Long-term results with the help of LCHF / keto diet
I have been dealing with nutrition for about thirty years. Most of this time, I tested various forms of fitness nutrition and, of course, official dietary guidelines: both on myself and on my clients. I participated in numerous body transformation contests in various magazines and the like. It is very easy to lose weight in the short term, and it is possible to get to be slim in several ways.
But it always boils down to two questions:
- the amount of personal investment in a weight-loss endeavor: time, effort, energy, giving up on food related indulgences
- and in the end, how to maintain the achieved results.
Unfortunately, in my own experience, it is really hard to either stay focused on a very restrictive life-style change (nutrition and work-out plan) or maintain the weight once we’ve reached our goals. Usually individuals lose weight, then for lack of motivation to be focused and invested regain, then lose again … the classic yo-yo effect. That is most prominent with my fitness and bodybuilding competitors: these athletes could easy stay in top shape as regards the body fat, but they just don’t. Out of season they succumb to being sloppy with their food. I find it rather annoying: anyone who is in a profession of body image should be able to stay in shape 24/7 all year long. This should be the “litmus test” of every good expert in this field.
How to transform the body in the long run?
For the last five years or a little longer, I’ve been a vocal proponent of keto / LCHF nutrition – and frankly, most of my clients are my clients for this particular reason. Now, that’s something different: during these years I’ve witnessed a great number of permanent personal transformations, health improvements, loss of food dependency, re-adjusted appetite after many years, and so on. The same thing happened to me and my closest ones. As the main dietician I also participated in a scientific research: in the study we empirically confirmed the effectiveness and usefulness of the LCHF diet.
Why is LCHF nutrition so popular and so successful for weight loss? Let me explain in very simple terms.
After a few weeks of eating low carb and high fat, the body has to switch to another fuel other than the usual: glucose. So most of the body starts using fat, some of the organs – like for example the brain – start using ketones. There are quite a few beneficial consequences to that:
1) The body realizes it has more than enough fat to burn for the energy it needs to function. That’s why people who switch to LCHF find themselves feeling »full« and full of energy, unlike the sluggishness of eating the »guidelines« diet. From my vast experience with numerous overweight clients, I realized that a couple of weeks of LCHF nutrition converts passionate eaters to reasonable ones: it’s as if the food didn’t have the same appeal anymore, eating and preparing food loses its power and is sometimes even perceived as a burden, but the clients nevertheless feel as if their batteries are constantly full. Why? Well, having to carry around large masses of fat is a burden to the body – it’s physically and mentally strenuous and the body finally has the tool it needs to get rid of it. The change is so overwhelmingly positive that the energy consumption increases while at the same time appetite is suppressed. In the research I mentioned above, we found out that a few weeks in LCHF nutrition the hunger hormone, ghrelin, was greatly reduced, while the satiety hormone, leptin, decreased. The problem with leptin is multidimensional: in overweight, there is abundance to it, but instead of ensuring the feeling of satiety, the body becomes insensitive to its regulating role: one would figure that the more leptin the more satiety. It’s just not so. When levels of leptin decrease, we noted, it’s actual function is restored and improved. Hence the sense of being satiated. And even more: the more body fat, the greater the effect.
2) Food preference changes. Once the brain gets a taste of ketones, they do not want to switch back to glucose. As a result, starchy and sugary foods lose their appeal, while at the same time we prefer to eat fatty foods.
3) Along with the above processes the relationship to food and feeding changes. The pattern of relying and resorting to food when we need comfort, some indulgence or any other reward, disintegrates. The transformation is usually quite striking. One of the reasons why this happens, is the fact that the more we do LCHF the easier life becomes unlike other diets where the beginnings are easy but sticking to restricted diet gets harder and harder with time. A minor stressful event can push us over the edge when we feel hungry or just crave more food. One »mistake« leads to another and we’re back eating too much, too often and make bad nutrition choices. In the case of LCHF, hunger is rarely the case so it’s easier to overcome the old habits of eating comfort food. One of the most intriguing experience I have with my clients is the fact that most of them don’t want to eat all the food I tell them to eat very soon after LCHF initialization: »It’s too much already«, »I can’t eat more«, »Can I please skip the third meal?« and so on. Worth noting, however: despite the rapid change the real habit takes time to form. It’s psychological and physiological process so don’t indulge yourself too soon. My recommendation is to skip anything that resembles your old habits and that includes zero calorie sweetened drinks, LCHF / keto desserts or LCHF / keto versions of starchy meals. Give yourself some time before relaxing or you are in danger of succumbing to the old diet behavior. You need to reach the stage where you can be relatively ambivalent to what lay on the table. Take my word for it – I’ve seen it happen in the worst of the cases. I had people who tried everything – and failed miserably each time. Until they chose LCHF / keto.
4) The relationship to food and feeding changes – another dimension. Our ancestors needed to invest a lot of effort in finding food as it was not as easily available and abundant as nowadays. To stay motivated for search of food, we have developed complex reward systems in our brains: when we eat, endorphins, dopamine and all sorts of neurotransmitters surge and give us the sense of pleasure. So we know food equals pleasure and we want to seek pleasure no matter what. This is something we are all engrained with, however, in the modern world, with the abundance of food and its accessibility something strange happens: the more we eat the less pleasure we get from food. And instead of stopping eating, we eat more in search for that dopamine kick. The good news is, this system can be reset with adopting LCHF diet. Whereas now you can’t imagine fancying eggs with butter as your preferred food choice, a few weeks in LCHF that’s most likely to happen. When this happens, you are LCHF adapted: you choose salmon with veggies over a slice of pizza. Because salmon will give you the »happy rush« whereas pizza will only send you craving for more, but will not deliver what you are looking for.
5) Spontaneous appetite regulation on LCHF. Let’s look at two examples: if someone following LCHF diet eats a kilo of ribs with butter (quite unbelievable, but for the sake of illustration), they won’t be hungry for two days. If someone eats ribs, bread, potatoes and a piece of cake, they will be hungry in a few hours, regardless of the fact that they ate enough calories to keep them running for days. There is enough fat on everyone, even on not the obese, to keep us alive for quite some time. If our food gives us nutrition we will not feel hungry as if we were starved for days. Maybe you chuckled at the expression »food gives nutrition«, but it is a relevant thought. Not all food is nutritious.
6) Most importantly: if we eat LCHF feeding and food are not our everyday obsession anymore. We eat when we feel like eating and it usually means two times a day. The more we eat in one sitting the longer we are full. Food and feeding becomes what it can be in a modern society: fuel and nutrition to keep us going with all the plans we have with our life. There’s no need to hunt and search for food, no need to obsess either, at the same time we get the nutrients, feel well, have the energy and focus and remain healthy.
Two closing thoughts
One more thing: what about exercise? Well, if you force an overweight person to jump around plus restrict their energy intake, this won’t work in the long run. It does work – until it doesn’t. And this will happen soon: the person isn’t getting enough glucose (energy restriction and additional glucose gulping work-out), and since they’re not capable predominantly of burning fat, they will hit the wall sooner or later. I don’t recommend exercise to most of my clients in the beginning. Please, read forward. I firmly believe in the power of exercise, body movement, work-out – however you interpret it. It’s just not sensible to make too many life-style changes at once. I know another thing: once the body is adapted to burning fat, the need to move will appear almost »miraculously« and spontaneously. That’s a promise!
And finally. One of the most frequently asked questions I get is the following: is LCHF appropriate for everyone? No, some people with amazing metabolism don’t need it, some people with lipid metabolism conditions shouldn’t do it. The fact remains, these two groups are a minority. There is a valid estimation that approximately 75% of people is not built to accommodate as much carbs as the current »norm« (55% of daily energy intake). These will develop metabolic conditions – at first, they will be invisible, but in years and decades they can become »visible« and debilitating: diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, cancer. I count myself among these: being fit and slim is important, but protecting my health is paramount.
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