This may be a little rambling.
In November of 2013, I went to see the doctor for a skin condition called Hidradenitis suppurativa. I didn’t have it nearly as bad as some of the cases you can see online, but it was still a nuisance, starting to affect my sleep. As part of this appointment, the doctor ordered a full panel of blood tests and put me on Lisinopril for high blood pressure. It was around 140/90.
At this time, I was 300 lbs at 5′ 10″.
The fasting blood work came back and my lipids were mostly ok. HDL was a bit low. But my fasting blood sugar was 160. They called me and had me go in for a hemoglobin A1C test. This test provides a 3 month average for blood sugar.
I didn’t know much about blood sugar. After getting that 160 on fasting I started doing some research and found out I was in danger of developing diabetes. At this point, my diet typically consisted of 2 cups of coffee in the morning, with A LOT added sugar. I would usually have a few cans of soda throughout the day. For lunch on work days, I would have a peanut butter sandwich and a small bag of chips. For late afternoon snack, I would typically have something like peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Dinner was more changeable, but I would have a huge helping of pasta at least twice a week. So after doing a little research on sites like the ADA, we did little things like changing from white to multigrain bread. We changed to multigrain pasta (yucky). I changed the soda to fruit juice.
It all seems so stupid now.
So, just before Thanksgiving last year, I went back to see the doctor. She told me my A1C was 8.3 – diagnosing me with diabetes. She recommended I see a diabetes nutritionist for advice. I was prescribed Metformin. I was pretty upset at the diagnosis, knowing after the little research I had done, that it could lead or contribute to heart disease, amputation, and even blindness. For Thanksgiving dinner, I skipped the desserts, but still had good portions of dinner rolls and macaroni and cheese.
The day after Thanksgiving, I got pretty hungry and ordered a small pizza that I ate in its entirety. It almost seemed like a farewell dinner before I started eating more fruit and so-called “heart healthy whole grains.”
So on the doctor’s summary sheet, I was listed with the following conditions:
Acid reflux (I took an over-the-counter pill daily for this)
That weekend, I got on the computer and started searching for other ways to help with diabetes. One of the sites I just happened to stumble across was Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt’s Diet Doctor. It was a Swedish blog and seemed a little gimmicky at first, but I read on anyway. The post that Google had linked me to was How to cure type 2 diabetes.
Cure? I didn’t even know I could think about that. Everything I had read was diabetes is a progressive disease and the best I could hope for was to manage it and slow its progression. I watched the video there, and then went on to read the information about LCHF (low carb, high fat) here. I knew I needed to lose weight, but I had never seriously considered a low carb diet before. In fact, I had never really dieted at all – I always thought I would just increase my physical activity and I could lose the weight. I didn’t get to 300 lbs overnight, but i was sure if I just started walking everyday, the weight would come off. As soon as I could get motivated to do it consistently. When I was 18, I weighed about 185. The weight just kept increasing year to year until I reached 300 25 years later. I had joked before that a low carb diet would work for me because I would starve. It certainly seemed so with the carb heavy diet I had.
I read that post on LCHF with growing interest. And then read the post How to Lose Weight. Number 13 of how to lose weight stated:
Do you wonder why this weight-loss tip doesn’t show up until number 13 on the list? It’s because few things are so overrated for weight loss as exercise is.
Have you ever watched “The Biggest Loser”? The participants take leave from their jobs (and family) for months. They are allowed only small portions of food, and work out as though it was their full-time job – 40 hours a week, sometimes more. This method is clearly unsustainable for your average person in the long run.
Just taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or getting off the bus one stop earlier, isn’t going to change the numbers on your bathroom scales. It’s a myth. Sorry about that. Studies show that if you just start exercising, you’re going to need at least one hour of tough workouts every single day to noticeably lose weight.
So much for walking every day.
So after reading those posts, and then just about everything else on that site, including the success stories, I cast the net wider and voraciously read everything I could find on low carb. Early influences included Dr Peter Attia at eatingacademy.com and Dr Michael Eades at proteinpower.com.
I decided to give it a try on December 1st, 2013. I started slowly. I replaced my soda with water or diet soda. I reduced my milk consumption. I bought a lower carb sourdough wrap to replace the bread. I stopped eating pasta. I got my daily carbs to about 100 per day.
The first week, I lost 7 pounds.
Encouraged by the easy results, I continued to read everything I could. I discovered the theories behind Ketosis and kept reducing my carbs. The last real bad holdout was the sugar in my coffee. I switched to Truvia (which I later found gave me horrible digestive problems, but it helped me make the transition early on as it tasted close to sugar.) I further decreased my milk consumption and started drinking diet soda. I didn’t like it at first, but kept with it. My daily carbs were now typically below 50.
I lost another 7 pounds. I downloaded an app for my phone that let me keep track of what I ate, the macronutrient content, and my weight loss progress. I bought a blood test meter to test my glucose and ketones. My fasting glucose was already usually under 100 and I was usually in light nutritional ketosis.
By Christmas, my daily carbs were usually under 30. My blood sugar was continuing to drop, and I stopped taking the Metformin. I felt great. I was sleeping better, thinking better, and even stopped snoring. I stopped taking Prilosec for the acid reflux.
Down about 30 pounds, with my blood sugar under control, and armed with a little knowledge, I finally went to see the “diabetes nutritionist.” It was a little laughable. She insisted that I should eat at a MINIMUM 45 carbs PER MEAL, otherwise my brain would get foggy and I would have trouble thinking. She insisted that the brain needs 120 grams of glucose per day and I had to get it through carbohydrates. When I asked about the liver converting protein to glucose, she laughed like that was a ridiculous idea.
I assured her that in Ketosis, my brain was sharper than it had perhaps EVER been, and certainly sharper than I was a month before when I was carb loaded. We took her material, thanked her, and left, dismissing everything she said.
I eliminated all wheat and all sugar from my diet, and stopped the last milk I was drinking (low fat at the time).
My diet has continued to evolve over the last 7 months, usually not going above 20 carbs per day, but we have been drifting more towards paleo in the last few months, buying real food and cooking ourselves. I have been reducing or eliminating fake foods like diet soda.
Anyway, at the three month mark, I got my A1C checked and went to see the doctor for a followup. I went armed with print outs of my weight loss progress, my daily carbs, my daily blood pressure, and some links to studies showing the effectiveness of low carb diets.
My A1C was 4.8
The doctor was blown away, and could not ignore the results. She eagerly took my printouts and did not dissuade me from continuing what I was doing.
My blood pressure improved and I went off the Lisinopril.
I started adding a little exercise, mainly influenced by Mark Sisson from Mark’s Daily Apple, author of the Primal Blueprint. I mainly do some body weight exercises like pushups and squats maybe twice a week. I get out and walk (not fast) several times a week, and just within the past month, I have started to incorporate sprints once a week, depending on what else I have going on during the weekend. I don’t do any of these exercises to lose weight, but to gain muscle and improve fitness. I don’t stress if I miss a day.
There are a lot more details to the story, but this is getting long-winded. At the six month mark, I went to see the doctor again. My A1C was down to 4.2. I had lost 75 pounds. Not only did my doctor read everything that I had given her last time, but she had read Gary Taubes’ “Why We Get Fat” and was starting to recommend low carb to her other patients and had adopted low carb herself and lost 14 pounds. During our meeting, she noted every resource I recommended including Dr William Davis and Wheat Belly and things like the movie Fathead. I also recommended Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories.”
Oh yeah, those conditions listed above? Except for obesity, they have all been removed, even the diabetes. Am I cured? Well, if they diagnose you with diabetes purely based on fasting glucose and A1C, then it would stand to reason that if those are normal, you would no longer qualify. But I am not fooling myself. I had developed significant insulin resistance and I am sure if I started eating a lot of carbohydrates again, my blood sugar would quickly be out of control. So maybe it would be best to say that the diabetes is in remission. Once I get to an ideal weight, I plan on experimenting with increasing carbs a little with things like potatoes, and closely monitoring my blood sugar to gauge the affects. After everything I have read on modern wheat and sugar, I don’t ever plan on adding those back into my diet.
And the obesity? As of this writing, I have 7 more pounds to lose to get that off my medical report. In summary, I started at 300 and have lost 82 pounds in the last 7 months. My goal is another 20 or 30. Will I get there? I don’t know, but I am not going to stress about it. Ideally, I will at least get under 200. I’ll eventually put up some before and after photos, but I would like to reach ideal weight first.
For those curious about such things, here are a few graphs. The first one just shows weight loss. I did not chart days that I gained weight. It can fluctuate by as much as 4 pounds per day. For the chart, I just wanted to show the trend and downward progress:
And here is one that shows the daily average weight loss per month. Really odd trend. I am not sure what to make of it.
Thanks to Wendy for the amazing Excel wizardry.