Before and after: how a low-carb, high-fat diet changed my life

Happy 2015 everyone! Today we have a guest post from my friend Adrian who changed his life on a low-carb, high-fat diet. Here is his story.

Before I started my low-carb regiment in December 2012, I would catch a flu bug once every two to three months. When I visited the doctor, he would give me the same cough syrup and pills to suppress my cough, fever and joint aches. I was extremely overweight with body mass index (BMI) of 31.7; I weighed 95 kg on my 173 cm frame. I suffered from borderline hypertension and high cholesterol. Even climbing two flights of stairs or brisk walking would cause me to be out of breath.

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After visiting the doctor for the umpteenth time about my cough, I was given two options: one, to start exercising or two, to be prescribed a medication to help lower my blood pressure. I chose the first option and started running on a daily basis.

My weight fell from 95 kg to 87 kg but soon plateaued. I ran more, ran faster and even introduced resistance training into my exercise regime but the weight refused to budge. At that time, I was still eating the typical USDA-recommended diet, with more than two-thirds of my calories coming from rice, pasta and bread.

It was only after I read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes did I suspect that my high-carb diet was keeping me from reaching my ideal weight. In his book, Taubes argued that the best diet is one loaded with protein and fat but very low in carbohydrates. Most health problems are due to refined carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels and promote the storage of fat. Hence, it is not so much about the quantity of calories we eat but the type of calories.

To overhaul my diet, I focused initially on cutting all refined carbs and grains, which were overloading my pancreas and causing my body to accumulate fat. A typical dinner would consist of a slab of meat – be it chicken thigh, grass-fed steak or pork chop – and accompanied by some greens and a handful of nuts. For breakfast, I would eat eggs, a lot of unsweetened cheese, such as gouda, brie, cheddar, camembert, port salut, emmental, comté, sausages, full-fat Greek yoghurt or Paleorina’s grain-free bread with peanut butter.

Within eight weeks, I lost a further 14 kg to become 72 kg. My blood test results in April 2013 showed a tremendous improvement with HDL cholesterol (also known as the “good cholesterol) shooting to more than 100 from 50 and LDL cholesterol (considered as the “bad” counterpart) dropping to 62 from 110. My triglycerides level almost halved to 58.

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Since then, I have maintained my 72 kg weight. While the basic tenet of the low-carb diet remains the same, I have refined by diet further by doing three things.

First, I have increased the percentage of animal fat I consume. My second “Aha!” moment came when I read “Keto Clarity” by Jimmy Moore and Eric Westman, which teaches how to get into a state of ketosis for fat loss. In the past, I would trim off the fat from my meat but now I make an effort to increase the good fats in my diet by eating more butter, ghee, lard, coconut oil and olive oil.

In addition, I have also cut back significantly on my fruit intake because I find that fructose has the same fat-accumulating properties as refined carbohydrates.

Lastly, I have started practising intermittent fasting. About three to four times a week, I try to increase the time between meals to 24-30 hours.

I try not to have “cheat days.” I think it was Gary Taubes who spoke about carbohydrate addiction. It may start with a seemingly harmless piece of toast or a few scoops of rice – before you know you it, you are hooked on those carbs and consume them on a regular basis.

What I learnt from my experience with the low-carb, high-fat lifestyle can be summarised as such:

  • Intermittent fasting coupled with low-carb diet is the best way to lose and maintain weight.
  • The law of thermodynamics does not apply to our human bodies. Calories in do not equal to calories out.

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