#The4thDaveReads: Summer Round-up!

Hey y’all! I apologize for the radio silence over the last week or so. Between looking for freelance opportunities and helping take my baby sister back to college for the fall, I’ve been a bit overbooked! Suffice it to say, I’m happy to be back behind the keyboard.

Today, I’m back with some reviews of books I finished reading over the last 4-5 weeks. You ready? Let’s do this thing!

The Keto Reset Diet, by Mark Sisson — I’ve had more than a few conversations over the last 3 months about the weight-loss progress I’ve made. At first, I would simply say that I was following a ketogenic diet, but this resulted in more than a few blank stares. Sometimes, the person would respond, “So, like the Caveman Diet? Eating nothing but meat? Isn’t that unhealthy?” This would result in a much longer conversation than I’m sure my friend was really ready for, in which I would clarify what ketogenic eating means (low-carb, high-fat, moderate-protein) and how it has been beneficial to me, even beyond the scale. At the end, I usually trail off when I start feeling like one of those obnoxious fitness-cult people, droning on too long about an obscure dietary approach.

More recently, my response to keto questions has involved my bringing up Mark Sisson’s excellent book. I usually recommend The Keto Reset Diet for 3 reasons: 1) Sisson begins by laying out the scientific ideas behind this style of eating; 2) the book describes a 3-week carb-reduction process that is really “pre-keto” so that people avoid diving into the deep end too quickly and burning out; 3) there are dozens of helpful starter recipes for those who want to start eating this way. If you’re interested in checking out the keto eating style, Sisson’s book may be a great introduction for you.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan — Bunyan’s allegory of the Christian life, written from the confinement of an English prison cell, is one of the top-selling English-language books of all time, and for good reason. This narrative of a sinner’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City is part adventure story, part catechism, part Scriptural exegesis, and part soul-care textbook. Generations of Christians have found Bunyan’s tale encouraging and challenging.

What many modern readers miss is that the story is actually written in two parts: the popular first part that follows Christian’s journey to glory, and the less-well-known second part, in which Christian’s wife (aptly named Christiana) and their four children follow in his footsteps and make the trek to Zion, facing a few familiar faces and dangers, as well as some new ones.

I’ve written about this second part of the story elsewhere, but suffice it to say, I really love this book. Nevertheless, I can understand how hard it may be to get through sometimes; there are sections that are plainly didactic, as the narrative grinds to a halt to allow the characters engage in theological discourse. However, I would encourage readers to push through, because (unlike another much-beloved Christian children’s allegory) the theology is sound all the way through and rewards thoughtful consideration. In some cases, it may not be a bad idea to pick up a modern-language update, if it’s your first time through the story. On the other hand, if you can understand the King James Bible, you shouldn’t have any trouble with Bunyan’s original text.

Pops, by Michael Chabon — There are certain writers that I’ve read and enjoyed in the past but can’t really connect with in the present. I think Michael Chabon has become one of those writers. I remember enjoying Wonder Boys and adoring Kavalier and Clay, despite moments where the author’s worldview clearly conflicts with my own. There’s no question that Chabon is a talented novelist, so I hoped I would enjoy his non-fiction work just as much.

Pops is a collection of personal essays that Chabon wrote for various publications over the last few years. Given that the volume’s underlying subject matter is fatherhood, I assumed I would enjoy this peek into Chabon’s thoughts about being both a son and a father. In the end, I really just stopped caring about either.

Throughout each piece, it felt like Chabon wasn’t so much writing about his experience of fatherhood, as signalling to the reader that he was being the right kind of father, raising the right kind of children. His attempts at self-deprecation felt forced, as if he knew he was supposed to play the “slightly-out-of-touch-but-still-hip dad” role but couldn’t quite sell it. The whole exercise just felt forced. Maybe I’m not in the right frame of mind or time of life to appreciate it, but I don’t care enough to revisit it later. Although it’s a short collection (barely over 100 pages), I had to push to finish reading it and was relieved to hit that back cover.

Side Hustle, by Chris Gillebeau — As I’m sure I’ve written before, self-help/productivity/motivational books are only as good as what you actually do with that information. Or, as Gillebeau says at the end of every episode of his Side-Hustle School podcast (highly recommended, for the puns if nothing else!), “Inspiration is good, but inspiration combined with action is so much better!”

This is extremely true with his fantastic book, Side Hustle. If you have an idea for a new business, or want to try to create some extra income during your free time, this book is a must-read. I’ve realized over the last week that some of the roadblocks and frustration I’ve been experiencing with my attempts to build freelance work is because I haven’t been applying what I read in the book!

In Side-Hustle, Gillebeau takes you through a 5-week plan for brainstorming, planning, and executing a side-hustle business. There are step-by-step instructions about process, questions to consider, and mistakes to avoid. Along the way, he demonstrates these steps with story after story of hustlers who found success by making smart choices and working hard. It’s an inspiring read, even if (like me) you’ve never considered creating a business for yourself. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you’ve got the itch to build something of your own.

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As you can see, my reading this summer has been quite varied. As for the next few months of #The4thDaveReads, I’m working on a few interesting titles:

  • The Exemplary Husband, by Stuart Scott
  • Everybody Writes, by Ann Handley
  • The Thing Is, by Tony Payne
  • The ESV Reader’s Bible: Prophets

I’m looking forward to discussing all of these with you in September!

Have a great Wednesday, and I’ll see you on Friday with another #FridayFive!

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Your Turn: What’s your favorite read from this summer (or any summers past)?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

Keto Update: 2 Months Down

I wanted to give an update for those who were interested in our progress on our new eating plan!

For those who were not aware, on June 1st, my beloved wife and I started a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) eating plan, patterned after the “ketogenic” diet. Without getting all science-y on you, the basic premise of the LCHF diet is that dramatically reducing your carbohydrate intake causes your body to begin burning fat for fuel, breaking down fat molecules into ketones and other things. This helps to regulate insulin levels, control hunger hormones, and provide a consistent, long-term energy supply for the body, so that your system is not constantly craving the quick hit of a sugar spike (followed by the inevitable sugar crash). Think of it as grilling by using lump charcoal instead of briquettes soaked in lighter fluid–low and slow, but steady.

The thing about this approach to eating is that it’s not for everyone. Despite what some diet and fitness gurus would claim, there’s really not a one-size-fits-all method, and it’s not just a matter of calories in vs. calories out. The proportions of calorie types do matter, and you have to tinker with it a bit. The trial-and-error nature of this approach may be off-putting for some users. I’m all-in, mainly because I’ve seen this kind of approach work for me pretty dramatically in the past. My body is carrying so much extra weight in stored fat, and was so sugar-addicted, that this approach was a much-needed shock to the system.

Note: I’m doing my best to intentionally say “eating plan” or “eating approach” instead of “diet.” Diets are always associated with short-term restrictions of food to accomplish a goal, followed often by total relapse. I’m trying to change the way I see food, the way I enjoy food, and the way I use food to fuel my body. This is something I could feasibly keep going, at least for the vast majority of the time. So it’s not a “diet” as most people would use the word.

So now, two months in, what are my results?

I’m officially down 26 pounds since 6/1/18. There was an initial drop of 6-8 pounds, then a bit of up-and-down ever since. About halfway through June, my weight stalled and then increased slightly. I realized I was consuming too many calories overall. Once I adjusted my total caloric intake, I started losing again. I stalled out again about 2 weeks ago, and I’ve been holding steady at the same weight for all that time. I know some of the reason why; while I’ve been following the basic principles, I haven’t been tracking the amount or proportions of my macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbs) lately. I also haven’t been exercising. Honestly, I’m not terribly upset by this. I chose to rest a bit during a busy couple of weeks. I haven’t lost any ground or gone back to any bad habits. Now I’m ready to lean in a bit more and see more progress.

The thing you should understand is that the scale only tells part of the story. The real difference for me comes down to mindset, control, and hunger.

In the past, I treated regimented eating plans and “diets” as punishment for my sins. I was abstaining and denying my cravings because I had to pay for what I had done, calorically. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea super-sized culpa!)  Even so, I still indulged in sweets all along, just factoring it into the totals. (Even on Weight Watchers, a repeated refrain is “You can eat whatever you want–just not all at once!”) That consistent intake of my drug of choice made it harder and harder to control my portions or deny my impulses, until I’d finally give in and binge, usually around the 6 month mark.

This time, I find my mindset is totally different. Not only is this plan doable, but it’s satisfying. My brilliant wife has found all sorts of recipes and substitutes so that I don’t feel like “I can never have ____ again.” (Hello, keto-friendly–or at least keto-non-antagonistic–sweets!) Furthermore, we are realistic about life. So when birthdays come around, or we decide to go out for a fancy dinner, we can choose whether or not to eat “off-plan” for a meal, without it sabotaging all of our progress.

Not only is my mindset different, but I find I have more control over impulse eating. I used to be a total snack scavenger, scooping up the remnants of birthday cakes or meeting refreshments that graced the break room or coffee alcoves of my office. No secretarial candy dish was safe from my scouring. To be honest, this created a great deal of shame for me, because I felt like a taker.

Now, by the grace of God, I can walk past a dish of my formerly-favorite sweet treats without grabbing one. I am able to say no to break-room donuts and meeting-room sodas. My addiction to sugar, while not totally broken, is now under control so that I can make wise choices. This is a gift from God, and I am thankful to walk in it.

The best part of this new paradigm is my appetite. Y’all, there was a time when I would essentially follow a hobbit’s dining schedule: breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, snack, coffee, dinner, late-night snack. I wish I were exaggerating that, but I’m really not. I’d need some kind of snack every 90 minutes to 2 hours. I would ride one sugary wave after the other, subsisting on the chemical highs of sugar and caffeine for years. I would hit up fast food joints on my way into work and on my way home from work, at around 500-1000 calories a stop. When the McDonalds drive-thru workers recognize your regular order and ask why they didn’t see you the other day, you have a problem.

While married life has encouraged me to control my caffeine intake a bit better, it’s only been in the last month that I’ve gotten a handle on my appetite. As a result, I can easily skip meals without freaking out or letting it affect my attitude or behavior. Breakfast is no longer biscuits or “peanut-butter-cup” oatmeal; often, it consists of just “bulletproof” coffee (with butter, cream, and coconut or MCT oil, along with a few drops of stevia).

Overall, I’m probably eating between 500 and 1000 fewer calories a day than I did in the last couple years (and probably 2000 fewer than I was knocking out in my bachelor days!), but I don’t feel deprived in the least. I’m satisfied with what I’m eating, because I’m eating real food with healthy fats that give me sustained energy.

It’s not perfect yet, and I’m still working on the details, but overall, I feel pretty great. I’m learning how to better care for my body without acting as a slave to my appetites, and my hope is that doing this consistently will lead to better health and a longer life to follow my Lord Jesus, love my family, and serve my neighbors.

If you have any questions, hit me up on Twitter or post in the com-box below. I don’t want to turn into a keto evangelist (that’s even worse than being a vegan crossfitter!), but I’m happy to answer questions.

#FridayFive: Five Fitness-minded Finds from (mostly) Medium!

Two weeks ago, my wife and I “traveled back to Ecuador” (it’s a dumb joke, but I’m sticking to it) and restarted a low-carb/”keto”-ish eating plan again. It’s had its ups and downs so far, but I’m hanging in because I really want to succeed in this and get healthy for my family. In that vein, then, are a few articles I’ve enjoyed recently about food/diet-related topics:

  • Dr. Stephanie Estima debunks 7 myths about intermittent fasting (a subject I’ve heard more and more about, and it has me intrigued). Here, she talks about the effects of fasting for 24 hours every week.
  • Jason Cormier gives some suggestions for how timing of exercise and food choices interact to help you burn fat.
  • I’ve completed one half-marathon (eight years ago, weighing in at 471 pounds–it was a hard, 5 1/2-hr walk that I wasn’t physically prepared for) and have always wanted a do-over that I could prepare properly for and enjoy more. Stories like this by Drake Baer make me want to get outside and start walking again so I can get back on track.
  • Brad Stulberg gives us a quick reminder that a consistent “good enough” is better than an inconsistent “great”–a lesson I need to remind myself of, as I seek to change my eating patterns.
  • And finally, an article that I didn’t find on Medium, but have enjoyed lately: If you’re not familiar with the ketogenic diet, this article from Nerd Fitness is a fun introduction that gives you the basics of the science behind it and how it works in real life.

There you go, folks. Have a great weekend, and I’ll be back on Monday!