28 June Keto Curious – I Quit

It’s official. I’ve called an end to my keto experience.

Why? Stick around to find out.

First, as mentioned previously there is continuous forethought and effort involved. Planning meals, menus and shopping. That meant tracking all the elements of the diet. Ensuring enough of the right fats and proteins. And in a household where no one else is keto minded or supportive, it’s an uphill climb.

Second, I heard complaints of mood swinging. I would have my cheat days and my keto numbers would be reduced. Getting my numbers back in line seemed, from other peoples observations, to result in being grumpy and moody.

Third, I hit a plateau at 7 to 8 pounds maximum loss. 5 in the early stages and very few beyond that. It was a lot of continual effort with little additional benefit. I felt it was unsustainable. I resolved myself to resigning from keto.

My assessment of Keto. It does have value. BUT you’re much more likely to be successful with a supportive household environment where it can be a permanent adoption and you can focus your efforts on the details and nuances to persevere and overcome hurdles.

4 June Keto Curious -Progress??

29 May I woke up and the scale finally showed movement. Two pounds lower than yesterday’s weigh in for a loss of 6.

I thought “Okay”, maybe this is progress. Maybe I turned a corner.

Yeh, I don’t think so. It was the only date that low. Okay, so up to now I’ve been circumspect about specifics. Why? Well, there personal.

When I first started I was 215 pounds. I was 214 pounds when I started actually tracking on a fairly regular basis. On May 12th I recorded 211. I bounced around 211 to 210 until May 29th, when I recorded my low of 208.4. Since then I’ve been between 209.4 and 210.4 pounds.

Can I call it progress? It seems marginal at best. I must be doing something wrong. And I’m getting tired of it’s impact on everything. It feels like hours every day revolve around my prepping meals that are carefully choreographed.

I don’t even try to measure ketosis levels because I can’t trust my meter.

So, I look at my larger metrics. My BIA seems to have reduced by 1.5%. 28.9% to 27.4%. But the level of accuracy on that is so so, but it is trending in the right direction.

My waist appears to be 1.5 inches smaller. Not huge, but probably the biggest notable improvement.

My belly button measurement has reduced by roughly 1.25 inches.

And both my biceps seem to have increase a quarter of an inch.

With this real slow progress, I’m afraid of burnout and giving up.

I must be doing something wrong. I’ll do some homework to hopefully identify my problem. But, I’m beginning to lose patience.

Okay, I’m going to continue to persevere.

28 May Keto Curious Week 3 – Frustration!!

Week 2 had gone well and I thought I deserved a bit of a reward so I planned a cheat a cheat day. “Plan” is probably a bad label since I had a hard time getting clarity on how to cheat without destroying progress.

In my homework, I discovered that following my particular plan (high fat, lo/no carbs, and mid protein) really allowed for a cheat meal, NOT the 24 hour marathon glorious binge fest that seem to be recounted by some in their click baity headlines. Okay, I’m cool with that, but it pointed out that I needed to learn more, but I thought I had enough information.

I had checked my ketone levels with the breath meter that had arrived during the week before. My first reading was 2.1, which was considered moderate ketosis. I didn’t check again for several days leading into my weekend. Honestly, things got really hectic and I lost track of daily metrics for several days, like taking metrics one out of three days.

On the spur of the moment, my daughter was in town so we planned lunch at a nice outdoor eatery. I thought, perfect timing for a cheat meal. The place had a great variety of food options. I ordered a grouper sandwich with onion rings and for desert I have a scoop of ice cream. That was a Saturday.

Life continued to be busy, but I went right back on the keto diet. I was still plateaued on my daily metrics with no marked increase or decrease. I was around 27% BIA and in a single pound of the weight I quickly achieved during that first week. I tried my keto meter Tuesday following the Saturday cheat meal and my heart fell. If the meter was right, it was clear that I had kicked myself way out of ketosis. Completely. My reading was a .1, which meant I was barely beginning keto over again. Ugh.

Thursday my reading was .7 and today my reading was .6. That doesn’t indicate real ketosis according to the meter. I expected to bounce back to a decent reading at least.

That was difficult to grasp. But as I thought about it, I begin to question the accuracy of my meter. The only way I could test my theory is if I get another unquestionably accurate tester to confirm against and I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Either way, it was a blow to my morale. But I made a six week commitment and I’m going to stay with it.

I struggle with whether the diet is worth it. I mean, if I’m not actually in ketosis then why the heck am I putting myself through all this effort?

And yes, it is effort. It’s not easy. There is the time constantly researching the right and wrong of keto, whether it’s books or Youtube or online blogs. Then there is the extra time and expense shopping for keto friendly food or ingredients, there is the actual prep and cook time. And the emotional effort of staying on top of things, which only now seems to have become a challenge as the effort doesn’t seem very fruitful. Then again, it has only been three weeks of my committed six weeks.

I have a feeling of progress, but I can’t seem to measure or capture it in a meaningful way. I have times where I don’t feel as bloated and grab my flab to check for marked change.

I give a huge shout out to those that go through all this effort while maintaining a career and family.

Today’s summary: Still at 4 pounds lost, 27.4 % BIA. My other metrics, I’ve received resistance from my assistant who believes that weekly tracking of those metrics are inappropriate.

21 May Keto Curious Progress

15 May was a weird day. Our family went to a Renaissance fair here in Florida. During the day while walking around I really felt a bit odd. The feeling was a bit woozy and disconnected. Having been through a number of physically strenuous things in life, I knew this was a minor alert. But if I didn’t address it immediately, it potentially could progress into a fainting spell. And the last thing I wanted was to ruin the day for everyone over my stupidity.

Thankfully we were just walking up to food stands when this feeling hit. I got a large bottle of water and a hot dog. Of course I tossed the bun and ate it with a little mustard on top. That seemed to take the edge off and I felt better for a couple hours.

I believe this was a combination of keto flu symptoms and dehydration. Apart from that day, I felt minor symptoms the rest of the week.

I ordered a breath ketone meter to check myself.

During the week, I did decide to try working out regularly for three days this week. Interesting personal observations. My soreness post workouts seems less. I was able to perform full workouts each day and felt less sore or achy the day after. But is it psycho sematic? I don’t know, but I’ll take it. It’s a positive indicator.

I have to remind myself that it’s still early in the process. Plus, I haven’t allowed myself a cheat day. Which, based on some sources, is important to overcoming plateaus. I can’t call it a plateau yet, but it’s been pretty flat for this week.

I’ve made a promise to myself that I would commit to keto earnestly for six weeks at the minimum. I am honestly recognizing that for every thing I learn, there is so much to learn and potential mistakes that I can make.

Speaking of learning, I realize that there is sooooooo much keto information out there to digest. And it’s sooo easy to miss details. Keep a list, journal, document, or all of the above to track, retain and look back at things. Take notes while watching Youtube or reading.

I’ve been using my Fitbit app and Charge 4 to track my food and exercise log along with all the other metrics. I’ve been tracking metrics on a spreadsheet. My intention is daily to track body weight and BIA (bio impedance analysis) based on my bathroom scale. My infrequent metrics cover neck circumference, biceps, belly button, and waist. Of course, this is as much to ensure I’m doing the right thing, but also to examine trends.

I’ve also purchased a breath ketosis meter. Reviews indicate that breath ketosis measurement is relatively accurate where blood ketosis measuring is more accurate. I chose a breath meter for convenience. When that arrives, my intention is use it infrequently to ensure I’m in ketosis and check if I’ve been knocked out.

So let’s sum up where I am. I’ve been measuring weight and BIA based on my scale. I’ve lost about 4 pounds. My BIA dropped an average of 1% so far. That was achieved by the 15th, but since that day, the needle seems to have stalled on those measurements. On the 21st, I took my latest infrequent measurements and saw both belly button and waist measurements reduced by less that 1 inch. Positive indicators.

Summary of tools I’m using now: Fitbit app and a Charge 4, keto breath analyzer(when it arrives), a tape measure designed for body measurement, my bathroom scale, Tom Delauer Youtube series and to a lesser degree keto books and magazines on the side for variety. I expect this list to grow.

I didn’t go into what I’m using for workouts since it’s not diet related. Maybe I’ll touch on that in future.

Magnesium, Wow!

Through following the course to get started with ketosis, I added magnesium to my regimen. But it really made a big difference when I took it just before bed.

I’ve relied on melatonin to make me sleepy on many nights in a week. But honestly, since taking magnesium I haven’t once. I wear a Fitbit consistently and my sleep score average has gone up from a low 70 average to 80 average. I used to have maybe one night a week in the 80s and the rest were 60 or 70s. Now, it’s five nights a week.

I credit magnesium with this huge improvement to my quality of life.

14 May Keto Curious Progress

I started my journey on May 7th. I did it cold turkey and with calorie reduction. I decided the first few days I would run at deficit of 500 calories. I based my daily caloric budget on my Fitbit, which adds calories with activity.

At the same time, I re-introduced magnesium supplements into my regimen. According to Tom Delauer, taken before bed, it could help with sleep among many other things. Here’s a link to the one I first heard about Magnesium. I saw an amazing improvement in my Fitbit measured sleep score.

I also decided that the first week of keto, I would take it easy on workouts. Last thing I needed was to get faint or suffer in the middle of one of my routines away from the house.

My beginning was a bit awkward in the bathroom. I had the runs for periodically through the second day. Not painful, but I was definitely losing fluids. From what I understand this is normal. My gut felt a little off, but not painful. Then I was a bit constipated for a day or two. And now I’m normalized.

The first few days after the initial 48 hours, I was mindful of my gut. My gut was still a bit off but not painful and no discomfort. Just different.

I ate well and really began to understand that being satiated on keto was a real thing. I didn’t always have a breakfast right away in the morning because I would still feel full from the night before. If I was late for a meal, I never got that ravenous discomfort or headache like I would with processed carbs.

I also spent part of this time on my own spreadsheet and sorting out how I was going to track what I was eating. I wanted it to be simple with what I had on hand so I didn’t have to spend a lot of money. I decided on two sets of measurements. Those I would perform frequently [as much as daily] and those I would perform less frequently [like weekly]. Frequent was weight and BIA (bio-impedance analysis) from my current floor scale. Less frequent measurements include: Height, weight, BIA, neck, belly button, waistline and bicep. I’ll go more into my logic on why these some other time. Ultimately the logic was collect enough varied metrics so that if I didn’t see progress in one area, I might with another.

I normally started my day with scrambled eggs that included cooked (wilted) spinach, chopped peppers, occasionally a few cherry tomatoes and maybe some black beans.

For lunches, I mixed it up with various salads using canned tuna or leftover beef or chunks of chicken breast. I made sure the sauces were keto friendly. My two favorites: Italian dressing – made from a packet using virgin olive oil and red wine vinaigrette. Store bought spicey buffalo sauce.

I also busied myself reviewing keto recipes. It adds to the variety of what you have available. There are tons out there on the web and on Youtube. And of course with substitution of some ingredients there aren’t many recipes that can’t be created in a keto friendly fashion. Exact replicas, no, but reasonable enough to satisfy most cravings.

As for weigh ins, I do them first thing in the mornings. Same is true for my measurements as best as I can achieve. I know the the BIA (bio-impedance from my scale isn’t to be relied on.

Of course, the wife is appreciating the fact that I am cooking far more often since I want more control over my diet. Getting to the 14th wasn’t that hard.

Keto Curious prelude

Let’s jump right in. Why am I keto curious? I’m newly retired and I have a spare tire of at least twenty pounds. I can no longer run or jog without severe knee pain which makes big calorie burn sessions more challenging without large investments of time.

The extra size and weight make me uncomfortable. Compared with my age group, it’s not so bad. But my internal need say it’s too much. I’ve been carrying this extra weight since 2011 of course with periodic fluctuations. For a period of time after quitting alcohol and all those extra calories, I lost weight, but progressively I’ve inched back up.

I took a few baby steps in preparation. Trying to remove junk from my diet. Like using Stevia sweeteners for my morning coffee. Or curbing my pizza intake to half a pizza, rather than a whole pizza. But, without removing things altogether, I was still consuming breads, cakes, and sweets along with suffering from severe cravings for them.

I wasn’t successful at dropping the terrible twenty pounds. In fact, for nearly a year, I was stuck at a fixed weight that I could never get to swing more than a few pounds and can easily be attributed to water weight.

In the meantime, I did some reading and looking around. Keto style diets seemed to be the oldest and most validated actual diet programs out there. Apparently the principle of ketogenic dieting has been around since 1921 and been utilized to great success for diabetics and athletes.

There are other programs out there with a successful track record. But this one seemed to personally be the best fit for me.

My original source information came from Tim Ferriss “4 Hour Work Week” and “4 Hour Body”. (By the way, NONE of my links in this article are affiliated with me in any way. I receive no compensation directly or indirectly). His principles are simple and ultimately is a variation on the practice of a ketogenic diet that he terms the slow carb diet. Satieting carb cravings with the use of allowable carbs.

Next was a few small keto magazines from the grocery store checkout. Which were far more about recipes rather than day to day principles and practice.

Ultimately, my best source came from YouTube. His name is Tom Delauer. I like his channel because it is filled with years of videos beyond what any book covers and clearly he knows more than the superficial common information. And if you see him, you can tell he knows his stuff. He is bulk, buff and can talk circles around nutritional and diet subjects. Some of his explanations can go very deep in the tech talk.

Here it is early May. Wish me luck.

OTA DVR Solved!

Continuing on the Cord Cutting Curious series, I turned to hardware available via retail.

Elements that are important to us: Able to access replays via ROKU in a simple way, quality built in tuner, tv guide functionality that shows more than the current date(the more the better), flexibly sized hard drive size for increasing in the future, ability to record episodes repeatedly.

My choices were narrowed down to one of the HDHomeRun devices or one of the Tablo devices. I heard good things about both of them. The key selection item for me was that I didn’t find an HDHomeRun app on Roku’s. A local retailer was having a sale and I picked up a Tablo Duo Lite for about $99. I grabbed a 1TB hard drive as well, thinking that would be plenty, well, at least to start off with.

My initial reaction: It’s better than I hoped.

The Tablo is a simple box that hooks up to power, coax and you plug a hard drive in. You have to format the hard drive of course. Tablo provides a fully functional service for an initial period ( I think a month). This provides access to channel guide information that extends as much as two weeks into the future which allows you to arrange for recording in the future. The Tablo also provides a fully functional simple dvr operation. You can watch live TV through Roku’s without a tv connected to a coax. The ROKU app and android apps are straightforward and simple interfaces that the family understand easily. It’s also an easy thing to watch Tablo via web interfaces on any device on the same network. The Duo supports two simultaneous actions while the Quad supports four. By actions I mean watching on separate devices, recording, or streaming live tv.

The Tablo provides the capability for automatic skipping of commercials in recordings. After a program is recorded, Tablo scrubs the dvr recording for commercial markers and deletes those pieces of recordings. However, this doesn’t always work 100%. One because it takes hours to complete. It’s also likely that if the Tablo is taxed (i.e. already streaming, etc. ) it could lose the cpu power to complete the task. That’s my guess.

Side menu and example of guide

For a small fee paid annually you continue the fully functional service for a year which we opted for. For another additional charge your recordings can be saved to a cloud based function, which I opted not to use.

My one challenge: Tablo supports streaming through a router to apps on your phone or tablets. However, our Tablo is cascaded on a mesh network behind the ISP router and I haven’t attempted to overcome this yet.

My one regret: Not jumping into getting a Tablo Quad right off the bat.

For anyone with a similar cord cutting need, I would definitely recommend Tablo products.

Sample of the recordings we’ve collected.

Dreams of an OTA DVR #2

Another in the Cord Cutter Curious series.

I gave up on my first effort realizing that the original recorder attempt was comparable to old school VCR’s with no network streaming functionality.

The dream would be to use a software suite that would record programs on a network accessible space ( using a PVR) and be viewable via a client preferably on the many Roku’s around the house for replays on the TV’s.

I ordered two different USB stick tuners. One was an Avermedia H837 and an Hauppauge WinTV-DualHD. Avermedia was only compatible with windows setups. Hauppauge was compatible with both windows and linux.

I narrowed the options down of the various software PVR’s to two. TVHeadEnd and NextPVR. TVHeadEnd was compatible with Linux only. NextPVR was only compatible on Windows 10.

Then came the experimentation to put together the different pieces. Things to consider if you go through this. 1)Your pc will need to have excellent network connectivity. 2) You need to have a solid coax connection between the USB stick and your antenna.

I won’t go into the configuration specifics but will touch on the overviews.

I tried the Avermedia and the Hauppauge on a windows setup, however, this was an older windows desktop pc so it wasn’t the best at reception or recording. As a desktop pc, the location for it was awkward at best because of it’s size. And finally I wasn’t able to figure any means that the recorded files were able to be shared with the Roku’s reliably. With a more current multi core cpu and graphics card, I probably would have had better success.

Next, I decided to try with Raspberry Pi’s. I used Raspbian OS on a Raspberry Pi 3 connected to the Hauppauge with TVHeadend. Recording performance suffered, so I changed to a Raspberry Pi 4 and saw a lot of improvement.

There is a learning curve with TVHeadend. It is NOT a set it and forget it. It worked well with the USB tuner and able to record based on channel and time. It provided access to current TV guide entries on most channels, but recording based on TV show name didn’t seem to work. TVHeadend did auto start for me after power loss.

In order for the recordings to be accessible to my Roku’s, I had to boot Kodi on the Raspbian and make the folder with the recorded shows visible to my network. By using the Roku Media app, I was able to access the recording directory on the Raspbian OS. This was klunky especially for the wife and kid because the recordings were in folders and had file names that were a combination of time, date, channel and not show names. Less than optimal for them by far.

With a little scripting I was able to get this to boot sequentially AFTER the TVHeadend started. This was very useful during power loss.

The total configuration arrangement worked well for a couple weeks. The Raspberry Pi 4 ran a bit warm. It’s unclear whether the heat impacted performance. Eventually the recordings became compromised somehow and I kept hearing complaints of how hard it was to watch the show they wanted.

Overall, it was fun to try. But certainly not the ideal for ease of use for the total household.

Dreams of a DVR

‘Cord Cutter Curious’ part 4.

While going about the business of “replacing” our incredibly expensive TV service with antennas, the wife asked that we keep the capability to record the shows she loves. Fortunately, they are on major networks available on the antenna.

In the interest of being geeky and maintaining marital bliss on a budget, I did a lot of research.

My first move was to buy a simple `over the air` (OTA) tuner with software capable of acting like a digital video recorder (dvr). An iView Premium Digital Converter (3500STBII).

The principle is simple enough. It’s a black box controlled by a remote that connects to an antenna in line with a TV. If you’re old enough then you remember how old fashioned VHS recorders were set up. With the tv on a certain channel (3 or 4) then your box would display from the tuner box whether it was broadcasts or operating menus with your remote.

The model I chose was arbitrary, but I wouldn`t recommend it. The menus are not intuitive, controls without the remote are limited and video playback is played back in a horrendous format that is much smaller than our screen format.

To play back video, you can use the set top box or you can pull the USB stick out and plug it directly into the USB port of a tv or media center. In fact, the playback from the set top box was so poor, I did that very thing and was astonished at the quality of the playback. Vivid picture and colors.

I set this up to auto record on the timeslots where her shows normally air. No, unlike a full featured DVR it can not record just new episodes or first run episodes. You pick a timeslot to record a channel and it records that timeslot on that channel. If something completely different is aired, that gets recorded. Nothing fancy. Ultimately, after a few months this failed and the recordings we mere clips of a few seconds.

I believe it’s a handling of the recorded memory problem, but frankly it was more problematic to try troubleshooting extensively. So I abandoned that effort.

Now for more homework and a whole lot of time. I wanted something more full featured. I own a Raspberry Pi 1, 2, 3B and 4 and was aware there might be a way with their help. The ideal would be to set up one as a PVR with a USB tuner that could record shows with the help of the freely available enhanced program guide (EPG). The recorded shows would also be available for replay through some of the key TV`s through our home network directly or via a device like a ROKU.

We’ll cover that more in the future. Tune in again for another Cord Cutter Curious installment.

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