What’s the Difference Between Clean, Dirty, Strict, and Lazy Keto?
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Are you clean keto, dirty keto, lazy keto, or strict keto?
Recently, the idea of eating whole, fresh, real food (a.k.a. a well-formulated keto lifestyle) has turned into cliquey spin-offs called “dirty”, “clean”, “lazy,” and “strict” keto.
Where did these terms originate?
Social media groups are where I first learned of the various spin-offs of keto, like “dirty” and “lazy” vs. “clean” and “strict”. It was a bit off-putting to see the dogmatic opinions and judgment passed onto others regarding whether or not a particular food they’re eating is “keto”.
The classification system of sorting people into “groups” based on how they choose to eat and track their food brought to mind similarities of the famous Dr. Seuss story The Sneetches, where the Star-Belly Sneetches think they are the best and look down upon Sneetches without stars. Therefore, I am now calling all these keto diet “spin-offs” the Sneetches of keto.
This is the epidemy of fad dieting, which is full of judgment, labels, rules, and that “all-or-nothing” mentality (and almost always leads to feelings of failure, guilt, and shame).
What is Clean Keto?
Clean keto typically refers to:
- Consuming a keto diet consisting of whole, fresh, organic, high-quality ingredients
- Very little-to-no processed foods or artificial ingredients
- Nutrient-dense foods, like grass-fed/grass-finished beef, pasture-raised pork, free-range eggs, wild-caught seafood, and plenty of non-starchy fresh vegetables
Clean keto usually coincides with strict keto, which I’ll explain more later.
What is Dirty Keto?
Dirty is the opposite of clean, right? So in reference to keto, the term “dirty” refers to:
- Consuming a keto diet that consists of processed foods
- Ingredients such as diet soda, sugar-free energy drinks and candies, artificial sweeteners, low-carb tortillas, processed vegetable oils
- Meats like hot dogs and bacon
- Pre-packaged keto foods like Atkins bars, chips, and shakes
With dirty keto, little emphasis is spent on the quality of food being consumed.
What is Strict Keto?
Strict keto usually accompanies “clean” keto, but the emphasis of “strict” referring to:
- Religiously counting all macros (fat, carbohydrates, protein) and calories on a daily basis (with or without a food scale)
- Using apps like Crono-meter or Carb Manager to ensure they reach daily goals
- Medical therapy to treat conditions like epilepsy and cancer, where the strictness of the diet is imperative to obtain a therapeutic level of ketosis in order to achieve effective results
People with strict keto sometimes struggle with tuning in to their physical hunger and fullness cues, relying solely on a calculator to tell them when, what, and if they can eat.
What is Lazy Keto?
Lazy keto basically refers to:
- Counting carbs to stay within approximately 20-50 gm/day
- Not tracking anything at all, but instead aiming to consume high-fat, low-carb in general
Typically, with lazy keto, there isn’t a strong focus on the quality of ingredients in one direction or the other.
Which is best?
Truthfully? Well, I guess a hybrid of all four, or what I like to refer to as intuitive-keto. Basically, intuitive keto is whatever works for you. It isn’t a group or class, but a way-of-eating that provides positive results for you personally.
Intuitive keto often means:
- Troubleshooting through plateaus
- Adjusting how you eat, even if it sometimes isn’t “keto”
- Listening to your body
- Being flexible when life calls for it
Intuitive keto is whatever “style” of eating that allows YOU to maintain and sustain optimal health over time.
People often miss the mark by overcomplicating simplistic concepts like turning healthy eating into cliquey diet spin-offs. It’s time to do away with the Sneetches of keto (or just the diet mentality in general), and start eating more intuitively for long-term, sustainable success.
The next time you come across judgmental terms like “dirty” and “lazy” or people passionately arguing simplistic concepts, just remember the story by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches, and then… “You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all”.