The Horror that is Dieting
Updated: May 20
I know, we never, ever, ever, ever say the D word at Man Cave Fire!
However, these are exceptional times and call for exceptional measures. The current COVID-19 2020 lockdown has us piling on the pounds, keeping more of the kilos and propagating the paunch! So, as donning a skin-tight day-glow lycra-onesy and a fetching set of sweatbands (believe me, you DO NOT want to see that) and hitting the gym is not an option, it's time to fight the flab with some science, and that science is depriving my body of Carbohydrate until it turns on me and starts chowing some of my freshly acquired blubber.
There is a famous Oscar Wilde quote (a famous Irish 19th Century writer famed for his outspoken and risque writing, bad boy behavior and drinking prowess. (Legend!) which goes:
"I Can Resist Everything, Except Temptation"
Old Oscar and me were kindred spirits, as the second you tell me I can't have something, I start to crave it with the willpower of a mouse in a cheese factory. It makes me completely inept at sticking to diets in general.
Low Carb (or Keto as it seems to be termed these days) is a bit more flexible and my version of it is even more "diluted", but as I'm generally bigger than the average bear when I get to the dieting, the weight tends to fall off pretty quickly.
My version of Keto is simple; Avoid white and beige foods!
Basically, that means saying NO! to:
Flour (including my beloved Pastry)
Root Veg (Big no to potatoes)
Sugar (including Fruit)
But Yes! to unlimited:
Fish (including shellfish)
Vegetables (preferably green ones, or ones that grow above the ground)
Now anyone who follows my blog will know by now that I like a cooked breakfast. Nah, screw it, I'm fanatical about cooked breakfasts, and could pretty much live on the Great British Breakfast for the rest of my days.......or so you'd think.
But the second I stamp my self with the label "Keto Dieting", all I can think about is all the things I can't have! I fantasise about french fries, lust for lasagne, salivate for sandwiches, Pine for pork pies and daydream about ice-cream.
Well out of desperation comes inspiration, so over the next few weeks while this crazy virus keeps us holed-up at home, I'm going to get into the lab (also known as the kitchen) and scour the t'interweb to come up with the best, and only the best Keto crave-busters. There will be no compromises, no lowering of standards and I promise no Zucchini Zoodles (WTF?).
Yes dear reader, I am going on a journey of food impostership (not a word) to find out if it is actually possible to stick to my Keto diet for 6 months, not feel too deprived, and not have a cardiac arrest from turning my blood to butter.
And here is the sciencey bit as to why.
Put simply, there is no such thing as a cheat day when you're on a Keto Diet. Without turning this into a chemistry class, firstly, starving your body of Carbs makes it start using fat as a fuel source instead (this is called "Being in Ketosis"), and I have plenty to give it. Secondly, eating a diet with lots of protein and fats keeps you feeling fuller for longer (this is why we call that kind of food "heavy", or "rich"). Thirdly, the effort required by the body to process fats and protein is more than that of carbs so your body works harder which requires more fuel (fats) to function.
Let me just remind everyone at this point, I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or doctor and I have no relevant experience in the field of dieting other than it being really fricking hard and usually a futile exercise. This is an approach that works for me, I do it at my own risk and recommend you talk to someone who has qualifications in this stuff first if you're thinking of doing something similar. In other words, do your own research and if in doubt, grab a salad and take a walk, I hear that works too if you do it enough.
Ok, so that's the anti-suing paragraph in place, back to the plan. So in short, if this diet means I eat less and burn more and keep my body in Ketosis, I should at least maintain my weight during lock down instead of gain and then when we're finally allowed to return to normal life, I'll lose weight where I previously maintained. Bob's your Uncle, Fanny's your Aunt!
Sounds simple, no?
I have done this diet previously a few years ago and had some success lasting around 3 months and lost a fair chunk of timber, about 15% of my body weight if memory serves. The issue was sustainability, the cravings got too much and then eventually I was Keto Monday to Thursday, non-Keto Friday to Sunday, and then the whole thing just breaks down. As that time I was also entertaining clients a couple of times a week at nice restaurants with lots of wine so that was tough and I'm never going to be the guy who offends the chef by ordering "Keto-Style"
Keto Customer: "Please can I have the Burger, No bun, no tomato sauce, extra mayo, swap chips for a side salad, and the mac and cheese side with no mac, and a low carb craft pilsner if you have it "
Any self-respective waiter: "No, you cannot, get out of my restaurant and never come back, and take your hipster clan of freaks with you"
How often have you heard the first line and wished for the second?
The only way Keto dieting works is to stay on it. It takes me about 3 days off the carbs before I can tell I'm in Keto; after the first couple of days I get a slump in energy and feel generally a bit bloated and rough for about 24 hours (I'm guessing this is my body starving of carbs just before switching to burning fat) but then by the fourth day, I start to have more energy than before I started, I feel more motivated and then I know I've made the switch. This is when the weight starts to drop. At first it's just water loss (you need to keep well hydrated when on Keto as there is generally less water in your food) so you see a sudden weight drop, which is great for the motivation. Then you see steady wins, for me that can be a kilo every 2-3 days (I'm a big fella, think tall rugby player build with a well maintained beer belly and you're close).
This is all great but every time you cheat, you reset the clock. It's not always by three days, but if I have one cheat meal, I'll need to be super good for 24 hours to get back into Ketosis, a cheat day and I'll have to be better than good for 2 days, any more than that and I'm back to square one. This is why the cheating isn't worth it and maybe a fall off the wagon meal once a month or so is not a car smash, if you regularly fall for that piece of cake or slice of pizza, Keto really isn't going to work for you. Even worse is because of the high consumption of fat and Protein, if your body is burnign carbs while you're doing it, you pile on the weight instead!
So that is why I'm going to do the work so you don't have to. I suspect my Keto-Crave-Busting research and experimentation is going to be like kissing a whole bunch of frogs in a haystack before I find the hot princess with a needle (is that what they call a mixed metaphor?). But if I reckon if I can find six good Keto-cheats for those moments of weakness, we'll be onto a winner, or should I say; on to a THINNER! (I'm here all week, try the fish). Let's call them the Dirty Half-Dozen.
So the rules of the mission are simple:
Six Solid Recipes
Easy To Make without any fancy gadgetry or overnight fermentation and sh!t
No "Wild-assed" ingredients that you can't get at the grocery store (what is Xanthum Gum anyway?)
Reasonable replica to the same thing - Taste, texture and appearance
Tasty as all hell even if not quite as good as the real thing (or why would they exist)
A replacement for one of the main Keto cravings
So in terms of my wish list for the last point, I'm going to keep open minded but right off the bat and if i was a betting man( I am), I think a Keto crave-busting Dirty Half Dozen of killer recipes for me would be:
Pasta - A Keto-friendly Lasagne / Bolgnese / Carbonara / Mac & Cheese. The pasta substitute is the challenge here. No Zucchini Zoodles allowed, you're better than that!
Pizza - Pizza is probably once a fortnight in our house (Sometimes once per week) and I know I'll miss it. I need to find/make a convincing pizza crust
Something Sweet - I'm thinking a chocolate chip cookie, Ice-cream, maybe a cheese cake of some kind. There's a bunch of Keto Sugars and flours available so this might not be so tough.
Pastry - The test here will be simple, can I make something that could pass as a pie, simple as that.
Bread - A wrap or some kind or flatbread, this would work for Mexican & Indian and offset the loss of rice, I could make nachos or garlic naan, wraps would make substitute for sandwiches. Toasted strips could be substitute soldiers for boiled eggs.
Potato - I think this will be the hardest, a mash good enough to be the topping on a shepherds pie or a french fry substitute that doesn't taste like roast veg. I think we'd have heard if Macci D's had figured it out by now.
I've just had a moment of insight, it's the 6 P's I need to make: Pasta, Pizza, Pie, Patisserie. Potato & Pita. Boom!
So let's see what I can do. I'll also share my weight loss so you can decide if a low-carb lifestyle might suit your post-lockdown beach-fit regime!
Until then, enjoy and stay safe.