Don’t go keto, go to therapy 

Everyone should make it a priority to seek out any form of counseling regardless of the context of their lives. For some it may come in the form of therapy, and for others it may be in the form of a different diet. Illustration by Sarah Chantres/The Daily Campus

Living is no simple task; nor is doing it well enough to get by with some semblance of gratitude and appreciation for the world around us. The world doesn’t make it easy for us.  

The title of this piece may be a bit misleading, though I’ll address it in a moment. Following the chaos that ensued after the NCAA Championship, I ran into more than a handful of people on social media and in conversation saying that the students involved in the destruction of Hillside Road “need therapy.” It’s a common trope nowadays that, following some emotional or physical outburst, people are told they should seek mental health counseling over taking out their internalized rage on lampposts and stop signs. And they should.  

Everyone should, for that matter, make it a priority to seek out any form of counseling regardless of the context of their lives. I’ve found that therapy is often referenced in the same way emergency rooms are — existing for individuals actively experiencing a crisis — and are seldom compared to perhaps the more accurate metaphor of a physical or a dentist appointment — scheduled in advance regardless of one’s current health condition. Mental health services do serve those who do not believe they are actively experiencing symptoms of mental illness, and mental illness is not the sole issue that therapy seeks to address.  

Another trend that’s seemed to take off in the past few years is the newest fad diet: keto. Grounded in a philosophy of ground meat and oil, the regimen called for a high protein, low carb and zero sugar diet that can apparently aid “weight loss, visceral adiposity and appetite control,” according to one NIH study. The diet is associated with intermittent fasting, eating only one, calorie-dense meal per day and a high intake of beef and other lean meats, avocados, olive oil and salt.  

Aside from the blatant perpetuation of the toxic diet culture that already plagues younger generations, the keto trend has seemed to take Gen X and Millennials by storm. Maybe it’s just me, but nowadays it seems like everybody knows a “keto dad” — often seen sporting minimal hair, a goatee and shoe inserts to make up for their typical lack of height. The normalization of only eating once per day and regularly starving oneself does little to make those around the keto-goer feel better about themselves, and these are just some of the social impacts the diet has on the world.  

Feeding into the meat industry and justifying the unethical means of production and distribution that goes into cattle farming is harmful enough, not to mention the environmental impact such a decision has on the climate. Further, the diet remains seen with skepticism by the scientific community, as the high consumption of meat and fats is associated with an increased risk for low blood pressure, nutrient deficiencies and cardiovascular issues. And beyond the physiological risks, the diet’s strict eating schedule and calorie-obsessive nature can lead to disordered eating tendencies and behaviors, displayed by those who opt for the diet or those around them who are subjected to their habits. In short, it is a selfish lifestyle choice.  

What does this have to do with therapy? Keto is not alone in its flaws, nor are fad diets the only resorts people look to when faced with physiological or digestive issues. The effects of cortisol — the hormone released when stressed — on indigestion and mental health issues are typically overlooked when attempting to pinpoint the source of one’s ailments. Rather than identifying life factors that induce stress, there appears to be a growing trend that involves treating the physical manifestations of stress rather than mitigating the causes of stress itself.  

It’s difficult to draw any definitive conclusions, but the frequency of fad diets and diet culture more broadly seems heavily associated with the stigma surrounding seeking mental health services, especially as such habits propagate throughout male communities, a demographic commonly associated with an aversion to therapy due to social stigmas. Keto may appear as the newest trend for those who common Whole Foods; however, the diet shrouds itself behind a veil of toxic diet culture, an obsession with fitness and the phobia of admitting that one would benefit from mental health support services.  


  1. We are educated to call them “stigmas”. The reality behind those six letters is prejudice (nine letters).

    Harold A Maio

  2. What a thought-provoking piece! I completely agree with the sentiment that everyone should make a priority of seeking out any form of counseling regardless of the context of their lives. I find it interesting how fad diets and diet culture can be connected to the stigma of seeking mental health services, especially for certain demographics like males. Have you noticed any potential solutions to overcoming this stigma and promoting the importance of mental health services?
    Eva Owens

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