One of the greatest accomplishments of my life was losing 140 pounds on the keto diet. It’s a special proven diet that’s great for many things, including rapid weight loss. I also just had major surgery this week to remove the loose skin left from losing so much weight. The surgeons said I did a great job and my results will be awesome. While I rest for recovery, I wanted to take the time to share good, important details and success tips with everyone. If you’re going through this yourself, leave some comments.
The Keto Diet (First-Steps)
The first-step to getting on the keto diet is to understand what it is and how to get on it. Be very careful about diet and exercise forums, especially on social media because they are full of junk science or just plain wrong information. It’s important to get your info from reputable, expert sources. I’m a health science expert, have some medical credentials, and I’m a professor, but I’m not a physician. Any serious diet, especially if you have pre-existing conditions, means you should talk to a physician that is familiar with the keto diet to make sure you have a safe diet and exercise routine. Do it the right way, that’s what I did.
The keto diet involves eating very clean and small amounts of food, only what you need to survive. That’s our problem in America, we overconsume. We eat when we’re bored or just for fun, not to survive. Get into the habit of realizing you can actually eat much less than you’re used to. But it’s hard to make this change.
The keto diet means eating less than 35 grams of carbohydrates per day. It means only lean meats, such as chicken or steak. It means making sure you take supplements so you don’t get low on important nutrients like B12. It means drinking nothing but water to stay hydrated throughout the diet. No snacks, breads, sugars, cookies, eating out, etc.
It’s a tough diet but it works. I’ll tell you some tricks I did being a scientist willing to experiment a bit with the diet to stay in ketosis.
Ketosis is a scientific state where your liver produces ketone bodies as an energy source, rather than glycogen (when you’re eating a lot of starches and sugars). It’s tough just getting into ketosis because you have to have a major calorie deficit. Most people fast for a day or two just to get into ketosis. It’s critical to note that many people on Facebook and internet discussion groups pass misinformation around and end up frustrated with no results because they were actually never on the keto diet.
The only way to know for sure you’re on the keto diet is to test yourself with ketone urine test strips. I bought mine from Walgreens and Amazon. A 90-day supply is about $10 so it’s not expensive. If you test positive, you’re in ketosis. Alternatively, you may also have bloodwork done to test for ketosis. I regularly tested myself with urine test strips every morning and evening. This is a way to keep yourself accountable and make sure you’re on the diet in ketosis. Most people have not been on the real keto diet for an extended time because it’s actually hard to get into and stay on, which means that the urine test strips should be accurate to detect for ketosis. Over time, a few months, for example, the ketone test strips may not be as accurate because your body adapts to the diet in a way that chemically changes what can be detected with urine test strips.
For most people, the ketone test strips should always be used to verify diet compliance and give piece of mind, especially during the first month of starting the keto diet. This helps you learn what to eat and avoid as well as see how you feel at different levels of ketosis. Once you know how the diet works, maybe by the second or third month, stick with the diet and maybe only test every other day or not at all! But it’s always a great tip to start by the book and have that piece of mind from a positive ketone test.
There are risks with the keto diet, such as not eating or drinking enough and nutrition deficits. In addition, people with pre-existing conditions must talk to a physician to be safe on it. However, as a health scientist, the risk of remaining obese and dying earlier or having serious health problems is not worth staying obese, so the keto diet was worth the risk. This is the general approach to problem-solving technique. The benefits outweigh the risks in this case. Talk to your physician to see if this diet can work with you, especially if you have existing medical conditions
Deciding to Change
Getting on the keto diet means you finally decide to change your lifestyle. So many people are selling diets these days. Books and products are for sale but none of them come close to the results of the keto diet and the fact that the keto diet is free. I have free articles about it, Harvard, Yale, and other academic institutions have free information as well – because it’s basic nutrition science.
You must look at this diet as a lifestyle change. Once you lose weight you need to still eat clean and change your ways or you will regain it all back again. You must decide to change and be willing to go through the rough first-steps of the keto diet.
It’s true that the keto flu and headaches exists. I experienced both during the first week of the diet but it did go away. Some people experience it on and off. Your body will go through changes and your mind will beg you to eat snacks and junk food. This is also why I say you must keep busy when you’re on a diet. Anything that keeps you moving is also good, such as walking, nature observing, fishing, anything.
Lifestyle changes mean stopping bad habits. I would also advise people to never drink alcohol on this diet and to drink only water. Your liver will already be working hard and you don’t want liver or kidney problems. This is also why you should have a physician work with you and do regular blood testing, if you plan to lose 50 or more pounds.
Change means expecting this to take time. You didn’t become obese overnight. There are dangerous fake diets out there claiming 30 pounds of weight loss in one week, which is not safe. The keto diet is a steady and rapid way to lose weight.
What to Expect
The first-steps are the hardest because you will be eating so much less. You have to cut out all snacks and you will see just how much food you need to survive (it’s not much). You must be careful and stick with reputable health information. I chose to use the Harvard Keto Diet website information to ensure I had a reputable source of what to eat and avoid. You will come up with meal plans each day.
Sometimes you will eat the same thing and it will get boring. Anything you can do to help, such as keep busy or drink unsweetened green tea, or even use pepper or something on your meat will give it some more taste. Know that this is something you will get used to over time.
Weight loss is eventually rapid for the first part of the keto process. For example, if you test positive and stay in ketosis and you’re at least 75 pounds overweight, you will likely see very rapid weight loss for the first week, weeks, and few months. Eventually, as you get towards your goal, the weight loss will slightly slow down. Note that you don’t stay in ketosis forever, it’s generally a few months at a time.
It took me about 10 months to lose 100 pounds. I did an extremely rigorous routine that was more on the extreme side but I had healthcare expertise, test equipment, and was working with physicians. I did run into a few problems that might have been related to B12 deficit. Again, important to supplement and watch for changes. Your body can give you clues, listen to it, report problems to your general care physician. Sometimes it’s also good to talk to a registered nutrition/dietician expert specifically for the diet to help you with your unique situation. Your weight loss and how fast you lose is a matter of how overweight you are and whether you stick to the diet strict enough or not.
Once I lost the first 30 pounds I knew I was on to something. Your pants feel baggy and time to buy new clothes. I went from a size 46 waist to now about size 30 waist. I’ve had to buy so much new clothes, but no problem. What a feeling that is!!! People began to make comments as well. Eventually, as you lose more weight and learn to stick with the diet, you will see real results that encourage you to continue further. When I hit 50 pounds, there were huge differences in my face and stomach. Once I hit 100 pounds, I looked good without a shirt on, which has been some time since I had the confidence to go shirtless in public. Tasting success leaves you hungry for more, it’s a good thing.
You should look at this diet with constant questions… is a pizza worth cheating over a new life? New clothes? New look? Sexier body? Reduce health risk? Suddenly that pizza doesn’t sound so good anymore.
In fact, tasting success left me with another thought… another benefit of the keto diet is reducing health risk and feeling better. Let me explain.
Benefits of Keto
There were numerous benefits of the keto diet (just being on it too) that I learned about. For one, you eat less processed junk food, and drink less horrible drink products so you feel less bloated and cleaner. So many Americans are bloated, never feel full, and feel sick constantly after they eat fast food. Wonder why? I think my mind was more clear as well. There is scientific evidence out there about some other benefits of the keto diet, such as helping Parkinson patients, reducing type 2 diabetes cases, reducing other health risks, such as heart disease, obesity, and early death. The keto diet also helped my sexual appetite. By the way, losing weight and getting a fit, flat stomach and chest boosts your sex life as well. Have I convinced you enough yet?
The benefits of the keto diet outweigh its risks, especially if you carefully follow the diet and work with a good physician.
One of the biggest benefits for me was piece of mind and confidence. As a professor, I teach college students about environmental health, the scientific method, and other important life decision-making techniques. I felt like a hypocrite for being overweight in the past, saying don’t do what I’m doing. It made sense to lead by example. That’s what we need in our country. I was always sweaty from just standing up.
It’s not worth being overweight or obese. One final factor that made me decide to do the keto diet was studying it for one of my graduate degrees after I experienced a massive bilateral pulmonary embolism (PE), which almost killed me a few years ago. I wrote about that experience here. It’s just not worth remaining unhealthy when you can do something about it.
The benefits of keto are underreported and it’s not utilized as a diet as much as it should be. An obese nation is less productive, dies earlier, costs everyone in terms of health insurance, and is a national security risk because less people are fit to serve or compete as a nation. When you’re healthy, you have a piece of mind that you’re in control and made a difference.
What You Eat
The keto diet involves eating clean. When I started the keto diet, I used several university keto compliant lists. This gave me a sure idea of what would work to eat so I wasn’t kicked out of ketosis. Cheating or eating too much sugars/carbs will kick you out of the diet, stall your weight loss, and cost you 3-5 days to get back into ketosis. Eating clean basically means as fresh as possible and lean.
Lean proteins are important so you don’t lose muscle mass and your body can continue to function normally. Lean meats can be chicken, pulled pork, brisket, and steak. It’s important that you don’t dip it in ketchup or sauces because those are not keto compliant. Be strict on the diet in the beginning, just lean meats and a few things like a few almonds, a bit of avocado, onions, or garlic.
Again, some people ask me about measuring. It’s very small portions and you will be able to visualize what works because it’s usually a few slices of lean meat as in like a quarter of a pound. I originally was measuring for 130 gram portions but it got old and since I exercised regularly I could slightly increase my intake and adjust while staying in ketosis (testing positive daily). I recommend the handful method because it’s easier. If you cup a single hand and hold the lean meat/portion there then that’s fine.
You can make the diet interesting and eat some bacon for breakfast, maybe a few small pieces of meat for lunch, and then a dinner no later than 5 or 6pm. I experimented and got into using some Steak-umms to make a hot salad. I would eat this almost every day for dinner, but only a few slices of meat mixed with shredded lettuce, jalapenos, onions, garlic, and some chili powder. It made it tastier/more interesting for me. I also did careful regular exercise every day, such as walking a mile or lifting weights in small amounts 15-20 lbs, 100-125 repetitions. Combining safe exercise with diet will increase your results and help keep your body toned and heart conditioned. Don’t overdo it! Slow and safe until you know what you can handle. Experiment.
As I got to the 100-pound mark and increased my exercise to something rigorous, it gave me a little room to add a few more carbs/sugars into my keto diet (don’t do this to start with). What I mean by this is I was able to order a bacon cheeseburger from a regular place (not a drive thru), and eat just the cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce, and pickles. Since it came with fries, I would eat literally about two to four french fries dipped in ketchup. But that was it. I was able to stop myself and throw out the rest of the fries. You must condition yourself to do this. And then later that night and next morning I tested myself and remained in ketosis.
It’s a careful balance of about a daily 1,000-calorie or less diet, that might look like 120 grams of fat, 35 grams of carbs max, and 70 grams of protein. Your exact numbers will absolutely be different. This is because your body may be different and you might be doing different levels of exercise than me. You need to regularly test yourself to watch for what works, which is why testing is so important.
You literally have to watch what you eat and read all the boxes. Don’t even buy food to keep that isn’t compliant on the diet, especially in the beginning. Only keep bad foods if you absolutely can control yourself from eating them. Sneaking a single potato chip isn’t going to harm your diet, but how many people have that discipline?
Dealing with Loose Skin (Plastic Surgery)
Generally, if you were previously obese for a number of years and lose a significant amount of weight (100 pounds or more), you will likely have loose skin. Although I looked good without a shirt on, my butt was kind of loose and if I bent over, my stomach loose skin would hang. I knew I would eventually have to get this taken care of. Unfortunately, this surgery is considered cosmetic and not covered under insurance in America. This upset me because it cost me as much as a small house or several cars out-of-pocket. Not many people can afford it, and this is ridiculous that loose skin surgery isn’t covered under health insurance as an incentive to become healthier.
We should be promoting health and prevention because it leads to a more productive, happier population.
Needless to say, there’s lots of loose skin once people lose so much weight.
The only tips I could give on loose skin is to realize massive weight loss will likely leave you with some loose skin but losing the weight is better than keeping it. Imagine carrying a 100-pound weight 24/7 on your back. I lost 140 pounds and just cannot imagine carrying that around all the time. Imagine what that does to your body? Depression much? Become confident. Lose the weight right first, then worry about loose skin.
One of the biggest questions I get is how much does it cost? That depends on the procedure. A typical full abdominoplasty could be between $12,000-18,000 by itself. A full body lift can be anywhere from $25,000-50,000. It’s a lot of money, unfortunately. It’s cheaper outside of the country, but I was too chicken to try that and wanted to be very safe and do it as close as possible to my home.
Other common procedures include belt lipectomy, thigh, breast, and arm lifts. The procedures generally take anywhere from 3-6 hours. If you’re not perfectly healthy, most surgeons will not do combination procedures because it’s too risky. The more weight you lose and less fat left on your body, the better your plastic surgery results will be. You need reasonable expectations.
If you do get to the point of looking for loose skin surgery, such as an abdominoplasty, be sure to use a good plastic surgeon that is board certified with a good reputation. Surgery is serious business and you only have one body. It might cost a lot but a good body is worth a million to me, especially after working so hard to lose the weight. Sometimes people even travel outside the country to seek cheaper surgery options. It’s a shame this happens in a country that claims to be the greatest in the world.
I had a full “tummy tuck” with 360 belt lift, sometimes called a belt lipectomy. I also had a mini thigh and mini breast lift performed all in one procedure that lasted about 5 hours. I have scars below the belt, all the way around my waist, some that will fade around the areolas, and a single line in the crease of the groin to tighten the loose skin in the inner/upper thigh area as well as a new belly button.
The results are already spectacular from losing weight but I’m told they will be even more amazing once my wounds heal from removing the remaining loose skin. No liposuction was needed because I did such as good job with my diet and exercise. Now, I will start working more on upper body muscles in my arms once I heal.
I already have pretty good pecs, tone in arms, and a flat stomach with good muscular legs from running about 100 miles each month. I generally go to the gym (before the surgery) at least 1-3 times daily. I swim, bike, and play basketball games as well. I’ve become athletic and feel great. In fact, I can outrun most people, even teenagers. I like to brag about that because I just feel so good and have a new addiction to exercising.
Recovery is kind of rough from any serious body lift procedure. I have drains to drain blood and fluid from my waist area (4 of them). The wounds and drains have to be cleaned daily. You can’t lift over 5 pounds for some time. You can’t swim or anything for a few weeks. You must be careful not to fall or stress yourself. No sex for at least 2 weeks. The abdominal muscle didn’t need to be repaired so my recovery will be faster.
It’s kind of painful for the first week after the surgery, especially if you have a low pain tolerance. However, they give you plenty of pain meds. Constipation may be an issue for the first week because the general anesthetic and medications put your digestive system to sleep temporarily. Work on that right away with laxatives, softeners, and light foods in the beginning. Always drink plenty of water.
Any surgery will leave you with scars but they are pretty good about hiding them. In addition, their techniques make the scars smaller and they give you a special gel that helps healing and fading of the scars. In some cases, I noticed you could hardly see a scar. But I was willing to have some scars because my body would look excellent and the scars weren’t that bad. Again, have reasonable expectations. Always ask about scars and techniques because some surgeons do things differently.
People have asked me how painful it was. I’ve talked to almost 100 surgeons over the past 5 months when planning for this surgery. Nearly all of them assured me the pain wasn’t too bad. I have pain meds I was given. The way I would explain it was noticeably painful for weeks after but mostly uncomfortable as you get used to the feeling, before that fades. It’s especially uncomfortable sleeping on your back while you have blood drains coming out of your body.
So before you think about loose skin, just don’t get overwhelmed. Where there is a will, there is a way…
In the meantime, focus on losing weight and becoming healthier. It feels so good to reach such a huge goal. The comments I get are awesome. I’m a new person. It was totally worth it. I hope to share more once my surgery scars heal a bit more.
Now for my slight rant. I’m upset that health insurance didn’t cover my surgery after taking the personal responsibility and working so hard to lose weight the right way through diet and exercise. I become highly athletic and very healthy, reducing my risks. I’m a productive member of society, clearly. I also did this with no support system, not even a personal trainer, which made it difficult. I guess it means I’m stronger for doing it alone, I don’t know. But I can say that this has been one of the most overwhelming and stressful experiences in my life – all the way to the day of the surgery and even now in recovery.
I cannot believe the mental focus it takes to lose weight. I had tried for many years before and it just left me hungry and depressed. At most, I would lose maybe 1 pound and then go back to eating bad the next day. And so many social media groups promote junk that doesn’t even work, which leaves everyone frustrated. It makes you want to give up. I was tired of being overweight.
I remember in the past waiting an hour in line to get on a roller coast just to discover I didn’t fit. Talk about embarrassment. I got sick of it and decided I would either lose weight or die trying. Almost two years later, I’ve kept the weight off and realized it was time for the next big step – removing lose skin through major surgery. I had to plan this between multiple jobs and responsibilities. My life is kind of on hold as I recover but now was a good time.
I’m pretty stressed out and try to remain calm and deal with the surgery recovery. I’m now looking back at some before and after pictures and sharing more of my story with people… it’s just so unbelievable. I can’t believe I haven’t had a breakdown yet and started to sob. This is a huge life goal. I did it! It’s just amazing to see what willpower, determination, and hardcore success looks like, and to be so personal!
This was one of my greatest life accomplishments. I thought I would break down crying once I woke up from the body lift surgery last week. It hasn’t set in yet just what I’ve accomplished. I know I have a new life and new body. I wear model-sized clothes. I look great without a shirt on and great nude (glad to say). I was determined and it makes me feel good that this is something nobody can take away from me. I’ve learned so many times the value of science because it’s both saved and improved my life before. It’s great that I’m a science professor because educating people is a passion of mine and seeing science in action is always amazing.
I also have a previous article and video I made after I passed the 100-pound mark. Read/see it here.
As always, if you like my content please like, share, and subscribe. I did create new social media and I’m going to be posting more this year to it so stay tuned. This article is presented for educational purposes only. Consult a physician for medical advice.