More on Weight Loss

Bill Quick has some advice and a pretty stunning example of how low-carb can work. That’s very encouraging. I’ve had a few people say 100g a day is too high as an upper limit. I’ve seen mixed advice on this. I’ve seen advice suggesting that as long as you stay under 100 day, you’re still in low carb territory and will burn fat. South Beach Diet starts off with 50g a day based on a 2000 calorie diet, which is below the calories I need for someone of my height and weight. I know Atkins is about 20g. I’m going to do my level best to keep it around 50g, but there are going to be days when I get closer to 100g. If it doesn’t work, I’ll think about reducing further. But for me, the idea is to start something I can stick with. I’ve tried just calorie reduction before, and I end up wanting to mug someone for a bag of chips after a couple of days. Truth is, reducing carbs will reduce my calorie consumption as well, but the question is whether I will want to mug someone for a bag of chips in a few days. If I can maintain it, and I’m dropping weight, even if it’s slowly, that’s what I’m going to stick with. If I don’t drop weight, I’ll reconsider.

UPDATE: I should note I found this study to be interesting, which shows that a low-carb ketogenic diet still beats the low-glycemic index diet, in terms of weight loss. But suggests that since participants in both categories both lost weight, that there might be substantial benefit to a reduction in carbs, but sticking to low glycemic carbs. That’s kind of what I’m trying now. Granted, these study participants have full blown type II diabetes, which I do not have, but I’m probably on my way if I don’t do something about it.

38 thoughts on “More on Weight Loss”

  1. My own experience, not trying to lose weight, is that if you just reduce the carbs by cutting out sugar, grains, starches, etc, you’ll just lose weight without tracking calories. I just replaced the carbs with fat, and to a lesser degree, protein. All calories are not created equally. A calorie from Pepsi is likely to up your insulin and be stored as fat right away, whereas a calorie from a ribeye won’t.

    Counting calories is for anorexics. Avoiding junk food is a positive dietary change.

    1. I just replaced the carbs with fat, and to a lesser degree, protein.

      I should clarify that the fats should be quality fats like lard, coconut oil, real butter, etc. Not junk like canola or corn oil.

      Also, the ability to edit posts is broken, which is why I’m replying instead of editing.

  2. My experience has been that “low-fat” and “low-carb” diets both are excessive, especially because people don’t really cut out the things they still need. Worry less about the amount of carbs, and focus on getting good ones. A good example is how people treated Atkins when it was popular. They weren’t supposed to eliminate carbs; but eating a lot of veggies with their meat wasn’t very appealing. They’d eat veggies, and the worst types of meat, and wonder why they didn’t feel healthy. Add in the fact that ketosis generally makes your default state be “asshole”, and it’s popularity faded quickly.

    The easiest way to drop weight, and be healthy doing it, is to cut out almost all sugars and saturated fats.

    Some basic facts:

    1. appetite is driven by a need for protein and/or fiber. This is why you can eat thousands of calories of donuts or chips and still feel hungry.

    2. You need ~30g-60g of fat a day to process the fat soluble vitamins

    3. The less processed a food is before you eat it, the harder your body has to work to break down the food. This means lower net calories from the uncooked broccoli than cooked.

    4. A good target I learned from my fitness days is to set a target calorie intake of 10-12 times your body weight (i.e. 200# = 2000-2400 calories). Get ~.5 – 1.0g of protein per pound of body weight, 30g-60g of fat, and the rest from carbs. This helps you maintain and gain muscle mass (which increases your metabolism, while giving you a calorie deficit sufficient to drop the weight.

    Learning to eat things that make you feel full when you’re hungry, and simple things like boycotting elevators, can be enough in itself to drop a fair amount of weight. I had hit 240 a few years ago, and by just cutting out the sugar and most saturated fats (I do love my steak) and biking to work (2 mile commute, nothing crazy) most days. That got me to 215 in just a few months.

    1. Actually saturated fats are really good for you, and they fill you up quickly.

  3. BTW, the things I listed there are basics you can get from a lot of the better known fitness books, and a frequently listed in Muscle & Fitness when they do some of their 3 month fitness contests.

    Something to bear in mind is that low-carb diets, and the associated ketosis, are controversial because people argue about whether it’s really healthy for your kidneys. The stuff you’ll find in a Muscle & Fitness magazine or Mens Fitness have worked for decades, and aren’t controversial at all. For me, I prefer a little patience over fad diets. Besides, it’s not like dropping 25# in 3-4 months is something to shrug at.

  4. If no or very low carb diets were dangerous or even fatal, we wouldn’t be here as prehistoric peoples had carbohydrates available for only limited times of the year if at all. Such peoples as the Inuit, Masai, and Samburo were quite successful up into modern times with no carb diets.
    I have been doing a low carb diet, I aim for under 50 most days and am usually lower, since May of 2002. If anything my health is better today than when I started and I am now over 60. In the process I lost 100 lbs AND HAVE KEPT IT OFF. I’m still pretty fat but not like I used to be. Been fat all my life and tried every diet regimen known to man. Lost a lot of weight too, something in the range of 1000 lbs in my lifetime. I’d lose 50 and gain 60 back, over and over.
    It is true that you can’t go on a diet and succeed, you have to change how you eat permanently. This is why extreme calorie reductions and/or 2 hour a day exercise programs and the like are doomed to failure. They only work as long as you can force yourself to stand the hunger or the pain or until you get an injury that lays you up for a while.
    Gary Taubes and Michael Eades are good sources for the science behind low carb. Also search for Dr Mary Vernon’s lecture at Kansas State on You Tube. I am a techie and work in the nephrology area and I like to know the why of things. BTW the belief that higher protein intake is bad for your kidneys is no longer current.
    Some people get bored with what they feel are the restrictions of the diet. There are lots of work arounds and substitutions for your favorite foods. One author who has done a lot in the area is Dana Carpender. She has written many cookbooks and I have found her recipes very helpful. She has a blog called hold the toast.
    You have my email address, if I can help in any way, feel free to write.

    1. The “research” on high protein diets was conducted on rabbits. Rabbits, being herbivores, are not designed to process protein. It’s like feeding cats just grass and then using the fact they they die on a grass diet to say that eating greens is bad. What passes as nutrition “science” in the US is a disgrace.

      Various human groups live on a diet of virtually all meat and experiments have been conducted in labs of having people live on just meat. They do fine.

    2. Also the times of day you eat matter alot as well, skip breakfast and your metabolism goes into energy conservation mode.
      I was losing weight by having a big breakfast, skipping lunch, and having a light dinner.
      Went from 440 to 348 doing that, then the doc said I was diabetic and now the meds won’t let me skip lunch, get a sugar drop around 1 or 2 pm if I try. not good.

  5. You should follow Bill’s advice and read Gary Taubes’ books. If you want to see how nutrition “science” in the US went so far off the rails and the underlying science behind why carbs make you fat read “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. If you want to cut to the chase read “Why We Get Fat”.

      1. He has his critics, but too many people lose weight and improve their numbers on low-carb diets for it to be complete BS. There some mechanism at work there, even if it’s not the one Taubes believes. There’s also a good bit of evidence in support of the insulin theory.

        I wouldn’t be surprised if Taubes is wrong in some way, but having read the research, I think there’s something to carb reduction.

        1. I see him offering two premises. 1st that the standard calories-in/calories-out model has serious weaknesses, and far less clinical support than is generally assumed, and 2nd that fat deposits are primarily driven by carbohydrate load via insulin.

          I think the 1st is pretty solidly established. The 2nd, I’m not so sure.

  6. I have a friend who did ideal protein. He’s lost 60 pounds since march. Which I think is too much too soon, but has motivated me to try again.

    I lost 30 pounds over 3 months a couple years ago simply using LiveStrong, setting it to 2 pounds a week, and tracking all my excercise (some weights and cardio combined with walking 4 miles a day). I found the biggest impact came from reducing carbs (ala Atkins) and sugars. Mostly cut out junk food and stopped drinking.

    Gonna try to start it again. As a matter of fact I did this morning (I just got back from a week long drink and eat orgy for work so today was the natural day to start).

  7. You don’t need to eliminate carbs to lose weight. Just make sure that the carbs you eat are high fiber, like sprouted grain bread, bran cereal, wild rice. Eliminate the junk food like fries and cut down on all potatoes. I recommend a food supplement like “Greens Plus”. As for fats, olive oil is best, lard is worst. Protein from salmon or other oily fishes is best, followed by chicken. Beef and pork are the worst. Or you can use “body builder” drink powder that gets the protein from whey.

    Of course you must also exercise. Walking is the best way to start, running is good if your knees can take it. The most important thing about exercise is to do it all the time. By that I mean, where ever possible walk or bike instead of driving. Don’t just sit there watching TV, perform one of many exercises possible to do while sitting, etc.

    Oh, I almost forgot, cut out all alcohol.

    1. I don’t think fiber carbs count in low-carb diets, from what I can tell, only starch and sugar carbs. I’ve tried exercise along with the standard recommended diets and I can’t stick with them. This is kind of a last ditch effort to see if I can find something that works I can stick with. The diet you’re recommending is not one I can stick with, even if it works.

    2. I should also add that my normal diet consisted of salmon one or twice a week, a fair amount of chicken, but also a fair amount of beed and pork. I am not looking to make drastic changes there, only to cut carbs out to a large degree now, in hopes that after I reach my weight goals, I can add a moderate amount back in without gaining weight. That’s probably something I can maintain. Anything that has me eating protein whey is not something I can sustain.

      1. Don’t eat protein whey – it tastes awful! ;^)

        Eat bacon, and eggs fried in bacon fat, and thick, juicy steaks, and nice green salads with lots of rich, oily salad dressing (check the carbs on the label first, though). Eat delicious cheesecake for dessert (look for low carb cheesecake recipes, or I’ll send you mine). There are an enormous number of eating choices on a low carb regimen, although you may have to work a bit to eat some of them. By “work,” I mean learn to do some of your own cooking, and hunt down the recipes, if you don’t cook already.

        One of my favorite current meals is a scoop of smoked whitefish salad (from Costco, ready made), half a dozen link sausages, a nice chunk of Irish cheese, a half-ounce chunk of extra dark chocolate, all washed down with a glass of red wine.

        If you go for this lifestyle, Sebastian, you can’t think of it as a diet. It’s a permanent change in your eating habits. Unfortunately, if you are already obese – as I was – your metabolism has already suffered damage from carb overloading. A healthy person doesn’t get fat, not really. If you overeat, your metabolism will speed up, and your hunger signals vanish, until the overage is handled. Remember when you were a kid, and you could eat anything you wanted to? That’s a healthy metabolism.

        Or maybe you couldn’t. Maybe you were tubby. That was fairly rare when I was a kid, and fat kids stood out, unlike today. And the doctors all told their moms the same things: “Cut down on the sweets and starches. Kill the apple pie and the mashed potatoes.”

        Even without the science, there was a general understanding, even in the medical community, of what caused obesity – and it wasn’t fat-marbled rib eye steaks.

        I don’t want to rail against the notion of starting out with a goal of 100 carbs a day or less. That won’t be enough to get you into ketosis, but it is a place to start. It will be a lot fewer carbs than you are eating now, and that has to be an improvement. But ketosis is the goal you want to shoot for, so once you’re used to eating at the 100 carb level, try to shoot for a cut of five grams a week or so. The trick is to start, and then keep on going.

        Why do you want to get into ketosis? Well, aside from the drastic lessening of hunger, and the fact that you will be burning your own body fat for energy, rather than adding to it, ketosis has other attributes – for one thing, there is evidence that it “re-energizes” your mitochondria (that’s a gross oversimplication, but…google “ketogenic diet mitochondria), which may have significant implications for a healthy bit of life extension. Remember I said there were things you could do about the “old” part of OFWG syndrome? That’s one of them.

        Another thing you can do to help yourself get acclimated to a low carb ketogenic lifestyle is to become a regular at a couple of blogs that are dedicated to the process. The Eades blog is excellent, and so are the commenters there. Mark’s Daily Apple offers a similar environment, and, of course, there is the forum at Gary Taubes’ place. The thing is, the more you surround yourself with people who understand this way of eating, and have been quite successful with it, the more likely you are to succeed as well. Try to avoid the “calorie is just a calorie” people (they haven’t a clue about the science of metablolism), and the “fat is unhealthy” mob (likewise). If any of them knew what they were talking about – and this includes the medics who spout this nonsense – we wouldn’t have turned into a nation of blobbos over the past thirty some years.

        And good luck! There are some bumps along the way, but in this case, intelligent perseverance is everything. And I’m serious when I say download Pressfield’s “Do the Work.” Most of the doubts and worries about the process are entirely expectable, for reasons Pressfield explains, and all can be relatively easily countered – if you know how. He’ll tell you that, too.

        Email me if you want to talk about anything. I’m not exactly a proselytizer on this – but if somebody really wants to have the sort of success I’ve enjoyed, I’d like to help if I can.

        1. Also, The Drs. Eades are behind the Sous Vide Supreme. Sous vide is a game changer, in the same way low carb eating is.

            1. Yep, I actually built one myself before buying a Sous Vide Supreme. There’s something to be said for a stainless steel purpose-built appliance that looks nice in your kitchen, doesn’t need calibration, and won’t electrocute you.

              1. If I were to give Sous Vide a try, it’d be with something cheap. There’s no way I’d spend that sort of money on something I might never use. (I’ve done that before, which is why I have a decent snorkel vacuum sealer already.)

                OTOH, if I find I do use it regularly, I might well shell out the cash for something that’s more convenient.

    3. As for fats, olive oil is best, lard is worst.

      False. Olive oil is good, but lard is far better. Lard has a similar fat composition to our own adipose fat. Which means that when your body goes to your own fat stores looking for calories, it’s getting about the same fat composition as lard. Do you really believe we evolved over millions of years to store energy in our bodies in the least healthy form?

      For more on this topic, see:

      1. In the French cooking I’ve been studying, your oils are basically butter and olive oil. I generally stick to that, unless I need something with a high smoke point, in which case I use peanut oil.

        Strangely, most of my life, I’ve never liked vegetable oils, or anything cooked in them. Though canola oil I haven’t found too bad.

        1. For a high smoke point oil, I’d recommend ghee instead. You can buy it in the store. But when it went up a dollar or two locally, I decided to make my own. It just takes a burner that can actually simmer (had to figure out how to adjust mine). Home-made is way better than store-bought, but either is better than peanut oil. Plus, the flavor ghee adds to food is basically butter.

          Smoke point info here:

  8. I’d also note that I was under 50 carbs Wednesday and Thursday, about 70 on Friday, and today I’ll probably be under 50. But I am not yet having cravings. If I had just done reduced calorie, with the standard recommendation of lean meats, oily fish, and whole grains, I’d be wanting to mug someone for a bag of potato chips by now.

  9. Sebastian, for your later maintenance phase, I’ve found the easiest way is to eat a half-dinner, ie, eat only half the amount of dinner you used to eat. I had heartburn, and that was because I was eating more stuff than my stomach could hold. Since I went halfsies, I didn’t get night-time heartburn anymore.
    Oh, and stand up when you’re at the computer. That burns calories, too.

  10. A tip to find your actual caloric needs: eat without any change for a week or two. Measure and weigh everything and calculate the calories from that. I’ve found that to be more accurate than all the rules of thumb and online BMR calculators. Once you’ve figured out your BMR from actual experiment, then adjust for your weight loss goals.

    1. That works only if your weight is stable, over that time. If you determine your caloric needs over a period of a couple of weeks where you’re gaining a pound a week, and then use that as your baseline for a year, you’ll gain fifty pounds.

      So, weigh yourself first thing every morning, after you visit the bathroom, but before you eat or drink anything. Either naked or wearing the same clothing every day, That goes as far as you can to eliminate daily variations.

      And calculate a moving average, each day. And calculate a trend line.

      Hacker’s Diet – Pencil and Paper.

      Then look at the slope of that trend line. How many pounds are you gaining or losing a week.

      I got to where I am because my trend line was + 0.1 pound/week. Impossible to see, looking at the unadjusted scale. There aren’t many bathroom scales that are accurate to that precision, and my normal daily variation was 80x that. But if you use basic statistics to strip out the noise, you can see the trend.

      And that tells you, whatever you’re doing, whatever diet or exercise, or nutrtional approach you are trying, whether it is working.

  11. Low glycemic index carbohydrates will help kill “keto breath,” but if you are processing fat and protein correctly ketone production will go away once your body adjusts to the new regime. Or so my wife says. Like my face “I am behind it, it’s the ones in front get the jar.”

    Lard is almost entirely a long chain fatty (stearic) acid – and the problem lies with the short chain unsaturated fats the diet faddists are peddling. Lard is actually good for you. That’s why my European sources enjoy a lard on pumpernickel sandwich instead of bacon on a buttered roll. Not bad – but I prefer bacon on black bread. Buttered, of course.

    50 grams is essentially two ounces, by the way, and you can adjust portion size to account for the difference in glycemic index.

    Good luck on the diet


    1. Low glycemic index carbohydrates will help kill “keto breath,” but if you are processing fat and protein correctly ketone production will go away once your body adjusts to the new regime. Or so my wife says.

      It won’t. It can’t. Your body is either burning carbs for energy, or fats/proteins. If the later, the process produces ketones, and you are in a ketogenic state. There isn’t another alternative.

      I’ve been in ketosis (with a couple of intentional fails every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas) for going on four years – and I’m still turning the ketostix dark purple every morning.

  12. It’s all lifestyle choice. It’s not a diet – it’s a complete lifestyle change. Sorry, that’s the only real answer.

    I was once scary healthy and hardbody (in LA, single and no kids, of course) and didn’t work that hard to stay there. A wife, five years, too much work and two little kids later I need to get back to the basics. I am “healthy enough” but signs of age and a sedentary lifestyle are creeping in. I coasted off that younger body for five years with low maintenance, but age is telling me time to amp up again.

    People are different, but here’s what worked for me and my wife (once my girlfriend):

    Food: tons of fish and chicken; little red meat or pork. Cooking styles are almost always broiled, grilled or pan sauteed. You can do amazing things with simple styles. I didn’t avoid carbs, per se, but I didn’t seek them out. I enjoyed homemade lasagna, chicken marsala and other pasta dishes, though not frequently. I also ate a lot of sushi. So much that the Tuna raised my blood mercury (got that tested) – so look before you eat and choose the fish wisely.

    Booze: Honestly, the super models get this one right: hard liquor seems better than beer or wine. Cut it all if you can, but go with Vodka, Scotch or Whiskey if you cannot (don’t mix it with much sugar). Martini’s have some flavor with limited sugar, but Scotch (good stuff) will work for many men. Yes, they have calories like all booze, but you’ll generally drink less than if you were drinking wine or beer.

    Exercise: the #1 thing. I liked to bike and run, but I would say the bulk of my exercise comes from weights. I get cardio from weights. The big moves are the best for getting overall lean: squat thrust is probably the biggest fat killer in the gym. Just end every workout with a “burn out” of twenty low-weight, somewhat rapid thrusts (be safe and skip these if needed). You don’t need fancy workout gym schedules or classes – after a while you will know every moment what you should work on at a given moment.

    Start with the core:

    – Squat: Start low and go for reps. Not only does this help burn off some weight, but it’s going to let that core strengthen the little muscles you don’t know the names of that hold all the big units together. You don’t feel the secondary muscles in daily life and they will surge when you need them for one-two “heavy” activities. But if you try going heavy up front you will learn about them the hard way, after you get hurt. Work up over time. When you comfortably hit 100% of body weight for a full set you are home. That will take time.

    – Bench press (40% of body weight working up over time – DO NOT TRY TO GO HEAVY AT FIRST). Again. those secondary muscles are critical here so start moderate. When you can work out several good sets of bench at about 80% of your body weight, you are strong. Not He-Man strong, but stronger per pound than 90% of America.

    – Don’t skip shoulders or upper back – these are required for control in almost everything.

    – Arms (biceps) will take care of themselves. Stick to composite exercises (multiple muscle groups), especially when starting out. Make sure something works the triceps because they help control so much and are easy to forget.

    This is “lifestyle lifting” for day-to-day living. Few of us will ever use just one muscle while living day to day. So don’t fall into the trap of working just one group. The goal isn’t getting big, but getting hard. It’s better to move 65% of your weight 20 times than 120% of your weight 4 times.

    If you have to go to a gym, you will fail. Skip machines. Get a good bench (not a cheap one – something that feels good) and a good set of dumbbells. When I was living in tighter spaces I got a set of PowerBlocks that let’s you adjust weight on the fly (they are awesome). Dumbbells are tremendous and I think most people will advance real fast with them. They use a lot of secondary muscles, so you’ll go lighter but also see results in places that you would not see with a straight bar. And you can squat just fine with dumbbells.

    You gotta work out at home. Not long, two hour sessions. We’re talking 20-30 mins in the morning and maybe the same in the afternoon. Do 5 times a week (i.e.: make it a normal thing) and don’t over-burn.

    Conventional wisdom says a pound of muscle will burn 90 calories a day; convert 5 pounds of fat to muscle and things will accelerate fast. I don’t know if the “real” number is 90 (probably dependent on factors I don’t understand), but I will tell you that whatever the number, it is big enough.

    I am at about 16.5% body fat today, and am aiming for about 12% soon. This is for my body. Yours will be a different number. Aim for a fat % you can comfortably maintain and use it to judge progress. Ignore pounds – I actually get heavier as my fat % goes down.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post. This is as much a reminder to myself as it is advice to anyone else. It’s real basic stuff, but all the voices out there tend to make you think you need a special approach. No…we just need to “Cut the Junk and Work the Trunk.”

    And yes, that is my own cheesy motto. It is simple, will fix most everything, and avoids lists of rules to follow. In other words, no excuses.

    Good luck.

  13. I’ve been doing the medifast diet with a plan to transition to a paleo diet

    I’ve been on it for 7 weeks and went from 245 lbs to 213 lbs. though this weekend probably put me back up to 215 lbs again. Been off diet, date night with the wife, unexpectedly at relatives. And had more alcohol. But I’ve been doing really good so far.

  14. I started the Paleo diet at the beginning of March and have gone from 260 to 195 in that time. I don’t count calories and I don’t count carbs. I just stick to the acceptable foods and eat when I’m hungry. This diet has worked incredibly well for me and I do not find it difficult to stick to.

  15. After nearly a week of most days being around 50g of carbs, and one or two being just a bit under 100, the first thing I’m noticing is that I’m not having any cravings, and don’t really feel the need to snack like I used to.

    Of course, I’m not dropping weight yet, but that will take a while. I’m trying to avoid weighing myself. My goal is to shrink the gut, and get back to a size 38 pant size (well, size 40 once you take the IWB holster into account).

    1. This is the biggest thing I loved about it (besides the weight loss). I no longer get those insane ‘GIMME-FOOD-NOW-OR-ILL-DIE!!!!!” cravings. And I don’t snack any more either.

      Yeah, after a week, you won’t have lost much if anything yet (though you should have some water weight loss). It will take 2-3 weeks for your body to readjust to the new food, and then it will be 2 or so pounds per week, maybe more.

  16. Mike:

    I deleted the spam that I missed. I have deleted your replies too. All links are nofollow in the comments, so it doesn’t help them to slip one in.

    1. Gotcha. Wasn’t sure if I was helping or hurting, but I’ll leave it to the pros from now on. Time for an update on the low carb thing? I weighed myself today and am at an 18-year low. All with eating whenever I’m hungry, until I’m no longer hungry. Yeah, I’d say there’s something to this low-carb thing.

      1. I ate about 1800 calories today, about 60g of carbs. That’s way under what I need for maintenance. Yet I am not hungry. I do not have the desire to snack.

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