Here's what she wants potential dieters to know about the super-popular ketogenic diet.
If you haven't been following Jillian Michaels vs. the keto diet, we'll fill you in. As the low-carb, high-fat diet has risen to popularity, Michaels has made it crystal clear why she thinks it's BS—and she's definitely ruffled some feathers along the way. Al Roker and Andy Cohen both put her on blast within the last three days alone.
The keto diet shows no sign of slowing—it was the most Googled diet of 2018—and neither does Michaels' passion for roasting it. We asked the celebrity trainer to explain how she feels about keto and she did not hold back. (Michaels isn't alone. Here's why one dietitian is completely against the keto diet.)
First of all, the restrictive style of eating means you're missing out on a lot of nourishing foods, Michaels told Shape: "You've got micronutrient deficiencies because you're not getting all the phytonutrients, antioxidants, and the polyphenols you would be getting if you weren't afraid of an apple or a banana or a papaya, which is absurd." (Take these healthy, high-carb foods you can't have on the keto diet as an example.)
The diet calls for virtually eliminating an entire a macronutrient group (carbs), which is an issue, says Michaels. "When you're not eating all of the macronutrients, you're literally starving your body. You're starving your cells," she says. "Those macronutrients have very specific jobs for your biochemistry, for your body to continue doing what it needs to do for you to continue living in the healthiest way possible." Bottom line: Cutting out and restricting so many nutrient-packed foods isn't the healthiest way to go. "If you want to look your best, and you want to feel your best, and you want to live your longest, that is not the diet for you." Instead, Michaels recommends relying on a Mediterranean-style diet, intermittent fasting, and other anti-aging strategies which she's spelled out in her new book, The 6 Keys: Unlock Your Genetic Potential for Ageless Strength, Health, and Beauty.
We can't take all the credit for getting Michaels to open up about the diet—she's been speaking out about the drawbacks of the keto diet for months. Below, a timeline of her most savage anti-keto rants.
April 11, 2018: It Cuts Out Healthy Foods
In a post titled The Truth About Keto, Michaels took to her own blog to share her thoughts on the diet. She was taking on an avocado-fueled cult and she knew it: "Yes, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna infuriate the keto community. I am brave enough to incur their wrath and outrage because I don't believe in this diet that much." In the post, she pointed out that the keto diet is extremely high fat, and doesn't specify which types of fats to eat. That means dieters can end up eating large quantities of saturated fats, which research has suggested can have negative health impacts. (True, the idea that you can eat nothing but bacon burgers on the diet is a common keto misconception, but you can easily do your research on what healthy, high-fat keto foods to buy—e.g., avocado, nuts, and seeds.)
April 24, 2018: It's a Fad
Two weeks later, Michaels appeared on Steve TV and called out the diet as just another low-carb fad. "The reality of fitness and nutrition is they're all just fads reskinned, right?" she said. "I mean, if you think about it, now it's keto. And I don't know if anybody's as old as me in this room but that diet used to be called Atkins and my mother did it in 1980." Both the keto diet and phase one of Atkins call for extremely limiting your carb intake to send your body into a state of ketosis, so you'll burn fat first instead of carbs for fuel. However, keto also limits protein a bit as well, and you can up your carbs after the first phase of Atkins. (Related: I Tried the Keto Diet and Lost More Weight Than I Expected To)
May 18, 2018: There Are Easier Ways to Manage Insulin
When appearing on People TV, Michaels prefaced a keto diet takedown by acknowledging that it has some potential benefits. The diet makes it easier to manage insulin levels, which makes it potentially helpful for people with PCOS, type 2 diabetes, or infertility, according to Michaels. But for people who don't have conditions associated with high insulin levels, limiting processed carbs and processed sugar, working out, and restricting calories are a better way to go, she said. (But: This Woman Eats 3,000 Calories a Day and Is In the Best Shape of Her Life)
June 29, 2018: It Often Includes Unhealthy Foods
A Livestrong interview with Michaels included back-to-back rants about hot yoga and the ketogenic diet. She explained how "keto has gotten away with murder": Many dieters end up eating crappy foods in order to stay in ketosis. Dieters doing what is referred to as "dirty keto" often focus on foods that keep them in ketosis without paying attention to vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. (Related: Is the Keto Diet Bad for You?)
January 6, 2019: The Potential Negative Effects Outweigh the Benefits
In a recent Big Think video, Michaels talked through what she sees as the pros and cons of the diet. According to Michaels, limiting fruits is a big issue, and the keto diet takes a lot of them off the table because of sugar content. "We're stripping our body of certain fruits, which have a ton of antioxidants and polyphenols in them," she said. "So again, when we look at oxidative stress and free radicals and how they're aging us, we need to look at antioxidant foods that help to combat that."