How Leaders Influence your Reality

During the last several years I’ve had the opportunity to see great leaders in action and the misfortune to see great deceivers at work. Both have one characteristic in common. Many would call it charisma, but I’d like to expand on what I think that “charisma” thing is.

Pause for a moment. Think about the fact that you’re giving me the opportunity to paint a reality for you. It’s my perception of reality, but by taking it on board and fully understanding the way I see things, you’re giving me the opportunity to mould and shape your reality. If you read this whole blog entry you’re going to have devoted a full 2 to 5 minutes of your conscious thought to my perception of reality. And whether you like it or not you’re going to take some of it on-board.

Great leaders and great deceivers are given a constant flow of opportunities to project their perception of reality and their vision for a future reality on large numbers of people. They alter the way a large group of people see the the world and the way these people think the world should be.

Ever wondered why Germany followed Hitler? Those screaming German speeches weren’t gibberish. They were rousing calls to arms with a believable and powerfully delivered rationale behind the call.

These speeches, or put in different terms, these opportunities Hitler was presented with to impose his perception of reality and his vision for a future on large groups of people, allowed him to influence an entire nation to go to war and eventually carry out some of the most awful atrocities in history.

So the lesson would appear to be “be careful who you lend your ear to”. But it’s a little more complex and more difficult that simply being careful. When others acknowledge someone as a leader, celebrity, genius, as talented and so on, it has a big influence on us as individuals and our default behavior as Cialdini writes in “Influence”, is to go along with the crowd.

“You say his a violin virtuoso, well he must be”, “You say this is a ’82 bottle of Latour’, well it must be spectacular”.

On a side-note, a friend once did an experiment where he sabotaged an already open bottle of excellent wine by decanting it and pouring in a very cheap wine. He watched the wine enthusiasts drink the sabotaged bottle and rave about how clearly excellent the wine is.

Social proof is a powerful phenomenon and if a group of people or respected organization acknowledge someone, they’ve given them a platform for “reality influence” or to create a “reality distortion field” if you’re a Steve Jobs fan.

If you’re a leader, I hope you’ve gained a greater understanding of how privileged you are to have the attention of groups of people. If you’re a listener, I hope you’ll learn from history and be careful who you grant access to your vulnerable and valuable attention.

 

An unpleasant Herman Miller experience in South Africa

Update: HM’s Director of Comms was kind enough to post a response here (see below in comments), Elmarie responded in the comments, today the issue was resolved when the owner of the HM distributer in South Africa called Elmarie and apologized for the way things were handled and it sounds like they’ll be working together on getting a few more Aerons for the office. Nice to see a brand that has their ear to the ground and responds to consumer feedback within 24 hours.

My good friend Elmarie ordered her first Herman Miller Aeron chair for her office. She responded to an ad placed in Gumtree by “All Office” who are the exclusive Herman Miller agents in South Africa.

She was pretty excited when her Herman Miller Aeron Chair arrived, as were we all, but it turns out the price she was charged was not the advertised R6995 (approx $765.50) but instead she was charged R7974.30 (approx $872.68), over $100 more.

She called “All Office” slightly irate and was told the price she was quoted was excluding VAT (South African sales tax). For my American friends/family and anyone in a non-VAT country, one of the first principles of the South African VAT act is that you include the tax in the price.

What really soured this experience was the following: When chatting to a manager at “All Office” Elmarie was told that if she doesn’t want to be a “good citizen” and pay the full price, then he would take the balance out of the salary of the sales person who placed the Gumtree ad.

So after hearing ads for the Herman Miller Aeron chair by Sit4Less on National Public Radio for the last year in the States – and thinking we’d get a few for our office in the USA, I’ve pretty much done an about-face on the brand and won’t be buying any Aeron’s any time soon.

PS: I’d like to hear from Herman Miller in Germany about this. Elmarie has emailed them and is waiting to hear back.

Shoutout to Bluehost

Bluehost reached out to me a few weeks ago to say “Hi, and by the way we love Wordfence”. I was doubly stoked because they have been my favorite WordPress host for some time now. To date I still haven’t found a single performance issue or vulnerability on their platform. Their stuff just works!

So we’ve become friends and today they gave us a very nice mention on their blog.

We’ve been crazy busy at Wordfence with a ton of new signups and I haven’t had time to set up a blog for www.wordfence.com, so in the mean time I thought I’d post my love for Bluehost here. Wordfence blog coming soon!!

If you’re looking for a way to secure WordPress, get Wordfence here!

How to avoid being unhappy and how to find happiness.

This started as a comment in reply to the sad posting on Hacker News that Linux Kernel contributor Andre Hedrick had taken his own life. I’ve seen a huge number of posts on HN during the last 2 to 3 years about depression and I worry that the Valley is an environment especially condusive to creating a very unhealthy mental state through creating unrealistic expectations and social disconnection. So here are my thoughts:

I think that many more people are at risk of falling into depression than ever before, particularly in the Valley. One of the reasons is that we are constantly exposed to the achievements of our idols and the most capable people we know via social networks and social media and we benchmark ourselves against that.

Until a decade ago your benchmark for “I’m awesome and I’m doing great” was your neighbors, your work colleagues and your friends. Now it’s the one in 100 friends or their friends who are mega-wealthy and fly to Belize for breakfast in their chartered jet and are back for lunch. If you’re not keeping up, you feel like you are somehow failing.

In the valley this is massively compounded because you are constantly surrounded by the mega-successful and are occasionally included in their jaunts. As a young 20-something you start to think you’re a loser because you aren’t vesting Google stock options or enjoying the wealth from your first $10 million exit.

If you want to be happy, do what you truly love, however humble it may be. It’s important that you’re also honest about what it is that you love. Don’t try to convince yourself that you enjoy being a “geek” and being surrounded by technology. If you enjoy the feel of cutting and shaping wood then go be a carpenter and be conformable in your own skin. If you like getting up at 3am, making bread and meeting your neighbors every morning then go be a baker and be happy.

There are in my humble opinion very few people that are actually cut out to be true geeks and to derive pleasure from long periods of solutide with nothing but the glow of a monitor and what it contains to keep you company.

Know yourself, know what makes you happy and take pleasure in the simple things in life, like the good, ordinary people who surround you every day.

Update, response to comments and some additional data:

Thanks for the comments and thanks Hacker News for taking an interest in this post. I’ve received many comments regarding clinical depression including from those with a family history of clinical depression. While it is tempting to simply answer by saying that this post is targeted at those who are simply “unhappy”, rather than suffering from a diagnosed condition of clinical depression, I find myself hesitating because I feel that often a diagnosis of a disorder leads to acceptance and complacency.

One inspiring story that comes to mind is that of John Nash who Sylvia Nasar writes about Nash’s life in great detail in “A Beautiful Mind”. [Ignore the movie, it is unrelated to the book] In her detailed biography Nasar describes how after years of drug treatment, electroshock therapy and treatment with insulin-induced comas, Nash actually found a way to succesfully treat himself by going on a “diet of the mind” as he describes it.

So if you are depressed, and even if you do suffer from clinical depression that a doctor has diagnosed and prescribed medication for, I encourage you not to give up and simply accept the prescribed treatment, but continue to look for ways to modify your behaviour, your environment, your diet and your situation to improve your prognosis.

I’d like to remind you of one final thing. Humans evolved largely during the Paleolithic era into the species that we are today. This period covered 2.6 million years of our history. We have only been “modern humans” for the last 30,000 years, which is only 1.1% of the Paleolithic. We have only been using the Internet en-masse for roughly 20 years. So when you think of creative ways to change your environment, consider which environment your species spent most of it’s time adapting to.

I wish you the very best of luck.

How to (really) choose WordPress Hosting

I am the creator and maintainer of Wordfence, an anti-virus and security plugin for WordPress. We are still a young plugin, but already are about to pass 50,000 downloads.

Often when our customers have a problem with Wordfence, they create a temporary admin account for me and I sign in to their (usually) hosted WordPress site to diagnose it. So I’ve experienced a large number of WordPress hosts over the last few months.

Wordfence is a fairly complex plugin. It has an admin interface that provides real-time traffic views and these contact our API servers in real-time to do things like resolve the geolocation of IP addresses. Admin’s can also kick off a scan and watch it run and of course scheduled scans run in the background on a regular basis.

The background scans have provided a fair amount of insight into which hosts have issues and which don’t: For example when a WordPress cron job or a Wordfence scan starts a scheduled event, it needs the server to be able to connect back to itself. A surprisingly large number of servers are unable to do this because they don’t know their own hostname or have some other problem.

I’ve also seen a number of servers that have trouble making connections to external servers like our API server. Some have intermittent issues and some don’t make the connection at all.

Perhaps the most frequent problem I’ve seen is too little memory for WordPress. This manifests in several ways:

  • The most common is that the php.ini memory_limit variable is set too low. 30 Megs is a common setting which is too low for a WordPress site running many plugins or one or two complex plugins or themes.
  • The next most common is the Apache RLimitMem setting is set too low and so Apache will prevent PHP from allocating more memory even if memory_limit is set to a high value. I’ve frequently seen RLimitMem settings that are low with a high php.ini memory_limit value – an obvious misconfiguration.
  • The most difficult to diagnose problem is where the host has configured PHP and Apache with high memory values, but there is a killer daemon running on the host that simply kills any process that grows beyond a certain size. This is rare, but it exists.
To give you some perspective on how serious too little memory is, here is how it usually manifests itself: A customer installs plugins until they are right at the threshold of the maximum memory their host has provided. They then install one more plugin and it causes WordPress to “white screen” meaning that your WordPress site simply doesn’t load. This usually means the plugin needs to be uninstalled via FTP because the WordPress admin interface is no longer available.
I’ve run across several hosts who limit the maximum running time of an Apache process to as little as 15 seconds. This is not enough for longer running WordPress cron jobs. We have coded a workaround in Wordfence for hosts like these, but this will still affect WordPress’s own scheduled jobs if they run longer than 15 seconds.

Another problem I ran across 2 months ago is a very (very) large WordPress host who’s deployment system was corrupting WordPress core files. This means every new WordPress install started off as corrupt. We spotted this because Wordfence alerted that core files on a fresh install were different from the originals. We thought this was a bug, but it turns out their deployment system was corrupting a core file in a way that created subtle bugs in the editing interface of WordPress. They have undertaken to fix the issue and I haven’t confirmed if they have.

And finally there’s performance. When I sign in to various hosts to diagnose issues I’ll sometimes experience a snappy interface and occasionally it’s just dog slow. The WordPress admin interface, which tends to consume more memory and CPU than a non-authenticated site visitor, just screams that the host is overselling their virtual servers because it takes a while to load.

When we first created Wordfence we bought space on the top WordPress hosting providers and made sure our software ran on all of them. It’s now several months later and I’ve had the experience of working with many customer installations across many more hosts.

When choosing a host, find out the following:

  • What is the real memory limit? [In php.ini, apache2.conf and any other limits]
  • What is the longest time a process can run before they kill it?
  • Install Wordfence on the new machine and verify core files are intact.
  • Make sure the interface is snappy and stays that way.
  • Make sure the host has been in business for a while and will be for the foreseeable future.

The one host that in my experience stands out head and shoulders above others is Bluehost. They are one of the larger hosts and I’ve never had a problem with performance, memory, scheduled jobs or anything else on one of their WordPress installs. Starting today I’m recommending our clients head over there to get rock solid WordPress hosting.

What the film “Taken” is really about

[If you haven't seen "Taken", please stop reading now because this contains spoilers. I'm sure you have though as the movie is 4 years old now]

I watched “Taken” with Liam Neeson for the second time this evening. It’s an awesome, awesome film. It struck me that the movie is actually about something more than Liam Neeson giving baddies a well deserved ass kicking.

Agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) has lost his family because he spent all his time working for the CIA. His wife has remarried a very wealthy man. Mills shows up at his daughter’s  birthday party with a Karaoke machine as a gift for her 17th birthday. His daughter’s reaction is “cool.”. Her new father in law gives her a horse and she keeps repeating “I love you, I love you, I love you”.

Then the scenes in Paris are about the European trade in sex slaves and sex slavery. His daughter is bought and sold by various traders until she ends up in the hands of a wealthy Sheik.

Neeson rescues her and on her return to the USA they are standing outside of an airport and his daughter tells him “I love you” once and then disappears behind the glass of a limo belonging to her rich father-in-law and Neeson catches a cab home. Once again his daughter has been bought.

There’s a final scene at the end to soften the message a bit where Neeson arranges singing lessons with a famous pop star and they all live happily ever after. But I have a sneaking suspicion that Luc Besson’s intent was to bring to light a deep issue in human relationships: That money buys love in many ways, some subtle and some less so.

A Viable Business Model for Facebook

Facebook’s second quarter revenue is expected to be $1.1 billion. That would give them roughly $4.4 billion per year, not exactly a number that justifies the $100 billion market cap they were/are hoping for. Compare that to Google’s $37 billion last year with current $200B market cap and Facebook isn’t even a player yet.

The endgame has arrived and the whole world is on Facebook today. Those that aren’t are seen as eccentric and are beginning to get depressed about losing touch with their kids.

What business model would make sense for Facebook now? Clearly advertising isn’t cutting it. They have a problem of “intent”. People go to Google to find things and if those things are in an ad, they click that ad. With Facebook the only intent is to “facebook”, not find a plumber and potentially click an ad. So as far as I’m concerned advertising will never work for Facebook.

So what should they do? Well, for starters, they have a dossier on just about every literate person on the planet with Internet access. Their data extends beyond just their own website facebook.com. They have data on most of the websites their members visit and what those members do on each website. They know who you are, where you are, who your friends are, who their friends are, where you were born, what you and your friends look like, who you communicate with most frequently, what you like, which websites you visit most frequently, how you get to those websites,  which pages you visit on those websites and all the usual demographic cruft.

In short, Facebook is the most complete and most current database of dossiers on individuals globally that the world has ever seen and it’s effortlessly updated in real-time.

So who might be interested in that? Any intelligence agency on the planet. Is there any money in that? Lets find out.

The Department of Defense in the United States 2013 budget is going to be roughly $525 billion. How much of that might they spend on surveilling people globally in real-time? Looking at the budget for the National Reconnaissance  Office (NRO), the guys who launch and manage our spy satellites, is instructive.

The NRO’s budget for 2010 was roughly $15 billion. If Facebook can also be considered a global array of data gathering nodes similar to our spy satellites, then surely $15 billion would be a reasonable number to throw around in a conversation with the folks who launch and operate the data gathering nodes?

And that’s one customer, albeit the largest customer. Remember that the USA has intelligence partners around the world. An example of this is the five signatory states in the UK-USA signals intelligence sharing agreement which are: USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All these folks have significant budget they can also contribute.

Another budget item that might be instructive to look at is the cost of ECHELON which is not public data. But the scale, size, importance and multi-decade nature of the project (started in the 70’s and still going strong) is a good illustration of how seriously the USA and it’s partners take signals intelligence and the scale of the budget available for it.

To be a “Google”, Facebook would have to bring in $40 billion a year in revenue which would take them to Google’s valuation of $200 billion. Right now they’re stuck at $4 billion a year.

Facebook is the only social network that matters and will be forever thanks to it’s network effect. It’s hard to believe that the smart people Facebook keeps gobbling up haven’t considered chatting to the global intelligence gathering and cyber security community. The data they have is game changing and something the global SIGINT community would never be able to gather on their own.

Trying to visualize the conversation Zuckerberg might have with the global intelligence community, it reminds me of a quote by Richard Gere’s character in Primal Fear who is a famous defense lawyer describing the conversation he has with new clients: “Have you been saving up for a rainy day? Guess what? … it’s raining!”

Footnote: There is the hard problem that publicly working with the intelligence community would kill Facebook. But then the intelligence community has never been very public and one wanders if there are ways to productize the desired data into something that appears benign and have contractors buy it on the agency’s behalf. Food for thought.

11 Questions Every Startup’s Money Guy Should Be Able to Answer in Her Sleep.

Every profitable business has a Money Guy. Sometimes it’s the CEO, sometimes it’s another member of the exec team. Money sticks to this persons hands for reasons unknown. They know how to get the best deals for anything they buy and they have a habit of making more money than they lose. If you don’t have someone like this in your business then you are almost certainly not profitable and never will be.

Often this persons title is Chief Financial Officer or Chief Operating Officer. They are the ones who update the cash flow plan and know how much cash the business has on hand at all times. They are the money guy. You’ll know your money guy rocks when you wake them up in the middle of the night and they answer every one of these questions as if it’s a reflex:

  1. When do we run out of money?
  2. What is our next revenue target date and amount?
  3. Are we going to make our target or are we slipping?
  4. What are the two most effective things we can do to increase revenue?
  5. How are we doing with regards to implementing those 2 most effective things?
  6. What are our top two sources of customers?
  7. Are either of those sources at risk of disappearing overnight?
  8. What are our two biggest expenses?
  9. Have we done everything we can to lower those expenses?
  10. Are we at risk of facing a large bill in the near future?
  11. Now that you’ve been woken up, is there any current or future problem in the business that will make it hard to go back to sleep?

Other awesome Money Guy attributes:

  1. Your Money Guy discovers surprising ways to save significant amounts of cash on big expenses.
  2. Your Money Guy isn’t constantly moaning or complaining, but occasionally will assemble the team and lay out hard facts that put some acid in your gut.
  3. Your Money Guy always has your important financial data on hand, often memorized for impromptu brainstorms or planning sessions.

The culture I’ve described here is unfortunately not what you find in most nascent businesses which is why most of them fail to make that critical four year mark. Also not that this does not apply, or put differently it is unable to be applied to the paralel universe of West Coast Technology Startups in the USA. But it’s something I’ve observed in businesses around the world including profitable USA businesses.

Often Money Guys are seen by tech entrepreneurs as people with green eyeshades who work under dim green lamps and aren’t fun at parties. But without the Money Guy, the parties end, entrepreneurs become employees and the innovation ends. Your Money Guy is the person who makes sure your business has enough oxygen to dive deep, take those big risks and come up for enough air to do it again.

Stop Being a Recruiter and Start Being an Entrepreneur

The Valley has taken some criticism for massively incentivizing the smartest people in the world to work on problems that won’t really benefit our species – like how to get more ad clicks. But that’s not what really bugs me.

What really bugs me is that in SV, nothing is built to last. Everything is built for an exit.

Imagine a party and a room full of silicon valley entrepreneurs. You are a new entrepreneur to the area and you want to meet the guy who is everything you want to be. Go on. Admit it. It’s that guy in the corner surrounded by people, who arrived 2 years ago, started his company 18 months ago and just sold it to Google for $20 to $50 million and now works for them. That’s the guy everyone wants to talk to because they want to be that guy. That is the epitome of SV success. And it is a massively destructive culture.

SV is attracting the worlds most talented engineers and tech business people. The founders, staff and investors of these companies hope that these folks will build a product for 18 months to 3 years, have the company acquired by a large incumbent and have the product killed within 2 years. Only the team remains as employees for the acquirer.

The dominant business model in SV is not innovation and entrepreneurship but recruitment. And if you arrive in SV and are hoping to build to get acquired, you are really an aspiring recruiter. Your strategy is to assemble a team, find a project that is intellectually interesting enough to them to keep them all in one place for 1.5 to 3 years, and have them demonstrate their talents to a large tech incumbent who is hiring. When the hiring event occurs, the incumbent will acquire the company for somewhere between $1 and $4 million per engineer. The deal will be cash for investors and an earn-out for founders, both of these being the equivalent of recruiting fees.

What makes me sad about this is that many real and talented entrepreneurs who could be building innovation and job creation machines are caught up in this. They are mentored into thinking this is the way things are done and their potentially world-changing businesses are eaten by the system.

Most of the rest of the world has a wonderful natural selection system for defining business success. Good, healthy successful businesses generate cash and lots of it. They create jobs, make people profoundly happy and satisfied and create new products and services that improve lives. They grow organically with their customers as they develop a pattern of making people happy.

Silicon Valley is a wonderful place to raise investment capital for a technology business. My investors are amazing individuals and have empowered us tremendously as entrepreneurs. But basing a business in The Valley feels to me like clearly stating your intent to exit and not build. And I think every entrepreneur’s intent should be to build and not exit.

The Basic Ketogenic Diet

Note: Please note that if you are interested in a Ketogenic Diet used to treat Epilepsy or Pediatric Epilepsy, please start at Johns Hopkins who are the pioneers in this field. The wikipedia page for the Ketogenic Diet diet also has information on the diet as it relates to treating epilepsy. The diet below is simply for rapid and effective weight loss and uses a 1 to 1 fat to protein ratio rather than the 4 to 1 fat to combined protein and carbs ratio of the Ketogenic Diet pioneered by Johns Hopkins used to treat epilepsy.

Disclaimer: I am neither a doctor nor self proclaimed nutrition expert so please consult your doctor before starting any diet or taking any action that affects your health and wellbeing.

After finishing Gary Taubes latest book, which seems to have rapidly become the cornerstone of a new approach to nutrition, I’ve become very interested in the Ketogenic diet. The speed of weight loss I’ve seen is incredible and my energy level has remained high. The science behind a ketogenic diet is solidly backed up by Taubes research published in “Good Calories, Bad Calories” and “Why we get fat“.  According to Taubes’ research, it may also be the only way for people who have become severely insulin resistant, to effectively lose weight.

The Ketogenic diet has always lived on the fringes of diet lore and has been seen as extreme. But the reality is that the low glycemic index diet (Low GI Diet) is effective because it is close to, but not quite, a ketogenic diet. Other diets like the South Beach Diet are also only effective because of the reduction in carbs and consequently insulin levels.

The science behind this diet looks solid and it is part of the massive shift in nutrition research we’ve seen in the last few years. Prominent sport physiology experts like Tim Noakes have come around to this way of thinking and Tim in particular has said that everything he wrote about “Carboloading” in Lore of Running is wrong. (Lore of Running is considered the running physiology bible by many and contains much more than nutrition advice)

I’ve decided to put together a “Basic Ketogenic Diet” for my own reference and because the Ketogenic diets out there are either targeted at extreme bodybuilders (and usually cycle in carbs) or are peppered with pseudoscience and superstition. If you find anything technically wrong in this article please correct me as loudly as you’d like in the comments and please cite your source.

First a summary of the science behind the Ketogenic Diet.

Keep in mind I’m summarizing hundreds of pages of explanation and supporting data into a few paragraphs:

When you eat carbs your blood glucose level is raised and your pancreas secretes insulin. This insulin puts your muscle and fat cells into “storage mode”. Your fat cells store away the glucose as triglycerides. Insulin also prevents your fat cells from breaking down those triglycerides back into fatty acids and releasing them into your blood stream for use as energy. This is important: Insulin both causes fat absorption and prevents fat from being used as energy.

If you were to eat sugary snacks throughout the day you are keeping your insulin level high which constantly keeps your fat cells in a state of absorption and prevents the release of fat and its use as energy.

Eating fat and protein does very little to raise your insulin level.

So the bottom line here is, if you want your body to burn fat – meaning if you want your fat cells to break down triglycerides into fatty acids, release them into your blood stream and actually use them as energy – you need to keep your insulin level as low and absolutely avoid spikes in insulin.

A note on calories: Counting calories or increasing exercise output, according to the research of Taubes and many others, is a bad way to try to lose weight because what usually happens is instead of your body burning fat to make up for the deficit in calories, it simply decreases the amount of energy it expends. So you end up lethargic and still fat.

There is a lot more to this, but the science above is the rationale behind all Low GI, Low Carb and Ketogenic diets. It is why you lose weight on these diets while consuming the same number of calories.

Low Carb and Low GI diets work because they cut out carbs that cause spikes in insulin, which you now know will cause fat absorption and prevent fat burn.

The Ketogenic diet takes this one step further. It keeps your insulin level low which puts your body into fat-release-fat-burn mode, but also significantly increases the fat content in your diet and teaches your body to use fat as energy. Your body (your liver in particular) will enter a state of Ketosis and will break down fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies which will be used as energy.

During the diet you can measure how much fat your body is burning by monitoring your output of acetoacetate using Ketostix. When you enter a Ketogenic state, you will see a Ketone output of 5 to 20 mg/dL (According to “Why we get fat” by Taubes and my experience). The Ketostix I have also measure blood glucose which is useful to test for Ketoacidosis which you are not at risk for unless you are diabetic.

Note that Ketostix are used by diabetics to test whether they are entering a state known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis which is very dangerous. In this case they will see very high ketone levels accompanied by blood sugar levels of greater than 240 mg/dL. You should be seeing blood sugar levels of zero (according to your Ketostix) during your diet.

Please note that the diet outlined below is not the “Cyclical Ketogenic Diet” used by bodybuilders. It is a basic Ketogenic diet which I’ve found to be the most effective fat burning diet available. I’ve modified this diet from the classic Ketogenic diet used to treat epilepsy which recommends a 4 to 1 ratio of protein to fat. I’ve found that I can reach a state of Ketosis with a 1 to 1 ratio of fat to protein provided I keep the carbs very low.

Without further ado, the basic Ketogenic diet:

What you’ll need

The Diet

Note, you can eat as much of the foods below as you like, but I’ve found that I quickly feel full eating this diet. Don’t overeat and more importantly, don’t under-eat and make sure you’re getting the calories you need to function. This is NOT about cutting calories, it’s about releasing fat reserves and teaching your body to burn them.

Drink lots of water during the diet (but don’t go crazy). I find this helps increase my metal clarity and energy.

Taubes and others recommend not starting an exercise program at the beginning of this diet because during the acclimatization period you will not have enough energy and it usually results in people quitting the diet.

During the diet, measure your rate of fat burn by measuring your acetoacetate output with your Ketostix. Do this every time you visit the loo. You should see 5 to 20 mg/dL, and I’ve noticed it’s particularly high after a very fatty meal. Blood glucose (if your ketostix show this on a separate color tab) should be zero at all times. If it is not zero and above 200 mg/dL you may want to consult your doctor.

One of the most effective tricks during a diet is routine. Eat the same meals over and over or plan your meals ahead for the whole week. I’ve found it effective to pre-make dishes on Sunday and have them ready for the week. That makes it incredibly easy to stick to the diet because I avoid thinking which means I avoid creativity and creativity requires decision making which leads to hard choices. Just avoid the hard choices and have it all planned and some of it ready to grab and go.

The Leafy Green Salad recipe:

This is a recipe for a basic very low carb salad with lots of flavor. It’s great to add to any high-protein, high-fat meal.

  • Spinach, lettuce and/or mustard greens.
  • Red peppers
  • Tomatoes.
  • Optional raw onions.
  • Optional green beans raw.
  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing with salt and pepper. Use lemon and lime very sparingly if you add it. The vinegar actually reduces the glycemic index of this salad (and other foods).

Below I have outlined three days with a total of 9 meals that you can mix and match as you like. At the end I include a list of Ketogenic-safe ingredients you can add or subtract as you like. Remember the key is to have a high fat, high-protein and no-carb or very low carb diet. That means absolutely no sugar.

  • Day 1
    • Breakfast: 2 eggs done any way with yolks. Sausage containing no carbs or sugar. Bacon.
    • Lunch: Chicken with as much skin and oily gooey bits as possible. Steamed spinach or broccoli.
    • Supper: Steak with cheese. Fried mushrooms. Leafy green salad.
    • Before bed 1 glass of wine with a slice of cheese.
  • Day 2
    • Breakfast: 2 egg omlette with friend mushrooms, cheese and chopped parsley.
    • Lunch: A whole duck breast if you can get it or chicken again with as much fatty skin as possible. Leafy green salad.
    • Supper: Hamburger made with high fat mince without the bun. The mince can contain the usual paprika, chopped onions and garlic if you like, but absolutely no syrup or sugar. Add Cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and any other leafy low-carb greens you like.
    • Before bed 1 glass of wine with a slice of cheese.
  • Day 3
    • 2 eggs done any way with bacon and usual no-carb sausage.
    • Steak with cheese. Leafy green salad.
    • Salmon (or other fish) fried and served with Bok Choy and your leafy green salad.

You can mix and match the meals above and get a good Ketogenic burn going where you will notice rapid weight loss.

Eat as much as you want ingredient ideas:

  • Beef,
  • Steak,
  • Hamburger,
  • Prime Rib,
  • Filet Mignon,
  • Roast Beef,
  • Chicken,
  • Duck (awesome if you can get it because it is very high fat),
  • Any Fish, Tuna, Salmon, Trout, Halibut,
  • Lamb,
  • Pork,
  • Bacon,
  • Ham,
  • Eggs,
  • Shrimp,
  • Crab,
  • Lobster,
  • Butter,
  • Oils (Olive Oil, Flaxseed oil, etc.),
  • Salt, Pepper, Soy Sauce,
  • Spinach,
  • Lettuce,
  • Mustard Greens,
  • Celery,
  • Cheeses,
  • Oysters,
  • Abalone.

Add for variety but in moderation:

Read the ingredients (if applicable) and make darn sure they contain no sugar:

  • Avocadoes
  • Mustard (with no sugar or carbs),
  • Tea no sugar with milk
  • Coffee black no sugar
  • Heavy Cream
  • Broccoli,
  • Cabbage,
  • Bok Choy,
  • Kale,
  • Asparagus,
  • Mushrooms,
  • Cucumbers,
  • Olives,
  • Celery,
  • Green Beans,
  • Brussel Sprouts,
  • Peppers (Red, Green, Jalapeno, Habanero),
  • Onions,
  • Nuts preferably almonds,

You absolutely must avoid all sugar on this diet because it is the highest GI carbohydrate that will very quickly spike your insulin and destroy any Ketogenic effect. Other foods to avoid roughly in order of damage they will do to the diet:

  • All sugar.
  • All Bread.
  • Did I mention avoid sugar?
  • All traditional carbs like rice, pasta, wheat, potatoes, even the low GI ones like beans and lentils.
  • Beware of sauces that contain sugar or things like corn starch.

Effects of the diet:

  • You will see rapid weight loss of up to 6 pounds for a 200 pound person in the first 48 hours. This is your kidneys releasing water as they expel their sodium due to the absence of insulin. It’s what you’ve usually heard described as “water weight”.
  • Then you should see continued weight loss of anything from 0.25 to 2 pounds per day (an eighth to half kilo lost per day). But this varies greatly between individuals and is affected by a wide range of factors including your current weight and insulin sensitivity.
  • For the first week you may experience slightly decreased mental clarity. This clears up after a week as your brain gets used to burning ketones for energy instead of glucose.
  • According to data in “Why we get fat” your Vitamin C needs actually decrease on a low carb diet, so don’t feel the need to massively supplement.
  • Research has shown (also from Taubes) that LDL (bad) cholesterol will elevate slightly but clump size will be increased which is a net positive because larger LDL is less likely to stick to artery walls. HDL (good) cholesterol is significantly elevated with a very low carb diet like this which is a very strong net positive. This also has other great health benefits e.g. Lower insulin reduces the risk of hardening of artery walls.

What about alcohol?

I’ve found a glass of wine on it’s own or with a small slice of cheese before bed seems, anecdotally, to increase my fat burn rate. Anything more than a single reasonably sized glass has the opposite effect.

Beer is the devils poison. It contains carbs in the form of maltase which raise your insulin level just like sugar does. The alcohol is turned into citrate in your liver which produces fat and that fat is efficiently stored thanks to your now raised insulin levels.

So absolutely no drinks with sugar. That means no sweet cocktails either. I also don’t buy the idea of low-carb beers.

I would imagine that one shot of spirits  wouldn’t be a problem provided it doesn’t contain any sugar and is something like Vodka, Whiskey or Tequila. I’ve heard they add caramel to tequila “gold” (the cheap crap) so avoid that.

I’ve found that drinking heavily, meaning several glasses of wine followed by cocktails or shots, has a deleterious effect on my ability to burn fat and my energy level. The effect seems to last 72 hours or more.

Conclusion

Once again I’d like to reiterate that I’m neither a doctor nor self proclaimed nutrition guru. But it does seem that both doctors and “nutritionists” including government sources have been pulling the wool over our eyes since 1960 about what we should be eating. The ideas that “fat makes you fat” and “lower calories to lose weight” are so entrenched in our consciousness that many people find the latest research difficult if not impossible to swallow.

If you would like to learn how this came to be, check out Planet Money’s excellent segment on “Who Killed Lard?” and the rise of Crisco and hydrogenated vegetable oil. It will give you an idea of the political forces that influence dietary advice.

As Gary Taubes commented: If we are going see a change in the advice that governments and health authorities are handing out, it is going to take 20 years which is a lifetime. So rather than wait for those slow moving wheels to turn, take matters into your own hands.