Progress is one of those seemingly easy things to define ahead of starting a journey like the keto lifestyle. Ahead of starting, I had an easy time telling myself that progress was weight loss. With progress comes the feelings of accomplishment and pride which are both tied directly into your progress marker. What happens if and when you hit a plateau in your weight loss, or even worse, you gain weight? That’s why I say progress is easy to define in the beginning. It’s when you get into it, say a month, six months or a year later that you may need to reevaluate your definition of progress.
I started this journey in January of 2017. As you’ve probably read in my other posts, I spent time prior to going keto experimenting with other ways to improve my life. Most of them worked for a time but I could not sustain them over the long-term. (I define long-term as more than 6 months.)
In July 2016, I went for an appointment at the Bone Wellness Centre in Toronto, Ontario for a Dexa scan. The Dexa measures bone density, body fat percentage, lean mass, etc. My goal for the scan was to have an accurate view of my body fat percentage as a starting point that I could compare to in the future. I’d heard about the Dexa from Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Body.
My first scan showed me that my weight was 217lbs, body fat percentage of 33% and lean mass of 140lbs. As you can no doubt see, the majority of my adipose tissue was centered around my abdomen as what is called visceral fat. The Fat Distribution information on the scan provided the A/G ratio of 1.2. For men, the A/G ratio should be around 1. A/G ratio refers to Android (waist) to Gynoid (hip) Ratio – Carrying too much fat in the wrong areas can increase your chance of serious health problems. Men with waist to hip ratio of > 1 & women with ratio > 0.8 have increased risk of cardiovascular illness, diabetes, stroke, cancer etc. (Source: http://www.bonewellness.com/dexa/dexa-terminology/)
My weight increased by another 13lbs after the scan to about 230lbs. That’s when I decided it was time for a drastic change.
After starting keto, my weight dropped pretty quickly. I went from 230lbs to about 210lbs in a matter of weeks. The drastic weight loss was astounding to me and was a huge motivator! Keep in mind, the weight loss was all due to nutrition as I had not changed my workout habits at all. I was eating 2-3 meals per day but was strictly tracking my macros to ensure I was sitting around 70% fat and 25% protein. My carbohydrates were limited to green leafy vegetables.
The first few weeks were so easy! They also happened to fall immediately after the winter holiday season and before any other occasions to indulge in carb heaven. So as not to feel as if I was depriving myself, I allowed myself to have carbs when the first event came around. Having plateaued at about 20lbs of weight lost, I thought it was okay and that it would help me reset to break through the plateau. Spoiler alert! That did nothing for my plateau.
As you can see from the chart above, I spent most of the spring and summer of 2017 hovering between 200 and 205. I was no longer as strict with my eating because I felt as if I’d accomplished my goal of weight loss. That was my definition of progress of course!
Fast-forward to October of 2017 and I decided that it was time to reevaluate what progress really means to me. Progress needs to be something more concrete and cannot be simply routed in one metric. That is not to say that weight loss is not important because it’s an incredibly important part of becoming healthy. There are so many factors that will lead to overall wellness that need to be taken into account.
As I’ve mentioned in the past and you may have read elsewhere, the keto lifestyle has been associated to an increase in alertness and mental acuity. The focus I have felt when being stricter about sticking to the lifestyle is second to none. I have been able to cut out the need for caffeine. My ability to focus on one task without getting distracted has never been at the same level as while in a state of ketosis.
Along with mental acuity, I’ve experienced a level of energy that has been unmatched. I will be clear that I have also worked to ensure that I sleep more than I used to. That being said, I have also felt much more energy throughout the day than I used to. I can also feel the difference in energy level when I have had a day where my carb intake was higher than normal and may have contained far more sugar that I am typically used to. Yes, that is my way of saying a day where I ate like garbage!
I took up running in March of 2018 and cycling in May 2018 for fun and to push my physical fitness. I have noticed a heightened level of endurance and stamina since being keto that I had not prior. Even in the early weeks of switching to the keto lifestyle, I had an easier time playing hockey and was not getting nearly as winded after a shift on the ice as I had been experiencing before. I do understand that this can be attributed to the weight loss and will not discount it. I have heard some anecdotal evidence of the oxygen requirements during a workout being decreased while in a state of ketosis which I found very interesting and corroborated the way I feel.
I spent a good part of my 20’s working very odd hours including nights and shift work. I also spent much of my 20’s eating a ton of carbs. Since being keto, my sleep quality has improved exponentially. I no longer wake up as much at night and I feel much more rested when I wake up in the morning. Snoring has also seemed to cease by way of weight loss and improved sleep quality so there’s a benefit for Diana and Reo.
Now, I understand this goes hand in hand with weight loss but I would argue it’s only a partially dependent relationship. My reasoning, you ask? Sugar is inflammatory and will basically cause you to retain more water and seem “puffy.” (Yes, that’s the medical term I’ve elected to use.) The transition to keto gave my body the chance to remove much of the extra water it was retaining and I slimmed down without seeing a shift on the scale. Today, one carb heavy day will bring some of that puffiness back and I can see the difference immediately.
As you can probably tell, there are a number of ways to measure progress and I encourage everyone to look at the all instead of focusing on one in particular. The reason is quite simple: focusing on one metric is great as long as it is positive. The moment your weight plateaus, then you might get discouraged because you’re no longer progressing and could potentially revert back to your old ways and regain the weight. That would be the worst outcome!
My advice to anyone willing to listen is to give yourself as many chances to succeed as possible. Here are a few ways you can measure these non-scale metrics:
- Take measurements of your body like chest, waist, butt, legs and arms. Track your changes every week or month.
- Keep a journal of how you’re feeling when you wake up and compare based on the food you’re eating.
- Take progress pictures daily.
- Start an endurance activity like running, cycling or any other where you can compare how you’re feeling after each workout.
Ok, What’s Your Point?
The point here is there are plenty of ways to measure your progress. Don’t get down on yourself because your weight has plateaued. If you’re still seeing progress with other metrics, then trust the process and your weight will catch up to you! The really fun exercise is to see people you haven’t spent time with in a while and gauge their reactions! It’s even more fun when your weight has plateaued but others still see those ameliorations you may not have noticed.
This was all spurred on by my second Dexa scan in May 2018. I went to the same place since they archived my first results and could compare. Here are some of the stats:
- 23 months between scans
- – 33lbs
- 17% body fat decrease
- + 8lbs lean mass
- One happy camper!
Be proud of any progress and keep in mind that you are doing it to improve your health! That should be your main goal. Now, go hero, go!