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Our guest today is the founder and CEO of Steviva Brands – one of the largest importers, manufacturers and distributors of natural sweeteners. He is a self-described biohacker, and he’s made his life work trying to figure out ways to get people off of sugar. Today we’re going to talk about his book, Guy Gone Keto, and his journey from finding himself a busy executive who was not taking care of himself to being as healthy as he can be. I know you’re going to enjoy this conversation, so with no further ado, here’s Thom King.
Allan (1:15): Thom, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Thom King (1:21): Thanks, Allan. I appreciate you having me on your show. It’s truly an honor. So thank you.
Allan (1:28): So, the book today we’re going to talk about is Guy Gone Keto, and I really enjoyed the book from the perspective of your story and how it really did in a sense parallel mine, although I think you fast-tracked a lot better than I did in getting from the decision point to actually making things happen. Mine took nearly eight years; yours took slightly over a year. But we both were sitting in what I would call a very miserable state and we were frustrated with that, and we made a decision that we were going to change that. I happened to be in Puerto Vallarta when I did mine; you happened to be in Las Vegas. Would you mind sharing your story about that and how that frustration then led to your change?
Thom King (2:19): It was definitely frustration, but I think that the biggest part was just being disappointed in myself and feeling like I had poor integrity. I run a food ingredient company and we cater to ketogenic products and sports nutrition, and I was exceptionally unhealthy. My blood pressure was 199 over 99 and I was 35 pounds heavier than I am now. I was drinking a bottle of wine every night and eating bread and cookies and all sorts of garbage. I think I bottomed out when I was in Las Vegas. I was there for a trade show. I went to dinner with a client and way overate, had a couple of glasses of wine, came back to the room. The room that I stayed in smelt like stale booze and regret. And I found myself waking up the next morning, not feeling really great and looking in the mirror and seeing really how fat I was and how disgusted I was with myself. And at that point, I think that the pain of being out of integrity and the pain of my sloth and overweightness exceeded the pleasure that I was deriving from drinking too much wine and eating too many sweets and carbohydrates. So at that point I just told myself, “This is the end. I’m going to be making a major shift in my lifestyle.” That’s when I got on board with leading a ketogenic lifestyle from that point forward.
Allan (4:10): Okay. And I like the way that you approach that. It’s a unique way to approach it, where you’re talking about the pain of failure is greater than the value you’re getting from the activities you’re doing. I’ll be honest with everyone here – when I go to a tailgate, I drink the beer and I hang out. I typically try to get a higher quality beer, but I drink the beer nonetheless and know that I’m not going to feel so great. But the social interaction in those events – I actually do feel they are valuable enough to me at this point in my life that I don’t want to forego those. So I go through what I call my “feasting period”, where I back away from keto a little bit. I’m really interested in your thought patterns around using pain as a leverage tool to get something going, to basically make you change something in your life.
Thom King (5:11): For me, pain is the great teacher. I don’t avoid pain. I probably seek it out more than I avoid it. I think that human beings are driven by two things. I think they’re driven by the avoidance of pain and they are driven by seeking pleasure. If you’re seeking pleasure and the pleasure that you’re seeking is drinking too much, eating too much, whatever habit you’ve got – if you’re able to really attach pain to that, like when you take a look at, “Is eating this donut going to be painful or is it going to be enjoyable?” It’ll be enjoyable for that first few minutes, but if you really are mindful and present in what you’re doing, you can take a good look at what eating the donut really means. It’s going to raise your blood sugar level, it’s going to contribute to metabolic disease. It’s also going to lead to lower self-esteem, because are you going to really feel good about yourself after you eat the donut? If you start associating so much pain with something that you’re deriving pleasure from, once the pain exceeds the pleasure, you’ll be able to break that habit.
Allan (6:41): I liked your example of a donut, because I don’t have the same draw to a donut, and I know the reward is not worth the pain. For me the time with family and friends, and the socializing aspects of all of it, and not being that guy that’s not having the beer – to me is a little different. But I get that, particularly if you’re in a bad state and if you’re looking to improve yourself. It’s a very stoic kind of approach to thinking about how to solve that problem.
Thom King (7:12): Yeah, and I do derive a lot of that from stoicism. One of my daily practices is to read from The Daily Stoic, and I do leverage that quite a bit. So, being able to find answers in pain and in situations that are challenging – that’s part of my routine.
Allan (7:39): I have a copy of that book sitting on my desk right here, along with your book. Now, in the book Guy Gone Keto, you have your first steps. I really liked your approach to this. I really liked how you lay this out, that these are the things that need to be going through your mind, this is what you need to be doing to get this whole process going. In the case of the book, we’re talking about getting ourselves into ketosis, but I think this really applies to anytime you want to address a health or fitness issue.
Thom King (8:14): Definitely. Anything that you do want to achieve – it’s being able to set the goal. I think it is creating the intention and really being able to outline the outcome you’re looking for. And then on top of that, using a lot of data collection so you can see where you started and where you’re going. If you can see progress and you’re starting to see yourself getting closer to the outcome that you’re looking for, those are the best first steps that you can take.
Allan (8:52): There was another thing you had in here that I liked, and this is really something that’s hard for people to wrap their minds around when they want to lose weight. They want that 35 pounds or 55 pounds gone tomorrow. And I can say from my start to finish of when I really got committed and started doing the right things, it started with the Paleo, found myself naturally in ketosis, started reading on what ketosis is and then really bear down on that. But this was not something that just happened in a day or a week, or even a month. It took me nearly 11 months to really drop that kind of weight. So it was a slow progression – a few plateaus, but just a slow progression. I like how in the book you explain to us why going slow is important.
Thom King (9:43): I think that if people are looking to lose weight fast, that’s more of a diet situation. I also think that’s pretty unhealthy, because I think that if you adopt a diet, you’re going to get yo-yo weight. So you’re going to be on the diet, you’re going to lose the weight, then you’re going to go off the diet, you’re going to gain the weight back, and maybe a little bit more. So that’s the big difference. There’s a difference between diet and adopting a particular lifestyle. I think that if you adopt the particular lifestyle, it becomes more about the process than the outcome. You can definitely define the outcome – say, “I want to lose 35 pounds”, but the process is what you do every day to get there. And I would say don’t be in a hurry, don’t lose the weight too fast. Lose it a pound at a time, because if you lose a whole bunch of weight really fast, you’re going to be dealing with other issues like loose, saggy skin, and also it’s very taxing on your liver. So take your time and immerse yourself in the process, and then naturally the outcome will manifest itself.
Allan (11:06): Cool. Now, I do want to get into a little bit of discussion about ketosis. One of the things that you also had in your first steps was to avoid the high glycemic foods, because those are definitely not going to allow us to be in ketosis, but they’re also the items that are going to spike our blood sugar and get us to a point where we’re not able to lose weight or keep ourselves from potentially gaining weight.
Thom King (11:38): The shift from getting into ketosis is your body actually shifting from burning glucose as a form of energy to burning fat as a source of energy. So the ketogenic lifestyle or ketogenic diet basically is 70% fat, 20% proteins, and 10% vegetables. And these vegetables are going to be green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Basically if it grows underground, meaning a potato or a carrot or something like that, those are going to tend to be more on the high-glycemic end. So you’ve got this pretty big option of food that you can eat.
Allan (12:26): Yeah. When we start talking about these types of macros, it’s easy to think that you’re in that macro range, but if you’re really not paying attention to what you’re eating, you can easily slide one way or the other and not get the benefits that you’re after. This leads me to the next area I want to talk about, which is journaling. I’ve had clients that were on the calls or with me and they’re saying, “Allan, I just don’t understand it. I’m eating really, really well and I don’t understand why I’m not losing the weight. I’m doing the exercises, I’m eating well. Everything is going great.” I’m like, “Get yourself a notebook and start a journal.”
Thom King (13:12): 100%. That’s the data collection part of your journey. Definitely go out, buy yourself a journal and start doing data collection. Do data collection on how much you weigh, what your ketones are, what your blood sugar level is. This is a process, and the more data collection you do and the more you journal, the more you’re going to find the areas where you can make improvements. If you’re writing down everything that you ate in a day and you think, “I’m eating 2,000 calories a day. I’m probably burning 2,200 calories a day, so I’m at a 200-calorie deficit” – that might not be true at all, because particularly when you’re eating keto, a lot of the stuff that you’re eating is going to be high fat, and when it’s high fat, it means it’s high calories. So, you might have some almonds in the palm of your hand – it might be 5 to 10 almonds – you’re looking at about 200 calories there. So when you start writing these things down and understanding where the holes are, you can really plug the dike.
Allan (14:24): One almond is basically 16 calories, so if you’re off by one almond, that could be potentially 10 pounds of weight gain in a year. It’s not that you have to be exact, because calories are not really ever exact, or their estimates anyway, but you go three weeks and track what you’ve eaten, the volumes you’ve eaten, and you really pay attention to those numbers – you’re going to get to a point where you understand 2,000 calories is maybe a little too much, or maybe you need 2,500 because you’re losing weight a little too fast. So, taking the time to write those things down, and even to go further than just the data collection is, how do you feel when you wake up? What’s your energy level throughout the day? Do you find yourself needing to take a nap at 2:00 in the afternoon? How much coffee are you drinking now? Are you getting your electrolytes? Are you getting enough salt and enough water? There’s so much that a journal will allow you to collect and understand about yourself, to include your mood and your stress. I press it on with my clients all the time, that I do think a journal is a great tool for anyone that’s looking to make a change or at least understand why they are where they are.
Thom King (15:39): Absolutely. I don’t just use my journal for tracking macros and my behavior, but I also use my journal to set the stage for my day. I do write down what are the things that I’m most grateful for today, and what am I going to do today to make this day great and excellent? And then I just end it with an affirmation of, “With every breath I take in, I attract and create abundance and health and wellness in my life. And with each exhale I lovingly release any and all self-limiting beliefs that no longer serve me.” Combining that with breathing exercises, I found that journaling is something that I must do every day.
Allan (16:32): Yes, and I’m doing it. I wish I were better at doing it all the time, but that’s one of those practices that I really struggle with. But when I’m doing it, I feel so much better organized, I feel so much more complete and like I have everything together with my relationships, my food, my sleep, with all of it. So I do think it’s a great practice to understand what’s going on, to have a path forward and to be always affecting change. So if you’re someone that’s in the continuous improvement model with your life, a journal is a must have.
Thom King (17:14): Absolutely. It’s a daily event for me.
Allan (17:19): We talked a little bit about calories, and for a lot of folks, they’ll say, “They’re telling me I’ve got to cut the sugars and I’ve got to cut calories.” But as we call it down in the South – they love their Coke, which down here “Coke” just means any soda. So you come down here and you want to order a soft drink, you just ask for a Coke, and then they’ll ask you what flavor. You have to repeat yourself and say, “Coke, just a regular Coke.” And you’ll wonder why you had to repeat yourself – because “Coke” is just our word for soda, or a soft drink, or pop or whatever you want to call it. So they’ll say, “That’s one of the easy cuts. Immediately I’m going to give up my pop, my soda, my Coke, and I’m going to move over to this diet soda, because the diet soda has zero calories. So it’s the perfect drink because it tastes almost like the regular thing. And once I get used to it it’ll be fine. And it has no calories.” So they go into this mindset of, “This is the diet drink. This is what I need.” And they’ll say “diet” or “light” – “This is what I need to drink.” Can you tell us why that’s not necessarily the best path to health?
Thom King (18:30): I do a lot of experiments on myself. I would consider myself a bit of a biohacker. So, I was drinking a lot of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, thinking that it’s going to help me maintain good blood sugar levels, it’ll keep me in ketosis. But what I found is that if I was drinking diet soda at night, when I wake up the next morning, my blood sugar level would be elevated, and I was having a hard time getting myself into deep nutritional ketosis. So, I just conducted a little bit of an experiment and I also talked to a couple of PhDs about what’s potentially going on with diet soda. I’ve tested blood sugar before, blood sugar after, same with ketones. And I found that diet soda that contains aspartame or sucralose, which is Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi – that those will actually elevate my blood sugar levels and they will slightly decrease the amount of ketone bodies. And when I talked to a couple of doctors about it, what came up for them is that your body doesn’t recognize these manmade chemicals. It recognizes that it’s sweet, but it doesn’t recognize them because we don’t have the receptors for them. With Stevia or monk fruit, with natural high intensity sweeteners, our body recognizes it because we’ve got the receptors to recognize it, so it says, “This is Stevia, or this is monk fruit. This tastes sweet, but it’s not impacting blood sugar levels at all. This is how we’ll metabolize it.” But with aspartame and sucralose, your brain doesn’t recognize it. We don’t have receptors for it, which means that your body is basically going to function like you just had sugar, and the only benefit that you could get from chemically-sweetened soft drinks is the calorie abatement, but you’re still going to get a rise in your blood sugar level and you’re still going to get your ketone levels to drop, because your body doesn’t know what it is.
Allan (20:46): So, even though it’s not sugar and even though it’s zero calorie, it’s doing a sugar-like thing to you. Or maybe not exactly like sugar, but it’s changing your metabolism by causing your insulin and sugar responses to kind of go out of whack.
Thom King (21:05): Absolutely. And I’ve done this experiment several times. Occasionally, I’ll indulge myself with a Diet Coke – I love Diet Coke – but I do so with the knowledge that it is going to probably take me out of ketosis and it is probably going to raise my blood sugar levels a little bit. The fact that it doesn’t have any calories is a plus, but when you’re leading a ketogenic lifestyle, the goal is to keep yourself above, say, 0.6 to 1.5 millimoles of ketone bodies. So, there’s going to be a cost to it. But there are plenty of good replacements out there, like Zevia. Zevia is a soft drink that’s made with Stevia and it’s actually really good. If I’m going to indulge with a diet soft drink, I will certainly go with something that’s naturally sweetened over something that’s artificially sweetened.
Allan (22:09): When I moved away from Diet Coke, I was definitely an addict. Getting away from it was painful. So it’s not easy, but I did replace that with the green teas and coffee and things like that. There are now some products that are Stevia-based that are really good, if you want to continue the Cola route. There’s also tea and coffee, or good old water.
Thom King (22:37): When you’re on a ketogenic diet, drinking plenty of water is really important. You want to keep your body definitely hydrated, so your kidneys aren’t working overtime.
Allan (22:50): That is a big, big thing that a lot of folks struggle with ketosis. They get what they think is hunger, and the reality of it is either they’re not getting enough water or they’re not getting enough electrolytes. Once they figure that out for themselves, they’re so much better off and they have so much more energy.
Thom King (23:10): Absolutely, and that is key. I do keep little packets of electrolytes, and I have an app on my phone that reminds me to drink water every hour.
Allan (23:20): And then there is your journal, so full circle.
Thom King (23:24): It’s true. I hold myself accountable.
Allan (23:27): Good deal. Thom, if someone wanted to get to know you, get to know more about Guy Gone Keto and all the other things you’re doing, because you’ve got a lot going on – where would you like for me to send them?
Thom King (23:43): You can find me on any and all socials under Guy Gone Keto. You could also find me personally on all of the socials, and that’s Thom King PDX, as in Portland. My personal website is ThomKing.com. And my company is Steviva Brands, and you can go to Steviva.com. Yeah, any of the socials, and feel free to reach out, direct message me. I’m available to answer anybody’s questions.
Allan (24:25): I will have all of those links and all those social media outputs available in the show notes. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/328 and find all of those links there. Thom, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Thom King (24:41): Allan, it was an absolute pleasure. It was an honor to be on your podcast.
Allan (24:47): Thank you.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Thom. I know I did. The similarities in some of our storylines and the things that we went through were very, very interesting. And it’s also interesting that both of us found keto as a way to address our issues. It turns out July for me is becoming this month of book editing. It’s not fun; I don’t really enjoy the process of doing the editing of something that I wrote or said. And as I go through it, it’s a struggle, but I’m seeing the book come to life and that’s really, really exciting. I’m calling the book The Wellness Roadmap. I’m going to start putting together a page for that real soon. It’ll probably be at WellnessRoadmap.net. If you go out there right now, you probably won’t find too much, but I am putting that together and it’s just really exciting to see a book come together. We’re working through cover art and we’re talking about layout, and we’re, of course, dealing with pages and pages of text.
But it got me to thinking, there are certain things that are true in life. If you want something, it’s not always a direct path. You can’t necessarily be a better human, can’t do the things you always want to do just by doing them. I like playing volleyball, but I know that I’m not going to be as good a volleyball player if I don’t put in the time to do other things – some of the things that we don’t like, like sweating or lifting weights or when the weather doesn’t let us get outside, doing our runs on a treadmill. There are going to be those times when there are things that we don’t enjoy, that we should still do to improve our health.
One of the caveats out there, “What’s the best exercise?”, and the answer that’s typically given is, “The one you’ll do.” I completely, wholeheartedly agree with that. When we were looking at cover art, there was one with the couple being relatively athletic on the page, I said that people might not like that. They might not like that you have to do workouts to get the things you want. And you don’t “have to”, but if you want optimal health, if you want true wellness, then sometimes you are going to probably have to do a few things that you don’t enjoy. I want you to think about those things from the perspective of why you’re trying to get where you’re trying to get, and it does make those things just a little more tolerable. So, do the things you don’t want to do when it’s getting you to a place where you want to be – that’s the short story of all that. So, I’m going to be spending a lot of time editing a book, even though it’s not the funnest thing for me. I am very excited about what it’s going to do when I’m done.
Also, this week I’m getting on a plane to New London, Connecticut. Actually flying into Boston, and I think it’s about a 2.5-hour drive from there. Then I’m going to go to New London, Connecticut – 20th to the 22nd I’ll be there. If you’re in the area, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll be glad to catch a coffee or a drink with you. Let’s have a good time, let’s get to know each other. I really like talking to people that have heard the podcast and get your advice on some things that I can do better as a podcaster and as a coach.
And I’ll talk about coaching. I mentioned this last week – I’m looking for clients, I want to help you do this. If you’re looking for a coach, you think you might get some value from a coach – let’s talk about it. I know a lot of this is you go online, you see a forum, you see a page. I’m not a pressure salesman. I’m not going to say, “Do this or else.” I see a lot of that. I see a lot of, “Lose 20 pounds in three weeks and…” And that’s great – you can lose 20 pounds in three weeks. It’s completely possible. It’s not healthy and it’s not going to make you well. It’s going to make you thinner, but it’s not necessarily going to make you well.
I, as a coach, try to empower my clients. I try to teach my clients and I help my clients, and as a result they get well. And that’s what I want for you. So if you’re on the fence, you think this is something that might be good for you, you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com – I’ve got some information there. I can tell you about all the programs I have if you want to know. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Talk, and that’s going to take you to a calendar link, where you can actually book a 15-minute block of time and we can just talk. We can talk through whatever issues you’re dealing with, whatever your health concerns are, whatever your fitness goals are. We can talk through what they are and make a decision if coaching is right for you. It’s not right for everybody, but I can tell you having someone there to keep you accountable, someone there coaching you, teaching you, empowering you to take your fitness journey, your health journey, your wellness journey to the next level – I think there’s a lot of value there that you might be missing out on. So I’d encourage you to go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Talk and learn more today. Thank you. Next time on the 40+ Fitness podcast, we meet Dr. Joel Kahn and discuss his book, The Plant-Based Solution. Until then, have a happy and healthy week.