need drugs for diabetes, blood pressure, arthritis, reflux and perhaps even gout. Your body is not able to use up that carbohydrate for energy, and cleverly changes it to fat to minimise the harm the resultant sugars could do to your body. In addition, your cells become less and less sensitive to insulin as time goes on and this causes you to gain more weight. By accident I discovered that if an overweight person cuts out processed starches and sugars and sticks to real food with a low natural sugar level, they get thinner, and may even become the lightest weight they have ever been as an adult. Try it and see. Look at the food list on my site.