Diets, Intermittent Fasting, Ketogenic

Keto Level-Up: Intermittent Fasting

Another big keto buzzword (buzzphrase?) is intermittent fasting. This is where you fast for a certain number of hours in a day. Everyone already does a small fast when you eat dinner at 7pm and do not eat again until breakfast at 6am, so that would be an 11 hour intermittent fast. Many keto experts recommend intermittent fasting as a good way to heal certain underlying conditions and it seems to be a good tool for those who have plateaued. The very, very, very basic premise is no food coming in forces the body to use ketones (which it will get from body fat) and insulin spikes are reduced. Plus, the intermittent part does not give the body time to go into the dreaded starvation-mode that tanks metabolism.

I have been attracted to the idea of intermittent fasting for years. I am in education, so I get about 6 weeks off in the summer. I noticed that on weekends that I was busy or in the summer (especially while traveling), that I would forget to eat until 2pm or so.* I did not gain weight at those times like the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” crowd claimed I would.

*Unless I was bored or overly stressed because I am an emotional eater.

My conundrum came when I was working. How do I do an intermittent fast or even just eat when my body tells me I am hungry when I am at work? Here’s the thing: you all remember being mad at the unfairness of not being able to snack during class or asking permission when you needed to go to the bathroom. Guess what. It is just as frustrating for the teachers. Sure, I can probably get away with having a beverage when kids cannot, but food? No way. Heck, I cannot even ask to the bathroom when I need to. I have to wait for a passing period bell to give me permission. I wanted to try a 16 hour intermittent fast, but I was not sure how to pull it off with my job. I could not wait to eat breakfast at 10 am at my desk and I have developed a close relationship with my BPC.

Finally, after four months I found my solution: Ample K shakes. For the record, I am not being compensated in any way for this review, (but I am willing to be… ;))

I had heard about Ample K on a few podcasts and then the freaky “it just showed up on Facebook” thing occurred, too. One podcast, I had tried some real duds based on their recommendation, so I look at them as ones who will shill anything… but the discount codes can come in handy, so their recommendation did not send me running to order. Then, I heard it recommended on a much more selective podcast, so I decided to give it a shot.

 

Thank goodness for those discount codes, because this is not a cheap product. I am hoping it will catch on enough that they can mass produce it and the prices can drop or maybe they will make a tub so you measure it out instead of bottling each serving in its own bottle.

I tried with tempered hopes, but I really liked it! It is a powder in a bottle that you add water or a nut milk to, shake, and drink. I drink it with Unsweetened Vanilla Macadamia Milk. I swear it tastes like cake batter, which satisfies my sweet tooth without sending me down a spiral of craving real cake.  Perfect! You can even add cold brew or instant crystals to make it a coffee drink. I have never seen a hot version recommended. My guess is one of the benefits of Ample K is its probiotics and many probiotics cannot handle heat or maybe the plastic bottle it comes in is the problem. I have not seen an explanation, so I am merely speculating.  I did try it with water a week in and it was fine, but my palette’s tolerance for this version has been ruined since I started out with the good stuff.

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So now I had a satisfying beverage that could be coffee-fied as needed. For the last two weeks during workdays I have been skipping breakfast and my BPC and waiting until around 10am to have a shake. Then I eat lunch, have my BPC right when I get home,  and eat dinner before 6pm to create a 16 hour intermittent fast. The early dinner does not bother me. I have always been on the Senior Citizen Early Birds Special schedule for dinner, plus snacking is one fo the few bad food habits I never developed. I may need to consider switching to decaf for the later BPC, but I have always had trouble sleeping so I cannot say for sure caffeine is my current problem.

The verdict: hopeful.

I have been losing and gaining the same three pounds all year, but I have gone down five pounds so far in two weeks with none of the regular upswings.

Sorry I cannot tell you it has been the miracle cure and I dropped 20 pounds the first week (I hate those stories,) but the scale is finally going down consistently and I was confronted twice with the scenario that I normally “cheat” and I was fine.

It feels like I have turned a major corner.

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Diets

Non-Scale Victory

Keto is something that if you get into more than just superficially you hear the mantra, “This isn’t a diet, it’s a ‘Way of Living’.”  Many people will refer to keto as a WOE (way of eating) to avoid using the word diet.  It is a big mind shift for most of us. A diet is something we enter with an end in mind. A goal weight usually. Of course, if you reach the goal weight, for most of us it comes back. Keto however, is not just a way to loss weight, it is presented as a way to heal the body of a lifetime of sugar/carb damage. For many of us, the damage is extensive enough that keto needs time to heal other things before weight loss can occur.  Unfortunately, for me, I am one of those people.

This means I am one of those people who has to stay motivated with non-scale victories while I wait for my body to get around to the weight loss part. So far, my blood pressure has gone down, my cholesterol’s HDL/LDL ratio is great, my triglycerides are on point, and my resting blood sugar has gone under 100. Great victories. Important victories. But…

I don’t consider myself I particularly vain person, but I really want some scale victories.  Not yet, but I did get one that was a nice ego boost. A victory I can finally see. A victory that is not just numbers I do not understand. A victory that does not involve bleeding!

Are you ready for this?

I found, not one, but two swimming suits I like!

Not two that were good enough, not two that will do, two that I liked how they look on me! Two that I had to make a hard choice on which one to keep.  I have rarely been able to manage to find one. Two is just unbelievable.

It was an amazing feeling and a non-scale victory that feels like a victory!

Diets

First Day of the Project

Like I mentioned in my last post, I am using a program called The Fat Burning Female Project (FBFP.) I do not want to blow up Shawn Mynar’s income by giving away her trade secrets, so I will not go into too many details on how the program works.

The FBFP is a six week program where a cohort is eased into ketosis so we can learn to listen to our bodies, discover our carb tolerance, and do it all as a supportive community through a Facebook page and occasional group chat.

The FBFP starts off with one of my dieting weaknesses: tracking. I have never been good at keeping up with tracking food. I like variety and I make some strange specialty dishes, so I feel like figuring out points or macros or whatever the tracking system of the day calls for takes longer than eating the food. The FBFP uses a proprietary tracking system that is much easier than others I have tried and Shawn does not want us to get obsessive, so she encourages guesstimating. Guesstimating is something I can get behind.

The best part of of her tracking system is IT ENDS. We will only track the first four weeks and then we are expected to have an idea what we are doing. I hope I can do a better job tracking if there is an end in sight. During a former dieting attempt, I got the My Fitness Pal app and I have friends on it. The app will send me notifications to congratulate my friends for doing their food diary for hundreds of days in row.

No thank you. I am trying to break my addiction to food, obsessing over it like this seems counterintuitive to me.

The FBFP and successful tracking in general also depends on my other dieting weakness: meal planning. I am terrible at planning my meals. I have staples for breakfast and lunches I often take to work, but dinner is a free for all based on what is in the fridge and what I have enough time/energy to cook. IMG_0042Too often I decide take-out is all I have the time/energy for.  At the end of the day I am in no mood to cook. Sometimes I plan ahead, but I inevitably have forgotten an ingredient or I have waited so long to get around to making my planned meal that an ingredient has gone bad. I could probably pay off my mortgage, student loans, and sponsor a small village in India if I had back all the money I have wasted on food I have let go bad.

So for my first day of tracking in true me fashion, I waited until the end of the day.  Luckily, I was fairly spot on except for carbs. Pleasantly, my problem was too few carbs instead of too many. That meant I got to find a snack to close the gap. I have never been a big snacker, but I did have a bag of freeze-dried blueberries in the house. I might have to get more carbs in the house for the first few weeks as we wind down our carbs. That was a unexpected surprise.

The third thing we jump off with is taking supplements. Guess what! Remembering to take supplements is another weakness of mine.  Part of what attracted me to keto is its emphasis on real food. I have never been one to turn to medication when I am sick if I can help it. Keto is to help me avoid the health issues that will require me to carry around a shoebox full of daily medications like my grandma did. I do a pretty good job with morning and lunch supplements during the week. Dinner and weekends are when I lose track.

So here I am at the end of day one and we are starting out with all the hard stuff for me. I guess I can be happy we are getting all the hardest parts out of the way right off the bat. The other theme seems to be I have breakfast and lunch down, but dinner needs work. I am two-thirds of the way there!

This is the hardest part, right? Right?

Wait, there are needles coming. I forgot about the needles part.

Oh no.

Diets

Why Keto?

By now we have all heard about the report where Keto was ranked last in safe diets by doctors, so why is someone like me choosing it? I am highly educated, my day job includes not just knowing how to research, but also knowing how to recognize reliable information. Heck, one of my siblings is even a Registered Dietician! So why is this the conclusion I have come to?

Like most things, it is complicated.

I have had some temporary success with more traditional diets. In college, I put my twenty-year old metabolism to work and took up running. After a few of months of working my way up to running a half hour four days a week and eating a low fat diet, I finally lost around forty-five pounds over the course of a year. Then, winter came and I stopped running and the pounds came back and they brought friends.  I took up running again at 22yo, and this time nothing budged. My fat can only be fooled once by a diet.

In my mid-twenties, I tried Weight Watchers and worked out religiously.  That time, I lost about twenty-five pounds. I stopped Weight Watchers (I am terrible at tracking and counting calories), but kept up my workout routine. Then I got a new job that proved to be very stressful and time-consuming, so I started eating out more and the weight crept back on. A trainer at my gym suggested I was gaining because I was working out too much (45min-hr/5 times a week), so I scaled back and quickly fell back out of the working out habit, too.

(Sorry any guys.) Then in my late thirties, my period started coming with massive cramps the likes of which I had not seen since I was in high school. I had always had some, but these were bad enough for me to leave work sick so I got an IUD. The first few months of the IUD, my hormones were insane. I wanted to eat everything. My cravings were as intense as a pregnant woman’s. All I wanted was sugar and fat. At one point I had the thought that a stick of butter rolled in sugar would really hit the spot (this was one of the few cravings I did not follow through on btw.) By the time my hormones settled, I had gained forty pounds to reach my highest weight ever.

I tried Weight Watchers again. Nothing. My wallet was the only thing that lost weight.

I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer. Weight did not budge. The fact that my trainer was also a server at The Cheesecake Factory seemed the perfect metaphor for my lack of progress.

I went hard core and joined a CrossFit gym. My weight still was not moving, but at least I was seeing progress in my strength. Then two years ago, the CrossFit gym had a competition.  They like to do the occasional nutrition challenge and this one was a 30 day sugar detox to see who could lose the most weight in one month by cutting all added sugar out of their diet. The rules were no added sugar, only one serving of fruit per day, and we had a Facebook group to record our meals. In thirty days I lost twenty pounds, but sugar is addictive and this junkie reverted to her old habits.

But something was different this time. I did not gain back the weight. I got more consistent in my workouts and did not lose any more weight. This confirmed for me that exercise alone does not help weight loss. I have summers off and the lack of a schedule got me out of my gym schedule and I still did not gain any weight back. More proof that this was more complicated than Calories In, Calories Out.

Once I was back on a schedule, I got better about going to the gym consistently, but the lack of movement on the scale was wearing on me. Also, my blood pressure and blood sugar were still borderline high and I was still pre-diabetic.  So about a year ago I decided the obvious solution was no sugar again.

Screech…..

Nope. My body will only fall for a diet once, so I needed to take things to the next level.

I had heard of the ketogenic diet very briefly in relation to treating epilepsy.  I think that is the big reason I have never bought the whole “keto is dangerous” narrative. Then Joe Rogan started talking about it on his podcast (I swear I do not base all my life choices on Joe Rogan, it is just a coincidence he has came up two posts in a row.) What he was saying made sense to me, so I started poking around the internet. From there I found The Ketovangelist Podcast with Brian Williamson and started listening to him which led to Jimmy Moore’s Podcast Keto Talk. Brian added the Ketovangelist Kitchen segment to his show, which turned into its own show with Carrie Brown. Jimmy had Shawn Mynar as a guest, so I added The Keto for Women Show to my podcast rotation.

Let’s just say, I was researching this to death to avoid the truth that it was time to give up sugar and grains for good. I had already reached the conclusion on my own that weight gain was more complicated than the “a calorie is a calorie” model, so the hormone (namely insulin) explanation made a lot of sense to me. My family history makes me a hormonal time-bomb. Both my grandmothers were diabetic, both my grandfathers died of heart disease, my dad is diabetic and had two heart attacks before the age of sixty, and my grandma and one sister have hypothyroidism. The more I listened to and read about ketosis, the more I was convinced my weight was a symptom, not the disease. I had high blood pressure, high blood sugar, my cholesterol ratio was troublesome, and prediabetes.

But still, I wavered because my addiction to sugar is strong. I decided the best course of action for me was to join Shawn Mynar’s Fat Burning Female Project. What I liked was for one it is geared toward women.

History lesson: years ago, a drug was approved in the UK that ended up causing devastating birth defects. In the aftermath to try to prevent this from ever happening again, drug trials were made as homogeneous as possible. This meant that many drugs were only tested on men, because a woman’s monthly cycle meant more variables to account for in studies. Recently, scientists discovered how dangerous this could be based on how many women reacted to a sleep drug because the dosing sizes were based on only men, so women were sleep walking or even sleep driving! So drug trials are starting to get a bit more diverse, but still a lot of tests, protocols, medications, and recommendations are based on how men’s bodies react. Since I have deduced my problem is hormonal, it does not make sense to base my solution on what works for a man. If there is one way everyone can agree men and women are different, it is our hormones.

So Monday, I will join the new round of the Fat Burning Female Project. Besides being based on women’s bodies, I also like that it has a simplified and more importantly, temporary tracking system that is used to make us intuitive eaters instead of requiring me to keep a lifelong list of my macros. Several tries with Weight Watchers taught me tracking food is not my forte. I also like that we are eased into ketosis (no or mild keto flu) and that Shawn’s focus is healing the hormones. Heal the hormones and the symptoms will disappear.

The last reason I am choosing keto is that I have been doing keto-lite and even that has been helping. I have not seen weight loss (which is a hard metric of health to let go of because you can see it on the scale and feel your clothes fitting differently), but I have seen other improvements already. My blood pressure has normalized even under the new stricter guidelines, my cholesterol ratio is spot on, and my resting blood sugar is dropping. None of these metrics healed when I tried low fat/exercise. As a matter of fact, that is when some started. How is the lifestyle that has started to show real healing the unhealthy option?

There is progress, but not visual progress. That is why I am doing this blog, to keep me on track so I can be patient while my body heals from decades of hormonal hijinks.

I can do this.

I have to do this.