This is my brain on fat
What’s up, girl? How you doin? If I come across as a smooth talker, it’s just because I’ve got butter in my beard. I could grease a cooking pan with my mustache. It’s probably because of all the butter coffee I drink. I’m on keto. Keto is short for the ketogenic diet which is a high fat, moderate protein low carb eating plan that puts your body in a metabolic state where it uses fat reserves for fuel instead of stored glycogen. Why am I telling you this? Because ketosis is changing my life.
I’m a fat dude who will soon be a not fat dude with tons of muscle. That means something to me. I’m a stand-up comedian and a dad which is two groups of people who are not known for having the best bodies. When I was living in Chicago I ate my way to over 300lbs. That’s what you do in Chicago. It was too cold to go outside so everyone just got drunk and ate deep dish pizza. Plus, you could wear winter clothes so no one knew how big you were. It was like being a secret agent, only my mission was to eat ranch dusted French fries dipped in gravy and my disguise was a wraparound scarf so people wouldn’t notice I had chins (plural).
I had experienced the benefits of Keto once before, in college, when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and had to have a chunk of my thyroid taken out. I got on the Atkins diet after my surgery and lost fifty pounds in just a few months. Everyone thought I looked awesome but when I told them what my diet was they all said it was “totally unhealthy”. Unfortunately, for me, I listened and slowly regained all my lost weight and more as I struggled with a seemingly endless cycle of calorie counting, low fat, high carb, cardboard tasting food, and long, boring cardio programs. I would lose a little weight, stall, feel miserable, then start gaining weight back despite being super strict. That crushed my morale and resulted in me binge eating and putting weight back on even faster.
When I became a dad, about two years ago, I knew I didn’t want to be yet another overweight father, sitting on a couch, watching TV. I read Gary Taubes’s, “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” and knuckled down again on the low carb diet. Now, with new research being done on the massive benefits of ketosis, not just from a fat burning point of view but from a cancer fighting, depression battling, mood enhancing point of view, I’m all in. I’ve lost over fifty pounds in the last two years and am actively working out and building muscle. Cue “Eye of The Tiger” playing as a dude runs down the street punching loaves of bread that try to get in his way.
Changing My Brain
One specific thing Ketosis has done for me that other diets didn’t do is reshaping the way my mind handled weight loss. For years, I’d labored under the false belief that I simply lacked the willpower to eat correctly and that everyone who wasn’t obese was somehow just stronger. I’m now realizing that willpower alone isn’t what’s responsible for weight loss. My ketogenic diet changed the way my brain dealt with food. My cravings for junk food and sugary garbage went away or were significantly reduced. My need to binge, which was my biggest saboteur and a source of immense shame, was almost totally wiped out. Not feeling the need to binge also eliminated the shame and guilt I would feel after I binged, which inevitably led to a downward spiral and a pig-out-pity-party. You know what sadness tastes like? It tastes like an ice cream sandwich made with Pop-Tarts.
When I wasn’t on a ketogenic diet, I felt enslaved by my cravings. My parents make this monstrosity of mouth watery-ness called a buttermilk pie. It’s so off the chain delicious, our family would destroy it almost immediately after it cooled. When I went to visit, I would lie awake at night, tossing and turning while I pictured exactly the spot the buttermilk pie was hanging out in, in the refrigerator. I would actively have to turn my thoughts elsewhere or I would obsess over it until everyone was asleep then I’d go downstairs and rip that pie to shreds like a fat tooth fairy who steals desserts instead of teeth.
On keto, I wanted the pie, sure. But I wasn’t consumed by it. I wasn’t Gollum from Lord of The Rings about it. Buttermilk pie wasn’t my precious, it was just a pie.
That single change, the reductions in cravings, the change in the way my brain thought about food, has been the single biggest benefit to this diet. It literally makes weight loss possible where it felt hopeless before. Which is why I recommend the diet to people who’ve struggled their entire lives with weight loss. It gives me the “willpower” I always thought non-overweight people had. It turns out maybe they don’t have some kind of magical self-control that gives them moral superiority over the obese. Maybe their biological response to sugar was just healthier than ours. I’m not a scientist. I tell fart jokes onstage for a living so do your own research. However, anecdotally, it sure seems like a ketogenic diet evens out the whole “willpower” playing field.
I’m still overweight. The weight is coming off slowly, sometimes very slowly. But it’s coming off consistently. I’ve got at least fifty pounds more to go but I feel like I can win it this time. It doesn’t feel impossible, unfair, and torturous like every diet I’ve tried before does. It’s awesome. I hit snags, sure. Sometimes I’ll eat breaded chicken nuggets when I know I should have salad, sometimes I’ll even have a *gasp* sandwich, but I don’t spiral out of control anymore. I feel like I have the tools to actually win this thing. I hope you’ll all join me on this ride as I use this diet to transform myself and if it inspires you to do the same, hey, that rules. Check back here because this is going to be a journal of my journey through ketosis. We can encourage each other, share tips and celebrate victories. So raise your mugs of butter coffee high and thrust your bacon into the air like a pirate’s cutlass! Here’s to ketosis! May we never succumb to sugar’s dark embrace.