Lose 20 Pounds on a Keto Diet – But You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Post – Part 2

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Note: for those of you that didn’t read part 1, read part 1 – ‘k?

Sorry for the cliffhanger. I’m nearing 10 weeks in ketosis and have written 84 pages journaling my experience. Dumping that on you would be a bit much – but trying to summarize has been a bear. This is my second shot at it.

I’ve been doing (at least trying) to do a low carb / keto diet since 2003. In this go-round I have done a number of things radically different than in the past.

I made health – not weight loss – my goal. I have spent 15 years reading and researching this diet. I truly believe it to be the best diet for me. As I am focused on the health aspects, the moving of the scale is a nice perk – not the main goal. If the scale doesn’t move it might frustrate me – but it is not a failure. Eating off-plan is the failure.

I immersed myself in everything I could about the ketogenic diet. There are way more books, audiobooks, and podcasts with new information. Keto has become a ‘craze’ again and there’s a lot of new and interesting information and many people in Facebook groups discussing it. I personally don’t completely agree with *any* of the approaches I have seen, but have borrowed things from many of the approaches to forge my own version. I did a lot of experimenting and learning – and while I have been in ketosis for nearly 10 weeks now, how I stayed there has radically changed from the way I did it in 2003 – and the way I did it in April 2018.

I have started taking supplements again. When I looked I back to 2003 and asked myself what was different from when I first lost 80 pounds and now,  one big difference was I didn’t take supplements anymore. Back in the day I had taken a plastic film canister’s worth each day. I became disillusioned with vitamins (read ‘Do You Believe in Magic?‘ like I did to understand why) and had cut back to just a multivitamin – and only a few days a week. I began taking it every day and began to try to figure out what other supplements might improve health and am building up a ‘stack’ of supplements to see what impact it might have. I’m still experimenting here but will discuss this further below.

I fast 16 hours per day. I do what’s called a 16:8 intermittent fast daily. I skip breakfast – only having black coffee. This used to bother my stomach but I’ve apparently healed whatever the reason was for that and now it’s not a problem. I then have my lunch around 1pm and my dinner between 8-9pm. I don’t have hunger issues nor do I have food fantasies. Being in ketosis this long simply removes constant hunger from the equation.

I don’t snack. Here’s a really interesting notion I am experimenting with. While removing carbs reduces blood glucose, it’s not really blood glucose that is at the heart of the problem – it’s insulin resistance. Insulin is an energy storage hormone. When you eat carbs, your pancreas squirts out insulin to get the excess glucose out of your system, driving it into your fat stores mostly. After decades of abusing this system, your cells no longer respond to insulin and your pancreas has to squirt out more and more to get the same effect. So you can check your blood glucose levels and everything looks fine – but your insulin is through the roof.

So you give up carbs and your blood glucose goes down. That’s great, but you still have this insulin floating around. Know why? Because protein also stimulates an insulin response, you are STILL promoting insulin resistance.

So here’s an idea that seems to make sense: what if you were able to give your body an ‘insulin holiday’ – would being able to allow your body to not have insulin constantly in your bloodstream give your cells a rest and allow them to increase their insulin sensitivity?

Some people think it does, so I’ve decided to experiment with this. I’ve read that an insulin response can last up to 8 hours after a meal. This would mean that doing a 16 hour fast – with no calories coming in – gives me at least 8 hours per day where there is no insulin in my system.

The notion of snacking means you NEVER stop producing insulin. So the notion of a ‘snack’ is not part of my life.

There’s a second part to this which I will go into next.

I make sure my meals contain enough protein. What I read was that a particular amino acid – leucene – in adequate amounts – produces ‘Muscle Protein Synthesis’ or MPS. From what I read you need at least 3 grams of leucene in a meal to produce this effect – and leucene is approximately 10% of the amino acids in a piece of meat. From what I’ve read this will prevent muscle loss during weight loss even is you sit on your ass. A 16:8 fasting schedule provides me with 2 doses of this effect per day and maximizes the efficiency of the protein I take in per day. Remember that a properly formulated ketogenic diet is supposed to be an ‘adequate protein’ diet. If I have between 40-50 grams per meal I am well within the ‘adequate range’ but making every ounce of protein count.

I don’t add fat to my food. What kind of screwed up keto diet is it where you don’t add fat? Here the idea is that if you want your body to burn fat, you want it to burn your CURRENT BODY FAT – not the fat you ingest. I calculated my macros (carbs, protein, and fat using one of the many ‘keto calculators’ out there. This one at https://www.ruled.me/keto-calculator is adequate – and instead of aiming for an exact target I came up with my own ranges – these are mine:

Calories:     1200 – 1892
Carbs:        20
Protein:    94-124 (104 is ideal)
Fat:        77-155

This give me a wide latitude to play in and not have to worry about being so damned exact about things. I typically meet my minimums at lunch and have a larger meal in the evening. I tend to be at the low-end on fat – which comes from the meat. I very rarely add fats to my cooking – maybe olive oil to a salad though I don’t eat salad as often as maybe I should. And this leads to another interconnected point.

I have a very limited and simple diet. OK – this is where you stop reading. I get it. But if you are interested in how my relationship to food has changed, keep reading.

If you join the keto groups on Facebook, you will frequently be exposed to keto food porn on some of them. The inventiveness in these groups is boundless and you can find bread recipes, pizza, ‘fat bombs’, all sorts of snacks, and could happily avoid most carbs and still have your favorite indulgent foods. The problem is two-fold for me: these recipes take a lot of time to prep, and sometimes the calories are through the roof.

I don’t do this. I’ve stopped frequenting these groups that post the food porn. Instead, I’ve chosen to follow a very simple diet dominated by the following foods:

  • Chicken thighs
  • Chicken breasts
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Hot Italian sausages
  • Grass-fed, nitrate-free hot dogs
  • Nitrate-free bacon
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Kimchi (Korean fermented cabbage)
  • Avocados
  • Arugula
  • Olive oil
  • Ghee (also called ‘clarified butter’)
  • Less than 4 oz. of cheese per day.
  • Salt
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute

I’ve certainly had other keto-friendly foods (pickles, tomatoes, eggs, cauliflower, a little pasta sauce, salsa, among others), but the above list predominates.

You might be thinking: what a restrictive diet!

that is exactly what I thought as well – until I tried it.

I find it LIBERATING.

Nearly everything I cook is baked. I cook enough meat and veggies for 2-3 days. I measure out my portions into sandwich bags on a scale for lunch, then weigh out my dinner. Since I don’t snack, I have what I would call a natural and normal hunger response when I do eat – and I enjoy my food. I even find my portions to be almost too large at times – though my total calories for the day can sometimes be as low as 1200 calories. While you might think this is a rather bland set of flavors, my response to flavor has changed since I removed what I some call ‘hedonic’ foods with complex layering of flavors. I thought I never could wean myself off of my Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener, but after a few miserable days, I didn’t miss it anymore. My palate has adjusted, I love my meals, shopping is a breeze, cooking is a breeze, lunch is a breeze – and now I know what it feels like to ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’.

“I don’t eat that.” I’ve given up a lot of things – all grains, nuts (portion control problem), sweeteners, a lot of dairy (portion control problem), and so many other things I can’t count. I don’t have willpower nor do I believe in willpower as something that can be sustained over a lifetime against something as primal as hunger – and there is a bit of a mind trick I use to deal with this.

I have a lot of respect for ethical Vegans. They have made a decision that eating animal products is wrong and they do not eat them. They simply say: “I don’t eat that.”

there’s no negotiation here. Ethical Vegans don’t have a ‘cheat day’. It is black and white for them. I’ve decided to do this on my diet. I have foods I eat – and a very long list of foods I don’t. If offered, I say: “I don’t eat that for health reasons – and I can’t even have a taste.” If a further explanation is needed, I am eating this way to avoid getting full-blown diabetes and the best way for me to do that is not having the smallest cheat. As soon as you open the door to a small cheat, a larger one can easily creep in, and BAM! There goes all your hard work. This has happened to me too many times to count.

Like Vegans, people will think you’re odd – even odder than Vegans because their way of eating is better known. My diet is for health reasons first. I have my reasons for eating this particular way that most people won’t care about – and I won’t bore them.

I can easily sit and watch people eat all this stuff in front of me and I don’t care. My older daughter tried tempting me with bread at the steakhouse but my reaction to the bread was like a rabbit reacting to a slab of beef: utter indifference – because I don’t eat that. If I allowed cheats I would exhaust myself with the ‘how much can I have’? then having even a little taste will turn on cravings in the brain I don’t have anymore for 72 hours after the cheat, according to one doctor. So even one bite will at least make me miserable for 3 days – and at the worst, completely derail 10 weeks of hard work.

If I eat the way I do now, I don’t have diabetes. If I eat like a normie – I do.

I watch my salt, magnesium, and potassium. When you start a low carb / keto diet you lose a lot of water weight quickly as the carbs in your system bind to water molecules. No carbs and you lose that extra water – good – but as you lose the extra water you begin to mess with electrical pathways in your body and have the potential for problems if you don’t watch your electrolytes. This is how you get the ‘Atkins Flu’ as it was called years ago, or the ‘keto flu’. You get a headache, you get shaky, you get a head rush. This is your body’s electrolytes going screwy.

With salt, I make sure to salt all my food. Then I will have a glass of salted water if I feel weird – or just because I haven’t eaten in a while. I also take a magnesium supplement daily.

From what I’ve read, I am leery of taking potassium supplements. People on these keto Facebook groups usually use a product called ‘No-Salt’ – a salt substitute, but what these online groups don’t tell you is that some people – like me – are on ‘potassium – sparing’ blood pressure medications where is says on the damn label not to use this stuff. So I don’t. Potassium also seems to be the one that can also fuck you up the most – causing your heart to beat wrong. That’s something that can kill you and I am not going through all this trouble to die! I usually get my potassium through foods – an avocado is a great source.

Being this deep in ketosis also means heavy exercise or being out in high heat can mess you up way faster than normies walking around with excess water weight and electrolytes. I’ve heard people say they steal salt packets from restaurants and make sure they have a couple on hand – and some water – in case they feel weird during activities like these. This electrolyte issue also calls into question the bogus medical advice of drinking 8 glasses of water a day. For regular folk – so what – it gives them something to do other than eat, makes them feel full, and makes them feel good about themselves. Folk in heavy keto lose extra electrolytes like this. I will frequently drink a liter of seltzer on ice in the evening, or water during the day – but I really don’t count and do it because I’m thirsty.

I take ‘weight loss’ naps. Sleep is real important. I know a lot of people struggle with sleep – I don’t usually have a problem. One less thing for me to worry about as poor sleep can prevent weight loss – and is certainly not good for your health.

But here’s something I noticed in me by accident. Occasionally, on a weekend, I find the opportunity to take a nap. Lazy shit that I am – I take it. What I have found more often than not is if I weigh myself after the nap, I’ve lost a pound or two. It’s the damnedest thing. I’ve seen no one else mention this, but it does happen to me.

I measure my meals using Cronometer. None of the diet tracking apps are just right. Some can’t count net carbs. Some have nutrient values that are not based in reality. Some are just not designed very well. I’ve recently started using Cronometer and while the free version has annoying advertisements that can make you wait a few seconds before entering your values on certain screens, it is my current fave. I particularly like how you can set your own macros, clearly show net carbs, and view your micronutrient counts. There’s some things I don’t like – and some things that don’t work as expected, but here’s the thing: because I eat pretty simple, it’s pretty simple to enter my macros in a minute or two. Another app called Carb Manager is also good – I just prefer Cronometer.

I mess up at pretty much all of the above. Think of all of the above as the bullseye on a target for me. I aim for that center. Sometimes I don’t hit it – but that’s what I keep aiming for. Example: after a very good meal where I had two martinis (which I should not have had!), when putting away the food I ended up having some of my kid’s leftover mashed potatoes. While this didn’t cause me to go out of ketosis, it *did* cause my blood glucose to spike – my morning fasted glucose the next morning was 138. the day after it was 40 points lower.

Lesson learned: The way I eat determines if I am a diabetic. This one cheat helps reinforce the reason I have a ‘no cheat’ rule. I still drink from time to time. Usually red wine. It does not knock me out of ketosis and doesn’t raise my blood glucose – but it does increase insulin resistance and does slow weight loss – and does make me feel crappier the next day. I’m still working to minimize, if not eliminate this.

I feel better, but think I could feel better still. I still have a lot to learn not only about a long-term ketogenic diet as so much new research and thinking has been done in the past few years, but I have to learn about Me – my personal physical and emotional makeup at the present time in the context of a ketogenic diet.

Let’s face it: I’m 55. I’m probably late to the game of optimizing health – and there is certainly no shortage of people who want to tell me the right way to do this. Dr. Jason Fung, in the book ‘The Obesity Code‘ wants me to go on extended fasts lasting days.

I don’t know about that. I’ve read that there can be positive benefits – autophagy is one example – which is a recycling and cleaning of your body’s cells when you fast. (Here’s a link to some online doc I just found that discusses why it’s good for you.) Sounds good, but I’m not sure that I can’t get some of that same benefit with my 16 hour fasts – or occasionally eating once a day (which I can pull off with little effort). Or Dr. William Davis’ book and website ‘Undoctored‘ where he suggests you add raw potato as a prebiotic to a smoothie. Not too sure about *that* one, Doc – though I *did* take his advice to NEVER take calcium supplements with vitamin D because adding calcium to the diet has never been shown to help reduce bone loss – but there’s some evidence that this calcium ends up on you artery walls. I’ve got more to learn here, though to fully understand what he is saying.

I recommend both books. Dr. Fung’s makes a strong case that the focus on health for most of us fat folk leads to minimizing insulin resistance. Dr. Davis has a grander goal and proposes an entirely new medical model where patients educate themselves to treat the underlying causes of disease, be smart enough to know when to involve a doctor, and to establish a doctor-patient relationship where they are partners in decisions because the patient might just know more about their disease state – and physicians stop acting like they know it all when the hours they work and the volume of information makes that impossible.

Right now my goal is to have my next blood work 6 months (October, 2018) from the start of my diet. It can take that long for numbers that can go out-of-whack as you begin the diet to normalize. During that time I will hopefully be able to lose more weight – which should help those numbers. I’d like to further explore supplements. Some I’m taking now I could not give you a clear explanation as to why I am taking them. For example: I’m taking 6000IU of vitamin D3 per day. Why? Because my Retinologist – a ketogenic nutrition nerd like myself except way smarter – told me that’s what he takes since he read the book ‘The Vitamin D Solution‘. I have the book, but haven’t read it yet. I am going to supplement with a small amount of iodine – 300mcg – because from what I’ve been reading from multiple sources, I have some symptoms of a sluggish thyroid – and most clinicians do not run the proper tests to determine this – and even the test they do run they misinterpret. But too much can also be bad and actually *cause* hypothyroidism. I have a lot of researching to do here. I want to study this area more closely and understand why I need a TSH test, a Free T3 test, a Free T4 test, a Reverse T3 test, a TPO antibodies test, and a TgAb test. *I* also need to understand the current thinking on how to interpret the results because docs won’t order test they can’t interpret.

I also need to understand a great deal more about why a standard lipid panel is not adequate for someone living a keto lifestyle. I know the short answer: the LDL-C. The ‘C’ in the name means ‘calculated’. It’s not an actual count but a calculation that isn’t particularly accurate for people on a keto diet. The NMR test actually counts the different LDL subfractions and provides a lot more precision as there are only a few of the LDL subfrations that are dangerous. I have to be able to convince my doctor so when *he* gets second-guessed by the health plan as to why he is ordering a more expensive test, he doesn’t have to hear them bitch about it.  Or I have to convince him to write me a prescription for it and then pay for it out-of-pocket – and it doesn’t even appear that I am legally allowed to order my own blood test in New Jersey – I’ll have to drive to PA to be allowed to get a blood work I will pay for myself as New Jersey thinks it is too dangerous to allow me to make these decisions for myself?

There’s also potential dangers to the diet – depending on who you listen to. Of course, a normal diet will most assuredly give me a case of Diabetes with complications of kidney disease, blindness, dementia, and amputations being some of the wonderful complications I can expect from that. But still – if not done right – keto can potentially cause pancreatitis, gallstones, kidney stones, and dangerous heart rhythms. All this leads to the my last point.

Don’t follow me – I’m lost. Ever see the bumper sticker that says that? It’s probably the best advice – the wisest advice I can give you. Don’t go on a ketogenic diet. Don’t do this. Don’t try this at home. Most people just want to be told what to do – they don’t want to do all this ‘thinking’. Ketogenic diets are poorly understood – or even considered dangerous (often for the wrong reasons) by most doctors.

There are people who learned about the keto diet 2 years ago, lost weight, set themselves up as an expert, and run blogs and Facebook groups signing people up for expensive courses on how to lose weight. They sure *act* like they got it all figured out…but I’m not sure.

I see one group contradict another. how do you calculate your protein intake? One group says calculate it using your current body weight – the other say by your *ideal* body weight. Some say saturated fat is great – others say it’s OK, but any added oil should be monounsaturated olive oil. Some think seed oils like corn oil and soybean oil are OK – I avoid them like the plague. I don’t see much discussion about the Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. This is important. I see some people recommend taking a ton of fish oil – but don’t mention that it is a natural blood thinner and could be dangerous to people already on blood thinners.

I could go on…is your head spinning yet? My wife just asked me “What do you do all the time on the computer?” I explain that I spend most of my waking hours reading and researching nutrition and ketogenic diets. I don’t think she believes me – or if she does she thinks I am crazy.

I spend all this time – it’s my hobby/obsession – but the more I learn the more I know I don’t know squat. That is why a long time ago I got out of the advice business. Please read my disclaimer if you even remotely even consider applying anything here to your own life.

I could go on but I’m sure you’ve had enough.

 

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Lose 20 Pounds on a Keto Diet – But You’re Probably Not Going to Like This Post

On April 2, 2018, I was 269.8 and my blood glucose, which had more or less behaved by staying in the 120s, had begin rising into the 140s in the morning and staying there all day.

Not good.

My cocky, thin doc, who I am sure thought me just another fat slob, had told me years ago that, considering my family history, there was no way I *wasn’t* getting diabetes. “It’s going to happen sooner or later.” He said, seeming to enjoy saying it.

I swore I would bury this doctor at that moment.

Since I’ve been more or less on a low carb diet since the Atkins Craze of 2003, and although during this time there were long stretches where I didn’t follow the diet at all, overall, the past 15 years I have probably kept my carbs lower than the average person. Nearly Every. Single. Day. of these past 15 years has seen me in front of my computer, typing out the goals for my fresh start at my diet. I’d have good streaks – and bad streaks. Sometimes I didn’t get through lunch.

I’ve had this blog for a loooong time. But writing about failing all the time was getting kinda old. So I more or less stopped and wrote only when I thought I had something interesting to say or to report.

I’d been losing and gaining back the same 10 pounds for years – how dull is that? I decided that, unless I could lose 20 lbs., it was not worth my time nor your to blog about weight loss.

So today I can report that I just weighed myself and I was 248.6 lbs. Over 20 pounds lost from the start.

My blood glucose levels have also fallen by 40 points.

You’re probably not going to like how I did it – but stick with me here: there’s something weird and different this time than every other time. I am going to try and explain it the best I can, but first let me explain a little bit more about why I got to the point where I decided I needed to make a change.

So I’ve told this story before and I won’t go into detail, but I was 207 lbs. and actively following a low carb diet when I got appendicitis and had my appendix removed. Within 9 months of that surgery my weight ballooned to 287 for reasons no one can explain, then came down a bit and settled in the 260-270 range.

I had kept off maybe 50-60 lbs. of an initial weight loss of 80 lbs. When I went on Atkins in 2003 for most of a decade at that point – which is statistically impossible. The disheartening truth is – even for the folks who lose weight – most gain it all back in 5 years.

At least that *was* the thinking. Things might be changing. I certainly did.

Gaining all that weight after surgery was a real bummer. Much of that time I was doing low carb and it just didn’t seem to work. It probably has something to do with the appendix removal – but we really don’t understand the appendix that well yet, so any statement would be conjecture – we just don’t know.

My asshole doctor said: “It’s because of lack of exercise after surgery.” Idiot – I didn’t exercise BEFORE surgery!

There’s an old joke: why do people say ‘I found my wallet in the last place I looked!’? Who keeps looking for their wallet after they found it?

My 80-lb. loss on Atkins convinced me there was no other way than a low carb diet for me – but it didn’t seem to work anymore – and I had read and learned too much to just move on to some other diet.

So for a while, I gave up.

I also changed my route to work. Instead of highways with grassy edges, I took a slower but shorter route along what used to be a country road that is now dotted with at least 20 fast food places along my route.

My commute is long and my family doesn’t have regular evening meals for the most part – everyone seems to be somewhere else than the dinner table at the proper time – sadly, this is more normal than it should be these days.

So pizza might be lunch for me, and McDonald’s, usually, would be dinner if I didn’t go home and cook or eat leftovers. I also had a brief but intense love affair with bologna on Kaiser rolls as a breakfast for a while. This was pure comfort food as a kid, conjuring up my Mom and Dad and our breakfast together on Sundays after church. (OK – we didn’t have bologna sandwiches – we had eggs and bacon with the rolls  – but the Kaiser Rolls would bring me back to that table in the 1970s.)

And I didn’t think about it too much because my weight hovered in that 10-lb. range and another attempt at low carb or keto would bring me back to the low end of 260.

Then I’d fuck things up, eat more crap, and go to the top of the range again. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

But this time it was the blood glucose that made me take action. I’m not a hypochondriac – imagining diseases – but I am a bit obsessive on tracking stuff – and the words of that doctor whose funeral I plan to attend still burned hot in my memory. This 20-point rise was fast – I was eating the same crap but now my pancreas apparently said: “Fuck this!” and decided to give up.

I know a lot of the science behind this – I was becoming increasingly insulin resistant to the point where my pancreas simply couldn’t keep up.

The poor thing needed a rest. So on April 2, I decided to start my diet again – but I needed to do something different – the old script wasn’t working. I was also older and what worked for me 15 years ago might not work now.

I had no doubt that a low carb / keto approach was the only way – but within those labels are a world full of different ways to approach this way of eating.

I’ve written way too much already so I’ll continue what I did differently in a part 2 of this post.

Update: here’s part 2 for those of you who care.

I have a crush on the Cronometer food tracking app

While I hate tracking, I find it necessary as I fine-tune my routine and get to a place where it might not be necessary. I have tried a lot of nutrition calculators and most of them ranged from passible to useless. I spent a lot of time with LoseIt! but it was always a one-sided relationship where I had to accommodate the app instead of it accommodating me.

I deleted it.

MyFitnessPal. Apparently beloved by millions – but not by me. Deleted.

KetoDiet was another. Minimalistic. Simple – but perhap too simple. Also, their units were quirky and to put in some foods I had to do tortured math in my head to come up with equivalents – and relationships that require me to do math in my head are doomed to fail.

There were others. One-night-stands that got deleted within a day. Frankly, most diet apps that even take keto into account only seem to pay it lip service.

Net carbs, for example, can be a nightmare. Scans of the barcode can be so off as to be laughable – or most of the foods I eat aren’t on the list.

Then came along Cronometer.

We’re early on in or relationship, but adding food is easy with many options for measuring – one will typically work without pulling out a calculator. Recipes are a breeze to manage, and the scanning works well and seems pretty accurate so far.

The secret sauce – what make it stand out to me? It elegantly shows me my micronutrients. This quickly showed me I was deficient in calcium and magnesium – I would have never know in other apps – or maybe it was just hidden. This allowed me to alter my supplements to make sure I wasn’t deficient. You can also put in your own target ranges as opposed to the app calculating the macros for you.

Now with any relationship, there is always a downside. With Cronometer, it is ads. Not only banner ads, but full-screen overlays that prompt me to play a mini golf game while all I wanted to do was enter that I ate an avocado.

There’s also some features I don’t have but I don’t miss them because I don’t have them. Can’t miss what you never had.

While I might consider paying for the ad-free experience, I have not been crippled by the interruptions.

While tracking sucks, I find Cronometer sucks less than all the others I’ve used.

Give it a whirl and see what you think. A month from now I might write another post explaining why I hate it, but right now it’s my new BFF.

Day 40 on my new approach to a keto diet

There is no one ‘keto diet’. It has many variants that appear more or less the same to the outsider but are very different to someone deep in the thick of it – like Protestantism.

And like Protestantism, each of these variants interpret the same documents that underlie the practice, apply them differently, then follow, or try to follow a certain high-level dogma that results.

Like any set of competing belief systems, there is a necessary infighting between the variants about details. Just one of the many differences is the use of ‘exogenous ketones’. This is a product that most often contains beta-hydroxybutyric acid, which is the ketone fuel your body creates and runs on when on a keto diet. Some people have put this into a supplement and sell it.

Some variants of the keto diet think this is fine. Others will remove your post from their Facebook group if you even mention them.

Another controversy is: how much protein? Some groups recommend a lot less than others – and both scoff at the other’s interpretations of the documents that support their position.

The same goes for fat. All the groups want you to moderate it, but some make this central to their belief system – others seem to pay lip-service.

Lastly (though by no means the last), there is what I would call the position on what I would call ‘Keto food porn’. To me, this is the intricate and tortured attempt to create keto meals that resemble their high-carb inspiration, or inventions like a bacon-weave taco shell, or a round meatloaf with cheese in the center, wrapped in bacon.

Keto is very trendy right now (which will probably pass as it did before) and people are bringing enormous creativity to foods and recipes.

Some people love this. Some people think this encourages consuming extra calories, and the first group replies: who cares about calories? Just eat to satiety.

On this 2018 version of a keto diet, as usual, I came up with my own road to follow. While this time I have immersed myself in the most current thinking, joining over a half-dozen Facebook groups and listening to at least 50 hours of keto podcasts to learn what the current state of keto is.

One thing it does NOT seem to be is ‘Atkins’. While I believe that none of these people would be talking about keto if it wasn’t for Dr. Robert Atkins, who died in 2003, few people discuss him, and the current products the company he started are not held in high regard.

While you might be forgiven for using these products, you would not be applauded.

Another worrisome thing is just how dangerous this diet can be if you do it wrong – and most of these people climbing aboard the keto bandwagon do not understand the seriousness involved in altering your body fuel source and the serious medical problems it can cause. I will leave the authoritative research to others – and to you to dig up – again, I have nothing to sell and nothing to convince you to believe. These are the things I’m concerned might happen to people who achieve nutritional ketosis but are ill-informed about the pact with the devil you sign:

  1. Alcohol. If you are deep in ketosis, too much alcohol can lower that threshold for alcohol poisoning. Having a ready supply of carbs in your body can help mitigate a bout of binge drinking that ketones cannot, apparently.
  2. Pancreatitis. If you are unknowingly predisposed to this, a massive cheat can push you into this condition
  3. Gallstones. I had read that fat is necessary for the prevention of gallstones. Fat-phobic people predisposed to gallstones who try a high protein and lower fat version of keto might set themselves up for this. There could be other reasons as well.
  4. You can get dehydrated easily and your relationship to water needs to be watched. Too little OR too much can be bad
  5. Electrolytes. One thing normies eating a standard diet don’t tend to worry about is their electrolytes. People doing a keto diet do need to be careful about this because your need for sodium, magnesium, and potassium change. This can screw up the electrical system in your body – and you know what your electrical system does? It controls the beating of your heart! OK they say, I’ll just take supplements. Not so fast. TOO MUCH can be as bad as TOO LITTLE. People are messing with system not only they don’t understand, but that their doctors don’t understand.

It is for these reasons I DO NOT RECOMMEND A KETO DIET! The science surrounding this diet has been my primary hobby for more than a dozen years. To the regular person who comes along with no interest in learning the intricate details, I would not recommend this to them unless they had medical supervision by a doctor who knew the ins and outs of a ketogenic diet – and good luck finding one!

Stop reading yet? No? Ok – the rest of you left, let’s continue.

So what am I doing differently this time?

The first thing is that I have simplified my diet considerably. I have given up almost all artificial sweeteners (except sugar-free ketchup – not ready yet), dairy, nuts, cheese – and of course all grains and carby foods like potatoes. I now drink black coffee and plain water.

A partial list of what I’ve been eating for the most part?

  • Ground beef (moving toward New Zealand raised grass-fed beef)
  • Chicken thighs (moving toward organic – and I’d love to find pastured but haven’t yet)
  • Steak
  • Pork belly
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes and green chilies (for my chili)
  • Red and green bell peppers
  • Organic chicken broth
  • Lettuce (iceberg for now until people stop getting sick off of romaine which is a ‘thing’ as I write this)
  • Beefsteak tomatoes
  • Acocados
  • Asparagus
  • Organic celery
  • Eggs (organic and pasture-raised when possible)
  • Bacon
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut flour
  • Mushrooms
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Organic hot dogs from grass-fed cows
  • Sauerkraut
  • Psyllium husks

And I am planning to try experimenting with adding:

  • Ghee (aka clarified butter – considered OK in a dairy-free diet by people not eliminating dairy for religious or ethical reasons)
  • Broccoli florets
  • Nutritional yeast (a powder that sorta kinda of tastes cheesy, is full of nutrients, and might be good sprinkled on my broccoli)
  • Cabbage

I did not start here 40 day ago. It took a while to convert from my diet prior to April 2 where my primary food group was McDonald’s. What prompted the change was a sudden, worrisome trend in my blood glucose. I was seeing numbers up to 140 in the AM and they would stay elevated – even with taking metformin.

In less than 2 weeks I was able to get that number down by 20-40 points. In the mid afternoons I can see numbers in the low 80s – and this is with my stopping the metformin over 2 weeks ago.

Carb withdrawal at first was miserable. I comforted myself with an abundance of American cheese – God, I love the stuff! I also guzzled down seltzer loaded with Orange-Tangerine artificial sweetener in the evenings.

I also had Greek yogurt in work and Kerry Gold butter in my coffee. That was after the coffee and heavy cream I had in my coffee at home. I usually didn’t eat solid foods, though I would grab an Atkins shake and have some chicken broth with extra salt at lunchtime. This seemed to help with the mild headachy feeling I would get – but otherwise I felt good. Here and there was 2 squares of dark chocolate.

I gave up on the Greek yogurt because it seemed to trigger hunger during the first week.

There were some trashy, though low carb choices, along the way. Oscar Mayer bologna as well as bologna’s more refined cousin, Mortadella. Kielbasa. Pork rinds. These didn’t impact my blood ketones, which I measured obsessively. I got as high as 3.5.

I stopped negotiating with myself in the second week. I no longer thought about ordering McDonald’s and not eating the bun. I could watch people in work and at home gobble up carbs – even pizza – and it not bother me. It wasn’t willpower – it was that I had detoxed myself from carby foods and no longer had an interest. While I would not say even now that I don’t miss pizza, I don’t have this terrible craving for it, either.

Besides – I had substituted a bunch of junky keto-friendly foods to take the place of the high-carb junky foods.

To be clear: I started this particular go at the diet primarily for my health. And that worked: I lowered my blood glucose and stopped taking metformin. I also pulled off 10-12 pounds in 2 weeks. That was nice – but not the primary goal.

After the first 2 weeks the scale did not really budge, however, and while I was still committed to the diet for health reasons, I did want the weight loss to be part of it.

Finally, on day 34 I decided I might be strong enough to pull off eliminating all dairy and artificial sweeteners.

Boy oh boy, did this suck!

The cheese got replaced with more calories from meat and tomato slices with my burgers. While I still continue to use sugar-free ketchup, the amount of artificial sweetener is trivial compared with how much of the orange-tangerine stuff I would blast into glass after glass of seltzer on ice.

I started eating avocados more regularly. They can be tricky as they go bad so quickly but I’ve been able to manage. Once almost ripe, they keep in the fridge for a few days. When you take one out, eat it that day. Mostly works well.

I don’t drink the Atkins shakes. I’m drinking my morning coffee with coconut milk – and recently nothing. I no longer put butter in my coffee at work – and find that a little coffee goes way farther than it used to. I sometimes find myself not drinking any coffee at work – and when I do, it’s black. I don’t really drink fats anymore.

While not every day, on some days I find myself only eating one large meal a day. This happened quite by accident, but then I found out it was a ‘thing’ – OMAD (One Meal A DAY) or 23/1 Fasting. It seems there’s this notion called an ‘insulin holiday’. Here’s how I understand it. It is not only sugars that trigger insulin: proteins trigger them almost as well. So while your blood glucose might be low, your insulin might still be high – and as you have insulin resistance if you’re like me, eating nothing for a while gives the body a chance to not have to produce insulin as if you were snacking all day – and this might lessen insulin resistance over the long-term – at least that’s how the thinking goes.

There is a trick to this, however: eat too little and you put your body into ‘Starvation Mode’. Do this and your body can do all sorts of things – like make your hair fall out while holding on to every last calorie like a miser – and make you feel quite crappy – and there are voices on the Internet that don’t think this can be done without putting you into starvation mode.

So what I am doing is counting my macros more closely. I used a calculator I found here, and it gave me these ranges:

Calories:     1200 – 1892

Carbs:        20

Protein:    94-124 (104 is ideal)

Fat:        77-155

So the lower end is my target – and that ends up being one very satisfying meal per day. I don’t do this on all days – sometimes I have an avocado at work, and/or chicken broth. Sometimes I just have salt in water – depends on how I feel.

But you know the weirdest part of this: my narrowed food choices are liberating!

My diet seems easier. I’m not futzing around with food or thinking about food all the time. Diets can make you obsess about food more than not being on a diet. The simplicity makes things easier to track – and I hate tracking. The overhead of the diet is a lot less. I have more time for other thoughts than what I am going to eat – and amazingly enough – I don’t feel deprived.

That was the last thing I ever expected to say.

I could go on – like about what supplements I am taking – but I’ll stop here for now.

 

 

 

Short Update

I decided to stop by my site to look up some recipes and thought I’d take a moment to write an update – if there’s anybody out there.

First of all: I’m still alive, obviously. The other day I visited the blog of someone who I used to read all the time and the guy had DIED.

Second: the last recorded weight in a blog post here was 278 lbs. Through hard work and perseverance I was able to get that number up to 283.0 on January 23rd of 2017, but since then I have been ever so slowly losing weight.

Today I am 260.4. 23 Lbs. is not insignificant, though as has always been the case I am bumbling my way to weight loss without much in the way of a real plan. There’s been a bit of a plan I have been following – as always – I’m reporting – not recommending.

My morning always starts with between 1-2 mugs of coffee with heavy cream. I almost never eat breakfast.

My work days pass with me drinking coffee laced with Atkins Chocolate Shakes. They are currently very affordable on Amazon – something like $15 for a 12-pack.

I also have a large glass of water with 4 teaspoons of psyllium husks.

Late in the afternoon I have 3 hard-boiled eggs. I do this in an attempt to feel full as I drive home past at least 50 fast food joints. (No, I haven’t counted, but it is probably close to that if you include supermarkets with takeout food, Chinese takeout, and Sushi places.)

This fails a lot and I typically get a meatball sandwich at Wawa (a local convenience chain with a cult following) or 3 double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s.

Evenings are random chaos. Sometimes I eat whatever is around. Sometimes I don’t eat because I ate on the way home.

What I typically DO regularly is drink about a liter of seltzer water from my Sodastream – I’d say I’ve had that thing for nearly a decade and it’s seen use most of that time. I guess that was one kitchen gadget that was worth the purchase.

I usually drink it with a lot of ice and lately I have been in love with the Target store brand version of MiO. They have an ‘Orange-Tangerine’ flavor. that has become my favorite (until I get sick of it).

I did give up drinking alcohol. Usually it was red wine. I stopped on July 4th. I have never lost weight while drinking alcohol despite numerous tries so I decided to ditch it. I’ve lost maybe 13 Lbs. since.

I have also been spending time on a number of the Facebook ‘Keto’ groups. I’ve got a few good recipes from them but there’s a lot of contradictory info – I pity the poor beginner starting there. I also have NOT been living ‘keto’ I have a higher carb count than 20 grams and don’t know yet if I want to go fully keto all the time.

I can say getting to 260 is a motivator. Let’s see if I can keep this up

Kitchen Experiment: Homer Simpson-Style Low Carb Vegan Pumpkin Almond Suprise

The ‘surprise’ was it was good.

Our cupboards are filled with the discards of good intentions never followed up on, of exotic treats and unusual ingredients that go unused, of family food-fads that peter out and leave us with excess Water Chestnuts, applesauce cups, or Quinoa that seemed like a good idea at the time but now when offered up to the kids is reacted to as a punishment.

I was looking for something different – something sweet – and something that wouldn’t totally ruin the fragile hold I had on the start of a low carb diet. I found one of those aseptic boxes of cooked, unsweetened, unspiced pumpkin – the sort of thing you’d use for a pie. I don’t ever recall seeing it – but I also don’t remember looking for boxed pumpkin, so that might have something to do with it.

I’ve tried just sweetening this stuff with some sucralose in the past but that just doesn’t do it.

Then I noticed the forgotten almond flour. I try to avoid too many Omega-6s and most nuts are chock-full of them, but I’ve promised myself that I wasn’t going to get anywhere at present if I put too many restrictions on myself. Almond flour is low carb, high fiber, and tastes good, too.

I don’t have measurements for you but the box of pumpkin was roughly the size of your regular soup can, and I kept putting in almond flour until it had thickened considerably. Maybe 3/4 cups? I mixed well, and gave a taste.

Not bad. The almond flour ratcheted back the intense pumpkin flavor and the pumpkin blunted the almond flavor. It tasted like what? A pumpkin pudding? Pumpkin cake batter? I could picture throwing in a couple of eggs as binding and baking it into a cake of sorts but I didn’t go there.

It really wasn’t bad as-is. As a young adult/dope I used to occasionally buy rolls of cookie dough and eat it raw so I have a little Homer Simpson in me – and this was way better for me than that was. It *did* need a little touching up, however, so I added about 4 drops of liquid sucralose, maybe 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, and a 1/4 tablespoon of nutmeg and mixed well until no powder showed in the mix.

If I had intended to make this rather than bumbling around it would have taken less than 5 minutes.

I ate maybe a cup of the stuff and was quite satisfied. Whatever flavor-hole needed filling, this did it, I have maybe 3 cups left and can see myself probably finishing it up in the coming week.

I also realized the purely by accident it happened to be vegan, which helped the title of the post be even more absurd than it already was.

UPDATE 5/9/15: I have received comments on this that essentially say: ‘Worst. Recipe. Ever.’ Despite this, I’m having some for breakfast today and I still think it ain’t that bad. If you like pumpkin pie, it’s not a bad substitute in my opinion. Go ahead: hate on me, hate on my recipe.

The Un-Diet and the Full-Immersion Fat Bast

On October 8th I wrote an introduction to what I felt would be a reset of my diet. On that day I was 234 pounds.

The odd thing is that this weight gain has been accompanied by a sudden and severe bout of not giving a shit. It’s hard to find the motivation when you don’t give a shit – self-loathing, fear, embarrassment, anger – even despair, though to a lesser extent – can be a motivator.

Indifference is *not* a motivator.

In fact, after I wrote my October 8th missive it appeared as if I was trying to win some competition for how many fast food meals I could tuck in. If there was an actual competition, the judges would have been impressed. Every mealtime a voice inside of me said: ‘screw this diet shit – maybe next time.’

It was the truth. Like a tiger in India that acquired a taste for human blood, I had flim-flammed myself into thinking that I could ‘moderate’ my carb intake. Instead, I had artfully bullshitted myself again. I fell for my own bullshit and had abandoned low carb like I never had before. The villagers would have to kill the carb-loving tiger before *any* semblance of order would return.

I tried being less obsessive about my diet. For the first time in a decade I gave myself the latitude to not think about dieting in an intense, personal fashion. I banished this extra housemate, this dietary burden on myself and my family – and it did nobody good. Thinner and obsessive, I was annoying and eccentric. Now I’m fatter, crankier, and still annoying and eccentric.

It wasn’t a good tradeoff.

Perhaps my lot in life is to be an obsessive, compulsive dieter. Perhaps I can never be ‘normal’. I think I’ll keep more of it to myself, however: no one wants to hear about ‘your diet’ – excepting perhaps present company, of course.

Every single freakin’ day since then I tried to start my diet only to have it crumple like a cheap suit from the smallest of excuses. What IS hunger?!? I asked myself. Intellectually, you know you’ve taken in adequate nutrition, then hunger appears, you tell it to go pound sand, feel good about yourself – and find yourself moments later midway through a McDonald’s Double-Cheeseburger wondering: what the hell happened in between the onset of hunger and a gullet being filled with McCrap? Surely some higher-level cognitive functions were operating to navigate the car to the drive thru, place the order, pay, and start eating – but what some psychologists call the ‘Executive Function’ – that force within us that causes smart people not to do dumb things – had checked out completely.

Hunger won out and I was up to 236.6.

I decided I needed to pull out a weapon against hunger I only use sparingly because it comes off as so bat-shit crazy that even I take pause before I reach for it: the full-immersion fat blast.

In a nutshell the thinking goes like this: for me, a day or two of overeating as much fat as possible is the fastest way to get into ketosis and get the appetite-supressing properties of ketones in my bloodstream. I’m overeating *anyway* but this type of overeating at least leads to appetite suppression after a while. So on October 21 I ate:

  1. Coffee with cream
  2. Coffee with a dash of Atkins shake as a creamer substitute
  3. A tiny bit of roast beef wrapped around what ended up being near a half-stick of butter
  4. a cup of fatty pork belly with 2 eggs, fried, with a huge dollop of sour cream
  5. Pork rinds with a tuna salad with a big dollop of mayonnaise as well as more sour cream
  6. A dessert of a few tablespoons of sour cream with some Mio flavoring

While I didn’t track calories, I’m sure my intake was well over 2,000 calories, with lots of fat, moderate protein, and probably under 10 grams of carbs.

The next day I was down 3.2 pounds to 233.4 – nothing shocking, actually, as you shed water as you deplete the carbs in your body and I am capable of holding onto perhaps up to 8 pounds of water weight by my estimate. While I don’t miss the extra weight, it wasn’t the point – ketosis and the appetite killer that travels shotgun with it is what I’m aiming for.

I ate nothing until mid afternoon – the coffee, cream and Atkins shake as creamer kept me going until then, when I had half a package of cream cheese on two small pieces of roast beef.

Not too long after that I felt the heaviness, the tiredness without sleepiness, that signals the onset of ketone production for me.

At home I checked for ketones – yep – I was starting ketosis.

I had 2 burgers with cheese along with a bit of regular ketchup (no low carb in the house) as well as a few ounces of vodka. There was also the leftover tuna from the day before with lettuce.

There was some longing for more food, but not the kind of hunger where I find a plate of pasta half-eaten before I know what the hell was going on.

The nature of my hunger had already changed. It’s what I was looking for: when hunger comes now it is merely present – not omnipresent – that’s the biggest benefit of a ketogenic low carb diet to me.

Again, the point here is to just get into ketosis – not losing weight – but when I woke up on Saturday, October 25th, I was 229.8 – down almost 7 pounds.

Of course, its times like these where I post an impressive 2-day weight loss, and then completely screw things up moments after I hit the ‘post button’.

Frankly, the odds are against me. With Halloween around the corner with piles of leftover candy strewn in so many places as to be seen in every glance, then Thanksgiving, the official US binge-eating holiday, through a food-filled Christmas season, and coming to a Bacchanalian climax with the world-wide celebration of alcohol abuse called ‘New Years’, this is a perilous time for any dieter.

Stay tuned to see if I can beat the odds.