My Dartmouth Doctor Doesn't Endorse The Keto Diet

For one thing, she says it reeks of western privilege.

Shannon Ashley
Jul 15 · 3 min read
Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

In an effort to finally manage my disordered eating, I hired a nutritionist who specializes in issues like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.

Among the most interesting things I've learned is why she refuses to recommend the keto diet.

It's a first-world privilege.

Nobody really likes to talk about how environmentally irresponsible the keto diet is. But it's unavoidable.

A diet based mostly on animal products takes much more resources to produce that an otherwise balanced diet. It's simply not sustainable.

In our initial video chat, Dr. Herrin called the ketogenic diet a first-world diet, and one that's built upon Western privilege.

While most of the world consumes more moderate amounts of animal products, leave it to the Western world to evangelize the supposed benefits of enormous amounts of milk, butter, cheese, and meat.

Keto fog can be dangerous in more ways than one.

Dr. Herrin has a patient who has given her permission to tell her story. This patient was a nurse who was following the keto diet when one evening, she had a glass of wine.

It was only a single serving of alcohol, and there was plenty of time between her drink on the one evening and her work shift the next day.

Yet, when the nurse came into work, she didn't really feel like herself and realized she was having keto fog. A supervisor didn't believe in the existence of keto fog and had the nurse take a breath test for alcohol.

The nurse failed the breath test and lost her job. Despite her research into the issue to confirm that yes, you can fail a breath test when you're in ketosis, she was unable to persuade her employer to consider the evidence.

We're talking about a young woman in her twenties and new nurse who is now searching for a different career. All of those years in school? Wasted.

"Spread the news far and wide," Dr. Herrin told me.

I did a little research and found that some attorneys have been advocates on this very issue.

Can you even imagine?

Of course, keto flu and keto fog affect everyone differently. Some folks don't struggle much at all, while others are miserable for days. Even weeks.

If you happen to be one of the unlucky ones, the effects of keto fog could be devastating. Particularly for those who aren't prepared for the potential side effects.

It's not necessarily a long-term solution.

Nutritionists like Dr. Herrin (who frequently work with eating disorders) have a unique perspective on diets since they see the negative outcomes firsthand. One of the big problems with any diet is that we simply don't know who's going to develop an eating disorder and who won't.

The restriction of most diets, and certainly keto, feeds into the notion that some foods are "bad." It's not a long-term solution for individuals with food issues. If anything, it makes those food issues worse.

It's disconcerting when a diet causes a person to fear fruits and vegetables. And because keto is so hard for most people to adhere to for life, it also encourages yoyo dieting.

I've experienced this yoyo on keto myself.

And frankly? I'm sick of it.

When experts can't agree, how can the rest of us figure it out?

Want an instant headache? Start Googling "healthy diets." Reading so many conflicting opinions from the experts can drive you nuts.

But at the end of the day, context really matters. Finding a responsible dietician to help you get through the weeds can be a game-changer.

In my case, my nutritionist recognizes that the most important thing is that I quit binge eating. She pairs her knowledge with the context of my needs. And that's not quick weight loss at any cost--it's freedom from a painful mental health condition that keeps me stuck in nutrition hell.

So, now I suppose that I've come full circle. No more trying the keto diet, which felt like banging my head against the wall. Instead, I'm embracing moderation where once again, context is everything.

Join my email list to keep in touch, or check me out on Write Already!

Heavy by Shannon Ashley

Stories about body image, eating disorders, and the way we see our external selves.

Shannon Ashley

Written by

Single mama, fulltime writer, exvangelical. It's not about being flawless, it's about being honest. Top Writer.

Heavy by Shannon Ashley

Stories about body image, eating disorders, and the way we see our external selves.

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