This week’s guest writer is my husband, Jack. Together we have helped each other work towards our weight loss goals and continue to improve our family’s health and happiness. Here’s Jack…
It’s no secret that I have been struggling with weight control for almost 25 years. At my heaviest, I had hit over 235 lbs, which is heavy for a 5’6″ guy. It wasn’t uncommon for me to buy XL shirts and having to drill another hole in my belt. I really worked at sticking with the dietary advice widely accepted… low fat.
The Early Diet
Early on I tried all the diets and, like most, settled on the whole “low fat” recommendations fed to us by the government, scientists, doctors, specialists, and media. I reduced my fat intake to almost nothing focusing on lean meats and “fat-free” and “heart healthy” foods. I still remember thinking we found a huge loophole when I was able to create a “fat-free” cheesecake! What was I thinking?!?! I’ll chock that up to my sugar addiction… I could justify any amount of sugar because I was avoiding the evil fat.
As I worked hard to limit my fat intake I became fatter. As I became fatter I became increasingly more out of shape and lethargic. As I became fatter I became increasingly hungry, always looking for the next meal or snack. Something was definitely wrong and I had to figure it out.
The Early Exercise
The next desperate grab for weight loss was the concept of “calories in, calories out” pushing me towards exercise. The premise seems sound. You need to burn more calories than you take in, right? The problem with this was that I was so overweight, and so out of shape, that I was destined to fail before placing a single foot on the pavement. My wife and I still laugh at the time I came home “from a run” (I didn’t even make it a mile). I spent a chunk of the morning dry heaving in the bathroom. The concept of exercise was over before it even really started.
The second concept of exercise, that most people (including me) miss, is that it makes you “work up an appetite”. Typically, the more a person exercises the hungrier you will likely get. Your body naturally wants you to make up the calories you just burned PLUS eating your normal amount of food.
It wasn’t until MUCH later that I realized that I had to take control of my diet, and lose some weight before I could even think about any regular activity. It’s a house of cards, if I failed on the diet I’d fail on the regular exercise. If I failed on the exercise I’d fail the diet. If I did exercise I’d fail the diet due to “working up an appetite”. It ended up being a 3 legged stool with one leg always breaking.
The Misguided Science
I’m not going to go into detail as you can get far more detail from books like Why We Are Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes and The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz. These books can be a bit dry but are well worth the time investment and are really an eye-opener.
In a nutshell, Taubes details the increasing dependence and addiction to sugar and provides strong, and increasing evidence that it has caused everything from high blood pressure to diabetes. While Teicholz discusses in detail about the driving forces and misguided, incomplete, and blind faith that led to the “low-fat” recommendations we still hear today. What’s important to see here is that food manufacturers were forced to make low-fat foods. In making these low-fat foods the fat had to be replaced with something to maintain flavor. Their answer? Sugar! Sugar/carbs in all forms are easy to digest and store as fat.
Both of these books left me very frustrated, angry, but motivated. The dietary advice, and evidence, provided has really focused and helped me stay the course and see results.
My Way of Eating
Part 1 – Protein Power – The book Protein Power by the husband and wife team of microbiologists Drs. Eades was my first dive into a low carb diet and it worked great! It eliminated my severe hayfever. The hardest part of this type of dietary change (keeping carbs under 30 grams a day) was largely mental and pushing through the cravings. However, losing 8 lbs in a single week would get anyone’s attention. This was also the first time I dropped under 185. Sadly, I fell off the wagon and gained some of this weight back.
Part 2 – Low Carb with accountability – Many years later I tried the low carb diet again. The difference? Having a friend also doing the diet and holding each other accountable. This produced a new low weight of 165. Another example of how well this diet worked for me. However, and once again, I fell off the wagon and gained much of the weight back.
Part 3 – Keto – In trying to get back on the low carb wagon I started to plateau. The weight just wasn’t coming off. In doing a little research I discovered intermittent fasting, which seemed to help. Then a good friend suggested Keto and the 2 Keto Dudes Podcast. Making some small changes to the way I eat made a huge difference. The difference? Fat… adding fat to my diet.
You see, I had been eating low carb and low fat. Eventually, the body became adapted to this way of eating and it started converting the lean protein to glucose, kicking in the insulin, causing energy to be stored as fat.
Adding fat to the equation helped in ways I didn’t originally expect. First, I eat a lot less. I mean A LOT LESS. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if our food budget has been cut in half. Portions have naturally reduced in size. The reason here is that fat satiates far more quickly. You just feel full for longer periods of time. A recent trip to Buffalo Wild Wings is a great example of this. A year ago I would have ordered a medium sized traditional wings (15 wings per order) and polished off some chips or fries. Now, I’m full on the snack size (5 wings) order alone… and I may not feel the need to eat the remainder of the day. This shift has been huge! The downside? The family needs to remind me it’s time to cook because they are hungry.
Benefits I’ve personally experienced?
- A drastic decrease in appetite. This happens when you become fat adapted and your body starts using fat as its fuel source. Whether it’s the fat on your plate or the Krispy Kreme donut you ate 5 years ago (and may still be carrying around in your fat reserves).
- More energy – I don’t have the afternoon blues like I used to. More level and consistent energy.
- Easier to be active – This is a big one. You naturally become more active as you drop the weight. I’m convinced this is the key to exercise. If you truly want to stick to an exercise program you really need to take control of your diet first.
- A significant reduction in allergies. – I used to take Clariton-D or Allegra-D on a regular basis. Now I really don’t even have to deal with allergies, even during harvesting time when hayfever is at its worst.
- I find that I’m not as moody and a bit more even-tempered. This seems to be in line with what others report when on a Keto lifestyle.
- The brain fog has lifted and I feel that I’m thinking more clearly and rationally. Having a clearer mind is probably one of the biggest benefits.
- I’m doing my best to avoid using food as entertainment and find it gives me more time for other things. The trick for me is to find something that occupies my mind enough that I don’t think about snacking. For me, that was real estate investing. Check out my podcast at REIrookies.com.
- Currently 155 lbs and still dropping!
What to expect, the hard part:
- The Keto Flu – Many people (not everyone!) who start a low-carb diet experience what is called the Keto or Induction Flu. This happens while the body is adapting to burning ketones instead of glucose. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, upset stomach, brain fog, sleepiness, and fatigue. However, this does eventually go away.
- Cravings – the first week or two the cravings for sugar and processed foods can become terrible. However, if you stick with it they will quickly pass.
- Breaking Habits – one habit I continue to struggle with is snacking and using food as entertainment. I’ve started to incorporate an eating window into my day. For example, I only allow myself to eat between noon and 8pm.
- Changing your mindset and bucking the programming. This is a huge hurdle as it goes against much of the dietary recommendations that are still being fed to us today by doctors, media, and the government. We are creatures of habits and become defensive when we are shown alternative information or proven wrong.
- You may need to check artificial sweeteners. Depending on your body type, even these can kick you out of the fat burning state.
Things to keep in mind
- Keep It Simple!
- Try to avoid the gimmicks – There is an increasing number of companies taking advantage of the next diet fad but you really don’t need the diet shakes, keto strips, or meal plans. Keep things simple and something you can live with long term. Don’t let this become another diet but simply the way you eat and live.
- Be honest with yourself – I actually have to treat sugar like it’s a drug or that I’m extremely allergic. I can’t even have a taste of it. In this case, I do find that I go to an extreme and even avoid artificial and alternative sweeteners.
Throughout this post, you may have noticed that I refer to Keto as a lifestyle vs. a diet. This is a mind shift that I really had to embrace. Most people view “a diet” as temporary. Something that may help get them into their summer bathing suit or ready for a big event. Maybe it’s simply the pressure of getting into shape and shedding a few pounds. However, a lifestyle is something you incorporate into your life and that you live day-to-day. Something that you truly believe is the best for you and your health.
That last point really rings true for me and I’ve tried to apply it to other aspects of my life. Once I truly believed in the Keto and Low Carb lifestyle it stopped being a diet and simply became the way I eat and live.
A True Deep Belief = Lifestyle Change