I am at the tail end of Mark Sisson’s “The Primal Blueprint”. This could be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I wish this would be used as a textbook in 6th grade in this country. There’s a lot of lessons I’ve been drawing over my 29 month journey – this is the first thing I’ve run into which was more of a framework rather than a 10 step guide.
I believe his book is perfect for people who are 20-30 pounds overweight and want to live a great life. However, most of these sources don’t address the person that is morbidly obese. Like – “I need to lose over 100 pounds!!” – doesn’t fit well with this book.
And, I’ll tell you why.
In the Primal Blueprint, it does ask for you to lower your carbs to then eventually force you over to burn fat primarily. He also wrote a book called the 21 day keto reset, in which he says it’s a good idea to dip into this several weeks or months a year.
But it doesn’t address that craze. That frenzy I’d have. I think many of you don’t know what it’s like, or fathom it. Your world revolves around that “fix”. There were two driving influences:
- Hunger – deep hunger pangs would gnaw at me
- The fix – only this fix would solve my hunger
I’m going to tell you – fat people WANT to lose weight. They try, time and time again. But the inherent problem with almost any weight loss plan is that it doesn’t address the two items above. I get rather furious when I listen to fitness influencers on YouTube and they talk about “calories in, calories out”.
You see, calories in, calories out (I will call CICO) is the math equation that balances the food and energy you take in, versus what you expend.
There’s a problem with this. People like me who have dieted 300 times. Punished themselves with excessive cardio. Performed years of caloric restriction – my buttons and dials don’t work the same as someone who never has been overweight. For example, I’m about to step on the scale this morning for my weigh in and I’ll be a pound less than last month. Luckily, I’ve been taking the tape measure every few weeks as well and I’ve measured significant progress on the tape measure. So – I will chalk this up as body re-composition.
However, I can tell you that I almost never go over 2200 calories in a day. Most days are somewhere around 1600-2000, with the once every 2-4 weeks hitting at 2800-3000, perhaps on a busy exercise/legs day. My BMR should have me somewhere around 2100 and the other measure above BMR is usually somewhere around .5 of your BMR. This would land me somewhere just north of 3000 calories for the TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).
I can tell you…either your BMR equation doesn’t work for me or the extra calorie formula doesn’t work for me, because I’m well shy of 3,000 calories a day. Probably by a 1,000 deficit. So the Layne Nortons of the world want to talk about calorie math. Well, son, if you’re so smart, why am I only down 1 pound this month instead of 8? I created a caloric deficit which should equal 8 pounds of loss in a month.
Some factors that go into this:
- I stopped running. My back was hurting and I stopped being a cardio bunny. I will get back to running, but taking 10 weeks off to heal the back and hit the weights.
- I went back to weights. Did I put on 6 pounds of muscle? No.
- I have been stressed. My grandmother passed and other family things have a stress level on me at the moment. I’ve not been sleeping as well (stress and back) which has then probably had a tougher time clearing cortisol.
So my point is that I will work the system and not rely on calorie math. Because what happens every time I used to do this was I’d get the Excel charts out and I’d map my calories versus my anticipated weights based off of those expenditures. They NEVER work.
So I throw away your calorie math. I DO create a SIGNIFICANT deficit. But could a lot of this be extra water weight? Maybe.
What if…..the same 5-8 foods I eat my body is becoming more efficient at eating? You hear about how efficient your body is with burning things. At the onset of keto, you drop a lot of water weight (and fat) because your body is not efficient with burning fat. It chugs through fat until it builds the proper mitochondria to then burn it efficiently. Your fat loss slows. So I’m going to change up my foods a little and see if that suddenly does something different.
But I digress – sort of. When you are addicted to certain foods – and you eat them repetitively, I wonder if there’s some sort of efficiency going on there which, when the body is more efficient at digesting it, that you may actually extract more calories from it. Like – a food may have 500 calories in it. But maybe if this is something you’ve never eaten before, your body will inefficiently burn those 500 calories. Maybe if it’s something you have eaten 5 times a week for a year, your body will build mechanisms to burn that item more efficiently and extract a lot more of those calories to absorb.
Big picture- what if someone who eats a varied diet of 2200 calories with all kinds of different foods never really builds the framework to digest these items “efficiently” so 2200 calories for them seems like 1500. And, what if someone else who eats 2200 calories of the same thing, day in, and day out, may actually absorb all 2200 of those calories?
My N=1 is interested in trying. So, this coming month I’m planning to change it up a bit. My caloric intake will not change, but the foods I eat will be completely different than the ones I have been eating.
So let’s get to my “system”. Right now, I’m in the last 30-40 pounds and I’m very happy with where I’m at. But to get from someone who at his peak was nearly 400 pounds to someone just north of 200 pounds in just shy of 2.5 years should be studied for lessons learned.
Here is how I would look at this, from a five phase approach:
- Kill off your vices. For me, smoking took me from 350ish to 372 in 3 months when I quit. It was never a “good time”. There was always stress. Then, there was manufactured stress when you couldn’t have a smoke. Your whole life was wired around getting that fix. Hop into a car, get a smoke. Arrive, get a smoke. Have a smoke every hour with my favorite co-workers. Also, with drinking – I was never addicted to alcohol. I liked the party and social aspects of it, and my intensity during the week’s worth of hard work enjoyed going on auto-pilot and being care free under the influence of alcohol. However – this also would kill my ability to do real consistent workouts, and the alcohol gatherings also had people smoking at them. In my 20s, every time I quit smoking, this band of misfits would drag me back in. In the last 10 years, I smoked 3. So I have been on the right path. If you like McDonald’s for lunch every day, do it once on Fridays. Cut back eating out.
- Learn about how to cook, meal prep, and take care of yourself. I’d complain about how long it would take to cook dinner every night. Or how eating healthy costs so much. I’d be tired ALL the time. Like, after dinner I could barely stay awake. How the hell were all of these people being so active? Well, for starters, a deep dive on my early days on MyFitnessPal revealed that most days, I was close to 60% carbs. This was pumping me with insulin non stop and giving me the hunger pangs and heroin nods after a meal. It would then hurt my sleep. I’d sleep maybe 5-6 hours a night and nothing really deep. I spent a good month learning how to prep some simple meals and balancing them a little. Suddenly, after dinner, I was not passing out, but I had energy to walk my dog. I needed to find ways to cut back on the inefficiency of cooking for an hour every night. Another thing – was I “divorced” myself from my wife’s eating. For years, I might take chicken out of the freezer and go to make it, and the wife would be like, “I don’t want chicken tonight”. I’d be like, “I took it out of the freezer to make it, and we need to use it up”. And then it would be, “I don’t want chicken”. And I’d be like, “well, I’ll eat chicken then” – to which, it would be, “then what am I going to have?” Let me tell you some advice. If you have more than 50 pounds to lose, don’t fall into that trap like I did. It’s then so easy to find something like – “fine, we have been arguing about dinner the last hour, we both like Wendy’s, let’s just go to Wendy’s”. You need to realized that YOU are potentially at risk for death. YOU need to take care of YOU. And, if you took the damn chicken out to make salad, eat the chicken and salad. So, along with number 1 – you have to ensure you are cutting back on the bad habits like ordering pizza all the time, getting your 500 calorie coffee every day, etc.
- IIFYM and substitution. I’d say with the above item, you would start tracking what you eat for about a month while you meal prep. I found I was at like 60% carbs. I always knew that dieting meant “low fat”, so every single time I dieted, I’d eat low fat and boost my carbs for exercise. This led me to eating a lot of “whole grain” breads, cereals, pastas – etc. I’d have 4-5 servings of fruit a day. For me, this pumped insulin into me all times and made me tired. My trainer suggested 40/30/30. 30% fat???? Wha? Well….guess what. When I increased my fats and proteins, my satiety level increased. I still had to measure everything out, as it was very easy for me to overeat rice with my chicken. However, when I would get done a meal of chicken, broccoli, and rice, I’d be content. Other things started happening for me – what if instead of me ordering a pizza, I’d maybe try to make a flatbread pizza? I can make this so it will fit my macros for the day!! So I would make things that weren’t the real thing, but we were substitutes. It’s not always as good as the real thing, but it would scratch the itch. When I first started IIFYM, I’d have a cheat meal like 3 times a week. This meant I could eat something “not great”, but I’d also then try to ensure it fit within my macros. So maybe on a Saturday, I’d have a salad for lunch and then dinner would be a cheat meal of 2 slices of pizza and French fries. For the day, I would not have gone over the 2500 or so, and my macros for that day might be 43/27/30. But I would plan my next day’s meals while in bed the night before. I did this for almost a year, and this eventually waned me off of a lot of the bad shit that had become patterns for me daily. Rather than pizza and Wendy’s being the daily go-to meals, they were something I was now having 1-3 times a month. When your body starts to feel so much better, you NEVER KNEW how good you could feel. Then, you eat Wendy’s and the next day you HURT. You then realize that was the pain you were feeling daily, for 20 years. You start to eat it less and less because of how good you FEEL.
- Lower the carbs! I did IIFYM for 15 months and lost 70 pounds. What happened to me on that I feel might be what I’m going through right now. I hit a 3 month plateau. I was eating 2100 calories or less per day and was VERY active. Yet the scale didn’t move. Towards the end of IIFYM for me, I started putting a few pounds back on as my carbs were increasing. For me, I switched it up with keto. For others, you might want to use the Primal Blueprint of 50-100 carbs per day to lose weight. See the dangers of going from 400 pounds to KETO is you are missing a few steps where you learn about food values, substitutions, satiety, and you still have those food addictions to things like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. In this country, we aren’t patient. Everyone sees KETO and sees results I or others have. But they don’t read the fine print. They jump right in and listen to someone that says YOU MUST HAVE 20 CARBS OR LESS PER DAY or YOU NEED 80 PERCENT FAT. Both statements are wrong, and both are right. To an extent. Keto confuses people because the rules are all over the place. some people just suck at tracking shit and never went through the IIFYM stage. I’d get flooded with emails asking if something was “keto” or not. If you learn to evaluate the nutritional info, pretty much anything can be had on keto. If I’m out with the wife for dinner now, I have no problem having a bite or two of her cake for dessert. 3 years ago, some sort of addiction would have forced me to eat the whole piece. But – an interesting thing happened with a year of IIFYM and a year of keto. The initial foods that I’d chase after, I no longer want, crave, or think about. Three times in the last 5 months I’ve set up a cheat meal here and there. I’d order my crack – pizza and fries. But an interesting thing happened. There was a reward center in my brain I was expecting it to satisfy. It never happened. Over this Christmas was when it really hit me. Those foods….they were heroin fixes. I no longer crave them. I crave my keto stuff. Seriously. I can’t wait to make my zucchini lasagna again!! I also haven’t made my KeDough pizza in 5-6 months. Maybe I will make that tonight? My point is that lower carb worked well for ME. But, it only worked AFTER I PUT IN THE WORK to break bad habits. Unfortunately, I see people with great intentions and heart, time and time again, want to try keto only to crack a few weeks in because they caved. We’re human. We screw up. But we have to fix the addictions BEFORE we try something like keto. Or – we are destined to be doing keto but dreaming of the day we can once again have pizza. And THAT addiction is what makes you fail on keto. I did atkins twice before about 20 years ago, and the weight loss happened – but the temptations I had problems with. No more.
5. maintenance – Once you hit your goals, are you planning to stay at 20g of carbs your whole life? No. Mark Sisson’s book “The Primal Blueprint” has the perfect off-ramp to keto, which is to live a low carb, semi-paleo way of life. This maintenance will have you first be in keto for quite some time to get your body efficiently burning fat, then when you hit your goal using 50-100g of carbs per day, you would then be able to eat 100-150g of carbs per day. The big difference from what I currently eat to Mark Sisson’s plan is that his plan adds tubers and more fruits. So, you can have sweet potatoes, apples, etc with his primal way of life. I LOVE APPLES. But he warns, that when you have weight to lose, you should go back down to the 50-100g of carbs per day. His version of keto has less than 50g of carbs per day, and that’s about what I have now. So many people that have done Atkins and keto without first doing the IIFYM for a long period of time then go off of keto/Atkins and splurge on everything they “deprived themselves” of over the last few months. Get this. If you never fix your food addictions, keto/atkins will just be another diet fad. If you fix your food addictions over time, keto/atkins becomes a “way of life” that may have you occasionally enjoying something when out, but you don’t go into any form of binge or frenzy over shit. You simply take a bite or two of the cheesecake, and put the fork down. Currently, I found a dark chocolate I dipped in peanut butter and crackled some pink salt on it and it’s FAR BETTER than any milk chocolate I ever had with peanut butter. My “treat” is 1g of carbs per square, and I might have 8 squares with 1 TBSP of peanut butter. These are higher fat concentrations, so I have them after maybe a salad with 14 oz of chicken breast and olive oil/Italian dressing to add fat for the day – and satiety. Below is a FAVORITE meal of mine, and between them, I’m looking at 1500 calories. With my 200-400 calories of cream in my coffee in the morning, I may hit 2,000 for the day. And my belly is maxed out with the romaine – and satisfied until about 4PM the next day. Anyway – maintenance might have me eating some home made French fries once or twice a week in the air fryer. It might have me eating an apple a day at some point. I might have a banana after a long bike ride.
So there you have it folks. Where most diet books jump right into the rules – I wanted to provide you a 50,000 ft view of what it might take to lose 50, 100, or even 200 pounds. I wanted you to consider:
- Breaking habits
- Understanding that the calorie math isn’t always something that’s reliable, based on dozens of factors we still have yet to uncover
- Ensuring you are driving down carbs to break food addictions
- Learning substitution, meal prep, and understanding the makeup of food to “fish for yourself”
- Getting to a point in your life where you are seeking out and craving low carb/high fat foods that will properly fuel you and allow you to live a low carb life, potentially 100-150 carbs per day.
- Ensuring you don’t do a “hard exit” at stage 4 and gain all of the weight back through addictions that were never addressed.
- There is “the other side” to addiction where you no longer are driven by hunger and fixes. I’m right now at the end of a 42 hour fast and not eating yesterday was effortless. I hit a “3” on my hunger scale at worst between 5:30-6:30 last night and it went away. Being able to fast at will is very empowering!!
Best wishes to everyone. If you have someone in your life that needs 100+ pounds to lose, please share this with them and point them to me. I’m not a nutritionist, doctor of any sort – but I can tell them how I lost weight and provide my best lessons learned. I am not licensed to provide medical advice – and those with serious conditions need to consult their doctors. For example – people in my family have Leiden Factor V. I do not. While I am thriving on a high fat diet, the two top factors of heart attack are clotting factors and smoking. So while I stopped smoking – my high fat diet may not work well with people with high clotting factors. Some may work better with paleo, others with vegan, others with carnivore, others with weight watchers. I just know I spent 25 or so years of my life dieting in one way, shape, or form – and the above framework led me to just under 150 pound weight loss and looking forward to competing in a sprint triathlon this summer. My program helped me complete my first 5k in 36:01 this past Thanksgiving!!