Training Tuesdays: Eat Fat, Lose Fat

Back when Facebook would give you a spot to put a narcissistic little quote on your profile like ‘Be the Change You Want to See blah blah blah I’m so unique,‘ mine was ‘Everything in moderation, especially moderation.’ This line has been attributed to Oscar Wilde (among others), a writer who is great for providing quotes that make vice seem like noble affectations (I was always a fan of his quote about cigarettes). Wilde was also dead by 46, which brings me to the reason behind this post.

I’ve always had a hard time moderating my intake of anything that’s momentarily good. Food and alcohol have had a tenancy to go down as fast as I can put it in my mouth. In my very early 20’s my proclivity for demolishing 5 Big Macs in a sitting and then go out for 1 or 17 beer was a point of pride. Unsurprisingly, the only thing bigger than my appetite was my waistline. By 22 I was tipping the scales at 280lbs. Some of the unfortunate side effects were my inability to walk up a single flight of stairs without pain or ripping open pairs of pants when I would bend over at my desk at work.

Over the next 4 or 5 years I did a decent, if misinformed, job of scaling things back to my high-school graduation weight of 220. I’m only 6’2″ so this is by no means slim, but it was where I felt comfortable. Weight watchers got me down most of the way and then getting back to the gym every once in a while and training for a half marathon did the rest. By this time I had come across climbing and was trading my weekends from drinking and recuperating on the couch to getting up early to get outside. I can’t underestimate what a difference that made in my general approach to health and dietary management. By 2011 I had just gotten back from a month-long trip to Southeast Asia and had dropped to an unrecognizable 202lbs. I blame it on the vacation from North American food, because it wasn’t for lack of drinking beer.

Matt nearing the end of a SEA trip
James (Left) and Matt (right) nearing the end of a SEA trip

Luckily for me, at the same time I had convinced a lovely girl that I was worth keeping around and quickly fell into domestic bliss. My appetite met her endless cooking in an epic head-to-head struggle for supremacy. The Sisyphean battle ended in a draw, with me as the loser. After about 2 years I ended up back at 240, even though I was running and climbing just as much as I ever had. It finally hit home when my girlfriend suggested that maybe I should try and losing some weight lest I get fat. She was nice enough to leave off the ‘-er’ at the end. After a month or two of self-pity and blaming her for feeding me so much delicious food I decided it was time to start making some changes again.

I’ve spent the last year running through the typical approaches to diet these days (gluten-free, tracking calories, running lots) with no change at all. I found that tracking calories was psychologically exhausting and would stop after a week or two. The whole ‘just eat a balanced diet!’ approach that’s usually espoused by perpetually skinny people didn’t work because, as I mentioned at the outset, moderation isn’t in my DNA and I would just go on to eat my plate, their plates and the plates of whoever was within an arms radius of my chair.

I’ve never been one to turn down a fad diet, so when I came across the Reddit sub for low-carb, high-fat diets and all of the success stories therein I decided to give it a go. If you’re unfamiliar,  LFHC diets (or ‘Keto,’ as Reddit calls it due to the diet supposedly putting your body into something called Ketosis) take the calories you normally consume from carbs and replaces them with fat. There is some science behind why this is supposed to work that I may explain in another post, but the basic theory is that fat is more satiating than carbs so you can eat less and still feel full, while simultaneously smoothing out blood sugar/insulin spikes that happen when you eat sugar and/or carbohydrates.

So far, it’s working. I’m down 17lbs in about 9 weeks and my midsection is leaning out in a way I’ve never seen before. I saw a rib shadow today; for someone that’s been overweight for 30 years, seeing a rib is like seeing Bigfoot. I’ve also cut my exercise volume way down and cut out cardio all together to focus on weight loss. Anyone who runs regularly will likely understand how hard it is not to eat 500 calories of carby deliciousness after a 10km run so I decided to just cut that out all together for now.

There seem to be a few major counter-arguments to this approach, namely: 1) your brain needs carbs to work, 2)you’ll die of a heart attack, and 3)you’ll gain it all back as soon as you go back to eating the normal way. I’m not a doctor, but I’ll try to respond to these based on how I think about them.

1) I don’t think it does. I’ve been eating about 20g of carbs a day for months now and I’m not dead or demented (unless of course I’ve already died and am living in a diet-restricted purgatory…)

2) I just checked my blood pressure on the weekend and it’s the best it’s ever been. I realize that there’s more to heart health than just blood pressure but I feel good about it. I used to have high-ish blood pressure so any movement on that is a plus in my book.

3) Of course you will, you dummy. If today I went back to eating exactly the same way that put me at 280lbs, basic physiology would dictate that I would weigh 280lbs. It’s a math equation. No diet in the world provides lifetime inoculation against Big Macs. So, I don’t think this is a valid argument.

This post is already way too long but I wanted to lay some context for the more specific posts I have planned for upcoming training installments. I’ll specifically be talking about the pros and cons of this diet, whether or not I stick with it, results, etc.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a stick of butter.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *