So this post has (apparently) been banned by one of those “for beginners” Facebook keto groups; that particular group has nearly 2m members and they seem only to approve posts from newbies that they can then comment on with an ad for their paid “keto” program. So I thought I’d post it here.
Newbies, you’ve come to the right place! Read on, because I’ve been doing this for nearly 5 years and I can break this sh!t down nice and simple for you. This is just my advice and my story; I have nothing to sell you. I’ll give you the basics up front:
If you’re a newbie, keep things simple:
- No sugar, no starches.
- Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.
- Eat from the approved list of foods (link below).
- Eat whole, healthy foods: meat, green veg, fish, and healthy fats.
- Avoid eating cr@p out of a package, especially if it says “keto friendly” or “low carb.”
- Avoid d@mn vegetable oils. Learn about what’s a healthy oil and what isn’t.
- Here’s your approved foods: https://www.australianparadox.com/pdf/why-we-get-fat.pdf
Please, do yourself a favour, click that link, and follow the guide. There’s a reason Taubes put it in the appendix to his seminal, world-changing book, “Why We Get Fat.” (It’s Dr Eric Westman’s old-school low carb diet for his patients at Duke University.)
- Don’t bother measuring ketones. You’ll feel it when you’re in the zone.
- BONUS: For inspiration, read/watch/listen to material about low carb. Lectures by Taubes, Phinney, Westman, Noakes, Lustig are good for starters
- BONUS: Learn about blood work and get the right tests done.
- BONUS: Get a continuous glucose monitor for real-time data on how different foods affect you.
If this post by some chance blows up and gives that PDF the hug of death, I’ll try find a way to post that PDF elsewhere, but loads of websites have this general info, for instance: https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto/foods
The background to my story is that I lost a bunch of weight >15 years ago on “calories in, calories out” by exercising a bunch and reducing caloric intake. I was successful but I eventually gained it all back, and dreaded the hard slog of doing it all again. I’d gone hungry quite a bit and the exercise was enjoyable but hard work and hard on my joints.
Fast forward to summer 2016. I was leaving NYC for a brief international vacation and none of my buttoned shirts fit me. I had to buy an XL and felt embarrassed to even be seen in public. Once I got back, I resolved to figure this thing out once and for all.
I got back to NYC and quickly found a book on my shelf I’d bought in 2011 but never read. It was Taubes’s “Why We Get Fat” and I realised that I must have bought it because it seemed very science-heavy, unlike most of the other diet literature I’d glanced at over the years. (In retrospect, “The Zone” was pretty good for its era, and I had read that the first time I lose weight.)
I was convinced: all I had to do was reduce the stimulus for my body to secrete insulin. I didn’t get super religious about it: I kept eating some fruit, like mangoes, but I cut out every single other bit of sugar and starch from my diet. I took the view that any substantial carb reduction in my diet would show some effect. Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good!
In fairness, I was doing quite a bit of cycling back then. But the results were dramatic: I lost 10kg or 22lb in about 10 weeks. It happened so quickly that coworkers, who saw the change happen “gradually,” commented on it. I dropped a bit more in the year after that, but my weight has settled back up where it was at the end of that first 10 weeks. And that’s ok! It’s what’s called my “Phinney weight,” which you can google, but my blood work is pretty good and I’m working with my doctors to keep trying to troubleshoot and improve things even more.
After nearly 5 years, I can tell you that I honestly will never go back to regularly consuming bread and sugar and pasta and pizza etc. Has keto/low carb been the magic bullet for everything in my health or my life? Def not. But I eat as much as I want, of foods that I love, whenever I want, and my body stays happily in my current weight range.
Over the years I’ve learned a lot about cooking, bloodwork, exercise, and loads of diet hacks. I’ve used continuous glucose monitors and I’ve done lots of different blood tests and seen various doctors to learn more about how to hack this lifestyle as tightly as I could. I’m happy to share them if people are interested. And sure, fathead pizza and almond cookies and keto cheesecakes are kind of fun sometimes.
But my main advice is as above: keep it simple, and eat whole, healthy foods. You may not get dramatic results – I’m not a ripped demigod and I don’t look like Leo – but dammit you’ll feel better in 10 weeks, I can tell you that much.
Initial weight loss (but only started tracking after losing half of it, start weight was ~95kg)
Years of maintenance, averaging around 83kg, my apparent "Phinney weight"