Anybody who took health class around the year 2000 remembers that carbs made up the bottom support of the food pyramid. 20 years later, how did this foundation get eliminated altogether from our diets?
The keto diet supposes that if one stops eating bread, pasta, rice, and such for a time, your body’s metabolism rewires itself so that eating anything you want later on is possible without getting fat. After a while, the diet changed to just cut out bread, pasta, and rice forever.
In the year 2000, if you could eat whatever you wanted without getting fat, sometimes this phenomenon was called “ketosis,” which was actually a diagnosable state your doctor would help you to treat. Pregnant women at times complained that as they were “eating for two,” they couldn’t eat enough food to stay full.
Ketosis is an uncomfortable state (that the keto diet induces purposefully) of not being able to fit enough calories into your stomach per day to gain enough energy from the food to be able to function. People in ketosis are groggy, listless, and have difficulty focusing.
While people today put themselves into ketosis on purpose, societies and cultures have been avoiding ketosis for millenia. The overarching theories surrounding ketosis suggest that ketosis is not only related to food intake, but also to stress. Ancient societies were sometimes so little stressed, and their members got along so beautifully, that they didn’t need to eat much or at all. Yes, there were hunters and gatherers. Yes, people grew crops. However, have you ever seen a movie of ancient soldiers going off to war with no backpacks? They literally carried no food or water because they didn’t need any.
Ancient societies were basically obsessed with the relationship between food and stress. When agriculture was discovered, people devoted time and energy into growing crops like rice. In ancient Rome, citizens worked for five hours a week in the rice fields, and everybody ate one grain of boiled rice a day. If life became more stressful, they needed more rice to satiate their stress, and they had to devote more time and energy to the rice fields, which in turn made them more hungry, which forced them to devote more time and energy into producing more rice. Some societies figured out that at a certain point, if they fasted and ceased agricultural work, they would be less hungry than if they worked the fields to make food.
As somebody who has done a lot of work with plants professionally, for about 35 hours a week, I can say that it definitely made me very hungry. I soon discovered that eating my normal diet didn’t fit enough food into my stomach to satiate my hunger and provide me with enough energy to do all the gardening work I needed to do. I was groggy, listless, and had trouble focusing.
Over time, I began to find the best food combinations to stay out of ketosis. I found that white flour is more satiating than whole grain flour, white rice is more satiating than brown rice, and cereals with more carbs and less fiber kept me going until lunch. I realized that in order to stay full, I needed both a lot of animal fat and a lot of milk fat. Salads just made me hungrier. Cake was too sugary. Fruit was nice before a meal, like a Muslim who eats a fig at the end of a Ramadan fast, because it opens your stomach. Drinking liquids while I ate was annoying, because it took up space that I could have used for food, and I ran out of energy later. I started eating granola bars that are weight-gaining, like from the movie Mean Girls, and I didn’t gain any weight, and was definitely less hungry.
You can imagine my surprise when the keto diet became a fad! It makes zero sense. Even if you just cut out carbs for a while until your metabolism is so stressed out you can eat anything, trust me, you’ll need to eat about seven meals a day probably, and you might wake up hungry in the middle of the night. My biggest amusement is probably that people doing keto are always eating avocados. Avocados take you out of ketosis.