Waist Reduction: Ketogenesis

70-75% percent of my diet comes from fat, and I lost more weight in the first month than on any other diet.

Here's a day I pretty much nailed my ratios.
Here’s a day I pretty much nailed my ratios.

The Mrs and I have been on a ketogenic diet since right after Thanksgiving. Our weights have been in a free fall for the whole month. Nothing I’ve ever done before has been this effective.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

Here's the weight nose dive in my first month of Keto.
Here’s the weight nose dive in my first month of Keto.

The ketogenic diet is a high fat low carb diet. Typically you keep your carbs under 20-60g/day or <5% of your calories. You also want to moderate your protein and keep it at around 20% of your calories.

What’s going on inside your body is you are convincing your body to start burning fat for energy instead of sugar. Sugar in your body is glucose which comes from carbs. When your body wants to burn fat it makes ketones. Your cells can use either one for energy. As an aside, cancer cells can only use glucose for energy.

Yeah it seems crazy to eat that much fat, but the truth is you are probably eating more fat on your Standard American Diet (SAD), because you are eating more.

A Calorie Is A Calorie Isn’t The Whole Story

In case you thought I wasn't losing fat.
In case you thought I wasn’t losing fat.

I got inspired to try the keto diet because of a podcast where Tim Ferris interviewed metabolic cancer researcher Dr Dominic Dagostino about the ketogenic diet and its relationship to cancer. I followed this up by listening to a previous Ferris interview of Dr Pete Attia where they also talked about ketosis.

Dr Attia had an interesting distinction about calories, that I’m paraphrasing.

A calorie is a calorie. That’s absolutely true. But that statement isn’t very useful. It isn’t very interesting. It’s like saying “You know why Bill Gates is so rich? Because he spends less than he makes.” That’s true, but it isn’t the real story you want.

One question is Why? Why do people eat more calories than they burn? When you ask it that way you find out all calories aren’t equal.

There are lots of distinctions around this, but let me give you the big one for weight loss.

It Isn’t Just Chinese Food

I recently heard that ketones in your blood stream keep you from feeling hunger. In other words, if you are in ketosis you don’t feel hunger. My experience has born this out.

Most of what we call hunger is actually your brain being a whiney baby throwing a tantrum for sugar. Or maybe a better analogy would be your brain is an addict clamoring for its next fix. That isn’t hunger, but it is the most common feeling that motivates you to eat. It is the reason you feel hungry 20 minutes after eating that chow mein, or that piece of cake. A low blood sugar caused by a crash in your blood sugar.

One thing I’ve noticed is I generally feel tired before I feel hungry. Weirdly I’ll start dragging and I realize I haven’t eaten in hours. A high fat meal or snack and a few minutes later I’m awake again.

There is a big connection between the low carb, ketonic diet and fasting. Matter of fact the fastest way to get into ketosis is to fast. The two also share the pain of the first few days. That period of 2-5 days where you feel like crap because your body is out of glucose and hasn’t really figured out the ketone thing yet.

Also like fasting, after a few days you stop feeling hungry. Your body goes into ketosis and you don’t feel the hunger anymore. My friends who have fasted for 40 days tell me you don’t really feel hungry again until like 30 days in.

My Experience

The first few days weren’t bad for me, which was probably due to taking a supplement with ketones in it. There are few of these around and the one I found also had caffeine in it. Put those together and you can overcome some brain fog. Also those first few days I wasn’t tracking calories, so I ate a lot of food, just watching the carbs.

After about the first week, I started looking for a tool to track my food and carbs. In the end I went back to myfitnesspal. It has a good interface and the best database.

Once I started tracking calories I realized my biggest problem was eating enough. Having a calorie deficit is too easy when you don’t feel hungry and you get full very fast. You start looking for highly calorically dense foods. Which means fats. My cardiologist, if I had one which I don’t, would be shocked as some of the stuff I eat to get some calories in.

Is It Safe?

There is a lot of literature on this diet, and you can do the amount of research you feel is necessary to come to your own conclusion. I will tell you two things that make me think it is safe.

If you were trying to decide if a drug was safe, one thing that would carry a lot of weight is will they prescribe it to children. This isn’t a perfect test, but it does seem the bar for children is higher than that for adults.

Guess what? A doctor can and will “prescribe” a ketogenic diet to children with epilepsy who don’t respond to any anti-seizure medications. Kind of makes you wonder why they don’t just start with it.

The other fear is it will destroy your blood chemistry. Eating a bunch of fat must raise your cholesterol and triglycerides. Studies actually say the opposite, but for me it was just easier to test. I got my blood work done after 30+ days on this high fat diet and compared it to my blood work from February when I visited the doctor, the last ones I had in Evernote. The results were almost exactly the same.

Waste Reduction

“People are always amazed when I tell them we only put out a bag of trash every couple of weeks,” said my friend Lora Frost.

What? How’s that even possible? You’re full of crap. Hippie. You’re pulling my leg aren’t you? Sometimes my inner voice is an ass.

This is where your trash goes. Isn't it pretty.
This is where your trash goes. Isn’t it pretty.
These we some of the thoughts in my head when I heard this. But the truth is I respect Lora and believe her. This got me thinking.

She’d told me her and her husband just recycled a bunch and they reduced the stuff that actually has to go to the landfill.

Well I believe if someone else can do something, then so can I. Her statement made me think it was possible, so I began on a journey to reduce my waste.

Step 1: Mindfulness

There is a concept, mainly in the Buddhist tradition, of mindfulness. Put in simple terms it is paying attention to what you are doing. Mindfulness is relevant to eating, because we rarely pay attention to every bite we eat. I found mindfulness to be the first huge step to reducing your waste.

Pay attention to what you are tossing in the trash can.

Think in terms of volume. How much space do different things in your garbage take up?

The thing that became very obvious to me was most of what goes into my trash is packaging. In many cases this can be recycled.

Step 2: Recycle All You Can

Before we started this waste reduction journey we recycled plastic bottles, glass bottles, and aluminum cans. We kind of did cardboard, but it was a pain so we really mostly did it only for boxes that things game in the mail.

Once we noticed that packaging was a huge part of the volume of our trash, we made a place for recycling cardboard and paper. It was a big reduction in volume.

As with most changes you try to make you need to make recycling as easy as possible. This means you have to have a place to put each kind of recycling, and those places have to be easy to find and use. We moved our current recycle bins from the laundry room into the kitchen and added a paper recycling trash can in the kitchen as well.

Step 3: Stop Using Disposable Stuff

The next thing you notice is we use a bunch of stuff that is made to become instant trash. For me the big one was paper towels. Why do we have these things? Yeah they are easy to use and handy, but really most of the time we could just use a regular towel and wash it instead.

Paper napkins are another example. Why not just use cloth napkins?

You might say both of these example are paper, but once you fill them with debris and food etc, you really can’t recycle them.

Another high volume disposable thing we had were plastic sandwich/quart bags, to-go cups, and to-go containers. We used little plastic bags all the time to hold leftovers from a meal, and packaged foods like cheese we’d opened and need to store in the fridge. Then when you are finished with whatever is in the bag to you send it off to the landfill. The solution to this one is reusable containers. In our case it is those plastic tupperware things with lids.Styrofoam Containers

We eat out a lot and as a result get quite a few to-go boxes, usually styrofoam which is the worst because you can’t recycle it, at least not in Abilene. Same for cups. This is one we haven’t fully implemented a fix for, but I now take my own cup to my favorite wings place and they just fill it for me. I plan on putting a large plastic container in my car to use for to-go stuff in the future.

Our main solution to this restaurant left over problem has been…

Step 4: Stop Taking Crap You Are Just Going to Throw Away

Once you’ve taken the extra effort to start reducing your waste it gets really annoying that everyone give you so much crap that you aren’t just going to have to throw away.

You have to learn to say no a lot.

But let’s talk about the simple way we’ve dealt with restaurant left overs. About half the time the food we want to take home is for the dog. In that case we just wrap it in a paper napkin if they are on our table. It’s a good reuse of something we could do without.

One time we were at a place with cloth napkins – Yea! – but we wanted to take some meat to the dog, so The Mrs asked the waitress for some aluminum foil to wrap it in. That was brilliant because it is definitely recyclable. Sadly the waitress brought us not just foil, but a styrofoam container as well. The container stayed unused on the table.

Paper handouts. Everyone wants to give you a big piece of paper with information on it. Just say no, or take a picture of it with your phone if you need the info and hand the paper back. I’ve been doing this with business cards for a couple of years now anyway. I used the incredible Evernote, which reads the business cards and makes the info searchable.

Bags. Everyone wants to give you a bag to hold stuff in. The culture has started to realize we can bring our own better, stronger, reusable bags to the grocery store. Guess what? We can do that to any store. Also, if you carried all your items to the register you can carry them to your car as well, so just say no to the bag.

I could go on and I probably will in future blog posts.

I don’t really make New Years Resolutions, but I was touring a gym the other day and they wanted to give me a couple pages of information that was on their website. I just blurted out, “No thanks I can get that off your website. My new years resolution is to reduce the amount of waste I produce and I’ll just end up throwing that away.”

The head of the gym smiled and said, “That’s a lot better new years resolution than a lot of people make.”

Why don’t you join me in an easy change for 2016? I challenge you to be mindful of what you are throwing away. Just doing that will probably inspire you to create less waste in the all year long.