About six months ago, two of my close friends started the Keto diet along with their husbands. I have seen others do well on this diet and was hopeful for my friends who were looking to drop a few pounds. One of them has struggled with weight loss, trying everything from low cal to low carb to Weight Watchers, and several other programs. None seemed to do the trick. After a couple months of keto she had lost 8 or 9 pounds and felt pretty good. I was happy for her. She found a diet that worked for her. This diet plan seemed to be all the rage. So many of my friends were jumping on board and having success. Yet I struggled with whether I was ready to jump on the bandwagon myself. See, I have chronic kidney disease and even though I’m healthy I know that a high fat/low carb diet can strain the kidneys. Moreover, I have done well with a low sugar / low dairy diet myself and keto from what I saw was a lot of cheese.
So, this brings up another question – which diet is best? And are all diets created equal? Is a short-term weight loss solution the best long term plan? Is keto really the answer to keep everyone trim and happy?
I asked a trusted colleague who is not only a PT but also a health coach. So many of her clients stuck to keto for weeks and months with little weight loss. How could it work so well for some but not for others? Why did low sugar and low dairy work for me but not my friend?
The answer is in our genes. No, not the ones we are trying so desperately to fit into, but our GENES. You know, what makes each of us unique. Genetics determine more than just hair and eye color. Each of us has our own DNA, or genetic blueprint, that affects what we look like, how our bodies work, and even how we respond to diet and exercise! This is why some people run fast without even trying, and others work for years to run a mile in under 10 minutes. It is also why some people can lose weight on a keto diet while others struggle and do better counting calories. Last year I did a DNA test and found out several fun facts about myself, including that my body was not made for long distance running and that hi intensity interval training was a better choice. I also learned that while it is difficult for me to gain an abnormal amount of weight, if I do, it may be more challenging to take it off again, and that my muscles take longer than typical to recover so I need to build in days to rest, stretch and do low intensity workouts. For a cardio junkie who is always on the go, this meant I had to adapt my workout routine. In doing so, I found I was less tired, less achy and that I didn’t really gain weight from running less and lifting more.
Genetics is such an interesting subject area. In fact, I almost went into genetic engineering for my career. I loved being able to learn this information about myself; something that I never could have found out without a DNA test. Sometimes having a little more information can go a long way. I love having this tool to help my patients design exercise and diet plans that fit with their bodies and help them achieve more success.