Nathan's Keto Journey To Race Weight


Good luck and best wishes, Nathan! …but honestly my first instinct is concern. How does such an extreme goal mesh with depression and BED? Do you have a way to extract yourself if it’s not feeling healthy? And do you have some honest way of checking in so that you know this is in your best long-term interest?

I’ve seen some incredibly insightful posts from you, so I’m sure you’ve thought this through, and if this is the right thing for you then I’m sending you lots of encouragement!

(Nathan Toben) #7

Good points. I’m kind of tricking myself but consciously so. I think that if I set my gaze on the horizon of 150 pounds, then the distance that I will cover realistically may not be The full measure, but where I actually end up will still be great progress. I admit, there is some faulty thinking embedded in this plan and really almost every action in my life, and even self awareness of this fact is not always leverageable.

My health is the most important thing. If this goal begins to feed back negative, you are exactly right, I will benefit from keeping a mindset of adaptability. Any progress towards the body that allows me to better enjoy the adventures that I love so much is a win. Simple things are hard for me especially balance.

Moderation In extremes, and extremes in moderation.

(Nathan Toben) #8

Day 2 of 21

A 32hr36min fast has resulted in 9.5 pounds of weight loss, putting me well ahead of schedule.

I plan to break my fast with bacon and eggs and butter tonight, drinking homemade cold brew coffee this morning.

I guessed i was holding on to 5-8lbs of water weight but it seems i under-estimated.

I triple-checked the scale yesterday and this morning to arrive at these numbers.

Hunger pangs we’re always on my mind yesterday and i didn’t sleep the best but bloating has now significantly decreased and i feel less inflammation in my organs.


Has this been your longest fast so far? Nice work!

I don’t think I’ve ever responded to your posts before, because as a non-athlete I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything substantial to contribute, but I just wanted to let you know, you’re someone who kind of amazes me. You’re dealing with some big issues with courage, grace, humility, difficult (and sometimes painful) self-reflection, all the things that we all need regardless of what our challenges are. So as far as titans go, I think you can count yourself among them. :heart:

(Nathan Toben) #10

Wow thank you callisto, your support is so appreciated in this sensitive time for me. Yes, it is my longest fast and I’m childishly proud I got through last night. Its a testament to how important this is to me.

Its a fickle thing, self-appraisal because perhaps you look at me as an athlete (and yes I identify as such) but I turn to MY left and right and see these incredible distance runners with such talent and form and they are like a buck twenty (which I would not healthfully maintain) and I think about how much I can improve - I feel often like a hobbyist despite my efforts. But there is a deep desire to find my limits which I think bonds all of us who seek balance, health, self-actualization and that’s why I am really responding positively to this forum in particular is it seems very interdependent yet it is made up of individuals in relative isolation, working through their unique plights.


Hey I don’t think it’s childish at all! :smile: Or, you know, maybe it is. But I think kids have something to teach us in this regard. To be proud of an achievement without judging all over it, I know that’s something I haven’t done a ton of since I was a kid.

I think you just touched on a large reason why your posts have resonated with me despite the face-value differences. I can relate to what you’re saying. My striving has been more in the academic/professional areas of my life, but I have definitely come to realize there’s a big difference between my achievement and my subsequent experience of that achievement. I’ve been able to get a lot done in my life telling myself (sometimes just subconsciously) that I’ll feel a certain way about myself once I’ve reached a certain goal, and I’m not sure it’s ever been true. Achievements that seemed so lofty look so mundane once I’ve reached them. And the other thing I’ve realized is that a lot of people who are at the top of any field have been chased up there by their own emotional demons, so I try to keep that in mind to avoid comparing myself too harshly. I’ve learned the “top” is full of people coping with imposter syndrome, just like me. These are all recent insights though, I spent plenty of time (and still do) working through these feelings.

I’ll give you the most obvious example from my own life. I haven’t shared a ton of personal stuff on the forum yet, but your courage and honesty have inspired me. :blush: I’m a veterinarian. It’s no secret that getting into vet school in the US is difficult, especially to out-of-state schools, which were mostly the schools I was interested in. About a year after some major trauma in my life (my husband passed away at age 34, story for another time) and flailing about for new reason to be alive, I decided to switch careers and threw myself into becoming a vet. I basically did every single thing I could think of to make myself the perfect applicant, getting straight A’s in the pre-requisite courses and a near perfect GRE score. I got into every school I applied to. I was told by a member of the admissions committee during my first year in vet school that in their process of ranking applicants (based on grades, GRE, recommendations and personal statement), I had been at the top. #1. Like, if they could only admit one student that year, it would have been me. Did any of this make me feel like I belonged there, like I deserved it? Nope. If I was congratulating myself for anything, it was for being so good at fooling the admissions people into thinking I was a good candidate. Although it takes some deep searching to acknowledge this, I still feel like I fooled them, many years after I’ve graduated.

And I remember one of my classmates, who was admitted off the waitlist, who knew about the ranking even though it was supposed to be confidential. (She worked in the lab of one of our profs who was on the committee.) A couple of times during vet school she made comments to me, probably because of her own self-doubt (completely undeserved, she is a specialist now and far more accomplished than me) that it must be nice to be so “believed in” by the faculty. I never responded the way I wanted to, because I could tell it came from a painful place for her, but her comments caused me pain too. What I really wanted to say was, “maybe you weren’t the candidate I was because your husband is alive and you have a fuller life with concerns other than school.” (Harsh, I know.)

So, I guess what I’m getting at is… It took me a while to learn it but just as they say you can’t outrun a bad diet, I can’t “out-achieve” a faulty sense of self-worth. They are two different things entirely. Stuff like working on my health, like keto, are nice double-whammies where I’ve gotten both physical benefits and emotional benefits, but weight loss (or any achievement) isn’t going to totally fix the depression and crippling anxiety that come with my baggage. So I have to deal with them separately, so far I do this with meditation, a lot of self-help reading, and forcing myself to spend quality face-to-face time with people who care about me (which has been something I’ve been neglecting for a couple of years). I think you are much younger than me but you seem to have already sensed the need to deal with issues of self-worth in a multimodal way, and there’s a lot to be said for that. I’ve gotten a lot of comfort and insight from your contributions, there’s a generosity of spirit in you that’s unique, I hope you know that and appreciate that about yourself. I sure appreciate it.

Oh, and sorry for taking over your progress thread. :grin:

(Nathan Toben) #12

That is just so brilliantly said.

This too. A dozen times yes.

I am so glad you took over this progress thread. I’m not quite sure how to formulate a response. One thing that really pierces through from your tone is a kind of…level-headed extremism to which I can relate. And I know it’s just words you heard before, but I am sorry to hear about your husband and my only reference point is my brother who — as a result of a traumatic brain injury — experienced an overnight personality change and i felt like I had lost him.

For those of us who simply feel A LOT whether as a result of sorrowful experience or it just being who we are (or both), it is an asset as much as it is a boon. On the one hand, we can be acutely empathic to others emotions, psychologies, intentions. On the other hand, we are so easily worn out by big groups or sustained social interactions. And when we feel slighted, we can become resentful towards people for things they are not even aware they are doing. At least, I can.

The multimodal solution (love that word) that a ketogenic lifestyle supports, it gives me a chance to rest in the eye of the storm more often than when I am on the insulin roller coaster. My depression is reduced, my self-assessment is (still totally wacky) a little more right-sized but also I can just show up for others without overextending myself.

I am kind of bouncing all over the place, but you’ve given me a lot to think about and it is a gift on this blustery, rainy, melancholy Sunday afternoon. Cheers. Best wishes @Callisto.


I’m so glad to hear you’re finding some real improvements with keto, I think I have too. One of the hardest things about depression is the dips that come with minimal or indiscernible cause, and no real warning, and it’s so fascinating to have proof that at least some of it is biochemistry that can be manipulated with just food. It makes me appreciate the wisdom of how my body works.

Thank you for your kinds words about my husband, and I am also very sorry to hear about your brother. It really sucks, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to make light of it, but I don’t think I know a better way to describe it. It just sucks. But like you said, I think our inner and outer experiences make us better people. As much as I’d reverse time in a heartbeat if I could, I can’t deny how it has improved me as a human being.

I really apologize that I keep bringing up your age (and I might as well apologize to myself for sounding like some old crone every time I do it), but good lord, you are wise for your years. I don’t know if it’s a blessing or not, because I think in many/most cases, this kind of clarity about one’s own inner life only happens in response to stress and suffering. But it’s still better than not having it.

And I love this term, so perfect. I’ve been thinking about this level-headed extremism (though not by any name until now) a lot lately. And I think you’re right we have this in common. It’s compensatory, at least in my case. An attempt to force order and predictability into a world where everything seems unpredictable, and unsafe as a result. Everything from world events to personal relationships to my own unpredictable inner moods and experiences. I know there are destructive qualities to this extremism, however level-headed it may be, but it’s tough to let go. My coping mechanisms seem to work so well, until they don’t. :blush: But I think I’ve made a lot of progress on this lately.

Am I right that you also meditate, or practice mindfulness? I could swear I remember that from one of your early posts, sorry if I’m making it up. If so, are you doing it regularly? I think it has really helped me to have a part of myself which is a compassionate but detached observer of what happens inside my head. I have yet to make it a daily habit though, and I think that would help even more. Years ago, I did meditate daily, and I found that the “observer” part of me was more continually present, even when not meditating.

I’m pretty wordy, please don’t feel any pressure to keep up the word count! But I’ve enjoyed this conversation a lot. Have a great day and stay safe in that weather you’re getting!

(Nicole Silvia) #14

Hey Nathan!

I’m not an endurance athlete type, so just asking here, but is 150 your best race weight by experience? Do you not perform well at higher weights?

I also always struggled at night. Also have battled with binging and depression, as well as a pretty rough history that I’m very proud to have overcome.

I utilize many many different tools to keep myself happy and focused. I’ll list some, and suggest just try different things out and adopt whatever helps.

  1. Books… lots and lots of self help/goal oriented /inspirational books

  2. Podcasts and video blogs of people who inspire me, who are along the lines of what I want in my future. Some are science, just inspirational speakers, life coaches, etc.

  3. Journaling/writing… I write poetry, mantras, journal my feelings and experiences, whatever makes me feel good at the time

  4. Social groups either in person or virtual who are going in the direction I want or who inspire me

  5. Spirituality… I pray or meditate, etc. Specifically for those night time issues, I highly recommend you try the Headspace meditation app right before bed.

  6. Pets and my kids… love them. Love taking care of them, love being around them, they are wonderful. They make my home a loving sanctuary. A pet or two usually accompanies me at night in bed while I read, write, pray, listen to audio books or pod casts, etc.

If I think of more I’ll add to this. If you want recommended specifics, feel free to ask. I’m not shy :wink:

(Nathan Toben) #15

Day 3 of 21

Power is out from hurricane Florence so can’t upload photograph of chart.


Goal = 169.8
Actual = 163

Notes on Yesterday: 3pm. broke fast with 6 eggs in 3 tbsp of butter and half a packet of smithfield thick cut bacon. Used bacon fat to cook brussel sprouts. 6pm. Scrambled 3 more eggs in 3 tbsp of butter and finished the bacon. Saved brussel sprouts in fridge for tonight’s dinner as I wanted to be around 20g for carbs. Estimated Deficit = 998 kcals.

(Nathan Toben) #16


Hey Nathan,
So are you fasting and also aiming for calorie deficits on your eating days? I have no informed opinion of how this will work for you, because your habits (exercise, mostly) are different enough from mine. Except to say that if you’re going to fast again, starting a fast after having restricted calories for a while can be really hard, in my own experience. Maybe you’ve already tried it before and not had a problem, though. If you’re going to fast again during this process, you may find it easier to build in at least a day or two of non-restriction and a higher fat intake just before it. Just a thought. Great progress!

(Nathan Toben) #18

Good point.

As a bike courier for work, i still feel the residual fatigue/depletion of my fast on fri-sat. I teying to remind myself of my intentions and go easy on myself today. i have a big week of training ahead culminating in a 42-mile mountain run on Sunday (weather permitting). If my weight loss goal saps me too much, I will postpone the run.

I have heard multiple sources say that a 500-800 calorie deficit is the maximum before athletic performance is affected negatively. So I want to aim for a daily 800 calorie deficit until Friday - if i land at a 500 calorie deficit, I will be ok with that.

To fuel a 10-hr effort like the aforementioned run, I will have a steady drip of carbohydrate.

So: Ideally, I would refeed on Friday afternoon (no deficit, maybe a 200-500 calorie surplus), and then fast until early evening Saturday for another refeed. This would amp up my fat burning for the run and then coupled with the steady drip of liquid carbohydrates in my hydration belt, it will be an experiment of metabolic flexibility and good training for my upcoming 100-miler.

The key is to get to the foot of the mountain in ketosis, do the run, and then recover with whole foods, and in the proceeding days, allow for autophagy to fully cleanse myself of the sports nutrition and drop back into nutritional ketosis.

Really focusing on this task right now. Grateful for y’alls support. This is so hard for me.


You’re so systematic. I love it. :grin: Let us know how it goes.

(Nathan Toben) #20

Day 4 of 21


Goal: 169.2lbs
Actual: 166lbs

Notes on Yesterday: broke a 20hr IF at 3pm with salted and peppered kalamata olives and boiled eggs. For dinner (6:30pm), made 80/20 beef with onion, garlic, herbed salt, cumin. Cooked in the pan with 3 tbsp of butter and threw in 4 eggs for my second helping. Also finished brussel sprouts from the night before and had half an avocado. Estimated Deficit = 770 kcals.

I’d love y’alls input on these breakdowns.

My protein was a little high. 140ish grams. Based on my lean mass (75kg) and what seems to be the least stress on my evening digestion, I want to be between 100-115 grams of protein for the day. Also my carbohydrates were 47g - 15g fiber = 32g. Though this is totally fine for my active days, I do want to allow for deeper ketosis to set in so I am going to aim for 20g today.

I am on a 3 day upward trend in weight because i am retaining food and water after sat-sun 38hr fast. Also I just wake up and weigh myself first thing because I got to head out and get my run in before work so it could be dinner sitting in there but I got to admit, it’s a little discouraging. But this is the grind. Thankful for the discipline. Not sure what has catalyzed it but i want to ride it out as best I can.

(Nathan Toben) #21

Day 5

Notes: Up a half a pound from yesterday. Fat in a good place, protein also good. Carbs = 37 - 11 fiber = 26, so better. Finished the day yesterday with a 900 cal deficit. I was at about -1200 but kept eating to keep it lower so my speed session this morning didn’t suffer. If I ate any more, my digestion would have suffered. Got plenty of sleep. Helps to have no internet.


You feeling okay about stuff? I know it’s an experiment and you’re seeing where it will lead, and you know it was a large water weight dump at the beginning. And also daily variations, etc etc. I hope the scale isn’t getting you down, though.

I was just trying to remember what that equation is that tells you how much body fat can actually be metabolized in one day, as an upper limit. You don’t have a lot to begin with so I wonder how that limit is playing into this experiment. I’ll see if I can find the post about that, but maybe you already know what I’m talking about.


Found it. The entire post is pretty helpful so I’ll just link to it! The part I mentioned before is what he discusses under “Stored Energy.” Sorry if you already know all this, factored it in, and I’m just being pedantic. :blush:

(Nathan Toben) #24

Uh-oh. What’s a furphy?!?

No yes, this has me thinking. i have roughly 24lbs of body fat. What does that mean for how much stored energy i can burn in a day? My brain is dumb (probably from cutting calories).

i’m feeling pretty good. My speed session went really well this morning largely because i had no full stomach and no indigestion. i am a little bummed about what the scale is saying. I might join in on the september zornfast on friday after breakfast. I want to figure out how much is water lost and fat lost plus this whole weekly satiety signals have been working well and i think it is from that 38hr fast last week.

i got cut from work early today which throws me off a little. and i don’t have running water at my house which compounds on this.

i have my dinner planned out. For someone like me, the two hardest components of keto are: for someone who burns 3000 calories each day in exercise…

  1. keeping protein in a moderate range relative to my lean muscle (75kg x 1.5g = 112g protein).


  1. eating enough but not too much to cause indigestion and impair my early morning runs.


Ha ha! I have no clue. Maybe it’s an Aussie thing?

The way I understand it, if you have 24 lbs of body fat, and each of those lbs can provide 31.5 kcal per day of metabolizable energy, the maximum would be 756 kcal. So if you restrict more than that over a long period of time, the extra has to come from somewhere, either from another fuel source or from decreased metabolic rate. It has been a long time since I read that full post from Richard, so the answer may be in there. Or somewhere in Phinney’s work, I am not familiar with all of it but my understanding is that he works with athletes primarily.