Here’s a post that’s been sitting on my hard drive for a few months. I’m going to post it now. There will be followups coming shortly.
There’s something they don’t tell you about low carb diets. It nearly made me give up three days into the new year.
What turned it around for me was treating my diet like an experiment. Something that might not work.
I’ll explain. But first, let me tell you what a fat loser I’ve been.
What a fat loser I’ve been
In 2008, I hit my peak weight of 302 pounds. Even at 6’1”, that’s too much. I had read about the Shangri-La diet, and decided to give that a go. About a year later, I was around 250 pounds. We had a newborn, my exercise habit slipped, and I had a hard time drinking vegetable oil.
Drinking extra light tasting olive oil is one of the methods suggested in the Shangri-La diet. It worked for awhile, but I got so I couldn’t stomach it anymore.
My weight started creeping up again.
In 2013, I did the Couch to 5k plan, and got running. My wife and I ran a few 5ks together. I was ridiculously slow, but kept my weight around 275 or so. By spring of the next year, my feet were hurting and asthma was really bothering me. My short running career was over.
Late 2015, I thought I had found the correct motivation. “This doesn’t taste as good as an extra ten years with my family.” The possibility of living an extra 10 years through weight loss was very motivating.
Then the holidays hit. I very quickly regained my lost weight.
Getting rid of (fast) carbs
I’m a big Tim Ferriss fan. If you don’t know who he is, don’t worry about it. He has talked a lot about the ketogenic diet and the “Slow Carb Diet.” I own “The Four Hour Body”, so had a full description of the “Slow Carb diet” at my fingertips. There are a few chaThere are several chapters based on the slow carb diet. That seemed a little overwhelming. I’m terrible at this stuff, so I need something simple. Slow carb was just too complicated.
A ketogenic diet sounded interesting. I had done a couple of fasts, including a 48 hour fast. The mental effects after the first 32 hours were amazing. So I could try a ketogenic diet, but that looked even more complicated. As Ferris himself points out, if you get the ketogenic diet only 90% right, you’re going to do yourself a lot of harm.
Then I came across an old blog post that Ferriss had written about how to start with slow carb. I realized it wasn’t as complicated as I remembered. At least not the basics.
What I took away from that was:
No white carbs (no bread, potatoes, rice, etc)
Don’t drink calories
No fruit or sugar
One day a week, ignore the rules and eat whatever you want, as much as you want, whenever you want.
I missed the list of specific foods that he suggested mixing and matching from, but I was ready to go. These rules were a pretty big change. I’ve always been a big snacker. Usually sweet or salty foods. Ice cream, cookies, chips, popcorn, candy bars, at all hours of the day.
(S)low carb flu
Sunday, January 1, I started. By Tuesday night, I was feeling terrible. Tim’s post had mentioned low energy and tiredness. That would have been nice. Instead, I had a headache. I felt like I was having a panic attack (without feeling panicked). And heart palpitations. These were all symptoms I had been experiencing in the previous few months, but the intensity bothered me.
I knew something was wrong. Since the problem was probably related to my new diet, I decided cheat day started now. I got some ice cream into me, then tested my blood sugar and went to bed. Wednesday was going to be cheat day (or what I had previously called every single day), and I would try again Thursday.
Wednesday, I googled my symptoms and “low carb” and found out about “low carb flu.”
My primary goal wasn’t short term weight loss. It was getting on a diet that I can follow the rest of my life and be healthy. So this was just a temporary setback getting started. For the first week or two, I allowed myself to have something if I was feeling poorly. Usually just a bit of mashed potato or a piece of bread, as needed.
After two weeks, I wasn’t having any problems at all.
I did it wrong, but it still went alright
The pounds started dropping. Some of it was probably water weight once I cut sugar and sodium from my diet. But in 10 weeks, I lost 20 pounds. Without exercise.
Mr. Ferriss suggests that you avoid trying to add exercise in the first couple of months or so. “You can’t out-exercise your mouth” is what he said in a recent podcast. I didn’t. This year the asthma hit again, and my feet were finally feeling good. I didn’t want to mess with that.
Then there was the fact I wasn’t even doing the diet right.
On Wednesdays, after my kid’s hockey practice, we would go to the food court. He’d get a hot dog and fries, I’d get a burger and sweet potato fries. I’d remove the bun, but leave the cheese on and eat the sweet potato fries with the sauce (how bad could it be?).
I also ate some cheese with other things, ate chick peas and nuts, etc.. Not recommended, and cheese is actually not allowed. Neither are sweet potatoes.
I had taken a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach to the diet. Try it first, then check the details later.
Yet I was still averaging 2 pounds a week.
My wife thinks it’s weird, but my doctor is interested in how I did it
My wife is pretty conservative. Trying something new with such drastic results had her concerned. She called it my weird bean diet. She insisted I talk about it with my doctor (which is really good advice).
At my next doctor’s appointment, he asked me about it. He had noticed the weight loss, and wondered what I was doing. He asked me before I could raise the issue.
When I told him the rough outline, he was very interested. He plans on looking into it more.
The biggest takeaway, for me
The best part of this diet, for me, is that I don’t think about food as much as I used to. I don’t eat as much, but I feel like I eat as much as I want. On cheat days, I go a little crazy. 16” pizzas with anchovies and hot peppers are on the menu. McDonalds. Ice cream. Cake and pie. Whatever I want, as much as I want. My daughter calls them “Treat days”. Makes sense to me.
The other 6 days of the week, if I think I might want something I shouldn’t have, I just write it down so I don’t forget to have some on the next treat day. Then it’s out of my mind. The rest of the family eats how they used to. There are snacks and treats in the house. They don’t tempt me at all. On the slow carb diet, I just don’t have those cravings anymore.
I’m just putting this up as-is. I’ll come back and edit and categorize it better later. I really wanted it up now.