6 months ago, Daniel weighed 324 pounds.
When he first stepped into my clinic he was severely overweight, required sleeping with a CPAP machine, and was eating simple unprocessed foods, under the direction of multiple doctors.
He had an irritable bowel, extreme fatigue, and had tried everything.
When Daniel and I first started working together, he thought I was barking mad.
“You’re going to make me eat what?? All that fat? Green vegetables??!!
No, no, no. Sorry, Dr. Stephanie, but I’ve been to the top gastroenterologists in the city. They’ve run tests, they all agree – I should not be eating things like broccoli, or cauliflower, or cabbage.
And kale…are you nuts?!
I cannot eat anything with colour. My system cannot handle it. I’ve been told I need to eat lots of meat and easily digestible foods like potatoes, and rice.”
Now look at him. 80 pounds lighter.
What I notice most of all about these pictures, besides the obvious weight loss, is how happy he is. How full of life he is. How proud of himself he is.
That is the good stuff, right there.
His story can be yours – whether you’re looking to lose 100 pounds or the last 10.
This is something that I strongly believe about every single human on this planet – our bodies WANT to be healthy.
Our default setting is to SEEK health. Give it the right environment, and it will go after health like a bull in a china shop.
I want this to be your story, too.
In this article, I am going to details the basics behind a high fat, low carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. The science behind why it works, and exactly what we did with Daniel to achieve his result.
So…let’s break down how the ketogenic diet worked for him…
A ketogenic diet is, in a nutshell, a high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
When done properly, the results are clearly astounding.
It’s important to note that your body has two main sources of fuel – sugar (in the form of glucose), or fat (in the form of ketones).
The body can’t burn sugar and fat at the same time. You’re either in a sugar-burning state (called glycolysis), or a fat-burning state (called ketosis).
It’s also important to note that our bodies (especially our brains) PREFER fat as a fuel source.
One of the advantages keto has over most other diets is it teaches your body to use fat as fuel.
When we are accessing our fat stores and breaking them down, we get ketone bodies that are used as a source of energy.
With keto we see all sorts of health markers improve – Weight loss, increased energy, mental clarity, strength, endurance, and improved insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, blood pressure, and hormonal balance.
Fat is traditionally a harder fuel source to acquiesce because our bodies will always want to use sugar as its primary fuel if it is available.
Think about how easy it is to use your credit card when you want to buy something. You just whip it out of your wallet and it’s there.
This is how easily and readily available sugar is.
When you want to pay for something with cash, you need to find and ATM, punch in your code, withdraw the cash and go back to the store and pay. It is waaaaay more cumbersome and more effort to get the cash. Just like fat stores – they are there, just harder to access.
The advantage a ketogenic diet has over most other diets, is you are training your body to be a fat burner in addition to already being a sugar burner.
The ability to access our stored fat has the 6 awesome superpowers:
REASON 1: Rapid Weight loss
Eat fat, get thin. It truly can be that easy.
(Plus -think of the money you’ll save – now you don’t have to pay extra for the egg whites only option at your favourite brunch place. You’re welcome.)
Although this may seem like crazy talk, there is this 3-legged, spotted unicorn myth around eating fat that continues to persist despite SOLID evidence to the contrary..
Ever hear that if you eat fat you get fat (wrong), that fat clogs your arteries (not supported by any science whatsoever), or that fat will give you a heart attack (Nope. In fact, check out this article HERE on why your doctor is wrong about fat…)
Let’s just get the record straight – your body REQUIRES and EXPECTS fat. As a functional neurologist I must take this a step further and say that your brain – which is basically a big hunk of fat with trillions of wiring in it -also requires and expects fat.
In fact, if you’ll indulge a little nerding out on why FAT is the best source of fuel for your body… a ketone called BHB has been shown to be more efficient fuel source than glucose, providing more energy per oxygen unit used in the brain.
Ketones for the win.
Eating a high fat diet isn’t new. It ‘s just we’ve been marketed to and convinced that we need to be eating low carb, or worse, a low- fat diet because certain organizations, and the big food companies profit off your sickness.
You know what tends to be the replacement for yummy, satisfying, healthy fat?
Sugar is the lynchpin for all chronic, degenerative diseases. It is literally death by sugar.
Sugar is why we are overweight. NOT fat.
Weight loss is profound when we eat a ketogenic diet because we use up our stored sugar in the body (called glycogen). The bonus here is we also shed the water molecules that store along with glycogen. Fun fact – each molecule of sugar stores with it 3-4 molecules of water!
In other words….eating carbs creates bloating. Not eating carbs gets rid of bloating.
I typically see huge improvement in bloating through the belly area and extremities like the ankles and wrists with an initially big loss of weight. After the sugar and water is gone, your body will start using fat for fuel.
Which is the where the weight loss happens.
REASON 2: Rapid belly fat and visceral weight loss
A ketogenic diet is awesome for weight loss, and when we can achieve weight loss in the abdominal area it’s even more awesome. I’m talking adding on years to your life. YEARS.
Fat in and around the organs decreases life span, increases blood pressure and resting heart rate, and reduces forced inspiration.
This all combined makes your heart and lungs work harder to do the same basic work.
It is incredibly inefficient and leaves you exhausted. You have no energy left over for other things.
You know that uncle that you love who has a belly that makes him look pregnant? That is visceral fat. Basically fat piling up all over your organs.
On a keto diet, your body, being the intelligent machine it is, will get rid of the abdominal fat almost immediately in and around your organs. You can’t necessarily “see” this happening, but it is super important for your long term health and vitality markers.
Permission to eat coconut oil granted.
REASON 3: Improved cholesterol without statins
I wrote about how fasting improves cholesterol markers HERE. Similarly, eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet is also an important way to improve cholesterol…not worsen it.
Even though you may be scratching your head and wondering if I didn’t edit this article properly. Nope. It’s been fully edited. Fat is NOT the culprit when it comes cholesterol. Excess carbohydrates are.
Your liver makes around 80% of your body’s cholesterol.
A whoppping 80%, people!
So if your doctor tells you to eliminate cholesterol from your diet, just know there will be little to no change.
Just think of all the whole eggs (with the yolk!) fried in butter you have missed out on.
Here’s the kicker: when you lower your intake of cholesterol from your diet (skipping out on whole eggs, butter, meats and chicken), your hard working, smart AF liver lifts her weary head and says WAIT A MINUTE – where is my cholesterol? You know…the good stuff that makes all your sex hormones, the energy substrate and involved in wound repair? Do I have to do ALL this cholesterol production now all by myself? Baby, you got some ‘splaining to do!
And so it gets to work. With or without you. Your liver will up regulate the cholesterol it produces when you limit it from our diet.
Your liver is incredibly intelligent. Your liver knows cholesterol is one of the most important things you produce. Almost every cell in your body needs it. The liver don’t play around.
You know what ACTUALLY ruins healthy cholesterol levels?
Excess carbohydrates. In particular simple, processed carbs. These will upregulate the production of triglycerides, and will be pushed out of the liver as LDLs (low density lipoproteins) into the blood.
For the physiology nerds out there (#nerdarmyunite) what we know about cholesterol is that there is all cholesterol is the same. There is really no such thing as “good” or “bad” cholesterol, only stable and unstable carriers of said cholesterol.
HDL is a highly stable carrier of cholesterol, and LDL and VLDLs are less stable carriers.
Meaning – HDL is a very stable carrier and does not tend to break down whereas LDLs and VLDLs are easily oxidised and will cause a hella inflammation.
Think of it like this : the knock off purse you bought on Canal Street VS. The original you bought on 5th Avenue. Which one is going to have the better longevity? Which one is made to be more durable? Which one will perform best over time?
The knockoff is made for the quick sale, in the absence of quality materials. It will likely be a short time before the thing starts to discolour, deform, and disintegrate. Just like LDLs. You give your body crap and it will make crap.
Think of HDL as the 5th Avenue carrier and the LDL carrier as the Canal Street knockoff.
Your body is ALWAYS capable of making 5th Avenue products. Just feed it the right stuff.
REASON 4: Reverses prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes (through improved Insulin resistance)
Every time you eat sugar or too much protein, your body releases insulin. Insulin basically stuffs sugar in cells to store it for a later use.
Fat, on the other hand, has a very minimal effect on insulin levels, especially when they are eaten by themselves.
*Takes hand out of coconut jar*
With long term exposure to insulin (from too much carbs or too much protein), it makes your cells resistant, requiring more and more insulin to achieve the same effect.
Kind of like the boy who cries wolf. First few times, everyone rushes to see what the issue is. After a while, your cells are like…oh THIS again. Le yawn.
So your body will pump out more and more insulin to try and get the sugar out of the blood and into the cells.
This is the basic physiology around Type 2 Diabetes.
When we have longer periods of low insulin levels in the blood (remember eating fat has an almost negligible effect on insulin), your cells have a chance to heal. They get to breathe for a moment without being constantly bathed in insulin.
REASON 5: Improved Blood pressure
Continuing from #4 above, with constant elevated insulin levels, this will also have a knock on effect of excess salt and other fluids in the blood, which will increase pressure.
To add further insult to injury, overtime, elevated insulin levels have also been shown to thicken the wall of the artery itself, thereby increasing blood pressure.
A ketogenic diet encourages salt and excess fluid excretion via the urine. Remember before I said sugar is stored with 3-4 molecules of water? Well all that literally all sheds with low carbohydrate intake.
REASON 6. Lowered stress (by lowering cortisol secretion)
Cortisol is the hormone released in the body in response to stress. We may have many sources of stress in our lives – work, personal relationships, not being able to watch Billions until next year- but we have one physiological response to all stress – the release of cortisol.
Short term, this is a brilliant response.
You either fight the stress, or you get the hell out of dodge. Hence the nickname flight or fight response.
This comes from our hunter/ gatherer ancestors. When faced with a predator or something that threatened our survival, this hormone diverted all your blood away from your immune system, digestive system, and reproductive system and flooded your muscles so you could FIGHT or RUN.
Makes sense, right? You don’t need to worry about digesting food if you have bear in front of you threatening your life. You need muscles full tilt and ready for action!
Brilliant short term adaptation. Long term…not so much.
This is why we see people under chronic stress get sick more often, have more digestive issues, with more reproductive issues, and develop chronic degenerative diseases.
Chronic cortisol bamboozles the system. It decreases serotonin production, making people more susceptible to sleep disorders, mood disorders, and digestive disorders. We see a decreased ability to learn and focus, making learning and concentration more tedious, and the rise of learning disorders in our beautiful children. We see increased clotting factors rise in the blood coupled, a higher resting heart rate, and elevated LDL levels…all the making of heart disease.
How does a keto diet hack this?
Very simply, cortisol and insulin are twinsies. When one is high, the other follows. Lowering the continuous spike of insulin through excess carbs and proteins help lower cortisol. You can literally hack into your stress levels by improving your diet.
So back to Daniel…
This is how Daniel and I saved his life.
I started him on a classic ketogenic protocol of 70% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates.
No dairy. No artificial sweeteners. No vegetables or fruit with a high glycemic index. None. Zip. Zero.
I gave him my favorites keto recipes I personally have created in my kitchen, and supplements to support his metamorphosis.
I asked him to start walking to his meetings whenever possible, or at least parking the furthest away to get in more movement every day. I gave him a step goal to work towards everyday.
I designed a rehab program for his spine and movement patterns. He bought a backpack so he could walk more, followed my protocols, and trusted me and the process.
This is last point is important. In his world at the time, everyone, I mean everyone – including many top doctors – were telling him to do the exact opposite of what I was.
The first week was hard for him. He had all the symptoms of a sugar and neural detox.
Headaches, nausea, muscle cramps, foggy thinking. He was uncomfortable.
I very clearly remember him asking me how long this was going to last. He had sales meetings he was having a hard time concentrating at, and his body was achy, tired.
He kept at it, and continued to push through the sugar detox.
The headaches faded, and with it, so did his craving for sugar. So did his irritable bowel. So did his food intolerances. So did the numbers on the scale.
Then we played with fasting protocol (which you can read more about HERE,) and the weight continued to drop. 5, 6, 7 pounds per week some weeks he was losing.
His energy was increasing. He was walking more. His spine was moving properly.
He was able to do more work, be more productive, and therefore taking on more clients. He was making more money. Most importantly, he was finally seeing results. Real weight loss and normal function of his entire body was returning.
His paradigm and beliefs were changing.
He was beginning to trust his body.
What we saw next was his body, like the glorious machine it is, continue to shed weight, his gut healed, and changed the course of his life.
Almost 80 pounds later, Daniel is trim (check out those pipes!), has limitless energy, and eats the same meals as his family now.
Prior to this experience, he would always need to make himself something bland, white, and nutritiously devoid, while his wife and 2 daughters ate “normal” food with colour. This went on for 19 years.
He gets to eat the same things his family does now. And his CPAP machine? He is now a candidate for not needing it anymore.
His biggest accomplishment, when you speak to him, is knowing that he will get to walk his daughter down the aisle, rather than simply hoping he will be around for it.
He is a shining example of the benefits of a ketogenic diet, and if I may suggest, a good health coach who believed in him. Even when he did not.
If Daniel can do it. You can do it.
You just need the tools and info on how to get started.
Make this your story, too.
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