I was recently asked by a few people on Twitter to describe various aspects of the early days of my low-carb transformation, and I realized that I haven’t written much specifically about exactly why I think it worked (after failing to find a sustainable solution for decades).
I did address what caused me to take action (after tipping the scale at 278 pounds at the age of 51) in an article that started with the following words:
As a sports fan, I’ve often compared my height and weight to that of professional athletes. When I was in my 20s, at 6’3″ and about 225 pounds, those numbers compared quite nicely to the dimensions of the prototypical NFL quarterback. I never quite looked like an NFL quarterback, and I certainly couldn’t throw like one, but it looked good on paper.
A few years ago, shortly after my 51st birthday, my weight had ballooned to 278. Suddenly, the possibility of weighing as much as an NFL lineman was a distinct possibility
Like most Americans, I spent many years, decades actually, of my life eating foods that undermined my health. As I headed toward my mid-50s I became resigned to the fact that my better days were behind me. Running up a single flight of stairs left me gasping for air, and I had begun to dread just about any form of exercise.
I’ve also talked a little about my first experiences with therapeutic carbohydrate restriction on several very enjoyable podcast interviews over the past two years:
But as more and more people ask me WHAT my actual experiences were with things like cravings and hunger, and WHY I think the changes I made beginning on January 14, 2018 (after reading Gary Taubes’ book, Why We Get Fat) resulted in what turned out to a life-changing transformation — I realized I have not adequately provided answers.
I was actually sitting in the waiting area of a Mexican restaurant, reading a passage of Taubes’ book when the light went off in my head.
His description of how carbohydrates produce different effects in the body than do proteins or fats, suddenly made sense to me and, even before starting the diet, I was filled with a confidence I’d never before experienced with respect to weight loss.
Taubes’ description of the cycle of cravings produced by carbohydrates aligned with my own personal experiences perfectly, and I was somehow convinced I was about to embark on my very last weight loss journey.
I was right.
I had already lost a fair amount of weight in the fall of 2017, using yet another attempt at a plant-based, calorie restriction diet, but I was starting to see the usual signs indicating I was about to lose control — muscle loss, constant hunger and cravings, chills, and a general unhappiness about life, driven by hunger.
Taubes’ book talked about satiety — something I’d never before experienced on a “diet”, and I was all in.
I started my low carb diet that very night in the Mexican restaurant, by ordering a dish with chicken, cheese, and beans. I skipped the salsa and chips, and left the tortilla that came with my meal untouched.
Using what I learned from Taubes, and others I started following on Twitter, including Brian Wiley (one of my very first follows), Dr. Tro, and Dr. Ted Naiman, I created an eating program that reduced my carbohydrates to under 90 per day, and ate as much proteins and fats as I wanted.
I immediately noticed my hunger was gone. No more cravings.
Whenever there was even a hint of a craving, I simply ate more protein and/or fat. Simple as that. Get hungry again? Eat more protein and/or fat.
I lost five pounds in January, which was a huge win, because at the start of the month I was certain my diet was on the verge of crashing and burning.
I started reading about protein and its importance, and started experimenting with adding more of it to my diet. It turned out I had been under-consuming protein for years.
Ted Naiman’s Protein:Energy Ratio was enormously impactful (I would later write an article about his great book, The Protein:Energy Diet), as was much of the information I heard from Dr. Tro.
Both doctors frequently talked about the fact that when one is “overweight”, the body has more than enough energy to burn, so there is little point in pouring butter in one’s coffee or smothering foods with unnecessary fats.
I started experimenting with eating more protein, and frequently asked others how much protein they consumed. I also asked them to describe their experiences.
Somewhere over those first six months, I increased my daily protein consumption from around 150 grams per day to 190 grams, and also experimented with dialing the carbs up and down, between 50 or so, and 90 grams per day.
I continued to lose an average of five pounds per month and, using my strategy of eating protein and/or fat whenever I was hungry, I never had any sustained cravings.
I also never suffered any of the “keto flu” symptoms often described by people on low-carb diets, probably because I never actively pursued ketosis.
I know I did drift in and out of ketosis from time to time but, using a ketone meter from Keto-Mojo, I was able to see that my ketone levels were always relatively low.
By the time I was two months into this new way of eating, I KNEW my long-term weight loss success was a foregone conclusion. It wasn’t a matter of IF, only of WHEN I would hit my goal weight.
I continued to lose just about five pounds per month, and in July 2018, I my original target of 205, and went further, down to about 198.
Maintenance, which had always proved impossible, on previous low-fat, calorie-restriction diets, was no more difficult than the weight loss. I simply continued to follow my rules, and the positive results remained.
I recently developed a set of “rules” that I often share on Twitter with people asking me to describe my way of eating. Note that these are definitely not recommendations, merely a description of how, what, and when I eat (most of the time).
The above description is meant to answer questions I’ve received. If you have others, please feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer. Questions may even inspire me to add to this post.