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Real Results: Austin from Singapore

Time for another installment of Real Results from readers. Austin is an international reader, from Singapore. That's another very rewarding aspect of this blog that would not have been possible prior to the Internet. Here's Austin's report and photos

I've been a reader of Free the Animal for over 6 months now, and enjoy it tremendously. I'll keep my story short. For the last 10 years, my weight has been hovering between 85 to 92kg, until concern over my long term health (my mother's family has a history of diabetes and hypertension) finally led me to to do something about my weight and eating habits in June of 2009. I'm currently 34 years old by the way.

Austin Before
Austin Before

Google searches led me to Gary Taube's Good Calories Bad Calories, and blogs like Mark Sisson's Mark's Daily Apple, and Free the Animal. I applied what I learned, and slowly but steadily dropped nearly 20kg. My current weight is 70kg, and I went from size 34 jeans to size 30 jeans. The best thing is, I never, ever, felt hungry or deprived. I eat mostly real food,in the form of meat, vegetables & eggs, do IF occasionally, but I do eat a moderate amount of white rice daily. What can I say, I'm Chinese! A blood test done in December 2009 revealed these figures:

TRIG: 39
HDL: 55
LDL: 94

Fasting blood glucose was also in the healthy range.

As you can imagine, I was a very happy man when I read the report. Thanks Richard, for providing lots of useful information and entertainment throughout this process. I have to say It's a lot easier to identify with someone who is not a young stud and/or a former or current elite sportsman. I can't even begin to describe how my quality of life has improved since I made the change. Higher energy levels and no more dozing off in the office after lunch are just some of the things that come to mind. I'm in this for the long haul, and plan to continue to make progress in both health and body composition. As far as I'm concerned, there is always plenty of room for improvement.

And now, here's the amazing and impressive progress.

Austin After
Austin After

A hearty congratulations to Austin for a job very well done. I'm am honored to have played a role. This is what it's really all about folks, not the looming dietary purity raising its ugly head with increasing frequency in the Paleosphere as Paleo becomes increasingly popular. 

Update: In comments, Austin posted a link to another before picture, from 2006. With that comparison, the body recomposition is even more dramatic. Here, I've cropped down the image:

Austin in 2006
Austin in 2006

Comments

  1. Lovely last sentence!

  2. Congratulations, Austin!

  3. Of course, no one ever said fat-loss can’t happen on a non-paleo diet.
    I especially like Austin’s statement:
    “As far as I’m concerned, there is always plenty of room for improvement.”
    Good on him for his current progress, great attitude and for adopting some of the paleo principles.
    I also appreciate the fact that he didn’t describe himself as “paleo”.
    Those who reject a more accurate definition of paleo yet claim the paleo label are a curious bunch.
    Astronauts might drink Tang, but that doesn’t mean I can drink Tang and then run around telling everyone I’m an astronaut. Well, I can do it, but it would be wrong-headed.

  4. Awesome post and great results!

    I’ve eaten rice on and off since doing paleo. It doesn’t seem to harm me, but I eat it sparingly now using it only to taste rather than as a staple, because I found it displaced more nutritious foods. One of my favorite dishes remains a bowl of rice with fatty pork belly, spicy sriracha, nori, and a poached egg.

    “Those who reject a more accurate definition of paleo yet claim the paleo label are a curious bunch.”

    Yeah, maybe some of us occasionally like to eat foods that aren’t awesome, but aren’t harmful either. OMG HERETICS.

    Sorry, paleo is an eating philosophy, not a religion. I’d prefer to use another word for it now it has been co-opted by psycho purists, but paleo is much easier than “evolutionary eating.”

    • That sounds delicious Melissa! I love such rice dishes myself, for example the Korean bibimbap, which is basically vegetables, beef or chicken, and an egg on a bed of rice, with some sort of kimchi sauce.

      • There’s no kimchi in the red pepper paste added to a bowl of bibimbap, a favorite dish of mine. Authentic Korean bibimbap always includes an egg, sometimes beef, but never chicken. I never liked rice much anyway, only ate it to mop up spices. Now I make bibimbap without the bap.

  5. That’s right, paleo is a philosophy, not religion, but words mean things, and the misuse of words suggests either a poor understanding or a perverse use of intellect (example: trying to piggyback on the apron strings of a popular philosophy, like paleo, when one’s philosophy doesn’t fit the definition). Let’s hope that it is just poor understanding in this case.

    • The ironic thing is that it is the bombastic and self-righteous pricks like James that will end up doing the most damage.

      Paleo righteous labeling does verge on religion. In fact, it reminds me another religion, veganism. They also spend endless time and computer bits debating purity. Is eating oysters murder? etc.

      The linchpin of the vegan religion is animal welfare and the environment, with paleo religionists it seems to be whether a food was consumed in our magical golden age and the anti nutrients thing.

      To quote Don Wiss:
      “The way you and I define paleo is what could be called orthodox. I don’t want to see the term diluted.”

      It is no coincidence that he uses a religious term. I suppose it is inevitable, there are always people who have this type of mindset, but it is a shame nonetheless.

      Sorry Austin, to get off topic. You look totally bad-ass.

      • To put it another way, what would be worse, paleo getting “diluted” or paleo turning into the Hezbollah of the low-carb movement? In my opinion, the latter. When it stops being a philosophy for health and turns into some sort of badge of honor, that’s when it is screwed. Also, when people start getting hung up on terms and we see all these definitions based on gradations of purity like the vegetarian/vegan movement, that’s a bad sign.

      • Sean:

        I’ll probably post about what I’m going to call “Shiite Paleo” soon.

      • Looking forward to it, but I like “Hezbollah Paleo” ;)

      • You know it starts with angry blog comments, but soon accelerates into strapping 10 lbs of dynamite to the chest (which is totally ripped, BTW at 2% body fat ’cause I follow the true Paleo way) and blowing up bakeries whilst shouting, “Death to the carbophiles!”

      • The point is, Sean, is that words mean things. The point is NOT that I NEVER consume rice or potatoes because they’re not “paleo”. I do, in fact, eat those foods on occasion. But just because one adopts a paleo diet or lifestyle doesn’t mean everything they do can now be described as “paleo”.
        I’ll give you an example that I think will at least make sense to Richard:
        Neocons labeling themselves conservatives. By using the word “conservative” to describe themselves they were able to fool real conservatives into voting for them, and so now, the word “conservative” means nothing in the world of politics. Today, there’s only one member of congress who’s a real conservative, yet all the Republicans in congress wear the conservative label, even though their rhetoric and voting record tells a strikingly different story.
        Diluting the meaning of words inhibits honest and effective communication.

      • You’ll excuse me if I’m a bit skeptical that someone who writes:

        ‘Right Sue, but David knows that was a typo and even you can see that if you read the whole post but thanks for your contribution to the conversation.’

        is in a noble pursuit of “honest and effective communication.” I’ve been married for 15 years and have never found derision and sarcasm helpful in honest and effective communication. Of course your mileage may vary.

        I think politics is an excellent example. Diet philosophies, like political designations, are not simply or scientifically defined. There is a continuous spectrum of opinions from far right to far left, and in the diet continuum from raw vegan to paleolithic re-enactor.

        Paleo is not a scientific term like mass or inertia, neither are political labels such as conservative or liberal. That you think there is some sort of obvious delineation between neocons and conservatives is rather telling. Not only do you want to strictly define paleo, you want to strictly define conservatism!

      • Oh, you’re right, I’m sorry.
        Everybody’s paleo.
        Paleo, paleo, paleo.
        After all, we can’t leave anyone out, it might hurt their self esteem.
        Do you eat lot’s of pasta? Yes? You’re paleo.
        Are grains a staple in your diet? Yes? You’re paleo too!
        Doritos for breakfast? PALEO!!!
        Sean, your drivel is…drivel.

      • There’s nothing wrong with proper terminology. I embrace that wholeheartedly. My definition of paleo is Kurt Harris’s 12th step. I think that is most people’s definition actually. Kurt adds heavy cream to his diet so he is not strict paleo by his own definition.

        There are two problems with getting hung up on terminology.

        1. 90 percent of North Americans eat SAD, and the other 8 percent are probably some sort of vegetarian(these are just guesses to make a point so don’t go all stat nazi). We don’t really need self-appointed paleo cops hung up on rigidly defining what the other 2 percent are striving for.

        2. Paleo absolutely cannot be rigidly defined. Unless we can build a time machine, go back and observe paleolithic ancestors firsthand, taking blood samples, etc, it isn’t even close to possible. And that’s ok, because it doesn’t need to be rigidly defined. In physics, things are rigidly defined with mathematics. In fact, one can’t even do physics without mathematics. People talk about velocity in everyday life, but in physics, velocity is a vector and is defined as the first derivative of position. Does that mean I need to correct everyone who thinks the speedometer of their car measures velocity (it measures speed which is a scalar)? Naw, I’ll correct my son, but otherwise I’m gonna let that one go.

        The world is full of things which can’t and probably shouldn’t be rigidly defined. I’m a libertarian, for instance, but I don’t buy into the idea that monopolies are impossible in a free market unless they operate in a maximally efficient manner. Does this mean I’m not a libertarian? No, it just means I’m something of a moderate libertarian. There’s few enough libertarians that we don’t need to beat each other up over the little things.
        Same goes for paleo.

    • I agree that words mean things, but just because you wander off your path to go look at a pretty birdie doesn’t mean you’re not going in the same general direction–eventually the birdie’s gonna fly away and you’ll backtrack to the main road and continue on your journey.

      If 90 percent of Melissa’s diet was rice and she called it paleo, I’d be right there howling with you.

      That’s not the case.

      And I am one of the biggest “words mean things” types around. I’ve pissed people off holding forth in that vein. But once in a while you just want a break.

  6. Perhaps this timeline I drew-up can help those who are taking a slipshod approach defining the “paleo diet”.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/21140024@N02/4532141363/

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone. Much appreciated. I did cut out white rice initially for the first two months or so but decided that long term compliance was going to be a problem down the road. I wanted to do something that will be sustainable without having to resort to extremes like becoming a social outcast or eating from tupperware containers all the time. So I added the rice back into the diet and it hasn’t hurt my progress. I think the biggest difference was made minimising the consumption of sugar and other refined carbs via heavily processed foods, which regulated my appetite. I still eat the occasional dessert though. Unfortunately(or fortunately), it no longer makes any sense for me to visit expensive buffet restaurants because I get full after the first plate!!

    I totally forgot to mention my exercise routine, partly because it takes up so little of my time. 2 to 3 workouts a week lasting 15 minutes per session. I do pushups, burpees, and basic dumbell exercises for a simple full body workout. I use a single 10kg dumbell. I also take the occasional long nature walk.

    • Fantastic results. How long did it take you to lose the weight?

      • I lost the first 10kg fairly quickly, in about 2 months. The rest was lost slowly over a period of about 6 months. Definitely not a biggest loser type weight-loss schedule!!

      • Probably the best way for it to stay off unlike a lot of the biggest loser contestants.

      • Definitely. No way I can survive on a low calorie diet coupled with hours of exercise on a daily basis.

        And on hindsight, I should have used this truly terrifying photo of me taken in 2006 as the before picture. I look at it and think: What the hell was I doing all those years???

        http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/3065/beforeomg2006.jpg

      • You may regard yourself as looking “terrifying” relative to other mostly slender Singaporeans, but in the US, you’d easily pass for normal weight. It’s troubling how our perceptions have changed over the past thirty years.

      • Asians are catching up, slowly but surely!

      • Oh, Asians have always had health issues, at least for as long as y’all have been modernized, that the American press just ignores. Like, there was this study after World War II comparing the arteries in both Japanese and American (presumably white American?) cadavers… guess what? The rate of hardening of the arteries was roughly the same.

        I used to be friends with a Japanese-American with grandparents and extended family back on the island, who told me that lots of Japanese get diabetes even though they’re not what we’d term excessively fat here.

        And yet we tell ourselves over here that Asians are so much healthier than we are, and try to emulate their diet. I knew someone who adopted a macrobiotic diet because she was suffering late-stage breast cancer. Don’t think I need to tell anybody here what happened. The cancer loved the extra sugar shots. But people eat that way because supposedly “Asians do it” and therefore it’s “healthy.”

        Kinda sad…

  8. Oh, and my total carb intake per day is about 100g or less. I went as low as 30g to 50g but found that I function a lot better on about 100g.

  9. Hats off to the Qi Gong!

  10. Amazing. Bravo and congratulations on your success. It’s so encouraging to see health and vitality without contrivance and rhetoric. Just eat real food indeed.

  11. Susan in Spokane says:

    It so helps to see these before and after pictures. They help to keep me motivated and help bring my goals back into focus when I occasionally begin to relax and let my guard down, especially when enjoying traditional family gatherings.

    Awesome results Austin. Thanks for the reminder that it is never too late to make improvements to your life, diet or otherwise.

    Sue

    • Garth Whelan says:

      Love the site. I have always wondered that even though genetically we are close to our ancestors, we were raised on purple drink, and that this might have an even greater effect on our progress than any genetic adaptions to dairy or wheat. These results show that my doubts are unfounded, and anyone can use this diet.

    • I know what you mean. I had a lot of help from the before and after pictures from Richard and the readers on this site too!

  12. Sounds like he enjoyed a good quality of life, which is to me is what its all about. Living better is more important than just living longer!

  13. Austin could lose the Matrix dark glasses but he’s looking pretty good. He doesn’t mention if he’s enjoying any wine or other spirits. My guess is no.

    • Yes, they look kinda dorky on hindsight lol but are great for my outdoor activities. Usually I wear rayban aviators.

      Actually I love my guiness(draft only!), german beers and single malt. Not more than once or twice a month though.

  14. TrailGrrl says:

    Nah…. I LIKE the dark glasses. Sort of a John Woo bada$$ feel. Holy sh!T Austin, you look great!

    Now I won’t feel so bad about a few forkfuls of steamed rice with my Thai food at lunch.

    How do you get a guy who doesn’t want to eat right or work out but wants to lose weight to do what needs to be done to get results???? I think his knowledgebase is antiquated… the most he will do is get fries plain without the seasoning stuff that they seem to put on them everywhere thinking that will get him off of blood pressure meds or on a lower dose, and hop on the stationary bike 3-4 times a week. I thought maybe since I lost a lot of weight he would, you know, like ask me what to do…

    TrailGrrl

    • All you can do is to point him in the right direction and supply him with the information. Whether he takes any action is entirely up to him. My own parents were trying to get me to lose weight for years but I only started dropping the weight when I made my own decision to get started! In my case I started to worry about the possibility of diabetes and hypertension so that got me started. I have to admit that now vanity plays a part too LOL. Good luck!

      • It’s not vanity Austin, at least in the irrationally self absorbed sense.

        I’d call it realization of rational and healthy pride. And I’d call it fantastic.

        I was happy for you but in seeing that ’06 photo you posted, now I’m ecstatic. One of the beat transformations ever. I’m surprised you kept it under wraps for so long.

  15. Thanks Richard.

    Well, part of me was afraid that I’d fall off the wagon. I wanted to be absolutely sure that I can maintain this. I was thinking of contacting you after I received my blood test results in December but decided to keep at it for a while more. That turned out to be a good thing because I dropped another 3 kg after trying out IF (with the 8 hour feeding window) since January.

  16. Really good stuff Austin and it is cool that you did it with some rice in the diet. Not because I am against low carb but just because it shows people that weight loss can be made and sustained while eating some startch. In fact I find eating 100-150g of carbs a day feels much better when some of it comes from brown rice or tubers, rather than strictly fruit…….

    • gallier2 says:

      100-150g is in the normal range of the “classical” low-carb plans. Be it Lutz or Atkins, on the maintaining phase (the part noone ever read ;-) ) it’s the appropriate quantity. We should not forget that a standard diet (I will not call it SAD because Lutz certainly didn’t refer specifically to Americans), carbs are way over 200g/day . It’s only the purists who insist on 0 carbs and there’s little evidence that no carb is better than low carb.

  17. Wow, Austin you look fantastic! Sounds like you feel great as well. I love to read the “Real Results” and it really keeps me going. I’ve been following the blog for a few months, cut out the SAD and am eating lots of pastured butter & yogurt, and grassfed meat when I can, regular ‘ol store meat when I can’t. I’m fortunate to have local farms nearby (and farmer’s markets) and hopefully can buy a 1/4 or 1/2 steer soon. I have vegetables, occasional potatoes and maybe a litle rice, and I struggle with dessert some days. Is it Paleo? I don’t know, but I’ve lost 6 – 7 lbs and am excited to get my next blood work to see what changes have happened there. I’ve learned more about “real” nutrition and health from the sources here, and I’m very grateful for the blog and those who comment with their insights. Call it what you will – call me a very satisfied reader continuing the path.

  18. Neil Fraser-Smith says:

    Hi Austin, well done, you look great. Can you tell us a bit more about the 10kg dumbbell exercises or perhaps a link to where you got your information. 15 minutes 2-3 times a week seems to have had amazing results. I just went out and bought my 10kg dumbbell ($39.95), man that sucker is heavy, I almost got a hernia lifting it out of the car (just kidding) would appreciate any advice.

    • Hi Neil, I just do the basic bodybuilding type exercises with the dumbells:

      3 x 10 reps dumbell rows
      3 x 10 reps dumbell triceps extensions
      3 x 10 reps dumbell curls
      3 x 10 reps dumbell shoulder presses

      in addition to pushups, burpees, squats(bodyweight only) and long walks.

      I was thinking of getting more weights for the dumbell, but decided that if I want to go heavier I should be hauling my ass to a real gym. But since I don’t really care for the bodybuilder look, I’ll be keeping the status quo for the time being lol.

      • Neil Fraser-Smith says:

        Thanks Austin,
        I think it’s too late, you already have the bodybuilder look.

      • Surely you kid! I don’t like looking skinny either. I figure my current build is a good compromise/balance between skinny and bulky.

      • You look great. Rusty over at fitnessblackbook.com says something about just going with your body type (sorry I’m to lazy to find the exact quote). He puts it in terms of actors, if you have a Brad Pitt type of body then don’t try for the size of a Hugh Jackman, and if vice versa, you probably shouldn’t try to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club.

        I’m tall and fairly thin (well working on the thin part!) and always used to lift for size back in my 20s instead of just rolling with my body type. Nowadays I workout for health and I’ve come to realize that women aren’t so impressed with the macho pumped up look I so envied in high school (it was the 80s, and Schwarzzeneger et al were cooler than Van Damme).

        We all have our different body types and they all look great once we strip away the fat. Someone with a lean body type will waste a lot of time and effort and end up looking a bit odd trying to bulk up, and vice versa.

      • “we all have our different body types”
        Make a list of 10 ‘conventional wisdom’ statements about health, etc…and I’ll show you a list of 10 statements of…bullshit.
        Never underestimate the profound effect emotional ties to unhealthy foods and eating habits have on your body composition.
        Go http://www.leangains.com
        Click [Physiques]
        then Click [My Transformation]
        Read.

      • Anyone with functioning eyes can see that there ARE skeletal and body fat storage differences among individuals. This is especially true for women. Elite athletes owe their success in part to genetic advantages over ordinary people.

      • I was totally into the whole bodybuilding thing as a teenager too (read all the magzines, watched Pumping Iron etc) but never actually made any decent progress LOL And Brad looked awesome in Troy. That’s like my dream physique.

        As it is I already have problems with regards to my office wear. While I’ve gone from size 34-36 for pants to a comfortable size 30, I’m actually still wearing the same sizing for shirts(and looking a hell of a lot better in them now!). While my neck and face and body has certainly shrunk, my shoulders are still as wide, and the off-the-rack shirts are cut fairly straight. Once my current batch of shirts show wear and tear its time to visit a tailor.

      • I’m familiar with Martin’s site James, thats where I borrowed the 16 hour fast / 8 hour feeding window from. Working out well for me!

  19. Neil Fraser-Smith says:

    No I was serious, perhaps others would like to comment.

  20. I have found, of course by going off the wagon but whatever, that if I’m in ketosis while low-carbing and I eat some rice, I stay in ketosis.

    Some low-carb author or another once suggested that rice has a slightly different effect on insulin levels than other grains do. Not sure why that would be. I just know that as a Cajun, I wouldn’t want to swear it off forever, although I could only ever have it as an occasional treat.