One Chapter Ends, Another Begins

A major season of my life, highlighted by growth and self improvement, came to a conclusion this week with a major promotion at work. What started three years ago, with a simple attempt at weight loss, sparked a major overhaul of my life…in the time since I’ve lost 95 pounds, proposed to the most beautiful woman on the planet, left one job for another, and finally accepted the previously mentioned promotion. In November of 2016, when I started my weight loss journey, I never anticipated any of these things, individually, could happen…that all three have happened is a blessing beyond measure. This new promotion, the product of an emotional, month long process has brought me to reflect on the past three years and the journey I took to get here. Here are my thoughts… 

You Are The Product of Your Actions, But Mostly Your Thoughts and Attitude

Prior to November of 2016 I was obese, unhappy with my job, and stuck in a revolving door of dead end relationships. All of this was the product of my own action or inaction: I could have been eating differently, I could have been working harder or have been applying for jobs, I could have held out, instead of settling, for better love interests. But these truths, also, were the product of my own thinking. I thought fat was all I’d ever be. I didn’t believe I was smart enough or talented enough for a better job. I didn’t feel I could attract the type of woman that would make a healthy, long term partner for me. I resigned to lifestyle choices that perpetuated the characteristics of my life that I was most unhappy with. So, yes, my actions were the driving fore of my unhappiness, but my thoughts (about myself, others, the world around me) were the driving force of those actions. 

Set Goals, Don’t Stress Over The Specifics

In November of 2016, like I mentioned, I knew what I was unhappy about. My weight however, true or not, was the only thing I felt I had control over. I initially set out to try the Paleo Diet, described to me by a buddy over beer and football one day, with the aspiration of losing 15-20 pounds. I figured, accurately, that losing even 20 pounds would be a significant improvement over the status quo, so I set out to see what was possible. The results of that journey included dramatic changes in ways that I never could have imagined – which is the joy of the process. Had I, on the other hand, tried to plan and link every step from fat, single, and unhappy to slim, married, and professionally empowered…I might never have gotten started. The point here is… Don’t worry if you don’t know how you’ll accomplish all of your goals. Get started on what you can, you’ll be amazed where the momentum of good choices can take you. For example, how much time have you spent in front of the computer chasing weight loss advice compared to how much time have you spent actually changing your diet? Not starting a diet because you’re not sure it will return positive results is like never asking someone on a date because you’re not positive you want to marry that person yet. If you want to see actual results you’ll have to take actual steps. If that doesn’t work out? Oh well, try something else. 

I resigned to lifestyle choices that perpetuated the characteristics of my life that I was most unhappy with.

Not Everyone Will Like The New You, And That’s Ok

Major, transformative life changes will, at least at times, require sacrifice, selfishness, and a dramatic change in habits. There will be some…whether family, a once best friend, or an acquaintance…who will decide not to come on your journey with you. This point has been brought up by many others and plenty has been said about it, but here’s my take: Don’t Take It Personally. Say, for example, you’ve been going out for beer and pizza every Wednesday night for a decade with the same friend. This standing appointment may be something you’ll gladly sacrifice in the name of your goals, but maybe it’s what your friend looks most forward to all week. So if this friend decides, no, he doesn’t want a “red wine and steak friend” and decides instead to replace you with a new “beer and pizza friend,” wish him luck. Additionally, your own self improvement can be seen by others as a measuring stick of their own failures, inaction, and laziness…if they cannot get over this to cheer you on, wish them luck in life as well. A variety of minute differences boil down to two types of people: People that are rooting for you and people that aren’t. Surround yourself with the former, don’t lose sleep over the latter.

Don’t Forget To Show Gratitude

I don’t know a single person who would say “I feel sufficiently appreciated, at all times, by my family, friends, peers, and superiors.” People love to feel appreciated, encouraged, and validated…do your part to help them feel that way. To the buddy that turned you on to your successful diet, thank him. To the mentor at work that spoke highly, yet fairly, on your behalf, thank her. For the parents, siblings, and friends that stuck by your side, thank them.For the spouse or significant other that puts up with your shit every day, thank him or her. Life is all about choices. The people that chose to do those things for you could have just as easily chosen not to, don’t forget that. Expand this practice of gratitude throughout your life. The teacher working the carpool lane at your kids school hasn’t been thanked enough. The dude working your favorite Eli counter hasn’t been thanked enough. The cop working traffic after a concert or football game hasn’t been thanked enough. The solider sitting on a flight next to you sure as hell hasn’t been thanked enough. Put gratitude into the universe…it’s free to do and there can never be enough of it. 

So what will the next chapter hold? Well, most importantly, there is my wedding in April. More than anything, I’ve always wanted to be a husband…I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together. This chapter will include our honeymoon, with God’s blessing there will be adventures in home ownership and starting a family. Everything that has happened over the past three years, directly or indirectly, has lead to these moments. The past three years have taught me that when you combine a goal driven mentality with the willingness to bust your ass, great things happen. So that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Get started on what you can, you’ll be amazed where the momentum of good choices can take you.

Room For Cream?

What’s a good morning without a good cup of coffee?

In November I posted a tweet looking for thoughts on switching from regular, black coffee to Bulletproof. Popular in the Keto community, Bulletproof coffee is typical coffee made creamy through the addition of butter and MCT oil…it is said to aid weight loss efforts and increase mental clarity. The optimism from my twitter community towards switching or sticking to what I was already doing was mixed and I was hesitant to fork out ~$15 for MCT oil based on the lack of a clear recommendation. In the end I decided to split the difference, opting to try incorporating heavy whipping cream into my morning coffee routine. After 6-7 weeks doing that, here are my thoughts:

First Impressions

First off, I find the addition to be absolutely delicious. I shake the carton every morning, pour a bit of that creamy goodness in my mug, and then brew a Keurig pod. The result, typically, is something resembling a frothy latte from Starbucks or Dunkin…for a fraction of the cost. All other factors aside, this is a delicious cup of joe.

But what about the more important stuff, like…

Weight Loss?

I started this experiment prior to the onset of the holiday season, some cheating definitely overlapped. At times, though, it appeared that my weight loss WAS accelerating, perhaps tremendously so. At other times there appeared to be no positive impact and may have even been causing a plateau. There are a myriad of factors that go into gain, loss, and maintenance — the best I can say is that the anecdotal evidence is inconclusive and requires more testing. 

Mental Clarity and Appetite

A lot of blogs and tweets relating to Bulletproof and/or coffee with added fat use phrases like “dialed in” and “crushing it.” Have I felt more focused? I’d tend to say yes, I have felt more focused and have experienced less “mental fog” during this time. The weather has also been cooling lately (my favorite time of year) and I’ve taken some time off for the holidays…so other factors COULD be at play. Consider this though: I’ve definitely felt a reduction in morning and afternoon hunger and I’ve been able to extend my fast by at least 25-45 minutes, on average. Does this reduction in cravings create this clarity on its own? Or are they separate factors? I can’t say for sure. What I can say, affirmatively, is that my cravings and mental fog have decreased. Take that for what you will. 

So What Now?

I believe the reduction in cravings and mental fog are real, genuine benefits of adding full fat dairy to my coffee. That said, weight loss is the lens through which I judge all of my eating decisions, and I don’t have enough evidence to yet say this is or is not working for me. My plan is to continue the experiment, perhaps indefinitely, until I’m able to conclude that adding the dairy is detrimental. I’m leaning towards the assumption that the full fat dairy is creating a “value add” scenario, but we’ll have to see. In any event, it’s definitely been a delicious experiment and I believe it’s worth trying for those that are curious. 

New Books For The New You

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get paid a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Want more info? Check out the Affiliate Disclosure on my About Page.

In days of old before the internet, weight loss programs like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers thrived by offering two things that the internet did not yet exist to provide: Consumable Information and Community. 

It isn’t the days of old anymore. 

Information and community, today, comes in a variety of shapes, colors and formats…for a fee and otherwise. To that end, a commonly cited benefit of a low carb diet is the low cost of entry…you could conceivably lose 50+ pounds thanks to information gleaned from the high cost of exactly one book, or perhaps based solely on online blogs and discussion boards. Being an old soul myself I chose to pour over books with a pen and a highlighter in tow when I was starting out. If you’re like me and you prefer a book printed on, you know…paper, here’s a list of books to get your “New Year, New You” started off right. There are two categories here, I recommend at least one from each.

Category 1: The Procedurals 

The New Primal Blueprint, Mark Sisson

Much admired and beguiled, depending on who you ask, The New Primal Blueprint is probably the book most associated with low carb eating. I love this book because it is equally informative as it is approachable – this one is packed full of information, colorful charts, and practical advice while still being a plainly readable text. That said, this isn’t a book you’d carry with on the subway, maybe not even in your carry-on. The hardcover edition, weighing in at 3.2 pounds per  it’s Amazon description, clocks in at 568 pages and is printed on the type of thick, glossy paper you see in fancy catalogues. 

In ‘Blueprint’ Sisson introduces his 10 laws to guide us, the first two being “Eat Plants and Animals” and “Avoid Poisonous Things,” which sounds like universally sound logic to me. He goes on to describe philosophies on everything from exercise, to alcohol consumption, to how often you should “play,” be it basketball, or kayaking, or anything else.

The Obesity Code, Dr. Jason Fung

While ‘Blueprint’ is a treatise on overall healthy living, ‘The Obesity Code’ deals strictly with one theme: losing some damn weight. Fung, an endocrinologist, presents the weaknesses in the “Calories In/Calories Out” approach to weight loss and presents an alternative approach, namely a diet low in carbohydrates. 

The key takeaway, for me at least, is Fung’s assertion that we’ve spent decades asking “what” we should be eating but basically zero time asking “when.” Fung does this, primarily, by attacking the notion that a morning breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” I never thought I’d be “that guy” that would switch to, even promote, intermittent fasting, this book made me a convert.

‘Blueprint,’ again, is Sisson’s complete guide to wellness. Fung’s ‘Code’ is more of a quick and nitty-gritty approach to eating-directed weight loss. For these reasons, if you can only read ONE, I recommend Fung’s ‘Code.’ That said, both are incredible resources…read both, starting with The Obesity Code.

Category 2: A “Brief” History of Low Carb Eating

Good Calories, Bad Calories,’ and ‘Why We Get Fat, And What To Do About It,’ Gary Taubes

I put these two together because, quite literally, they’re the same book. 

‘Calories,’ in my opinion, is Taubes seminal work and is highly regarded in the low carb community. The paperback edition that I have, similar to ‘Blueprint,’ clocks in north of 600 pages that are covered in fine print along side the occasional picture and graph. Taubes uses these pages to dive deep into the basis of the “Carbohydrate Hypothesis” and the effects of modern eating patterns on society and the so called “diseases of civilization.” The work expands on emerging opinions about cholesterol, it’s connection to heart disease, weight gain, and more. The science in this book is complicated and thorough, but Taubes…aided by the number of pages he has to work with…takes the time necessary to explain it to an audience NOT fresh out of medical school. 

‘Why We Get Fat,’ by Taubes own admission, is essentially an abridged version of ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories.’ This is the version of the book that you’d recommend to a casual reader or give as a gift…at least if you don’t want to look like a crazy person. All the major points and research from ‘Calories,” can be found here.

All that said, I have read both ‘Calories’ and ‘Why We Get Fat,’ maybe I’m the crazy person. I’m an avid – perhaps rabid – reader, though, I don’t suspect that most people would read both, or even need to. If you’re an average Joe with zero background in biology, dietetics, etc…I’d recommending sticking with ‘Why We Get Fat.” If you plan on being separated from friends, family, television, internet and electricity for a few…weeks…then I’d consider picking up the longer ‘Calories.” Whichever way you decide to go, they’re both great.

Which books are you reading right now? Which ones would you recommend? @ me on twitter, let’s strike up a conversation! 

In Defense of Cheating, Sort of…

To Nog Or Not To Nog… What a stupid question.

The holidays can be hell for a variety of reasons, perhaps most for what they can do to your well laid plans to eat well. In the past three weeks I’ve personally been victimized by Dunkin’s Egg Nog Latte, requests by co-workers and family to make my famous buttermilk-coconut pie, and a bowl of festive mints by my desk at work. The holidays are synonymous with two things: spending and eating. In light of this I know people, and know of plenty more, that set out each winter to avoid ALL sweets, treats, and indulgences. That said, however, I know of very few that succeed. So what’s to do?

Well. Sometimes… you just have to cheat.

Many critics of low-carb eating patterns point to a shiny, well intentioned word: Moderation. Adherents to low-carb eating are depriving themselves, they say, and should instead eat anything their heart desires, so long as it is in moderation. In the 60’s the USDA, in their ill-designed Food Pyramid, suggested that some foods could be easily and safely incorporated into your diet, so long as they were consumed in moderation. To this day, “experts” receiving corporate subsidies continue to tell us that sugary treats are perfectly safe and healthy, so long as they’re enjoyed in this moderate state. A big problem presents itself though: The Food Pyramid, then, and the experts now make little, if any, indication of just what exactly “moderation” means in this context. What, for example, is a moderate amount of ice cream? Or pretzels? Or gummy worms? The USDA and the experts on the take of snack and soda companies have been resistant to define it. “Moderation,” in their view, must be some sort of magical, ambiguous state of enlightenment, the sort of destination you’ll know only by suddenly realizing you’re already there. 

In a manner of thinking, though, it makes sense that the USDA wouldn’t prescribe what exactly a moderate amount is given that a plethora of variables like metabolism, activity levels, and genetic factors exist….all great reasons the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of dietary advice in the first place. But the Food Pyramid DID suggest such a state exists, it just never defined it. Short of this definition, or even some solid guidance, the majority of Americans committed to define it for themselves. Obesity rates have exploded in the time since.

But anyway… back to the afore mentioned critics and their fight for treats and sweets in moderation. Let me be clear: I agree, whole heartedly, in the notion that indulging every now and then is healthy and even necessary. In fact, the only people I know that have sustained weight loss over multiple years are those that indulge every once in a while. I say that to point out that I do not agree with a zealous, zero tolerance policy against sugary snacks. The problem is that no real definition of “moderate eating” exists to guide us. So yes, by all means, drink some egg nog, eat pie, drink and be merry. I do believe, though, that moderation IS necessary, but if the government and the experts haven’t given us a rigorous example of what moderation is, then the only recourse we have is to define it for ourselves. How do we do that? Well, I have some thoughts, so I’m glad you asked. 

“Moderation,” in their view, must be some sort of magical, ambiguous state of enlightenment, the sort of destination you’ll know only by suddenly realizing you’re already there. 

Some nuance is important here so, first, I think it’s important to consider all eating choices through the lens of how they effect any weight loss goals you have, which is pretty easy to do on a low-carb diet. Ask yourself also “How much will this choice set me back? Am I comfortable accepting this setback? Am I willing to work hard to overcome this setback in the next several days? We all have different goals and a universal definition of moderation just wouldn’t be able to account for this. It’s safe to say that “the occasional treat won’t hurt you.” Just how occasional is “too occasional” should be a personal, goal driven question. 

To that end, take a long game approach to cheats. Very frequently I’ve willed myself to avoid someone’s store bought cookies at work in “trade” for getting a fancier, hand made dessert at Disney World that weekend. Sustaining weight loss through “cheat management” can help you plan around parties, cook outs, every day events, and the like. The hard truth is that you won’t be able to cheat as often as you’d like, otherwise it wouldn’t be cheating. Somewhere you’ll have to make some tough choices. 

Also consider finding indulgences that are low carb and not stocked full of sugar. I’m talking here about things like lobster tail, an expensive whiskey, a filet mignon. These are are all foods we can use to treat ourselves that won’t derail our progress. A baked sweet potato heavy on butter and ground cinnamon also comes to mind. You CAN use food as part of your celebrations and rewards but you DON’T have to equate high reward with high carb.

Finally, if you do decide to have some pie, or egg nog, or bread, or all of the above… enjoy it. Take your time eating and don’t rush. My personal preference are homemade and/or bakery made sweets as opposed to mass produced stuff…but go with what you love. And do not, whatever you do, let anyone shame you or guilt you for your choices. Pick your spots, eat your treats, enjoy the hell out of them…and then get back to work.

Anyway, i’ve gotta run…I’ve got some buttermilk coconut pies that need to come out of the oven. 

Happy Holidays!

Adventures in Intermittent Sobriety

Bring Your Own… Bubly?

Earlier this year I committed to being “dry,” alcohol free, for a full 30 days…I called it an Alcohol Fast. At the end of 30 days I decided to hold out a few more weeks until after my Series 7 exam, the fast eventually ended after 47 days in mid-August. Fast forward to today and I’m coming off of a month and half long stretch filled with two weddings, a trip to Savannah, Thanksgiving, some work parties, and my own 30th birthday; these all lead to my admission last week that my weight has been creeping back up. So, this week, I decided to launch a quick 14 day break from booze. Earlier in the year, during my more extended break, I was scribbling notes about the experience but was not actively blogging, here now are some of my collected thoughts on temporary, intentional sobriety… 

You Are Your Own Uber

The first thing that hit me as remarkable about “not drinking” is that you never have to worry about getting anywhere, at least not like before. How much can I drink and still drive? How much would Uber cost to get there and back? I wonder if I can crash on John’s couch? These are never things you have to worry about when you’re sippin’ on soda all night. This may not sound like much, but I found this to be a uniquely freeing feeling. I wasn’t bound by my ABV or the cost to get home… I could come and go as I pleased.

A Bar Tender of a Different Variety

Speaking of which… don’t hesitate to bring your own sodas and “mocktails” to a get together. Most folks hosting a party will, if you’re lucky, keep Coke, Diet Coke, and Sprite on hand (if your friends stock Pepsi products, find new friends). I found having the soda that I wanted (Diet Root Beer for me) helped me feel less like I was missing out by not having booze like everyone else. I also brought materials for a low-carb “mocktail” (find that recipe here) to a party where I knew three other people weren’t going to be drinking either. I was surprised to find that I, the guy mixing drinks WITHOUT booze, was the life of the party. 

No More Security Blanket

Speaking a little more philosophically, it’s amazing how much a of a social blanket a drink can be. For example… how many times have you been at a bar or work party and, to avoid an awkward silence, someone has shouted “how ‘bout another drink!” before scampering off to the bar? How many times has that person been you? A drink in hand can be a fidget spinner for adults…something to mess with to help from feeling awkward or otherwise sedentary. In both of these examples, and plenty of others, not drinking can force you to, I don’t know, talk to people. Which actually works out…some people are pretty cool.

The Bennies

Speaking more pragmatically…fasting from booze has plenty of benefits. The most noticeable, for me, during my 47 day fast was the quality of my sleep…I was a champion sleeper. Additionally, though I’ve never been one to make a habit of going to work hungover, not drinking anything at all definitely leads to more clarity and less “mental fog.” Also worth mentioning…alcohol, particularly at bars and resturants, can be incredibly expensive. Cutting off the sauce, even for a brief period of time, can also be a great savings in your budget.

Holiday Weight & What To Do About It: Honesty, Scales, & Chewing Gum

How does chewing gum fit into my weight loss routine? Read on to find out!

On Saturday I tweeted an agonizing confession: I ended the week 15 pounds north of my “all time low,” registering as my heaviest weight in over a year. This was the result of multiple factors: a trip to Savannah, two weddings, Thanksgiving, my 30th birthday, and a variety of office snacks. To say it plainly: I lost sight of my goals and slid into a state of complacency for an extended period of time. The rare treat turned into a weekly, or even daily, occurrence. I told myself I’d make up for things the next day but didn’t follow through. I got lazy. 

I would be a hypocrite if, despite all of my successes, I didn’t admit to this. Plenty of people in the weight loss space very commonly present an identity online that never wavers from center, never struggles with cravings, and never raids the office candy bowl when they’re having a shit day. However effortless weight loss has at times been for me, it has been a challenge equally as many times. Passing on a dessert at Thanksgiving when I was new to the scene in 2016 was a challenge. Making those same choices consistently for three consecutive years has been ever harder. Doing so for the next 40-50 years will be harder still. 

Fortunately, I’m not alone… Plenty of people struggle with these challenges this time of year. Between work parties, “Friends-giving” get togethers, family dinners, and the like…it’s incredible easy to slip back into bad habits. So what can be done? As this is my first prolonged battle with regressing into my old ways I’m, well, not necessarily an expert on how to switch out of this funk. But I do have some thoughts… 

The single biggest mistake we can make at times like these, and on this point there is near unanimous agreement in the weight loss community, is to put off “fixing” your habits until after the holidays, your exams, busy season at work, after pay day, or any other time. When is the BEST time to start better habits? Yesterday. But today is all we’ve got, and that’s good enough. I get it though… you step on the scale eleven days before Christmas and you’re eight pounds heavier than you were two weeks ago. The urge to resign to “I’ll get back on track on the 26th” can be so tantalizing. But how will you feel when, on the 26th of New Years Day, eight pounds has turned into fifteen or twenty? Will you keep putting it off then too? Plus, not for nothing, addressing the problem as soon as you discover it can be a great hedge against less than stellar choices during the holidays. 

“When is the BEST time to start better habits? Yesterday. But today is all we’ve got, and that’s good enough.”

Another thing worth considering is how often and when you’re stepping on the scale. I don’t subscribe to a hard and fast rule on this, some swear by every day, others once a week. Switching from one of these to the other could be a quick, simple change in your routine to mix things up and change your way of thinking. Further…if you just step on the scale whenever you feel like it…stop. Pick a routine, whatever it is, and do everything you can to weight in at the same time of day. Personally, I started my journey weighing myself only on Wednesdays; I switched to daily as the bulk of my weight came off and my margins got a little slimmer. My regression, weight wise, has coincided with complacency regarding a “weigh in routine,” take that for what you will. 

A little trick that has helped me fight cravings is simple and cheap…gum. Want to know what tastes good after some seriously minty gum? Jack shit, that’s what. Try keeping gum handy wherever cravings tend to hit you: at your desk, in the car, in your purse or backpack…wherever. 

Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up…this won’t get you anywhere. Commend yourself, instead, for realizing there is a problem at all. Quit feeling down. Quit sulking. Start finding solutions. 


36 months in, 95 pounds down

A while back I launched a well intentioned blog and Facebook page which, together, operated under a “brand” I hoped to launch, I called it Practically Paleo. I had dreams of being perceived in the low carb weight loss space as an “expert” and longed to make a little side hustle out of product reviews and maybe the occasional speaking engagement or podcast appearance.

A major problem presented itself in my efforts towards achieving this goal: I wasn’t very consistent. My desire to be seen as an expert put me, creatively, in a box where I was afraid to be honest, admit setbacks, and so on. Further, I created a narrative in my head that ALL of the content on my blog HAD to be about diet/weight loss…there was no room, I told myself, for rambling about life’s adventures, or wedding planning, or Baby Yoda.

Somewhere thereafter I started a new twitter profile, @slimredcobb. I set out to use this account, primarily, to engage in conversations about the low carb lifestyle, but also to riff about whatever else I wanted. A balance that leans abut %80 towards #lchf topics has generated just over 450 followers so far which, for me, is an accomplishment. My twitter handle has freed me creatively and its a medium I thoroughly enjoy.

Today — on the eve of my 30th birthday — with the goal of harnessing and amplifying the success and enjoyment I’ve had with my twitter profile so far, I’m shedding the old “Practically Paleo” moniker and consolidating everything under @slimredcobb and Low carb eating will still be the primary focus of my content but I’ll expand my writing to include my thoughts on adventures in marriage, travel, starting a family, a healthy dose of Baby Yoda love, and more. My goal is to be witty and not take myself too seriously. The website will be minimalist and unpretentious. It will be genuinely me, and I’m so happy to have you along for the ride.

Welcome to