UPDATE 10/14/2011: noticed a typo and just changed it. I had originally stated, later in this article, “eople seem to think that dietary fat does not go directly to your hips/belly.” It should have read “People seem to think that dietary fat GOES directly to your hips/belly.” A crucial typo. It’s been changed.
This blog seems to be gaining traction. I’ve had a number of requests (through email and Facebook) from old friends, relatives, and acquaintances asking me if this way of eating really works or if I’m just posting this stuff to make money through Google’s AdSense program. I assure you, the pennies a day that this blog currently generate from the ads (because let’s face it, the vast majority of site visitors do not click on ads). I started this blog more so to chart my progress and extol the benefits of this way of eating, and I am hoping to get into the LCHF ‘blogosphere’ so that other low-carbers will comment on the many questions I’ll undoubtedly have in the future, and will post here.
To my surprise, this week, after watching my weight loss success and listening to me incessantly go on and on (and on and on) about how great I feel now that I kicked the sugars and starches via LCHF, my wife decided to join me in this way of eating. I love her the way she is, but she’s unhappy with her weight. She’s fine with me posting her progress on this blog, so I will provide updates from time to time.
Advice for Beginners
The following advice is for overweight and obese people. If you are one of the lucky people whose body is not suffering from hyperinsulinism and can process carbohydrates properly, then you likely are also one of those folks that has been in decent shape most of their lives and just need to shed a handful of pounds, likely due to age. If that’s the case, then you don’t need such a radical change of diet. Just skip dessert for a few weeks. This advice is for people like me who have been fat most of their lives. Lucky people like you can actually lose weight on a low-fat diet.
I do plan on writing up a permanent, formal menu page of beginner advice (I have a draft started already), but due to the requests I wanted to post the key things for success.
So these are the key points. In another post I’ll outline the HOW (how this way of eating works so effectively), so for now you’ll just have to accept the WHAT to do:
Forget Exercising (for now)
Don’t bother to start exercising or working out, unless you have been doing so already and enjoy it. You’ll just work up an appetite. If you enjoy working out, then keep at it. If not, don’t. There is no doubt that there are some great reason to exercise, but losing weight is not one of them. There is no causal evidence that links exercise to weight loss. None. Period. End of story. Not to say you won’t eventually lose so much weight that you’ll have a lot more energy and will *want* to workout. When that time comes, have fun. That’s how I did it. But it also slowed down my weight loss as I ate more to compensate and of course, gained muscle mass.
Forget Conventional ‘Wisdom’
Following on the heels of the above ‘don’t exercise’ statement, which for some may be absolutely appalling/mind-blowing/unbelievable, here’s another important thing to do: forget what you currently think you know about nutrition and weight loss. It’s mostly bullshit. Especially forget these ‘big fat lies’:
- “It’s just simple calories-in/calories-out. Eat less and you’ll lose weight.” This is bullshit. Our bodies are not banks, where we have X amount of room for ‘calories’ and any excess calories get stored as fat. It’s not that simplistic. The whole calories-in/calories-out thing is bullshit. Try eating nothing but 1500 calories a day of Twizzlers and see if you don’t gain weight. You will, and you’ll be starving. On the contrary, once you’ve ‘flipped the metabolic switch’ and burn fat as your primary fuel source, you can eat 2500 calories a day of good foods and not gain weight. Of course these numbers I’m giving should be relative to your weight, gender, etc., but you get the point. What makes us fat is sugars and starches, by way of insulin production. I won’t go further than that in this post. It’s not ‘excess calories’. It’s fat cell retention caused by excess insulin production. This is fact and has been known since the 1960’s, however the ‘Healthy Whole Grains!’ industry would never want you to know it.
Buy a Good Book and Follow It for the First Two Weeks
You don’t need any books. It’s simple: cut out all starches and sugars (i.e., carbohydrates). But it’s probably easier to just follow a book, because few people have the balls to just jump into a diet like this based purely on the advice of a ‘wacko’ like me. I recommend you start by picking up one of the following books (I am sure you can get these at your local library – you won’t need them long and they are quick reads). Just get one of these, read the ‘Phase One’ or ‘Induction’ part, which is recommended in these books two last two weeks (but I recommend you stay on it as long as you want), and follow it for as long as you can stand it. While I hate the rigidity, and didn’t follow one myself, they will work and most people need the rigidity:
Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution
While I don’t care for his writing style (you think I sound like a used car salesman when talking about this way of eating? This guy took the cake (no pun intended)! While he used to be regarded as a wacko, research has proven this guy’s methods mostly correct. While I did not follow this book during my weight loss, I read it a few months ago and was surprised to see that he was so on target with what I found, through trial and error. One tip: eat real food. Not ‘Atkins Bars’ or any of that shit. Especially the junk with sugar alcohols in it. Avoid any ‘food’ made by Atkins Nutritionals.
South Beach Diet
I absolutely ‘loathe’ the writer of this book and a lot of what he speaks of. Reason being is he should know better, yet he still is on the misguided anti-saturated fat bandwagon. He’s playing both sides of the fence, in order to sell books. He’s sold tons of em, too. So why do I have it listed here? Because the Phase One is a real LCHF way of eating and is legit. The only thing I would recommend is to up the fat intake, particularly saturated fats, for satiety (i.e, so you won’t be hungry). Forget his goofy warning that you shouldn’t stay on Phase One for more than a few weeks. It’s bullshit. You can stay on it forever if you wanted to.
This married set of doctors are known for having authored some excellent books and advice. I have not read this one myself yet, but it’s next on my list. I recommend it simply because I am familiar with their other writings, have seen interviews of them discussing their recommendations, etc., and I know they’re legit. Hint: it’s not really a ‘high protein’ way of eating – it’s just higher than what you’re likely used to.
The Primal Blueprint
I was reluctant to add this book to this list, because it is not prototypical LCHF. Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and accompanying website are a part of the Paleo lifestyle, where you eat like the cavemen (i.e., your ancestors) did. It makes total sense and will work for weight loss, just not as rapidly because of the encouragement of fruit. Paleo (or Primal, as many are calling it) is a great way of eating. But I recommend straight LCHF if you are overweight and want to lose the weight. You’ll lose it quickly and then, if you’ve become obsessed with health like I have, you can consider switching to a Paleo lifestyle. Many former LCHF’ers have. No surprise – Paleo is low carb. But it takes it one step further and encourages organic meats, ‘clean’ fish, etc. Plus, they’re big on crossfit and exercise.
Eat Real Food
Notice how I’ve not mentioned the word ‘diet’? That infers that you will eventually be able to ‘come off’ the ‘diet’. This is a way of eating, and it is for a lifetime. You will learn to love it, trust me. In a nutshell, an LCHF way of eating is simply eating real, quality food. But it is important to note that, just because something is ‘natural’ or comes from nature does not mean it is healthy or non-fattening. Carrots, for example, are starchy, and bad. Corn sucks too. Bananas are nature’s Snickers bars. I love them, and after losing most of my excess weight I can partake in one right before a squash match for an energy boost. But if you’re obese, avoid them. Avoid them if you’re actively trying to lose weight fast. There are many more examples of foods that surprisingly are bad for you.
Don’t Watch Dr. Oz (or guys like him)
Guys like Dr. Oz, who keep pushing this idea that *anything* natural is good for you, are just wrong. Grains are horrible for you. They are processed as sugar and spike your blood sugar when you eat them, even more so than straight table sugar does! The main killers are grains (even ‘Healthy Whole Grains’), starchy vegetables, and sugars. Even the ‘Biggest Loser’ type shows do not like to reveal the truth – that the participants are put on a very low carb diet. That’s how they lose all that weight so quickly. It’s not because of the working out. By the way, ever notice how Dr. Oz’s agreeing audience is full of overweight women?
Don’t Believe the Hype
The vegetarian/vegan/low-fat/grain associations/weight watchers-like corporations/etc. have used the media to spread the myth that a low carb diet means you go through the McDonalds drive-thru and eat cheeseburgers without the bun. Yes, you could do that (I’ve done it in a pinch), but c’mon. Get real. Eat real, healthy foods. These include: meats, fish, vegetables, some nuts, some fruits (during induction it is advised to avoid fruits, only to keep your ‘sweet tooth’ at bay). You can eat as much meat and non-starchy vegetables as you like. In fact, to be successful you pretty much have to eat a lot, especially at first. Over time you will naturally, by way of feeling full all the time, eat much less than you currently do.
Eat Lots of Fat (Yes, you read that right)
The key to success is eating fat. Lots of it. This is the key to success. Let me say it again: eat fat. Yes, even saturated fat. Especially saturated fat. There is nothing wrong with it, it will make your cholesterol go down, and you will not be starving. Plus, it makes food taste great. Especially when first starting, eat lots of fat. I can’t stress that enough. Unfortunately, someone needs to inform the South Beach Guy of this mantra. Don’t waste your time with Turkey Bacon. It’s too lean. Fry up bacon or sausages. Fry up the eggs. Enjoy your breakfasts knowing it is healthy.
People seem to think that dietary fat goes directly to your hips/belly. This is not true. I’m convinced the world would weigh a lot less if dietary fat was simply named something else other than ‘fat’. Before the ‘obesity epidemic’ started in the 70’s, our parents and grandparents all ate this way: bacon and eggs for breakfast; steaks and fatty meats for dinner. They didn’t eat rice cakes. They knew the facts: that sugars, breads, potatoes, etc. were what made you fat, and that exercising just made you ‘work up an appetite.’ I grew up in the 70’s. There were no Bally’s gyms or health clubs before then. I remember the early 80’s the health club industry exploded. Even in my shitty ‘hood some health clubs popped up. The 70’s also brought the start of deadly ‘Food Pyramid’ from the USDA, and the ‘food’ manufacturers quickly appeased them by making things ‘low-fat’ and replacing the fat with carbohydrates. Carbs are cheap to produce and cheap to buy. It costs more to buy real food. But it’s worth it.
Pick a Way of Eating and Stick With It
There are only really two types of diets in the world right now, in terms of macronutrient intake:
- Typical “Low Fat” diet is: low fat, medium protein, high carbohydrates
- Typical Low Carb diet is: high fat, medium protein, low carbohydrates
- Typical Mistake diet by newbie Low Carbers: low fat, medium protein, low carbohydrates
There are only 3 macronutrients out there: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. You have to eat the first two to function. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to eat carbs ‘for energy’. Your brain needs carbs to function and they are provided by your body on its own. Everyone pretty much agrees that protein shouldn’t make up the bulk of your diet. The real disagreement is in how much carbohydrate is appropriate. This blog is named “Learn At My Expense” because I’ve done all three of these diets over the years. And guess which two of them are bad? : ) The low-fat diet is, by it’s very nature, extremely difficult to stick with. You will constantly be hungry. Will you lose weight? It depends. Most people will. Why? Because they’re cutting back carbs! Just not as much as they should. And you don’t see the health benefits that you do by cutting out carbohydrates. So I say – what’s the point? As for trying to do low carb while also keeping fat intake low….I wandered into that territory for a few months and wound up having dull headaches and dizzyness for a few months. Avoid it. Once I realized it, all it took was an afternoon of eating lots of fat to feel great again.
Leverage the Internet
Use the internet for:
- Recipes: there are TONS of low-carb recipes out there, but beware some are just horrible. In contrast to the ‘low carb diets encourage Big Macs without the bun!’ myth, one of the things you’ll need to do to maximize success is start cooking more at home. While you can certainly eat out while still eating right, it can be tough. Recipes online can help.
- Carbohydrate counts: knowing what is in the foods we eat can be tricky, so unless you already knew that corn and carrots are full of carbs, then you’ll need to google carb counts of foods from time to time
- Support and encouragement: blogs like this one, and forums like Jimmy Moore’s Livin La Vida Low Carb were great resources for me in the beginning.
- Podcasts: Low Carb Conversations and the like are great listens and you can pick up a lot of tips.
Give it Thirty Days (though you will begin losing weight immediately)
By the way – my wife started a low carb diet this week. She’s down 4 pounds already.
I lost approximately 40 pounds in about 4 months. I’m now down a total of 56 pounds, from a svelte 258lb just 9 months ago. While I have a little ways to go yet (I’m naturally ‘big boned’ and am already getting the ‘you’re looking too skinny’ remarks from folks), my belly fat is now concealable with a shirt : ) With this way of eating, dropping large amounts of weight in short periods of time is not uncommon – it is the norm. Which brings me to one additional myth that seems to permeate the airwaves: Losing too much weight too quickly is unhealthy! Again – BULLSHIT. So it’s healthier to remain fatter for longer?
I went from 34% bodyfat down to 19%. My cholesterol levels have improved greatly – my doctor told me that had I maintained my prior weight he would have had to recommend a light statin. My blood pressure is at optimal levels – 118/80. A year ago it was 128/88. Now, in less than a year, I’m very active and feel great. You can too.
What Did I Miss?
I’ve undoubtedly left out some important and helpful tips/guidelines to follow. Please leave a comment with any questions or feedback! Argue with me. I enjoy a civil debate and would love the opportunity to substantiate many of the uncited things I’ve said in this post. Most importantly – stick with this way of eating. I know the first couple of weeks can be hard, but I assure it gets easier every day and, before you know it, you will absolutely feel so much better and look better. And, perhaps most importantly, you will also be healthier.
2 replies on “My Advice for Losing Weight – Fat Loss 101”
Mark – love the blog! Thanks! After reading your last post I decided to go back to the LCHF way of life starting TODAY!!! Did it many years ago but didn’t make the life style change – will be more vigilant about that this time. The bad thing is that I have stuff in the freezer from Trader Joe’s that’s not conducive to this change and I hate to throw food away. Any ideas what to do with it? My only one off will be small amounts of milk 2x a day. Have to take a specific med w/milk and it’s not negotiable since it’s a heart pill. I really don’t think it will derail this much as I can just include it in my carb count allowance per day. I’m looking forward to your next post – see ya around work!
Milk has natural sugar (lactose – similar to what’s in fruits) in it and a lot of people avoid it when trying to lose weight. I actually drink a little sometimes. I add it to smoothies once in a while. Not the same thing, but I use heavy cream in coffee, or half and half if heavy cream is not available (I use quite a bit, not just a dash). One of my favorite deserts is sliced strawberries/blueberries in a bowl, with heavy cream poured over it.
Particularly in the beginning, I don’t think drinking some milk each day hurts at all. Could be much worse things to drink! : )