Music was better in my day. The thought flashed across my mind and I quickly stamped the life out of it before the feeling could take root. I was standing in the Apple store waiting to get my next piece of overpriced technology, and I realised the music they were playing was going totally over my head. The table of teenagers in front of me, however, was enthusiastically singing along to every word. “Music was better in my day”, I thought. It’s bullshit of course.
There are two reasons I stopped myself. One is because, as a musician, I need to stay utterly open-minded about what is happening in music, and why. If I don’t like something, I need to obsessed with why not, and I need to be able to justify it; otherwise I’m just another old man clinging to the past. The other is that the science geek in me knows that this behaviour is an excellent example of survivorship bias.
If you haven’t come across the term before, survivorship bias refers to studying, or remembering, successful outcomes while ignoring failures. It’s the reason we think of Adam and the Ants, The Specials, and The Smiths, and why we forget Kajagoogoo, Falco, and Shaky and Bonnie. Survivorship bias isn’t just limited to music and TV, it affects everything; including our diets.
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about why fad diets are a waste of time, but the biggest challenge I face when I put that kind of info out is the old “it worked for my friend” schtick. However stupid a weight loss diet is, it turns out that you’ll know someone who nailed it by following the idiotic rules to the letter, and none are worse than the low carb enthusiasts poster boy; keto.
For those that don’t know, a ketogenic diet is a fancy name for an ultra low carb way of eating, and it seems that everyone who has tried it on the internet thinks that it’s the easiest way to shed some unwanted pounds, but is that true? Those that have lost weight with keto are quick to point their successes out, but are we ignoring the legions that haven’t? Science knows the answer.
A recent review paper looked at the efficacy of low carb diets to help manage type 2 diabetes. Some of the findings were pretty interesting.
- Out of the six studies that prescribed diets with fewer than 50g of carbohydrate, only one of them managed to hit that target.
- instead, the average carbohydrate consumption across the studies was 106g.
- It’s worth pointing out these studies were on the management of type 2 diabetes, not just people trying to lose weight where you’d expect the motivation to be rather less than managing a life-changing disease.
Another review paper drew similar conclusions. When one study prescribed a carbohydrate amount of 20g to 50g, after 12 months the subjects ended up eating an average of 190g and found that most people could not stick to the allotted carb amounts when they were under 50g. Despite how easy people on social media say it is to stick to the diet, it seems real-world results are different.
Here’s the thing; your diet doesn’t have to suck. Ketogenic diets don’t do anything that any other diet that helps you reduce calories doesn’t do, despite what people might say. If you think keto is special, take a quick look at the list below.
- You won’t lose more fat by eating more fat.
- You can’t eat anything you want and still lose weight. Calories count, just like normal.
- You will still feel hunger.
- Your brain won’t work more efficiently.
- You won’t be filled with energy.
- You won’t perform exercise better.
Just like with most things in life, you have a choice. If you want to eat carbs on a weight loss diet, you can.
Despite what the internet says, ketogenic diets aren’t “effortless” for most people, and are actually hard to stick to. It doesn’t matter if the buff guy on Instagram or Jo from accounts lost weight with keto; if you’re consuming fewer calories than you burn, you can lose weight just as well while eating carbs.
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