Last year, after a couple of bad years in my life, I started focusing more on my health. It actually started in August 2018 when I quit smoking. Quitting smoking caused me to gain about twenty pounds. I was already overweight. The extra weight was a necessary evil to quit smoking and improve my health.
I went from 224 pounds to 256 pounds within about 6 months. I would probably be over 270 right now if I hadn’t taken steps to curve this and correct it. I was walking daily to try to curve it, but that wasn’t doing the trick. I continued to gain weight because I couldn’t control my eating. I made a huge change to my diet in May of 2019.
Leading up to that time, I had developed many problems with my health that I attributed to getting older and being a smoker. My body had food intolerances. I had dark spots on my skin around my neck, shoulders, chest, and underarms. My joints hurt. I just didn’t feel mobile.
All of these things made it difficult to be active. I walked to try to curve some of this, but it didn’t help much. I was still achy. My body just felt bad. I would get headaches if I had sugar before going to bed. I got hangry, and I mean HANGRY. My hunger affected my mood in extreme ways. I couldn’t eat bananas, avocados, or mushrooms without severe stomach pains for hours afterward.
So in May of 2019, I cut my carbs completely out. I did this for three weeks. I may have had 10 grams of carbs during that entire 21 days. The first three days were rough. I felt terrible. My body was going through sugar withdrawals. Suddenly after three days, I got a burst of energy and it stayed level. It wasn’t up and down. I just had a sustained boost to my energy level. There were supplements that I was taking at the time that could have had an effect on me, but for the most part, I feel like it was the change in my diet that was the biggest factor.
Keto vs Low-carb
It’s important at this point to understand the difference in “Keto” and “Low-carb”. Sometimes people claim they are on a Keto diet when they are actually just reducing their carbs. The distinction must be made because reducing your carbs does not guarantee that you are going to be in ketosis. For the first three weeks of my diet change, I was low-carb. I wasn’t concentrating on what I was eating. I was concentrating on what I wasn’t eating.
When most people do “low-carb” they replace their carb intake with protein. They eliminate sugar because it’s a carb, but by replacing their carbs with protein, they are only forcing their body to produce glucose in a different way, by converting the protein. So glucose levels can still be high with a high protein diet. If your glucose levels are high, your body won’t create ketones. Thus, you won’t go into ketosis.
I wasn’t on a “keto” diet. Keto involves a huge increase in fat intake. Your primary source of calories becomes fat. When I went low-carb, I simply removed carbs from my diet. Most of my calories came from meat and fats during that time. There were probably times that I went into ketosis, but the high protein diet I was doing probably prevented me from hitting a good level of ketosis. Looking back, I should have concentrated on consuming more fat.
During that first three weeks, I lost around 16 pounds. I went from 256 down to 240. I felt like I could do anything at that point. I celebrated by having bread for the first time in three weeks. Let me say, Sister Shuberts yeast rolls with butter after three weeks of nearly 0 carbs is about as close to heaven as I’ve been in a long time.
Low Carb Side-effects
I’ve been watching my carbs pretty closely for the last 8 months, and I’ve learned that there are a few side effects, at least for me. The only important one I’ll mention is digestion. I had to supplement my diet with laxatives quite a bit. There are gentle all-natural laxatives that worked well.
The best alternative is to choose your carbs more wisely. I tend to shoot for carbs which come along with a lot of fiber. Pinto beans, for instance, are loaded with carbs, but are also high in protein and fiber. Brown whole grain rice has a lot of carbs, but it is also high in fiber. Vegetables in general are good choices when sacrificing some carbs, because they tend to also help digestion quite a bit. Kale is especially good for my digestion and since it has quite a bit of potassium, it is something I try to get a lot of these days.
The Start of IF
Intermittent fasting was my go to lifestyle change strategy after the three weeks of low-carb. Based on all the propaganda I was reading at the time, I decided that IF was the right way to go. I’m still convinced that it’s the best way to maintain my weight, but I’ve found that some of the promises of IF are misleading or wrong when it comes to my body.
Fasting Increases Metabolism
This is something you’ll hear a lot from many experts. Dr. Jason Fung, who is famous for writing books about obesity and fasting, has stated that fasting increases metabolism. I’ve also seen other doctors and nutrionists report this. However, I am 95% sure that since I started IF, my metabolism has slowed way down. I have numbers and pseudo-science to back it up. Primarily my Fitbit gives me an estimate of my daily calorie burn, and that number decreased significantly when I started fasting daily.
I think that extended fasting probably increases one’s metabolism, if it’s done on rare occasions. However, I think that daily IF has been a significant factor in my metabolism slowing.
Perhaps a Slow Metabolism Isn’t Bad
I’m on the fence about whether a slow metabolism is a completely negative thing. Sure it’s much harder to lose weight when your metabolic rate is slower, but perhaps there’s other benefits that we are overlooking. Specifically, I wonder if a slower metabolism may be better for longevity.
I’ve tried to normalize/equalize my metabolism by increasing my activity level. I think the increase in activity/exercise is a positive change. My metabolism was actually extremely high last year. I could eat a lot of food in a given day, and my body was burning most of the calories during the day with no problems. It was doing it all at rest, sitting in my chair. My heart rate was around 93 bpm at rest.
Improvements Since Low-carb/Keto/IF
So I’ve been mixing it up for the last eight months, but I’ve pretty much consistently done low-carb and IF. I’ve also attempted pure Keto during that time, but I find Keto to be much harder to keep up, especially while increasing my daily activity level. I find straight IF to be the easiest to do along with lots of exercise.
I’ve seen some major changes in my body since I started all of this nearly a year ago.
Firstly, exercise is much easier. I can get around much better. I have way less joint pain and I feel way more mobile.
Secondly, all the dark spots on my skin have disappeared. I suspect they were from insulin resistance and they were a warning sign of future diabetes.
Thirdly, all of my food intolerance have pretty much been eliminated. I can eat bananas, avocados, and mushroom with relatively no issues. The only one of the three that I still occasionally have issues with is bananas. The other two are good to go.
Fourthly, I can think more clearly. My mind has gotten back some of its old pep. I can concentrate better. I can work more effectively.
Finally, my resting heart rate is now 58. I’m trying to get it even further down. I’m shooting for 45. Part of this significant change has been my increase in cardio exercise, but cardio alone wasn’t fixing the problem. The real change occurred when I cut out carbs for those first 3 weeks. During that time, my resting heart rate dropped from 93 down to 70. Over the next few months it continued to drop.
I now try to do OMAD (one meal a day) and I am experimenting with different levels of carbs. I’m also watching for improvements from specific foods. Kale has been major breakthrough. I’m not one to follow a lot of hype or fads, despite what it may seem. IF makes sense to me. Kale was not something I was interested in eating, but after I found some very good ways to incorporate it into my diet and after seeing the results it gives me, I now use every opportunity to have some. I’ve tried many “super foods” and kale is the only one that actually impressed me.
I have went from a 44 inch waist down to a 34 inch waist. I actually need to go shopping for new pants because I’m down to only one pair of jeans that actually fits me well. I want to get my waist down to 30. That is going to take another 20 pounds at least. However, I’ve trimmed up quite bit without losing a lot of weight. I take that to mean that I’m increasing my lean mass while losing fat. My overall body shape has changed for the better. I’m still a long ways from my goal body, but this is all going to have to happen in stages.
There’s one final bit of advice that I have for anyone who has lasted all the way through this post. You may have heard the saying “it’s a marathon not a sprint”, but when it comes to weight loss and body transformation it’s the only truth to remember. It takes a huge amount of time to get the results you are looking for usually. It’s really hard to go from overweight to ripped. I’m well on my way and I’m starting to see the results. I have felt the results for a long time, but visually I’m really starting to see the changes in my body. They are taking way longer than I wanted them to, but slow and steady wins the race.