I looked at the number again.
I was one pound away from 300.
Something had to change.
I had tried to use the gym at work, but with a 12-hour day and a 4 a.m. alarm, rising an hour early to work out wasn’t happening. Warm beds are difficult to leave at three in the morning.
So I brought workout clothes with me in order to hit the gym after work. Instead, I convinced myself my time was better used behind the keyboard at home than in the gym. At the end of the day, I just went home without a second thought.
But when I looked at the scale, standing on the edge of 300 pounds, I knew I was in real danger. Heart attacks are common in my family history. So is diabetes.
It would change my life.
For decades, the accepted science claimed diets lower in fat and higher in carbohydrates are healthier. When Robert Atkins published his Diet Revolution in 1972, he received condemnation. The American Medical Association even called it a “bizarre regimen.” Because of that, any research into Atkins’ claims was considered in “the realm of unscientific fantasy.”
What blew my mind was when Taubes stated little scientific evidence existed that diets high in fat contribute to heart disease, obesity, or Type 2 diabetes. The push for a diet low in fat is based more in politics than science.
In his 2002 article in the New York Times, “What If It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie,” Taubes wrote,
It was Ancel Keys, paradoxically, who introduced the low-fat-is-good-health dogma in the 50s with his theory that dietary fat raises cholesterol levels and gives you heart disease. Over the next two decades, however, the scientific evidence supporting this theory remained stubbornly ambiguous. The case was eventually settled not by new science but by politics. It began in January 1977, when a Senate committee led by George McGovern published its ”Dietary Goals for the United States,” advising that Americans significantly curb their fat intake to abate an epidemic of ”killer diseases” supposedly sweeping the country. It peaked in late 1984, when the National Institutes of Health officially recommended that all Americans over the age of 2 eat less fat. By that time, fat had become ”this greasy killer” in the memorable words of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the model American breakfast of eggs and bacon was well on its way to becoming a bowl of Special K with low-fat milk, a glass of orange juice and toast, hold the butter — a dubious feast of refined carbohydrates.
In the intervening years, the N.I.H. spent several hundred million dollars trying to demonstrate a connection between eating fat and getting heart disease and, despite what we might think, it failed. Five major studies revealed no such link. A sixth, however, costing well over $100 million alone, concluded that reducing cholesterol by drug therapy could prevent heart disease. The N.I.H. administrators then made a leap of faith. Basil Rifkind, who oversaw the relevant trials for the N.I.H., described their logic this way: they had failed to demonstrate at great expense that eating less fat had any health benefits. But if a cholesterol-lowering drug could prevent heart attacks, then a low-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet should do the same. ”It’s an imperfect world,” Rifkind told me. ”The data that would be definitive is ungettable, so you do your best with what is available.”
Some of the best scientists disagreed with this low-fat logic, suggesting that good science was incompatible with such leaps of faith, but they were effectively ignored.
Taubes noted a paradigm shift in nutrition science. Today more scientific evidence showed diets with enriched carbohydrates and refined sugars caused heart disease, obseity, and Type 2 diabetes.
As I listened to this, I thought about that scale.
I thought about my mother and father, who both have heart disease.
I thought about my father and my brother, who both have Type 2 diabetes.
I pulled out my ear buds and turned to my wife:
“I’m going back on the protein diet.”
This was not my first rodeo with a low-carb, high-protein diet, so I understood my wife’s skepticism. More than once I had started a “diet” only to grab a Mountain Dew and a couple honeybuns at a gas station on the way to work.
However, this time I told her this wasn’t a diet. It was a change in my eating habits.
I think my mindset made all the difference.
To most, a diet is something temporary, a way of doing things until a goal is met. I explained I wasn’t changing the way I ate because of a desire to lose weight. I was changing because I didn’t want to die clutching my chest. I didn’t want to flick a syringe every day because I needed to take insulin.
I was making the change because I wanted to live a longer and healthier life. To me this wasn’t temporary. It was how I needed to eat to survive.
She got it.
That was in December. I haven’t had refined sugars or enriched carbohydrates since.
Instead, every meal consists of a minimum of 40 grams of protein and a maximum of 10 grams of carbohydrates. This is based on a formula from the book Protein Power.
I had implemented the 40-10 rule before and had some success, but since my mindset was that it was a temporary way of eating, I gained the weight back and then some.
This time, I didn’t see it that way. And believe it or not, it isn’t that hard to stay on the plan.
To give you an idea of what a meal is like under these guidelines, the normal breakfast for me is six eggs, either scrambled or fried. Each egg has six protein grams and one carb. That’s close enough to forty to me. Also, sometimes I’ll get some sausage or bacon with the eggs, so I know I’m reaching my protein level goal while limiting my carb intake.
For lunch, I might have two quarter-pound hamburger patties, each with a slice of cheese, some pickles, and mustard. Ketchup is fine, too, if you minimize the amount.
In our freezer, deer often wait for me from the previous hunting season. Those, along with a steady stream of chicken and pork, keep me in a fairly constant state of ketosis, which is the goal.
merely means that our bodies are using fat for energy. Ketones (also called ketone bodies) are molecules generated during fat metabolism, whether from the fat in the guacamole you just ate or fat you were carrying around your middle. When our bodies are breaking down fat for energy, most of the it gets converted more or less directly to ATP.
When people eat less carbohydrate, their bodies turn to fat for energy, so it makes sense that more ketones are generated.
A couple weeks later, my younger brother was home for Christmas. When I refused to eat something high in carbs, he looked at me and said, “r keto?”
“Yeah,” I replied. I recognized the term “keto,” but the “r” part confused me.
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“r/keto. On Reddit.”
The website Reddit offers content threads based on specific topics. These are called “sub-Reddits.” My brother said one of the sub-Reddits is called r/keto and he used it to change his eating habits.
In the sidebar are must-read links for beginners. While I had read Protein Power years earlier, they offered information on r/keto I had either forgotten or never learned.
For example, you are encouraged to use heavy cream in your coffee because of its high-fat content:
I just discovered heavy whipping cream. It goes perfect in coffee, it has less then 1g carbs per oz, and you won’t need more then an ounce for a cup of coffee. It’s also good if you want something milky, you can do a 50/50 whipping cream and water mix, and it tastes really good.
I learned you want more fat because it makes the digestive process slower, which results in a decreased desire to snack between meals.
r/Keto users post all kind of tips and recipes, and their NSVs (non-scale victories) motivated me to look for successes outside of my routine visits to the scale.
I remember one morning I walked into work and one of my peers said, “Have you lost weight?”
“Yeah,” I answered. “About 30 pounds. Thanks for noticing.” It was my first NSV and it felt pretty good.
But that felt nowhere near as good as the day I pulled a pair of size 36 khakis out of my closet. I hadn’t worn them in years. When I first started, I wore size 44 pants.
I held those khakis in front of me. I figured if I was going to get them on, I’d have to lie down on the bed to fasten them, but even that would be a huge NSV. I put one leg in. Then the other. Pulled them up.
“Sara! Come here!”
I had to share this with somebody.
I made the change a little over six months ago and I recently dropped below 240 pounds for the first time in a decade. Wii Fit Plus says I’m no longer “obese,” just “overweight.” My size 36 jeans are already loose and friends I saw recently didn’t recognize me at first because they only knew the 291 pound me.
I didn’t make exercise a part of my life. I did visit the gym twice, both times for 30 minutes and I spent more time focused on getting out of there than I did on getting a good workout. I didn’t lose the weight because of exercise.
I lost it because I kept myself in a constant state of ketosis.
In the past six months, there have been times where I wanted to have something sweet. One time in particular was in an airport. I wanted a coffee and the closest place was Cinnabon. As I stood in line, I stared at these:
That was the closest I ever came to cheating.
My “diet” consists of eggs, bacon, cheeseburgers and steaks. Every now and then, I’ll throw some greens in the mix, as you should. Believe it or not, when bacon is considered a food group, that’s an enjoyable diet!
Plus, the impact it had on my life motivated me to keep doing it.
When my parents saw the change my way of eating had they asked for explanations. I revealed the change and printed out everything on the r/Keto sidebar for them.
Since they made the change my Dad hasn’t had to take any insulin. He has more energy. He and my mom have both lost weight.
My brother has had similar success.
I have yet to reach my target weight, but in the past six months I have lost 50 pounds and dropped 10 inches off my waist, without becoming a gym rat.
If a guy who lived on Mountain Dew and honey buns can make this change, why can’t you?