Name: Robert (Bob) Henneberg
Where do you live? Ellicott City, Maryland
Profession: I worked as a writer early on after college. In graduate school, I had some severe medical problems that ended my academic career and actually prevented me from reading or writing anything for a year. This helped lead me in the direction of a new career path as a full-time father of four. My very talented wife agreed to let me try my hand at being the primary caregiver even though I seemed to be having enough trouble just keeping myself alive at that point. It may sound trite, but when I look back at that time, that was a profound act of faith on her part. I cannot imagine my life otherwise.
Diet/weight history: Heavy at birth and through today, with weight fluctuating wildly the entire time. Reached a maximum weight of 525 lbs. around the age of 35.
Lost at least 100 pounds five times in my life. The first was prior to reaching that maximum weight using the Medifast program, after which I gained weight more rapidly than I ever had before. Three times I lost weight on my own, white knuckling through severe calorie restriction until the weight loss stopped and I couldn’t cut back any more.
The fifth time was through Tro’s practice.
Successes achieved on low carb: It is not an exaggeration to say that I have achieved all my goals on low carb. The only things left are things I didn’t dare hope for at the start. At that time, I was taking 14 daily medications and I was told I had to start insulin as well as two other drugs. I couldn’t take it anymore. I was in terrible and rapidly worsening health. My blood sugar was uncontrolled, my A1C was around 11, and my hypertension was huge. I knew I needed help and I also knew it was not going to come from more pharmaceuticals.
I’m currently down to 2 prescriptions daily, one of which is at 1/6 of the dose I was taking before low carb. At the same time, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and A1C have all been brought under control through diet. I have also dramatically increased my mobility as well as my enjoyment of events, most of which I used to dread.
I lost 140 lbs. and then lost focus and gained some back. I still maintain 100 lbs. of the loss and I’m back on track and headed in the right direction again.
Finally, I have to say that another success I’ve had on low carb is a newfound sense of confidence that radiates out to all other areas of my life. I don’t have to think those docs were wrong anymore. I know they were. All those knowing glances assuring you that they knew you were lying about what you were eating…all those accusatory questions about “when are you going to get serious and eat right?” I’m just a happier, more confident person knowing that I had the strength to weather that storm and keep moving forward until I got out.
How long have you been low carb? It has been two and a half years.
Why did you start low carb? I flat refused to go down the insulin path, but I knew I needed help drastically. I was also losing my mobility, which was very distressing to me. I heard Tro talking about an alternative way to deal with these issues. I called him and got started.
How did you start? Tro was on another podcast as a guest. My brother heard him and asked me to think about getting in touch.
How has keto changed for you over this time? It has become THE answer for me. I began with the idea that this was the next thing I was going to try. I am no longer looking for the next thing. I’m not foolish enough to think it’s the answer for everyone, but for a significant number of people, it is the answer. I am definitely one of those people.
What do you struggle with? I had a goal setting issue. When I look back on my goals at the beginning, they were not related to weight loss. They were related to blood sugar, hypertension, mobility, and getting off meds. Most importantly, I wanted to avoid insulin at all cost. The bottom line is that I managed to achieve these goals within the first year and also lost 140 pounds in the process. My failure was in not recognizing that I needed to set new goals. Not having a goal leaves you without a point of focus. Without taking that next step you aren’t driven anymore and you’re not going anywhere.
I began the program with a commitment to communicating honestly about what was going on with me. This led to success. But having been successful, I found a new problem. I didn’t want to share when I lost focus and gained a little weight back. I’m kind of a people pleaser and I didn’t want to present Tro or anyone in his practice with anything other than success. This is not a viable relationship with your doctor. I’ve begun to get over this by confessing the issue to Brian. Just speaking about it with him helped me start to get through it. Don’t let yourself be a “good news only” patient, it’s not good for anyone involved.
In addition, I was confused about addiction and how it operates in my life. I’m not judgmental about the issue — I wasn’t thinking “I’m better than that,” I was simply thinking “this doesn’t apply to me.” I did not understand how it could when I was able to literally stop anything on a dime and carry-on comfortably without cravings or withdrawal. I did not experience it like that. I am not confused anymore. The way addiction shows itself in my life became unbelievably clear to me over the period of time that I kept trying to add “keto” products back into my diet. Tortillas, snack bars, beverages, desserts, chips, sugar-free chocolate, and on and on…. These products may work for some people but they do not work for me. Three things happen when I eat this way. First, I get off track with eating real healthy whole foods. Second, my appetite is driven absolutely wild. And finally, I feel a huge difference ingesting all those other ingredients. It just makes me feel off. I respond to these things as I expect an alcoholic responds to a drink. Once started, no matter how well-intentioned, things get out of control very quickly. Now you’re addicted again and it’s back to square one. This was a very difficult lesson for me to learn and costly most especially in terms of time.
I have referred to attention and distraction several times but I want to stress it because it is definitely at the bottom of all my struggles. Goal setting, honest communication, and the content of your diet are all things that have a great deal to do with whether or not you are attending to your priorities. When your focus is entirely on finding “cheat” foods, that is going to have an effect on your success. Are you focused on appearing to do well or actually doing well? There’s a big difference there. I got distracted from all the things that had led me to be successful and I paid a price. I think I should also note that the thing that distracts you doesn’t have to be negative. It could be a good thing. It could be a very good thing like a new baby or an important and meaningful project. It could also be a pandemic or a societal problem that demands attention. Whatever it is, it’s important to make sure you weigh your priorities carefully and bring the right level of focus to the right things. I had a major struggle with this recently. My source of distraction happened to be a positive thing that was demanding way too much of my attention. I spoke with my doctor and he took the time to listen to me and assess the situation. He heard me saying that I was confused because this was a positive thing in my life but it was also causing me problems. He told me there is a very simple rule to apply in these types of situations. “If It is affecting your self care, you need to reevaluate.” I am very thankful to have Tro as my doctor.
What do you love about low carb? For me, real low carb was love at first sight. Quite literally.
I compare it personally to a situation I had gone through earlier in life. As a boy and then as a young man, I had breathing problems that were getting progressively more serious for about 12 years. Eventually I ended up lying unconscious on the pavement outside the emergency room in full respiratory arrest. I was intubated there on the ground and regained consciousness later that day. I felt and looked like I’d been beaten near to death from the inside out. I spent 10 days in the hospital and a full year recovering physically. But the thing I remember most about that time is that somewhere in those first 10 days I took my first real, deep breath in years. It felt like survival. It felt like a path forward.
That’s how I feel about low carb. At some point during that first month on Tro’s program I had my first meal with no positive or negative emotion attached to it. I wasn’t celebrating or comforting. I wasn’t restricting calories or feeding some controlling addiction. I was hungry, I ate real food until I was full and then stopped. And suddenly, I felt like I could survive. I saw a path forward.
Top tip? Stay focused and take advantage of the community aspect of keto. It is there for you and it can be a life saver in times of trouble as well as place to serve when all is going well. Finding support in community is as old as humanity. There is a reason for that.
Advice for people just starting out? Attack satiety first. Reestablish communication with your own body. I went years of my life without being able to distinguish feelings of hunger and fullness. But when I got started in low carb that circuitry was still there. Just had to get it started again. Focus on eating the right foods until you’re full and it will come back to you.
Favorite low-carb meal on the go? McDoubles, no roll with unsweetened tea. Always nearby and affordable.
Favorite low-carb meal to cook? Many of you have health coaches, but I’m very lucky in that I also have a cast iron coach. Brian has single handedly raised my keto chef game 100% with his cast iron coaching. Any meat in my antique cast iron skillets, especially steak or pork loin seared to perfection.
Favorite holiday/special occasion recipe? My wife makes a keto NY style cheesecake topped with raspberries that I absolutely love. I beg her to only make it on holidays because I can’t stop eating it until it’s gone every time. (Recipe: Favorite Keto Cheesecake)
Favorite inspirational quote: I’m a big quote guy, so I have a lot of favorites. In keeping with this month’s theme I picked one about how to get started or restarted. It’s a lyric from an M. Ward song called Epistemology, the refrain of which is “I put the right foot in front of the left.”
Anything else you want us to know about you? I am extremely grateful for this community. It has been a huge part of my success and when I lost touch with it I felt the lack immediately. Thanks to all.
Hear more about Bob’s journey on episode 76 of the LowCarbMD Podcast.