19th May 2019
I wanted to write about my weight loss, physical and mental transformation and the 7 year road I’ve been on. It hasn’t been easy, it hasn’t been terribly hard, but it has been difficult at times to not get discouraged and lose my way. I don’t know my true starting weight, I had stopped using the scale as the number never stopped going up, but I do remember the last number was 275. My now wife, and long-time partner of 15 years, had a loving and concerning discussion with me one night about how concerned she was about my weight and health. The next day I went to what I knew worked in the past, a low carbohydrate way of eating.
Rewind back to when I was 19, post graduation from culinary school. I had put on serious weight in culinary school, hitting 297 pounds, much more than the freshman 15 since I started culinary school around 220 pounds. This was relatively easy with an endless supply of freshly baked French delicacies such as croissants each day from the baking class. We “had” to try it all… and I sure did. There wasn’t much of an off switch when it came to consumption of calories.
My mother offered me $500 to lose 100 pounds. Game on. I set my sights on the prize and joined the local gym and hit it hard with cardio on the bike. I immersed myself in hours of racquetball 6 days a week, my cousin was my partner and was game if I was. I messed around with weights, but there was more fuck-around-itis than a legitimate lifting program, so not sure if any progress was actually made. This was around the year 2002 and Atkins had hit its popularity so the book was purchased and read and I followed the way of eating as best I could. The use of a carb counter was often too cumbersome back then before the handy apps that do the work for you. Looking back, the food I consumed resembled a bit of a PSMF. I consumed a lot of turkey burgers and salad with ranch dressing. My friends often ordered pizza and I found myself eating most of the toppings, much to their chagrin. It was much easier to simply not eat any carbs and stay away from the vegetables that had “too many carbs” than it was to keep track of how many I ate per day.
I found myself losing the 100 pounds and earning the cash. I used it to mostly purchase new clothing as I was feeling good about myself and needed a wardrobe to reflect how I felt on the inside. With the newly found confidence came the relationship with my aforementioned now wife. Along with the new relationship came enjoyment of food and alcohol. The pounds began to pack back on and over the next 8 years I ended back where I started, the 300 club. I had a fasting blood glucose in the prediabetic range of 120, was constantly inflamed, struggled with sleep apnea and snoring, my joints hurt constantly, I was unmotivated, unwell and unhealthy.
I started my new life very near Halloween as I remember turning down the candy, begrudgingly. I stayed strong and turned to the internet for ideas as the weather here in Washington during October and November isn’t exactly the best for outdoor activities. I found through searching for low carb, a fair amount of information about LCHF/Keto. There were a lot of resources, mainly the calculators to figure out macros and the app Myfitnesspal to help calculate what you ate into those macros. I remember that I had a target of 1800 calories per day.
For 8 months I lost a consistent 10 pounds a month. It came off quickly. I didn’t exercise, but a career as a sous chef had me on my feet 10+ hours per day on a hot line. The weight loss eventually slowed down and I hit my first goal of 220. Once that milestone was achieved I set my sights on 200 and then 190. I found intermittent fasting through the internet searches and dabbled with eating 1 big meal per day but it was not sustainable.
Once I hit a skinny fat 190 pounds I began to lift weights using the KetoGains protocol. I had lifted weights in high school and before when I lost the weight the first go around. I kind of knew what I was doing, but realized through trial and error that I was not being as efficient with my exercises as I could have been. I stayed consistent with my schedule and joined a 24 hour gym, often times hitting the gym after dinner service at 10pm or later.
Around this same time I posed a question on Reddit about my daily intake of sub 10 grams of carbohydrate and whether I was doing anything I should be worried about. A member said something to the effect of, “welcome to carnivore.” And they linked to another subreddit about a carnivorous way of eating. I dove right in. Steak, and as much as I want? Sign me up. I continued to lift weights, I did a small amount of cardio, mostly walking. My weight didn’t change much but I began to see my body composition change.
I eventually found a new company near me called DexaFit and they offered a membership to include monthly 3D body scans, DEXA scans, VO2 Max testing and RMR testing along with other “biohacking” take home test kits. I was finally able to quantify the changes my body was going through and see what effect the work I was doing was having. One of the take home kits was a DNA test from FitnessGenes. I saved up to purchase one and couldn’t wait to get my results back.
I eventually got my results and purchased a “tailored for me” workout program. Along with the program came a dietary guide. According to the DNA test I should eat a diet higher in carbohydrate and lower in fat. I thought I would try it as things had stalled and I was desperate for change and I wanted things moving in the right direction.
After getting tired of spending time commuting to the gym, having to shower and change, and then getting to work or home I decided to set myself up with a home gym in my garage. I built myself a power rack with plans I came across on the internet and I now have built myself a rather respectable gym in my garage with more equipment than I truly need. I used my new garage gym for a powerlifting 5/3/1 cycle and saw my deadlift get to almost 400 pounds, my squat never really got to a respectable level, 295 was the highest I got it to.
I stuck to the newly tailored DNA workout program for 12 weeks, the dietary regimen was harder to stick to. I noticed my body responding well, but metabolically I didn’t care for the changes because I had to eat every 3 hours in a classic bodybuilding style diet. If I missed my meals I would experience hypoglycemic episodes and mood swings due to hunger and blood sugar crashes. I stuck with it and eventually ended the program and had a DEXA scan to see how it went. I got down to 12% body fat and had visible abs for the first time in my life. My low body weight was 173 pounds. When the program ended came fall and the holidays. The weight crept back on as I indulged in all of the treats and revelry. I got close to a squishy 190 and said something needed to change so I went back to low carb.
During my high carb phase I focused on a paleo/primal style of eating but I struggled with gut issues, gas to clear a room, bloating and constant hunger. I didn’t experience these on keto or carnivore. I ended the program in an unsustainable place when it came to calorie consumption. The thing I often found with keto and carnivore was that even if I ate to “thanksgiving full” I wouldn’t gain weight. I really had to push the food consumption to gain weight, I did gain about 20 pounds one winter when I was overly stressed and ate far too much, but it eventually came back off. I thought I was gaining muscle along with the fat but the DEXA scans showed otherwise, they have proven to be a great tool to keep me honest throughout my journey.
I have found through the new popularity of podcasting an endless supply of daily motivation to keep me consistent and to help me not lose my way. My lifestyle has truly changed. I now find myself with new workout goals and I train bodyweight calisthenics 2 times per week with a full body circuit on Tuesdays and Fridays. Mondays and Thursdays I do a Tabata circuit. Wednesdays I do a brief HIIT cycle on my Schwinn Airdyne and on Saturdays I often spend the day doing consistent low level movement around the house or yard getting projects done. My goal is to do a small amount of work each weekend to upkeep things around the house. My wife and I recently discovered pickleball and have no problems playing that for 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon or going for a long hike in one of the the many pristine forests we have at our disposal.
I am still a chef, but my duties have changed and I have more of a desk job these days. I immediately asked for, and purchased a standing workstation to make sure I don’t sit all day. I still have a physically active job 3 of the 5 days of the week when I receive product for the restaurant and have to put it on the shelves, but it’s not like it used to be when I was on the line each night.
Right now I am sticking to what works and that means 1# of locally sourced from the farm beef and 4 pastured eggs, this I eat at 4 am after my morning workout. I usually eat a second meal, sometimes a 3rd. The second meal might be several pieces of bacon and/or sausage as it’s quick and convenient to grab some at work when I’m busy. My 3rd meal might happen around noon and will typically be another 12oz to 1# of beef and a couple more eggs. On the weekends I might indulge in a growler of locally crafted beer spread across the weekend and things are a little more lax when it comes to food consumption, but protein always plays a featured role and things stay low carb, likely never going above 50 for any given day.
Fasting has been a fairly consistent part of my new lifestyle along with the dietary changes. I rarely have less than 12 hours fasted each day and I prefer to do my exercises in a fasted state each morning (aside from the preworkout cup of black coffee). I have dabbled in one meal a day, 16:8 and have done one 3 day fast. It’s tougher and tougher to do extended fasting, I find my work has me stressed and physically active so I just go for as long as I can and do the best that I can. It’s also tough when there is great food around you at all times prepared by highly skilled cooks!
I heard good advice and that was to know your “why.” My why came from the talk with my wife and it’s transformed into a want and desire to be as healthy as I can, and to pay penance for my past dietary indiscretions (I was 100 pounds in the 2nd grade…). I’d also love to have a body fat at sub 10% levels! People on a path also need to find what will work for them and is sustainable in the long run. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I didn’t get to 300 pounds in 6 months so it sure as hell isn’t going to fall off in that amount of time either.
I’m happy to say I no longer suffer from the things I used to and going to a carnivorous way of eating has seen many things clear up. I used to get small skin irritations on my thighs which I always thought were ingrown hairs from my pants rubbing on them but when I don’t eat a lot of dairy, they don’t appear, the less polyunsaturates I eat also seems to have an effect. If I eat a lot of chicken they will appear. I’m 36 and my face is relatively wrinkle free. Mosquitos don’t bother me as much as they used to when my blood was sweeter. I don’t burn nearly as easily and tan very nicely. My nails are strong and thick. My joints don’t hurt. I have no trouble performing glycolytic work (tabata, HIIT) or long slow fasted hikes or work around the house. I no longer snore. I don’t have to think about what I’m eating to maintain or lose weight. The weight seems to gradually come off if I just go to bed with the feeling of “I could eat” but without true hunger. I no longer limp my way from the car to the house after a long hard day of work. My mood is stable and in general am in a good mood more often than not. I perform at a high rate at all times keeping me sharp at work and a good performer in my field.
I could go on and on about my story, but I’ll end this anecdote by saying thank you for all that you do and keep fighting the good fight!