I am giving myself full permission to ramble here. Especially since it’s been a bit since I last showed up to blog. When I first sought out to blog, I had it in my mind that everything contained here in would be presented as … a gift. Something that can help others, but also I pictured perfection. A piece written so compact, so divine, it might as well have a big dapper bow smack in the middle of it like a shiny Christmas present under a towering tree.
Unfortunately, perfectionism is daunting. And not attainable. So here again, I am practicing the art of simply showing up, of telling myself, “Done is better than perfect,” and to see this as a writing practice. And even if I can’t think of anything major to say, or stick to a specific subject, I’ll just show up and type out whatever is on my mind.
Today is Day 33 of a 60-day (nose-to-tail) carnivore challenge. The challenge also includes not drinking any wine. I’m doing it with a good friend who has type 2 diabetes, and so far, she and I are still at it. The best part about this whole thing is that I get to hear from her on a daily basis, as we text each other for accountability. I imagine this might be similar to something a health coach might do, but I’m not quite certain, to tell you the truth. I’ve actually explored the possibility of becoming a health coach, focusing on the connection between food and mood, insulin and depression, how your biology influences your psychology. As I have, over the years, become more mentally strong, I’d love to figure out a way to help others know that using real, unprocessed, food to improve their mental health is possible.
There are so many health coaching programs out there. Ones I’ve looked at are:
Nutrition Network (Tim Noakes Foundation — this one you have to be a medical professional or health coach first in order to take this class; I contacted them last year and they said they will have a health coaching program forthcoming)
Right now, I’ve decided to table health coaching education for now, as my main priorities this year are to:
Bring in more money for my family by either taking on more writing/editing clients or taking on a part-time job unrelated to writing (so I can focus on my own creative writing).
Finish revising my novel and begin querying and researching publishing options.
Be in the best shape I’ve ever been in so far — in health (mental and physical) and body composition.
Being more present for my family.
This really feels good to type it out. To see it in print. I tend to take on more than I can stomach. My eyes have always been bigger than my stomach, so this year I’m trying to cut down on unnecessary stuff. For a hot second there, after listening to Zach Bitter talk to Geoff Woo, I considered adding ultra-running in as a possible side-thing, to help increase my HRV. But then reality set in, and I had to shut that idea down. There was no way I would be able to spend quality time with my kid, my partner, finally finish my novel, complete work tasks for clients, take on more work to bring in money, if I was outside training for hours on end.
So today, I settled for a 30 minute run on the treadmill, as it was misty and sprinkling outside. As I ran, I listened to a new podcast focused on writers and their writing routines. Last year, about this time, we were living in our RV racing from Baja to Baja Sur, Mx, trying to get me to catch a flight to San Miguel de Allende for a writer’s conference to meet up with another good friend. While there, I met so many new writer friends. One of them was a novelist named Joy who wrote mysteries under a pseudonym. She just texted my friend and myself a new podcast to listen to when we asked her for writing tips, especially for someone who holds down a day job as a therapist and also has kids. She not only reminded us to commit to the writing time as if it were a job, she also sent along a podcast rec that helps keep her on track: Writer’s Routine with Dan Simpson.
While on the treadmill, I listened to a guy named Mason Currey who wrote, ‘Daily Rituals: Women at Work.‘ He talked about one of my favorite sci-fi writers, Octavia Butler. She once worked a full-time job as a potato chip inspector, so in order to write, she’d get up at 2 or 3am to work on her fiction. Talk about dedication!
I will end this blog post with my favorite quote in the entire world by Octavia Butler (a self-taught fiction writer):
Photo and quote image credit (above): https://www.azquotes.com/quote/390554
Well, guess what? I did it! Actually went without food and coffee for seven whole days. That’s 168 hours. Even though this isn’t my first prolonged fast for autophagy, I feel proud of myself for having the mental and physical strength to do it. Last year, in January 2019, I did a 7 day fast and wrote all about it in a blog draft, but didn’t have the courage to post it. (I may still post it a year later just for the hell of it. I mean, why not?) This year is different. I’m practicing showing up more for myself, my writing practice, and hopefully, in the process, help anyone who reads this and finds some of what I write, which I’m always still learning with each day, to be useful.
With that in mind, here are my stats below, along with some takeaways from my third (or is it fourth?) prolonged fast, which is the first time I’m starting a fast like this with a nose-to-tail carnivore way of eating (20 days before Day 1 of 7-day water only fast).
Day 6 Water Only Fast Stats:
Fasting Glucose: 71 mg/dL
Ketones (BHB): 5.3 mmol/L
Glucose:Ketones Index (GKI): 0.7
Weight: 123.2 lbs
Mood/Energy/Notes: Energy lower today. Not as productive. Sour taste in mouth, went away with a minty mouth wash. Drank mint tea. Felt like watching YouTube videos all day. Binge-watched Keto-Connect’s Matt and Megha while trying to decide if I should buy an air fryer or not. Was it worth it? Even though Maria Emmerich’s new Carnivore cookbook used it in almost every other recipe? (She does always have an oven option too, which I’ve been using.) Anyhow, I loved watching Matt and Megha’s new adorable baby, Theo, knock over coffee and flop around while they filmed videos about keto; it reminded me of my days as a new mom, with my own floppy baby who is now 15 years old (where did the time go??). Made me miss breast feeding. I’m so glad I breast-fed for 18 months. That is until I got so sick with asthma that I had to get on mass doses of Prednisone. These were the days when I was eating a very high carb/low fat diet, and even went vegetarian for a year, mostly eating pasta, sandwiches, and lots of dessert. I think back then I weighed around 165. My max weight was 170 when I married in 2011, when my mom said I looked like a pork bun. What a long way I’ve come! Anyhow, I digress. So back to binging videos. I also watched Chihyu’s strangely addictive cooking videos on how to cook Asian food that is also low-carb, Paleo/Whole30 and keto. For Asian cooking, Chihyu, Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo, and my favorite of all: Kelly Tan Peterson (who happened to be one of my clients I do some freelance writing for from time to time; I met her at Low Carb USA in San Francisco one year while there with my friend Emmie). Kelly, who has been eating keto for 9+ years, is throwing Singapore’s first Low Carb Singapore conference in May 2020 to help people learn how to prevent diabesity with real food. She’s got some fantastic low-carb speakers like Ivor Cummings, Dr. Eric Westman, and more. Plus it’s sponsored by the Tim Noakes Foundation, and more. She also has a huge presence on Facebook with her many groups designed to help people learn about keto and get healthier. For a 52+ year old woman, she looks like she could be my younger sister. When my husband and I were in Baja Sur living in our RV full-time with our kid, we had the opportunity to meet Kelly and her husband in person at a Cabo restaurant. Her husband, a doctor, also looks like a young healthy man. They actually look like they’re glowing from the inside, aging backwards. Totally inspiring what ketosis can do for you!
Day 7 Water Only Fast Stats:
Fasting Glucose: 61 mg/dL
Ketones (BHB): 5.9 mmol/L
Glucose:Ketones Index (GKI): 0.5
Weight: 123.2 lbs
Mood/Energy/Notes: Calm, happy. Totally not hungry. Did a lot. Cooked and prepped up a storm in our kitchen today for dinner and the next few days without actually wanting to eat. Strange! My husband, Darrell, was on Day 3 of his fast, ending his the same time as my brother 7-day fast. He was a grouch on his Day 2 (notoriously the worst day of an extended fast, yet once you get past it, gets easier!). We ordered meat from White Oak Pasture. Lots of organ meat, grass-fed suet, and even duck feet for our bone broth. Darrell is loving nose-to-tail carnivore, having no big plans to stop. My friend and I have extended our 30-day carnivore challenge to 60 days now. After that, we’ll re-evaluate to see if we should go longer or not, or return to a more regular keto approach, cycling in carnivore in between. Anyhow, didn’t feel like exercising at all today.
Felt surprisingly less anxious and more calm, especially when my GKI neared 1 and below. I mean, serious zero social anxiety. For much of the fast past Day 2, I woke up not feeling that familiar anxiety/angst gnawing at me in the pit of my stomach, thinking of all that I needed and wanted to do. I could tell myself: Yes, you have all that to do. But you can do it, one pomodoro at a time. Whether it’s a novel or work task, everything just felt manageable. I could rely on self-compassion and trust.
Not eating for 7 days left me with more time, more focus, and surprisingly more productivity. I wrote a lot. Words tumbled out.
I felt like a monk. More grateful and appreciative of the little things. Like meditating every day, many times twice, being mindful and noticing all of my senses as I sipped hot mint tea, drank my many glasses of water sprinkled in with salt, moved my body and enjoyed the sensations of yoga stretches and pushups. I felt like a badass every time I did some chin-ups (my favorite so far) or pull-ups at the gym. I love feeling strong, in both body and mind!
I realized just how strong I am in my mind. If I can get through 7 days without any food, just water and hot non-caffeinated tea–not to mention, not a drop of coffee!–I can do anything!
It was hard to believe how past Day 2, I rarely felt hungry or tempted, never wanting to eat. Even on Day 7 when it was time to break the fast. I knew I could’ve kept going!
Everything seemed more beautiful, colors more vivid, music more poignant. My senses were heightened. I felt more in tune with nature. Definite full-blown euphoria on Day 3. (The last few years when I did my annual 7-day fasts, euphoria usually hit around Days 5 or 6.)
Surprisingly, not hungry even though I enjoyed cooking and searching for recipes from Maria Emmerich’s carnivore cookbook. What was different about this fast versus past ones, was that I began the fast with 20 days of carnivore, adding lots of fat like duck fat. Which was probably why Day 1 of my fast, I woke up with a GKI of 2-something.
My plan for future fasts: 3-day fasts per month similar to what Dr Peter Attia is doing; my husband will be doing it too. We’ve already marked our calendars for Feb 27 when we’ll begin our 3-day water only fast after our last meal before bed, ending it on March 1 around the same time. My husband will be in 5 years of remission from his cancer this October, so with a PET scan coming up soon, he’s working on adding in monthly fasts, along with intermittent fasts, cleaning up his diet even more (staying nose-to-tail carnivore mostly throughout the year and laying off wine). Over the past year or so, we’ve become more and more lax with our keto-eating, letting carb creep set in especially while traveling and eating out a lot, plus we had started drinking more. This year we’re starting the year with a reset that we hope will set the tone for our combined health the rest of the year.
Featured Photo: This is the Analyzer feature in the Heads Up web app I use to correlate whatever the heck I want; in this case, my 7-day fast to note health metrics I care about, such as GKI, fasting glucose, ketones, and weight. Notice how with each day fasted, my GKI, weight, and fasting glucose decreases. Ketones shot up surprisingly higher than any of the prolonged fasts I’ve done before in previous years. Wonder if it has something to do with starting the fast off after being on a strict carnivore diet for 20 days straight? (Note: Weight is something I usually only measure once a month, not daily. Only in an extended fast because I’m curious how much I’m losing, knowing it will go back up.)
Music while putting together this blog post: “Bitter Heart” by Zee Avi (I love this woman’s music!)
Hi there. Believe it or not, I’m still alive. And still going! (Incredibly hard to believe since I’ve given up coffee for this week. May consider weaning off coffee to reduce anxiety and to increase better sleep, but we’ll see.)
Below are some notes taken so far on my 7-day fast for the past few days.
Day 4 Fast Stats:
Fasting Glucose: 92 mg/dL (not sure why it rose higher than usual here)
Ketones (BHB): 5.4 mmol/L
Weight: 125.4 lbs
Mood/Energy/Other notes: Mood pretty good. Energy on the medium side. I did a quick workout in the morning, but didn’t push myself too hard. Did some gentle yoga stretches. Tried to be productive but ended up getting lost watching an almost three-hour-long (why does it have to be THAT long?) Joe Rogen podcast with Dom D’Agostino. It was highly enjoyable, especially since I’m always hungry to learn more about ketosis and how ketones are a signaling molecule, akin to a drug, to pathways in our brains, helping to reduce inflammation and a plethora of other health benefits. As someone who once took anti-convulsants for bipolar disorder type 2, I know first-hand that I feel my best when my GKI is low (ideally under 8 or lower) when my ketones are up and my fasting glucose is low. Whenever I let myself go for longer periods of eating refined high carbs and foods with sugar, grains and starch, my GKI goes up to through the roof (I’m talkin’ 60 or so, and that’s when I’m actually still registering ketones) and my my fasting glucose shoots up to prediabetes levels (130s to 140s). Anyhow, I digress. I’m just continually fascinated at what ketosis can do to your brain, heart, liver, gut and overall health. Later that night, I had a sudden urge to plan meals for the following week, when I’d break my fast to eat carnivore meals. My friend and I are planning to go for a total of 60 days on carnivore (which means it’ll end on March 6 for us, my sister’s birthday). When that day arrives, I’ll decide whether or not I’ll want to continue eating carnivore, or cycle back into a more modified carnivore with some occasional vegetables, or just regular keto/paleo/primal, which is what I usually try to follow most of the time. I was carnivore for about three months back in 2018, when I was in the best shape of my life, both mentally and physically. So it’s hard not to want to feel and look good when something is so obviously working. Yet I do love vegetables from time to time. So we’ll see.
Day 5 Fast Stats:
Fasting Glucose: 65 mg/dL
Ketones (BHB): 6.6 mmol/L (Whaaat??!)
Weight: 123.8 lbs
Mood/Energy/Other notes: Surprisingly calm and blissful. Energy even on the high side throughout the day. I did yoga in the AM and also did a complete THENX beginner workout at the gym, completing two sets of jump chin-ups (16 reps total). Usually I have trouble lasting more than 15 seconds when it comes to doing mountain climbers, but when the 30 seconds were up, I actually kept going! Ran out of time because I was meeting a writing friend via Skype (we meet every morning to work on our novels together), so only did 2 sets out of 3. But I was mighty proud of myself given I was working out in a fasted state. I also wondered if my extra strength came from doing 20+ days of strict nose-to-tail carnivore, something my good friend I are doing, as well as my husband, to do as a reset for our mental and physical health?
Productivity-wise, I did much more than I usually am able to do, in terms of focus. I was surprisingly very detail-oriented and didn’t go into my usual beat-myself-up-for-not-getting-more done mode, feeling utmost compassion for myself and ease. I felt grateful to have work that felt meaningful and of service to others (I was updating and compiling a list of resources for those searching for more info on the ketogenic diet as it pertains to cancer; and since this is a topic that hits me personally, I felt blessed to be able to help others find info I’d give to my own loved ones–in fact, I’d love to revisit these resources myself to re-read!). Today, I had no problems cooking breakfast and making lunch for my teenaged kid, even though my senses were heightened and I could smell the bacon more intensely than usual. Still, I didn’t feel any desire to eat. Just happily sipped water with Redmond Real Salt and during special moments, sipped peppermint tea. In between the 25 minute pomodoros for writing and work, I used my 5 minute breaks for push-ups and yoga poses like the locust pose, which sends my heart beating like a hummingbird, a pose I learned from a yogi professor San Francisco State University many years ago, that induces courage.
Some photos that show some of what I’ve been tracking and carnivore eating before and during my fast:
The above shows some of my screenshots from the app I use to track my health: Heads Up. They have a fasting timer built into the dashboard so that I can track other metrics I care about especially during this 7-day fast (most notably, my GKI, fasting glucose, ketones, weight and meditation time), so if anything goes amiss, I can easily shoot this info to my holistic nutritionist or doctor. It also, quite honestly, motivates me to keep going. For someone who was once prediabetic and starting to see my fasting glucose creep up above 100 the past several months, it’s tremendously satisfying to see how simply resetting this month with a nose-to-tail carnivore diet and adding this 7-day fast has brought the trend back down. I can literally imagine inflammation going down as IGF-1 decreases and autophagy kicks in, blasting any potential tumors too. And again, as the wife of someone who was diagnosed with cancer back in 2014, I am really hyperaware about preventing cancer. It’s interesting to note through the graphs above how all the numbers are trending in the direction I want them to go. Fasting glucose is trending down. Another cool thing about the Heads Up app is that you can see immediately, on-the-go, your dashboard of daily stats. You can also see monthly and yearly averages too. There was one year, between 2017 and 2018 when I averaged a GKI of 6 for an entire year! I love that. It keeps me honest. So when I tell someone I’ve been keto, I can actually quantify it with data that proves it. For my fasting glucose, you can see that my average is SO much better this month (92 average) as compared to last month (106). Seeing this progress just gives me so much joy and motivation to keep on going! It’s also fascinating just how high my ketones went on Day 5 of my 7-day fast (6.6!), which probably has to do with me being mostly keto-adapted having been keto since end of 2014, on and off. Last year while living in a RV full-time in Mexico, carb creep was an issue as we began to eat out more and more, drinking wine most nights, feeling like we were on vacation at times. Although my husband and I were keto and low-carb as much as we could, my numbers show that things could’ve been better. But such is life, and traveling and enjoying new cultures and new food is part of the enjoyment of life. So no regretting. Just starting from now. A reset.
The photos above show my “last supper” before embarking on this 7-day water only fast. I ate and made the most delicious carnivore waffles made simply with eggs and ground beef! It’s from Maria and Craig Emmerich’s new Carnivore Cookbook. She even has a carnivore hollandaise sauce that is to die for. I made it using duck fat which makes topping the waffles that much more decadent. The day before that I made our family Maria Emmerich’s carnivore Scotch Eggs. I didn’t have the prosciutto to wrap around before baking, but it was still off-the-charts delicious. My kid ate it for breakfast two days in a row! I made her soft-boiled eggs and it makes my mouth water just typing this just how good it was, the mouthfeel of eating it. Highly recommended! I never thought of it before, but Scotch Eggs are definitely a carnivore delicacy. Not pictured is salmon roe, which my husband and I have been eating regularly. I’d like to eat it daily to provide more Omega-3s into my body and brain. We also try to eat organ meat like liver into our weekly meals, usually mixed in ground meat like hamburger or sausage patties or meatballs. I’m not quite there where I can eat the liver or heart whole. My mom, who came to the U.S. in the 1960s from Taiwan, loves eating nose-to-tail. As a child, I watched her nibble on chicken necks, feet, eating whole fish while gnawing on the bones. She made bone broth on the regular, Chinese style, and she’d mix in organ meat into home-made sausages. She was doing this stuff before it was trendy. Now, unfortunately, she’s more into buying processed and refined carbohydrates from stores where she can get the “best value,” buying bread, muffins, frozen entrees with a bazillion ingredients on it, often eating out and feeding my dad, who has diabetes type 2, and my 85 year old aunt with Alzheinmers, food from McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Subway. It’s crazy how her eating and cooking habits have changed over time. My dad, who was in the hospital for surgery, having neuropathy so bad from diabetes, actually had my mom sneak in his favorite drink of all time: Coca-cola!
Anyhow, I digress. My husband, who is mostly nose-to-tail carnivore now, happily seared the pork chops above in the photo a few days before my fast. The photo on the bottom left is a carnivore breakfast for my teenaged son before he took off for school. It’s a carnivore waffle with a giant omelette filled with smoked salmon and goat cheese. He’s not carnivore or keto, but will eat some of the food we make from time-to-time. The picture in the bottom middle is of my habit tracker. Since 2016, I’ve been using a bullet journal (Leuchtturm1917) to track new habits (did I write? did I meditate? Did I stay on track with eating? Did I drink wine?) and metrics I care about (fasting glucose, ketones, GKI, weight, period). But for Christmas, my husband bought me a journal that’s made by James Clear of ATOMIC HABITS, a book I had bought and devoured on Kindle. He didn’t realize that I had already read it, so he bought me the hardback version too. I keep it by my bed to stay on track. I should also mention that I transfer some of the health data I jot down in the habit tracker into the Heads Up app, so I can track and trend and chart my progress over wide swaths of time (how did I fare over the last year? how about the year before? how about since 2016, when I officially started tracking in Heads Up?), and can correlate with lab tests such as those I get via LabCorp or Quest Diagnostics such as my A1c, thyroid and lipid panel, markers I wanna track such as my inflammation biomarker: CRP. Once a month, I also do a “Measuring Day” where I measure my waist, hip, chest, calves, arms, weight (which I avoid measuring daily, except during a long fasting interval), just to see how I’m progressing (or not). Again, this keeps me motivated to keep on track. And when I fall off, as does happen with life, I’m usually cognizant that this correlates with situational stressful life events (ex. when my sister’s friend killed himself back in 2018, I completely stopped carnivore eating, and when another good friend’s husband committed suicide successfully end of October in 2019, I found solace in food as I tried to be the best possible friend I could for her, yet feeling like I wasn’t doing enough; this while juggling parenting and working). Anyhow, the last photo on the bottom right is a photo of me texting my accountability partner, who is also resetting with a carnivore diet for her type 2 diabetes. We text each other every day and I appreciate all of her highly knowledgeable insights on food and nutrition. I feel blessed to have a good friend that is also into carnivore and keto and we can both keep each other motivated and on track. Knowing that she is doing this too makes it so much easier!
Here are some notes I’m taking for my 7 day water only fast that I’m doing for my health.
Day 2 of my water only fast looked something like this:
Fasting glucose: 60 mg/dL
Ketones (BHB): 5.5 mmol/L
Mood/Energy/Other Notes: Mood was kind of blah. Energy was low. I actually went for an easy run around Lady Bird Lake, but by the time I passed the bat bridge by the Hyatt Hotel, I felt fatigued, regretting my decision to run. I ended up walking back to my apartment completely out of juice. At night, I felt unusually cold. (I usually run hot.) Felt so tired I ended up sleeping around 8pm.
Day 3 fasting stats:
Fasting glucose: 62 mg/dL
Ketones (BHB): 5.8 mmol/L
Mood/Energy/Other Notes: Mood fantastic. Energy high. I even busted out five commandos, three chin-ups and two pull-ups at our apartment gym this morning, feeling like a badass in a gym teeming with only young-ish men. (Not bad for an almost 48 year old woman!)
I felt almost euphoric today as I went on a walk, shortly after the sunset, just marveling at the beauty that is the city of Austin. Colors seemed to pop. (Not LSD-vivid, but unusually richer than normal.) All of my senses were heightened. I usually have a nose that barely works, but I could pick up the scents of body odor, sweet flowers wafting through the air. Even the mint tea I sipped evoked a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Istanbul to visit my stepdaughter, who was living there several years ago. I couldn’t believe how decadent, how pleasurable the tea smelled and tasted. It made me realize how the simplest things in life are sometimes the most beautiful, such as sipping hot mint herbal tea or going for a walk while taking in the sights, listening to beautiful wistful music (my favorite music in the world are sad songs, which surprisingly cheers me up), and the simple bliss of moving my body, feeling the breeze against my cheeks. I was even able to grocery shop and cook breakfast and dinner for my kid today, not feeling anywhere near sorry for myself, fasting. I’m really enjoying not having to eat and cook for myself (or my husband, who is out of town for work), having more time to do what the heck I want!
So far, per my fasting timer on my Heads Up app, I have fasted for 73 hours and 5 minutes, with 94 hours and 53 minutes to go.
Today is Day 1 of my 7-day water-only fast for health.
It just so happens to be also Day 21 of a nose-to-tail carnivore diet. This month is also my dry January, so since January 6, after my friend came to visit me from CA, I haven’t imbibed in any wine. Or any alcohol, for that matter. My friend from CA and I have been texting each other daily for accountability. As someone with type 2 diabetes, injecting herself with insulin, she has brought her fasting glucose down to 124 this morning from her usual 300s, a fantastic feat considering she took no insulin with dinner or at bedtime! She’s not participating in my 7-day fast, but will continue eating carnivore. We both have found that eating carnivore helps you to naturally intermittent fast, often only hungry for one or two meals.
This isn’t my first 7-day fast. I believe this is my third or fourth one, that I do annually ever since Darrell began using keto for his cancer in 2014. But this will be my first extended fast sandwiched by a carnivore keto way of eating. I’m not too worried or stressed about it, since fasting is like a muscle. When you’ve done it regularly and paired with a diet that induces ketosis, it really isn’t that hard. And I imagine that a carnivore diet, which to me, isn’t that far off from a regular keto diet (since I’m still able to bring my GKI pretty low, a good thing). I can’t imagine people who come from eating SAD, a Standard American Diet of high-carb and low-fat, and how it must feel to attempt a fast like this, not already padded with fat.
And when you watch your loved one get cancer and fight it, you begin to worry about yourself too. Could you get cancer? So that’s the main reason I do these prolonged fasts, in addition to the myriad of other health benefits, such as longevity and anti-aging.
We feel so lucky to have found the ketogenic diet, as recommended by a good friend of Darrell’s, who is a former Marine, who told us about it when we were considering other anti-cancer routes, unsure of the right approaches. And even though there wasn’t a lot of info out in 2014 about keto and fasting, we stumbled across Ellen Davis, Miriam Kalamian (who Darrell had several Skype consults with), Patricia Daly, Maria Emmerich and Martina Slajerova‘s keto recipes and advice on health. While my husband was preparing for chemo, and we were first learning how to eat and cook keto, my sister let me listen to her audio book by Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity. Note: later in 2016, we read and followed Jimmy Moore and Dr. Jason Fung’s book on fasting — and the fasting podcast Moore had with Dr. Fung and Megan Ramos back then — to incorporate more fasts into our lives, trying out alternate day fasting as well, inspired by examples of people in the book who had brought down their HbA1c and insulin simply with fasting. I was eager to try as I had also been told by my general practitioner that I had prediabetes and had pretty high fasting blood glucose in the morning, averaging around 130s or so. It makes me wonder what my fasting glucose must have been like before I began monitoring with a glucometer, before discovering a low-carb keto way of eating, those days when I ate 3-5 meals a day, filled with refined carbs such as pancakes, sandwiches, noodles, pasta, pizza, sugary desserts, soda, juices, bread with almost everything.
Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity book was where I first learned about a study with two women who had type 2 bipolar disorder who had used keto as a way to help their mental health. That’s when I decided that I was all in with this keto thing. That this wasn’t just for solidarity with my husband using keto for his cancer (as an adjunct along with chemo and radiation). It was also for myself. I had seen firsthand how food affects mood when I mostly cut out flour and sugar out of my diet in 2012, moving towards a more ancestral Paleo/Primal approach, after taking different anti-convulsants for twice-diagnosed bipolar type 2 in my twenties and thirties, the same meds my friend takes for her seizures. When I simply cut out flour and sugar most of the time, I was able to ramp off all meds in 2012, including ones for ADHD and daily asthma inhalers (and countless visits to the ER for nebulizer treatments and regular prednisone tablets to taper off from). So I figured switching to keto would be doable and even more effective.
Anyhow, back to the fasting. Today is Day 1 of my yearly 7-day fast. I may consider doing regular 3-day monthly fasts, copycatting longevity doctor, what Dr. Peter Attia is planning to do this year, as opposed to his quarterly 7-day fasts he has been talking about in the past, bookending those fasts with a ketogenic diet. There are many health benefits to fasting, such as possible cancer prevention, anti-aging, improving insulin sensitivity and metabolic health.
Right now, I’m 47 years old, will be 48 this year, and I want to go out strong and healthy, having lived a long life healthy, not sickly, do the things I’ve been saying I want to do (like finish my novel) and be there for my family and friends! Life is too short to suffer mentally and physically. It’s crazy how my husband’s cancer has shifted our entire mindsets, bodies and lives as we jumped in the rabbit hole of ketosis, fasting, carnivore, exercise, meditation and more. It’s made us prioritize health span, realizing that happiness aligns with a healthy mind and body.
Day 1 Water-Only Fast Stats (after being on 20 days of a carnivore diet):
GKI (Glucose: Ketones Index): 1.6
Ketones (BHB): 2.8 mmol/L (I padded myself with fat and protein yesterday to prepare for this fast), making Maria Emmerich’s Carnivore Waffles from her new Carnivore cookbook written with her husband Craig Emmerich, who has found success battling Lyme’s with a carnivore diet.
Fasting Blood Glucose: 81 mg/dL (this makes me so happy, since the past several months my f/g is regularly over 100 again, battling with stress, holidays, eating out too much and over-indulging)
Weight: 128.4 lbs (before I started the carnivore diet, I had climbed up to 137 lbs after learning about a friend’s suicide)
Mood/Energy: Woke up a little irritable, not having my usual coffee with MCT oil doesn’t help the matter (in fact, a tiny headache). And getting upset at your 15-year-old blasting his loud rap music certainly doesn’t help. I did a fasted workout with the beginner program in THENX. I did only two rounds, as I don’t want to push it too hard, having just started this fast. I may dial down my workouts this week to accommodate the fast, but will see how I feel.
Tools/Apps: I’ve already fired up my Fasting Timer via the mobile Heads Up app last night at 7:47 pm when I last ate my final bite of carnivore waffles and leftover salmon. I look forward to logging in my health metrics (such as my ketones and glucose via Keto-Mojo) here to see my progress on their graph, where I can see how low or high my glucose, ketones, GKI, weight went during the fasting interval. Soon I plan to get my blood tests done and see how switching to a carnivore diet, cutting out the wine, and incorporating intermittent fasts, time restricted feeding and this prolonged water-only fast, will do to my health biomarkers, such as my Hba1c, and CRP, etc. I wish my Oura ring was working, as I’d love to track other health data such as my deep sleep, HRV, activity and more. As you can tell, I am a data nerd. 🙂
Diet Doctor article on the ketogenic diet and mental health. Lots of great resources and sources of inspiration for anyone battling depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, OCD, and more. (Quite personally, I believe there is a connection between insulin and mental health issues, so in my opinion, insulin-related metabolic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, even Parkinson’s are related to mental health disorders.)
I am looking forward to having more energy and time this week. And of course, saving money from shopping for food at the grocery store!
It’s been almost a week since I last posted here in this blog. I had given myself a rule of “no more than 2 days missed,” inspired by that book I love, Atomic Habits, by James Clear. I’ve decided that in general, that’s a good rule for most things, including eating keto and/or carnivore (today is Day 17 of a nose-to-tail carnivore with daily added MCT oil, my version of it given that I once took the same anti-convulsants my good friend with epilepsy took for her seizures). It’s a chance not to easily fall back into bad habits and thus, that familiar self-loathing that arises when you fail to keep promises to yourself. It’s funny how easily it is to betray ourselves. Especially with the writing. I can be pretty kick-ass when it comes to eating (I was in daily measurable ketosis for an entire year!) and I’m getting better with exercise. But the writing, my first love, has often taken a back seat. Whatever the case, I am working on forgiveness toward self and utmost self-compassion. Difficult to do when self-flagellation is a part of your daily self-supplementation. Another bad habit I’m attempting to break. Yet I’m here now. That’s what counts.
Last night, I took another stab at looking failure and anxiety in the eye by attending another free improv class over at the Hideout Theater on Congress Ave in Austin. One of the biggest takeaways I left with was the notion that failure was celebrated by all. Whether you miss instructions to clap on time with another person in the circle, or you fail to make eye contact, missing a beat, losing time, you are instructed to grandly bow, announce to the circle of almost 15 strangers in the room:
“Yes, I failed.”
That’s the cue for everyone to wildly clap for you. I love that. From here on out, every time I think I failed, made a mistake, I’m going to picture this circle of strangers happily clapping for me. Because you know what? It’s okay to fail. That’s right, you heard me. All you need to really do is to just get up and do it all over again. No self-flagellation. No internal bully. Because mistakes and fails are something we should all give standing ovations to ourselves for. Each and every time!
These are the notes I took today from our retreat:
The butterfly, before it becomes one, its whole being dissolves inside its cocoon.
The lobster has to outgrow its shell, be in a state of utmost vulnerability, before the new shell hardens, becoming the lobster that it is.
Both are two different processes of growth, and part of that growth is the feeling of discomfort.
Ask ourselves: HOW DO WE BEGIN WHERE WE ARE?
Your state of BEING this year.
Your intentions of BECOMING.
Just for today: Just BE with the writing.
Ask your writing: What do you want to tell me?
Just BE with that chapter, the work you’re doing. Light a candle. Surround yourself with colorful pens. Make a cup of tea with your writing.
Today, after I checked in with April and vomited TMI stuff, including my hope to step more into my identity, James Clear-style, as a writer this year by signing up for more writing, carving out more writing time, having just signed up for a short story contest, writing daily in my blog that I hope to someday become a container for my memoir about finding my bliss with keto and bipolar disorder, D using keto for his cancer, our year full-time in a RV, and more while trying to fit that all in with my ghostwriting and copywriting for several clients. How I seem to procrastinate writing for my clients (probably not the best thing to admit here since I need to seriously search for more client gigs). How I recently wrote three hours on my own personal writing, as if I were having an affair, sneaking away from the primary paid work to write in my memoir and blog. Then cheating on my novel revision by focusing on a short story contest, always my eyes set on something new and shiny, as if to rebel the work in front of me, always taking on a new lover. I talked about my irrational fear and phobia around the writing, how hard it was to be with it for too long, how hard it was for me to finish. And those old twin friends of mine: procrastination and perfectionism.
Here’s what she said, basically:
Maybe you’re doing too much? The trap of “I am the writer,” of “I am not a writer yet but am going to become a writer” is that we get caught in the treadmill of improving who “I am…”
If we think that it’s about US, we get caught in the self-improvement loop. This trips us up with actually DOING the work…There’s this: Who we are … Am I enough?? There’s too much focus on the ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ‘I.’
Take YOURSELF out of the work.
Instead: Build your RELATIONSHIP with YOUR WRITING.
From IDEA to the ACTUAL PROJECT (MANIFESTED)
The ACTUAL PROJECT requires steps to take:
“Becoming” means to do things that make you feel uncomfortable.
Trust that the discomfort of being with your writing will become something, will transform into growth.
What stage is the work?
(From BEING to BECOMING)
“Get out of your own way and just show up with the work. With love, if you can muster it.” — April Bosshard
What does it (your work) need to do?
Remember: Your work is a BEING. And you are in service of that being. GET OUT OF THE WAY. Ask your work: What do YOU need to do? (You would never ask your work, slapping it: “What’s wrong with you?”) Be with the work as a friend. Take yourself out of the equation.
I love this quote from April during our writing session to remind us to stretch our bodies from all that sitting, drinking some water.
Pause briefly in your ‘being with your writing.’ Your writing (as your friend, as a ‘being’ in its own right) needs your body to stay healthy and limber if it is to use you for a channel for its becoming. But you can tend to such needs fairly quickly and with purpose, the purpose of returning to the work with devotion and focus. What does the work need now? Here and Now…
I have to say that I truly believe in this, that my writing, my novel, needs my vessel to be healthy, in order to receive the download from my brain, the Universe, to be a channel that offers up words and stories, that it’s important for my mind and body to be healthy. Today is Day 12 of a nose-to-tail carnivore diet and the abstaining of wine and all alcohol. I’ve been naturally fasting and my mind has never been more clear, my energy higher than usual. My GKI is low, as is my fasting glucose. My ketones today was 1.4 mmol/L.
But back to writing.
What does my work — my novel, my friend — need now?
What do YOU (my novel) need?
What stage of becoming is my friend, my novel, in right now?
I realize I’m in Stage 2 right now, almost in the “revising” stage.
What does my novel need now?
It needs my attention. It needs me to not forget it.
What do YOU (novel) need to do? What are some small steps to get started?
Answer from my novel:
1. I (the novel) need your (Lily’s) eyes on the very next scene list. Just that very next one.
2. Read it to see what it’s about.
3. Summarize it and deposit summary into the container April created for Lily in the Google doc to use later to structure me (the novel) into three acts that make sense, 80K words with about 40 to 60 scenes.
4. Read the next one until done.
5. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it! Bring some inspiring or plot-specific and related music (like Depeche Mode) into our time together to enjoy, to immerse yourself in. Light up a candle so our time together is sacred. Make a cup of tea with me. Bring wonder and awe and curiosity and play into our relationship together. We’ve GOT this!
God, I’m so happy to have shown up today! I always get so much out of April’s once-a-month online writing retreats where I can write in my PJs from the comfort of my home. I left my chair today hopeful, knowing that I allowed myself to simply be. And that like the butterfly or the lobster, I will become the writer I say I am just by enjoying the present moment. Holding the writing lightly, not so rigidly. To simply show up for my novel — my friend. This year my novel is dissolving its being inside this almost stillborn cocoon to become a butterfly. My practice is go simply get out of the way in service of my friend. This friend who is oh-so-ready to finally take flight.
In the privacy of my car as I drove back home today, I did just this, shortly after I received an email from a blogger I followed with the announcement of her death. The announcement was made from her husband. His words were laced with grief. And there inside my car, listening to the saddest song, I surprised myself by shuddering with tears, as if she had been a close friend. A family member, even.
“How do I know what I think until I see what I write?”
This quote by Flannery O’Connor was offered up as a writing prompt earlier this morning by my writer friend who runs a virtual online writing circle that I am happily a part of. Today we talked about allowing yourself to ramble on the page. Many times, she said, people will apologize mid-sentence: “Sorry for rambling,” they’ll say. “But rambling,” she reminded us, “is the shuffle between your heart and your mind. This is how your true authentic voice comes out.” So here I am practicing the art of rambling. Here I am being authentically me. Trying to figure out what I think as I write this out, faced with layers upon layers of grief.
This stranger who died had lost her four year battle to cancer. Even after two remissions. It hit me on so many levels. The bright hopeful faces of the happy young couple in photos throughout her blog. The sense of humor that emanated from her words, from her advice for others newly diagnosed or someone trying to help a loved one with cancer. (Please check out her blog as her husband is leaving it out there as a resource should anyone need it.) Even as she searched and landed a clinical trial, her words conveyed hope and joy for life. I didn’t always read all of her posts when they popped in my email in-box, but throughout the years, I popped in and out of this stranger’s life. I don’t even know how I came upon her blog. She had first gotten cancer in Dec 2015. My husband found out about his cancer only a year before, on November 7, 2014. It’s a date we both shall never forget, as it divided our lives into PRE-CANCER and POST-CANCER. Yet hearing this sad news of this beautiful stranger is a reminder that cancer is a beast. It’s ugly and it just might rear its head again. For anyone of us. What are the statistics again? “Globally, 1 in 6 will get cancer.”
This grief I felt was also coupled with the grief I have been carrying since this past October, when a good friend’s partner left this planet and his children through suicide. Sometimes I just sit and try to fathom the utmost despair he must have felt to have taken his own life. I mourn for his family left behind, trying to grapple with his very last actions. I worry that I’m not doing enough to help my friend, even as I grapple with my own mental health, taking care of it as if it is my most precious baby. Because what is life when you’re lost in debilitating depression?
The saddest song I was listening to in the car today as I wept for this stranger (who feels like a friend) was the same song I listened to after I learned of my friend’s partner’s suicide. It was playing in my headphones as I flew from Austin to San Francisco to stay with her, as my family emerged from the BART station to walk to the house where they once lived, where my son spent most of his summer this past year as we searched for an apartment in Austin. Our then 14-year-old boy had grown tired of living in a RV with only his parents in Mexico. He wanted to go to high school, not be unschooled, as we were doing, not big believers of the traditional education system. Over the years, at least a decade, we’d hear the father’s voice as my son and his sons played Minecraft together, his loving voice reminding them to eat dinner, to go to bed. His voice merged with that of his kids inside our RV the past year and a half when we lived full-time in it, having sold our house after my husband’s own cancer.
Then this memory merged with that of my sister’s friend, a young man who had once gone to the movies with us, a young Asian American vet. His meds were configured wrong that day when he killed himself and the women who worked in the VA home in California. My sister was distraught when she found out about his death, about the other deaths, what he had done. She, who has attempted suicide many times throughout my life, has never been the same again.
I had wept for strangers before, I realize as I ramble. I wept when Anthony Bourdain died, shortly after Kate Spade had taken her own life only days before. I wept as if they were old friends, old relatives. Their suicide deaths motivated me to come out on Instagram about why I was using keto for bipolar disorder (type 2), not just for the prediabetes I often talked about, or how my husband had used it as an adjunctive therapy along with conventional treatment for his own cancer.
And here I ramble. I forget. Yet the threads of life, of other people’s lives, braid themselves along with your own. And a single song can gather this compounded grief, reminding you of all those lost, either through cancer or depression.
Yet we move forward. We ramble through life, trying to make meaning of it all when it often feels like nothing makes one iota of sense.
Have you ever had one of those mornings when you awoke instantly overwhelmed? That yet again, you had managed to transform every single thing you wanted and loved to do into a torturous task, an onerous obligation?
Well, I had one of those mornings today. The kind where I felt like a failure before I was even fully awake. But now, after talking to a friend who also happens to be a talented therapist, I feel as though the weight of the world is no longer on my shoulders like an anvil of despair. Instead I feel light, filled with possibilities, bliss — as though I just returned from a spa. And all I did was talk to my friend as I stared at the tip of my pen!
Last year, when I was living in a RV full-time with my family in Mexico, my friend and I decided to strike up a barter. Every week, we’d chat with each other over the phone or WhatsApp, either audio or video, and trade time with each other listening or helping. Because my background is in writing and editing, I helped my friend with some editing in her own personal creative writing, and because her training is as a professional therapist and life coach, she used whatever tools she had in her toolbox to help me when it was my turn. (Honestly, I feel like I got the better end of the bargain, but my friend says she also enjoys it when it’s her turn to chat with me, when she’d often ask me to press the “mute” button on my phone and simply listen to problems going on in her life without me actively interrupting her with my two cents — this has helped me grow immensely as a better listener, something I suck at, as someone often impatient, finishing other people’s sentences and anxious if I can’t hear myself speak to fill up the silence.)
Anyhow, today when it was my turn to chat with her about my problems and what’s been going on, she listened, then told me she had just returned from a Brainspotting training. (Immediately my mind went to a movie I loved, Trainspotting, with Ewan MacGregor). She said she’d like to try Brainspotting with me, if I didn’t mind. “Of course not,” I laughed with her. “I always enjoy being your guinea pig.” One of the best things about my friend and I is our propensity to laugh out loud while talking to each other. Her happy clients often comment on how her sense of humor employed during their time together can be so profoundly healing; I whole-heartedly agree.
After telling my friend about all the people and tasks overwhelming me, to the point of feeling like an absolute failure today, my friend told me that me feeling this way was probably connected to the emotional trauma and wounds from my childhood with an over-critical mother and lack of “attunement.” What the heck was that? “You know when you first gave birth to your son and your eyes locked together?” I nodded, remembering that time so long ago, back in the end of 2004, when I lovingly locked eyes with my baby. “That’s attunement,” she said. She told me that when agitated, I’m back in those feelings of not being attuned, telling me briefly about Brainspotting. Founded by David Grand, who discovered “Where you look affects how you feel,” brainspotting is a way to get you out of your thinking mind, your neo-cortex, and into your mammalian and emotional brain, the sub-cortex. From the website: “It is the brain activity, especially in the subcortical brain that organizes itself around that eye position.”
My friend had me think about the overwhelm I felt earlier this morning that was weighing me down like a heavy anvil. She asked about all the people I had named that I perceived were disappointed in me, were judging me. “So how does that feel in your body,” she asked. I told her I felt it in my chest, heavy the shame and despair, my own disappointment in myself for not being able to get back to people, to get stuff done, including my own personal creative writing projects.
“On a scale of 0 to 10, how activated or agitated are you?” she asked.
“About a ‘8,’” I said.
She had me put one hand on my chest where I felt the heaviness of disappointment and agitation and then had me close my eyes to do a bodyscan to look for a point in my body that felt calm and neutral. I found it in the middle of my back.
She then instructed me to hold up a long-ish pen (I used a tall Tombow dual-brush purple pen), ideally a pointer like a teacher would use (I laughed and suggested a Harry Potter wand; I knew my kid had one somewhere we had bought him one year for Christmas).
Next she had me focus just on the top tip of the pen. Then I was to move it along the x-axis, first left. Then middle. Then to the right. All this time I stared at the tip, that point. She had me compare which point felt the most calm. I discovered it was in the middle.
She then had me just stare at the tip of my pen I held up in front of me in the middle, the tip of my pen at eye-level, feeling the calm. Then she had me move the pen up and down, slowly. She said I did it too fast, so I moved the pen up and down the y-axis more gradually in front of me. She had me stop at a point where I felt the most calm. I found that when I moved the pen upwards, I felt surprisingly more calm. Now I stared at it, letting my body enjoy the sensation of utter calm. She didn’t talk. And neither did I. Soon I began to lose track of time.
She interrupted me to ask me, “On a scale of 0-10, how agitated or activated are you now?” I told her I was now at about a ‘3.’
Are you happy with the ‘3’? Or would you like to go down to ‘0’?
“Zero,” I laughed. “Of course. I mean, why not?”
So then she had me try it without the pen. I shut my eyes and she had me imagine that reference point, that spot that was similar, she said, to a dancer’s who uses a spot to twirl. I remembered taking a jazz/ballet class once as a teen and learning how to fixate my eyes at a spot in the distance as I spun my body, always returning my eyes to that particular spot. She said this was the same thing. Even with my eyes closed, I was to imagine that particular spot that made me feel calm.
Next she had me simultaneously focus on the calm spot on my back I had initially discovered earlier at the same time as I focused on the imagined spot of that pen in front of me. As I focused on both spots, I felt a tranquility wash over me like a cool mist. Again, I lost complete track of time, as if in a sublime trance. All my troubles disappeared. I actually forgot I was on a FaceTime video call with my friend until I heard her voice call my name!
“What the hell?” I marveled as I came back to reality. “I felt like I was at the spa. This is like magic!” She laughed and said this was powerful work, and she was happy she was able to try this out on me for the first time. To become certified in Brainspotting, she had to go through 50 clients.
“Well, now you have only 49 to go!” I told her and we laughed together. I told her I’d hunt for the perfect wand for her.
Before our call ended, she told me that this was something I could practice on my own. That I could even use this practice of spotting when talking to someone I feel nervous with, at a party or wherever. She said I could imagine the spot in front of me as I talk to that person. She said if interested, I could seek out a Brainspotting therapist near me. But this was something I could also do on my own. The next time I feel agitated, I could return back to this practice. These were her instructions:
How to Try Brainspotting on Your Own
Rate from 0-10 how agitated or activated you are.
Do a bodyscan and search for a point in body that’s calm and/or neutral. (This can be different each time you do this.)
Use a wand/pointer/tall pen or pencil and move it along the x-axis — from left, then to middle, then to the right, keeping your eyes trained on that point the whole time. Decide which position on the x-axis you feel the most calm.
Stare at that spot and wait until you’re calm.
Rate your agitation/activation and gauge if you should repeat process (adding in the simultaneous focus on that calm spot in your body plus the spot in front of you). Or not. If you feel good, simply stop and enjoy the bliss!
As a conscious meat eater who eats meat for my mental and physical health, I can’t wait for this documentary, Sacred Cow, by Diana Rogers, to come out. In fact, you can donate to help fund the film, so more people can learn how to help our planet while also responsibly eating meat. Whatever your political inclinations, there’s absolutely no reason to feel ashamed for eating nutrient-dense meat!
Excerpt from website:
At our grocery stores and dinner tables, even the most thoughtful consumers are overwhelmed by the number of considerations to weigh when choosing what to eat—especially when it comes to meat. Guided by the noble principle of least harm, many responsible citizens resolve the ethical, environmental and nutritional conundrum by quitting meat entirely. But can a healthy, sustainable and conscientious food system exist without animals?
Sacred Cow probes the fundamental moral, environmental and nutritional quandaries we face in raising and eating animals. In this film, we focus our lens on the largest and perhaps most maligned of farmed animals, the cow.