A physical education teacher Julien Schneider was unhappy about gaining weight “more than 15kg (33lb)” in less than a year after arriving in the city in 2015 from his native France, despite doing two hours of physical activity daily.
Like many of us, the now 39-year-old had experienced the yo-yo effect since his early 20s: putting on a few extra pounds, then trying to eat less to shake them off, but finding that harder and harder. His American wife had witnessed his struggle and had been reading about the keto diet weight loss tips on social media. She suggested he look into it.
First, he had to overcome a cultural hurdle. “In France, getting out of the ‘regular’ diet is almost shameful. You don’t do it,” Schneider said, referring to his countrymen’s reputation for savouring their food without fretting over whether it’s good or bad for them. Book titles such as The French Don’t Diet Plan reflect the stigma that surrounds those who do start scrutinising their dishes and counting calories.
He and his wife had tried other diets, like the Dukan protein-based diet developed by the French nutritionist of the same name.
“You eat a lot of protein but you cut everything else,” Schneider said of the diet. “To lose weight it’s very efficient, but in the long term, it’s impossible [to maintain]. The problem of every diet is when you stop the diet, what do you do? The problem is to keep the weight off.”
Schneider’s Keto Diet Weight Loss Tips: Sauteed spinach and scrambled eggs with cheese and avocado. It is often his only meal of the day. Image source: Xiaomei Chen
Schneider spent three months reading everything he could about the keto diet. Convinced it could work for him, he began his regimented high-fat, low-carb keto journey in April 2018.
He shared 10 tips to help others on this path.
Starting the keto diet was tough, especially as he adhered to the classic format that sees 70 to 80 per cent of daily calories come from fat and 20 to 25 per cent from protein, with just 20 to 30 grams (0.7 to 1.1 ounces) of carbs allowed a day.
“Psychologically in the first month, it was really, really difficult … You crave carbs all the time, you dream of them, you get up in the night and want to eat pasta. If you see candy you just want to eat it. If everybody eats carbs as usual around you, it’s just impossible. But after a while it gets better,” he said.
Schneider also had “keto flu” as his body adapted to the process of burning fuel from fat, not carbs.
“You feel like c***. I was a sugar addict, so I would say that for 15 days I had a massive headache. I needed paracetamol almost every day and had stomach cramps. You really feel bad for a few days. But as I read a lot about it before, I knew what to expect … If you don’t know that when you start, after three days you give up,” he said.
Keto Diet Weight Loss Tips: Veggies take centre plate
Though the diet is touted as a boon for meat lovers, Schneider said he cooks a lot more vegetables than he used to. “When you’re on keto, you don’t have the pasta or rice or lentils to fill you up. You fill up on vegetables.”
His typical lunch is salad ” with lots of toppings. “You will almost all the time add cheese because cheese adds fat. Tasty fat. You will very often have a protein, but not always bacon. Basically people think if you eat keto, you eat bacon. I don’t eat more bacon now than I used to eat before,” he said.
He doesn’t eat more meat, but the quality of the meat, and the food he eats generally, is higher. “Cutting out all of the processed foods, 80 per cent of the restaurant meals and not going out to coffee chains to buy the coffee with the muffin” allows savings to spend more on quality food, he said.
Schneider said he tries not to snack. “When you are adapted [to ketosis], it’s more a mental than a physical thing ” you won’t really need it. It’s just that you want it.”
If he snacks, it is mostly on nuts, chosen carefully. A handful of almonds contains about 4g of carbs, while cashews have about 9g. Pecans are a good choice as they contain only about 2.5g of carbs, but they are more expensive and harder to find in Hong Kong, he said. A small piece of cheese is another good choice.
Keto Diet Weight Loss Tips: Schneider drinks at least three litres of water a day, which goes up to four or five litres if he exercises. | Image source: Xiaomei Chen
Keto Diet Weight Loss Tips: One meal a day?
As many keto dieters do, Schneider skips breakfast “something he has done since his youth. He sometimes skips dinner, too. “One meal a day is quite trendy right now, especially on keto,” he said.
“Generally when I work, I never eat before lunch, and at least once a week I eat one evening, and then not until the next evening. For 24 hours, I have only water and black coffee.”
He tracks everything he eats in the KetoDiet or Carb Manager apps. As well as keeping tabs on carb, fat and protein levels, these mostly free apps provide a plethora of recipes, advice and the latest research.
“When you start keto, you always eat basically the same thing. But if you want to do it long term, you need to start cooking for real. Steamed broccoli and chicken, it’s healthy, it’s good” but it gets boring when you have it too often, he said.
You need to learn to cook to stick with keto, he said, a task he and his wife share. They check the many keto blogs and websites for innovative recipes. His favourite food? Cauliflower risotto, replacing rice with “riced” cauliflower.
“In France, it’s a problem to be on keto. We are seen as boring people because we don’t drink, we don’t drink wine, we eat differently than everybody,” Schneider said, adding he has never been a big drinker.
“When I’m going out with coworkers, I won’t have wine or beer. I stay focused on soda water or Coke Zero. And you have to drink a lot of water ” three litres a day at the very least, and when I do sports, four to five litres. You can dehydrate very quickly ” this is a side effect [of the diet].”
Going out socially for a meal is a real struggle, he said, adding there is not usually much choice, especially at Chinese or Asian restaurants. Most dim sum dumpling wrappers, for example, are made of flour or rice and are “difficult to digest when you’re fat-adapted”. That’s why having pizza, with dough made of flour and water, would make him sick.
“North American food is easiest,” he said. “McDonald’s is very easy: you remove the bun, you don’t eat the fries. You eat the patty and the cheese. This is keto.”
When he first started keto, Schneider had to give up sports for a while. “You just can’t do any activity at the beginning,” he said. “Even climbing two floors of steps, you arrive at the top and you’re just exhausted. You need to refuel. After a few weeks, I started running again … and after 25 or 30 minutes, I just needed to stop. I didn’t feel bad, I didn’t feel dizzy. You just have to walk.”
It was three months before he was able to run at a reasonable pace, and probably a year before he returned to his pre-diet pace, he said. Now, instead of running 10km a week, he is averaging 30 to 40km. “When you’re on keto, the length is not a problem. You can last as long as your legs can handle it.”
Image source: iStock
Weight loss Achieved “Healthily”
In the two years he has been on the diet Schneider has reached his goal of dropping 20kg from his 197cm (6 foot 5 inches) frame. He originally weighed 110kg. “You really need to trust the process,” he said.
He makes it a point to get regular blood checks. “I need to show my family that I’m still healthy. It’s not because I think I need it. I want to make them stop asking me all the time, ‘Is that bad for you?'”
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.