And a warning against going too far in your pursuit to shed the pounds.
I do not look fat. I don?t suffer from body dysmorphia and my weight isn?t a serious health issue. So when I tell people that I?m on a diet they look at me and say ?you don?t need to go on a diet. You?re not fat!? But the reality is that I am overweight, and I?ve been packing on the pounds slowly over the past five years. At 5’9″ with my body frame, I should be between 125 lbs. and 168 lbs. and I was nowhere near that when I started my diet.
The trigger to really start losing weight happened on April fool?s day. I checked my weight and a terrifying number was looking back at me 193.8 lbs. That was just 6.2 lbs. away from hitting 200 lbs.
In high school I was a skinny 125 lbs. despite having a terrible diet that consisted of eating anything and everything I wanted. Throughout college I got up to a healthier 155lbs. but that still included eating whatever I wanted. I just couldn?t gain the weight faster than my metabolism would get rid of it.
Then I hit my early 30s.
The Tools of the Trade and Early Failures
With my ever climbing weight shooting past 160 lbs., then 170 lbs., then past 180 lbs. I decided enough was enough. It wasn?t that I was obese, I just never wanted to reach the point where I became obese. I figured the fatter I get, the tougher it would be to lose the weight later so it made sense to lose it now.
So I decided to buy myself a Renpho smart scale last year. Smart scales aren?t the most accurate but are alright for ball-parking your metrics. Mostly, I was interested in recording my weight on an app which allowed me to see long term weight-loss.
My first plan to lose weight was just to walk to work every day. I live in Toronto, ON so we get some pretty cold winter days but I walked 45 minutes to work and back through warm days and cold when the weather turned. That?s a good 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) per day and about 15,000 steps?which brings me to my second tool. I got myself a Fitbit Alta to track those steps and try to hit my walking goal.
Later on I started using a spreadsheet that tracks my weight-loss which can be found on this subreddit because I wanted something the Renpho app didn?t do. So to reiterate, these are the tools I suggest getting:
- A scale?preferably a smart scale.
- A wearable tracker?Fitbit is good enough but you could spring an Apple Watch if it?s in the budget.
- A spreadsheet with a moving average weight-loss trend-line?more on this later in the article.
Walking did not work. I put on some muscle and I felt healthier but the weight kept piling on. My BMI still hung around 27 to 28 and when April showed up and I crossed that 190 lbs. mark, I knew I would need to change my diet.
The April Failure
My next plan was the soup and salad diet. For a month I ate salads for lunch, and soup & salad for dinner while continuing my walks to work.
As a side note, the walks are the highlight of my day. I listen to podcasts, enjoy the scenery, and my temperament has become so much better since I started doing that. Even though I didn?t get the weight-loss I wanted from it, the mental clarity was extraordinary and I highly recommend it!
With soup and salad I dropped below the 190 lbs. mark but started fluctuating between 186 and 188 for the whole month. Two weeks into the diet I felt it wasn?t going to work and began planning a new diet.
By April 29th I weight 187.3 lbs. which would be my starting weight weighing myself every morning before my first shower. I calculated that I wanted to lose about 2 lbs. per week with a goal of hitting 160 lbs. That put my goal date around July 31st.
Ketogenic in May
Which brings us to May. See, I have the type of personality which believes that if it?s worth doing, it?s worth over-doing.
Briefly, the ketogenic diet is a very low carb, high protein and high fat diet. Sugars found in carbohydrates are what get stored as fat first so by denying your body of carbs, you burn body fat and produce ketones. I?m not a doctor, but that?s how I understand it works. Let me know in the comments if I?m way off base here!
I found the most aggressive type of ketogenic diet called the IK Diet which not only cut out carbs but fat as well. The idea is for it to be high in protein and replace fat for energy with exogenous ketones. Basically, you eat external ketones instead of relying on fat. The idea is to rapidly lose weight without losing muscle mass due to the high protein.
So on April 29th I started my diet which consisted of tons green vegetables, even more green salad, and a lot of lean turkey. For lunch I was eating a 450g box of baby kale, baby spinach, and baby chard with loads of turkey on top along with red wine vinegar for flavour.
But my body could not stand the exogenous ketones. I tried to slowly introduce it in small amounts, but my body? um? removed everything from my stomach multiple times a day. I was a wreck for four days trying to get acclimated to the diet but the misery was too much. I dropped from 187.3 on Monday to 184.9 on Tuesday but remained around 185 lbs. on Wednesday and Thursday.
I was cranky, feeling sick, spent a few hundred dollars on a month?s supply from Julian Bakery, and the weight still felt like it wasn?t coming off. I became so discouraged that I almost swore off dieting and wanted to write it all off.
I?m not suggesting the IK Diet doesn?t work or is a money grab. I just have a finicky stomach to certain things and it turns out that exogenous ketones or something in the powder is one of those things that affects my stomach.
Pivoting to the Slow Carb Diet
Instead of giving up, I figured I was trying to do something that my body was rejecting. Ok, so, extreme ketosis wasn?t for me I just needed something easy to do and wouldn?t make me feel extremely sick. Fortunately, I knew of something that might do the trick.
I remember reading about the slow-carb diet in Tim Ferriss? The Four Hour Body. It?s a simple diet with only a few rules which I?ll paste below (taken from the highly recommended article Everything You Need to Know About the Slow-Carb Diet?):
Stick to Slow-Carb Diet approved foods 6 days a week: lean meat, beans, and veggies and no white foods like sugar, pasta, rice, bread, cheese.
Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You probably do this already; you?re just picking new default meals.
Don?t drink calories. 1?2 glasses of red wine is okay.
Start your day with protein, shooting for 30g within 30 minutes of waking (boosts success rate by 11%).
Don?t eat fruit. Tomatoes and avocados are allowed in moderation.
Take one ?cheat day? a week: Eat whatever you want on cheat days. Tim recommends Saturday for social purposes.
I?m not a fan of beans so I didn?t bother eating them. I haven?t checked if I?m in ketosis but on the off chance that I am, I would like to avoid the carbs found in beans.
Another change I made is that I don?t eat breakfast. I?m also doing a form of intermittent fasting, almost by accident, and only eat between a window of noon to 9pm. I know it would be better optimized to eat earlier in the day, but like I said, this just accidentally fell into place since my girlfriend and I eat late dinners.
For meals I?m relying on ketogenic meals rather than slow-carb recipes. I?m primarily relying on Ketoapp?s recipes for dinner while having a turkey breast sandwich using Unbun instead of bread with two scrambled eggs, kale, spinach, chard, and mustard.
I also drink at least 130 fluid oz. of water every day. Every morning I fill several 32 oz. mason jars with water and leave them on my desk. I never forget to drink my water because those jars just sit there looking back at me. This really helps with my cravings, especially in the morning.
The app that comes with the Renpho smart scale is kind of annoying. By looking at the weekly chart it felt like I still hadn?t lost any weight which was odd because by the end of the first week, after switching to the slow-carb diet, I was down to 181.4 lbs. I even dropped below 180 lbs. briefly which I haven?t seen in a very long time. What I needed was a moving average trend-line and, fortunately, someone on the Slow-Carb Diet subreddit had already created a spreadsheet that did that.
The green line is my goal weight of 160 lbs. while the blue descending line is my estimated weight-loss of 2 lbs. per week. The red line is my daily weigh-in and the orange line is my moving average trend-line.
I?m writing this on May 18th so I haven?t yet reached my goal weight of 160 lbs. However, I do have some pretty amazing results! As you can see from that chart I?m dropping weight extraordinarily quickly. It also shows that when I was doing the IK diet I was losing weight, it was just the Renpho app?s weekly chart made me feel like no progress was made. The monthly chart worked better but there was no way to see if I was on target for my goal or not. That jump in weight was my first cheat day on the slow-carb diet, you can see that it packs on the weight but quickly sheds after.
As it stands, I?m way ahead of my plans?and it does concern me a bit. I?m losing, on average, 0.6 lbs. per day which is a bit excessive but not horribly unsafe. I suspect that the weight-loss will slow down at some point but I also hope that I reach my goal by mid-June as the chart predicts andI?ll write another entry about my quest to lose ~30 lbs. at that time! Hopefully, I?ll be able to tell you I succeeded and I?ll also go over what I plan to do when my diet has concluded to keep the weight off.