122 Rules by Deek Rhew

Friday, December 28, 2018

Cholesterol Scare

NOTE: I'm using my REAL numbers in this blog post. I've done hours and hours of research, and for whatever reason, no one seems to feel comfortable disclosing actual information. Needless to say, it has driven me completely apeshit to read an article that use vague words like "elevated," "moderate," and "high."

WTH do those even mean? If we don't even know what the definition of "is" is, then how can we expect people to understand "moderate?" Anyway, I'm going against the grain and probably violating a HIPPA rule or something, but I'll actually say what I mean.

Also, it should be noted, I am NOT a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. I'm just a guy with Google, some extra packets of fat in his blood, and a propensity for research. My goal is to share my research as I go along.

Knowledge is power.

Alright, with all of that said, I had a scare this holiday. I went in for my annual physical and blood workup in the middle of December. I expected great lab results and a high-five from my doctor for losing over 30 pounds (yes, 30!-Thank you Keto diet).

Unfortunately, the blood work didn't come back the way I expected. When Erin did her test, her cholesterol had dropped 20 points since she started Keto. I was hoping for something similar, but mine not only didn't drop, it increased by 149 points. My total cholesterol level as of 2 weeks ago was 349. To weed out a fluke test, I took it again yesterday.

As of this morning, my number is 375 (for my Brit friends, that 9.698 mmol/L).


Anyone that has experience with "elevated lipid levels" will know that the level of risk runs kinda all over the place. Generally speaking "high risk" is considered somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-240.

To say that this number frightens me a bit, is an understatement.

Here are my total numbers as they stand right now:

Total Cholesterol = 375mg (9.698 mmol/L)
Triglycerides = 100mg (1.129 mmol/L)
HDL = 51mg (1.32886 mmol/L)
LDL = 291mg (7.525 mmol/L)

I can practically feel the creators of HIPPA snapping their pencils in half and drooling into their pocket protectors.

This fat in the blood propensity runs in my family (both my grandfather and father have it), and I have been on a statin since I was 20. Up until just recently, that's been enough to keep it "below borderline high," aka 200ish.

So the fact that my body is up to some kind of shenanigans, even after losing 30+ pounds, didn't come as a complete surprise. I've evidently got some overzealous little fat-generating liver gnomes who are putting in some serious overtime.


That's the big question, right? Well, it could be a whole slew of things. The big ones: diet, exercise, obesity, smoking, diabetes, liver disease, thyroid, stress. Well, for now, I've scratched obesity off the list. I'm down 30+ pounds and really only need to lose a few more to be right about where I want to be.

I don't smoke, and diabetes and liver problems came back as a big negatory in my blood work.

Exercise: I lift three days a week, and Erin and I walk. A lot. I could add some high intensity cardio to my morning routine, but since I haven't done early cardio in years, I don't think that a lack thereof is the cause of this sudden flareup.

Stress: My life is certainly not without it, but who's is?! While this little episode can make one's sphincter pucker, compared to what I was experiencing stress-wise 6 years ago, my life is a walk in the park. Now my body could be like, "Um no, I just can't roll with it the way I used to." That's certainly a possibility, but this reaction seems extreme. For now, I'm going to focus on other factors but keep this one in the back of my mind.

So, that leaves a couple of possibilities: diet and thyroid.

Let's start with diet.

I've made it no secret I'm on Keto and have been very successful at it. The basis of the diet is low carb, moderate protein, and high fat. The principal behind is it is your body becomes "fat adapted." Meaning, instead of using carbs for fuel, it burns fat. Once it runs out of fat in your diet, it looks for other sources in your body.

But the concept of Keto flies directly in the face of everything I've ever known about a cholesterol conscious diet. The latter is all about low fat. To add more confusion to the whole mix, when I was first diagnosed with "elevated lipids," my doctor told me that eating cholesterol doesn't cause high cholesterol.

I've read this online in many many other times, but still, it's a difficult fact to ignore.

To argue with myself about this, I also need to point out that my diet before Keto sucked. Fried foods, carbs, so on and so on. Unfortunately, I didn't track my food before, so I don't have anything to compare it to. But my guess is that overall my fat, especially my cholesterol and saturated fat intakes, are way down now compared to the fried food life before.

Another possibility is thyroid.

There are a lot of articles I've read that there is a direct link between hypothyroidism and cholesterol levels. I don't really have many of the other symptoms of a thyroid problem, but it certainly isn't off the table.

Quick Weight Loss

The last possibility (thus far) is rapid weight loss. In someone who doesn't process cholesterol out of their blood very quickly, rapid weight loss can cause "elevated levels." (Damned vague articles. Give me real numbers!!!)

The concept behind it is that when your body breaks down fat cells, that fat gets dumped into your bloodstream. Losing 1 pound of fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. If you lose, say two pounds, like I did between my two cholesterol tests, that's my body dumping 7000 calories of triglycerides and fat into my bloodstream. Yowza!

Unlike other diet plans, Keto is focused on fat. I've lost a lot of weight before, but when I did it, my body stripped itself of muscle as well as fat. So, it had a nice mixture of the two to work with. But on Keto, my muscle has mostly been left alone.

So, that's where things stand right now. Erin and I are drawing up battle plans, and I'm doing research, which I will share with y'all as I find it. We will be talking to the doc when she gets back from her vacation at the beginning of the new year, so we'll see what she says.

Until then, adventure on!

Ready to see what happens next?
Check out Cholesterol Scare Part 2: Not as Scary as We Thought?
And the Two Month Follow-Up.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Year of Love, Laughter, Victory, and Adventure!

It's hard to believe that another year has gone by, but last November I blinked and here we are almost at the end of 2018. And what an incredible year it has been! Full of love, laughter, victory, and adventure.

This past year has been a rollercoaster ride that has taken us across the country, led us to new friends, experienced new adventures, and saw victories to long, hard-fought wars. Amongst all the turmoil, my partnership, love, and friendship with my beautiful bride, Erin Rhew, has been the foundation of my world.

Side by side, we battle.
Side by side, we adventure.
Side by side, we are happy. 

So, I thought for this special occasion, I thought I give you a glimpse into our life this past year!

Best friends

Hitting the trails together!

Holiday festival!

Book tours

Lord have mercy, what a lucky man!

Wonder if we can get one of these in real?

Who doesn't want a little putt-putt on the moon?

We come in peace!

Sometimes ya gotta adult.

Sasquatch has lost his head!

At our favorite Chinese restaurant in my home town!

There HAVE to be aliens around here somewhere!

Oh, Dutch Brothers, how we love thee!

Getting a little hug on in front of the founding fathers.

Stick 'em up!

Turns out, Virginia is indeed for lovers.

Looking dapper in an R2D2 jacket.

What the heck is that?

Love on the beach
Ringing in the new year!

Getting a little neck smooch and some giggles from my gal.

I think we both pull off the bearded look quite nicely

Date night! It almost always includes a trip to our favorite coffee place (besides Dutch Brothers I mean).

Winter time smooch!

Laughing...always! :-)

I'm incredibly blessed to have such an amazing partner. Erin is the mortar that holds the foundation of my world together. When there are problems or a battle needs to be fought, I take her hand and we face it together.

When the sky is clear and the water smooth, I take her hand and we adventure together. Storm or calm, we are building memories and sharing experiences. We've been married four wonderful years now and everything that came before seems distant and hazy.

In a way it feels like we barely found each other,
but it also feels like we've been together for decades.

I wish every one of you to find your Erin. To find your happiness.

Deek and Erin Rhew

To my Erin, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for saying "yes" and for all our wonderful times together. I'm thrilled to get to spend my life with you.

To all my friends out there, laugh a lot, love a lot, and adventure on!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Amazing World of Keto

Let me begin by saying that I fell off the wagon. Yep. There was a time, not that long ago, that I lifted weights five times a week, did cardio in the mornings three times a week, and rode my bike on the weekends. I even ate almost 4,000 calories a day (Yes, 4,000!), yet I had no problems with my weight. My clothes fit, and I almost never got winded.

But shortly after Erin and I got married, I fell off the fitness wagon.

Deek Falls off the Wagon

It didn't happen all at once. One day, a pair of pants felt snug. Pretty soon they were uncomfortable, and then they were banished to the back of the closet. On to the next size up. Lather, rinse, repeat. While I didn't pack on hundreds of pounds, I put on a lot more than I was comfortable with.

Over the years, Erin and I have tried a lot of different diet plans--most of them centering around Paleo--with varying degrees of success. A few months ago, Erin suggested we try Keto.

To get up to speed on what Keto is, check out this article on HealthLine.com.

I'll admit I was skeptical at first. The idea of eating MORE fat to LOSE fat made logical sense, but emotionally, I had trouble breaking through all the junk I'd been taught about nutrition. But Erin started it, and after a couple of months, I couldn't argue with the results she was getting.

FYI: Everything we learned in the 80s and 90s about nutrition is wrong.

So for the last 149 days, I've been hitting Keto hard and could not be happier with the results. I am back in the gym, lifting three days a week, and Erin and I walk--a lot--on the weekend, and even sometimes during the week.

Back in the gym!

So far, I've lost 22 pounds and dropped my body fat percentage to 19.8%. More importantly, I fit into ALL my clothes, even the "I'm too fat to ever wear these again" clothes that got put into the closet. Even more importantly: I feel a ton better. In a few months, I'll be going into the doctor to get my blood panel done to check my cholesterol levels and all that, but from what I've read, those should be down too.

The Rhew's Diet Plan

The plan we follow is simple:

  * I lift weights 3 times a week, and Erin runs and does various forms of cardio.
  * We walk a lot on the weekends.
  * We track what we eat and ensure our macros are right.

I cannot emphasize this last bullet point enough. To be successful, I have to track everything I eat. Fortunately, that's easy. There's an app for your phone called My Fitness Pal (I use the free version). Every day I enter my food as I go. As the day progresses, I flip over to this handy little Macros page to make sure I'm in the right percentages.

Don't Forget the Scale!
No, not your bathroom scale. A postage scale.

When calculating portion sizes, more often than not portions are by weight--here in the States, typically in ounces. I want to seriously emphasize that if you are going through all the work of tracking your calories, be sure you know how much is in a serving. You may be surprised at how small a serving of meat, pork rinds, etc. really is.

Fortunately, that's easy and inexpensive with a simple postage scale.

This guy on Amazon sells for less than $14 bucks.

There are no substitutes for having the right diet. There are pills and drinks and powders that are supposed to "put you in ketosis," but as they say, there ain't nothing like the real thing, baby. I personally don't know of anyone that's been successful with these expensive gimmicks. Maybe there are people who've really succeeded, but of those I know who've tried it, the only thing that has gotten thinner is their wallet.


According to the Keto sites, the standard ketogenic diet consists of 75% of your calories coming from fat, 20% from protein, and 5% from carbs. Since I lift, I have a higher percentage of protein in my diet. So, I generally shoot for 60-65% fat, 30-35% protein, and 5% carbs.

Cheat Days!

To keep Erin's thyroid in check, we have one high carb (cheat meal) day a week. We follow our usual diet all day up until the late afternoon, then we walk to Starbucks--a 5 mile round trip--and treat ourselves to a higher carb coffee treat. Some of the drinks are over the moon with carbs, so we avoid those.

My skinny grande cafe mocha with whip has 26 carbs, but man after a week of no sweets, it tastes amazing. Erin seriously loves her Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato with 36 carbs.

Deek and Erin Cheat Day Coffees!

After we walk back home, we go get a pizza. Talk about tasting amazing! #NomNomNom

Dining Out

We still dine out, but granted, our choices are more limited. Most restaurants should be renamed The Carb Cafe. Fries, potatoes, chips, soda, while all delicious, are really cheap and loaded with carbs. So we opt for steak and chicken fajitas (hold the chips, tortillas, and salsa) at our favorite Mexican place.

We've also discovered that we can frequent Wendy's. Two Jr. Bacon Cheese burgers, hold the sauces and bun for Erin, and a Triple Bacon, hold the sauces and bun, for me. No fries though. :-( Subway works too, just hold the bread and the sauces.

Almost everything at any restaurant, in every possible configuration you could image, is in My Fitness Pal. So again, highly recommend it!

The Results

While Erin has reached her goal weight, Mr. Keto Holdout (that would be me) is still a couple of months away from reaching his (that's what I get for not starting when my wife did). As I said before, I can finally fit into all my clothes and am beyond pleased to feel healthy again.

But the proof is in the pudding, or in our case, the before and after pics:

Before and After

Keto may not be for everyone, but it's completely changed my life. Even after I reach my goal weight, I'm going to keep on it. My body runs so much better than it did when I was on carbs. The mid-afternoon crash is gone, and my energy is way up.

I'm totally grateful that Erin found this plan, and I'm especially grateful that we get to do it together!

Until later, my friends. Adventure on!