Did you ever get a really nice compliment that made you feel really good because it validated all the hard work you’d put into a project?
Compliments like those don’t come around all that often, but when they do, you’re left with a smile that seems to last all day.
Barbara got one of those compliments this week.
She had sent a link to this blog to someone at our church, and this person told Barbara that when she read our bio, she commented to her husband, “Can you believe they’re 60 years old?”
Well, I can’t believe it. But there it is: we are 60 years old.
I guess some people think we look pretty good for 60.
Perhaps all the hard work we’ve been putting in to get and stay in shape is starting to manifest externally.
But that wasn’t really our goal.
For the last five years, we’ve been working hard to improve our overall health and well-being.
Our mission is not to look younger but to live and feel younger.
Diet and exercise have played a big role in our effort to accomplish that.
We’ve been on a gluten-free diet (GFD) for thirteen years, and a GF paleo type diet for almost six years.
Brisk walking has been a practice of ours for ten years and strength training for three years.
Those activities have made a big difference in our health, but there was still something missing.
While we’ve gotten a lot stronger, our body weight and composition weren’t exactly where we wanted it to be.
We’ve been carrying excess fat in our bodies, and we wanted to get rid of it.
In my particular case, I was carrying extra fat in my abdominal area. As I’ll show later, that can cause all kinds of health problems.
In order to see if we could lower our body fat and get leaner at the same time, we decided to incorporate a low-carb/high-fat (LCHF) diet into our gluten-free (GF), paleo type diet.
That was four months ago.
Since then Barabara and I have been on a GF, paleo type, LCHF diet, and the results have been rewarding.
In this post, I’ll share with you why and how we added an LCHF regimen into our diet and what the results have been.
I’ve been recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome for over thirty years.
I’m not 100% healed, and I suspect I never will be.
Some days I am at 100% energy and most days I’m between 80 – 90%.
I also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
About thirteen years ago, I went GF. See that story here.
Barbara soon followed.
She was already pretty much grain free as she rarely ate bread, pasta or baked goods.
High-carb foods (including potatoes and rice) had been off her menu for many years.
If you talk to her about diets, she’ll tell you that she’s been on a perpetual diet since she’s been 17 years old.
However, since having our fourth child, an extra 20 pounds remained that stubbornly refused to leave.
That annoyed her to no end.
Our Diet Continues To Improve
After going GF, I regained some energy. Unfortunately, it was not as much as I had hoped for.
So I kept experimenting.
Five years ago, Barbara and I discovered juicing, and shortly after that we adopted a paleo type diet.
At that time, I eliminated all processed GF foods from my diet and ate primarily whole foods.
Just by cutting out those products, I drastically reduced my carbohydrate intake.
After about two months on that diet, I regained a lot of energy and also lost 10 pounds, dropping from 195 to 185 pounds (5’11” tall).
Since Barbara didn’t eat many carbs, her weight stayed the same.
She still retained that stubborn 20 pounds.
Exercise Won’t Cause Weight Loss
Because of CFS, I was limited to only doing brisk walks for exercise. Any other intense exercise would cause me to relapse.
Barbara and I started our walking program about ten years ago.
We usually did a minimum of 1.75 miles per day, sometimes more.
The walking greatly helped with my fatigue levels, but Barbara was hoping for some weight loss.
After ten years, it produced none.
One of the common myths about moderate exercise is that it will produce weight loss.
It won’t. You simply cannot burn off enough calories for it to make a difference.
I Start To Strength Train
Three years ago I was finally feeling well enough to start strength training. To see how I managed it while continuing to heal from CFS, see here.
One of the reasons I was so determined to do this was because CFS had caused me to lead a sedentary life.
This resulted in a loss of quite a bit of muscle mass. See my post here.
Everyone after the age of 30 will start to lose muscle mass.
It’s a normal part of the aging process. It’s called age-related sarcopenia.
However, a sedentary person can lose as much as 3% to 5% muscle mass each decade after age 30.
At 57 years old, I had already lost a lot of muscle, but I was determined to fix it.
I couldn’t gain all my lost muscle back, but I could greatly improve what I had and slow the whole process down.
I’ve now been strength training for three years. Read how I started here.
Barbara Begins To Strength Train
If you have a loved one who has suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, you know how devastating that can be.
If you’re a caregiver, you know the stress it places on you.
Barbara’s mom suffered from the disease for over fifteen years. Towards the end of her mom’s illness, Barbara’s dad also suffered from dementia.
People who have strong legs (especially women) have a lower risk of dementia.
When I shared the research with Barbara, her reaction was, “Today is the day I start working out with you guys.” (Two of our sons and our daughter and I were all working out at that point.)
I’m glad she did. And not only because of the dementia risk.
After what she went through with her parents and after raising and homeschooling four children, it was about time she paid some attention to her own well-being.
She’s been training consistently for the last two and a half years.
Oh, ladies, I almost forgot. See here for how strength training can lower your risk of osteoporosis.
Since Barbara and I have both been training, we’ve gained a lot of strength and muscle.
But we didn’t lose any weight.
We still had some problems to fix.
What Does Your Waist To Hip Ratio Say About Your Health?
Last January, I weighed 185 pounds. I actually put on some pounds because I wanted to lift heavier weight.
That was a mistake. Those pounds went right to my midsection as belly fat.
As you can see from the picture above, that’s where I gain weight.
My body mass index (BMI) was 25.8. That’s slightly in the overweight category.
BMI readings can be deceptive. People who carry a lot of muscle mass will have a higher BMI but are at the same time very healthy.
The real tell for me though was my waist circumference to hip circumference ratio (WHR).
Research has shown that your WHR is a better indicator of risks associated with obesity such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and cancer.
Here is a chart showing the ratio and health risk involved.
My ratio, after ten years of daily walking and three years of strength training, was close to 1.
People who have this type of ratio are said to have an apple shape body. They have a tendency to gain fat around the midsection.
This fat is known as visceral fat and is considered by the medical community to be very dangerous.
It’s closely correlated with the diseases I mentioned above.
I simply had too much fat on my body. I had gained muscle over the last three years, but I hadn’t lost any fat.
Belly Fat And Chronic Stress
Researchers have found that there is a high correlation between belly fat and chronic stress. See my series of posts here.
Since I’ve had CFS for so long, there’s no doubt in my mind that some of my belly fat was due to chronic stress.
Danger Of The Skinny Fat Body Type
Skinny fat sounds like a contradiction. But in this case, it’s not.
Growing up, I was always underweight. The problem was I wasn’t lean. I didn’t have a lot of muscle.
As I got older, I still looked slim, but my abdominal fat content was also growing.
Skinny fat people look slim when wearing clothes, but, in reality, they have that apple shape body.
Researchers have found that this is a very dangerous body type. Yes, you can be normal weight and still have type 2 diabetes.
In fact, underweight people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes have twice the risk of dying than if they were obese when diagnosed with diabetes.
That’s where I was at. I had helped myself by gaining muscle and I had lost 10 pounds, but I was still carrying a lot of fat around my abdomen.
While I didn’t have diabetes, I was at risk for it.
To get in better metabolic shape, I had to lose fat and get bigger hips. Squats were taking care of the hips.
I had to take my diet to the next level in order to get rid of the excess fat.
The Pear Shape
Barbara has what is medically called a pear shape. This means she has a narrow waist and larger hips.
I say she has a beautiful, womanly hourglass figure.
Her BMI and WHR are not in the at risk category.
Metabolically this shape is a lot healthier than the apple shape.
The problem for women is that they don’t think it looks good.
I keep telling Barbara, “You had four children. What do you expect?” She glares at me.
Nevertheless, she wants to be healthier and have a better BMI.
Great, that’s the spirit!
Ultimately, she wants those stubborn 20 pounds released to the depths of … Well, you get the idea.
Our Weight Loss Goals
By now, you know Barbara’s goal. She wanted to lose 20 pounds.
I wanted to reduce my waist size from 39″ to at least 35″.
We had no idea how long it would take to reach those goals.
We had heard about the amazing weight loss stories from people on LCHF diets so we decided to see how that would work.
An Obstacle To Weight Loss
Starting out Barbara was faced with two challenges.
First, she was technically already on a low-carb diet. She would have to reduce carbs even more.
Second, her body weight had been the same for eighteen years.
Her body was at homeostasis. In a sense, it was happy with its weight.
This is called your body set weight (BSW).
If you try to eat less, your body will simply lower its metabolism to conserve calories, and thus you won’t lose weight.
Or if you do lose weight, your body will fight to try to get back to your BSW.
That’s why most diets eventually fail. See here.
To lower your BSW, you have to change what you eat (low-carb) and when you eat. More on this later.
On the other hand, I would be happy if I lost 15 pounds.
But I wanted to lose it in the right place.
Also, remember, when dieting, you may lose some muscle mass.
Since we were strength training, that wasn’t a major concern for us.
However, since I was lifting heavy, it could affect how much weight I could lift.
We Start Out On A Low-Carb/High-Fat Diet
The first thing we did was choose a low-carb diet.
This meant we could go with three types of LCHF diets:
- Liberal low-carb (100 – 50 grams of carbs/day)
- Moderate low-carb (50 – 20 grams of carbs/day)
- Extremely low-carb (ketogenic) (<20 grams of carbs/day)
We chose to initially try a moderate, low-carb diet.
Now here’s the tricky thing.
Since it’s a low-carb/high-fat diet, you have to make sure your macronutrients are in proper proportion.
The Macronutrient Proportion In An LCHF Diet
As a general rule, LCHF diets try to maintain a carb: protein: fat ratio of about <25%: 20-25%: >50%.
This means that your total intake of calories should consist of <25% carbs, 20-25% protein and > 50% of fat.
Researchers at the University of Alabama used a similar LCHF macronutrient ratio in the study I examined in my last post.
This is an approximate ratio. Medical practitioners who use LCHF diets to treat patients may use a slightly different ratio.
Okay, you’re looking at that and saying I know carbs are 50 grams or less, but what about protein and fat?
Here’s where it gets a little tricky.
The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.80 grams per kilo (kg) of body weight (0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight).
Certain individuals and life circumstances do raise your protein requirements. This includes seniors, pregnant women, and those who are aggressively exercising. As a general rule, these individuals need about 25 percent more protein.
Remember this is not the Atkins Diet where you can eat as much protein as you want. In my next post, I’ll go into why that could be a problem.
The key here is to have a more fat dominated diet.
Now we have to figure your fat intake in grams.
Doing the math to figure out your fat grams can be confusing.
To make it easier for you, I found this handy calculator that can do the job. It says it’s for a ketogenic diet, but it works for moderate low-carb as well.
You can ignore the TDEE information.
How To Figure Out Your Macro Consumption for the day?
In order to figure out how many grams of macros are in our food, we use the Myfitnesspal app.
It’ll keep track of all your macros and calories.
We found that after a while, we came to know exactly what we could eat and what we couldn’t eat.
After a month, we no longer counted carbs or calories.
High Fat Means Healthy Fat
Our LCHF diet means it’s a low-carb, healthy fat diet.
This means we’ve eliminated all PUFA oils. See here.
Our diet is packed with healthy fats from the following sources:
Cholesterol Is Not Your Enemy
We generally eat between 2-3 eggs a day.
Yes, eggs have a lot of cholesterol.
And yes, for many years dietary cholesterol was thought to be a significant contributor to heart disease.
Today, however, the story has changed.
It is now known that dietary cholesterol doesn’t contribute to serum cholesterol.
That means eggs are not bad for you. In fact, because of their macronutrient content, they may be a superfood.
Unfortunately, there is a small segment of the population that does have to be aware of cholesterol consumption.
Saturated Fat Is Not Your Enemy
Most low-carb diets include a significant amount of fat from grass fed meat products.
This fat will be saturated fat.
For years we were told not to eat saturated fat because it’s a bad fat that can cause heart disease.
We have no problem with a juicy steak slathered with Kerry Gold butter.
Just remember, protein content is limited on an LCHF diet.
We Don’t Get Hungry
Amazingly, we never get hungry on this diet. This is probably because protein and fat are high on the satiety scale.
They simply fill us up more than carbs.
After two months on the LCHF diet, I lost 10 pounds, going from 185 to 175 pounds.
My waist decreased to 37″, and my BMI dropped to 24.4 which is within normal limits.
My WHR dropped to 0.9 which is low risk.
Today my weight is 173 pounds, my BMI is 24.1, and my waist is 36″.
Since I’m walking and lifting regularly, I find some days I’ll need extra carbs so I’ll eat 1/2 of a sweet potato. That’s why I said sometimes I’m over 50 g/day.
White rice is another story. It’s almost pure glucose. I will indulge occasionally, but I’ll always consume some vinegar with it. See here.
Strength Training And LCHF Diet
At first, I did see some reduction in strength from the LCHF diet.
But after four months, I’ve gotten stronger. I’m approaching a 300lb. deadlift.
I’m sure though if I was 185 pounds, I’d be a lot stronger.
My current goal is to continue to cut out excess fat, get my waist eventually to 34″, and put on more muscle.
I may gain weight, but I’ll be leaner and stronger.
As I said, Barbara wanted to lose 20 pounds.
After the first month, she was down five pounds.
Over the next two weeks, she stalled so she cut her carb intake to about 35 g/d.
She then lost another 5 pounds rather quickly.
People who want to lose a lot of weight quickly may find that they have to get their carbs down to a ketogenic diet range (<20 g/d).
Barbara Stalls Again
After losing 10 pounds in two months, Barbara stalled again.
We figured the BSW thing was kicking in.
To speed up her weight loss, she employed the time-tested practice of fasting.
First, we both decided to do intermittent fasting. We would allow ourselves a minimum of 16 hours between our last meal of the day and our first of the next day.
In a future post, I’ll explain what happens when you do that.
Then she fasted 1 day per week for the next month.
Amazingly, she lost another 5 pounds.
To date, she’s lost 15 pounds and has 5 more to go.
She has good energy and seldom gets hungry.
Since she’s strength training, she’s also gaining muscle and getting stronger.
Where We’re Headed From Here
The LCHF seems to be working for us. I will start to add some 24-36 hour fasts to try and remove some more belly fat.
I really want that 34″ waist.
Barbara is still losing weight so she’ll continue doing what she’s doing. It seems to be working.
As I said before, though, our overall goal is to feel younger and live younger.
In my next post, I’ll go into some theories about why LCHF diets appear to be successful.
That’s all for today. Have you had any experience with an LCHF diet? We’d love to hear from you.
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