Welcome to The VD! The VD started as a joke. It stands for The Vince Diet. Not the VD diet, just, The VD. It evolved from a funny conversation with my friend and coworker Andrew over a few drinks after a particularly difficult meeting with a group of investors. I was about 3 months into my modified Keto Diet journey at that time, and had quickly dropped some 20 pounds, which was very noticeable to many of my friends and coworkers. My wife had also noticed and had joined me about a month prior to this conversation, so together we were already down about 30 pounds and loving the results as well as what we were eating. Bacon and Eggs anyone? What’s not to like? As I write this, a year into my journey, together, my wife and I are down 69 pounds, my friend Andrew is down about 45, my father in law is down 50, and many other friends, family, and coworkers are down significantly.
Andrew and I had another coworker who was hard into the Keto Diet, and in some conversations, Andrew had heard from him that drinking was not compatible with the Keto Diet. Andrew said something to the effect of, “I’d love to try it and see if I can lose some weight, but I like beer too much.” And The VD was born at that moment.
My response was, “So do I, but I ignore that provision. In my case I follow most of the Keto Diet principals, but I have full departure on one thing. My philosophy is, ‘Carbs only from beer and wine, hard liquor without a mixer is free.’” Andrew was curious, so I dove in.
My Keto Diet journey began in December 2017. I was not happy with my weight, hovering around 177 pounds, not liking how I looked and felt. My wife was insisting that I needed some new clothes, as my Dockers and similar slacks were getting quite frayed. We were shopping for new pants, and I realized that I was uncomfortable in the 32-inch waist that I had been wearing for years, and really needed to “graduate” to a 33. At 6 feet tall with a 32 inseam, you are probably thinking that is pretty good, but it wasn’t for me. You see, I had always been a tall skinny kid. I left high school at 6 feet, around 125 pounds, with a 28-inch waist. By the time I got married at 26, I was still wearing only a 29 waist, and always had to have my suits tailored because I didn’t fit the standard drop from chest to waist for the typical athletic cut suit. As I write this, I am almost 53, and there have been other weight and waist journeys along the way, which I will detail in future posts, but this lead in is about the creation of The VD, and why it works for me and many others. And, by the way, I am back to a 29-inch waist!
That day, in the store trying on pants, I resolved to buy the 32-inch waist pants, even though they were too tight, and develop a plan to stay in them.
It didn’t work.
In late January 2018, I went on a business trip to Hong Kong and Shenzhen China. Anyone who has traveled extensively on these kinds of long trips know that they tend to involve lots of dining and drinking, and very little exercise. When I got back, I was pushing 190 pounds, and nothing fit. Something had to change.
Serendipitously, the week that I got back from Hong Kong, in the food section of the local newspaper, The Florida Times Union, was a picture of “Eggs in the Forest”. Two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, and sautéed Bok Choy. I thought, “That really looks good, I wonder what this article is all about.”
I read the article, learning a bit about the Keto Diet, its low carb principles, and its history. Intrigued, I did an online search and learned more. I thought, “Wow, there are a lot of things that I love that I would have to give up trying this (pasta, rice, beans, bread) – I’m Italian and German, and my wife is Cuban and we have four boys who pretty much live on carbs, so these are all staples in our house. But, there are a lot of things that I have been avoiding that I love that seem to be OK, if I can just cut out the carbs. Things like cheese, bacon, sausage, salami. Are you freaking kidding me? I can eat these high fat foods and lose weight”? I decided to give it a try.
First things first, what about the alcohol ban? More research led me to the realization that the real problem with alcohol on the Keto Diet was not the alcohol itself (although there is a factor there that I will cover later), it was really about the massive amount of carbs and sugars in most alcoholic drinks. Rum and Coke anyone – OMG, one drink is a day’s worth of carbs on a Keto Diet. Make it a diet drink, and you might save some carbs and calories, but diet drinks are terrible for you, and many studies have shown that fake sweeteners like aspartame are addictive and create cravings that lead to overeating. From my perspective, diet drinks taste like hell, so I’m not going there at all.
What could I do? Lots of research on beers led me to the realization that Michelob Ultra was the best balance of carbs and alcohol content available commercially. My wife had been mostly drinking Michelob Ultra (which I hated) for quite some time. My preferred beers were a local Jacksonville brew, Duke’s Brown Ale, Newcastle, Stella Artois, and Bud Light. I did some research, and the flash bulbs went off in my brain.
Ignoring carbs, which I still didn’t fully understand, let’s look just at calories and alcohol content in these 5 beers:
Let’s imagine that I am a two beer a day drinker – my friends are rolling on the floor laughing at this number – and that I drink my four favorite beers weekly as follows:
As you can see, this combination generates 1896 calories per week. Now, compare this to the same number of Michelob Ultras:
This difference of 566 calories per week may not seem like much, but look at it over a full year:
Now consider that mathematically speaking for most people, one pound of body weight is generally represented by 3,500 calories, this 29,432 per year calorie differential is likely to convert to 8.4 pounds per year of weight gain, all other things being equal. Extend this thinking for 5 years, 10 years, or even longer, and you can see that something as simple as changing the kind of beer you drink (not the quantity), can have a massive impact over time.
Perhaps you are a workout fiend and your weight does not move. This was my wife’s problem. She was working out to allow herself to consume calories at a level that just maintained her weight. I knew this intuitively, but I had no way to communicate it to her, and I was certainly no example for her to follow, as I was gaining weight, while she was maintaining hers. At some point, whether you are working out or not, to lose weight, you must find a way to consume fewer calories than you are burning. Somehow, you must start living in a calorie deficit to lose weight. But that’s hard.
Most diets put you in a situation where you are operating at a calorie deficit, and consuming carbs and proteins in lieu of fats. Often, these diets have you avoiding too many foods that you really like or eating foods that either create cravings for themselves when consumed in low quantity or are contextually unsatisfying to eat. I have two favorite examples of the latter foods. The first is cereals like Go Lean. Heavy on proteins and carbs, low on fats, tastes like cardboard. The second are smoothies.
Often smoothies are heavy on everything, perhaps low on added sugars, but bananas, apples and other high carb fruits are popular, mixed with proteins like peanut butter, or others. The problem with smoothies is that they are supposed to be meal replacements, but they eliminate the basic mental triggering satisfaction that comes with chewing (oh, yeah, chewing burns calories too), so as a meal replacement, they fail. I see people having smoothies not as meal replacements, but as “snacks” between meals. High calorie, high protein, high carb, “snacks”, usually containing far more calories than they need.
Why is the Keto Diet different? Because it substantially reduces carbohydrates, while bulking up on fats, and to a lesser extent protein. Carbohydrates are quickly converted to sugars by your body and are then consumed. Meanwhile, your body is storing up fats and proteins for later use. If you are working out aggressively, the proteins generally go to muscle mass, but most people, unless they are serious body builders are consuming excess proteins, which the body stores as fat. The simplest example of this that I have found is to think of your body like a campfire.
When you build a campfire, if you are a purist, you start with a base of easily ignitable and fast burning elements like pine needles, straw, or dry grass. You may have brought some newspaper with you, or, if you are impatient, some lighter fluid. On top of these fast burning items, you layer heavier twigs, sticks and small branches. Progressively, you will add larger split logs that will burn a long time. In your stacking and layering technique, you will ensure room for plenty of airflow. When you light it, pay attention to the order of ignition. The first thing to burn is the lighter fluid, if used, next the paper, dried grass, pine needles and straw, followed by the progressively larger twigs and branches, and finally the larger logs will catch fire and burn all night. To make a hugely successful fire, once it is burning well, you will stop adding the quick burning items, rather, you will consistently add high quantities of large logs, organized in a way to ensure plenty of airflow. If you want bigger flames, you will use woods like pine that include high sap content and burn quickly. If you want lower flames but a longer steady burn time, you will use woods like oak or hickory.
How does this translate to your diet? Quite simple. Your body generally prefers to burn sugars and alcohols. They are easy and fast to burn, much like the lighter fluid, newspaper, and pine needles. Next to burn are the fats, think about the twigs and branches and the sap in a pine log. Finally, your body will burn protein. We want to avoid too much protein burn, as the proteins are usually turned into muscle mass, if we are eating and working out in the proper balance. Most of us aren’t, so all the excess consumption gets stored by our bodies as fat. Finally, don’t forget the airflow in the campfire example. That is proper exercise, to ensure clean and complete burn of the fuel you consume.
The Keto Diet (and the Vince Diet) work on two principles. First, your body creates hunger cravings, and that intense feeling of hunger you get in your stomach, because it is in a state of deprived sugars (carbohydrates or alcohols). Second, the hunger pains can be eliminated by teaching your body to burn fat, rather than carbohydrates or sugars. We can then introduce enough fat into our diet to put our bodies in a “fat burning mode” rather than its standard carb burning mode, and once in that mode, the body will burn the new fat we introduce through meals, and between meals will burn the fat that it stored up over the past many years.
Because we no longer feel hungry (from the sugar cycles that create hunger pangs), we can start to operate in a calorie deficit mode and burn our stored fat. In practice, for me, it started with changing my meal patterns.
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, cheese, salmon, vegetable accompaniments like sautéed veggies, sliced tomatoes, onions, capers. Eliminate toast, croissants, biscuits, cereals, orange juice, fruits. Drink black coffee with no sugar – in a future post, I will talk about putting butter in your coffee! Some berries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are ok, but in my research, I decided I’d rather save the carbs in those foods for a Michelob Ultra later in the day…. This concept led us to dub Michelob Ultra as the “Healthy VD Shake”.
Lunch: I mostly work from home, so often lunch is some combination of leftovers from last night’s dinner, or, it may be a salad, heavy on olive oil or full fat ranch dressing, lots of salad veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, celery, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, olives. Hold the carrots, I love them, but most root vegetables have lots of carbs, no croutons, no bread. Add some cheeses, maybe salami, sausage, pepperoni, and the like. Avoid pre-shredded cheese, often it has corn starch or other carbs added to keep it from clumping together. Be sure to check the labels and buy versions with no carbs. Its easy to get “lower” carb foods, but once you add them up, you are eliminating your ability to enjoy beer, wine, or liquor later in the evening. When you make salads, avoid low fat dressing, anything sweet, and balsamic vinegar dressing. All of these tend to have lots of sugars. Stick to full fat ranch, Caesar, Italian, or olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. I tend to crave olive oil as a dressing now. Quick fat burning high from olive oil and salt!
Dinner: Start with a Healthy VD Shake to take off the edge (Michelob Ultra, a glass of wine, or a liquor on the rocks). It’s hard to find good info on the calorie and carb content of wines, but I decided that on the VD, wine just doesn’t count. Kill off the other carbs and work on your general calorie deficit efforts, and wine, liquor, and Michelob Ultras all fall in the category of “Healthy VD Shakes”. Much like the lighter fluid we discussed in the campfire example, they burn quickly and are gone. They help reduce the hunger pangs, allowing you to eat smaller portions of your dinner. Our favorites for dinner include beef, pork, fish, shrimp, chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, bok choy, yellow squash, zucchini, spaghetti squash, and salads. Future blog posts will include recipes, combinations, and inspirations.
After about two months of this change, I had dropped some 15 pounds, and my wife questioned what I was doing. She had noticed the weight loss, mostly in my face. I explained the basics and said I thought that I could get back to a 30-inch waste. We had a cruise planned for later that summer, so she was motivated to drop some weight as well and decided to join me on the VD. The results added up quickly, and by the time we went on the cruise, we both had full new wardrobes. We committed ourselves to ensuring that the gains became permanent by donating our “large” clothes to charity every time we bought something new.
Stay tuned and join us for a journey into a healthy and fun lifestyle that is easy to maintain, a bit irreverent, but highly successful.