I have been trying all week to write this but my job has kept me busy, I’m trying to take advantage of the great spring weather, I’ve added to my weekly exercise, and I was embroiled in an awesome (but very long) podcast episode. So I’ve had a lot to think about besides what I’m eating. However, here’s what needs to be said:
This past week marked the completion of 3 months of my ketogenic experiment. I cheated a little bit with a baked potato and kidney beans. I also loaded up on lamb sausage, chicken drumsticks and a steak. I promptly felt like crap and fasted for 24 hours to get back to a level place.
Looking back here are some lessons learned from the last 80+ days of a low carb/moderate protein/high saturated fat diet.
#1 When to eat: I tracked meal times on my diet spreadsheet but that wasn’t impressive because I pretty much stick to a schedule naturally. What was interesting was to see that I go through a 5-7 day cycle. For a few days I’m simply not very hungry. 1,500-2,000 calories per day is plenty for this part of the cycle. Then for a day or two I want more (usually 2,500-3,000 calories) so I eat more. I tried to plan for this but it didn’t work well. I couldn’t just have Steak Saturday, some Saturdays I craved a big salad; some Tuesdays I wanted double helpings. I tried one meal per day which was great, except then I went home at night and tried to eat a big meal and my digestive tract didn’t think that was a good plan. Several small snacks throughout the day, works much better for me. So, I eat when I need to eat. If I want breakfast, I eat breakfast. If I don’t want lunch I drink some water or green tea. I will keep paying attention to my eating cycle and see what happens. The one thing that is constant is dinner. I enjoy eating in the evening, because I like to cook and I like to drink. Eating makes both of these better. I am sitting behind a desk most of the day so there’s really no need to eat serious meals until the evening when I finally get some exercise. I am listening to my body and, so far, it knows what it’s talking about. Quick side note: If I was more serious about the weight loss, that low calorie/high calorie cycle could be useful.
#2 What to eat: Looking back, I did this keto thing the right way. First I cut out all the simple sugars. Then, a couple weeks later, I cut out almost all the simple carbs. A few weeks later I was on a high protein/limited complex carb diet that kept me happy while counting my total calories. At that point it didn’t take much to go full keto with no suffering, aches, pains or carb cravings. I was never hungry (my first world accomplishment medal will arrive in the mail any day now). When I started the keto diet I set up a spread sheet to track actual nutrients. This was super helpful but I made a few mistakes. For example, I did not separate dietary fiber out of my total carb count. This makes my carb count pretty inaccurate but when I look through my daily logs my daily carbs come almost exclusively from green vegetables with a minority from nuts and berries. A handful of tortilla chips at a restaurant triples my daily carb intake. I did a quick check on the greens I typically eat and they are 1/3 - 1/2 dietary fiber. If I pull that out of my daily carb count I actually did much better than my charts suggest. I guess it’s the equivalent of having a fast alarm clock, you always think you’re late but you’re actually right on time. (BTW I do not like having a fast alarm clock but mine keeps terrible time and I have to reset it every few months) I did have a hard time getting my fat intake up but now the chart’s trend line is nice and flat. I finally got there when I learned that you need several sources of daily fat! MCT oil, coconut oil, olive oil, fatty meats, avacados, and cheese are all great sources. (Some people argue about dairy I do not.) Dump the good oils on your veggies and meats. I enjoy sour food, bitter food, fatty food, salty food and rarely crave the sweet stuff. When I do get sweet stuff it’s not very palatable. I bought some flavored water the other day that claimed to have zero-everything in it but failed to mention it was loaded with sucralose. I dumped it out after one swig.
#3 How much to eat: My calories trended upwards over the course of the 3 months but my exercise level has gone up steadily. I didn’t show much discipline during this experiment with regards to the ratios of macro-nutrients. I was trying for a ratio of carbs/protein/fat of 10/20/70 but over all my average was 14/30/56. The primary reasons for this ratio were over doing protein and not getting enough fat. It took me a long time to work my way up to the fat levels I needed for 70% and I still shy away from eating that much. I will say that I had no trouble hitting the 14/30/56 ratio as long as I avoided obvious simple carbs and made sure to vary my fat intake. Final note with regards to how much to eat: my average portion size per meal is at least half of what it was before I quit carbs. This is weird because one of my justifications was “don’t eat the rice, eat more chicken”. The reality is much different. I have tried recently to do a couple big meals and I wasn’t interested. If I did cram my gullet full I felt uncomfortable for 10-12 hours.
#4 Getting exercise: I am doing pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and some dumbbell work nightly. I’m not working out real hard or for very long but I am working out regularly and slowly increasing my reps. That’s the trouble with working out. When you are out of shape, 20 minutes is a great work out. As your physical condition improves you need more time, more equipment or more complex exercises to get you there. I have noticed an increase in muscle mass which has slowed my weight loss on the scale but I still think I’ll hit 180lbs or less. This means I am down to my last 10 pounds. So, calisthenics and increased bicycling are making a difference. In the last week I added running to the mix. Notably, I was starving this weekend.
Now for this week’s life lesson:
I had a frustrating interaction with some old neighbors I ran into at the store. They are a very nice married couple, always polite and kind, but they are very poorly educated and from some very, closed minded, rural families. They immediately commented on my weight loss. I immediately told them I quit sugars and simple carbs. The man commented on wanting to do something similar to lose weight. I reiterated “quit the refined sugars and simple carbs” and things went down-hill from there. He tried to prune it down to “I just need to quit drinking beer”. Then he gave me the “yeah right, like that’s going to happen” nod. They made some comments about eating more fruits and vegetables. I encouraged that but pointed out that until you read the labels on the other foods you buy and document what you actually consume you probably aren’t going to be honest about what you are really eating and you will end up with a diet that you hate. Sure you had some spinach today but what else did you eat? The beer is bad for you but you probably won’t believe how bad some of the other stuff you consume on a daily basis is for you. You KNOW a slice of birthday cake is bad for you but it’s just once slice and you only have one birthday per year. If you add up all the little sugar and carbs packed into everything you eat every day, you’ll find out you’re having several dozen birthdays per year. I didn’t say that birthday cake thing to him but, damn, I should have. I should NOT have suggested that they study their daily lives, dissect them and make informed changes because this made no sense to them what so ever and the blank look on their faces was rather upsetting to me. I knew I was getting preachy and I realized that it was overly important to me that they understand what I was saying about their whole diet. The fact that I felt this told me that I should shut up about diet and change the subject.
The discussion moved to family for a minute and then back to diet when his wife commented that he was actually diabetic and taking cinnamon pills. (I looked that up later, turns out it’s a real thing).
I was stunned again and could not control myself when I commented that, particularly with diabetes in the picture, knowing the sugar content of what you are eating is freaking critical! They dismissed this and made it clear that they weren’t worried about the diabetes because the cinnamon is cheap and it’s working. There may or may not have been an invocation of God’s will as a treatment plan for any future diabetic related problems, but you’d really have to know these people to understand why that happened. I’ll be sure, at his funeral, to tell his kids that this was all part of God’s Plan-B. I didn’t go into it but my bet is they think the cinnamon pills are working because they aren’t checking his blood glucose levels often enough or at the right times. Like most people, they go to the Dr. for a scheduled appointment, it gets checked and whatever it says right then is what they accept as always true. It’s like when you vote for a political party and now know what choices the elected official will make no matter what. Right?
Rather than steer the conversation to the weather or sports, like a moron, I commented that I had documented my own glucose level fluctuation and after fasting I am often in the mid 60’s. They freaked out. “That’s way too low!” they exclaimed! They were genuinely concerned that I was sick. I had to explain to them that if you AREN’T CONSUMING CARBS you shouldn’t have a high glucose level. This led to me having to explain to them what the hell diabetes is. For the record, these people do not have, use, or understand the internet so unless their doctor tried to explain it to them, their sum knowledge about diabetes comes from stories family members or co-workers have told them about other people with diabetes. I did not get into what ketones are because this conversation was tough enough already.
After a few seconds they started the whole conversation over again from the angle of dieting to lose weight. Over and over, these two people brought up losing weight. Over and over they acted like changing their diet would be too complicated. I reinforced “Just start by removing as much sugar as you can, read the labels on the food you want to buy, you’ll be surprised where you find it. Then cut out the simple carbs and starches: rice, pasta, bread, potatoes, etc” Start simple!
Eventually I broke the conversational loop off and bid them a good day. As I walked away I, foolishly, looked back to see them happily chit-chatting, arms around each other, content, in love, obese and blissfully ignorant. I know I shouldn’t but I felt really bad after that although, probably not for the reason you think. At this point you might think I’m proselytizing my new diet to everyone and I guess I am. In that I constantly feel the compulsion to share whatever I am studying and learning with whoever will listen. I was super proud when I finally understood quantum particle spin and polarity and still can’t find a casual conversation to sneak that one into. Hell, I talked to myself for an hour today about what I know about the history of the Barbary pirates because I couldn’t remember the name of the first great Ottoman Sultan who basically set them loose on the unsuspecting world about to be enslaved. I knew it sounded like a bad guy from Lord of the Rings and when I got home and looked it up it was Suleiman the Magnificent.
Maybe you think I wanted to change their minds and win their hearts and have everyone agree with me. I’m sure my ego would love that but what I really wanted was for someone to appreciate my data and be compelled to go get their own. They walked away with the conversation having been enough thought on the subject. They could have watched a sporting event or scratched off a lotto ticket for all they had invested. I have actually spent my time and effort and the results are real. I am standing here living breathing proof that can be measured and weighed and repeated. To them I am a reality TV distraction to be commented on while they continue on with the lives they claim to want to change.
That’s what burned my biscuits. I’ve got a life I want to change and I ignore it constantly. I seek distractions all the time and then go right back to what I was doing. I got slapped n the face by my own hypocrisy thanks to two inbred rednecks who, at least, have each other. I’ve got to work on that part of me.
I've realized lately that I often ruin perfectly good posts with unnecessary comments pulled from my neuroses and way too many self deprecating comments. IN acknowledgment of this revelation I say the following: Tough shit. Write your own damn blog you opinionated hack.