If you are like most Americans, you’ve made plenty of weight loss resolutions over the years and failed to follow through. It’s probably not that you lack willpower; it’s that you never trained your body to burn fat.
If you know someone who made a resolution last year to lose weight and now, this year, you can see that they look more fit, then this means you likely have an acquaintance who has become a fat-burning master.
You too can learn to train every cell in your body how to burn stored fat—including omental fat and that cellulite you thought you couldn’t get rid of—for fuel.
When your body burns fat for fuel it is said to be in a “ketogenic state.” That’s the key to healthy, lasting weight loss. Let me tell you how its done.
Ketogenic versus Carbogenic
A low-carb diet switches on dormant fat-burning enzymes that high-carb diets switch off. That’s why high-carb diets fail in the long term. But even when high-carb diets show some success in the short term, they still promote unhealthy weight loss.
On a high-carb diet you are burning sugar for energy, not fat. That’s why these diets often involve either calorie restriction, excessive exercise, or both. Do enough of that, and you might experience weight loss. But this begs the questions: Where is this weight coming from? The answer might surprise you: Studies show that people who lose weight following low-fat, high-carb diets are also losing muscle and bone mass, and even vital organs can shrink.
We all know that sugar can provide a quick burst of energy. In fact, if your metabolism is carbogenic, you often need that burst of sugar-energy just to get through the day. This isn’t normal. Your body is engineered to run on fat, not sugar, most of the time. We can store roughly 2000 calories in the form of starch. Compare that to the virtually unlimited number of calories in the form of fat. The average 5 foot 5, 120 pound woman with 20% body fat carries about 36,000 calories worth of energy in storage, and bigger people carry much more.
There is a growing number of researchers studying the benefits of ketogenesis, sometimes called nutritional ketosis (not to be confused with diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be dangerous). They’ve discovered that ketosis can boost athletic performance, reduce epileptics’ seizures, and prevent cancer (learn more from the Nutrition and Metabolism Society, see link on right sidebar).
Why You Aren’t Ketogenic Right Now
Your cells would rather burn fat, but they can be trained to depend on sugar. If you’ve been eating a low-fat, high carb diet for years, by now you have down-regulated your fat-burning enzymes for so long, they may have completely shut down. Your cells may now be so dependent on sugar they will make your body produce it any which way it can.
If so required, your cells can convert protein into sugar. Can they also convert fat into sugar? Unfortunately, no. For this reason, sugar-hungry cells go on the hunt in muscle and bone, not your extra fat. I’ve had patients hunched over from premature osteoporotic fractures after following a high-carb (and low-protein) diet for several years.
Perhaps we should be thankful that cells aren’t that proficient in turning these good tissues into sugar. That’s why sugar burners can’t rely on these tissues to sustain them between meals.
Your Ketogenic Year Starts Today
I could go on about how high-carb diets do all kinds of other terrible things to your metabolism, like coating cell membranes, stiffening joints, and blocking hormonal signals. But I don’t want you to have to wait another minute (besides, I discuss all that in my books). Right now, I just want to it as easy as possible for you to come on over and join the ketogenic tribe.
Here are five simple things you can do starting now to make sure your resolution sticks.
Jump start your fat-burning enzymes for the day with a balanced breakfast.
In general, I recommend starting your day with a meal that provides roughly equal parts protein and fat, and no more than about 10gm of carb, and I would stick to real food, not powdered supplements. For example, I drink a cup of raw, whole milk with about two ounces of fresh cream in my coffee and twice a week or so that lasts me all the way to dinner. See recipes tab/breakfast for more ideas.
Keep daily carb totals under 100 gm, and between 30 and 70 gm for faster results.
Because of sugar’s toxic effects in your body, when you eat anything with enough carb to cause a blood sugar bump, the sugar triggers a phalanx of hormones designed to turn off your fat-burning enzymes and turn on sugar-burning and fat-making enzymes. Depending on your activity level and other hormonal factors, the per-meal maximum varies between 10-30 grams, and above that your fat-burning enzymes may be switched of all day.
Eat more fat.
If you’ve been drinking skim milk, eating low fat cheeses and fake-butter spreads, avoiding egg-yolks, and trimming the fat from your cuts of meat, you’ve deprived your body of nutrients your need for tissue regeneration and optimal health.
All animal fat from pastured animals is chock-full of nutrients including phospholipids, choline, and biotin, all of which have been used as weight-loss supplements. Dairy from pastured cows contains Conjugated Linoleic acid, another fatty acid that is sold for both weight-loss and cancer prevention. All such fats are generally not used for fuel but rather for constructing cell membranes, especially in your skin and nervous system. So as you put that pastured butter in the pan before frying up a couple free-range eggs, don’t think of what you’re doing as burdening your body with calories you’ll be carrying around or fuel you’ll need to burn. Instead, realize you are about to enjoy a meal that your DNA will use to create a stronger, healthier, thinner you.
Another reason you need fat is that your digestive system is incapable of absorbing fat-soluble antioxidants and vitamins A, D, E, and K without fat to facilitate the process. This means if you’ve been eating low-fat dressings on low-fat salads for lunch, most of the vitamins in those veggies have been passing right through you.
Get plenty of protein.
Now that you’re not tied to low-fat versions of protein rich foods, you can go ahead and enjoy truly nourishing, protein-rich foods like eggs, cheese, hamburger, and shellfish. Gauge the amount of protein you need in this protein matrix, below.
Stop snacking. Seriously.
If you want to lose weight, there is no such thing as a healthy snack. Why? Because snacking provides you with sugar and/or protein to burn for fuel, the body never had to dip into its fat reserves to keep you going. A few other reasons to quit snacking:
Isn’t it hard enough to plan 3 healthy meals a day? Do you really want to plan for a healthy snack on top of all that? After all, when you’re really in a rush, foods that might seem like a snack could serve as a meal, and seem more like a real, planned out meal if you don’t ever snack. For instance, sometimes I just have a couple of handfuls of nuts and a slice of cheese, or small pile of sauerkraut. For me, that’s a light lunch.
If you avoid snacks then by the time you finally get to eat you are more likely to actually be hungry. The hungrier you are, the better food tastes. Enjoying the taste of REAL food (carb-y and sweet foods don’t count as real food for reasons described elsewhere) is key to health and lasting weight loss success.
Your GI tract needs to rest. If you are eating every three to four hours, your intestinal system is always working and it’s just not designed for that. For one thing, when you eat, your GI tract is forced to draw several liters of fluid from your bloodstream, and interstitial tissues. This drops your blood pressure and can also make you feel tired, cold, or both. If you snack and then have to be up and rushing around, your body now has to route blood to your legs that your GI tract could really use. This is a set up for all sorts of digestive misfortune from GERD to irritable bowel and inflammatory conditions.
For best results, find an ally.
If you’ve been programmed by the government, high-school health class, and college nutrition courses to fear fat and find the opposite information presented here confusing, join the club.
We all heard low fat is healthy growing up and only the wisest among us could consciously reject it. I was programmed too, and spend many years in Hawaii trying to sort through conflicting technical science before I could, with confidence, give my patients this kind of new advice. The real boost to my confidence only came when I joined the Nutrition and Metabolism Society and met other like-minded health professionals all using a ketogenic diet to produce the similar amazing results. My point is, I know how hard it is to go against the mainstream idea on your own. So to that end, I encourage you to find an ally, ideally in your family or among friends, but if not, there are tons of online meeting places to help you.
One of my favorite resources is plain-talking, down-to-earth exercise-kinesiologist and weight-loss expert Sean Croxton. His Undergroundwellness website and podcasts will introduce you to lots of people who are using low-carb, high fat, high protein diets to help their patients see amazing health transformations, and his book is a fun read and offers lots of delicious recipes with links to detailed video instructions.
A few more great support-education sites:
and for delicious recipes:
So if you’ve resolved to lose weight in the past and failed, 2012 is a fresh year. If you get serious about traditional food and healthy sources, 2012 could be the best year of your life.
If you have questions like What kinds of fats are good? or What kind of meat should I eat? I have answered most such questions elsewhere, and encourage further reading around the website.
If you would like to read one of my books and are not sure which one to read first, here’s what I usually advise. For those who have not read many nutrition books and don’t really enjoy knowing the full story but just want to cut to the instructions, I recommend you read Food Rules. For those of you who have a good background in nutrition or love science, I recommend Deep Nutrition first. Of course, many people end up reading both because the information in each is meant to complement, not replace, the other.