Fragility of keto and other dieters


I appreciate what has happened to me on my current (I had success on Atkins 10+ years ago and blew it due to travel) keto journey of about one year. But it amazes me to see posts that are like “I ate one serving of XXX (some carby something) and for the next YYY days I had ZZZ (some awful symptoms)”

Shouldn’t our bodies be a bit more tolerant of food? I realize someone that is truly lactose intolerant or with Celiac’s disease (for example) has some serious issues ZZZ with specific foods… but those all existed pre-keto. I have certainly run into a number of keto devotees who seem to have brought on real (or maybe psychological) fragility when it comes to foods they used to eat without such reactions.

I guess I want my body to be relatively flexible and if I wind up eating beans, peanuts, or heaven forbid a bowl of pasta or a piece of cake due to social necessity or otherwise I hope my keto diet won’t ever throw me into gastric dilemmas, headaches, (and all the other ZZZ items)

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #2

I think it’s probably a matter of time. It took us all some weeks or months to get at least moderately fat adapted after years of SAD. So likely, in the first couple years or so afterwards it would take a similar period of time to start eating carb-loaded foods again without painful consequences. Although, I’d also bet that some folks could do so without so much as a burp.

My opinion is that we never lose so-called metabolic flexibility and I think the concerns about it expressed in discussions here on the forum are rather overblown. So what if you get a stomach ache or heaves or diarrhea after eating a can of beans or whatever? Keep eating it and after a few days it will stay down without complaint.

Real metabolic inflexibility: the panda that can eat only bamboo leaves; the koala that can only eat eucalyptus leaves. As I am discovering in my continuous glucose monitor adventure, being in continuous ketosis does not interfere with normal glucose levels. Also learning from my Lumen that even in ketosis, apparently I’m still burning enough glucose to affect the measurements.

I don’t worry about it. If we ever get into an apocalypse where the only available food is canned pork and beans, I think we’ll manage.

PS: I think there might also be some Body Wisdom™ involved. As in: “Are you kidding me! That’s the crap that got you into trouble in the first place. I’m not letting that in again.”

Oh my gosh I was starving and I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Yes, I think it’s surprisingly bad for so many people, I’ve read zillion quite bad stories…
But I am actually glad that my body made its choice (more like realized what is good for it) and complains if I eat unwell. I find my case pretty good as I can’t go back to high-carb, can’t eat moderate-carb for longer term but I don’t start dying if I eat a piece of carby stuff or two or twenty… Well it depends, my body has problems with the lactose+added sugar combo. But I still don’t get actual pain easily.
It’s normal we handle sugar less well but some people show extreme symptoms even if they don’t eat half a big cake (that would kick out normal people too but for some reason, certain ketoers just “have to” eat a ton of sugar when they decide to go off keto…), I mean, they don’t even eat a proper slice, just some more carbs.

We change. When I was a kid, I could eat anything in nearly any amount, I really could eat (some summer breakfast started with a pound of bread, twice as much milk, some white bacon, vegetables, butter and whatever I had and wanted. My appetite was pretty good 3 hours later at lunch - of course, I needed my protein - and I felt fine and healthy).
Then I lowered my carbs, cut out more and more food groups and my body got choosier and choosier. About my carb intake, my food choices… I can have some carbier food but moderation is very important. It’s fine, I don’t even want to eat much even from the most tempting carby food. Usually. I had a weakness towards homemade cakes. I think I am mostly cured now… And it’s fine. It’s better. I am more free even if my diet is more restricted if we look at it at some angle. I eat whatever I want from my own viewpoint. I don’t want carbs galore. So we want different things. I am happy with my own case and hopefully your body is tolerant enough for your wishes - or you will change my mind, maybe.

Real social necessities must be very rare for most of us. One can moderately easily handle almost all situations if they want.
But I don’t want to start dying if I find myself in a situation when I can’t choose my food well. It’s almost sure I never will face that but who knows? I can expect my own body to handle a worse food situation. Some unpleasantness would happen, fine but survival without much suffering (unless if I had to starve for longer term), I totally expect that. I had some carbier times and I can make the educated guess that I could function okay on more carbs after my body realizes I can’t change my diet and my severe carb poisoning goes away. Maybe I would feel as in my high-carb past (with a more sensitive body, I mean, I would feel okay but I would notice subtle warnings I didn’t before my low-carb years). But it would be never right, I would miss what I have on low-carb and especially extreme low-carb.

(Jane) #4

I’m in maintenance mode and don’t worry about the occasional carb foods but eat. I don’t eat sugar but occasionally indulge in corn chips, potatoes and rice.


The flexibility should relate to whole foods, I think. The fragility is forgivable if the context is highly processed foods based on seeds and grains, or highly processed fats.

(bulkbiker) #6

Then again is the rubbish some people eat as a “cheat” really deserving of the appellation “food”?


Welcome to the mindset of metabolic flexibility! Which sadly just shy gets made fun of a lot here. We basically all agree that eating a bun with our burger and some fries from time to time (or weekly, who cares?) shouldn’t results in being hungover for days and “out of ketosis” which is apparently the equivalent of being diagnosed with a fatal disease. It’s insane. Our bodies if running correctly should be able to deal with what we give it, burn it, and continue on! For me, the wife and most of my family it just took a more regular addition of some carbs. Our bodies definitely sensitize to them after long term strict keto. Some fruit here and there. A sweet potato with my steak when I’m out and a roll or two. Oatmeal a couple times a week. No more issues. I can eat whatever the hell I want, including terrible ones. No physical payback for it anymore. I still try to keep keto 85% of the time and the sweet stuff like a desert may give me some cravings a day or two later but that’s easy to deal with.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #8

@lfod14 Again, the question arises, why? Are you prepping for the Apocalypse when only canned beans are left. I think the concern about ‘flexibility’ is overblown. Humans are by definition metabolically flexible. You don’t have to practice by eating carbs regularly. How many years did you eat SAD. Yet within a couple of days you were metabolizing fatty acids and ketones. How much discomfort did that cause? Yes, you got more efficient over time burning fats, but you transitioned quickly and probably painlessly.

Sure some folks might experience a few days of discomfort and/or diarrhea if they suddenly start eating 3-4 hundred grams of carbs again after being keto for months or years. But many, maybe most, won’t. Keep in mind that many many folks on this forum are here because their metabolisms were ruined by eating carbs. I don’t find it a surprise that ingesting a nutritionally zero hamburger bun results in discomfort for some of them. There is Body Wisdom™ as in: “Are you kidding me! That’s the crap that got you into trouble in the first place. I’m not letting it in again, bozo.”


Thanks for the thoughts. Maybe I should have been more clear about what I meant by flexibility. Living in a professional society, traveling, interacting socially… I see posts where “oh I ate a pb&j and I was sick for days”. “I was at a party and ate a wife of pizza and had diarrhea for days”. “I was at a meeting and ate a banana and now I have whatever awful symptoms “

I guess one way to look at it is that a bad reaction to subideal food is good, but I practice real world keto … I am sure it is subideal but hey

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #10

You will only know for sure if you try it. We’re all n=1 here. There is such a thing as ‘low carb’ as distinct from ‘high carb’ and ‘keto’. It works for many.

(charlie3) #11

I have my psychodramas with food but don’t discuss them out loud, not productive. What works for me is remember to silently compliment myself when a month or two goes by with no cheats. When a cheat does happen I try to point out to myself I didn’t get the physical sugar rush my body was looking for. It wasn’t worth it. Come summer I’ll probably duck into the icecream store a few times for a cheat and try to remind myself I could have driven on. I have learned to get out of the grocery store with no contriband even though I still have those moments. Once I’m at the register the memory fades. I love my increasingly remodeled body, what it can do, how it looks, and hopefully some encouragement to others.


Because I want to! You don’t need a reason. Eating a “normal” meal shouldn’t result in the equivalent of a hangover. It shouldn’t mean feeling sluggish for days, unable to focus, on the toilet or any other “payback” because you ate off plan. Nobody should eat crap all the time. Nobody should eat 4-5 pieces of cake and expect to feel good after. Nobody should drink a 12 pack and expect to feel right the next day. But eating a burger and fries with a beer or two shouldn’t mean you feel like crap or are married to the toilet for hours.

This is how I eat, it’s not my religion. When I can’t eat a meal I want because either it’ll make me sick for days or because it’s simply not the healthiest choice in the world so it’s 100% out for life, two things have happened. I’ve made this way of eating my religion, and I’ve become the keto equivalent of a vegan. Neither one of those are going to happen.

This week I’m making my wife a cake for her birthday. It’s the sugar free version and the frosting is sugar free as well but it’s still terrible for you! I’m still eating the crap out of it because it’s her birthday and it’s going to taste awesome. I’m not missing normal things in life or eat some gross copycat recipe every time because I’m on a “diet” which keto instantly becomes when I start acting like that. If people want to be diehard purists, never taste sweet again, not ever eat anything because it has a single ingredient that causes inflammation or that it does something weird to a mouse that eats 3 tons of it in 2 weeks that’s fine, but most people aren’t doing that.

(Michael - When reality fails to meet expectations, the problem is not reality.) #13

Please don’t think I care what you eat or don’t eat nor why you do and don’t any more than you do about me. This is not my religion either, but I can recognize a good thing when I experience it and feel no qualms expressing my enthusiasm for it. In response to questions, comments and requests for help, I share my experience and knowledge however it is at the moment. Like everyone else here I’m learning as I go along.

At the moment I happen to think the concern about metabolic flexibility is overblown by a few folks on this forum. They seem to forget that most people are here because they had serious metabolic problems, some life-threatening. Their metabolisms are damaged, some beyond full repair and normalization. I don’t find it a surprise that people with damaged and/or scarred metabolisms might experience some discomfort eating stuff that got them into trouble in the first place.

Aside from the obvious things you mention, I also think folks with little or no damage to their metabolisms, or those fully recovered from whatever damage they suffered, will have no problems eating whatever they want to eat, including your wife’s birthday cake. I hope you enjoy it.

(Jane) #14

I see them also but they are in the minority of posters. And you get a skewed perception because people like me never post “I had to eat a sub sandwich at a business meeting and nothing bad happened”. :smile:


Why not? I do that after 20 pieces (not huge chocolate cake pieces, just smaller various ones)… I often see lots of people eating more than 4-5 pieces of cake when it’s a nice variety of great homemade ones… Is it not normal? Not every day but now and then. It seems normal, looking at people eating cake…
I don’t consider it ideal but it took time to be able not tempted too much when I see a good homemade cake (and I rarely regret it, good homemade cakes worth it for me. bread from a shop isn’t. not even my homemade one, usually). Despite I have my own, very good cake I ate on keto (half of a small cake as i don’t know how to eat a single slice, it doesn’t make sense to me. I eat to get satiated and get my nutrients. And have joy from food but why not to get everything at once? It’s usually possible.)

I never really understood why sweets are so demonized or considered bad on keto. I understand they aren’t good for everyone for various reasons but why would they be bad in general…? Whatever. Everyone has the prerogative to have their own opinion and individual diet. We have different tastes and circumstances, sometimes our sweet stuff has an important role (providing calories, nutrients, satiation, keeping our carbs low), not just some enjoyment or being social though that might be important too.

I don’t care so much if people consider sweets bad, I just can’t help to react as I have this special connection with them even now when I don’t particularly desire and usually don’t even need them at all. They probably will have their (diminished) role in my life. But I fondly remember many food I probably won’t eat in the future too. They aren’t my crappy enemies even if they aren’t good for me in bigger amounts. I am probably quite emotional about food. And zillion other things. Probably my hedonism, I enjoy things and that makes me like them more.

(bulkbiker) #16

They aren’t “good” for anyone… and if they aren’t good then they’re either neutral (which most of us know they aren’t ) or bad.

If you are coming from a place of addiction then once it’s overcome the last thing you want to do is continually prod the beast to “test” yourself surely?

(Hyperbole- best thing in the universe!) #17

Yeah, I also failed to mention the scoop of handmade mango ice cream I had last week and the total lack of consequences. I felt a little sugar buzzy while eaitng it, but it passed quickly.


I had a friend once who went to some weight loss spa. She was there for 2 whole weeks and the food was very very EXTREMELY fat free. When she came home and had a regular meal- she threw up for hours and hours. The body does NOT adapt so fast.
Having said that, there are certainly also some psychological reactions to “cheating.” which manifest in physical symptoms.
I just know that for me, terrible IBS with cramping disappeared within 72 hours of going keto. So I know that bread, for example- will set me off again if that should be my “cheat” one day. Right now I am staying away from it because I remember the pain I was in.

(Door Girl) #19

Eliminating foods that give you digestive or other upset makes the impact much more clear when you eat those foods again.

I have a history of terrible IBS. Just terrible. A decade ago I discovered most of my near daily migraines were from gluten, and IBS improved. Further narrowed my diet going lower carb a couple years ago and discovered both some more foods that contribute to IBS and some other interesting food reactions.

Now I’m dairy free (oh the horrors!) because my breastfed infant can’t tolerate milk proteins :scream: and I’ve finally resolved my IBS once and for all.

You don’t know where someone is coming from, you don’t know how much discomfort they have removed from their life by simply removing some kinds of food.

The individual is the only one who can judge whether or not it is “worth it”. I’ll gladly resume my IBS in exchange for glorious cheese, butter and cream when baby is weaned but his health is worth it. And my issue isn’t huge, so a few more bio breaks in a day in exchange for dairy is an easy trade for me. And strangely enough, a decade in to my gluten free life I can FINALLY be “glutened” and not get a migraine and the runs. It took this long to heal, but apparently I am finally far more tolerant.


I didn’t know you could actually "heal " a gluten intolerance. I thought it was for life.
What is a “bio break”? In exchange for dairy?