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. 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
Keto Checklist. Print this document now! Use it as your checklist as you go. The checklist is the one-page view that consolidates the detailed information below. Use the checklist to know the short version of what to do in order of priority, and the rest of this page as the details that provide a more complete understanding.
About moderation. You don't have to do this all at once!
This page contains hundreds of hours of research on my part. Even just to read this page thoughtfully will take you quite a few hours. But you do NOT have to do all of it, and even the parts you do select do not have to be done all at once. I spent many weeks easying into these changes--I was still eating Doritos daily two months in! I have attempted to put in some sense of priority in all this information. For example, the items in the Keto Checklist above are in priority order--if you can just do one, do the first one. If you can just do two, do the second one, and so on. The same goes for the sections on this page. Intermittent fasting appears before low-carb nutrition becuase fasting is more important. Nutrition appears before exercise because nutrition is more important. And within each section, items are in priority order--work on the early ones more than the later ones. This is NOT an all-or-nothing deal. More is better, but anything is good. If you do nothing but cut out sugar and eat lots of vegetables, for example, that's a win. Celebrate the wins that are appropriate for you. Do your best. Let go of the rest.
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.
Hard work doesn't go very far if you're doing the wrong thing. I studied all the latest thinking on nutrition and exercise for an hour or two per 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 the latest thinking, you can maximize your time and effort. But instead of having to find it yourself, I've collected it 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 went to bed on time so my body could recover from the workouts. All of these are all about life planning more than anything else. 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 of eating lots of 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 that 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 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 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. Fung. 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. Fung 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: Dr. Berg on not losing muscle with IF. See also: DeLauer on not losing muscle with IF.
- 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.
- Forget calories. The current focus of our society on calories is just misguided. If you count calories, worry about calories, or think that calorie management is how you lose weight or stay healthy, you're already on the wrong track. Instead, we must focus on categories of food, types of macronutrients, macronutrient ratios, and micronutrient content. But to do that, start by letting go of your beliefs about calories. Consider this discussion with Dr. Fung that gives you the detailed behavior of the body that relates to calories. Having let go of calories, take the actions here that are much more powerful than counting calories.
- Eliminate 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. See also: Dr. Berry Keto Jump Start. Be sure to watch out for sugar in all its forms:
- 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! See also: Dr. Berg on good oils.
- Eliminate vegetable oils. We just noted that fats are your friend. But it has to be the good kinds of fats, which are animal fats like butter and fruit fats like olive oil. Strictly avoid vegetable oils such as corn oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil. Sadly, these are the very oils we were all told to use for decades as substitutes for animal fats. That advice was based on marketing, not science. Eliminate all vegetable oils, and start using avacado oil, butter, olive oil, lard, and bacon grease. For me, it's a great trade!
- Reduce gluten. 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 food is rarely as good as with gluten, but here are some great products that make getting rid of gluten possible without being so bad:
- Reduce carbs. Sugars are the worst carbs, but as noted above, sugar has to go for its own reasons. Assuming 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. 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. 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 functions like 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. Not even healthy things! That's right, "snacking" is not just another word for "bad food". Here we mean that even healthy foods 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 burning out your pancreas. Instead, eat very hearty meals, including lots of good fats that take hourse to burn. Do this, and you won't be hungry between meals, making it easier to not snack.
- Increase butter. As noted, fats are key to getting lots of energy without a high insulin response. 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. Butter means the product made from cream from a cow. This does NOT include butter substitutes that are made with vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are full of Omega-6 and are bad. Butter means real, actual, from-the-cow butter.
- Stop artificial sweeteners. 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. 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).
- Avoid soy. Soy is pervasive, and many people think it is a healthy form of protein. It is not. In fact, it's one of the worst things you can eat. Avoid soy. Get your protein from animal products instead of soy. Get your oils from animals and fruits instead of soy. Be particuarly sure to avoid soy protein isolate, often found in many protein mixes and bars.
- Use MCT oil. Among the best fats is coconut oil. Trouble is, the flavor of coconut dominates what you add it to. MCT oil is derived from coconut oil, giving all the good fat, but without the flavor overload. Adding MCT oil to just about anything helps to sustain you to the next meal, which is the key to longer intermittent fasting windows and less temptation to snack between meals. I found that once I was fat adapted, I didn't need MCT oil as much, but it's very useful in the months where your body is adapting.
- Drink bone broth. Bone broth gives you collagen, which is hard to get in your diet, and not very good to try to get in suppliments. Fasting make getting enough collagen even more important. Bone broth not only gives you much needed collagen, but also goes great with MCT oil and ghee butter, making it easy to add up to 500 calories to your plan. See the recipe below. Add bone broth to your menu either by itself, or as an ingredient with other meals.
- Rethink water. We've been told to drink lots of water, but too much water has several downsides. 1. Too much water can imbalance electrolytes. It's often said that the body is 80% water. Actually, the body is 0% water since all that water is in electrolytes. If you drink too much water, the body must fight to keep those electrolytes in balance. 2. Drinking while you eat can wash down food before it as all the silava enzymes it needs. Enzymes are key to digestion, and your silava is one of the most important sources for them. 3. Too much water while you eat and for the 30 minutes after a meal dilutes stomach acid and bile. The acid and bile are how your body gets maximum nutrition from your food. If you drink too much water, you reduce their effectiveness. Instead of overloading with water, do this: Hydrate heavily in the morning, hydrate to thirst after that, stop drinking 30 minutes before a meal, don't drink anything while eating, resume hydrating to thirst 30 minutes after the meal.
- Don't worry about nitrates/nitrites. Many meats have nitrates/nitrites added. In a perfect world, I would rather not have these in there, of course, since the closer anything is to nature the better. But given all the other things you have to be careful about, I don't want to put some kind of constraint on high-fat meats unless it's needed. Toward that end, I don't worry about nitrates and nitrites. As this video points out, nitrates and nitrites are common in natural food products, primarily vegetables. And the quantity used to preserve meat is not too extreme. So I choose not to worry about nitrates/nitrites, and use the energy to focus on avoiding things that are far more dangerous.
The main source of vitamins and minerals should be food. But some things just need supplimentation when it's both hard to get from food and useful in suppliment form. This section offers advice on what suppliments are useful.
- Labdoor testing. The quality of suppliments cannot be determined from looking at the bottle or believing the claims of the manufacturers. Only third-party testing can determine quality. Labdoor buys suppliments off the shelf and tests them. Some other organizations assess suppliments through consumer opinion, but opinion is not fact. Their purchase path includes Amazon, which is convenient. They are a young company, so making purchases through their site will help keep them in business.
- Potassium. You need 4,700 mg daily of potassium daily. Do NOT take potassium suppliments. Instead, eat seven or more cups of leafy and cruciferous vegetables daily. See the "eat big salads" discussion above. Potassium is one of the most critical micronutrients for your body. But the typical potassium suppliment is 100 mg per pill. That just can't work. Like mama said, eat your vegetables!
- Magnesium. Take magnesium. Most people are very magnesium deficient. Unlike some nutrients that really need to come from the diet, such as potassium, magnesium can be acquired through supplements. The biggest observable benefit is better sleep. It can also help with headaches, restless leg syndrome, regularity, and a number of other things. Study the topic carefully--there are several types of magnesium suppliments, and which one is right for you will vary. When in doubt, use magensium glycinate as this is one of the more bioavailable forms, and is good for stress reduction, which most of us can use. See also: Discussion of magnesium at Mama Natural. See also: Discussion of magnesium at Global Healing.
- Labdoor rankings for magnesium. The top rated magnesium suppliments according to Labdoor. Generally favor the glycinate form.
- What I take. KAL brand. 400 mg. Glycinate for bioavailability. Dosage price was $0.13/400mg in 2021.
- Vitamin D + K. TBD. TBD
- What I take. Designs for Health. 5000 IU. Has the needed K1 and K2 to make D work best. Dosage price was $0.50/5000IU in 2021.
- Zinc. Zinc supports a variety of important functions in the body. It facilitates enzyme action, which includes ensuring you extract the most nutrition from your food. It strengthens your immune system, so you do things like fight off colds better. It participates in extrogen/testosterone regulation, which helps get maxiumum benefit from hard workouts. In heping others, I've found that taking antacides is quite common, and if you do, you must take more zinc since the reduced stomach acid reduces the absorption of zinc. There are several forms. I generally recommend picolinate due to bioavailability.
- BestReviews rankings for zinc. The top rated magnesium suppliments according to BestReviews. Generally favor the picolinate form. I change my opinion often as new information comes in, but my current favorites are:
- What I take. Thorne Research. Zinc Picolinate 30 mg. Picolinate is very bioavailable. Dosage price was $0.18/30mg in 2021.
- Iodine. Take iodine. Fish and seafood are full of iodine. Vegetables grown near the coasts, which is where we all evolved, is full of iodone. Food grown inland, which is where our food come from today, is largely void of iodone. Thus we benefit from supplimentation. Iodone is a simply an ion that comes from simple molecules, so it works very well as a suppliment.
- What I take. J. Crow's. Potassium Iodide. Just one drop per day.
- Vitamin C. You need 100 mg of vitamin C daily. Do NOT take vitamin C suppliments. Vitamin C is a wide spectrum of molecules, and manufactured vitamin C need only have one of these to claim to be vitamin C. Food sources have full-spectrum vitamin C, which is what the body evolved to use.
- Calcium. You need 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Try to avoid using a suppliment. Best food sources are: 350 mg in one 3.75 ounce can of sardines. 300 mg in once 8 ounce glass of milk. 200 mg in one ounce of harder cheeses such as cheddar or gouda. 200 mg in one 6 ounce cup of yogurt. 100 mg in one cup chopped kale. 25 mg per egg. Don't count the seemingly high calcium content in spinach since the high oxalate content cancels it out. Liquid dairy should be avoided for reasons discussed elsewhere, which unfortunately largely cancels out milk and yogurt, which are two of the best sources of calcium.
A key part of healthy eating is having foods you can enjoy. Another key part is ensuring they are fairly easy to cook. This section has some of my favorite recipes that achieve both these goals.
- Key Ingredients. These are they key ingredients for ketogenic cooking. Mix and match your own from these, or use them as shown in the recipes below.
- Avacado salad dressings. The secret to mastering vegetables is to not just classify it as "having salad". Instead, start by picking a dressing, and build a whole salad around it. The best dressings I've found is avacado dressings from this brand. Use these, then dump on olive oil and apple cider vinegar, and your salads will sprint to life.
- Bacon. Just eat a lot of bacon! But also use it as an ingredient to enhance just about anything. Adds great flavor to everything from salads to burgers. Mixes well with cheese or vegetable based cooking for added flavor. Use the bacon grease! Don't dare throw that out! Add the grease to whatever you're adding bacon too. Or use the grease to cook other meals to add flavor.
- Bone broth. Collagen is important for joints, and also is good for your skin. But it is hard to get in the diet. One of the best sources is bone broth. Not just regular broth! Drink it with lots of butter and salt. Or use it in many meat-based meals.
- Butter. Use grass fed to get more Omega-3. Cook with lots of it. Slather it on for no apparent reason. Butter is one of the best sources of healthy fat.
- Cheese. Add cheese to just about anything you think is appropriate. Or eat it plain. The harder the cheese the better. Liquid dairy should be avoided due to its high sugar content and bovine growth hormone, but both of these are eliminated when using cheese. Keep several types of shredded cheese in the refrigerator and just throw it on anything where it fits. Cooked leafy and cruciferous vegetables become amazing with butter, salt, and various cheeses.
- Cream cheese. Among the cheeses, cream chese get special note. It can be easily mixed with other things that infuse their flavor into the cream cheese. Bacon, avacado, strawberries, and anything with a distinct flavor is easily mixed into cream cheese and their flavor will permeate and magnify.
- Heavy whipping cream. Heavy whipping cream is pure fat. And it makes just about anything tatses...well, creamy. Make coffee with heavy cream and you'll never want coffee with milk again. Throw cream into boring chicken recipes to make them exciting. Mix with cacao for a great chocolate experience. Be sure to get organic to avoid carrageenan, which is often added to heavy creams.
- Lard. Let go of your biases! It sounds horrible, but actually, lard is a wonderful cooking ingredient. It is also the key to healthy frying--yes, fried food can be good! Fried food has a bad name due to trans fats and vegetable oils. But you absolutley can do ketogenic frying as long as you has a fat with a very high smoke point. Cook with lard, and fry with lard for great taste.
- Salt. As noted above, salt is your friend. Use lots of it. Particularly with otherwise boring things that are brought to life with salt. Bone broth, for example, is rather gross--until you load it up with salt! Use sea salt, not table salt.
- Stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener. But be careful! Some brands mix it with things like cane sugar, dextrose, or maltodextrin--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.
- Xylitol. Stevia has zero glycemic load and zero glycemic index. By far, use stevia if you can--but it has an aftertaste. Xylitol, however is much more like sugar. It has no aftertaste. And you can use it one-for-one with sugar: a cup of sugar, for example, can be replaced with a cup of xylitol. But xylitol has half the glycemic load of sugar, and about 20% of the glycemic index. That is FAR better than sugar, but not as good as the zero/zero score of stevia. Use xylitol when you need something much better than sugar, but still sugar-like. Be sure to use birch based xylitol as it has the lowest glycemic index of the various xylitol types, though it is more expensive than other xylitol types.
- Almond Flaxseed Bread. BREAD!!! Yes, I said it--bread! But wait, didn't we give up bread for all this? Yes. Reset you expectations to zero right now--assume that bread is forever off limits. Because if you compare this bread to regular bread, of course, regular bread will win. But if you think you're never going to have bread, and you try this one...you'll be amazed! You make it in the microwave in under five minutes. It's fresh baked bread at just two carbs for over 300 calories of protein and fat. It's amazing. Even my kids loved it.
- 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. Pecans are the best nut on keto due to their high fat and low carb contents. Then you coat them in natural sweetener. Even my fussy five-year-old loved them.
- 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. Add blueberries or strawberries for a fruity experience.
- 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 consume them shortly after meals when insulin is high anyway.
- Ogre's Delight. 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. Start with coffee. Add cocoa, heavy whipping cream, natural sweetener, and peppermint oil. Makes the perfect drink on a cold day during the holiday season.
- Pumpkin Pie. The pumpkin pie experience derives mostly from the pumpkin and the spices.
Page in progress. From this point, this page is a work in progress as of January 2019, 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!
Diet is much more important than exercise. If you eat right but don't exercise, you're health can still improve greatly. If you exercise but don't eat right, you will simply undermine all the exercise. It is quite possible to have a strong base of muscles completely covered by fat. But if you eat right and exercise right, the impact multiplies. Just getting your body in motion is the main win, so don't over-think it. Just go! But if you're looking for ways to maximize your exercise time, the tips here can help.
- 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.
- Understand LISS and HIIT. 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--LISS and HIIT, 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.
- Consider HIIT while feasting. Discuss.
- Lift with your feet on the ground. Discuss.
- Strengthen your ankles. Discuss.
- Carry stretch bands everywhere. Discuss.
- Shoulder pain while benching. There is a tiny muscle in the shoulder that gets stressed with bench pressing. To prevent injury and pain in that muscle, change your bench pressing technique as follows. Keep the bar over the mid-chest rather than the lower chest. This prevents internal rotation pressure on the rotator cuffs. Press shoulders into the bench and arch the lower back up to further target the mid-chest position. Keep your shoulders and elbows down relative to your body to allow further rotator cuff freedom. Engage your lats to encourage full torso action shoulders won't get excessive demand. Envision trying to get your biceps to touch as this automatically engages the chest better. As an extreme safety or recovery measure, use dumbells and rotate hands outward. Outward rotation with dumbells can go as far as being underhand, and that's fine. Underhand benching with the full bar can also be done.
- Work up to Tabata. Discuss. See also: (link),
- Engage key muscles before moving. Several experts discuss 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. 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.
How do you know any of this is working? The main measure people use is losing weight. Indeed, I cite often that I lost 50 pounds in five months. But weight is a measure of vanity brought on by social pressure. Fat on the outside of your body, while a major social focus, is not unhealthy. More important is what is going on inside your body. Calcification of your arteries, fat in your liver, fat around your heart, pancreas burnout, kidney overload, and so on. But such things are also much harder to measure. This section offers some ways to measure the health state of your body. It also works to dispell some of the ineffective measures many of us have been given.
- Cholesterol is good. 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 of the micronutrients found in vegetables--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. You also get an indication that it is not sticking to your arteries if your VLDL is very low. VLDL can be found by subracting both HDL and LDL from your total cholestorol. If your HDL/triglyceride and VLDL numbers are good, your LDL and total cholestorol don't matter a bit.
- High LDL is also good. Everyone says LDL is the 'bad' cholesterol. But LDL is not even 'cholesterol'. LDL is just the transport of cholesterol. It is also the transport of the energy you need to live (see next link). That your body is transporting things around is not, itself, good or bad. The question is whether that cholesterol is sticking to the walls of your arteries. Whether cholesterol is sticking is discussed in many other links on this page. But sticking has nothing to with transporting. LDL's only 'problem' is that it can be manipulated by medication. That generates billions of dollars in incentives for pharmaceutical companies. I love capitalism, and I'm not a conspiracy theorist. I am simply acknowledging that billion-dollar industries create perverse incentives. LDL is just a neutral player in this game. Accept that, then use all the means discussed on this page that really do keep your arteries flowing smoothly.
- High LDL is GREAT if you're exercising intensly. Discuss.
- The real solution to your clogged arteries. Discuss.
- It's all about avoiding heart attack. Discuss.
My personal experience follows the science perfectly. When I had my first physical in strict keto and HIIT, my numbers were:
Total cholesterol = 320. HDL = 75. LDL = 233. VLDL = 11. Triglycerides = 57.
So shocked by these numbers was my doctor that she said, "James, your cholesterol levels are way too high! Compared to previous tests both the total and the LDL, the bad cholesterol, are up over 100 points each. I am not comfortable with these levels. We either need to talk about treatment or have you see a cardiologist to talk about it further."
In all fairness to my doctor, who I genuinely respect, she is absolutely right that a normal person with these numbers is in dire straights. However, these numbers are FANTASTIC! Per all the links above, the value of HDL/Tri = 0.76 is far below 2.00, and the value of VLDL = 11 is far below the mainstream number of 80 and even the keto number of 40. There are marathon runners and Ironmen who don't have VLDL of 11! Combine this with a blood pressure of 114/72 to further indicate no build up in the arteries, and there is no way on God's little blue marble I'm going near a cadiologist or getting on meds.
But just to work the science further, I wanted to prove I could hack my numbers down the way the science predicts. So a year later, I did. By then I was actually MORE into all this. I had advanced my fasting windows to 17 hours from a norm of 14. And I had moved my maximum HIIT from jumping rope to uphill sprints, which are much more intense. If anything, my colesterol would have come in the same or higher. And, in fact, my blood pressure, which is a much more stable indicator, came in even lower at 110/72, adding credibility to the assertion that I was actually in even better shape a year later. But I didn't need more reinforcement--I wanted to test the science, so I hacked my body instead.
Four days before the blood tests, I switched to an all carbohydrate diet and stopped all exercise. It was all whole-food/plant-based, not processed junk, but it was definitely not keto! The hack worked. My numbers were:
Total cholesterol = 213. HDL = 46. LDL = 143. VLDL = 24. Triglycerides = 119.
My original doctor had since changed jobs, so I couldn't review them with her, but it's fair to assert that most doctors would look at these numbers and say, "Much better!" To which I say: No! These high-carb, low-exercise numbers are HORRIBLE! Yes, the total is just 213 and the LDL is 143. Who cares. Not relevant. Look at that HDL--way down. That's bad. Look at those triglyglycerides--doubled. That's bad. Look at that VLDL--doubled. That's bad. HDL/Tri = 2.59, which is well above 2.0. That's bad. My fat-burning, hard-sprinting body gagged on itself in just four days of carbs and lethargy. Yet, according to mainstream science, these are better numbers.
And again, the second set of numbers would be better for the normal person. But if you really want to be healthy, don't be a normal person. Stop the carbs and vegetable oils. Push your body to its limits two or three times a week. And tactfully ignore the hell out of your well-meaning doctor once a year!
While I had the standard list of metabolic issues that come from health neglect, I didn't have any specific medical issues beyond that. However, as I started to share this process with many others, I found that lots of people have to address one or more specific issues. Acid reflux, iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, gall bladder removal, testosterone issues, estrogen issues, statins, blood pressure medications, antidepressents, migraine headaches. It's amazing both how many issues are out there, and how much people will detail their conditions if they can trust you with the knowledge and know that you're trying to help them with nutrition. My great thanks to everyone who has discussed these issues with me, as this gives me a great chance to do specific research. I hope that if you have any of these conditions, you may find this information helpful. When addressing specific medical conditions, work with your doctor, and all that usual disclaimer. But honestly, doctors are mostly clueless about nutrition, so they'll keep you on meds for ever. You have to make your own best deicsion about how much medication you need if you fix your body from the inside. Don't listen to me or them. Do the right thing nutritionally, then listen to your own body. The rest of us are just bozos guessing.
- Iron deficiency. Iron is a critical micronutrient. If you're deficient, first see a doctor to ensure you don't have some type of bleeding problem. But don't be too quick to do what the doctor says if they don't find a specific medical condition. Instead, increase iron in your diet. And more critically, take the steps that in crease the absorption of iron, since it's really only what gets absorbed that matters.
- General approach. Take the several steps listed here. Don't take antacids. The body needs stomach acid to absorb iron. Instead, cut way down on carbs if acid reflux is an issue. Add lots of apple cider vinegar to as many meals as possible, particularly salads as part of the dressing. Apple cider vinegar helps with mineral absorption. Eat lots of clams, oysters, octopus, grass-fed meats, and animal liver. See the vegan sources below if you can't do meat.
- Vegan sources. If you can't do meat, consider these. The absorption of plant-based iron is lower than meat-based iron, so going on the high side is good. Again, combine this with higher intake of organic apple cider vinegar as often as possible.
- Take lots of vitamin C. The precense of vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron. Add lots of lemons, blackberries, raspberries, and bell peppers to your diet. Add lemon juice as well, directly from lemons, not from concentrate.
- Extended ideas. As is so often the case, Dr. Axe has produced a very idea-rich video on this topic. It's so full of ideas, I won't attempt to summarize it here, and instead leave it as homework for the seriously interested.
- Acid reflux. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Depression. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Migraine headaches. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Hypothyroidism. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Gall bladder removal. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Testosterone issues. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Estrogen issues. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- Testosterone issues. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
- High cholesterol. CHOLESTEROL IS NOT AN ISSUE!
I have an entire section on this above. Go read it if you think cholesterol is a problem.
- High blood pressure. Coming soon. Research done, and need to summarize.
Most people can lose weight if they focus on the task. A very fair question is to ask whether that change can be permanent. As of 2019, I'm still in the first year. But here are some of the things that give me reason to believe the changes are permanent.
- 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).
Commentary on this section.
- 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.
- Use the "one bite" technique. Discuss.