Getting FAT – One Week on the Ketogenic Diet

One week ago today I found myself rushing through the grocery store seeking out items I haven’t eaten in years, grabbing ingredients like real, whole fat, butter, high fat organic cheeses, and sour cream.

I made my way up and down the aisles, reading ingredients carefully. Most of the items I picked from the shelves did not pass what I was looking for – being completely carb and sugar-free.

When I say carb and sugar-free, I don’t mean gluten free, filled with artificial sweetener, or even made with natural fruit sugar. For my new diet eliminating the carbs and sugar was serious business – meaning no rice, quinoa, fruits, or honey.

The point of this diet is to put your body into ketosis and you can’t get there if your body has glucose to run on. Please do read more in detail about what happens to your body in this altered metabolic state – it’s fascinating.

One of the main claimed benefits of this diet is that it seems to boost brain health and may be able to repair or prevent certain types of brain disease. Another claim, not yet supported by science, is that the Keto Diet might be helpful to those suffering with IBS.

I found this diet after a life long quest to unravel my own medical mysteries. Doctors throughout my life have not been helpful or interested in getting to the bottoms of some of my more obnoxious health troubles.

My gut, and sometimes my brain, seem to work against me at times. Then there are the little things like acne, headaches, and water retention. Yes, many people have these issues but they add up.

It is important to pay attention to your body, looking for signs things are off balance. We shouldn’t have these issues and now that I’m almost thirty the teenage acne should be over and done.

When it all gets to be too much what do you do? Try something different.

I’m an obsessive reader who loves a good mystery (although I have a hard time with fiction these days). The mystery of my own health has been one that’s frustrated me over the years.

Gut and brain health are complicated and only in recent years are we beginning to truly understand the way these two organs interact with and on one another. As we learn more it does seem like our guts and our brains are connected.

I remember all the drugs. They tried all the prescriptions first then recommended my mom try over the counter medications – antacids, anti-spasm,  muscle relaxers, digestive aids, laxatives, and much more I can’t remember. None of these pills made anything better.

Doctors gave my digestive system clean bill of health (at least physically). No physical explanation – must be anxiety. IBS – end of the line, they’ve given up… It’s the answer doctors give you when they don’t know why your stomach is upside down.

It’s easy to give up on something when you don’t have to live with it or see it every day. The mystery was not something that I could ignore.

As an adult, I found a new doctor, one who was not as obsessed with pushing drugs. When I told her about the “IBS” she suggested trying the FODMAP diet. FODMAP-ing wasn’t for me but the diet did show me that I was better off without gluten and processed foods (the latter of which I already knew).

We all have unique genetics. A one size fits all diet doesn’t seem logical to me, however, there do seem to be a few universal truths.

  • We need to eat less processed foods.
  • We should eat more raw foods.
  • We need to prepare more meals from scratch.
  • We need more organic whole foods.
  • We should worry about what goes into the cows that make our dairy.
  • If we eat meat we SHOULD worry about how the animals are treated and fed.

If you read my previous blog about starting the Ketogenic Diet you may already know that I have an obsession with foods ability to literally kill or cure us. My health is important to me.

Knowing that cutting gluten alone has been helpful, why not go all the way? Why not cut out all the carbs? Cut out the sugar? Sure that actually makes a lot of sense to me and a lot of other people. Sugar is really hard on the brain too.

So far it doesn’t seem that extreme – until I tell you that my goal on this diet is to have 90% of my calories come from fat (8% protein & 2% carbs).

Fat – organic grass fed butter, heavy whipping cream, MCT coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, fatty cheeses, if you like mayo this is the diet for you. Surprisingly a lot of people do the Ketogenic diet for weight loss. You can eat fat to burn fat and lose fat (once you get past all the bad things people have told you about fat your entire life).

Fats are brain foods. As my self-exploration has lead me from gut to brain, being that we’ve thoroughly eliminated a problem in my gut at this point, it is time to switch to a diet that will feed and heal my brain.

 

So far the food’s actually pretty tasty.

 

Sick Days – When Self Compassion is Not Optional 

Ever have one of those days when you are so sick even making your way down the stairs is a questionable task? These are the days when your body forces you to be mindful. It will let you ignore it no longer.

I don’t enjoy being sick that is why I’m changing to a radical new diet. Days like today, when basic tasks feel impossible, having self-compassion is more important than ever.

Be kind to your body. If you need to rest then allow yourself the time you need. It’s easy for us to get into a habit of pushing.

We push until we break down but remember – we’ve only got one body.

Going Ketogenic – My Obsession With Diet & Nutrition

I’ve been obsessed with food and it’s ability to kill or cure you for years.

My obsession with food and nutrition started with the movie Supersize Me. When I  first saw the film I was eating fast food (and other junk) regularly. Watching Food Maters opened my eyes to a new world.  I had to know more about food’s magical healing powers.

By the time I saw Fat Sick & Nearly Dead my eating habits had already changed considerably. Still, the film was a shock to my system. In my mind fruit juice had always been made from concentrate and was nothing miraculous or special. Suddenly real fruit and vegetable juice became much more valuable.

I must have watched every food documentary on the internet at one point, even a few with subtitles. Craving information, driven for answers to all of my countless questions. Hours upon hours watching, reading, and studying. I enjoyed learning about nutrition and how all the vitamins, minerals, and microbiome work in the human body.

All of my obsessive information diving (which typically includes reading scientific research papers) was pointing to a problem with the standard American diet. No one thing could be nailed down and many problems seemed to be popping up.

There also seemed to be a lot of evidence pointing to problems associated with contact with environmental toxins (pesticides, chemicals in cosmetics & household items).

Our bodies have amazing abilities to flush out toxins and heal themselves even against “incurable” conditions, but we can only harness this power if our machines are tuned to perfection.

Pople’s bodies and immune systems are out of balance – we are getting sick at alarming rates. The problems very often seem to be tied to either diet and or chemical exposure (assuming we forgo getting into environmental epigenetics and other genetic conditions).

Down to the molecule, these things have an impact in ways we cannot even understand yet. We are using people as lab rats and the test subjects are not doing very well. Cancer rates are shocking, diabetes is also on the rise. It’s a health crisis that not enough people are talking about.

Modern agricultural practices, foods soaked in pesticides, and groceries filled with ingredients nobody can pronounce, are a failure. Since their invention cancer and terminal illnesses have spiked in nearly all first world countries (especially America).

Each person’s body is different and unique. Another one of my obsessions over the years (since childhood) has been evolution, human, and animal. Without getting too off topic, it would be reasonable to believe that people all over the planet evolved to eat different foods dependent on what was available in their native culture.

Before GMO’s and the invention of year-round access to foods out of season, people were much more limited in their diets depending on local availability. In former times, predating modern migrations, indigenous peoples all over the world thrived on a variety of whole food diets limited based on local climate. Back then we were more in tune with the earth, all foods were whole foods, and nothing was processed.

I’ve had some mysterious health issues my entire life. Some of them smaller, (acne and water retention) others more obnoxious (severe PMS, chronic insomnia, headaches, & and IBS). Doctors have not been helpful. I’ve spent almost a lifetime searching for answers in a thirty-year mystery.

When they don’t know the answer apathetic MD’s dismiss you. It’s been difficult to get any doctor to take my complaints too seriously. The fact that I don’t want to take prescriptions unless as a last resort doesn’t seem to help. “Take this drug, you need more vitamins, drink more water, get more sleep, try more exercise.”  All things I’ve done.

I truly believe in the body’s ability to heal itself. Having these health issues means something in the engine is not calibrated correctly and it’s time for a tuneup.

Over and over again I kept getting pointed back to the Ketogenic Diet so I’m making the change. Today is day two. I’m feeling great despite the knowledge that a detox flu may be just around the corner.

I feel like this could be a positive change to a diet that more closely reflects what my ancestors would have eaten – carbs and sugar would not have been on the menu.

My new diet may not be for you. The truth is we all have to pay careful attention to the whispers (and sometimes screams) of our bodies. We come from a variety of genetics there is really not just one “type” of human.

Genetic diversity is something we should value as a species but with that in mind, a one size fit’s all diet doesn’t seem logical.

You have to find the foods that work for you.

Wanting to Be Older

Longing to grow older is a bit like wishing for death, praying for your life to advance more quickly.

When I was a small child I wanted to grow up. I felt trapped. My legs were too short and I couldn’t reach the latch to unlock our front door.

In elementary school, I wanted to be older. I was afraid. The other kids were mean to me and I wanted to get away from them.

Junior high was difficult and I felt misunderstood. Teachers spoke down to me and school was hard. I wanted it to be over wishing adulthood would hurry up.

At fifteen I was feeling suffocated. All I wanted was to be sixteen so I could get my drivers license and be free.

When I turned sixteen I got my license. For a while I was content. Eventually, I started to want more freedom and the familiar longing started up again.

After turning eighteen I wanted to be twenty-one. My ego was huge and I wanted to be a “real adult”.

At twenty-one nobody took me seriously. I was too young to know anything and still wanted to be older.

By the time I turned twenty-five things were getting better .I was beginning to realize how much of my life had been wasted wishing I was somewhere else. Finally, I wanted to learn how to appreciate the present moment.

Now that I’m two months shy of thirty my life is better than it’s ever been. I don’t long to be older have a greater appreciation for where I am now.

Life is more enjoyable when you aren’t preoccupied with being somewhere else (or in my case somewhen). Living in the future causes anxiety and stops you from seeing the joys right in front of you.

I know this now but it took thirty years to figure this out.

 

Flexing the Inflexible Muscles – Rituals, Routine, & Surprises

I love rituals.

Before I fill up the bathtub I like to straighten and arrange all of the items that I will need in a particular order, often placing all the things in the same location each time. I tidy up the room, add something with a nice smell (like a scented wax warmer or essential oil diffuser), and like to have visual clutter minimized. The ritual is setting the stage for a relaxing bath.

Getting ready for work is a routine that helps me stay productive. Every morning I run through my tasks like a checklist. I get up very early and give myself plenty of time to get ready for work. The list is already in the most efficient order. My goal is to be economical with my time but I really don’t want to rush.

I don’t like feeling rushed. It has been my experience that the days I rush I forget things. Being in a hurry stops you from enjoying the life in front of you. The moment you start to rush you stop living in the present and your mindfulness dissolves.

Before packing up my things I sit in front of my laptop and check my calendar to help make sure I know the important details of my day. I allow myself to walk back through the house to make sure I’ve done everything and turned things off. I take the time to stop and go through my mental checklists before I walk out the door.

These rituals and routines are comforting and they keep me calm, clear-headed, and productive. I give myself enough time to work mindfulness into my morning and it becomes a part of everything I do. Starting my day off right, with a good mental foundation.

Knowing what is coming I feel prepared to take on the world but the real battle doesn’t even start until a surprise happens.

Being flexible isn’t always easy. It’s hard to do because we love routine and knowing what to expect. These things are comforting and reliable when everything else may seem chaotic.

I try to always buffer in time for the inevitable surprises and mentally make a note that “anything could happen”. If I get too attached to my plan for the day and something changes last minute I feel agitated.

We must learn to flex our inflexible muscles and let go of attachments and expectations – otherwise, we will be upset when things change. Learning to stay calm in these moments, when something unexpected intrudes into your well thought out plan, may be hard work but it will benefit you in the long run.

When you feel that spark, adrenaline pulsing through you, take a time out. Breathe, close your eyes and count, go for a walk, find a way to stay in the present or take a break until you are back in your right mind.

Thinking clearly becomes impossible when the mind is racing. Bad decisions are born from unclear heads. Take the time you need to clean your mind. Don’t let anyone rush you when you need to think.

Flex your inflexible muscles, face your fears, don’t let life’s surprises get you down.

The Stories We Tell – The Legacies We Leave Behind

Whether you know it or not you are writing a book.

We all tell stories; if not in the text and in words than we tell them with our actions. The things we do in life are the legacies that we leave behind. Choices we make become our influence on the world even after we’re gone (especially now in the digital age where people argue freely online).

It is easy to be careless but it is essential that we exercise caution over our actions. The person you choose to be in life is a book you write. What will be written on the pages of your life?

What inheritance will you leave the earth? Will you leave it better than you found it? Will you make your story a gift to the world – or will you be a curse? How do your actions impact those around you and those you never see?

When you toss the soda can rings in the ocean you may never see the animal tangled as a result. You may not see the agony of your dog on the days you spend too many hours at work. Often our actions have consequences that we are completely unaware of.

Sometimes we are fortunate enough to experience our bad decisions first hand. These times we are lucky because we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes – if we so choose to.

Life is full of choices. Good one’s bad ones. Unfortunately, it is easier for people to remember your bad choices over the good ones.

Those of us who would rather be remembered for our good deeds over the bad ones have our work cut out for us. We must work extra hard to be mindful of our actions so that we can more efficiently manage our time.

Cleaning up our mistakes is much more work than avoiding them, to begin with – learning lessons, working not to repeat our failures, trying our best to do as little harm as possible, but there can be no balance unless you give something positive back.

I am aware that driving my car to work is most likely doing harm to bugs and other tiny creatures along the way. However, living somewhere with little to no public transportation, it would be in practical for me to walk.

Some harm is unavoidable. Do not turn away from these unfortunate truths or avert your eyes from those who are suffering. These things are the realities of the world and turning a blind eye is the least helpful thing you could do.

When you write your tale put something worthwhile in your publication. Goodness knows there’s enough garbage in the world these days.

Bodhisattva Vows in My Bathroom Mirror – The Intention to Do Good

Every morning after situating the dogs, feeding and letting them out into the yard, I grab my coffee and head upstairs to the bathroom. Laying all the items out neatly on the counter and turning on the flat iron, I meet my own gaze in the mirror.

In my head, I echo words that have become familiar. I’ve repeated the words so many times that they’ve become more than words. The vow has become a challenge, a motivation, and a guiding light.

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them
Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them
Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them
Buddha’s way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

There are many variations on these Bodhisattva vows, but regardless of the words, the meaning is essentially universal. When you take these vows you are promising to undertake an endless and impossible task. It is a promise to act in a way that is helpful and beneficial to all beings. You promise to live your life for the greater good, in attempts to leave the world better than you found it.

What is a Bodhisattva?

The Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who, deferring his/her own full Buddhahood, dedicates his/herself to helping others attain Liberation. –  Sarasota Zen Center

The first line talks about all of the living creatures in the world. There are far too many for anyone to save. Despite the unfortunate fact that you will not possible be able to save everyone, you make a promise to help whoever you can.

Next, we talk about desires and sometimes the other poisons of the mind (delusion and aversion.) These things hinder us on our journey to achieve perfect knowledge. They will come up over and over again in life, endlessly. We vow to learn to recognize delusions every single time they arise and overcome them.

Dharma gates, opportunities for growth and learning. Each and every situation in life is an opportunity to for growth and knowledge. When we vow to enter or master every Dharma gate we are promising to tackle every learning opportunity head on. We will not sit passively and wait for the life’s truths to come to us. This vow is a promise to actively seek out and pursue the truth or Dharma.

The last vow asks you to do the impossible – be a Buddha. It is a phrase I repeat to myself over and over again in my head whenever I have to face something difficult “Be a Buddha, be a Buddha, be a Buddha.” Sometimes I ask myself “What would Buddha do?” This is the vow I call on this vow more often than the others, taking the Buddha with me in my day to day activities, doing my best to mindfully live carrying out the right actions.

People sometimes question taking a vow to undertake an impossible task. Someone once made a comment that I was “setting myself up for failure” by holding an impossible goal. This statement misses the point completely.

When we take these vows it is an affirmation, we put our intentions forward into the world creating the seeds for action. As long as we follow these vows, genuinely putting forward our best efforts, we continue to learn and grow while doing good in the world. We practice Buddhism in this way each day growing and learning more (key word practice).

Be a candle to those who are in the dark. Let your light glow bright and share it with the world. Remember that one candle can light many flames.

Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.

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