As a rugby player, Toby felt having a larger body size was good for his game.
But by his mid-20s, he could no longer deny that he needed to lose weight and get healthier. He knew he had some unhelpful eating habits, too.
“One of my ongoing problems, which I can trace back to being a teenager, is binge eating in the evening after dinner,” Toby says.
He’d had success in his teens with the Atkins diet, so in 2017 he tried eating low carb once again. He lost some weight, but then he gained a lot of it back. He finally achieved lasting success in 2020 when he strictly reduced his carbs, committed to keto eating, and upped his protein.
“I joined Diet Doctor, read Dr. Jason Fung, Nina Teicholz, and listened to Dr. Bret Scher’s brilliant podcasts. I went much further with restricting carbs than I had previously, with much better results!”
Toby has now lost 49 pounds (22 kilos) and reversed his health conditions. He is still a force on the rugby field!
Toby’s story has been lightly edited.
What’s your name, age, and where do you live?
My name is Toby, I’m 36, and I live in Sydney, Australia.
How did you discover keto or low carb?
I had done Atkins when I was still a teenager, and it had worked well in the short time I did it. However, I backed off it as I couldn’t understand how eating foods like bacon and eggs could be good for you.
In 2016, my mum sent me a review of Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, and I ended up ordering the book. I avidly read the rest of his books and decided to give low carb a try. I gradually moved towards keto as I learned more of the science and was achieving more success.
Did you have any health or weight struggles before going low carb or keto?
Growing up, I was always at the top end of a healthy BMI. But in my 20s, that became the top end of overweight BMI. I used the fact that I played rugby as my excuse for being heavy.
I was once told I “would never be thin,” and I repeated that like a mantra whenever I failed to lose weight with low calorie diets. I tried SlimFast, a shake-based diet, Weight Watchers, and others. I would always have some early success but not enough to be worth the daily struggle to restrict my appetite and battle hunger.
What were you eating before making this lifestyle change?
Generally, I ate a diet of well-prepared, home-cooked food but with lots of bread and carby vegetables like potatoes. I punctuated regular meals with periods of binge eating, ice creams, fast food, and so on.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, we ate lots of fast food, and I always treated myself to something that would go with what she was craving!
One of my ongoing problems, which I can trace back to being a teenager, is binge eating in the evening after dinner.
When did you start low carb or keto?
I started in 2017, after reading Gary Taubes’ books and weighing myself at 233 pounds (106 kilos), the heaviest I’ve ever been.
I got some blood work done and was shocked to see I was bordering on prediabetes and had high cholesterol and high triglycerides.
My waist-to-height ratio was going in the wrong direction. At this point, I knew nothing about the different types of cholesterol or any of the useful indicators that I know about now.
When I recommitted to low carb in 2020, I joined Diet Doctor, read Dr. Jason Fung and Nina Teicholz. I listened to Dr. Bret Scher’s brilliant podcasts, and I went much further with restricting carbs than I had previously, with better results!
In what ways has your health improved?
I lost 44 pounds (20 kilos) in 2017 on low carb. But then my weight crept back up again to 225 pounds (102 kilos) over the next two years.
I lost 49 pounds (22 kilos) when I recommitted to a keto diet in 2020 and 2021. My blood sugars went back to a normal range, and my cholesterol also dropped and now are both in a healthy range. I also no longer had any symptoms of postural hypotension [low blood pressure that happens when you stand up from a sitting or lying position] which had developed in my 20s.
What does a typical day of eating and/or fasting look like for you now?
On weekdays, I have a coffee with a little cream first thing. Then I have Diet Doctor’s keto bacon and mushroom breakfast casserole around 10 am.
For lunch, I have a small portion of leftovers or a ham and cheese toasted sandwich using Diet Doctor’s high protein bread.
Dinner will be a meat portion and low carb vegetables like kale or broccoli. I like to make cauliflower-based pizzas as well as spaghetti bolognese with edamame spaghetti.
I used intermittent fasting as a way to maintain my weight when I first lost it with keto, but now that I have added more protein to my diet, I find my weight remains stable if I eat three meals a day.
I love preparing and eating food so sticking to a three-meals-a-day routine makes me happy. I have settled around 187 pounds (85 kilos), as that means I don’t get trampled too easily when playing rugby!
Have you learned from any mistakes on your journey?
Many! All of them are based on my tendency towards binge eating.
I have regular internal battles about what I should and shouldn’t eat. I have slipped off the keto wagon a number of times. I still find celebrations difficult to get through without eating party food.
I have learned to plan ahead, and make sure there are low carb foods that I can eat at Christmas and birthday times.
Mistakes based on external influences have also happened, like eating highly processed, so-called ‘keto’ snacks, as well as overeating fat for a while when I first started out and thought it was basically a free food.
I still have cravings for treats, and it is difficult to avoid eating some of them, with a young family that likes to eat many times a day! The Diet Doctor recipes are very helpful for having real food around.
Do you think exercise is necessary for success on low carb?
I can’t say that I know what low carb is like without any exercise, as I still play rugby and train in the off-season.
I would say that you can still be successful on low carb without exercise in terms of weight loss, but I also believe exercise is very important for longevity and happiness no matter what diet you are doing
What are your top three tips for people starting low carb?
- Reading the literature helped me understand the “whys” and the “hows.” Also, there are some great books with convincing, cohesive arguments in favor of low carb.
- Don’t engage with people who try to tell you what you are doing is not healthy. Just stick with the daily wins you feel inside…and then look at the plates of food you make! How can it not be healthy?!
- Join Diet Doctor! For someone like me who misses bread and pasta, there are so many recipes to help plug the gap. The app is a real treasure trove of tasty food and great research.
It feels like I have found some kind of guarded secret, having tried so many other ways to lose weight. But it shouldn’t be a secret! I want to help spread the word as best I can. High protein keto is now a way of life for me. Big thanks to Diet Doctor!
Since you are a rugby player, Toby, it seems apt to cheer your success with “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!”
Many active people will be encouraged to learn you were able to drop the excess fat, but keep your strength and vigor while having less hunger and more control of your eating on a high protein, keto diet. Well done.
~ Anne Mullens