Raj’s journey: obese & diabetic to healthy

Raj Seth
Raj with Doug Sullivan at Low Carb USA’s recent Boca event.

Raj Seth’s notes for his recent podcast on LowCarbMD with Doctors Brian Lenzkes and Jason Fung.

Fat as a kid

I had always been fat as far back as I can remember. I developed a fat persona. A self-deprecating sense of humor with sharp retorts to skinny kids. I got physically strong, and became a fan of fat characters like Garfield and John Pinette. The only time I was not fat was for the last 3 years in high school. I was training 2 hours a day with the boxing, gymnastics and track team, while being fed miserable boarding school food.

My entire family was diabetic. All the women in my family have had PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Sundrome). I knew that with a family history of obesity and diabetes I was doomed. Obviously I had bad genes, and was destined to also become diabetic at some point. I saw my mother die of complications from diabetes 25 yrs ago and I assumed I’d follow her path.

Raj grew up a vegetarian

I grew up a vegetarian in India, and came to New York for college in 1982 at a lean and muscular 150 lbs.  Ever an overachiever I did the freshman 20 in the very first semester. And again and again till I was 250lbs by junior year, even though I was on the college squash team.

Eventually, I grew to 300 lbs, was muffin topping 48” pants because I refused to buy 50s from Walmart.  Finally, in 2008, I was diagnosed diabetic with an A1c of 8.3, and was put on metformin. I saw myself heading, as destined, to an early cremation.

Raj addressed his pre-diabetes by eating less and moving more

Raj Seth before orange
Probably peak weight ~300lbs

So what did I do?  I embraced eat less move more.  I got up at 4am to take the 1st bus into New York. I hit the gym as it opened at 5am. Worked hard at the cardio machine for over an hour. And I ate sensible lower fat meals, and 8-10 servings of raw vegetables and fruits.  I lowered my A1c to 6.5 in 2 months and got down to 260 lbs.

Of course that did not last. The weight came back. I was put on the maximum dose of metformin, sulfonylurea, statins, 2 blood pressure medications, and aspirin. Still my A1c crept back up to 9.  Continuing advice from my endocrinologist – lose weight, it will all improve. So I started walking in winter of 2016, and walked 6 miles, or a 10K, daily, even in a blizzard, till I had logged 1000 miles as measured by my phone app.

Results for all that effort? I lost 20 lbs and a couple inches on my waist, but the A1c refused to drop below 7.  The final straw was in Jan 2017. My doctor told me that going on insulin was the inevitable next step 10 yrs into diabetes.  I had just quit Wall Street to become an airline pilot, and insulin would have disqualified me instantly. His advice?

Wait for it…

Eat less, move more – or as Jason Fung calls it – Calorie Restriction as Primary, CRaP

I started going to the gym 5-6 days a week.  At 53 years old, I worked up to 1.5 hours of intervals on an elliptical, with a peak heart rate of 185, average heart rate 158.  Yeah – it was a little extreme. I eliminated desserts and reduced bread. I believed that combining carbs with protein would slow the glucose spike.  I did not skip any meals, because I believed what I was taught, that would result in a larger meal and a glucose spike. I had breakfast as soon as I got up to lower my morning glucose.  I was following all conventional advice from the medical establishment. I lost another 20 lbs. However, the lack of response from my blood sugars was striking.

Raj Seth after from the side
6 months Keto. 215lbs. 5.9A1c. Zero medications. No more endocrinologist visits.

I realized that I had to figure this out for myself.  I was testing my blood 4-6 times a day. I saw that a meal with any carbs spiked my glucose.  I started lowering my carbs and increasing lean meat and egg whites since I still had fat phobia.  I started losing more weight, a few inches on my waist and I was feeling better.

Despite growing up on Indian cuisine, I gave up rice, bread, naans and root vegetables.  I went on a quest to find some guidance and found the 2 Keto Dudes.  I heard their initial podcasts describing the science of hyperinsulinemia and the resulting symptoms: Diabetes, obesity, hypertension, you name it.

The solution was obvious 

I went full bore Keto on Halloween, 2017.

Threw my statins out on day 1.  Within 6 days I was cutting my sulfonylurea in ½.  In another week, I stopped them entirely. Around Christmas I saw a documentary on Fasting.  What a concept! The movie talked about fasting people for weeks – ridiculous. It also featured the legendary Dr. Jason Fung.  I was intrigued by what Jason said, so I read both his books, The Obesity Code and The Complete Guide to Fasting.  I started to understand.  I tried fasting. In 3 weeks, I did a 1.5 day, then a 3 day, then a 6 day fast.  I liked it. This was a game changer for me. Fasting became my superpower.
Within 2 ½ months of starting keto and fasting, my A1c was down to 6.0 and at my doctor’s visit in January – I told him I was stopping all medications.  In another 2 months, without any medications, my A1c further dropped to 5.9, BP was 115/75.  Triglycerides were 119, below 500 for the first time in 20 years. HDL was up from 28 to 45.  

I fired my endocrinologist.

As an airline pilot with diabetes and high blood pressure, I had had a special, short-term medical clearance.  Six months after I went keto, I received an unsolicited letter from the FAA’s Medical division. It gave me a normal medical clearance, despite my history of Diabetes and Hypertension! 

Whoa Nelly!  Did a stodgy government agency just acknowledge, in writing, that my incurable progressive and eventually fatal diabetes is in remission?  I think so.

I went out and bought size 36 pants.  I stole Medium sized shirts from my teenage boys.  Even my shoes were looser. I slept better. I snored less.  I could bound out of bed without creaking joints. Cecile, my wife of 22 years, would look at me strangely – she had never seen me this size and shape!  My weight was 210, down 90 lbs from peak – down to sophomore year weight. My wedding band almost fell off.  I can finally wear my college ring.

Cecile decided to do keto with me.  She dropped 8 sizes. She doesn’t have to shop at Avenue and Lane Bryant. My teenage daughter had PCOS.  She went keto last fall and is off medications now. She is joining Tro’s Direct Primary Care and will be seen next week.  Cecile and I can’t wait to be the first patients at the new “LowCarbMD – San Diego edition” practice

On a recent podcast I heard Brett Lloyd describe the symptoms of depression, and realized I had all of them.  I never knew I was depressed. Things were going great, but I always found something to be disappointed or angry about.  It seems keto helped alleviate my depression. Now, I can finally focus on my pillars of joy – Family, Cooking, Flying, and Trading Bonds.

My keto kitchen

To make it easier for my family to eat well, I have set up our kitchen, fridge and freezer with the right foods.  My freezer is stocked with home made burgers, salisbury steaks, sausage, rib-eye steaks, chicken wings, ready to bake meatza crusts, and fathead pizzas.  I got rid of all our inflammatory seed oils, instead I have various jars of animal fats for cooking.  We now cook with home rendered tallow, bacon grease, and lard. I deep fry almost anything in tallow.  I use ground up pork rinds for breading. 

Full fat food is so delicious that everyone joins in.  I have yet to hear “oh no – not rib-eye again”.

I discovered biltong – a South African dehydrated meat delicacy – like jerky, except even better.  I have dehydrated nearly 300 lbs of beef and bacon over the last year. Bacon biltong is to live for.  I am a happily converted full-fat cook and my family joyfully benefits! [See his recipe links below.]

The Keto Curse

However – there is a downside.  The Keto Curse. So many yummies, so little time, such limited appetite.  We can eat once, maybe twice a day, and in quantities that would have seemed pitifully small 2 years ago…  the freezer is full, as is the mind and belly! The keto way of eating allows for a satiety I never experienced in my carb centered diet days. It gives my appetite an “off-switch” it never had before. And once you are keto full, you are non-negotiably full. Done.

Paying it forward and giving back

We are doing what we can to support Low Carb clinicians and researchers – Cecile is working full time on this behind the scenes to promote metabolic health.  We have had the pleasure of being at the 2KetoDudes’ Ketofest twice. My wife, daughter and I volunteered last year. We have been lucky enough to meet the 2 Keto Dudes, and various leaders in the field.  Meeting these folks in person is a fantastic experience.

We will be attending most of the low carb conferences this year. We met you and Kristin Baier at LowCarb Boca, loved Metabolic Health Summit in LA, we are looking forward to Jeff Gerber’s Low Carb Denver and Amber O’Hearns Carnivore Con.  We will certainly be at Tro’s LowCarb New York in with bells on.  Then on to Houston and San Diego this fall. Becoming involved with and accelerating the low carb community is a passion. I want to help others find the effortless health I have discovered.

More of Raj Seth’s stories

Raj has been a frequent contributor on the 2 Keto Dudes’ Ketogenic forums.

Raj’s Non-Scale Victories – 

Fact checked by Raj Seth.

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Cecile Seth

Cecile Seth, MBA. STEM Journalist. Co-Founder. Harvard Business School. Wellesley College. Bain & Company. Ms. Seth's award-winning blog, STEMshoots, helps her suburb with community planning and strengthening its schools. Keto since 2017. Mom to 3 kids from 17 to 21.

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