A Year Later, We’re All Losing It

Dancing at our wedding after having lost a lot of weight

Losing “it” meaning weight of course
And maybe our minds as evidenced by my wife’s dance moves.

I’ve been out of the blogging arena for far too long. However, my interest in health and nutrition has not faded. I know I owe you all so much information since I haven’t truly updated this blog in over a year! But everytime I had an hour to write, I’d think… wow it’s been so long… the task of summing everything that happened in the last year, all the things I wanted to write about from the beginning, all the things I’ve experienced since then, all the things I’ve learned from research and self experimentation and tracking. Where do I even begin? The task seemed so daunting. And each day that I didn’t write, the task became more scary. So much pressure! What do I write and what do I leave out for now?

My wife (yes, we got married, finally!) knows that the one of the few things on my mind day and night is nutrition. It’s come to the point where we’d go on date nights, or spend a nice night together at home, and she’d start it off with “OK, let’s make a deal, no talk about nutrition tonight.” And I’d struggle to find a different topic to talk about. I need a different outlet (this blog) other than nutritional word vomit towards my wife. So here goes… just winging it! I apologize for the lack of brevity… but you should know me better than that by now! But I will try to keep it at least semi reasonable :)

Or if you are truly too lazy or busy to read, you can just scroll through the pics to see some of our progress. But you shouldn’t be lazy. It’s not good for you! :P

Some Inspiration

And also because I just want to post more pictures from our wedding… shh…
Before losing a lot of weight on a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet

As a random bit of inspiration, above are photos of my wife and myself in college in our “larger states”

After losing lots of weight on a low carbohydrate diet

…and pics of us a couple months ago at our wedding looking and feeling much better.

Old friends, new friends, old family & new family

So far, in this blog I’ve told you about personal anecdotes pertaining to only my wife and myself. But in the past year, I started to get more and more questions from friends and family about the diet. Many of them it tried it out. Here are just a few things that happened:

A case of epilepsy

A good friend of mine started suffering from epilepsy after she had a head injury a while back. Doctors put her on meds – I told her about this diet and I also sent her studies showing use of supplemental ketones via MCT oils and general very low carb ketogenic diets as therapeutic treatments for epilepsy. The result: she said she needs less meds, sometimes none at all, when she’s following the diet correctly.

Feeling great and losing weight

One of my now best friends and co-workers, Paul, seemingly on a whim, decided to try the diet out after seeing how obsessed I was about it. The crazy thing is he is and always has been very thin (and shorter than me – I’m 5’ 6”). Meaning he was always insulin sensitive and never gained weight. On company trips I personally witnessed him eat more than any man (or two) should ever even think about eating. He loved carbs just as much as the next person… maybe even more. But he asked me about the diet, and I told him all of the science behind what happens when we eat different things. He was convinced and gave it a go. Within a week, he was telling me everything I expected to hear, and after 5 months he is still saying the same things. He feels great all day long. He doesn’t have energy crashes and highs throughout the day. When he describes the diet to his friends and family, he says the best way to describe it is that he “feels constant and even throughout the day.” This is of course due to the fact that his blood sugar can regulate itself in the absence of food (only imperceptible drops in blood sugar) and doesn’t spike after a meal due to his food choices. He loves the diet so much that he gave up his love for carbs and now is almost as crazy as me. As a result, even his parents are on the diet. His mother was prescribed statins (a category of drugs used to reduce LDL cholesterol), didn’t take them and tried this diet instead, and the doctors told her that her cholesterol levels have dramatically improved. She didn’t tell him that she wasn’t taking the dangerous statins, though! Paul even bought a glucometer and draws blood from his fingers periodically to test his blood sugar just to see and learn about his body. He’s told me hands down that he knows he will do this diet for the rest of his life. That’s saying a lot from starting as a man who ate everything in sight and loved it to a man eating a only things containing very little carbs at all.

Ivone before changing up her food choices

Ivone before changing up her food choices

And then there is his girlfriend, Ivone, who went on the diet as well. She’s lost over 40 lbs now in just 5 months. She reports the same consistent energy and no crashes throughout the day. She told me that she’s tried many diets and didn’t do well on them at all.

Only about 4 or 5 months into the diet. Ivone lost over 40 lbs and Paul lost a bit of fat although he didn't think he had any to lose.

Only about 4 or 5 months into the diet. Ivone lost over 40 lbs and Paul lost a bit of fat although he didn’t think he had any to lose.

That is until she tried a ketogenic diet. She’s also always been one of those notoriously picky eaters. But this diet has helped her expand her palette and try lots of new foods. Even fish! Friends and family have been asking her what she’s doing. She’s looking great! Between the two of them, they’ve managed to recruit new advocates who then passed it on to their peers as well. The cult is growing – *evil laugh*

Friends and family reaction… and even more followers

When Rhiannon and I went back to our home state for the wedding, we saw friends and family that we haven’t seen in a years. We also met a lot of new faces. The general reaction when they saw me and Rhiannon was along the lines of, “Wow, you guys look so good/healthy/etc” It was a great feeling. I’ve never really had anyone say that to me before. It was nice to be “picked on” and being the center of jokes for being lean. I’m telling you this because after the wedding, I carb binged (which I’ll talk about in the future) and packed on a whopping 20 lbs (a lot of it water but not the majority of it) in just 8 days. I was fully aware of what was happening, I felt terrible while doing it, and almost force fed myself the junk food because, before the wedding, I had committed to eating carbs from the time after my wedding until we flew back home to CA. I subsequently posted a before (lean) picture and an after (bloated and excess weight) picture of me on Facebook. I got picked on a bit for posting “shirtless selfies” but I also got about 8 private messages that day. A few of them were people I saw during my wedding, and others were just random friends on Facebook that I haven’t talked to in ages. Basically, my intentions for posting the photo worked and the low carb numbers grew pretty quickly. The people who tried it out and reported back to me all have told me the same thing.

They’ve lost weight (even those who didn’t need to) and they feel great all the time and now realize how terrible they used to feel in retrospect. Now, I have a close group of friends who constantly report back to me and text me pictures of what they made for dinner, how much they love the effects of the diet, and so on. They also all apparently love the diet (lifestyle change?) enough to tell other people about it.

All together

A few more notes about these people – The majority of them I wouldn’t consider overweight at all. A few of them also work out with high intensity many times a week and have reported that after a week or two of adaptation, their performance was back up to baseline or higher. Even then, they have all reported losing a lot of weight regardless of whether or not that was their goal. Between 6 of us alone (including the weight Rhiannon and I have lost and then maintained) we’ve lost 180lbs and counting! Only about 60 lbs of that weight (not fat, but weight) was contributed by me and Rhiannon. The average diet duration, with the exception of Rhiannon’s and mine, has been a mere 2.5 months. That works out to close to 3lbs a week across the remaining 4 people. And these are only the people who have told me how much they’ve lost out of the many who told me the diet is working out great.

Now my own (very shortened) progress summary

(Hah. “Very shortened” still doesn’t mean much when it comes to me.)

As you probably know, I like to track everything. Including my blood sugar and doing crazy things like metabolic efficiency tests in labs just because. But for the sake of just getting through this recap post, I’ll just post what you all probably are more interested in: “How do I look and feel since my last progress update?” I’ll post the full analyses of the year in a longer series of topics at a later date.

After my last progress update, I pretty much maintained that weight for the most part and ate at “maintenance” or above. I also made some poor food choices not out of will power but out of lack of knowledge. Learning to eat right is always a learning experience and the more I research and practice it, the more I realize I have a ton more to learn.

Pork ribs are probably not low carb even without the BBQ sauce unless you make it yourself

Pork ribs are probably not low carb even without the BBQ sauce unless you make it yourself

For example, I frequented a convenient BBQ spot close by for spare ribs on days I didn’t want to cook. Little did I know that even when I ordered the ribs without sauce, the dry rub they put on it still contained a ton of sugar, although the spices masked the sweetness. It wasn’t until I noticed a weirdly delayed high blood sugar response one day (a couple hours after eating) that I realized that the employees probably didn’t know what they were talking about when they said there was no sugar added when I asked them. I emailed the restaurant and got a response with their ingredient break down to find that their dry rub base was 50% sugar. I believe my weight fluctuated up and down for 6 months before I found this out while I was still finding ways to optimize my diet (choosing foods will be a life long learning experience and you’ll always find ways to make your choices better). Moral of the story, if you didn’t cook it yourself, be absolutely sure and double check if you are even the least bit unsure about what you are ordering. 99% of the time, I get a pretty immediate response from restaurant customer service.

Another example is my over consumption of protein, without realizing it. Little did I know that the amount of protein I was eating was actually detrimental to reaching my goals. With more research and self experimentation, I was able to get this in check. I’ll cover this topic extensively soon as this is pretty important to optimizing a ketogenic diet.

After realizing my mistakes, tweaking, and deciding to stop “eating at maintenance” (I’ll talk about exactly what that means later), I wanted to kick my diet back into high gear and be strict enough to continue losing weight all the way down to the lean and mean state. Anyone who is fairly lean knows that the last 10-15 lbs of fat is the absolute hardest to lose and takes a lot of following strict guidelines. The majority of people will be happy with holding that extra 10lbs of fat though. The following gif starts with a photo at my largest (years ago) and then jumps to me at the start of this 6 month tracking, and follows me all the way to my leanest before the wedding. I started exercising about 2/3 of the way in to put on some muscle mass and strength (this is when you start to see the “adonis belt” or “V-Line” in the lower abs/hips and obliques start to form a bit). The last photo was somewhere around 7.5% body fat. Hydrostatic tests showed lower but I think there may have been some factors that could have skewed the numbers a few percent lower.

The reason for all those shirtless selfies - To create this. My progress from my heaviest to my lightest while following a low carb/ketogenic diet.

The reason for that shirtless selfie on FB – To create this.
My progress from my heaviest to my lightest while following a low carb/ketogenic diet.

Of course I got tested for things like body composition to make sure I was gaining or maintaining muscle mass and what not. I also added exercise to try and pack on some muscle definition and increase other health factors. If you read my previous progress post, you’ll see that I lost a very small amount of lean body mass after losing many pounds of fat. Exercise has helped gain it back and then some. I’ll tell you, I’ve never felt better, stronger, and more energized in my life.

A few thoughts on exercise

Welcome back to Massachusetts. Diet as the primary means to lose weight. Exercise as the primary way to add weight (as muscle - and not the primary way to lose fat). You can eat this lobster while doing weight training with it. Perfect.

Welcome back to Massachusetts! -
Diet as the primary means to lose weight. Exercise as the primary way to add weight (as muscle – and not the primary way to lose fat). You can eat this lobster while doing weight training with it. Perfect.

If anyone is curious on my general take on exercise (longer discussions on this in the future as well), here it is. Weight loss starts in the kitchen. Exercise can help give you a very small buffer/leeway in diet choices to help you continue to lose weight. But the “calorie burn” from exercise alone will, more times than not, contribute very little to your weight loss efforts. However, in controlling carbohydrates and changing your calorie partitioning (where “consumed calories” get stored or used in your body after a meal), exercise will help you use up glycogen, which is simply sugar stored in muscles and liver, requiring them to be refilled. Meaning carbs that you DO eat have a more useful place to go (your muscles) before they start being stored as fat. And if you aren’t eating carbs, then fat and dietary protein will be used to create new glucose to refill the stores. Exercise also helps you maintain or build new muscle especially while losing weight. And of course there are many other health benefits like an improved endurance, respiratory system, strength and the like. So, I exercise for better health and to assist in weight loss (again, via optimizing calorie partitioning), I don’t think exercise alone will help the majority of people lose any perceptible amount of fat.

Rant over. More to come. Recipes (probably the most requested thing I’ve heard all year), other disease prevention and treatment topics, and details about my continuing nutritional journey.

Yes, I am indeed the asian with the cheese bowl. I am also a huge nerd and love science. My real job as the co-founder and technical director for Inphantry keeps my nerdiness factor at a record high. In my spare time, I am obsessive about diet and nutrition. Maybe even too obsessive... Keep reading and I'm sure you will pick up little bits of who I am along the way!

2 Comments on "A Year Later, We’re All Losing It"

  1. Thai Nam Pham says:

    Hey Derek,

    I stumbled upon your website trying to find ketogenic recipes that were geared towards Asians, mainly Vietnamese food since like you, I’m also Viet. Unfortunately, haven’t had any luck in finding the right sites, but I stumbled upon to yours. I’m glad that I am not the only crazy Viet who also believes in a ketogenic lifestyle. I actually was on it for several weeks before my wedding last year, and it was amazing to see the results that I saw.

    It is my hope that once I graduate from med school that I can explain the benefits of ketosis to others, particularly to the Vietnamese community.

    Rock on, and congrats.


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