Category Archives: Bodywork

I was a “chubby” baby, a fat teen, and am now a morbidly obese adult. I try to love myself anyway, but it’s really hard. So I’m trying to transform my body into something I can love, through diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. I hope that blogging will help me stick with the process, even when the challenge gets tough.

The fast way to self-improvement

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Well, I did it again, and this time I won! I have 95% successfully completed my second water fast. I didn’t journal the first one but this time around I thought it would be interesting to track how my body responded.

As before, I jumped into this after several weeks of thinking about getting prepared to think seriously about doing it. Tuesday night I was dinking around on Facebook and I popped in to see what was happening on Aussa’s new group page, and she’d just posted her weekly challenge to set a goal and grab it by the … pearl necklace and make it behave.

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Just like this. But with jeans. And my belly button is still an innie. (Source)

I was not in my happy place. It was nearly midnight, which meant I had once again failed to get to bed early enough to bounce out of bed, all full of get-up-and-go, before sunrise. (Here in the gloomy north the sun doesn’t rise until nearly 7.30 at this time of the year, but I’m pretty pathetic when it comes to sleep. I fight it like a bitch, but I need a lot of zzzzzs.) I’d been in full binge mode (aka compulsive pleasure-free eating) for nearly a week, and I felt squeezed by my XXXL jeans despite having undone both button and zipper,  and was also regretting the ice cream I’d engulfed earlier that evening in the hope that a sugar hit would keep me awake long enough to manage the half hour drive home from the vet. (It didn’t. I had to pull over for a snooze less than 10 miles from home.)

In other words, my life was once again out of control at its most fundamental level. So, of course, I sneered and hated myself and kept scrolling to read about the extraordinary successes racked up by my fellow Aussa bitches … and then my fingers took over my brain, and by the time they’d done dancing around on the keyboard I had scrolled back and announced my intention to do a full water fast, starting immediately. Then I logged off and went to bed, quickly, before I was compelled to eat something.

I started each day with two green tea capsules (for energy) and a splash of raw apple cider vinegar in water (for gut health). We’re blessed with delicious water – our well draws from an aquifer nearly 600 ft down below a thick layer of rock. During the day I drank tap water whenever I felt thirsty. I slept longer and more deeply than usual, and woke feeling refreshed. I didn’t do any extra exercise, and as the fast progressed I moved more slowly and rested more often, responding to the needs of my body.

Ask Google “What happens to my body when I fast?” if you want to invite a barrage of conflicting information, ranging from “Your muscles will shrivel up and you will diiiieeee!” to “You will directly experience Nirvana and your whole life will change forever!” The interweb is host to hordes of experts, both self-proclaimed and accredited, and it can get confusing, so choosing your guru is pretty much an act of faith. As with any faith, the smart way to go is to study what the guru says, check in with opposing views to maintain your balance, remember that if anything sounds too good to be true it probably (but not definitely) is, and over time evaluate what they say based on your personal experience.

My guru of choice is Dr. Jason Fung. He’s flavor of the month and also way too young and pretty – definite red flags – but on consideration, for now at any rate, I’m willing to hop on his wagon and see where it takes me.

Day 1 – Tuesday

I didn’t start to feel hungry until quite late in the day, and several hours before I felt hungry I was aware of other benefits – dramatically reduced inflammatory pain in my muscles and joints, no brain fog, and a happier, more relaxed mood. I was moderately active (by my low standards) and became tired shortly after dark.

According to Fung, during the first day of my fast my insulin levels dropped and my body accessed its glycogen stores to release glucose for energy. The human body keeps a 24-hour glycogen reserve mainly in the liver and skeletal muscles. That stored in the liver is available wherever energy is needed (and apparently most of it goes to the brain! For some reason I find that reassuring.) As I understand it, the glycogen stored in muscle tissue used by the muscles, not readily released to the rest of the body.

As the day progressed without any more carbs going in, my basal metabolic rate fell as my body sought to cut back on energy expenditure. Most of the pro-fasting literature I’ve read says your metabolic rate rises again after a few days of fasting, to above your normal level, but I didn’t get to experience that. Maybe next time, when I go for longer…

Day 2 – Wednesday

Woke early feeling clear-headed and energetic, but after I got up I quickly ran out of energy. No hunger pangs as such, but I was aware that my body wanted fuel. My head felt tight, as though it was thinking about having an ache, but in fact I didn’t experience any headache during this fast.

I spent the day being gentle with myself, resting often, but still writing and doing my regular chores. By the afternoon I was ravenous and stupid, and by evening I was still hungry, tired, irritable and floppy all over. I was also constantly thirsty, despite drinking lots of water.

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For some reason I cooked dinner for the male members of the household – my signature spaghetti bolognese. I don’t ever cook without tasting (I learned that the hard way – but that’s a story for another day) so I had maybe a teaspoonful of bolognese sauce and one strand of spaghetti … and then, after gritting my teeth and not eating with the men I couldn’t resist the redolence. I ate four, I mean five, okay SIX teaspoons of bolognese sauce. It was almost unbearably delicious. My stomach had pretty much given up on me by then and was hiding in a corner grumbling sadly to itself, so it was a little startled when that lot came walloping down my gullet. But the discomfort passed quickly and the relief was great!

Mind you, I was pissed at myself. I felt I’d let myself down, and was tempted to call myself a loser and just quit. But it was only meat, not carbs, and totaled well under 100 calories, so I decided to declare the fast unbroken and keep going. (Full disclosure: I ate a few teaspoons of bolognese sauce again the next night – I was just so hungry, and it was there. But that’s the only food I consumed for the 84 hours I fasted, so I feel … not good, but okay about it. Next time I’ll do better.)

To know what was happening with my body, I turned again to Dr. Fung. After 24 hours my body had depleted its store of glycogen, which activated other processes to generate energy.

  • My liver kicked into gluconeogenesis, creating glucose from amino acids.
  • In a parallel process (and I’m not going to pretend I understand yet how they are connected) it launched into autophagy, which essentially involves cannibalizing junk proteins, also to generate energy. If you want scholarly literature on the subject, Google has plenty; for those who want a greatly simplified explanation in layman’s terms, go here.
  • Meanwhile, the hunger pangs kept coming and going because of a hormone called ghrelin – and the interesting thing about that is that ghrelin will switch itself off after a couple hours if you ignore it, even if you don’t eat. Knowing that hunger won’t last makes it a lot easier to resist!

The most important of these processes, as far as I’m concerned, is autophagy. This is relatively easy to trigger – unlike ketosis, which takes longer and can be harder to sustain. All you have to do is not eat for 24-48 hours. Unfortunately I didn’t get the full benefit of it, because eating even a small amount of protein switches it off. I wish I’d known that … It might have made it possible to resist the bolognese…

Day 3 – Thursday

I’ve read about how, after fasting for a few days, your body kicks into higher energy mode. The theory is that its initial response to a lack of food is to reduce your rate of energy consumption (aka “starvation mode”), so your metabolism slows and you feel tired and sleepy. But if there’s still nothing on the menu after a couple days your body goes “Woah! Gotta fix this!” and you experience a surge in energy, as well as much greater clarity of thought – because you have to get out there and chase something down and kill it.”

I was kinda hoping to feel that way by Thursday, but … nope. I woke hungry and was tired and draggy all day. My brain was clear but I was so fumble-tongued I might as well have been catatonic, for all I could communicate. During the afternoon I went out into the garden with Peter Pan to discuss vegetable matters, and – being too floppy to pick up my feet properly – I tripped over a squash vine and went down like a dropped two-by-four. And once down … well, I lay there for a while on the cool dirt, thinking about how nice it would be simply to stay there. Getting vertical again took way more effort than seemed worthwhile!

Anyway, Dr. Fung says you go into ketosis after two to three days of fasting, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen for me this time. I’ve always struggled to achieve and maintain ketosis, even when eating super low-carb and high fat. I’m not diabetic but maybe I’m somewhat insulin-resistant; I need to learn more about it and figure out how to change.

Day 4 – Friday

I went into this fast not sure how long I’d stay with it, but determined to last longer than I did last time. About halfway in a friend called and invited me for tea, so I put her off until Friday afternoon and set my goal at noon Friday – giving me 84 hours of fasting, or 12 hours more than last time. And I made it! In fact, I think if I hadn’t had the tea date I could even have lasted longer. By Friday morning the hunger pangs were less and my head was clear and alert, although I was still physically quite weak.

This time, I broke my fast gradually. At noon I had a cup of hot, salty bone broth. About a half hour later I had a small fruit yogurt with heaped spoonful of crushed pecans, which kept me going an hour and a half. Then I had a cheddar and tomato sandwich – just one slice, not my usual two. Tea was more indulgent – I chowed down on crackers with whipped cream cheese and pepper jelly and found room for lemon cake, but after that I didn’t want dinner. In fact, I didn’t eat again until after noon on Saturday.

Since then I’ve been ramping up my food consumption, which is annoying – why this relentless compulsion to eat? Still … I do seem still to want smaller quantities, and I seem to be going longer between meals, and I don’t have quite the same desire for sugar … so I guess I’ve gained some ground.

I found, while fasting, that my mood improved greatly. Since going back onto sugar I’ve been more irritable and short-tempered. The burning, aching inflammatory pain in my joints and muscles stopped entirely and still hasn’t come back – although it will if I’m not careful. I slept very deeply while fasting, and when I started eating again I immediately fell back into my night owl habits, reinforced by insomnia. My jeans were looser, but they’re getting tight again.

Now what?

The main takeaway seems to be that very fat people are more likely to survive the initial weeks of the Zombie Apocalypse because, provided we have access to water, we’ll be able to hide away and live off our fat stores for a good long while – and when the hunger pangs don’t bite we’ll even have a jolly old time of it, because our brains will be sharp enough to joke, sing and tell stories.

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We’ll find a cozy hole and party like Hobbits. (Original illustration by David Wenzel)

But over the longer term the outlook for VFPs isn’t so good, unless our hiding place also includes some weights and an exercise bicycle.

I’m convinced that the reason I didn’t experience the energy surge I expected is that I’m starting off at a frighteningly low level of fitness. It’s unrealistic to think you can go from being someone who can just about maybe almost chase down one chicken in a very small pen without having a heart attack (and actually the last time I tried to do that I eventually had to call in reinforcements in the form of Peter Pan), to being capable of chasing down a wildebeest, merely by not eating.

This is going to take some thought. And planning. And work. And a whole lot less ice cream.

I’ll think about it … tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day (2)

 

Let’s talk. Have you ever tried fasting? What kind of fast, and what was your goal? What was your main takeaway from the experience?

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And the winner is…

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… a mug of hot, sweet, milky tea and a peanut butter sandwich. Not fancy, and it makes my stomach hurt, but it’s still the ultimate comfort food.

It was the tomatoes and apricots that did me in, mind you. Kuja stopped by and we wandered out into the veggie garden, and – because she’s not one for half measures – she got busy picking pretty much everything that was ready. I’ve been wanting to do this – no one benefits from food left sitting on the vine – and somehow that resulted in just having to taste a tomato … and then a different one … and another. So my mouth started singing the Halleluja Chorus, which woke up my stomach, and then a few other things happened that demanded action … and so, to end an interminable story, I ate the samn damwich. It was yummy!

Anyway, I still think I’m a winner. Three days of no food? That’s pretty darn good for me! I am going to try to make fasting a regular part of my life, and I need to have another go at keto … although it’s really hard to wrap my head around being completely carb-free when we have all sorts of trees and squashy things and tomatoes right out there.

Right now I’m feeling pretty good. I’m tired, but I feel energized. I’m also as happy as all get out because Peter Pan is back … I don’t think I’ve ever told you about Peter Pan, apart from a brief mention here … Hmm, where to begin?

I’ll begin with a picture and end with a promise to tell you more next time I write. Right now, I need to use this welcome energy burst to Get Shit Done in time for an early night, because tomorrow morning I am once again taking up my quill and reconnecting with Henrietta Gurdy. I’ve told you about Henrietta – I mentioned her by name here, but she’s changed a lot since then. I learned just recently that someone I met at the PNWA Writer’s Conference last year is gifting me her reservation for this year, which gives me just five weeks to make Henrietta presentable.

Anyway … this is Peter Pan…

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He’s a tad more hairy than when this was taken in December 2016, but still the eternal boy. I’ve missed having him around!

And now I must go unskunk a dog. Gotta love life on the farm!

Do you ever find that winning and losing are hard to tell apart? 

How I found out that my bell peppers weren’t stunted after all

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I’m into my third day of a total fast – water only, except morning and evening when I add a splash of raw apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. I’ve taken it on and off for years for general gut health; there’s no better cure for indigestion or heartburn. (Yes, I know it’s counter-intuitive to drink vinegar for heartburn. Try it. It works.)

That said, even with gut health one can have too much of a good thing. It turns out that the efficacy of apple cider vinegar as a Gut Repair & Activation Force is enhanced by an absence of food in said gut. What this means is, if you’re taking ACV twice daily while fasting and you find yourself wanting to sneak a tiny booty-toot … don’t. Chances are it’ll be more than hot air. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Moving on to other bodily functions: I’m hungry, of course, but it’s bearable, and I’m doing just fine without any mind-altering drugs. I get tired, both physically and mentally, but I’ve given myself permission to take life easy while I wait for the energy surge ketosis will bring. Even food cravings aren’t a real problem.

Last night I dreamed that something happened – I forget what it was, but I remember it upset me – and I declared, “Screw fasting – I’m going to eat chocolate!” and then in my dream my mouth went, “Meh. Nah, I don’t think so.” (Apparently fasting causes vivid dreams, but nobody said they had to be interesting.)

The toughest challenge I’ve faced so far has been while walking through my veggie garden. Apricots arrayed like my own private sunset, clusters of small sweet grapes peeping between the leaves, tomatoes detonating wherever I look, and I imagine the sensation of biting down, the pop as their skin yields to my teeth, the explosion of flavor. Even the sweet bell peppers, disappointingly small and stunted this year, tempt me to crunch.

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Somewhat relevant picture … The view from my veggie garden this evening. There was a fire some miles from our home – houses burned and humans were evicted, and caring friends called because it was heading our way. I’ve been brooding over the annual conflagrations in California and found it hard to take seriously. This may make me a bad neighbor.

I’m finding hunger is easier to ignore than boredom. My gut, so far, is content to grumble to itself, but my mouth wants to be entertained!

Before I started this fast I had a long list of things I told myself I had to do before I could step outside of “normal life”. Clean the house, catch up on laundry, cook a whole lot of food to keep the Hubbit going while I’m not eating, make up a batch of bone broth for when I start eating again. Every time I looked at the list it got longer – tidy my desk, catch up on filing, weed the veggie garden and start the winter crop, treat the chickens for mites, get all my rescue work up to date, gradually phase out the drugs. I’d planned to start last Thursday, but that ever-growing list pushed the start date back and back as I continued to avoid the to-dos while playing sudoku… because that’s what I do. That’s why this fast is necessary. I need it to clear my head, revitalize my body, awaken my will, and power me up to take control of what’s left of my life.

So on Thursday night on my way home from a dog training class, I swung by Carl’s Jr. and bought a chocolate shake and a teriyaki burger, which I ate in the parking lot while ignoring the German Shepherd drooling down the back of my neck. Sitting there, feeling my gut start to twist the way it always does when I fill it up with garbage, I gloomily pondered all that I still had to do before I could start.

And then it dawned on me: the dirty house, the unfed husband, the tottering piles of paperwork, the erupting weeds – those are all symptoms, and you don’t postpone surgery to focus on the symptoms. So I deleted the list. It was that easy.

I gave the last of the burger and the dregs of the shake to the German Shepherd and came home, where the Hubbit offered me ice cream (Ben & Jerry cherry garcia, yet!) and I astonished both of us by saying, “No thanks!” and meaning it. (Yes, dear reader, I am entirely capable of consuming a tub of B&J cherry garcia on top of a burger and a chocolate shake, never mind the squirmy gut.)

Well, moving on. My evening dose of apple cider vinegar settled the gut, and the burger and shake kept me going most of Friday. Saturday morning I woke feeling … well, awake! So I started the bone broth, and its rich fragrance will fill the house for the next several days. It makes my mouth water, but I can wait.

I found the recipe online, here – and pretty much everything that went into my broth was raised right here on our farmlet. When I defrosted the soup bones they turned out to be more meat than bone, so I cut away most of the meat (I’ll make it into casserole; that will keep the Hubbit going) and weighed out 4 lb of meaty beef bones. I browned them in some olive oil that I poured over fresh rosemary a few days ago and left to steep. I tipped the bones and meat into the slow cooker, covered with water and a generous dollop of apple cider vinegar, and ambled out to the veggie garden to get the celery, onions and leeks.

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Habanero peppers … just like stunted bell peppers, right up until you touch them.

My veggie garden is full of interesting things this year. The leeks are next to a mass of tomatoes, and tucked between the tomatoes are a few bell pepper bushes. They’ve been a disappointment this year; I’ve been waiting and waiting for them to grow, but although there are lots of peppers there is no size to them. I grabbed a handful anyway – I figured they’d add a zing to the broth. Brought it all into the kitchen and happily got busy chopping and frying – oh so fragralicious!

Then it happened. A hank of hair fell into my face, so I pushed it back, and my finger brushed against my eye, and ohhhh shitte! The burn! The running of water over eyes! The frantic removal of contact lenses, and the ow! Ow! Owweee! as eye came in contact with finger – because washing doesn’t help, because capsaicin is oily, people! It doesn’t wash off in water! I put my lenses onto the end of my tongue for safe-keeping, and my mouth burst into flame!

I just barely remembered to switch off the stove before I scurried to the bedroom, where the Hubbit was sprawled behind a book, taking a lazy afternoon. He glanced with mild interest at my red and streaming eyes, and chuckled indulgently when I sputtered about deceitful, nasty, imitation stunted bell peppers.

I demanded that he ask Google what I should do to stop the burning, since the best suggestion he could come up with was water, which didn’t work. “Okay, Google,” he said – that man has no idea how close to death he came – he has to know by now that the “Okay Google” route is way slower than just tapping out your question on the keyboard! Google eventually recommended whole milk. Fortunately the low fat milk the Hubbit insists on buying worked too, possibly with less clouding of the vision .

Once I could see again I carefully fished the pepper pieces out of the pot, and dumped the rest of the veggies into the slow cooker with the meat and bones. I have set the peppers aside. I’m sure they’ll make a tasty surprise for Somebody, next time I have an attack of wifely dutifulness and fix him an omelet or a sandwich.

 

Still reaching for that elusive high

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Ketosis continues to elude me, It was so easy the first time I tried the ketogenic approach to eating, shortly after Thanksgiving last year. I wasn’t concerned when Christmas derailed me – I figured that was to be expected – although it was annoying still to be derailed several weeks into the new year. But I figured okay, I’ll just get back into the whole low carb / medium protein / high fat thing, and in no time I’ll be buzzing along on a high, burning up flab and feeling fabulous.

Not so.

Instead, it seems, my vile body is on high alert, making every carb do double duty, hammering me with headaches, cravings and mood swings, rationing out my energy in tiny little packets that take me nowhere. After two weeks of faithfully consuming plenty of fat, not too horribly much protein, and lots and lots of dark green leaves, I needed some encouragement so I stepped on the scale … and the number was UP. It was up a whole damn pound!

Is it normal to feel that I’m at war with my own body? I’m ambushed by Easter eggs and bludgeoned by depression and that thing our mothers told us (not mine specifically, but mothers in general) – that “you have to suffer to be beautiful” – well, according to all the messages my crocodile brain is sending me, that’s just propaganda. I have suffered mightily, and I have brought suffering upon Himself, and I’ve even not been especially nice to the dogs, and I’m still bulging.

So what to do? Do I admit defeat, embrace despair, accept that I’m doomed to a (probably drastically shortened) life of being in pain, uncomfortable inside my own skin, never to accomplish any but the most banal, foundational items on my bucket list? Do I shrug off the hours I’ve spent researching this, and pretend that the fantastic sense of YES I experienced just before Christmas was a silly illusion? Do I, in a word … quit?

Fuck that

Completely off topic, but I have to insert a brief aside here. I’ve mentioned before how much I love modern technology. Do you know you can find literally anything on Google? Here I was, bashing out this post, and it occurred to me that I didn’t actually want to write the word “fuck” – I mean, not that I don’t say it when sufficiently deeply moved, but it makes for lazy and sloppy writing. On the other hand, no other phrase said what I wanted to say as well.

Clearly, this was a good outsourcing opportunity. So off I went to Google, and I typed in “fuck that”, and next thing I knew I was listening to this audio by someone called Skrillex. (Why??? I mean, why be called Skrillex? And also, why would anyone choose to listen to this? Either way, fuck me if I know.) So anyway, that wasn’t good, but then I remembered that I recently acquired new headphones and subscribed to Spotify (technology! Yeah!) and so I’m now reformatting my synapses with Mozart’s horn concertos – yes, all four of them. (And for some reason I felt it was necessary to google “ear synapses” and … my goodness. Amazing! No – come back – you can go look at it later. And everything else on Google. It’ll still be there when you’re done reading here!)

After plugging a Mozartian horn into each ear I went back to Google for another go at the “fuck that” question, and contemplating the answers kept me happily googling for almost long enough to forget this post entirely. Then I found the GIFs, and oh how I hate when bloggers plaster their posts with these beastly things that jiggle about and distract me from the words – but aren’t they just nifty? Take this one, for example … It lacks the succinctness I was looking for, which is why I decided not to use it, but I know exactly how the ferret feels, and also how does one resist the cuteness factor? There’s not a lot of cuteness happening on this blog, and maybe that’s an area that needs work.

Fuckity ferret

I was hung up for a bit deciding whether to let Snooki or Dave Grohl say “fuck that” on my behalf, but after I’d googled Dave I decided – without in any way being tempted to switch from Mozart to Nirvana – that I’d rather be represented by him than by some skinny bint on a “reality” show that I have no intention of ever watching. Apart from anything else, he looks more like me – not quite as pudgy but still with not a lot in the way of cheekbones. And the beard is yummy – on him, anyway; I tend to give my own chin hairs short shrift. Ha ha – you think I’m joking, younger-female-followers-of-this-blog? Just wait – menopause will get you too!

Which brings me back to my original point: the war between Me and My Bod. Thus endeth this aside…

Nope, I am not quitting. Rather, I am reviewing my options, revising my strategies, and reinforcing my range of tools.

First, the strategy …

Number 1: Love Myself. This is hard! Maybe I’ll settle for just not hating myself… and forgiving me my trespasses…

In a spirit of Moving On, I am also forgiving myself for this ... although some may not forgive as easily. But that's a topic for another day. Right now all I'll say is that it didn't even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I'm not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

In a spirit of Moving On, I am forgiving myself for this most recent failure, especially as  it didn’t even taste good, and it left me feeling sick, although I’m not sure whether that was due to changes wrought by weeks of cutting carbs, or by my awakened conscience.

I also betook myself to Catherine’s yesterday and restocked my wardrobe … for the first time in about two years. Yes, it’s been two years since I bought clothes – because every time I think of doing so I think, “Well, but I can’t stand to keep buying things in that huge size! So I’ll lose weight and then I can go shopping.” Comes a point, however, when your underwear is disintegrating and the seats of your jeans have worn through and the holes in your tee-shirts are too large and too numerous to ignore (what causes those stupid holes? Moths? Fabric-chewing planned-obsolescence nanobots?) and you just have to say stuff it and go back to the damn Fat Lady Shop (because all appearances to the contrary I am SO NOT a Wal-Mart Person) and try stuff on and look at yourself in a three-way mirror and buy at least three of whatever fits so long as it’s on sale because you really don’t want to have to come back again too soon. And actually I found out that I had dropped a size – yah boo thumb-my-nose at the bathroom scale! Which meant that this morning, when I was getting dressed, I didn’t have to put on any of the scary new doesn’t-feel-like-me stuff sitting in shopping bags in my closet; instead I could fit into a pair of shabby-and-bleach-stained-but-not-actually-disintegrating jeans that I hadn’t tried on for a while. And then I hung up the new stuff, mixing it in with the older stuff so that I could get used to seeing it there and forget that it’s new.

So much for nurturing a sense of self-worth … Let’s focus on food.

Apparently I am exceptionally sensitive to carbs – so I’m cutting them out altogether, except for celery. Even my imagination isn’t wild enough to conceive of a situation where celery can be fattening. But I read a comment on a ketogenic lifestyle blog recently from someone who said she was, and I quote, “kicked out of ketosis by kale”, and here I’ve been glomming the stuff down in bunches. So I’m cutting out vegetables entirely, even avocado and the dark green leafy ones. I’m not doing this forever, of course; just for as long as it takes to get into ketosis – at which point I’ll gradually start reintroducing vegetables to see just how much carbohydrate I can tolerate. I’m also cutting out nuts, milk (alackaday – no more lattes!), and the delicious gravy Himself wraps around stews and pot roasts. (Yes, girls – I’m married to a King Of The Kitchen! It took me a while to get over my indignation at his contempt for my own kitchenly efforts, or to acknowledge how very much I dislike cooking – but I can now confess that I’m greatly blessed among wifekind!)

I am gritting my teeth, ignoring years of anti-fat programming, and keeping my fat intake high. Jimmy Moore’s book Keto Clarity contains several recipes for high fat treats … so, ugh, I guess that means I’ll be pulling kitchen duty after all. The benefit is that it doesn’t take a lot of high-fat snacking to leave one feeling quite satisfied – compared with sugary snacks that invariably seem to trigger a craving for more.

I’m also cutting back on protein, big time. No more protein in snacks, only two protein meals a day, and I’ll weigh the damn stuff if necessary to ensure I don’t take more than 30 grams at a time. Apparently if you eat more protein than your body needs it turns into sugar – and the amount you need is directly related to the amount you exercise. Because my overloaded feet and ankles hurt and my energy is still lacking, I’m not exercising a whole lot.

So that’s also got to change – which brings me to …

Second, the tools …

I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money, mainly because we don’t have it, but when I realized that getting into ketosis was going to be a challenge for me I bought the tool that everyone recommends: a meter to track my ketone production. There are three ways to measure ketones.

  • Ketostix pee strips measure the ketones in urine. By all accounts these are pretty useless, because they measure only the ketones you eliminate as waste. As your body adapts to running on ketones rather than sugar, you stop eliminating them – so the more keto-adapted you are, the less they have to measure, leading to a false negative.
  • Blood ketone meters are highly accurate, but they’re expensive and the strips cost around $5 apiece for the Precision Xtra meter, which is the one that gives readings at a level that are relevant to nutritional ketosis
  • Breath ketone meters are new technology, but several experts, including Jimmy Moore, say Ketonix is accurate and reliable. That’s the option I chose, because although the meter cost a little over $100, it’s a once-off investment – no expensive disposable strips. I bought mine on Amazon but have just learned that it’s no longer listed there. A word of warning: delivery is SLOW. I ordered mine on February 21 and I could wait until mid-April for it to arrive – presumably because the developer is battling to keep up with demand. But the reviews were good, so it seemed worthwhile.

And then there is exercise equipment. Given that it’s too cold to swim, it hurts too much to run/jog/skip/jump/walk, and my horse will either break or kill me if I heave my bulk onto his ancient and saggy back, I’ve decided to focus on muscle-building exercises. Apparently muscles burn more calories (i.e., fat) than flab, even when you’re not using them. Also, supposedly, if you have muscles you have more energy. To this end I have bought a yoga mat and an exercise ball … and we have resistance bands from the time I needed physical therapy – I just need to dig them out of wherever they’re hiding. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to do more than pile this stuff up in our bedroom to see any benefit. Argh. Well, I’ll keep you posted … maybe.

Third, just quickly, supplements …

Although my experience may not encourage you to try the ketogenic lifestyle, just in case you do, you will probably need supplements at least while you’re adjusting to the new way of nourishing your body. I found this link helpful.

  • Extra salt is key. You can add it to your food, but comes a point that just doesn’t taste good and I’m not sure it’s healthy. I take one Thermotab every morning – because if I forget, I feel washed out and weak by noon. It’s cheap and readily available, but there are side-effects so do your research. Most importantly, you must drink plenty of water when you take one.
  • Green tea capsules seem to improve my energy levels. I’ve been buying them from Costco but it looks like they’re a lot cheaper online. I’m not sure whether it would be better just to drink green tea – haven’t had time to research this – but for the time being I’m taking two every morning.
  • I take a daily multivitamin, although in time I hope to meet my needs from actual food.
  • Potassium and magnesium are two essential minerals, and if you run short of them you’re likely to feel spacey, tired and ill. I’m taking supplements while I restrict my intake of vegetables.

And, of course, drink water. Just glug it down – it improves your energy, mental acuity and general bodily processes.

So is anyone else out there struggling to love and nurture themselves into a state of good health? Does your body repeatedly sabotage you? What works for you? Also, do you think I need to inject more cuteness into this blog?

Kicking into ketosis

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Right … so … this ketogenic diet/lifestyle thing? It works, but it’s also complicated. It’s not the Magic Thin Pill. Woe and alackaday, it demands thought and effort and more thought and analysis and then some thinking. And every now and then, despite one’s best efforts, one hears the Siren Song of the Carbs, which goes: “Eat me … yumyumyum … ee-ee-eat meee … yumyumyum.”

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Sirens are hard to ignore – just ask Ulysses. Warned that the sound of their singing would cause him to jump overboard and drown himself in a vat of chocolate sauce, he instructed his minions to tie him to the mast of his ship so he could hear the sirens without being overwhelmed by an Undesirable Urge. (Nowadays we have pills for that.) He could do this because he wasn’t responsible for any actual rowing. So this is the first big difference between me and Ulysses: I don’t have minions. I  have to push my shopping cart unaided, so if I take it into my head to wander down the candy aisle or past the baked goods, not making an unattractive spectacle of myself is pretty much all up to me. (Sometimes Himself is along, but we live in a conservative community; I suspect the folk at Costco would look askance if he tied me to the shopping cart. Blame 50 Shades of Grey for their icky assumptions.) So anyway, to get back to my point, Ulysses chose bondage as his path to enlightenment. His minions blocked their ears so that they wouldn’t hear the sirens, while vigorous rowing gave them a helpful outlet for any other testosterone-fueled impulses. Ulysses, lacking both protective headgear and a distraction, went completely nuts. I can feel for him; while not greatly affected by the nubile deliciousness of naked girls – legless or otherwise – I would definitely have to roll my eyes heavenward if sung at by, say, a scoop or six of creamy vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries.

In other words, February has been a challenge. The thing about the ketogenic lifestyle is that when you’re in the groove, you really do feel good. You have more energy, deeper and more restful sleep, fewer aches and pains, improved mood, clearer mental processes, no cravings or attacks of the munchies. Chomp down on that brownie, however, and the desire for carbs will grab hold of you faster than you can say “Please sir, can I have some more” – and the process of getting back in the keto groove is a real bear: tiredness, brain fog, flu-like symptoms, physical weakness, headaches, depression. I have spent this whole miserable February learning and relearning that my body is not going to cut me any slack at all – but, if I grit my teeth through the change-over from carbs to fat as my source of energy, and if I don’t make stupid choices regarding brownies and their ilk, I do in fact feel pretty darn good. (I know I’ve mentioned this before. It’s important that you understand, dear reader, that deep down I can’t quite shake the belief that you’re actually a figment of my imagination, and so a lot of the time I’m writing these blatherings to myself. I need these reminders!)

I’ve been wandering the web for the past several months, reading up about ketosis, ketones and ketogenic eating, high fat, low fat, the sneakiness of carbs, and just how important is exercise. The volume of conflicting information and opinions, and the gazillion “experts” trying to scare you into buying their products and programs, threatened to overwhelm. I needed a guru, and eventually settled on Jimmy Moore – specifically his book Keto Clarity. I picked Moore because he’s connected with a huge and varied team of experts in his field, he writes from the perspective of personal experience, and he doesn’t push a one-size-fits-all approach. . Rather, he offers practical advice on how to figure out what will work for your unique body.Plus, he never once asked for my credit card information

As a person whose body has been damaged by years of poor nutrition, minimal movement, much stress and regular sugar overload, I know it will likely take me four or six weeks to shift fully into nutritional ketosis. Meanwhile I teeter between feeling fabulous and feeling ghastly, and those excess bloody pounds just won’t let go. My solution is to adopt as extreme an approach as I can, focusing primarily on ingestion – I’ll add exercise later, as I’m able. The one caveat is, I will not get tangled up in a whole lot of numbers. I know what I weigh, and I’ll hop on the scale at random intervals to see what that number is doing – but there will be no awkward fumbling about with tape measures, or keeping food diaries, or filling in charts. (Yep, that’s me – ever the rebel!)

So, now for some practical information. My immediate goal is to get into nutritional ketosis, in an effort to get my body to work more efficiently, generate more energy, and burn fat. I want to tell you what I’m doing to get there – starting, today, with the food.

  • It’s all about quality – and that doesn’t have to be expensive. If you choose this as a lifestyle you’re not going to spend money on junk food, and once your body adjusts you’ll find you eat less by choice – so get the good stuff. We’re fortunate to raise our own eggs and beef, and I have the strongest of veggie garden aspirations for this summer. I’ve also identified local sources of pasture-raised pork and chickens. You can do this too! You may not be able to raise your own, but invest in a freezer, find local small farmers, and buy directly from them! It’s important to avoid meat that’s full of hormones, antibiotics and other volume-pumping chemicals because much of that garbage is stored in the fat, and this is a high-fat diet – you want those fatty cuts of meat, and it’s better for you if they’re clean.
  • NO CALORIE COUNTING! This is all about choosing the right kinds of food, eating as much as you need to be satisfied, and eating only when hungry. I have found that as I adapt to eating this way, I just don’t get hungry that often. Typically I’ll eat breakfast by mid-morning, and my next meal between mid-afternoon and evening. I may snack around lunchtime and bedtime. but more and more I’m just not hungry more than twice a day.
  • I’m keeping those carbohydrates as low as I can – as close as possible to zero, and definitely below 20 grams per day, calculated as total carbs, not net carbs. This means no sugar and no starch.  (Yes, hello, fruit contains sugar! An apple a day keeps the ketones at bay!) You’ll find detailed food lists all over the web; here’s one and here’s another. Usually I just google “how many carbs in food-type-whatever”. Gotta love technology! Mostly I eat dark leafy greens – I’m learning to love the texture and flavor of veggies like kale, collard greens and chard. The dark green indicates a high content of certain essential nutrients, and their carb content is minimal.
  • There are conflicting, often complicated theories out there regarding how much protein you should eat. If you consume more protein than your body needs, it will convert to sugar, and your body will use it before burning fat. On the other hand, protein contains essential amino acids, so you absolutely must eat enough for your needs. I try to eat around 30 grams at a time, usually twice a day. That’s a four-egg omelet for breakfast with a sprinkling of cheese, or 3 oz meat, or … again, detailed lists are all over the internet. Just google “Protein content of whatever”. An important factor defining how much protein you need is your activity level. Mine is slug-like, so I’ll be monitoring my progress, and I may cut back on my daily protein intake until I’m able to start exercising intensely if that seems the way to go.

This one-hour lecture will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about the role of protein in your diet.

  • I am continually bumping up my fat intake and monitoring how it affects me. Yes, this is counter-intuitive and a bit scary, but everything I read from serious keto writers reiterates that you have to eat dietary fat to burn body fat. A typical lunchtime snack, if I happen to be hungry or planning a later dinner, will be celery sticks or slices of salami, loaded with cream cheese. My breakfast omelet often contains a whole avocado. I dollop sour cream and butter onto anything that will carry it; I choose fatty cuts of meat, munch down on bacon, and save bacon fat to use for cooking. I also cook with coconut oil, and I sprinkle olive oil or mayonnaise generously onto salads. One of the many benefits of fat is feeling fuller for longer; I don’t often drink milk because it contains sugar, but a full-cream latte will stave off hunger pangs much more effectively than a cookie.
  • I try to drink lots of water. Initial weight loss on this diet is largely water, and you have to keep replacing it if you don’t want to become exhausted. When I forget to drink, I get tired and spacey. Some people find that caffeine triggers sugar cravings but it doesn’t have that effect on me – but mostly I choose water because I find it hydrates me more effectively than other liquids, and that makes me feel good. (It helps that the water from our well is just about the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere!)

Friends, I’m feeling pretty excited about this! Yes, it’s been tough to get even to this point, and I’m looking forward to continued improvements in my moods and energy levels – and weight loss, of course! Most people apparently see their poundage drop immediately, but that’s not been my experience. I’m hanging in, however, and continuing to tweak the way I eat as I figure out what works for me.

In future posts I’ll cover various other issues, including the short-term and long-term effects of nutritional ketosis, how to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs, and exercise. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – your personal experience, concerns, questions, and – I hope – words of encouragement. So chip in! (Just not chocolate chips, okay? Okay!)