I'm 37 years old. I've been sitting at a computer for 10 hours a day for the last 16 years. It's only been luck or grace that has kept me from being heavier than the 240 lbs that I was approaching. For the first time in my life I committed to my wife that I would do something about it. We decided that together we would try the Keto diet.
The first time we had heard about a ketogenic diet was when our 1 year old son was having daily sleep-inducing seizures. The ketogenic diet is good for neurological health and brain development. We put him on it for a few months and he hasn't had a seizure since. We chose to do it for ourselves because it is also recommended for people struggling with Hashimotos disease and hypothyroidism, of which my wife suffers from. Another reason is because I'm a childishly picky eater and this diet seemed to give me some hope that I might be able to pull it off.
My Normal Diet
My normal diet consists of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, cheese, meat, milk. I also like chocolate, cookies and cake. My favorite vegetables are ketchup and potatoes. Most of these foods consist of simple carbohydrates/sugars, which would be great if I were running marathons daily. But I don't run, or even walk much. My body has become accustomed to this high sugar diet and low exertion lifestyle. It knows how to process these simple carbohydrates as well as it can, but the insulin spikes caused by sugar/simple carbs does horrible things to your body, including inflammation, high cholesterol, hormone imbalances, low thyroid performance, etc (read an explanation here). Some of this energy was used to get me from my bed to my office and back again. The rest was put into storage in my stomach area in case a famine hits. In that case, my body would enter starvation mode and eat away my belly fat - But the famine never came.
The Theory of Keto
The problem with burning fat by starvation mode is as soon as you start eating again your body will go into ultra fat storage mode and you'll end up just as chubby as you started in a short amount of time (This is the problem with many low calorie diets). So the trick is to have enough calories to keep your body out of starvation mode, but still kick your body into fat burning mode. This state is called Ketosis. One way to achieve this state is by eating a diet of mostly fat*, virtually eliminating simple carbohydrates/sugars, while regulating your caloric intake to a moderate level.
*Avoid trans and mono-saturated fat. Natural fats found in eggs, meat, dairy, nuts and vegetables are the good ones.
The first thing I did was download the MyFitnessPal App so I could track my calories and Macro Nutrient intake (Fat/Protein/Carb). I wanted to lose as much as possible as quickly as possible. According to my weight (240 lbs) it was suggested that I go with a 1700 per day calorie limit at an 80% fat, 15% Protein, 5% Carbohydrate ratio.
Next I started eating a lot of Bacon. Immediately I realized that bacon was fatty but not fatty enough. Too much protein. I tried eating it with cream cheese. Better, but still not fatty enough and cream cheese also has some carbohydrates in it. Also my sodium was through the roof. I tried cottage cheese. Way too many carbohydrates. Milk is also too high in carbs, even whole milk. I struggled to find the right combo of foods to make my ratios work out. I finally found that the right amount of bacon and cheese and a glass of whipped cream did the trick. As you can imagine it wasn't long before I was sick of bacon and cheese. Also constipated. I added psyllium husk to my diet and a lot of water.
Not sure of what else to do, I continued with the bacon, cheese, cream, psyllium husk diet. Within a week I had lost 10 lbs! I later realized that this is water weight. When you get the carbs out of your system your body de-bloats fast. As soon as you start eating carbs again those 10 lbs will come right back just as fast. My joints felt better, I didn't ache in the morning and I could tie my shoes without holding my breath. I wasn't looking that much thinner though. After this week of de-bloating the weight loss slowed down as I started to burn actual fat. I realized how significant losing a pound of fat actually is. It really shows. Over the next 50 days I have lost an additional 20 lbs. At the time of writing this I am about 206 lbs. My goal is to get down to 185. At that point I will adjust my diet to a higher protein ratio and then build up muscle. I keep in mind that if I up my carbs I will add some bloat weight back on, which I'm fine with. Ideally and long term I'd like to be a moderately muscular, slightly bloated, 200 lbs person.
Things I Learned
1. Fortunately I figured out some other things to eat besides bacon. I actually don't eat much of that anymore. When I get toward the end side of my calorie limit I use super fatty things to kick me up toward the 80% range and finish off my calories for the day. My go tos are Coconut oil, Heavy whipping cream (these I drink straight) and Mayonnaise**, taken in the form of dressing on lettuce or as a dip for cheese.
**Hellman's /Best Foods is my favorite mayo, but at some point I'd like to try a Hellman's knock-off recipe that uses avocado oil instead of canola oil.
2. My wife told me about intermittent fasting and it seems to improve my results significantly. I eat all of my calories for the day within a 6-8 hour window (late breakfast, early dinner). That way In the evening and when I sleep my body stops using the food and starts working on burning my body fat.
3. Getting and keeping your body in a state of ketosis is extremely difficult and even the slightest deviation in diet can knock you out of it for weeks. I used this new exogenous ketone supplement to help keep me in ketosis even when my macro percentages are less than perfect. Does this supplement actually work? I'm not a scientist so I can't know for certain, but when I pee on these ketone strips it tells me that I have a lot of ketones in my pee pee. The supplement also curbs my hunger pains when I'm about to start my intermittent fast.
4. When you look at the dietary information on the labels of vegetables, nuts and beans you'll see that there are two kinds of carbohydrates: dietary fiber and sugar. I don't count the dietary fiber in the MyFitnessPal app because those carbs are not absorbed, just used in digestion. Some product entries in the app say "Net Carb" which means the dietary fiber amounts have been omitted from the entry information. Check all of your food to see which ones you can have without throwing off your macro percentages. Even though Nuts and Beans have high fat and some dietary fiber , they also have sugar carbohydrates (Fruit is also very high in sugar) and will quickly max out your sugar carbs for the day.
5. Since we're on the subject of human waste, during the first couple of week, while in that stage of de-bloating, you will have diarrhea. This will eventually go away, but be aware. Once this stage is over you will poo poo a lot less frequently - maybe only once or twice a week. You might think you're constipated, but if you're drinking a lot of water and taking fiber, chances are you are fine. The diet just makes a lot less solid waste than a high carb diet. Less gas passing too.
6. Don't do too much cardio exercise while you're on the high fat/low carb diet. Your body needs carbs for these types of activities. You'll hurt yourself, unless you increase your carbohydrates a little. Instead lift weights. Once you lose all the fat that you want, increase your protein to build muscle in the gym and/or increase your carbohydrates for Cardio workouts. If you don't exercise at all, keep eating high fat. All these foods are good or bad depending on what you're trying to accomplish with your body. They each have a purpose.
7. Take daily vitamins and/or a super concentrated vegetable drink (like this).
8. The diet depletes you of sodium so double (but not quadruple) your normal sodium levels and drink lots of water. Also take Potassium (200 mg/day) and magnesium supplements if you experience leg cramps and some joint pain in the beginning. Start with small doses with the magnesium or you'll have diarrhea problems.
To be completely honest, once you get going, food becomes less emotionally enjoyable and more about survival. At first I would try new foods and recipes, but ain't nobody got time for that. Making separate meals for the family is hard enough. Now it's just about getting the food down and making the numbers look right. I keep it simple and stick to a routine menu of meals that I can prepare quickly.
-Spicy Chicken Caesar Salad (I could ,and usually do, eat this every day)
-Pepperoni Pizza with a Fried Cheese Crust (satisfying)
-Tacos with a Fried Cheese Shell (almost feels like your eating tacos)
-Steak with Cream sauce (rich)
-Mozzarella Cheese Sticks dipped in spicy brown mustard (fast)
-Bacon with cream cheese (the classic)
-Scrambled Eggs with Sour Cream and Tomatillo Salsa (hearty)
-Roasted Broccoli with Parmesan cheese (something different than cream)
-Cauliflower Cream Soup (rich and filling)
-Pastrami with Cheddar cheese (cold)
-Grilled cheese HAMwiches (my invention)
-Fat Bombs (pretend that it tastes like a dessert)