On January 1st of this year, my Wife and I brainstormed our goals for 2017. It included a decent number of items, one of the most important being to get healthy and lose weight. As any good productivity nut, my goal was specific: lose 80 pounds by December 31st. I’m a big guy, and losing that weight would be the absolute single biggest improvement I could make in my life. But as everyone knows, losing weight is hard. Really hard. Unfortunately, that is where the procrastinator in me kicked in, and pretty much no progress was made on this front for the first half of the year.
July came, and with my Wife listening to more and more audiobooks during her commute to work, she found a book that looked interesting called The Obesity Code, by Dr. Jason Fung. She started telling me about it and surprisingly I was instantly on board. It described an alternative idea to why we gain weight, and why it always seems to come back when we try to lose it. It was a radically different solution than anything we’ve ever been told. I started reading the book and doing research on the topic. As I learned more, it seemed like such simple common sense! It was like a light was switched on in our brains, and we started following the guidelines immediately. It was a complete lifestyle change and within a few weeks it became the new norm. The Ketogenic Diet, along with both intermittent and extending “fasting” became the solution I had been looking for.
The Ketogenic Diet, or Keto for short, is simply a diet with under 20 or so grams of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, and enough fat to make your body enter a state called “ketosis”, in which it burns fat instead of sugar. The “low carb” approach may remind you of the Atkin’s Diet from the early 2000’s, and while the early stages of the Atkin’s diet might get you into ketosis, the diet starts to differ further from there on out.
There isn’t any big scheming company behind the ketogenic diet. There are no special bars to buy, expensive shakes to drink, or pills that have to be taken at every meal. It’s simply a low carb, high fat diet, and with everything I’ve learned, it’s a diet I think I can easily stick to. When you’re in ketosis, your body has no choice but to burn fat instead of carbs to get energy. Well, what exactly do you think my body is overloaded with right now? FAT! Now I can put to good use all that stored body fat to use as energy. It’s like I have a super power!!
To outsiders, going Keto seems like a fairly impossible and unsustainable task, and I can understand that. “I can’t drink soda? Eat candy? French fries? Pasta? Bread? BEER?”. The answer is no. Well, not really. All of these starches and processed foods just turn into sugar in your body, keeping your insulin sky high. Insulin is what makes your body store fat, feel hungry, and gives you cravings for more of the same junk. When you stop giving the body sugar to process, insulin then drops down and lets your body start using that excess fat for energy. Being hungry all the time and having to snack constantly is now a thing of the past. Most importantly, it’s stops the cravings for more sugar laden foods. You simply stop wanting them!! So far, this has been the hardest thing to explain to people that ask what I’m doing. When I got rid of the carbs and started eating fat to fuel my body, the weight just started coming off almost effortlessly. You also get to eat amazing flavorful food. Why? Because fat tastes good! Cheese, bacon, eggs, heavy cream, macadamia nuts, and avocados are all keto staples I’ve been eating, and they’re delicious!
Getting your body into ketosis and becoming “fat adapted” (basically a state where its “good” at burning fat) opens the doors to your “fasting” ability. Yes, you heard me right, fasting. Essentially not eating any food. People throughout history, of all races, of all religions, have been fasting for thousands of years. For some reason, whether it’s big business or just the ease at which people are able to acquire food now, fasting has gone by the wayside. When you’re in ketosis and you haven’t eaten for 16 hours, or 2 days, or 14 days, your body is easily able to burn “that Krispy Kreme you ate a decade ago”, a common phrase from one of my favorite podcasts called 2 Keto Dudes. Fasting also helps readjust your body’s set weight, so you aren’t fighting it as you try to drop some poundage. Keto and fasting go hand in hand, and it is the one-two punch to start getting your weight under control. I know it sounds terrible, but as I practice fasting more and more, I’m beginning to like it just as much as my feasting periods! It’s just a great balance.
I’ve been interested in productivity and have long followed the practices of David Allen’s book, “Getting Things Done”, but I knew my weight and my state of being was hindering me. So often I was tired and unable to focus. I’d come home from work during the week, wanting to make progress on a project around the house, or learn something new, or practice guitar, and that motivation was shot as soon as my butt hit the couch after dinner, sinking into an evening of TV and Internet surfing. I’d set out on a Saturday morning ready to be extremely productive which usually ended in a nap from about 11am till 3pm.
Besides the lack of focus and energy, there was also the constant nagging at my psyche that I really should be doing something about this. With all the misinformation out there today, it was easy to convince myself not to get started because I didn’t really have a good solid plan on what to do. It always felt wrong to me that a healthy weight required having to give up so much delicious food. I’d go hardcore and get up everyday and work out, but then fizzle out two weeks in. I’d try to avoid the lure of breakfast and lunch that my company provided one day a week, but easily failed when it was one of my favorites or if I tried to limit myself to just one helping. I’ve tried lots of things in the past and I could only keep them up for a week or two. I had lost all trust in myself to really do anything, so I did nothing.
Now, I’m pretty much bursting with energy. I started standing for part of the day at work. I bought a cheap Ikea coffee table to put on top of my desk to convert it to a standing desk, and I stand now usually for about half the day. I actually WANT to do things like walk around the block, or to a nearby park on my lunch break to do a lap or two. I couldn’t wait to go canoeing at a local park, just so I could get in the water and paddle. This urge to move and exercise is only growing, and I haven’t had to force myself at all.
I’m able to easily focus on any task I attempt. With my current productivity skills already at hand, I finally feel like I’m now able to put them to good use and follow through. Instead of my Omnifocus going dormant for a week or two at a time, I’ve been able to make progress and check off a few items every day. It’s been my missing piece of GTD.
Food is now so much less important. Lunch used to be a big focus every day at work, and I’d be starving for it by 10am. Now I barely need anything till 2pm. The “addictive” cravings for a lot of the foods I loved are gone. I do get excited experimenting with new keto recipes with my Wife because everything is still fairly new. It’s been really enjoyable trying new things. We even just got the Joule sous vide machine and have made some delicious perfectly cooked steak!
While Keto is amazing, it’s no quick fix. Each week there is still ups and downs, but for the first time ever, I’m really enjoying the journey and I truly feel I can do this for the rest of my life. I have no reason to stop doing this. I get to eat really delicious food that we’ve been told for decades is just not good for you, and I get to feel amazing AND lose weight during the process! Like I said, I have a “super power”!
We celebrated my birthday around the first week of us starting this new lifestyle, and while my niece and nephew hilariously called the low carb flourless chocolate cake my Wife made “disgusting”, I thought it tasted great and was the perfect start to thirty seven. I’ll keep you posted on how I’m doing periodically, and I’m sure you’ll occasionally see some keto blog posts in the future. We’ve been doing this for about 7 weeks now and I’m 40 pounds down. My 80 pound goal is totally in reach, and I can’t wait to get there!
I am no doctor and I’m not giving out any medical advice, but if you have struggled with the same things I have, I highly recommend you check out the following resources and learn more about Keto: