Are you struggling with your health?
Have you tried losing fat or changing your body for the better, only to find failure upon failure after trying multiple diets?
Have you ever succeeded in dieting and losing body fat, or perhaps have radically transformed your physique at one point, but ended up losing all of the progress you made, gained all of your fat back (and more), and felt frustrated and more down than ever about your health and fitness?
You are not alone.
I know exactly how you feel.
My story is not unique.
I'm not special in any way when it comes to transforming your physique or becoming healthy once and for all.
I was fat and out of shape for most of my life, but in 1997, I was inspired by a physique transformation challenge that was available to the masses by a supplement company in Colorado, which galvanized my interest to pursue bodybuilding and physique transformation.
In 16 weeks (four months), from May 24, 1998 to September 24, 1998, I succeeded in transforming my physique from obese (body fat of over 30%), to lean, (10% body fat).
I felt strong.
I felt confident.
I felt on top of the world.
And although I didn't win the challenges at that time, I felt I won a new life. I had a renewed sense of confidence and certainty that I didn't have before.
But like yourself and many, many others, I became part of the sobering statistic that the majority of people who diet and lose weight end up gaining all the weight back and more.
From 1998 until now - 20 years later, I have experienced more frustrations and failures than fitness success.
One personal success story occurred in 2002.
I achieved a remarkable transformation and competed in drug-free amateur bodybuilding.
In fact, I attained a level of body fat that I had only dreamed about.
In March 2002, I began another physique transformation journey, but this time to step on the bodybuilding stage and compete. With the help of a fitness coach, I lost a tremendous amount of body fat and competed at single-digit body fat percent in September 2002.
My diet plan at the time was extreme.
Total calories were 1,300 per day. I ate very low carbohydrates, very low fat, and high protein intake.
This definitely worked and I got outstanding results.
I felt strong when I was lifting weights at the gym.
I felt confident with my weekly gains and achieving my body fat loss goals and losing inches from my belly.
However, after stopping the diet and eating “normally” (actually “gorging” is more accurate - my appetite was out of control after the extreme dieting), I gained back all of the fat and added more (around my belly), and felt even worse.
I felt worse physically.
I felt worse emotionally.
And I felt worse professionally.
As a doctor advising patients to be healthier and leaner, even I couldn’t maintain that.
Overall, the reason for my gaining all the fat back was physiologic. Some people might say I was lazy, and complacent, and had no willpower, and just couldn't maintain it because of some character flaw.
However, I was simply focused on other things that were more pressing and more important at the time, such as getting through my medical training to become the best doctor I could be.
But whatever reason or excuse or circumstance I may attribute to my failures to stay fit, the facts still remain that my body became adept at storing body fat, after a prolonged period of extreme calorie restriction.
This is the reason why most people who diet succeed at first then stall out and then gain it all back.
My appetite was driven by changes (increases) in my “hunger hormones” such as ghrelin and decreases in the “satiety hormones” such as cholecystokinin.
So what was my solution this time around?
I have tried so many diets, perhaps like yourself. And I knew that whatever diet I would attempt would work at first but then would inevitably stall. My mindset and motivation would wane. I would feel deprived and hungry and end up in the same futile cycle of yo-yo dieting.
Over the past few months, I seriously applied the ketogenic principles and have lived the ketogenic lifestyle.
I believe that this nutrition plan - this lifestyle is sustainable and works with my physiology, not against it. The ketogenic lifestyle has helped me lose excess body fat WITHOUT feeling deprived or hungry. And it doesn’t require counting calories. Frankly, I’m too busy caring for patients and performing procedures and enjoying life to log calories - I’ve done this and its mental energy I’m not willing to commit to anymore.
Perhaps the most important benefit is my improved mental focus and energy during the day. I’m either seeing patients in our busy clinic or performing multiple procedures at our endoscopy center or caring for patients in the hospital and performing highly complex advanced endoscopic procedures (such as ERCP, EUS, balloon enteroscopy, bleeding control, etc).
Bottom line: the ketogenic lifestyle is a choice.
If you’ve struggled with fat loss or have diabetes, acid reflux, or fatty liver - consider learning more about this way of living.
I’m an eternal student - despite being double board certified (internal medicine and gastroenterology) and earning three masters degrees - I still have much more to learn and apply.
Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Stay strong, keep striving, and keep thriving, in your health, fitness, and life!
Mel A. Ona, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., M.A.