I lost 50 pounds in 5 months using the techniques listed here.
I had spent 5+ years eating poorly and not exercising. Then a coworker started a weight loss competition at work. I worked hard and did well in the competition, but far
more important was what I learned about health and fitness. I had all the signs of insulin resistince, pancreas burnout, liver fattening, and heart attack risk. And I didn't realize how much general fatigue I also had until it was gone. Nor did I realize how sustainable the alternative is--watch, you'll see. My hope is that others can benefit from what I learned. If you do your own searching, you might find what I found. But I hope that by compiling the best-of what I found, you can find what works for you even faster. For more information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Work in progress. This page is a work in progress as of November 2018, but the core of the program is definitely here. As I add new content, I'll mark it with a "New" indicator and the month so you know what has changed when you visit across time. If you see a particular item listed but not linked or explained, but it is important to you, let me know and I'll make it a priority!
New as of October!
There is a perception that losing weight is about will power. With traditional dieting, this is largely true. The full picture seems to be something closer to this:
- Knowledge. The largest part of my success was due to knowledge--and that is why this page might be valuable to you.
All the hard work in the world doesn't go very far if you're doing the wrong thing. I studied all the latest thinking on diet and exercise for an hour or two a day for months on end. I found that such thinking changed dramatically in the 25 years since I was taught health and fitness in the Marine Corps. By applying all this latest thinking, you can maximize your time and effort. But instead of having to find it all yourself, I've collected it all here for you.
- Logistics. The second biggest factor was forcing myself to rearrange life logistics so that the knowledge became habit. We took things permanently off the grocery list, like cereals, and put healthy things on, like all manner of vegetables. We added many new recipes to the family cook book and experimented with many new ingredients. We planned meal times so that we didn't suddenly find it was 8:30 p.m. and all we had energy for was to make macaroni and cheese from a box. I made time to get to the gym, to bike ride, to bring stretch bands to the park and work out there. I bought a lot of stuff...woo hoo! Very fun, all the gear you get to buy in the name of good health. I went to bed on time so my body could recover from the workouts. All of these are just basic life planning. Push yourself through the several weeks that it takes to make them habits, and you'll be on autopilot from there.
- Will Power. And then there was the will power. You need about two weeks of willpower to get past the carb addiction. Once you master the logistics around eating all manner of yummy fats during your feasting window, not much will power is needed in terms of food. Some will power is needed to get to the gym, but I argue if you solve the logistics, you'll get to the gym. The main thing is you won't have that constant hunger that most diets have, and that's the key to not needing as much will power.
- Responsibility. You need to find your Zen. For me, my family responsibilities were a key part of my motivation. I don't care much about how I look, and when I'm dead, I won't know it, so for the most part I don't really care how fat I get. But for whatever reason, my wife likes having me around. And I figure I also have to stick around long enough to get kids through through college. So the gnawing instinct of personal responsiblity was a useful part of all this. What is your purpose for being healthy? Only you know. But finding it is very helpful.
I have found the following authors to be my favorites on these topics. They all do videos. I find that videos are much more effective than reading when it comes to learning about health and fitness. While I do link to a number of their videos below, I believe you will also find many good things if you just watch any of the videos they publish, so do click around their sites and YouTube channels.
- Dr. Eric Berg. The gentle advice giver. Picks one targted topic at a time, and slowly walks through it on his white board. I find him useful for detailed advice on specific needs.
- Dr. Jason Fung. The bomb thrower. Very direct with his opinion. Happy to insult anyone who disagrees. Willing to scare you. But he's a medical professional whose whole career is about dealing with obesity, diabeties, and kidney issues. I find him useful for the big-picture review of how the body works and why.
- Thomas DeLauer. The scientific jock. Focuses on applying the science of diet and exercise to athletic performance. He's neither a doctor nor a scientist, but is very factual in his analysis. I find him useful for practical and often very targeted application of the science.
- Jeff Cavaliere. The manly-man jock. A physical therapist who works with professional athletes. He provides a very practical view of how to exercise. He considers the risk inherent in exercise, which I appreciate as someone hovering around the age of 50. He also focuses on diversity of exercise and balance among the areas of the body, which I'm a big believer in. I find him useful for adding lots of safe and diverse exercises to my routine and understanding the specific value of each exercise.
Stop eating so often
. That's not to say so much
, but so often
, If you keep hitting your body with food, it can't properly rest and recover. The up-side is that when you eat, you can eat heartily, thus you won't always be hungry. This is part of what makes this program sustainable over time versus traditional caloric restriction diets.
- Overview with Dr. Jung. A conversational overview of how fasting works. He is obviously incorporating a great deal of science, but puts it in simple terms. This is a good place to start as it gives a coherent top-level view. It's a bit long, but if you watch it at 1.5 or 2.0 times speed, you can get through it much faster.
- Overview with Dr. Berg. A detailed analysis of the mechanics of moving into and being in the intermittent fasting process. Where Dr. Jung is more the high-level flow, Dr. Berg is more the concrete action plan.
- Overview with Thomas DeLauer. The two doctors above are focused on health, where looking good is a side effect. DeLauer is focused more on fat loss and body building, where intermittent fasting is a means to an end. Despite having more of a jock view, DeLauer still references science often, lest he be accused of issuing bro-advice.
- Let your body feed itself. As you listen to the various videos, listen for the following theme. Hunger is not a signal to eat. Rather, hunger is a signal that your body needs energy. As your body becomes adapted to fasting windows and to using fat as energy, don't react to hunger by eating. Instead, give your body 20 to 30 minutes to find energy from within your existing fat stores. If the hunger gets worse, then consider eating. But often, you might find it goes away, and that's because when you didn't feed it, your body moved on to using your stored fat instead. Even better than just waiting, try this next technique:
- Exercise through hunger. As you listen to the various videos, observe the references to our evolutionary past and the implications it has for how to be healthy today. I'll reference this notion several more times below, but the key one here is this. When our ancestors got hunger signals from their bodies, what did they do? Make a quick run to the refrigerator and be back before the commercial break was over? No! For millions of years, being hungry meant forraging through the wilderness for hours in search of food, then chasing that food and beating on that food to kill it. That is, for millions of years, the signal from the brain that you're hungry was met with exercise. You can emulate that behavior today. If you get hungry, exercise. I actually made this a planned habit. On the days where I would stop eating early, I knew I would probably be hungry before bedtime. So half way between my early dinner and bedtime, I would plan exercise. For me, a three-mile, moderate-pace bike ride was perfect. I would go for the ride a bit hungry, but come back fine for the next two hours or so--enough to get to bed. If you get hungry in your fasting windows, exercise instead of eating. And even make it part of your exercise planning.
- Don't worry about muscle loss. Many people worry that intermittent fasting will cause muscle loss. Dr. Berg asserts that the body won't even consider muscle as a fuel source until you've been fasting for four days. He even argues that the production of growth hormone that comes with fasting will help build muscle. Dr. Fung argues that even if the body does need to convert protien to carbs, there are many other sources of protien in the body that it will use before using muscle DeLauer does say in one if his videos there may be some slight muscle loss as the body gets into a fat-adapted state, but this is minimal, and well worth the transition to fat adaptation. See also: (link), (link).
- You may actually gain muscle faster. I'm not talking about large-scale body building, though it may work for that too (link). But for the average person just working to stay in good shape, indications are that muscle growth may be better with intermittent fasting than under normal conditions.See also: (link).
- Start slowly and work up. The standard process is 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of feasting. Don't try to start with 16 hours unless you're already in good shape. I started with 12 hours by eating dinner before 7 p.m. and not eating breakfast until after 7 a.m. And don't attempt aggresive carb reduction at the same time. I was still having toast with breakfast and rice dinner as I eased into it. Then I worked up from there. I move breakfast closer and closer to just before the usual 9 a.m. meeting. I moved dinner back closer to 6 p.m. on week nights, and 5 p.m. on weekends. When I'm working toward a hard goal, I'll buy two salads at lunch and eat one for dinner before 4 p.m. That means I'm just drinking water at the family dinner, which is a sacrifice I'm not willing to make long term, so I don't do it often, and those are the tradeoffs we all have to consider. After about two months I was easily able to hit 16 hours, and even 20 hours without too much effort. I even found some days I just did two meals because that was all I needed and it fit the schedule nicely, and it wasn't a problem at all. As with so many things that adjust the body, start slowly and work up.
- Have a written eating and exercise plan. Reaserch indicates those with goals accomplish more than those without goals. It further indicates that those who write their goals down accomplish more than those who don't write them down. And that does not just mean lofty, long-term objectives, but goals day-by-day and hour-by-hour as well. I had a method of tracking both my overall health-related behaviors, as well as a method more focused on exercise. These are here. They are not self-explanatory, but should make some sense when you read through them. Take them if they work for you. Ignore them if they don't. Adapt them to your particular needs if you do use them. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for others. But whatever you do, have a detailed plan and work it through.
- Healthy Behaviors spreadsheet. A daily checklist of the behaviors to meet your goals of being healthy.
- Exercise Tracking spreadsheet. A daily checklist of exercises to choose from to meet your goals of being fit. Be sure to diversify. The checklist has over two dozen exercises. You should only do a few in any given session and push them to exhaustion. This means that across sessions, you won't be working the same muscle groups in the same way.
The obvious items that everyone knows are here--less sugar, fewer carbs, more salad. The less obvious items are what you can add--lots of butter, fats, and salt! I found it quite easy to give up sugar for butter and salt! And there are so many delicious fats that I found it acceptable to give up carbs. And if you smother your salad in healthy fats, it can be quite good. More compelling is the science behind what these things do to the body. It's one thing to hear echos of your mother's voice telling you not to snack before dinner and eat your vegetables. It's another thing to listen to the medical and scientific information and realize that some foods you wouldn't suspect are really bad, and that some things you've been avoiding are really good.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar has a high glycemic index and is about half fructose, which is completely worthless to the body and just overloads the liver. If you must have something fun, you can have lots of fats and salt on this program, and even regular simple carbs that are not full of fructose are better. But actual sugars, and particularly high fructose sugars, need to be severly limited.
- Eat big salads. You MUST eat salad, and a lot of it. The main reason to eat salad is that your body needs a large amount of potassium every day. It needs other nutrients too, but if you just focus on potassium and get enough through vegatables, you'll get enough of everything else, except possibly magnesium, which is discussed below. Please watch this video to understand the value of postassium. The most critical thing to note is that it is NOT enough to just take in protein and fat on a low-carb diet. You're body needs the nutrients that come from vegatables. And not the "fun" vegatables either. Not things like corn, peas, and carrots, which are full of carbs. And not the beans at the salad bar--which are beans and not actually vegatables. But the hard-core stuff like spinach, kale, radishes, mushrooms and so on. You must east a huge salad every day. Don't worry, the great escape here is that good fats are highly encouraged, and you can make great dressings with fats. See below for dressing tips.
- Increase fats dramatically. This is the huge win in this program!
Although you're being asked to stop sugar and most carbs, you get to add fat, and a lot of it. Yes, that means breads, pastas, rice, pastries, all need to go. Which sounds horrible until you realize you get butter, cheese, cream, beef, bacon, salads smothered in dressing, and other fat-based recepies that many diets put off limits. And below, you'll see that you get lots of salt to. So reframe the question: can you give up sugar and carbs for virutally unlimited fats and salt?
For me, it's a great trade!
- Don't worry about cholesterol. New as of October!
When people hear that they are to increase fats dramatically, they often express concern about cholesterol. This is a false concern based on limited science that took off decades ago and has taught us many wrong things. The cholesterol numbers you get from normal blood work assume that cholesterol is bad. It's not. It's a critical part of the body's function. The problem is when it sticks to your arteries. It sticks to your arteries when you eat too much sugar and not enough salads--both of which you will address if you follow this program. When your numbers do come in when you're on intermittent fasting and keto, you should expect your HDL and triglycerides to be normal, and your LDL to be through the roof! Note that LDL is the so-called 'bad' cholesterol, which makes it seem scary. But high LDL is normal when you're eating lots of fat, and is only an issue if it is sticking to your arteries. We don't normally get the blood work that differentiates LDL in a way that lets us know whether the LDL is sticking, but a really good clue is this: If your HDL and triglycerides are normal, your LDL is just likely flowing nicely through your arteries, not sticking. For a very compelling explaination of why you shouldn't worry about LDL when on IF and keto, see: (Dr. Berg on cholesterol measures),(Dr. Berry on cholesterol measures).
- Reduce gluten. New as of October!
If you have any medical problem or persistent issue you can't seem to kick, get off gluten now! Gluten can manifest itself in all sorts of terrible ways that vary by person. All my life, I thought that getting really tired after eating was normal. It's not. Getting really lethargic is what happens to me when I eat gluten, which most of my meals had contained. If I cut out the gluten, I'm fine. My wife for years suffered from intense depression, even with multiple medications. We got her off gluten and she got so much better that we stopped the medications and the symptoms were gone. The list goes on: joint pain, cramps, cronic pain, weight gain, you name it. If you have issues, and nothing seems to work, cut out gluten 100% and see what happens. You may experience a miracle. I'll warn you now, gluten-free is rarely as good as with gluten, but here are some great products that make getting rid of gluten possible without being so bad:
- Have a written eating and exercise plan. Reaserch indicates those with goals accomplish more than those without goals. It further indicates that those who write their goals down accomplish more than those without goals. And goes does not just mean lofty, long-term objectives, but goals day-by-day and hour-by-hour as well. I had a method of tracking both my overall health-related behaviors, as well as a method more focused on exercise. These are here. They are not self-explanatory, but should make some sense when you read through them. Take them if they work for you. Ignore them if they don't Adapt them to your particular needs if you do use them--what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for others. But whatever you do, have a detailed plan and work it through.
- Reduce carbs. New as of November!
Sugars are the worst carbs, but as noted above, sugar has to go for its own reasons. Assume that's gone. The next major wave of carbs to go must be grains. We have been told for decades that grains are good--wheat, corn, rice. No. These spike insulin and don't have a great deal of micronutrients. They burn up fast in the digestive system, leaving you hungry and making bad food choices in no time. Now, good vegetables have carbs too, but don't worry about those. Non-starch, non-bean vegetables come with lots of fiber, micronutrients, and have complex carb types, so they are good. But you must cut out pasta, bread, rice, wheat, corn, cereals, oatmeal, and similar things. Cut out milk too--it's full of sugar. Don't be fooled by sweetened yogurts, they're full of sugar. It's good to reduce or eliminate beans as well. Beans seem like vegetables as they sit there on the salad bar, but they're legums, and full of carbs.
- Limit protein to 3-6 ounces per meal. New as of October!
Some programs that focus on lowering carbs either advocate or allow a very substantial increase in protein. This is a mistake. The body can only take in a few dozen grams of protein in a typical meal time frame. This translates to about 3-6 ounces of high-protein food in your meal, such as a burger or a chicken breast. Any protein over that amount is converted to carbs--which immediately undermines the carb reduction you're working on. Limit protein intake to 3-6 ounces per meal, and focus much more on vegetables and fats instead. See also: (link),
- Limit snacking. New as of November!
Not even healthy things! That's right, "snacking" is not just another word for "bad food". Here we mean that even good, healthy foods like the ones being advocated here must NOT be consumed as snacks. Every time you eat, you engage your pancreas. If you eat snacks, even healthy ones, and do this often, you're beating on your pancreas. Instead, eat very hearty meals, including lots and lots of good fats that take hourse to burn. Do this, and you won't be hungry between meals, and will find it easy to simply not snack.
- Increase butter. New as of November!
As noted, fats are key to getting lots of energy without a high insulin response. And one of the best fats is butter. It contains many of the best fats, and is delicious. Use grass fed butter to get the most Omega-3 fatty acids. This does not mean butter substitutes that are made with vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are full of Omega-6 and are bad. This means real, actual from-the-cow butter.
- Stop artificial sweeteners. New as of November!
In eliminating sugar, don't start using artificial sweeteners. They may even be worse than sugar as they are not really food, so your body can't process them. They go straight to the liver and cause toxicity load. Instead, use natural non-sugar sweeteners. These are provided below. But the key point here is to not consider artificial sweeteners a good alternative to sugar sweeteners.
- Increase salt, but ensure it's natural. New as of November!
Salt is a critical part of keeping electrolytes in balance. Salt has been given a bad name because if you’re inflamed due to sugar and carbs, then salt adds to the problem. But the core problem is the sugar, not the salt. Cut out the sugar and simple carbs, and the salt can be increased dramatically. Not only can salt be increased, but it should be. Be sure to use sea salt. Do not use table salt. Table salt is pure sodium chloride and is combined with aluminum. Instead, use sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, which have a mix of other minerals and no added aluminum. See also: (link).
- Use MCT oil. Discuss.
- Take magnesium. Discuss.
- Drink bone broth. Discuss.
- Drink to thirst only. Discuss.
- Don't worry about nitrates/nitrites. Discuss.
- Avoid soy. Discuss.
Commentary on this section.
- Understand LISS and HIIT. New as of October!
I did an amazing amount of exercise--to the point where I worried a number of times I was over training.But as long as you don't overtrain, doing a lot of exercise is key, obviously, because it burns energy.However, there are two major ways to exercise, and they do different things.To keep it simple: do both and alternate them.Diversity in exercise is good for the body.But in particular, certain techniques can be maximized by using them in certain ways.But it all starts with a basic understanding of LISS and HIIT, so get to know them here first.
- Do LISS while deeply fasted. I like to think of this in terms of basic bro science: if you exercise with food in your digestive system, you're digestive system, your body will naturally use that instead of burning fat off your body. But if you exercise deeply fasted, your body has no choice but to burn the fat on your body. The actual science is both more complicated and more exciting. But that is the essence of it. The other argument that is highly compelling is that growth hormone gets much higher when fasting. This means that when you're working out and recovering, your body can get full benefit from it.
- Don't worry about reduced performance. I estimate that my workout performance is 20% to 30% worse when I exercise fasted--but that doesn't matter.If your goal is general health and fat loss, exercising while fully fasted is the goal. If you lift less, don't run as far, or otherwise perform less, why does that matter? You're getting the maximum impact of leaning out, and if that's your goal, you're getting it. But do understand some performance reduction happens, and that's okay I find if I later work out in a non-fasted state, I get all that performance back--but then I'm not getting the fat burning.
- Do HIIT while feasting, perhaps even with carbs. Discuss.
- Work up to Tabata. Discuss. See also: (link),
- Engage key muscles before moving. New as of November!
Several experts discuss in various videos the idea of engaging muscles before using them in an exercise. This turns out to be critically important, particularly for someone like me who was approaching the age of 50 and didn't exercise for many years. The best example is engaging the muscles in the shin area before doing squats. This balances the forces across the knee. If you don't engage the shin muscles, all the force on the knee comes from the thigh muscle that will do most of the work in the squat. Squat-like movements always gave me knee trouble, but with this technique, I have been able to progress very well with squats. I found this also works well with other joints as well, particuarly the wrists and hands. These are humble joints, but are your attachment point for all upper body exercises, so it's valuable to use them properly. Turns out, my mother-in-law knows this technique too. Not to bulk up at the gym! But rather it was advice from her doctor to take care of her knees when using stairs as she ages. Learn which muscles are valuable to engage before your first move on a weight lifting exercise, and engage them as a normal part of exercising.
Commentary on this section.
- Butter. Discuss.
- Salt. Discuss.
- Stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener. But be careful! Some brands mix it with things like cane sugar, which defeats the purpose. Use stevia pervasively. I have found it is more sweet than sugar, though it is a bit different. It may take some getting used to, but not much. It's an amazing alternative to sugar, with no downsides.
- Heavy Whipping Cream. Discuss.
- Cheese. Discuss.
- Cream cheese. Discuss.
- Bacon. Discuss.
- Bone broth. Discuss.
- Avacado salad dressings. Discuss.
- Lard. Discuss.
Commentary on this section.
- Butter Bone Broth. The bone broth provides much needed collagen. The butter gives a long fat burn. Throw in some bacon bits for even more flavor. Salt to an extreme. Almost a meal in itself.
- Candied Pecans. New as of November!
Pecans are the best nut on keto. Then you coat them in natural sweetener. Even my fussy five-year-old loved them.
- Chocolate Brittle. Coconut oil makes the perfect transport for cocoa. You'll want to eat this like a kid with Halloween candy. But you can't because the satiation signal will hit your brain so hard.
- Herbal Tea. Ok, not really a recipe. But it's great to keep lots of these around. Be sure to use ones with no carbs. Try not to sweeten too much. Even natural sweeteners can cause an small insulin reponse. Enjoy the flavors as nature intended.
- Herbal Iced Tea. Many herbal teas actually make good iced teas. This is particularly true for the fruity ones. Iced tends to need more sweetener. So I tend to sweeten them much more than hot herbal tea, but only consumer them shortly after meals when insulin is high anyway.
- Ogre's Delight. New as of November!
Ogre's are green and and mean, just like this tasty treat that is green from the avacado and mean from the combination of jalepenos, horseradish, and onion powder. But under it all is lots of smooth cream cheese--because "ogres have layers".
- Peppermint Mocha. New as of November!
Start with coffee. Add cocoa, heavy whipping cream, natural sweetener, and peppermint oil.Makes the perfect drink on a cold day during the holidsy season.
- Pumpkin Pie. The pumpkin pie experience derives mostly from the pumpkin and the spices.
- Strawberry Cheesecake. The coconut oil comes through a bit more in this than the healthy substitutes do in other recipes. But the satiation of coconut oil make for a much more satisfying experience overall.
Commentary on this section.
- Check your heart attack risk. When I started working out heavily after years of not working out, I worried I could do more harm than good. In this test from Dr. Berg, you can do an informal check for yourself. Run your heart rate up for one minute. Take your pulse. Wait one minute. Take your pulse again. If the difference between those pulse rates is less than 20, you should worry. Watch the video for the exact procedure and the meaning of rates of recovery.
- Handle keto rash. Some people when they go into heavy ketosis experience can experience iching and hives. I did. So have three friends of mine. It is not well researched or understood, but the best hypothesis and course of action I found comes from Dr. Berg. Naturally, the fast way out of this is to eat carbs. It went away for me in 36 hours by quickly bringing back rice and bread. But the trick to staying in ketosis and not having the rash appears to be in having proper nutrients.
- Manage cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone. It has the wonderful (sarcasm!) effect of creating the kind of fat that resides on the belly. Berg mentions several practical steps to reducing cortisol. But another huge aspect of this for me was learning how to reduce life stresses. This will vary for everyone, so you have to figure out what it means for you. For me it was: Learning to do "instant relaxation" where I can use meditation techniques in real-time to just relax for about 10 seconds. The effect of that 10 seconds then lasts for much longer. Focusing on the things I love about work rather than the many Dilbert moments. Investing more time in my kids to teach them about good behavior rather than getting mad at them after the fact. Again, your needs will be different--but the critical thing is to find ways to reduce your stress. That will reduce cortisol, which will help reduce belly fat.
- Address dry skin with vitamin A.. Discuss.
- Go slower if you're a woman. Discuss.
- Use a green suppliment. Discuss.
- Take magnesium. Discuss.
New as of November!
Most people can lose weight if they focus on the task. Can that change be permanent? I tackle that question here.
- Fats beat carbs. Don't think about "giving up" carbs, but of "trading carbs for fat". I say this above, but it bears repeating in the context of long-term change. I love fats! Low-carb dieting often talks about what to give up--all those carb items. And yes, those are tough to give up. But you GET all the fat items. And I LOVE fatty foods. So the biggest thing that gives me hope for long-term change is all fats and fatty meats I've been able to add on this program. Bring on the butter and bacon!
- The many-small-meals error is corrected. I used to believe--and you've probably heard it too--that you should eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism up. Wrong. I now know this is a recepie for pancreas burnout and weight gain. I simply used to do this because I thought it was right. I now just don't do it. There is no willpower or planning involved. So I believe the change to a few big meals is a permanent change I can make, because the only reason I was doing it the other way was because I was wrong.
- The grocery list is changed. Some things just never come in the house. Discuss.
- The cookbook has many new recipes. Discuss.
- The hard-to-find items are found. Discuss.
- More to come.... Discuss.
- Define long-term change. I was 225 pounds on 25-May-18. I was 185 pounds on 10-Sep-18. That is 40 pounds, which was my goal. I now consider 10-Sep my annual weigh-in point. I will consider the change long-term if on every 10-Sep, I'm under 185. Such that I'm never over 190 throughout the year. Note, I went on to reach 175 on 26-Oct-18, for a 50 pound loss in 5 months (and a day).