Here's Why Carbohydrate Restrictive Diets Can Be Problematic

Carbohydrates make up the sugars, starches, and fibers in grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Because they are often a dominant constituent in a lot of fast foods and comfort foods, carbohydrates tend to be an especially problematic macronutrient for people with eating disorders. Even amongst people who don’t have an eating disorder, carbohydrates seem to have an almost uniquely maligned reputation.

In recent years, the polarizing influence of carbohydrates has sparked a craze of new diets. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the ketogenic diet, more commonly known as the keto diet, and evaluate its pros and cons for people with eating disorders.

Can People with Eating Disorders Still Have Carbohydrates?

Before we get started, we just want to point out that, despite the popularity of the keto diet, there’s really no reason why people with eating disorders can’t incorporate carbohydrates into their diet. Jane Ogden, a Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Surrey, recently affirmed this view in an editorial piece on the irrational demonization of carbohydrates, writing:

“If they realize that carbohydrates have an essential part in their diets, not only for energy but also for building long-term sustainable healthy habits, then carbohydrates can resume their place as a central part of how they eat.”

What is the Keto Diet?

The keto diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that forces the body to use fat as its primary energy source by depriving it of carbohydrate stores. When the body begins burning fat for energy, it induces a metabolic state called ketosis.

Advantages of the Keto Diet for People with Eating Disorders

Reduced seizure risk: Research indicates that sustained ketosis can increase the seizure threshold in people who suffer from epilepsy. However, at this point in time, research has not yet been conducted to determine the keto diet’s effect on seizure risk in people with bulimia nervosa.

May assist with weight gain: To get your body into ketosis, you need to eat a lot of fats. Because fats have a higher number of calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, the keto diet can make weight gain easier for people recovering from an eating disorder.

May improve heart health: Although it will depend on the type of food you eat, a keto diet may lead to you eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Both of these fat types have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels.

Disadvantages of the Keto Diet for People with Eating Disorders

Difficult to stick to: The rigidity of the keto diet can set people up for failure. Associating failure with eating is a very unhealthy practice for people with or recovering from eating disorders. For people still struggling with an eating disorder, the keto diet could exacerbate anxiety, compulsive thoughts, and weight loss fixation.

Restrictive eating: There’s no getting away from it, the keto diet is a very restrictive way of eating. For people recovering from an eating disorder, adopting a restrictive way of eating can be a serious trigger, especially if the way of eating is labeled as a “diet.” For this reason alone, experts do not recommend any sort of restricted diet for people currently struggling with an eating disorder.

Sources: Seeds of Hope, Mind Body Green, National Centre For Eating Disorders, Northwestern Medicine
Photo: Pixabay

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