Dec 8, 2014 to Dec 8, 2015
One year ago today (Left picture, below), I was both angry and frightened – the worst of emotional combinations. I was angry at myself for lacking the self-control to stop my incessant weight increases.
I was frightened by failing health and medical opinions of gum disease and impending diabetes. Plagued by debilitating knee and low back pain. The prescription of my rail-thin doctor for 30 years had been the same, steady drumbeat of “Eat less, Exercise more.”
Despite seldom-ending self-imposed diets, and programs costing several thousands of dollars over the years, with a few short-term exceptions, weight increased. The montage of spontaneous photos below shows my weight history prior to Wheat Belly. . .
. . . (click to enlarge)
There was the 10 week period in 1988 when I lost 50 lbs (225 to 175) on a low carb, low fat, low calorie Quick Weight Loss program (now Slim4Life). I did not do well on “maintenance” and quickly regained 20 lbs. By 1990, I weighed more than when I began the QWL program – somewhere in the 230s. Weight bounced up and down – mostly up despite Jenny Craig, SlimFast, and bouts of jogging/running. At the beginning of 2010 I found myself at 270.
My wife and I signed up with Slim4Life in January 2010, and over the next 5 months, I lost 42 lbs. (270-228). A year later, I was back to 270.
In preparation for a job change in 2012, and weighing 265, I re-engaged Slim4Life. I lost 30 lbs (235) in three months and plateaued for a month. Out of frustration, I joined my daughter in the new HCG craze, and lost an additional 15 lbs (220) in 3 weeks, my lowest weight since 1988. During the required 1-week pause between rounds of HCG injections, I regained 10 lbs. I didn’t have the heart to return to HCG injections and 500-calorie days. In less than a year was back to 270.
The last major attempt at weight loss was in the spring of 2014, following a Slim4Life regimen on my own. I lost 18 lbs and enjoyed a 252-lb vacation in California surf. But the new fall school term – with increased stress and New Orleans’ “goodies” – found increasing weight again. My blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were all high. HDL was low. Despite sporadically taking antioxidants (C, E, D, and even Astaxanthin) as well as garlic, curcumin, CLA, and alpha-lipoic acid, weight crept upward.
By November 2014, I was in serious trouble. I was back to 270 lbs, a recurring “ceiling weight” of sorts. A dentist appointment brought news of receding and deteriorating gums (inflammation). I suffered from constant pain in both knees and my lower back — walking was difficult and standing more than a few minutes was worse. A trip to Disney World with the family underscored my condition: required “sit breaks” every 10-15 minutes of walking, leg cramping – especially in my quads — while standing in long lines. The only relief was Blue Emu oil applied 2-3 times a day. My annual physical that month brought more bad news. My doctor predicted that our next conversation would be “learning to live with diabetes,” because “you are that close.”
The doctor, dentist, and physical pain at Disney provided three tall shots of fear. A week later, on Sunday, December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, the scales served up a gutful of anger. I had returned the day before from a teaching trip to New Orleans suffering from the stress of long days, sitting, fried oyster and shrimp po’boys, and – the coup degras – a batch of pralines picked up for the family and “tasted” at the NOLA airport.
Sunday morning, I drug my stiff body out of bed and stepped on the scales. Despite using hand pressure on the towel bar to “ease into” my final digital weight, the scale read “276.7,” a new high lifetime weight. I was ready to hurt something or somebody. And at the same time, I felt as close to hopeless as I can ever remember.
Fortunately, I had had lunch with a long-time friend two weeks before, just after my doctor’s appointment. I had complained about all the above, and he told me about Dr. William Davis and the Wheat Belly Facebook page. He and his wife, a registered nurse, had had a litany of medical problems, including incessant weight gain, two years before. They adopted Wheat Belly, and within a few months, their medical issues had been resolved. During the first year, he lost 40 lbs, and his wife 30 – putting them back to their college weights. A week later I received the books Wheat Belly Total Health and The 30-Minute Cookbook – his gifts to me for improved health. I read Total Health off and on, but I was busy, so set them aside. “Give up bread?” I wasn’t quite ready for that. But on that Sunday morning, as I stepped off the scales, Wheat Belly leaped to the top of my mind, and I was ready. I ate no bread or grains that day, the first day of my Wheat Belly lifestyle.
The next morning I was a pound down (275.7). The next 6 mornings reflected losses of -2.5, -1.6, -2.2, -2.2, -2.4, and -2.6 lbs. Late on Day 5, I was hit with Wheat Flu. Days 6 and 7 was spent in bed with a 102-degree temperature. On the morning of Day 7, my fever broke and I returned to the land of the living. I weighed 260.6 (-16.1 lbs). All of my knee and low back pain was gone. All cravings for sweets and pastries was gone. I had little appetite, but still enjoyed eating. Best of all, I just felt better than I had in years. (All of these first-week benefits have continued unchanged over these 12 months on WB. While I have had issues with plateaued weight, the physical improvements related to inflammation have continued long-term, as I’ll describe.)
Weight loss continued to the end of 2014. On the last day of the year, 26 days after beginning WB, I weighed 250.2 (-26.2 lbs). I was thrilled.
Over the next four months, however, I experienced the frustration of bouncing daily weights, and sweeping gains and losses between a low of 248 (February) and a high of 258 (April). Then through April, May, and June, I experienced a long weight loss period, ending on July 2 at 238 lbs – a loss of 39.6 lbs over seven months. This is the longest, most consistent period of weight loss in my life. Considering monthly averages (circled lines), I had only one month of inexplicable gain (March) out of seven.
During these months I learned, perhaps for the first time in my life, just how difficult fat loss is. How many times had I lost “10 lbs in a week.” Or, more correctly, lost 9 lbs of water and a pound of fat. You can see by the daily weights how “fluid” my journey was. Weeks of jittery losses followed by weeks of jittery gains.
When I hit 238 on July 2, I thought to myself, “I’m on my way now!” All I could see was greater losses into the 220s and 210s. Expectations were high.
The reality, however, was far different. I had been merely on a stroll in the foothills. Now I faced the mountain.
What followed in July was not greater losses, but steady increases. By August 3, my weight had climbed from 238 to 251, a gain of 13 lbs.
I analyzed my foods and concluded that, while WB-compliant, I was eating too many “legal WB carbs” (not always hitting below 50 grams per day), and snacking too much between meals – usually on almonds or peanuts.
I read about “Eat-Stop-Eat” (no snacking between meals, and periodic fasting for 12-, 16- or 24-hours. I had initial success (lost 7 lbs in 14 days), but this too turned to another bounce (gaining 5.4 lbs in 4 days).
A whiny WB post brought the recommendation from Dr. Davis to “try ketosis.” Following his advice, plus the help and support of regular WB posters Ron, Zandaria, Fred, and Elizabeth, as well as the well researched book Keto Clarity (Jimmy Moore), I began Nutritional Ketosis, or what I have come to see as “Wheat Belly on Steroids” on Sep 8.
I cut my carb-protein-fat ratios down to <5%, 15%, >80%. After months of plateau, you can see I began bouncing down instead of bouncing in place.
In mid-November, I hit “238” for the third time this year, and had high hopes of finishing my 12th month on WB+ with another sizeable loss. Instead, touching 238 for just a day, I rebounded for 14 days, gaining 6 lbs, up to 244 lbs.
While in New Orleans for a teaching stint December 1-5, I ate one WB meal a day, a breakfast of BPCoffee and a lunch of Swiss & Butter mini-sandwiches. I achieved high ketogenic ratios, lower calories, and a loss of 6 lbs in 5 days! Returning home, we had two family celebrations, and I ate more (legal) carbs than normal – 70 grams on one day – and more protein than I should have. Weight, of course, has spiked again due, most likely, to water weight.
In years past, I would have been discouraged by all this. I would have jettisoned NK and WB and just ate as I pleased. But the problem is not WB or NK, nor is the problem my lack of resolve. The problem is the inherent, complex difficulty that insulin-resistant folks have in burning off stored fat.
I have learned to look for the positives, and here is the positive in this most recent bounce: My first “238” (July 2) was followed by a month-long 13-lb gain. My second “238” (Sep 28) was followed by a 9-day 8-lb gain. My third “238” (Nov 20) was followed by an 8-day 6-lb gain. This morning, Day 366 on WB, after a dip back to 241, I weighed 244.7. The rebounds are shorter and smaller. That’s progress.
That said, I was reminded this week while re-reading Keto Clarity that NK is not per sec a weight loss diet. It is used primarily to repair damage done to the liver and pancreas by inflammation caused by high levels of blood glucose and high insulin levels (locking fat away in cells) over time. NK is the best prescription for reducing blood sugar and corresponding insulin levels. By eating very low amounts of carbs, the body switches from burning glucose (carbs and sugars) to ketones (fats) as fuel. With greatly-reduced insulin in the blood, the body can unlock the fat stored on the body, and use it as fuel – if calorie intake produces a deficit.
Side note: Research is showing that NK hinders the growth of cancer cells, which feed on glucose. Normal cells can switch from glucose (if absent) to ketones as a fuel source, and thrive. Cancer cells cannot, and simply starve in the absence of glucose. The effectiveness of NK varies, depending on the type of cancer, but this discovery provides another level of motivation to lose grains and sugars, limit protein, and focus on healthy fats.
WB and NK advocates often say that there is no need to count calories. “Simply eat high fat and low carb until you are satisfied.” That advice does not apply to me, because I have found I eat for reasons other than hunger. These reasons are psychological, not physiological – meal time triggers, social triggers, family triggers. It is a completely different area of battle, and one I was unaware of until WB relieved me of carb cravings and ravenous appetite.
So I have discovered my problems with consistent weight loss stem from (1) lack of personal consistency in all factors – water? Sleep? Stress? Supplements? Exercise? Macro-ratios? Keto ratios? And (2) the actual metabolic mountain of forcing the body to eliminate its own stored fat. I have found WB and NK very helpful in the struggle.
NK takes Wheat Belly’s Low-carb, High-fat guidelines a bit farther.
High fat consumption (olive oil, grass-fed butter, lard, bacon grease, coconut oil, as well as fatty meats, dark meat chicken with skin, bacon, avocados, whole eggs, cheese) eliminates carb cravings and reduces appetite significantly. Eating high fat foods permit going longer between meals – up to 24 hours – with only water or an occasional Bullet Proof Coffee. My goal is 80%+ of my calories from healthy fats.
Very Low Carb consumption reduces blood glucose and – along with it, insulin. My goal is less than 5% of my calories from carbs. Advocates of NK use raw carb counts and not net carbs (grams of carbs – grams of fiber). This results in the consumption of even less carbs. I find this low level of carbs difficult to achieve for long periods of time, but I’m getting better.
Moderate protein. It is easy to eat too much protein to compensate for very low carb consumption. It was surprising for me to learn that the body converts excess protein to glucose, which increases insulin and knocks the body out of ketosis. Jimmy Moore remarks that each of us must determine our level of protein “tolerance” for ourselves. My goal is 90-100 grams of protein per day. This is a challenge since it is easy for me to eat 130-150g per day while trying to “get in the fat.” A slice of Swiss cheese wrapped around a Tb of butter helps with 0 carbs and 5g of protein. It is sweet and creamy, and keeps me satisfied for hours. Bulletproof coffee (Tb coconut oil, Tb grass-fed butter, 10-12 oz coffee, 2 packets Truvia, blended into a latte) is the best with 0 carbs and 0 protein. This delicious beverage energizes without impacting glucose or insulin levels at all.
Calorie deficit. I count calories because I will overeat if I do not. I burn somewhere between 2300 and 2600 calories a day, depending on my activity level. If I eat 2300+ calories at 5%-80%-15% (achieving a good ketogenic ratio), I may not lose weight because my calorie deficit is so small. I say “may not” because, as I’ll explain just below, monthly averages of KRs and weights over the last 12 months produced a rather strong negative correlation between the two — that is, increases in calories are associated decreases in weights. It is certainly the case that one can gain weight on NK by eating too many calories. But it is an absolute miracle that we can force the body to eat its own fat by Nutritional Ketosis and appropriate calorie deficits. My love for Wheat Belly remains intact because it was a necessary step to break me away from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to NK.
The following set of graphs show the relationship between various factors and average weight by month. Blue bars represent months on Wheat Belly; green bars on Nutritional Ketosis.
When average weights and KRs are correlated for the year, we get r= -0.57, a moderately strong negative correlation. “As avg monthly KR increases, average weight decreases.”
We also see from this chart that Wheat Belly proper is mildly ketogenic (blue bars) and is obviously associated with weight loss as well. It remains the fact that producing higher KRs broke the upward weight trend in Jul and Aug, and then produced small but consistent monthly weight loses. (Thank you, Dr. Davis, for advising me to “try ketosis”!)
The weight gains in Jul and Aug are associated with weak KRs (~ 1.3), and the weight losses of Sep, Oct, and Nov are associated with stronger KRs (~ 2.0). The sharp blue line between the two clusters emphasize this. Caveat: this relationship does not hold true for weight change and KRs under WB from January through June where weight changes are associated with factors other than weak KRs.
Decrease carbs and lose weight?
Yes. The plateaued months of May through Aug correspond with the highest average carb intakes for the year. Each of these months averaged carb intakes above 50 grams per day. This is the top limit for carb intake for WB.
NK cut carbs drastically in Sep, Oct, and Nov – and average weight dropped. When treated as data points, avg wt and avg carbs produced a moderately strong positive correlation coefficient of r = +0.31. “As carbs decrease, weight decreases.” [And vice-versa]. This one graph demonstrates rather clearly how sensitive to carbs I am.
r = -0.58. “As fat increases, weight decreases.” (Given very low carbs and moderate protein).
Increase calories and lose weight?
Yes, (What?!) so long as those calories are associated with fat, are not derived from carbs or excessive protein (=NK), and are not greater than calories burned during the day. (Oh, OK)
r = -0.60. “As calories increase, weight decreases.” (So long as those calories are predominantly healthy fats calories).
Notice the average calorie levels are roughly 2200, 2130, and 2100/day for the three months. Toward the end of November and early in December, my intake has increased to 2400-2600, and that from excessive protein. My recent weight gain of 6 lbs may well be explained by these raised blood glucose and insulin levels, and the lower ketone levels.
This may sound contradictory to the earlier suggestion to “limit calories to create a deficit,” but it is not. Increased fat calories within a WB or NK environment is associated with decreased weight. However: Continue to increase intake calories until they surpass calories burned by body functions and activities, and weight will increase over time.
Let’s look at one more diagram related to NK.
This graph reflects daily KRs for the 365 days I have been on Wheat Belly. The diagram reads right to left and top to bottom. KRs are displayed with the following colors:
Red blocks = no ketosis (<1.00).
Salmon blocks = weak ketosis (1.00-1.50)
Yellow blocks = strong ketosis (1.50-2.00)
Green blocks = very strong ketosis (>2.00)
I was surprised by the number of yellow and green blocks in Wheat Belly months prior to NK, showing WB to be mildly ketogenic.
Plateaus and gains in May, Jun, Jul, and Aug correspond to the numerous red blocks in those months.
Since beginning the NK approach to WB, I have achieved far more yellow and green blocks. The secret of fat loss for me is higher KRs with consistent calorie deficits and moderate protein (90-100 g/day). Oh yeah, and drinking plenty of water. Oh, and getting enough good quality sleep (it’s 2:30 am right now). And . . . and . . .
This next graph shows average monthly weights for the year. The December 2015 weight increase, based on the first 8 days, comes, I believe, from excessive protein.
My weight on December 6, when the picture was taken (238.4), has bounced up to 244.7 (+6.3 lbs) in 3 days!
It is frustrating as it can be, but I look at this graph above and remember my state of health 12 months ago – inflammation, joint pain, deteriorating gums, diabetes knocking on the door – and small weight bounces like this concern me far less.
This next overview tracks changes in appearance over the year. Many of you have seen this display progress through the year.
The pictures over the last 6 months of 2015 do not show much change, but when I superimpose the Dec 6 photo over July 7, I find the width of my face has decreased nearly a half-inch on each side. The change surprises me, given a “mere 6-lb weight difference.”
The best numbers on the chart, however, are the snapshots of lowering fasting blood glucose, from 116 (Oct), to 107 (Nov), to 103 (Dec – see monthly averages below).
My blood sugar in November 2014, before beginning WB, was 145 (pre-diabetic, said my doctor). I began consistent glucose testing in January, and had many readings in the 130s, some in the 140s. WB slowly lowered these into the 120s and 1-teens. NK has produced numerous readings in the 100s, several in the 90s, and 2 in the 80s. This is a confirmation of higher blood ketones, though inconsistency with controlling protein consumption is holding me back.
From June to November, monthly BG averages dropped regardless of weight gain or loss.
Sep 116 <= NK began
NK dropped glucose numbers continuously through Sep, Oct, and Nov. This is all good news, though I still have a long way to go. I understand this to be caused by my liver, which continues to dump stored glycogen into the blood stream, raising glucose levels (and corresponding insulin levels) above normal. This happens worst overnight, resulting in the highest blood glucose readings in the morning. Continued VLC eating and periodic fasting are my weapons of choice.
I just received today (Dec 9) a copy of the blood work done at the doctor’s request on Nov 20. Though I asked for a repeat of the metabolic panel done in October 2014 and April, the “system” chose what tests “they” decided I needed (“Thank you ACA”), so my analysis window is narrow. In January, I’ll go 3rd party and pay to have the tests run I need. But here is a picture of Oct 2014 (pre-WB), Apr 2015, and Nov 2015.
Total cholesterol is up. Triglycerides are down from April (thank you NK) but still “too high”. Dr. Davis and others indicate this is normal during weight loss on WB. My doctor insisted on trying to lower these numbers with Fenofibrate 160 mg, and only smiled as he assured me he had seen no problems in patients taking this statin drug.
HDL is up and normal for the first time since March 2012 (Hallelujah!), when I was moving toward a final low weight of 220 on HCG (achieved in May 2012), and run-walking 7 miles 2-3 times a week. My knees stopped the running in the Fall 2012 as I moved from 247 to 270 on the Standard American Diet.
A bit worrisome for me are LDL and VLDL numbers. LDL actually increased from April (79, normal) to November (107, range 0-99). VLDL (not measured before) is 69, above the upper limit of 40. One of the characteristics of WB is lower LDL numbers, so I do not know what is happening there.
Elements in the report that are not reflected on the comparison chart include magnesium (normal @ 2.1, range 1.6-2.6), Ferritin (normal @ 295, range 30-400), hemoglobin (normal @ 15, range 12.6-17.7), and CRP, an inflammation indicator (high @ 5.3, range 0.0-4.9). Would be nice to have a comparison number for this. My guess is that this number has dropped, since general inflammation has dropped over the year.
Well, mostly :>).
I had two servings of a WB legal pumpkin pudding with whipped heavy cream (a blessed thing), but the carbs in the pumpkin puree moved me beyond NK guidelines.
We cleared the greatest family feast day hurdle last year on Christmas Eve when I enjoyed fried oysters (almond flour, coconut oil) and oyster stew (oysters, cream, butter). The rest of the family ate traditional fried oysters (wheat flour) and (wheat flour) crackers in their stew — then took the manditory carb-nap before dinner.
I come to the end of Year 1 of WB/WB+ with a far greater understanding of the complexity of fat storage and fat loss. I’m still learning. Still struggling with psychological and social food triggers that have nothing to do with hunger.
I’m still working on “keeping all the balloons in the air” – carbs, protein, fat, gut bacteria, water, calories, supplements, exercise. I find myself doing well in most of these in various combinations, but seldom all of them simultaneously. Through it all I have maintained a “No grains – No pains” lifestyle, and I am in far better health than I’ve been in decades.
Twelve months ago, I stood with my PhD students for a class picture (top below). It was Saturday morning, Dec 6, the day before “Pearl Harbor Day” when I began Wheat Belly. The second picture was taken in the same place with another class of PhD students — on December 5 of this year. Look! While the crowd hides my Wheat Belly in the first picture, you can see my belt buckle in the second!
Today (Dec 9) is Day 1 of WB Year 2. That, in itself, is a great accomplishment for me. You all have been an integral part of the journey – your stories and pictures, encouragements and suggestions, have had a tangible influence on my success. I thank God for you all, and for the health and well-being I have to continue my teaching ministry as I approach the beginning of the 8th decade of my life.
I’ll continue to report month by month. Given 2015, I could find myself breaking the 200-lb barrier a year from now. Given the last 6 months, I could just as easily hit “238” umpteen times in the next 12 months! But I’ll keep learning and sharing and overcoming right along with all of you.
My wife hinted recently that she might just jump on this train with me. Now that would be the ultimate sugar-free icing on an almond flour cake!
See you next month!