Week 3 fitness results

Well, three weeks in, exercising pretty hard every day and eating keto, and I’ve proven to myself that your lifestyle has a huge impact on your body.

This past week I stuck very well with my workout plan, doing Hard Corps resistance training three times, went for two long runs and one long bike ride. I also stuck with my eating plan, mostly because I went shopping and stocked up on veggies and meat, and bought no bread. Preparation is such a huge part of self-control!

I’ve always believed that “what gets measured gets done,” so one of my tricks to stick to my plan is to capture my activities and results on a white board that I hang where I can’t ignore it, right in my main living area. Otherwise it’s too easy to lose track of the plan.

As for results, I’ve lost a bunch of body fat and gained a bunch of muscle, netting out at one pound overall weight loss. This highlights for me what a terrible metric body weight really is. If my weight was all that mattered, I would be really disappointed right now, and unable to celebrate all the positive body changes that have happened.

Planning to keep it up for week 4, making no major adjustments to the plan.

Why I bother to diet

I’m not overweight. I’m really not. I could maybe lose 15 pounds, max. Most often when I complain about the bit of body fat around my waist, people roll their eyes. I think some even get offended, like they’re thinking, “if you can’t handle that much fat, what must you think of all MY fat??” It’s an emotionally charged issue, to be sure.

So when people ask me why I’m on a diet, I sometimes struggle to come up with a great answer. It was easier last year, when I was actively training for a triathlon, because I could say with complete honesty that the point was to run faster! My getting into “fighting trim” was a reason that people could accept easily. And yes, dropping ten pounds helps a lot with one’s endurance – a fact that really came home a few weeks ago as I tried to run two miles around Trout Lake, sucking wind the whole way. But I’m not training for anything right now, so that rationale is out the window.

Of course, I don’t need any reason at all, do I? What I do with my body is no one’s business but my own, and if I want to lose weight or gain weight or get a tattoo of the BHS logo on my butt, that is my right. So we’re just talking about how I explain it to other people here. But other people’s feelings do matter to me – so let me go on.

What I want, more than anything, is control over the way I feel and the way I look. I’ve never been obese, but I’ve felt those feelings of helplessness, being frustrated with my weight and seemingly being unable to do anything about it, exercising hard for weeks and not losing a single pound. That feeling sucks, and I don’t wish it on anyone.

I think one big reason so many people struggle with their weight and feel helpless is that the world is full of really bad information. The whole “a calorie is a calorie” thing is at once completely true, and incredibly misleading. I mean sure, X is X no matter what X you pick, but from a diet perspective this misses the point completely, because it’s about hunger. It’s about how you feel all day, not the calorie count. If there are two ways for me to eat that leave me satisfied, and one requires 1800 calories and the other one requires 3000 calories, that makes a huge difference! And that’s exactly the situation. I won’t bore you with the metabolic details, but eating a bunch of carbs makes your body release a boat load of insulin, which eats up all those carbs and makes you feel starving. It’s like being an alcoholic or a heroin addict, except with bread and coca cola. Take a look at the documentary called Sugar Coated to understand where some of the bad information is coming from. It’s crazy.

So control is the big thing I’m after, and it’s also worth mentioning that I’ve got type 2 diabetes in my genes, and I’m pre-diabetic myself. The circumference of your waist is a really good indicator of your level of insulin resistance, and diabetes leads to nasty things like blindness, amputation and death. These are all things I’d like to stave off for a while.

So do you mind if I diet?

What to eat on Keto

As you know if you’ve been following along the fitness thread so far, I’ve been getting back into my ketogenic diet. To recap, that’s a low carb, high fat diet (yes, high fat!) and it’s really the only way I’ve ever successfully lost weight.

This means I’m completely cutting out sugar, which is straight-up carbohydrate. (It may also be toxic in its own right, but that’s a whole ‘nother story!) I’m also avoiding what you might call “starches” because that’s just one step away from sugar. In fact starch turns into sugar in your body almost immediately. This means you can eat no grains. This is the hardest part for me, because as a person with 51% Danish blood, I was obviously raised on bread, butter and cheese!

It’s not so obvious but most root vegetables are also very high in carbohydrates, so no potatoes, no carrots, etc. Make sense?

So what does that leave us? What exactly am I eating, to get myself through the day? I mean yes, you can easily go buy a keto cookbook to answer this question thoroughly and completely, but frankly I’m more of a grazer. So here’s what I’m eating.

Breakfast. I’m not usually very hungry in the morning, so I’ll skip the bacon and eggs and instead have some cottage cheese with berries. Yes, berries have sugar in them, but not a lot compared to all that water and fiber.

Let’s not forget coffee! I take it black anyway. No carbs there. I drink a pot.

For the middle of the day, I like to grab snacks rather than taking time to organize an actual meal. So I’ll have a handful of almonds and walnuts, or I’ll pile up a big green salad out of a bag, and lots of dressing. I love to have raw veggies like cauliflower, broccoli or celery dipped generously in hummous. I also love boiled eggs and salt!

Another huge staple for me is greek salad! Basically all veggies, with some feta and kalamata olives on it. Drizzle liberally with balsamic dressing. How can this not be amazing?

Lots of people on keto diets eat a lot of meat, but frankly I prefer to avoid it for various reasons. If I want meat, I’ll lean towards chicken or ham because they are more efficient in terms of land use. Enough said on that topic.

Speaking of meat, let’s talk dinner. Lately I’ve been enjoying slow-cooker chicken stew. This could not possibly be easier to make. Literally you put a can of crushed tomatoes and a few chicken thighs into the slow cooker with some low-starch veggies like squash or (if you must cheat a bit) potatoes and carrots. Press the “cook” button and eight hours later, vast quantities of stew that you can save in the fridge for many, many days. A bachelor’s dream!

Quick note about water and fiber. Get as much as you can. The benefits of the water are many, including making you feel more full. Likewise the fiber will fill your belly and keep everything moving. This is one of the problems with high protein diets – there is no fiber in a steak.

And I know you’re wondering – what about snacks? What am I eating while I watch Netflix in the evening? Potato chips and corn ships are clearly non-starters. Fortunately I like pork rinds, because they are salty and crunchy and cheap. And they’re basically all fat, which fits the diet perfectly.

Finally, if you’re in that awkward transition period early in the game while your body is screaming for a loaf of bread, and you don’t mind a little alcohol, have a whiskey. White Owl has definitely eased my transition into keto on several occasions.


Week 2 fitness results

Week 2 is in the books. So how did I do?

First, did I completely follow my exercise routine? No I did not. I got 5 out of 7 days in, but some of those days, if I’m completely honest, were iffy. I counted “walking up a bunch of hills in White Rock” as exercise, even though it was not as prolonged or intense as one of my real workouts.

Did I follow my Ketogenic diet plan? Again, not very well. I mostly stuck to it and I made a point of eating plenty of veggies for the bulk and fiber content, but frankly I had my boys all week and that makes exercise a bit harder. That’s kind of an excuse, too, because today I went for a run and of course they were fine. They’re 11 and 14 years of age, so it’s not like I can’t leave them alone for 20 minutes! But bottom line – I had three beers on the boat, and I had ice cream three times. So I really fell off the wagon.

I’ve got data to back that up. My keto test strips show that I am not in ketosis, hence I am not burning much fat.

And I remember, flipping over into that alternate metabolic state was hard last time! I was only able to do it by practicing intermittent fasting, i.e. eat nothing from 5pm until 9am for a few days. Making that transition into ketosis is not easy! Until you get there, your body feels hungry. But take heart – once you arrive, you don’t feel hungry any more, because your body is busy burning ketones, and that means you’ve got food 100% of the time, until you run out of easily accessible body fat. I never ran out. 🙂

So to wrap up, I did not lose any weight in week 2. I feel like I’ve burned some body fat, and I look like I have, but as I mentioned last week, my body is adapting to a higher level of activity by storing glycogen in my muscles, and that means my muscles got heavier even if I didn’t add any raw muscle.

This coming week, I’m going to stick with the program, and add in some intermittent fasting until I’m solidly in ketosis. I’m going to run or do a resistance workout 6 times.

Wish me luck!

Fitness experiment – week 1 results

Well that was a great week! As you can see I like to track these things on the whiteboard in my main room, so it’s hard to ignore it. And I managed six workouts in 7 days – I went running 3 times, did my Hard Corps resistance routine twice, went for a long walk one day, and a long cycle another.

I can already tell my body is adapting to my new activity level, and changing. I was sore for a couple of days after that first resistance workout, but one week in I already feel stronger and I can see I’ve lost some fat off my belly.

I also have done a pretty good job of sticking to the Keto diet! Other than a half piece of cake one day and a piece of toast another, I’ve been eating mostly veggies and tasty fat. I know I’ve done pretty well because I have “keto sticks” to test the level of ketones in my system. Those are a huge help, because having real data give you confidence that things are working as they should.

Now did I lose weight? No I did not. My scale reading is unchanged, or even slightly higher than it was a week ago. That can be discouraging, for sure! So I did a bit of research.

When you go from sedentary to active, your body has to change. One of the ways it changes is to store more muscle energy, in the form of glycogen. Now I’ve heard of glycogen before, but I didn’t realize how it might affect scale weight. Glycogen is basically glucose plus water, and each gram of glucose so stored goes along with 3 grams of water! So clearly it’s heavy stuff! This article gives some great detail. But in a nutshell, don’t worry if you don’t actually lose weight for one to three weeks – it’s normal.

And I already feel much better physically, so I don’t care.

Stay tuned for more.

Time for a fitness experiment

Well here we go again. I’ve spent three months dealing with business stress, getting very little exercise, eating whatever is easy to get, and my body has suffered. I’m 15 pounds heavier than I was last year, when I was training for that triathlon. I don’t feel good!  Plus the business stress is handled. So it’s time to fix this again.

Current weight: 186 pounds
Target weight: 174 pounds

So I want to lose 12 pounds. What’s the plan?

I believe that weight loss is 80% what you eat, and 20% exercise. Of course there are a ton of other good reasons to exercise, so I won’t skimp on that. But with respect to the diet part, I’ve had success in the past going Ketogenic. That’s basically a low carb, high fat diet. Yes, high fat.

Don’t confuse it with a high protein diet like Atkins. I’m sure that can work, but it’s pretty hard on your system, digesting all that protein. It may not be terribly safe, according to Web MD.  And the more immediate problem is that I don’t believe in eating a ton of meat, for various reasons.

Ketogenic diets on the other hand rely on eating low carbs, like less than 50g per day, but plenty of fat. So I eat lots of nuts, avocados, salads with dressing, eggs, veggies and hummous, and so forth. The picture on the Web MD slideshow is really misleading – where are all the veggies?? If I ate what’s in that picture, I would probably feel awful.

Keto diets are also great for type 2 diabetics, because being low in carbs they help control blood sugar. I’m not diabetic (at least not yet!) but my blood sugar results are higher than I would like. The Keto thing helps a lot.

And what about the exercise? Like I said, I won’t skimp on that because I want to feel fit, strong and healthy again as soon as possible. I’ll do something every day at a reasonable intensity level. I might spend 22 minutes on a home workout with Tony Horton, I might go run around Trout Lake (two miles of beautiful scenery), or I might go for a bike ride.

Stay tuned and wish me luck!