I’ve always been on the heavier side and struggling with my weight was the norm for me. While I wouldn’t have called myself morbidly obese or anything, I would say that I was doughy with a good amount of ‘spare tire’ and ‘love handles’ with an estimated body fat percentage of around 30%. I am 5’9″ and at my heaviest weighed around 215 lbs. I managed to lower my weight to around 200 lbs using a lot of caloric restriction which left me hungry and unsatisfied most of the time. It was not a happy or sustainable way of living. I came a cross a book in early 2011 which changed how I approached things.
From January 2011 to December 2012 I followed the diet recommended by Tim Ferriss in “The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman” which he called the “Slow Carb Diet.” The main idea behind this diet was to maintain good glycemic control by avoiding wheat products, starches, sugar, and other simple carbohydrates and instead primarily focusing on protein and vegetables. The method was to strictly follow this way of eating for 6 days, and then on the 7th day you are allowed a “cheat day” where you are allowed to eat as much of whatever you want as possible.
The other part of this diet that really appealed to me was the idea of tracking. He really emphasized the idea of having measurable, reproducible data to document. I was supposed to measure my weight as well as my body circumference at different sites once a week in order to have quantifiable numbers to work with. Since I’m a numbers guy, I loved this and went nuts with my spreadsheet documenting everything.
I was pretty successful on this diet and I certainly made the most of my cheat days. On January 2011, when I began, I weighed 191 lbs with an abdominal circumference of 38.5 inches. On December 2012, when I decided to stop, I weighed 182 lbs with an abdominal circumference of 35 inches.
A few things happened that made me want to change the way I was eating. First of all, my weight loss had stalled. I was stuck in the 180-185 lb range for over 6 months with no real change in my body composition. No matter how much I worked out or how well I ate, I was trapped in this range.
Secondly, I got an annual blood test and discovered that my HbA1c was 5.7, which is barely in the abnormal range. HbA1c is a blood test that measures how well controlled your blood sugars have been in the prior 3 months. The fact that it was abnormal really surprised me, especially since I was following the slow carb diet which stresses blood glucose control. I started wondering if my all out cheat days coupled with the large amounts of protein I was eating was causing my blood sugars to be elevated (protein can elevate sugars via gluconeogenesis, which you can read about in my biochemistry primer). The fact that my HbA1c was abnormal showed that this wasn’t a one time event, but that it must’ve been constant over the prior 3 months. There is a lot of data out there in the medical literature about how detrimental elevated blood sugars can be, and I didn’t want this to continue, especially since I’m relatively young (32 yo) and I was ACTIVELY trying to control my blood sugar.
Thirdly, I started learning more about nutrition and the paleo lifestyle by listening to a lot of podcasts. One of my favorites is called, “Relenteless Roger and the Caveman Doctor” and it was in one of their episodes where they talked about Jimmy Moore’s n=1 experiment with nutritional ketosis. You can listen to that episode here.
The more I read the more interested I got. I probably read through Jimmy’s entire n=1 posts in the span of an afternoon and bought the two most recent books by Volek and Phinney:
You can read about the basics of what I learned from those books here.
The idea of optimizing my body to burn it’s own fat stores was really fascinating, and the fact that this could be measured and quantified using blood ketones made it even more appealing. It gave me extra data to work with in my spreadsheet! I modeled my experiment after Jimmy’s with the exception being that I stopped checking my evening ketones and blood sugars (you can read why here), and recently I added in my body circumference measurements.
My next post will be about what I’ve learned and experienced after 60 days of following this diet. I also plan on having my blood work checked again (most recent test was 3 months ago) to see if I can document any changes, positive or negative, in my HbA1c and other biomarkers, and will dedicate a post to these results.