Health & Fitness Issue 2016: The most insane diet ever (almost)

Ketosis — it's not just for carnivores anymore.

Author’s note: 1) The following is a rather extreme regimen one should not undergo unless one first consults with a medical professional. 2) The following is about shedding a few vanity pounds and is not meant to disparage anyone of any size; this is by no means an endorsement of our society’s fascist beauty standards, but instead an endorsement of developing one’s own personal standards and adhering to them. 3) The author admits that wanting to lose a few vanity pounds gained via an excess of delicious craft beer is about as First-World Problem as it gets.

It’s easy for vegans to overdo the rice and pasta, and along with the increasing number of vegan takes on the most decadent foods known — from cupcakes to Philly “cheesesteaks” — calorie counts can go up, too.

My downfall was craft beer, namely Victory’s Golden Monkey Tripel, an absolute delight of a brew that weighs in at a hefty 274 calories per 12 ounces. For reference, a 12-ounce serving of Guinness is just 125 calories. Other favorites of mine, like Cigar City Jai Alai, also sport calorie counts north of 200.

I’ve never been overweight, but there’s a certain number on the scale where I like to be, and I like to have my clothing fit a certain way.
One Sunday morning in late July, after a night involving tasty, heavy craft beer, the number on the scale told me something I didn’t like. So I decided to change it, using a modified version of a diet that had rapidly worked wonders for some friends: the ketogenic diet. That’s the one that got everyone talking about carbs a while back.

Adhering to that diet will land you in ketosis, which causes your body to burn fat (and, if you don’t lift, muscle tissue) for fuel.

My non-vegan friends achieved this through eating a shit-ton of meat, eggs and cheese, an option obviously not in the cards for me.

So I researched. A lot.

It turned out I could get into ketosis even if I didn’t completely eliminate carbohydrates. I simply had to keep the total amount under 30 to 50 grams (excluding insoluble fiber, which is common in a lot of the stuff I eat anyway), assuming I stayed physically active.

Hey, it could be worse. I cook much of my food and don’t care whether there’s gluten in it.

Of course the best way for most people to lose unwanted pounds is to eat less and exercise more, thereby creating a calorie deficit that over time will cause weight loss. But I’m not the most quantitative person in the world and can’t get to the gym every single day. Having very strict borders seemed to really help keep me on track.

I waited till midweek to start because I was warned about “keto flu,” a phenomen that’s supposed to make you feel sluggish and exhibit flu-like symptoms when the state first kicks in. Fortunately, I didn’t experience that.

Broccoli, tofu and coconut milk and oil, already staples, were key. I bought these litmus urinalysis strips that are probably meant for people with actual health problems to determine whether I was in ketosis or not.

Breakfast consisted of nuts or peanut butter (hey, I’m a busy girl) or coconut milk with chia seeds mixed in (it’s got a tapioca-like feel to it). There was (and still is) a lot of salad, tofu, black soy beans and some types of fake chicken (Beyond Meat and Trader Joe’s are good bets). Pumpkin and flax seeds are big, as are hazelnuts. Certain vegan cheeses are allowed. Avocados, rich in fiber and good fat and low in net carbs, are a must. So eating a variety of foods hasn’t been a problem.

Within that first week, the scale showed I was 4 pounds lighter than I was on that Day of Reckoning. (Admittedly, some of that was water weight.) The weight loss slowed some after that, but kept going. I set a cheat day for a special event I was looking forward to (dinner at Ulele ahead of Patton Oswalt’s recent performance at the Straz).

There were a couple of missteps here and there.

One weekend, a bartender poured rum & Coke for me instead of rum & diet (rum, vodka and other spirits typically have no carbs unless they’re sweetened). That knocked me out of keto. A vegan coconut curry knocked me out because it had one too many carrots that I forgot to put to the side.

But for the most part, it was working.

By the holidays, I had lost about 14 pounds. The chipmunk cheeks are gone, and the clothing has more slack to it.

While I’m still on the diet, I’ve slowed it down some. I go keto during the work week, but every week or two I’ll cheat with a craft beer and some spring rolls on a weekend.

I only have 5 pounds to go, and I figure I should allow myself a little fun. 

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