In September 2009, after I became one of dozen people to swim the Catalina Channel in both directions (Catalina Island to Los Angeles, and separately Los Angeles back to Catalina), my very sweet wife said, “Peter, you should try to be a little less not thin.”
Despite exercising 3-4 hours per day, I had morphed from a lean person into a sort of chubby guy over the preceding several years. In high school I weighed 160 pounds and carried about 5-6% body fat (9 pounds of fat on my body). I had ballooned to as high as 200 pounds with 25% body fat (50 pounds of fat on my body). On that particular day, I weighed 195 pounds and carried 20% body fat (about 40 pounds of fat on my body). I was “fit” but “fat.” In the picture above on the right, I had just finished becoming the first person to double cross the Maui channel (swimming from Maui to Lanai and back), but clearly I wasn’t a lean dude.
I simply couldn’t fathom how this happened? I exercised more in one day than the average person did in one week. I didn’t eat at McDonalds or Taco Bell. I really cared about my health, but I was overweight, and felt like I was on a path towards chronic disease. I had many reasons to be concerned. My family history was not good – everyone ended up dying of heart disease. Worse yet, my own laboratory numbers were not good, suggesting I had metabolic syndrome (I had three of the five).
Over the next two years I would radically change my diet. I’ll admit that if you look at where I am today (nutritional ketosis) versus where I was in September 2009 (“typical” athlete diet of high complex carbohydrates, high protein, and low fat), it seems like a dramatic change. In reality, though, the changes were somewhat gradual, as I’ll explain, below.
My motivation was broad, but can largely be divided into two categories: “defensive” and “offensive:”
“Defensive” reasons to change my diet included figuring out if I could
- Reduce my risk of heart disease
- Reduce my risk of stroke
- Reduce my risk of diabetes
- Reduce my risk of cancer
- Reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s disease
“Offensive” reasons to change my diet included figuring out if I could
- Improve energy levels
- Improve mental acuity
- Improve body composition
- Improve physical performance
The pictures, above, of me in my natural state of “non-thinness” give you a few pieces of information. I lay these pictures and stats out there for two reasons:
- To give baseline information – I was virtually identical in September 2009 to the photo on the right from June 2008 at age 35. [My wife insists I point out that she was pregnant in this picture. By comparison, I was not.]
- To provide a reminder that even then I was exercising a great deal, several hours per day
In other words, what I have experienced for the past 2 years has not been the result of more exercise or activity – it’s been a result of a very deliberate dietary change.