Friday, February 23, 2024

Diet Reset / Maintenance Phase

Basic Premise

Assertion: you _can_ stay on carb-controlled diets long term.  It is healthy to eat this way indefinitely.  

Reality: There are events that will take you out of the diet, (e.g. Thanksgiving, getting Covid).  There is a reality that once off the diet there is a tendency to want/need to stay off the diet for a period.  The question is, is that an all out binge, where you gain back all of the weight, or is that a controlled ascent to a cruising altitude.


Intentionally taking a diet break after a period of dieting rather than going for a long-term goal weight all at once (maybe 12 weeks or 6-8% or max 10% of your body weight).  Emphasis on intentionality, rather than doing something haphazard.

+ Easing into eating junk food after your diet ends instead of going on a junk binge.  The ideas above represent something you can kind of titrate in slowly, rather than falling off of a cliff.

+ Aiming for healthy balance (early levels of the titration below)

Levers / Titration

You have levers to pull coming off of a low carb diet.  Titrate in these as slowly as you can tolerate, or consider each of these a week or two long phase:

+ Eating diet foods (e.g. continuing to eat your sirloin with broccoli, chicken caesar salad, omelets, bun-less burgers...etc)

+ Adding diet soda

+ Adding fruits beyond what you have been consuming (ie. pineapple instead of just raspberries)

+ Adding a high protein, but somewhat carby meals (e.g. bagels and lox, or 2 slices of meat lovers pizza, sushi)

+ Adding a mixed high-carb, high-protein/fat meal (e.g. short stack of blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs)

+ Indulging in a high-carb meal (e.g. fettuccini bolognese)

+ Adding a portion controlled piece of "fun" food to a meal (e.g. 5oz slice of birthday cake, or 250cal "traditional" sized snickers bar)

+ Indulging in a larger portion of junk food (e.g. finishing off the pint of ice cream)

What happened this go around:

This last bought of dieting lasted between November of 2022 and October of 2023, and represented about 50 pounds loss, or 15% of body weight. In retrospect, this was too long of a diet phase.

The maintenance / diet reset phase after the weight loss was haphazard, lacking intentionality, and uncontrolled.  There were periods of binging.  Ideally, I'd like to apply the titration above to, yes - go off the diet, but do it in a controlled way.

This maintenance / reset phase lasted from October of 2023 to the end of February 2024.  It wasn't exactly the length of the weight loss period, but I feel 100% sure that I am ready to go again with keto / low carb food.  This time I am going to aim for 12 weeks, or towards the end of May.  At that point, I'd like to aim for a more controlled off ramp.

One of the challenges was the radical changes in body-water on and off the diet.  It was hard to know what was legitimate gain in body fat, v.s. what was just changes in hydration.

This post was inspired by these videos:

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Transitioning to a period of weight maintenance...


I hadn't been consciously thinking about weight maintenance until recently.  Admittedly, I've had a hard time maintaining the weight loss trajectory of the last year.  Someone introduced me to the idea of having a weight-maintenance phase between weight loss phases.  There is some argument that this is good for set-point.  There is definitely an argument that this is better than rebounding and gaining all of the weight back.

One thing I'm pointing out in the graph above is that at the inception of the diet I lost a tonne of water weight.  Reintroducing carbs recently, it's normal to expect a regain of that water weight.

What I'd like to see over the next few months is a fairly steady weight, a balanced diet, and more workouts.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

All of these fitness a**holes are juicing.


Full Eating Days (Week #1)

Common every day

Throughout the day:
Everyday I have about 2-3 cups of coffee with half and half or light cream, so I'm not going to list that individually.

Wed February 14th 

Meal 1 (1pm):
Lox and bagel platter: Lox, bagel, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, cucumber

Workout (4pm):
Brisk Walk Outdoors: About 25-30 minutes, or 4500 steps

Meal 2 (6:45pm):
Small cup of beef chili.  Chef's salad from the case (lettuce, yellow pepper, tomato, provolone and ham roll, boiled egg, Italian dressing.).  

Dessert (7pm): 
$3.50 container of honeydew, blueberries, and strawberries.


  • I realized that I have been worried about the pesticides from fruits and vegetables.  Buying the prepared food today was an end run around that.
  • After the walk I was ravenously hungry.  I decided to watch some nutrition youtube, and kind of let that subside before going for dinner.    I have some curiosity around putting yourself in the right mental state to buy food.  Can you consciously override a desire to binge by either noticing/accepting it, or waiting it out?  At some point you internalize a lot of good material on nutrition, and then you just have to make sure you are calm enough when buying food to operationalize it.
  • Walking outside improved my mood by a couple of rungs on the ladder.
  • I slept better last night than I have in weeks.  One of the roles of desert is a little bit of carbohydrate to cap off the evening, which does seem to make me sleep better.  Seeing if the fruit is as effective as something more processed.
  • The lox and bagel was consumed with an eye towards satiety and protein.  I haven't had a desire to eat keto foods recently, and have had some stomach problems.  I've been following the Hava app's perspective on satiety over macronutrient restriction.  The bagel probably wasn't ideal, but it was accompanied with enough fish (and wasn't accompanied with say, a large orange juice) to make it a satiating meal.

Thurs February 15th

Meal 1 (1pm):
Cheese steak sandwich (roll, beef, sweet peppers, fried onions, provolone cheese).  Small side salad with Italian dressing (lettuce, tomato, onion, oil, vinegar, spices).

Dessert (4:30pm):
Moderately sized, small-ish piece of chocolate birthday cake with white icing.

Workout: (5:30pm):
Same brisk walk as yesterday, about 25 minutes, 5k steps.  Did it at an even faster pace than yesterday.  Capped it off with an LMNT sugar-free electrolyte drink.

Dinner (8pm):
Sushi dinner: miso soup, salad with ginger dressing, 9 nigiri pieces, 1 California roll.  (this was too much food, and I would order a la carte next time).


  • I saw a film with Mat Fraser, the CrossFit champion, where he talked about eating mini candy bars before workouts, or even in the middle of workouts.  There is some reality that that piece of birthday cake made me feel more apt to take a run/walk than how I feel when I am eliminating carbohydrates.   If I can keep my weight steady over the next few months, I'm not opposed to using a little bit of sugar pre-workout.
  • Still interested in investigating the concept of trying to be in a calm, controlled state of mind when buying food, rather than going from binge to binge.  I don't currently have a rigorous meditation practice, but I can use techniques I learned when I did to check my mindset before going into a supermarket.
  • Psychologically, the exercise is just this huge boost.  There is an energy of activation, where I think "maybe I will skip it today".  Then I knuckle down and do it, and I just feel 1000% better afterward.  I wouldn't negate the nutritional impact of getting over this energy of activation.  If I'm glycogen depleted from a fast, or from cutting carbs, it feels a little bit harder to actually get out the door.

Friday February 16th

Meal 1 (1230pm):
Bagel and lox platter: bagel, lox, onion, tomato, cucumber, cream cheese

Dessert 1 (115pm):
Small slice of chocolate birthday cake

Workout (5pm):
6000 steps, about 30 minute walk.  Pretty relaxed pace, although I feel my lower body a couple of hours afterward.  I'm carrying around a lot of weight, so it's kind of like rucking.

Meal 2 ( 6:30pm):
Chicken Caesar Salad: grilled chicken breast, croutons, lettuce, Caesar dressing

Dessert 2 (7:15pm):
Wawa $3.50 size large cup of fruit salad.

  • I feel I could have easily replaced the chocolate cake with a similar fruit salad.  With the fruit, you can afford a little bit more volume.  It is pretty sweet and satisfying, also hydrating.  I was in a funk this morning after an anxiety dream, and felt that I needed the sugar pick-me-up.  What I could have gotten away with was  a fruit salad, some pineapple, watermelon, or some strawberries...etc.  I probably wouldn't have felt I missed out on anything if I did that.  
  • Watching my weight for the last 30 days, I'm doing well at maintenance.  There is even a bit of a downward trend.   The walk felt amazing, even though there was a little bit of "Idonwanna" activation energy.

Saturday Feb 17th

Meal 1 (3:30pm):
Sushi (9 small nigiri, 1 roll, ginger salad, miso soup)

Dessert 1 (4:45pm):
5oz white birthday cake

20 minute spin on the bike, reasonably good effort, hr around 130-137.

Meal 2 (9pm):
Steak Caesar salad (6oz sirloin, croutons, romaine, dressing -- heavy dressing. ick.  Outback Steakhouse's recipes are sub-optimal for health.)

Sunday Feb 18th

Meal 1 (8am):
Tuscan omelet (red pepper, egg, spinach, provolone, sausage), potatoes, rye toast, butter, jam

Dessert 1 (1pm):
Wawa large cup of fruit salad

Workout (4pm):
25-30 minute brisk walk.

Dinner (6pm):
2 pieces of meat lovers pizza

Dessert 2 (7pm):
Traditional size (250cal) snickers bar.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

My problem

Assertion: My body has finely tuned homeostatic mechanisms to keep me at a healthy weight.

Evidence: Satiety hormones: GLP-1, cholecystokinin, peptide YY

Evidence: Hypothalamus legioning experiments

Evidence: Lack of obesity of animals in the wild, prevalence of obesity in pets

So then the question is: What the heck is throwing my weight set point off?  

(I phrase it this way, because the answer for me is likely different than the answer for someone else.  )

  • addiction to processed flour and sugar.  These foods blow right past satiety signals.
  • shopping in a food environment that features these foods. (is there one that doesn't?  This is a legitimate question.)
  • Diet limited by budgetary constraints.   It's a double whammy that the flour and sugar are both addictive and cheap.
  • Social constraints pushing me to eat out more than I should.  Restaurant food can be engineered to tickle those flour/sugar addictions.  I don't have a family at home or people to eat with unless I eat out.
  • preference for sedentary behaviors like working in front of a computer over activity.
  • preference for solitary activities that are sedentary.  A lot of people get a lot of success out of group classes like CrossFit or Zumba.  I find these classes psychologically taxing even before the physical activity starts.
  • disordered eating that goes back as far as cutting weight for lightweight sports, or farther.  Potentially being made worse in the present by attempts to control weight like fasting that result in bingeing.
  • Historic lack of temporal structure around eating.  There was never a meal-time growing up, snacking was always permitted.  In the present, I have trouble having food in the refrigerator, because I just eat constantly.
  • I don't feel like I am well tuned into my satiety signals.  I have a regular experience of craving some food, eating it, and then lying down an hour later only to realize how stuffed or bloated I feel.  This is related to the answer about flour/sugar.  Sugar overrides the satiety signal, providing that "second stomach" effect. 

Some things I'm interested in trying out
  • Treating flour/sugar as an addiction, and opting to abstain completely.
  • exploring weighing food
  • Cooking more, eating luxurious foods that I love (the first thing that comes to mind here is basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • Learning to cook some new keto foods.  This isn't a matter of learning 20 new recipes.  It's a matter of learning 1. (at a time).
  • Changing where I shop from convenience stores to real markets where I have some better shot at not being fucked-over by a shit food environment.
  • Trying to find a group fitness experience where I feel like one of the in-group, and that reinforces my participation, rather than serving as an additional source of anxiety.  That or just walking outside more and learning to really love the feeling of being outside.

There is another class of problems though beyond the largely behavioral ones I listed above:  That is namely, insulin resistance and a pre-existing condition of obesity.  Having become obese before my teens, it became all that much more difficult to maintain a normal weight.  I'm not sure of the mechanism here -- dieting surely doesn't always help and can make things worse if done wrong.   Insulin insensitivity is a biological condition that just makes things like avoiding addictive flour and sugar all the more important.

Ideas for working on insulin insensitivity:
  • Avoid foods that spike insulin
  • Fast somewhat regularly for periods equal to or over 36 hours.
  • Exercise
  • Exercise at high intensity with some regularity

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Being sick is hard...

 I'm resolved to abstain from flour and sugar. period. However I have had a severely upset GI system for the past few days.   I had pancakes for breakfast, which agreed with me.  I had a turkey sandwich for dinner, which did not.

Planning for an illness like the Covid bout that took me out of my low-carb routine seems like a good proposal.  I'm just not sure what the answer is.  

Maybe it's something like if eating flour, make sure it is in chicken noodle soup or saltines, nothing else.  If eating sugar, make sure it is in ice cream for a sore throat, and nothing else.  And then get back on the program as quickly as possible.

Covid sent me into a 2-month long tailspin.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

What foods do I have trouble with?

It was 3am the other night, and I was sitting in the parking lot of Wawa, after having just ordered and downed 90% of a family size mac and cheese.  I then marched right back into the store and bought the super-jumbo-king pack of Reese's peanut butter cups, and a king size bag of peanut M&Ms and ate them sitting in the parking lot.

So the question is, what kind of foods put me on the road to this kind of downward spiral?

The answer is fairly straightforward: it's processed sugar, and flour.   It feels like if I stay away from these, I'm in a pretty safe and serene territory.

These foods include:

1) Chocolate bars

2) Bread and butter

3) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

4) Pasta and noodles

5) Candy

6) Pancakes and French Toast

7) Bagels

8) Brownies and cakes

9) Ice cream

10) Cookies

11) Gatorade

12) Sweetened yogurt

13) Chocolate chips

14) Candied berries or fruit in syrup

15) Diet Soda

16) Meatballs from local Wawa cooked with an excruciating amount of sugar.

17) Fast food burger and fries.

The reading I've been doing recently indicate that it might just be better to abstain entirely from stuff like this.  There's still a lot of room left for richness.  Tonight I had chicken noodle soup (my stomach has been off, the noodles are marginal, but it was satisfying -- I needed the hydration, and a container of pre-cut watermelon.  I felt full, and I didn't feel like eating 100% more of the same in the same sitting.   This is telling, because with trigger foods there is literally no bottom.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Fat Fitness Nerd, Part III: Food Addiction

 I'm opening a new chapter in FatFitnessNerd, focusing on food addiction.  I will still write about fitness and other topics, but I want to return to something that was successful for me early on: treating food with an addiction model.  Knowing that all that it would take is one candy to knock me into a months-long binge of sugar and weight gain.  This is in fact what happened after a bout of Covid.

I'm currently reading this book, and will report back with progress.  I feel optimistic that treating sweets and refined carbs this way (maybe also nuts and very sweet fruits) has worked for me in the past and can work now.

Positive Phrases for E/O January into February

 "If I ease back into my nutrition plan and workouts, the weight I gained will slowly come off..."

"Everyone falls off the wagon a bit around the holidays.  The trick is to fix the flat, not slash the other three tires."

"There is an element of going slowly in nutrition.  Pick meals slowly, eat slowly, even workout slowly and gently.  Take time.  Nothing catastrophic happened."

"I am on the path to making December and January just a bump in a much longer road of weight loss and nutrition.  It's temporary."

"I already feel better and healthier, and it's just been a couple of days of walking, fasting, and eating well."

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Fasting yields flexibility when doing low-carb.

Fung doesn't make a really coherent argument about what goes wrong with Atkins over the long term. He argues that long-term failure of adherence to Atkins is a function of adaptation to the diet.  Over and over again he makes arguments for intermittent, or pulsatile solutions -- ultimately fasting.   In particular he cites this study as an argument that intermittent fasting is more effective than continuous calorie restriction.  By proxy he seems to argue that this is what is missing with the low carb approach - IE because low carb is meant to be a long-term, continuous behavior, it fails due to some kind of adaptation or development of resistance. 

He may be right about the fasting, but I don't find the argument that "Atkins fails because it is too restrictive... what you need to do is add fasting" to be particularly compelling.  Peter Attia in an interview said that the reason he fasts is to give himself a bit of flexibility in his diet over strict keto.  This is a much more cogent argument.

"Well I mean if we are going to get really technical, the benefits are overstated, or only proved in animal models...  So I don't know if those benefits would extend...  So for me what it comes down to is that it's just an easier way, it gives me much more liberty with what I eat during my eating window, I don't have to be nearly as restrictive when I'm eating if I have that period off..."-- Peter Attia MD

Friday, January 26, 2024

Volumetric Satiety

I'm re-reading Jason Fung's book on obesity and am in the chapter where he talks about changes in basal metabolic rate due to underfeeding or overfeeding.    One experimental description caught my eye:  A British trainer overfed to the tune of 5500 calories per day, but did it on protein and fat.  He only gained 2 pounds, but reduced his waist size.  The weight gain was muscle mass.  He then did the same thing but overfed on the Standard American [high-carb] Diet.  The weight gain was as predicted by the level of over-feeding, on the order of 20lbs.

I've been talking about hedonic satiety in recent posts, but there is another kind of satiety related to the volume and frequency of food intake.  Anyone that has pushed back from an all-you-can-eat buffet knows what it feels like to be overfull on sheer quantity.   Honestly, for me, this is a pleasant feeling.  I like feeling full, and conversely, I don't like walking around hungry.

We all have a cultural problem here, in that we universally assign judgements of gluttony to overeating, and we don't differentiate if the macronutrient composition is weighted towards protein and fat.  If we are all going to naturally want a period of overfeeding after a long period of caloric deficit, why not try it this way?

Punch line - if you are hungry, eat.  Just don't eat Wawa mac and cheese.

Hedonic Satiety


During covid, I ate a bunch of ice cream, and peanut and butter jelly sandwiches.  I did it because I was feeling miserable, and because my throat hurt.  It's been really tough to bounce back to the diet that lost me 50lbs since last November.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been doing a little bit of an experiment with carnivore.  This has been a financial experiment as much as a nutritional one.  A pound of 80/20 ground meat at my local trader joes is $5. Chicken is $8.  By not eating the salads and the veggies, and the fresh tomatoes, I guess I have been saving a bit of money.  Certainly, I have been saving money over eating out.

However, what I have noticed is that I have been ping-ponging between eating 100% carnivore, and going to the local Wawa and buying 3 candy bars and a personal pizza.  Part of this is the addictive nature of that food -- during Covid I 'fell off the wagon' and it has been hard to get back on.  Part of it though is also something I'm calling "hedonic satiety".

"Hedonic satiety" means that our desire for pleasurable food has been met.  This can be accomplished with sweetness, with quantity, and with salt/spice/umami.   In eating a loaf of ground meat for dinner, I was setting myself up to want a candy bar later that evening.  More recently, eating a well-spiced, well-prepared low-carb meal at Outback steakhouse (shown above), sets me up to feel full and satiated.

The problem here is one of economics.  A candy bar is $2.50.  A steak dinner is around $35.  It's a lot cheaper to be hedonically satiated by garbage than it is to be hedonically satiated by high-quality restaurant food.  Cooking is ideal, but most people I know eat out, most of the time.  The reason for poor health is that in doing that we all can afford hoagies, not sirloin.

What's the answer?  Ideally, build some cooking skills to turn that 1lb loaf of 80/20 ground beef into something satisfying.  Short of that though, I am resolved to up my food budget to where it was when I lost the bulk of the weight early last year, and to save on other aspects of my budget.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

It's been really hard since Covid...


When I had covid, I went off of my low-carb diet.  It has been very difficult getting back onto it.  

I want to double-down on treating sugar as an addiction.  A little leads to a lot.  Even "keto" chocolate bars that are artificially sweetened lead me to crave other sugary foods.

The other thing that has been difficult is that I have been trying to cut my food budget.  I learned back in November that there is something akin to "hedonic satiety", where you have to replace sugary sweet meals with well-prepared savory meals.  These are not conducive to cutting food funds.

So what to do?  I had a good keto day today.  I think I'm resolved to find savings in other areas other than food -- to get back to having satisfying (hedonically satisfying) savory meals at restaurants.  It lead to my early success, so I feel I can rely on it.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Could alternate day fasting restore a will to live? Anterior Midcingulate Cortex growth via "the suck."


There is apparently a brain structure, or a pair of them, that grows in response to people essentially doing "things that they don't want to do."    This supports the idea that we can train willpower.

Dr. Huberman says something interesting in this video clip though, and that is that this brain center might also be responsible, as we age, for the very will to live.  

I of course connected some dots in a way that might not be supported by science:  Could regular fasting, because we never truly become accustomed to it in a way that we come to like it, serve an almost antidepressant function by working on our will to continue.  

Could growing these structures through regular practice help us down the road when things get really rocky due to health or relationships?