Fat at 31, fit at 32

My name is Tony, and I have a fat problem. I’ve been fat my entire life – at least since I could feel self-conscious about that fact. I’ve always been slow, asthmatic, poorly-coordinated, and on top of all that, been subject to a binge-eating disorder that, thought undiagnosed, is readily apparent. I look back to my childhood and see myself sneaking cookies when I was home alone, and not just a couple, but handfuls, and eating them like a hoarding squirrel, getting a perverse sense of pleasure in the act. As a young adult, I’d sit for hours and hours playing WoW and I’d break up the monotony by going to Wendy’s or Taco Bell and getting 15-20 dollars worth of food for one sitting for myself. The food was comforting and pathological – I felt out of control and anxious (I do have a diagnosed general anxiety disorder, along with clinical depression) when I wasn’t in my little nest with a lot of food. These factors led me to gain weight until I was 450 pounds and I hated being in public, even to hang out with friends. I flaked on plans and simply didn’t do anything that I couldn’t scurry from public eyes quickly – if I went to the movies, it had to be at a time when nobody else would be there, or way after release, when attendance would be down significantly.

What finally prompted a change was college, actually. I went back at the age of 26, after failing multiple classes and whole semesters due to my weight and anxiety. I remember a lot of times going to class and driving around the parking lot, over and over, until I finally drove home, because I wasn’t early enough to get to a seat in the back without walking past people. In addition, walking across the flat parking lot and taking the elevator made me out of breath for 15 minutes and drenched me in sweat, even in the winter. Doing grocery shopping at Walmart in the dead of the night, walking down aisles of the store cold as sin would make me hot and clammy. Finally I’d had enough – I used to lift weights and was in reasonably good shape leaving high school, and I wanted to get back to that.

I started losing weight just by moving more. I had a part-time job that required me to move files and stand, and I dropped 20 pounds very quickly just doing that, not changing my diet at all. In time, I added a morning walking routine. I still got up very early to avoid people seeing me walking, but I did about a mile a day, and even though my body was out of alignment at first, which caused me a lot of discomfort, and even though I had to go slow at first because I was so out of shape, eventually it got easier, and I could go further. I slowly started lifting weights and then got a personal trainer for a month once I got to around 380 pounds. It was rough – very hard on my knees and back, but I kept losing weight. Around 350, I started to reevaluate how I was eating, and that’s when I started to look hard at what I “knew” about diet and nutrition, and since my mom lost weight following the Atkins diet, I gave it a try.

The results were nearly meteoric. I lost weight very quickly, and started lifting weights 4-5 times a week. I went from 350 to 300 in two months, had more energy, gained on my lifts, and was actually eating healthfully for the first time since my grandmother cooked meals for me as a kid. I was monitoring my carbs and my protein intake, and eating vegetables. Following weight-lifting and low carb eating, I dropped down to 249 pounds – the best I’d been in my adult life, and the best shape I’d ever been in as well. I started to date, stopped needing my anxiety medication, and felt incredible.

Then, well, I had a couple of kids. I love them and their mother more than anything, but it’s difficult to stay focused when you’re not sleeping. Down to about 5 hours of sleep a night, I found it was hard to eat healthfully, focus my willpower,  and especially exercise. I’ve ballooned back up to 280, lost muscle mass, lost conditioning, and overall I feel pretty gross. My clothes are bulgy on my body, my tendency to binge-eat has come back in a very real way, and it’s getting difficult to chase my toddler around. I hate this of course, and I’ve vowed to get in shape. Not just get in shape, but get in the best shape of my life, and stay that way.

I’m starting this journey today, 10/6/15 – just about three weeks from my son’s second birthday, and about 5 months from my 32nd. I will be following a diet of my own devising – knowing that overindulgence in added sugar in the American diet is a large, if not the largest, contributor to obesity, my diet will focus on cutting it out. I will eat only whole foods, and I will still restrict my carbohydrates, but I’m not cutting healthy carbs out entirely. Because of the protein and amino acid profile, I will be including quinoa as a replacement for rice and pasta, but aside from that, grains are out. I will be focusing on eating lots of vegetables, and will be honestly trying to be as vegetarian as possible, though still allowing fish in my diet because of how insanely healthy it is, so I guess that makes me pescetarian.

Fruits, nuts, quinoa, vegetables, lean meats, eggs, dairy (as whole as possible, so no flavored yogurts or ridiculous cheeses) fish, and legumes will make up my diet for the next 30 days, and I will be following an increasingly difficult body weight program for beginners. To increase my weight loss, I will log all my food, my exercise, my mood – anything that could contribute, positively or negatively. In 30 days, and then in the four months following until I turn 32, I will go from a fat dad to a fit dad, and I will log it here. Here’s to change!

Fell off the horse, and will get back up, and eat that horse

Soooo, I spent a solid three weeks documenting my progress of clean eating, and actually spent 4 weeks doing it, but one night I made taquitos (from scratch, more or less) and they’re my downfall. One turned into 6, and then my fall was complete. My inlawsish came to town and I rationalized pizza, and that night of pizza turned into a binge, and I probably cleared 5000 calories a day for five days. I’ve gained back most of the weight I’d lost and my clothes are nearly as tight as they were at the beginning of my journey. I can feel the blood sugar spikes and how it makes me foggy and irritable, and I hate it – so what is there to do?

I plan on starting Sunday again. A coworker is doing keto for the first time, and I think hopping on with them would be a good time to start. My larger concerns are things like electrolyte deficiency and vitamin deficiency. I have considered a few options and I have come to these hypotheses:

Grains are bad, probably: I think wheat, rye, barley – all of it, but especially wheat, is probably not great for us. At best, it’s a cheap, highly insulin-spurring source of blood sugar ups and downs, which causes bloating and water retention, and more often than not is presented stripped of real nutritional value. At worst, it’s part of a huge lie that perpetuates a model of eating that encourages overconsumption of carbohydrate as a solution to metabolic disorder, but is actually the culprit. Very few people eat straight grain – it’s generally crushed into flour and eaten that way, barley and oats being the main exceptions. Even modern rice isn’t nutritionally what it was even a hundred years ago.

I do think that perhaps a few outliers are possibly good – quinoa and amaranth. Both are technically grains, but they’re far more protein-and-nutrient dense than traditional grains. I think they could warrant inclusion into a healthy diet if eaten in moderation and tempered with weight lifting and other forms of activity. Along those lines –

Exercise of some sort is probably imperative: I’ve always done the best, in terms of health, mental wellbeing, and overall weight loss, when I was lifting weights 3-5 times a week. I lost about 30 pounds in high school just lifting weights and cutting my diet back a bit, and I had previously lost a lot of weight lifting and doing low carb, but now I’m strapped for time and it’s hard to find room to fit exercise in.
Except it’s not, not really. I am strapped for time, but I find myself in a lot of stretches of a half-hour or more, where I could lift or go for a job, or just do bodyweight exercises, and I don’t. I do something else – watch an episode of a show, play some Hearthstone or Pokemon, whatever. I think a big part of the American aversion to exercise is our mentality of “go,go,go – no time!” but it’s simply not true. While a lot of people maybe do have every extra minute mapped out during the day, I think most of us can realize that we do have a lot of inefficient time-usage that we could make more productive. I used to do squats at my desk, 15-30 every half-hour/hour, depending. I felt great and didn’t have the leg pain or back issues that I have now.

Based on that, I think weight lifting, 3-4 times a week on an ABA schedule with a depletion workout on Fridays would be best. I know that I will likely be eating beans and quinoa, so I would need to find a use for the carbs in that food. I don’t plan on doing carb-ups (and that’s another post entirely) but a baseline of carbs over the ideal 20g or less will need to be spent in order to facilitate the speed at which I want to lose weight. Keeping my average carbs low but spiking my carbs a little bit here and there might help build muscle. You can only realistically build muscle in a caloric surplus, so it’s not technically possible to build muscle tissue on a caloric deficit. If, however, I were eating to fill and not necessarily obeying caloric macros, and I was lifting, and I ate in excess, it’s possible that I wouldn’t gain fat and instead spur muscle synthesis. There is research to support this though it’s generally poo-pooed because it’s both difficult to prove and probably incremental compared to the gains you would get if you were eating for mass and not for cutting.

Along with quinoa, I think beans might be a good thing: I’ve always liked black beans and kidney beans, and I really don’t like chili unless it has beans, which I guess is blasphemous but whatever. I’ve tried a lot of keto chili recipes and they’re ok, but I miss beans. There’s a lot of snobbery about beans in the modern dieting world – paleo thinks they’re full of toxins that are designed to hurt animals that would eat them, and they’re full of carbs, so usually off-limits for traditional keto dieters. They’re incredibly healthy, however, nutrient-dense, fibrous, and full of protein. Not to mention, what I would like to do is cut out meat. I want to go largely pescetarian, and they’re a decent source of vegetable protein.

Again, I wouldn’t be eating them daily, but I think that on a lifting day, and a few times a week, they could fill holes in my nutrition and get me some good plant protein. Plus they’re cheap like whoa.

Fruits are healthy, too, in moderation: There’s really nothing to be said about fruit that hasn’t been said. Most people on very low carb diets deny fruit as being useless sources of sugar, but whole fruit is filled with healthy nutrition and fiber, things you don’t get out of juice. Again, not to say I want to sit down and eat a whole melon, but in moderation, I think it will be fine.


In summation, my goals here are to change my diet to be more like my grandparents’ diets – full of healthy, whole foods, fresh vegetables and fruit, and, borrowing from a more modern approach to food science, lower in carbs, devoid of processed carbs (and most processed foods in general) and allowing for some ancient-but-modern grains like quinoa. I think this strikes a good balance between a low tech, grassroots way of eating that nourished previous generations and a high tech, biohacking sort of view of getting nutrients. So much eating is now centered on how our ancestors ate (paleo, I’m looking at you) but without regard to advances made that help us in regards to further developments in food science. The whole picture is what we should be looking at – how we can incorporate new science with old world understanding of eating close to home, farm to table, and without tons of gross additives, either in the soil or in the cooking process.


I have officially started on this way of eating today, August 13th, 2015. I will weigh in and get measurements tomorrow, and see where I am at in 30 days.

30 days of clean eating – day 10

Good morning! Today was pretty solid (ish). I had to go to work but my son was in a GREAT mood, so we played for a while before we left the house. That always elevates my mood. No workout today – I had to make a stop before work and I didn’t have time. No worries, though, because I had roofers coming over to check on the leaking, and I spent four hours running around, cleaning the house, moving beds, and mowing the lawn. I was a sweaty mess, but it was a great to get my lungs working and feeling physically tired at bedtime.

Coffee, 24 oz, 1 tbsp butter, 1.5 tbsp coconut oil, 2tbsp cream

Cheddar burger, Hyvee 6oz
Low carb wrap
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1 roma tomato
1 tbsp mayo
1 oz mocha almonds

Porkchop, 8 oz
Ranch dressing, 2 tbsp
Peanut butter, 4 tbsp
Refried beans, 1/2 cup
Cream, 2 tbsp

Calories: 2051
Fat: 162
Carbs: 59
Fiber: 19
Protein: 108

Something that I have noticed over the years of doing keto as a way of eating is that my threshold for sweating is a lot lower, particularly when it’s humid. Less physical activity causes my body to get hot much more quickly, and I’ve often found myself waking up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night (which was terrifying because I used to be borderline obsessed with my health, so I always thought it meant I had cancer). It’s definitely something that I find more and more common when I’m in ketosis, and especially when I’m just starting on a lifting routine – I will be drenched in sweat within 10 minutes. It normalizes after a while, but then my body seems primed for the rest of the day to sweat easily, and I’ve always gotten hot quickly anyway (a trait I’ve passed onto my son and daughter, apparently). It’s something to consider that if you’re getting hot and flushed easily, it’s very possible it’s the ketosis, and though I’m not 100% on the mechanism that causes this, I feel like it’s something worth studying a bit and making a full blog post for the topic.

Today I stayed under for calories, for I think the first time since this whole thing started, so that’s awesome! I didn’t get my protein goals again, did better on fiber, and probably should make it a point to eat some more salad this weekend, as my energy has been dipping and I need magnesium and potassium probably pretty badly.

30 days of clean eating – day 11

Today was rushed – starting to sense a pattern? Believe it or not, we’ve actually gotten better about house maintenance and getting ready in the morning/at night. Establishing routines has helped a lot, and for me, making dinner and lunch the night before makes it much more likely I’ll stay on track with keto and not just resort to eating at McDonald’s or throwing a pizza in the oven, or something similarly unappealing. Relatively soon, we are transitioning back to a fully vegetarian diet as a family, so I will be posting meals on here, with pictures and everything, like a real boy! There’s not a lot out there about doing low carb while maintaining a vegetarian diet, so I think that I can help people in similar situations out. That’s the goal, anyway.

Butter coffee, 24 oz coffee, 1.5 tbsp coconut oil, 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp cream

Porkchop, 8 oz
Butter, 1 tbsp
Cauliflower mash, 1.5 cups

Taquito (for shame)
Hyvee cheddar burger, 6oz
Root beer float (heavy cream) 2 tbsp
Mayo 1tbsp
Ranch 1tbsp
Roasted cauliflower about 1.5 cups
Peanut butter, 4 tbsp

Calories: 2146
Fat: 175
Carbs: 53
Fiber: 8
Protein: 100

Not sure if it’s the total exhaustion of carbs or the weather (humid, rainy, allergy-aggravating) but I was dead tired tonight. I barely had the energy to finish the dishes and get the house cleaned up in a very minor fashion. I know I only sleep about 4.5-6 hours a night (and 6 is pretty rare), but I was extra mega tired today.

This brings a bit of attention to making sure my electrolytes are being maintained and paid proper attention. Making sure you get a decent amount of magnesium, potassium, and sodium daily can really make the physical and mental difference when you’re transitioning into and maintaining ketosis, in terms of energy and mental clarity. A lot of people supplement, and that’s fine, but you can get most/all of what you need from whole food sources.

So today wasn’t that good in terms of diet. I stayed under my emergency threshold of 50 carbs, but barely. It’s a good exercise in recognizing insidious, hidden carbs/calories of the little bit here and there: a dollop of mayo, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a bite of cheese. This all adds up and is often the last refuge of stubborn fat, before people realize all the little bites that they’re not paying attention to or tracking when they’ve stalled on weight loss.

I didn’t make my protein goal today, either. Grumble, grumble.
On the plus side, I have an actual blog post that’s not this that I’m working on, so that will be fun!

30 days of clean eating – day 9

Alright! I was supposed to weigh in yesterday, but I didn’t, so I did today. Here are my stats:

Weight: 262.6
16.5Chest: 48.5

I only took these measurements because I didn’t have time to get the rest this morning. In any case, they are an improvement over my baseline. As of 7/6/15 I was:

Weight: 270

Not a drastic change, but good for one week of barely-compliant eating. I realize the weight drop is probably due to water being flushed when I spent all my glycogen, but I do appear to have lost some fat. I’m hoping that being far more compliant this week, along with introducing some exercise, will cause better losses later down the line. I also recognize that weight lifting this week can, after the hiatus I’ve had, cause water retention and swelling, and I expect these things to affect my measurements and weigh-in next time. Since I’ll be doing a 2 week induction, I won’t measure or weigh again until 7/28/15.

Breakfast:Butter coffee – 24 oz coffee, 1 tbsp butter, 1.5 tbsp coconut oil, 2 tbsp cream

2 cups spinach
1 roma tomato
1 cup tuna salad (tuna, mayo, dill relish)
12 green olives
1/4 cup blue cheese
3 tbsp bacon crumbles
2 hardboiled eggs

Hard salami x 3Shredded cheese 1 cup
2 tbsp cream
4 tbsp peanut butter


Fast start: 9:30 pm

Today was peculiar – my son was not wanting to go to bed, so we played WAY later than we should have, which, by the time it was my dinner time, I just wasn’t really that hungry. I melted cheese on some salami and ate that with some peanut butter for desert. One thing I’ve noticed is that I can easily go until 1 or 2 on just my butter coffee. As soon as I actually START exercising, I should see some pretty good weight loss (hopefully).

One nice thing about this way of eating is that the lowness of the carbs, coupled with the steadily high amount of protein, means very little muscle loss, and on the days you exceed calories, if you’re lifting weights or exercising in general, the excess calories, again in theory, should be used for muscle synthesis. This means you could technically lose fat while gaining muscle. There’s a LOT more to it than that, and I will make probably several blog posts just about the theory behind gaining muscle while in ketosis, but that’s the basic thought process.

30 days of clean eating – day 8 (introduction of … induction?)

Today I decided to get more serious. Having proved to myself that I could avoid binging and carbing up on a weekend, this shouldn’t be difficult, but it means a drastic drop in carbs and a new found strictness, which might be more irritating than actually methodologically difficult. In addition to cutting carbs and trying to restrain my caloric intake, I will be adding exercise. Read this, if nothing else, because this is pretty crucial:

On any diet, simultaneously restricting calories while starting an exercise program is not a good idea in any scenario unless you’re a seasoned cutter/bulker, like a professional weight lifter.

Why am I doing it like this? 2 reasons: 1 is that I won’t be doing a ton of exercise, at least not at first, and that particular exercise will be walking and lifting, and 2, I’m cutting my calories down under my BMR, nothing significantly more strict that that. Since I began this process, I have been consistently 1000 calories over my target of roughly 2,600/day. That’s not cool. I need a better framework within which to work, and so a good keto macro calculator is probably what the doctor ordered:
http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/ is the calculator I used. These are the macros it’s giving me for a 20% caloric deficit, and “fast weight loss with moderate difficulty”. Yeah, bring it on, robot.

Calories: 2137
Fat: 160
Carbs: 25
Protein: 150

This amount of protein should spare muscle destruction during a caloric deficit, and this ratio should keep me pretty sated, hunger-wise, during the day. So I’m only about 400 calories under what my basal metabolic rate is, and that’s really nothing, plus I entered my activity level as “sedentary”. I have a desk job, but I have a standing desk, which adds a decent amount of caloric expenditure over sitting all day, and my nights are usually me chasing a toddler or going on walks, so I am above baseline, but I’d rather be safe in assuming my energy expenditure.
Protip: If you want to calculate your BMR in a quick and dirty fashion, just take your weight and multiply it by 10 for women, and 12 for men. That’s the traditional way, but I think 10 is probably best for everyone. You’d rather underestimate your BMR than overestimate and try and find out later why you weren’t losing weight based on calories that were above the mark. That said, there’s another method to my madness.

It is proposed by popular low carb diets, that you can magically lose weight by eating low carb, even if you’re eating above maintenance calories (the amount of calories needed to maintain your current weight). There’s a lot of science here, particularly regarding hormones like insulin, and there’s people on both sides of the fence. On one hand, losing weight faster than the math suggests you’re breaking the law of conservation of matter – somehow you’re burning more than you should based on all the math that says otherwise, you magicwizard person, you. On the other hand, since fat storage is largely a mechanism of excessive blood sugar and insulin shuttling it into fat cells when it can’t be used (that’s a VERY watered down version of the whole of it), then without the presence of high levels of insulin and sugar, it’s possible that the body simply doesn’t have anything to store.
There is of course a third possibility (probably several more, but I’m concerned with this one) – that you’re losing more weight on low carb because, despite the fact that you feel like you’re eating a ton of rich food, your appetite is significantly less than what it used to be, and your perception of food intake hasn’t matched the reality of a blunted desire for food. In addition, without massive blood sugar swings, you’re not running around trying to sate growling hunger all the time.

Butter coffee – 24oz coffee, 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp coconut oit

2 oz kielbasa
1 cup sauerkraut
2 ounces tuna salad (tuna, mayo, dill relish)
1 hardboiled egg
1 oz sharp cheddar

3 scrambled eggs
1/2 cup shredded colby
4 slices hard salami
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tbsp cream (for rootbeer float)

Calories: 2503
Fat: 238
Carbs: 19
Fiber: 0

Hmmm – well, we were under carbs, so that’s good, and a bit under protein, and a bit over fat. Just a caloric excess, but again, far better than the standard American diet, and still improving from previous. I didn’t do any exercise today, as we’re having roofing issues and, well, I really don’t have a great excuse. This is the thing – it’s really easy to invent a reason to not exercise, but I was pretty consistently at least doing squats at my desk at work, and I haven’t done that in a while. Stress eats at you and encapsulates you in a blanket of “meh”, and you start to realize that you’re not doing things that help your stress, and that compounds everything. I WILL make time for this stuff tomorrow, at least some lifting, to get my mind focused. Food is decent, exercise is bad, and both need monitored and improved upon.