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CICO Shove Off! 'New Kid on the (Nutritional) Block' Hits Mainstream: LCHF/Keto

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On Fox News TODAY:

Why outdated information is to blame for weight gain

Why CICO (Calories In/Out) doesn't work for SUSTAINABLE weight loss

Since I began following a ketogenic nutritional plan (under the Paleo umbrella) almost a year ago, I've noticed an increased number of SparkPeople members interested in LCHF (Low-Carb, High-Fat) and ketogenic nutrition (a very specialized application of low-carb nutrition). 'Keto' seems to have now hit mainstream awareness, and has become the hip/cool nutritional 'new kid on the block' (my city even has a newly established local Keto group that meets every second week for support and sharing resources).

When members here realize that I follow this dietary plan, I get a lot of questions, and requests for information. As I am passionate about the healing aspect of Keto and have, myself, had great success with this WOE (way of eating) with regard to both healing and weight loss, I feel it is important to provide resources to others, and to open up the discussion here.

Low-carb eating is extremely beneficial on its own, and is employable under almost any nutritional philosophy, though exactly how many carbs/day constitutes low-carb is somewhat ambiguous. Some would call anything under 100-150 grams per day low-carb (which is definitely a lot less than an average of 250-300 grams/day of the Standard American Diet (SAD)), and a lot of people could get awesome results within this carbohydrate range, as long as they ate real, unprocessed foods.

Typically, however, standard low-carb is defined as anything under 60 grams of carbs/day.

Your personal low-carb level will depend largely on your own body's response to carbs in your diet. If you can't eliminate body fat, or easily maintain a healthy body composition, it is likely that your carb tolerance is lower than the grams/day of carbs you are eating.

...and this is where CICO (Calories In, Calories Out) fails so many: CICO is arbitrarily imposed upon you and proscribed by mathematical formulas based upon over-simplified metabolic generalizations. General metabolic functioning as related to weight loss is fiendishly complex and regulated not by math, but by chemistry. What this means, in practical terms, is that if your own metabolic profile somewhat parallels that upon which the formulas were devised, then CICO will likely work for you to a degree; however, for most of us who are more than 50 pounds overweight, this is likely not to be the case.

For instance, I can eat 1600 calories a day, with 55% of my calories (220 grams of carbs) coming from unprocessed whole-food carbs and I will gain weight at an alarming rate (and I DID do just that simply following SparkPeople/SAD recommendations). I can eat those same 1600 calories with 5% of my calories (80 grams of carbs) coming from the very same foods, and I will maintain my weight effortlessly. If, changing nothing else, I drop my carbs even further to no more than 20 grams of carb/day, I will eliminate body fat effortlessly... as long as I also factor in my body's response to protein, and eat enough fat. Eating low-carb also requires that you eat enough fat (precisely where most people fail on a Low-carb diet, and then declare it doesn't work, or they feel awful... and of course they do, because their metabolism doesn't have the necessary TYPE of CALORIES to function well).

This is the real power in freeing yourself from a CICO mindset: a Low-carb WOE is about understanding, respecting and working with your body's personal metabolic chemistry.

While there is a very wide range of paleo 'normal', Paleo by its very nature is considered low-carb, and higher fat, because recommended carb levels for weight loss are anything BELOW 60 grams/day. Paleo can be KETOGENIC, but it usually isn't, and it doesn't have to be, to be extremely beneficial and healing to the body/metabolism in its own right. Conversely, a ketogenic diet can be Paleo (and is the best-case scenario for so many reasons), but it doesn't have to be.

I personally follow a Keto-paleo nutritional plan because it allows me to be in control of my own weight-loss process in ways SAD/CICO never did, simply because:

I now understand exactly why I got fat (I am challenged by hormonal obesity... CICO and conventional macros will never address my situation).

I understand why Paleo still needs to be a very important part of my journey (my body is still healing, and autoimmune/inflammation issues don't go away, they go into remission... if I go back to eating as I used to, I will certainly become ill/fat again).

I am now able to consistently eliminate excess body fat WHILE I retain my lean muscle mass, re-define my set point, eliminate skin issues, and vastly improve my health beyond those improvements that are afforded everyone through simply losing weight.

Some of the factors to consider before employing a ketogenic approach to weight loss and health for yourself include: identifying the specific nature of any health issues you may have (while most health issues improve on a keto diet, a few do not); understanding just how metabolically deranged you may be and, if possible, the root cause (there are other elements that you may need to address first, or in tandem, to get results); determining first whether or not you are able to lose weight otherwise (carb restriction for the sake of carb restriction alone can be counter-productive); and discerning just how committed you are prepared to be to the process (while LCHF is good for most everyone, HCHF will wreak FURTHER havoc on your whole metabolic system and cause damage... so if you're not all in, you'd best not begin).

Ideal nutrition should always be about achieving optimal results and health, with the least restrictive approach (the bounty of food available to us is meant to be enjoyed, not feared). While I personally believe that everyone can benefit from a ketogenic diet (my whole family eats this way), it is restrictive on several levels. While I find it simple, freeing and empowering (and I do very much enjoy how I eat, especially since my food is no longer harming me and preventing me from living my life to the fullest), others find it arduous and overwhelming. Keto requires a high level of motivation and personal investment. It's not a canned weight-loss or healing program you can follow blindly, or without continuous re-evaluation.

So if you are still interested, here we go!

Carbs (all plant-based nutrients) are completely unnecessary to one's diet. You can get everything your body needs, or provide the raw material for your body to produce what it needs, from non-plant sources of food.

"The lower limit of dietary carbohydrate compatible with life apparently is zero, provided that adequate amounts of protein and fat are consumed.... In the absence of dietary carbohydrate, de novo synthesis of glucose requires amino acids derived from the hydrolysis of endogenous or dietary protein or glycerol derived from fat.... In other words, when you aren't consuming a ton of dietary carbohydrate, your liver makes whatever glucose your system needs from dietary fats and protein."

There's no such thing as an essential carbohydrate

Why Humans Don’t Need Dietary Carbohydrates to Thrive

The ketogenic diet (also known as keto) is well known for being low in carbohydrates. Keto is a state in which the body produces ketones in the liver, which are then used for energy. The keto diet can also be known as a low carb diet, low carb high fat (LCHF), or any diet that limits carbohydrates to a low level (lower than 30 grams of carbs, but typically around 20 grams). It is a natural state of human metabolic flexibility. In fact, we are born in a state of ketosis, and breast milk provides ketogenic macros.

The key to a successful ketogenic approach to nutrition is macronutrient distribution.

A quick review: most of the food you eat supplies two types of nutrients: Micronutrients (vitamins, enzymes, minerals)... so named because we need only very small amounts of these things to be healthy; and macronutrients. Micronutrients are found within macronutrients.

Macro is short for macronutrients. We have three: carbohydrates, fats and protein.

From the perspective of macronutrients, the Standard American Diet (SAD) looks like this:

(High-carb, Low-fat... your body runs on carbohydrates for energy... calories are critical because your body doesn't easily balance metabolically, satiety is fleeting, and hunger often feels like an 'emergency')

Comparatively, a Paleo diet for weight loss looks approximately like this:

(Low-carb, moderate Protein, High-Fat... you become fat-adapted: able to burn both fat and carbs for energy... you are metabolically flexible, and satiety is easily achieved and maintained)

A ketogenic macro distribution looks like this:

(Low to very low-carb, High-fat - this pie cart shows fat at the low end of keto, moderate protein... your body burns ketones for energy... ketones are either dietary or body fat converted for energy... you are nutrition driven... hunger is rarely an issue: you are in complete control of if/when you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat)

Notice, LCHF and Ketogenic nutritional plans are NOT about how many calories you eat, but about what percentage of calories come from which macros.

On a LCHF or Ketogenic (Keto) nutritional plan it is very difficult to overeat. Fat is so much more satiating, energy levels become more even, hunger changes (less demanding, cravings disappear - eating intuitively becomes the norm), and when you're not eating, your body is automatically converting body fat for fuel, so calories lose much of their significance.

If you track your calories on SparkPeople, you will find a pie chart just under your water tracker that gives you this breakdown. Your macro percentages are measured in calories, and are based on your total calories for the day.

So, depending on what you eat at any given moment... fat, protein, or carbs... the calories are converted to percentages, and these percentages may change throughout the day, but should ideally remain relatively stable.

Where things get less definitive and more individual, is in relation to how metabolically unbalanced you might be. There are no standard macros that will work for everyone. The above generalized charts are a starting point. How you eat for maintenance will vary greatly from how you eat for body fat elimination, and eating for healing can look even more different based on individual differences.

If your goal is simply weight loss, and you are eliminating body fat consistently, then great. If you aren't, you need to play with your macros and adjust them (usually drop your carbs further, raise your fat, and moderate your protein) until you are once again getting the results you want. As you eliminate body fat, your hormonal/metabolic balance adjusts and what worked initially will likely also need adjusting as you move toward your weight and health goals. This is not a static process.

To complicate things even further, some people are also highly inclined toward gluconeogenesis (the conversion of protein to glucose, which raises insulin levels, which in turn prohibits weight loss) and have to restrict protein below what is currently considered to be average levels. We need much less protein than we think we do, and SAD suggests we do:

Why Low Carb Is High in Fat - Not Protein

How much protein is excessive?

To effectively troubleshoot your personal LCHF/ketogenic approach, it is also important to understand the difference between fat-adaptation (basic paleo), and a ketogenic lifestyle:

Being Fat Adapted Versus "In Ketosis" (Pt.1/3)

Being Fat Adapted Versus "In Ketosis" (Pt.2/3)

Being Fat Adapted Versus "In Ketosis" (Pt.3/3)

Nobody else can troubleshoot this process for you. You must become your own expert about you. It's all about how YOUR body responds to food. To get you started, here are some nutrition calculators to help you establish a beginning point for your macro distribution.

Tracking/weighing food in the initial stages is very important to success on a LCHF/ketogenic nutritional plan. Over time this need lessens, as you quickly learn how to eat within macro ranges. Since calorie restriction within a finely proscribed range becomes irrelevant, tracking vigilance is eventually eliminated. Your body, over time, becomes its own 'tracker'.

You also need to understand your own personal carb threshold and protein tolerance to get into and stay in ketosis, so tracking is necessary:

Keto Buddy
(overall best calculator for weight loss and healing... the one I use)

ruled me Keto Calculator
(more geared to athletes)

Keto Adapted Calculator
(younger women without compounding health issues find this calculator more helpful)

Knowledge is power when it comes to crafting a successful and enjoyable Ketogenic Lifestyle. This is not an approach for anyone who prefers to 'wing it'.

Books I HIGHLY recommend are...

(will help you understand the power of food and discern what foods to include in your own plan from many health perspectives... it also includes simple and delicious 30-day meal plans to support your transition)

(everyone who struggles to maintain a healthy body composition needs to read this book)

Holy Consensus, Batman...
(the best of Dr. Jason Fung on his blog... Intensive Dietary Management... containing all of the information in his book for FREE)

How Do We Gain Weight?
(the first of 45 or so blog posts about the aetiology of obesity)

Why Can't I Lose Weight?
(here's a hint: calories in/out has nothing to do with it)

The Aetiology of Obesity Lecture Series
(they are in reverse order, so just scroll down)
(and you can download all of the lecture slides and NOTES!)

Fasting - A History Part I
(Fasting is a natural element of a ketogenic and Paleo lifestyle, but can be manipulated for greater success... one of the most fascinating blog series I've ever read)

(clear and straightforward... the basics in an easy to understand format)

(the low-carb gold standard: an in-depth understanding of how and why low-carb works, with all you need to make this a sustainable lifestyle)


Additional food for thought:
How Long Can a Person Survive without Food?

For those who prefer listening, to reading, here are some of the best resources out there:

LCHF is the sh!t

Low Carb Explained

Debunking Low Carb Myths with Dr. Eric Westman

The Ketogenic Diet Explained in Under 5 Minutes.

Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off

Ketosis and Ketones w/ Dr. Dominic D'Agostino Ketogenic Diet Expert

Dr. Stephen Phinney - 'Achieving and Maintaining Nutritional Ketosis'

Prof. Tim Noakes - 'Medical aspects of the low carbohydrate lifestyle'

Prof. Jeff Volek - 'The Art and Science of Low Carb Living

How to Intermittent Fast with Dr. Jason Fung

Rid the Loose Flabby Skin!

While low-carb living can seem 'magical' to anyone who has had difficulty losing weight otherwise, it is not without its challenges, nor is it necessarily easier than more conventional approaches. If you have significant metabolic and health challenges to overcome, it can initially feel quite overwhelming, and finding your ideal keto can be challenging.

These are the absolute BEST Keto-PALEO websites for TROUBLESHOOTING:

KetoDiet Blog
(Several FREE three-week diet plans & SO many other well-researched resources... Martina also responds to emails in a very thorough and compassionate way... she is AWESOME)

(did you know LCHF is the medical dietary model for all of Sweden?)

Nutritional Ketosis and Ketogenic Diet FAQ
(Dr. Phinney - cutting edge and evolving information)

Ketogenic Diet Resource
(Classic LCHF theory)

Ruled Me
(great recipes, and solid theory)

I Breathe, I'm Hungry
(excellent, simple recipes)





Oh! And when the $!!*?#$! scale shows you no love despite all of your diligence and effort...

Keeping it all in perspective:

A STALL is defined as having lost no pounds and no inches in at least four weeks. Two days is not a stall. Two weeks is not a stall. It has to be at least four weeks. The reason anything less is not a stall is that sometimes your body just needs to take a break and adjust to the body fat you've already eliminated. This can take a few weeks. If it's over four weeks, though, there's probably something else going on, and you should examine your approach for ways you may be sabotaging your own progress. Too much protein? Not enough sleep? Food sensitivities (which, BTW, can develop at any time)? Stress (cortisol can be a huge problem for some people)? Carb creep? Too much processed food? Not enough fat? Hormone upheaval (as you eliminate fat - which is a metabolically active entity in its own right - your hormone balance shifts and can impact your progress)?

Any number of underlying factors can cause a stall/plateau. Stalls/plateaus can be a natural consequence of shifting hormones and metabolism as our bodies adapt to a different composition, resolving on their own with persistence. Stalls/plateaus can be the result of increasing muscle mass, so body composition is improving even though the scale isn't budging. But, stalls/plateaus can also indicate that we're dealing with an underlying issue we haven't considered yet, like: sleep, high stress, undiagnosed autoimmune disease, adrenal fatigue, micronutrient deficiencies, overeating calorie-dense foods like nuts, or UNDER-eating calories. It's important to consider all of these possibilities and correctly address the underlying causes for sustainable elimination of body fat.

A PLATEAU occurs when you've been stuck at the same weight for a couple of weeks, but less than four. A plateau is extremely annoying, frustrating, discouraging, irritating, aggravating, bothersome, troublesome, disturbing and vexatious. It's also perfectly normal and healthy, and is going to happen every now and then. Again, it's your body adjusting to the fat that it has already eliminated, or to an increase in exercise, or a reaction to some transitory variation in your diet. Fuss and fume and gripe and whine, but don't sweat it. And if you were eliminating body fat before the plateau, DON'T CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING! If it worked last week, and the week before, it will probably continue working in a couple more weeks. Save the tinkering for a true stall.

A POST-INDUCTION (fancy term for any significant drop in dietary carb levels) STALL is just what it sounds like, except it's really a plateau instead of a stall. Remember how much scale weight you lost the first couple of weeks of eating CLEAN lower carb Paleo? 5 or 10 pounds in a couple of weeks, more for some people? 5% or more of your body weight is not unusual, though some of it is the release of water you've been retaining for the purpose of processing carbs and responding to inflammation. That's a big change for your body to get used to! With that big of a change, it may call a halt to the whole process while it figures out whether everything is ok. Your body needs time to come to come to the conclusion that it is still being fed appropriately, and that there are no new health issues to worry about. Also remember, your fat cells don't go away. As they release fat, they replace it with water in order to reserve the storage space should you lose your mind and go back to eating higher carbs... the body is efficient that way (also why you can lose inches, but not weight on the scale... water is heavy but does not take up as much room as does fat). After a couple of weeks, when they realize that the storage space really is no longer required, your fat cells will respond accordingly. Which leads us to our last definition....

A WHOOSH is a big, sudden drop in scale weight, usually after a plateau. You may wake up one morning and find that you've lost 2 or 3 pounds overnight. Congratulations! You've just had a visit from the Whoosh Fairy! The fat cells finally decide that it's ok to collapse completely and let go of the water/space they've been hording 'just in case'. Your elimination of body fat should resume, but probably at a slower rate than during the first few weeks. Some people are slow but steady, and others are habitual 'whooshers'.

This overall process will continue in one stage or another as long as you stay with LCHF, and are working on eliminating body fat. You'll eliminate for a while, and then suddenly, without anything else changing, you'll be stuck. You'll be frustrated and annoyed and aggravated, and you'll whine and gripe and complain, and you'll want to change something, but it probably won't matter what you change because your body needs time to adjust and find its way through the process. The elimination of body fat isn't a linear relationship to the variables in play, however if you trust the overall process, you'll be more successful in the long run, than if you are constantly tweaking the variables.

LARGER IMAGE: 15254b2dcaab7f547

Why I'm STILL here... my SparkJourney Saga

No more Mrs. Doubtfire... or Picture UPDATE at nearly 100 lbs. ELIMINATED!

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Losing a Lot of Weight

How I Am Eliminating 'EXCESS Weight'

(ponder this some and you come to see this SPARKjourney in a whole new light)

I'm STILL 155.0 pounds, today. Life has been too hectic to do anything other than maintain.

(I started my journey at 250 lbs. & over 50% BMI... Obese Class III)

So, let the discussion begin!

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Thanks, agreat deal I have read, listened to. You say you don’t find it hard. Did you struggle at beginning to satynon it and find your spot tgat worked best? I am having such a hard time. Wish you lived in NSlol
    214 days ago
    Thanks so much for all your wonderful information!
    1179 days ago
  • BERRY4
    Guess I missed when this was posted. Thanks for the references and challenge to "keep figuring" what works for ME.
    Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
    Working tomorrow so off to bed... emoticon
    1200 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/10/2016 1:39:36 AM
    Thanks for all this information. How do you prepare meals with so much fat though? Do you add butter and oil over everything?
    1206 days ago
    Thank you for this super-awesome, mega-post! I love this WOE!
    1211 days ago
    Wow, thank you! I have been eating LC for many years, and to have all these resources in one place is just awesome! There are many new (to me) links here that I haven't read, so I'll be busy - but learning is part of our journey and it makes us better at experimenting with what works for us.
    1212 days ago
    This is a wonderful and clear explanation of the WOE. Fantastic job! All you need is a high-tech powerpoint presentation and it could be an awesome TED talk.
    Love you passion, but your strong desire to help so many others is what really shines through.
    As we say in Hebrew - "kol hakavod" - Way to go!
    1213 days ago
    Tremendous!!! Thank you!!!
    1214 days ago
    Wow! is right! This is fantastic. Very clear and well-written.
    1214 days ago
    This is fabulous!!! I appreciate how thoroughly you have handled this topic. My metabolism is extremely unhappy with carbs, and it took me a long time to deal with it and go with it.

    Yes, there is restrictive, BUT . . . to me, it is even more restrictive to eat foods that make you feel badly! I got tired of doing that.

    I thank you very much for this intelligent information!
    1214 days ago
  • L3ON3TOO
    What a great summary of what keto/lchf is all about. Thank you for providing all of the references and insights. Because of the satisfaction associated with this WOE, it can be a very easy diet to stay on--but the health benefits are what keep me on the straight and narrow.
    1214 days ago
    Ramona this is amazing. So packed with EXCELLENT information! I will refer others here when they ask me as well about how/why we eat LCHF!
    1214 days ago
    Great blog. Great information, stated in a concise, easy to understand format.
    1214 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1215 days ago
    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Wonderful information.
    1215 days ago
    1215 days ago
    Wow. I mean WOW! Bits and pieces of what you so effectively and eloquently wrote have been rolling around in my brain for the past several months. I know a little about some of this, so your summation with resources and tools is such a gift. I have never lost weight like others, the whole calories bit has never translated into success for me. My PCOS and hormone wackiness has meant my metabolism has always been on the supremely sucky side. The number on the scale does not budge much, yet I am shrinking in size while growing stronger and more fit. Guess I have done a few things right. I will read and learn more, I love your wisdom to encourage others to find what works for us. I have IBS, so fruits and veggies have to happen, or my bod revolts in the worst possible way. However, there is much I can do to find a happier, healthier balance.

    Simply amazing, many thanks for this treasure trove of knowledge and resources...
    1215 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/25/2016 8:59:17 AM
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.