Now that I’ve successfully finished my 7-Day Wake Up at 5AM Challenge, I’ve decided to embark on another self-experiment: Waking up at 5:30 am for 30 Days. (Today is Day 1.) After 7 days in a row of getting up while the skies are still dark, I’ve realized that I truly thrive in the early mornings. I enjoy waking up earlier, feel like I get more done rather than popping up out of bed at 7:30am or 8am, or whenever, groggy and out-of-sorts, already feeling out-of-time before the day has truly begun. There’s also a study that talks about “the role chronotype has on proactivity.” The key to successfully building new habits, I am realizing more and more, is self experimenting.
I am a massive self-experimenter.
Honestly, this is one reason that I believe will keep me alive and healthy for a longer time than if I just passively let life happen to me. If you know me, or have followed me on Instagram or have been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’m constantly experimenting on myself.
Carnivore. (Today is Day 41 of a 60-day nose-to-tail carnivore challenge.)
Fasting. (On Feb 3, I finished my fourth annual 7-Day Fast for Autophagy/Cancer Prevention)
No alcohol. (I’ve gone 41 days without a sip of wine. Yes, I’m pretty stunned at how clear-headed I feel in general. Really helpful in the depression department to abstain from drinking most of the time.)
Even our full-time RV Life (when we got out of our comfort zone, sold our house to start anew) was a massive self-experiment, something I’m realizing in hindsight.
With each experiment and challenge done, I feel more courage to try new things in my life, more willing to get out of my comfort zone. As a result, I can see the benefits on both my mental and physical health, plus increased energy and confidence.
I wish I had tried this much earlier in life. But this year, as I turn 48 years old, I am determined to reach more goals than I ever have, by building on all the good habits and routines (via self-experimenting) to becoming limitless and unstoppable. Yet at the same time, to forgive myself and have the utmost of compassion for self when I fall off track. Combined with self-compassion, there is always the gentle reminder to get back on the train with a forward trajectory and growth mindset, never to let too many consecutive days go by to slide back into mediocrity again.
There is always a new day to begin again!
I am all about optimizing my life, performance and health. Now at my age, in my late 40s, completely free of prescription medications, I am surprisingly more happy, mentally and physically healthier and youthful than I ever was in my 20s and 30s. The future looks brighter even as I age.
An Accidental Discovery
What I am realizing the most is that what you eat and drink (and when you don’t) is the most important contribution to your mental health and energy levels. This was an accidental discovery that came about when my husband found out he had cancer at the end of 2014. That’s when we began using keto and fasting to help shrink his tumors, along with the chemo and radiation he was doing. I had begun to notice the connection between food and mood back in 2012, when I mostly cut out flour and sugar from my life, following more of a Paleo/Primal approach.
Simply cutting out gluten and sugar most of the time helped me ramp off all meds for depression, anxiety, bipolar type 2, ADHD and asthma (back before 2012, I had asthma so bad that I was on Prednisone almost every month, and was a regular at the ER, getting nebulizer treatments). But when I got into ketosis along with my husband at the end of 2014, both of us measuring our fasting glucose and blood ketones every morning, as well as the ratio between the two numbers (GKI – glucose: ketones index), my mental health became significantly better. Because I was now burning ketones and managing my insulin (also diagnosed with “prediabetes” in 2014), I wasn’t on that rollercoaster I used to be on when I constantly fed myself refined carbs at almost every meal. Like bread, pizza, pasta and noodles, cake, cookies, pies, french fries, hash browns, pancakes, donuts, bagels, pastries, croissants, dim sum, rice, tortillas, wraps, juice, smoothies, soda, sweetened coffees and teas, and more.
And when I tried carnivore eating in 2018, it took my mental health into even better levels. So this year, I’ve been, along with my husband and another good friend (who has type 2 diabetes) trying out a 60-day nose-to-tail carnivore way of eating as a way to start off the new year right, and also as a reset, an elimination diet, to set the tone for the year. I plan to get blood tests done to check insulin and inflammation levels as I wind down my 60-day carnivore experiment. Then go back to a more keto/paleo/primal way of eating for a few months, followed by more blood tests. Talking to my nutritionist, we decided that this would be a good way to tell which way of eating is better for my individual body at this time, based on my own biomarkers. I’m looking forward to making more self-discoveries about my own body and health in this way!
This year I plan to become even more healthier than I was last year.
Also with the food and fasting down as a foundation, I’m finding I have more energy, confidence and stamina to stack on even more positive habits into my life. This year, I also plan to become more of a writer than I have ever been — to finish my novel and find more courage and confidence to submit more writing to publish and share. I’m taking on more experiments and challenges to face, to acclimate myself to rejection, failure — to ultimately become more resilient and mentally healthier.
Life shouldn’t decline with age. Instead I plan to go out with a freakin’ bang. Happier and healthier with each experiment attempted!
It’s Day 7 of my 7-day 5am Wake Up Challenge. I’m here up before dark, actually blogging. I guess it’s a substitute for my usual Morning Pages done via 750 words (my favorite place to journal or write — I love the feeling of a glaringly white blank canvas that belongs on someone else’s server).
This morning, when my alarm rang at 5am, I decided that from here on out, I’d get up instead at 5:30am. That way, I have a little more time at night to wind down, aiming for lights out at 9:30pm to get a full 8 hours of sleep. I’ve been noticing that I tend to sleep around 7 hours, in general. Back when my Oura ring was working, that’s the trend I noticed in my history (since November, it stopped connecting after an update, so I need to contact their support to get that fixed — I actually feel naked without it, sad that I can’t measure my Deep Sleep or HRV anymore).
Waking up at 5am for 7 days in a row has helped me realize that I thrive in the early mornings. I actually got more done, work-wise and writing-wise, than I’ve ever done before. Especially when I wait until the afternoon to begin working or writing, I find myself petering out earlier, followed by perpetual procrastination. It’s funny how all the little emails, newsletters, texts, podcasts, YouTube videos, or news links can spiral into yet another unfulfilling day. I don’t want to live like that anymore, hijacked by other people constantly. I want to live a more intentional life, directing my attention with intention of my own design.
Another thing I love about waking up early is that the words tend to tumble out easier. I’m less prone to fear. The usual muzzle around my mouth is barely noticeable. I realize that this is also part of facing fear in the face: getting up early and tackling stuff that you tend to put off because you’ve caved into fear, distraction and fatigue.
I really love waking up and feeling like time is on my side. Instead of tumbling out of bed at 7:30 or 8am, scrambling to the kitchen to make breakfast for my kid, already feeling behind. Waking up early allows me to meditate, write, journal, plan my day, check my GKI (or lack of one, like I have today, after going off carnivore and keto for two days–but I don’t let myself spiral out of control for more than two consecutive days), exercise and/or read something inspiring — all before the sun comes out!
If you haven’t tried this 5am wake up challenge to start your day early and want to read more reasons why you might want to try it, read this article.
My writing friend and I have a new plan. Now that we’ve been showing up daily for our novels and fiction, we’ve decided to start submitting our work more than we ever have in our writing life. We are planning to face rejection in the face this year!
Since Dec 2019, we’ve been showing up daily for at least 5 minutes a day to work on our fiction, which has now bloomed into even more writing time (we’ve since added Friday Pomodoro, and 2 Pomo Sundays, and once a month all-day online writing retreats with April, and last month, I began adding a “Novel Day” of my own on Thursdays to carve out even more time for my novel, with no client work to be done on that special day.) It’s funny how just five minutes a day of novel or fiction writing with my friend has whetted our appetite for more.
This past week, we both met the deadline to apply for Bread Loaf (deadline last night). If we get in, it’ll be a 10-day writing conference in Vermont come August. And by the end of February, we’ve marked our calendars to to submit something to the Paris Review (I mean, why the hell not?). Then by May 14, Granta. I’ve also recently become a member at Electric Lit, and plan to submit there too. We’re going to submit like mofos and face fear, face rejections in the face!
I figure, at this point, what do I have to lose?
Like I’ve written about previously, I’ve been inspired by Jia Jiang’s 100 Days of Rejection self-experiment and wrote up my own version of it in my bullet journal to track: 100 Rejections Challenge. I just added my intentions to submit to Paris Review and Granta in there. And one of these days, I’m gonna look into Medium.
All these years, I’ve written so many different stories, both fiction and nonfiction. But I’ve been so afraid to edit and polish those stories — to submit, to publish. Last January, in fact, I wrote a long blog post about my second 7-day fast, but it’s still sitting here in my WordPress/Blog waiting for me to hit “publish.” (Funny how I’ve had no qualms about fasting for 7-days but had no courage to post it on my blog.)
This year is different. I’m tired of being afraid.
It’s almost 7am and outside the once-black sky is now brightening into blue. I’ve been up since 5am on this Valentine’s Day morning. My show of self-love today is to allow myself to more morning rambling.
It’s my fourth day waking up at 5am, part of this 7-day challenge (if you know me, I’m motivated by challenges, now on Day 37 of a 60-day carnivore diet with my good friend, fueled by ketones and a sh*t-ton of energy).
This morning I’ve been up: meditating, planning, writing — but mostly reading.
I’ve been up reading inspiring and motivating stuff, like this article about artists and writers who swear by waking up early as the secret to their success.
These days, I’ve been incredibly inspired by Jia Jiang, who I learned about in the book about social anxiety, How to Be Yourself, by Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D. As I learned in Ellen’s book, “Facing your fears is called exposure.” And that was what Jia was doing when he decided to embark on a self-experiment project to face his fears, which resulted in a book: Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible Through 100 Days of Rejection. He had been an entrepreneur who lost funding from a key investor. Beginning to lose faith in himself, he came up with what would look to anyone to be an absurd idea, to set rejection as an actual goal every day for 100 days, asking complete strangers for strange requests, such as borrowing $100, posing as a mannequin at a clothing store, making an announcement on a Southwest flight. All of this to make him realize that life isn’t as hard as we make it out to be.
Anyhow, I have become quite smitten with the idea of facing fear in the face. As someone who has been quite timid my entire life, I’m really sick of letting fear rule my days. Before long, it’ll be all over, this life. So what do I have to lose? Also I’m realizing that much of my anxiety and fears stem around what other people might think; thus, my particular anxieties have everything to do with social anxiety. And I’m sick of letting this anxiety rule my life.
Recently, it delighted me to no end to read that Patrick Stewart’s habit to beat anxiety as an actor is to say out loud,
before he steps onstage every night. In his interview with Rolling Stone magazine (February 2020), he says that Duncan Ross, his acting teacher once told him: “Patrick, you will never achieve success by ensuring against failure.” So now his habit is to say that phrase, an incantation (in my opinion) against fear. And you know what? Here’s what he has to say: “It works. It takes away anxiety, stress, and all those stupid wasteful things that don’t help you at all.”
One of the reasons I’m up this early at 5am for the fourth day in a row is because I was inspired by Jia and his challenge to wake up early. And as someone who is trying to fit more writing into my life, to finally finish my novel, as well as put other writing out there, it’s become more apparent that a lot of successful writers write in the morning. In January, after I woke up at 4am to take a friend who was visiting me in Austin to the airport, I parked myself at a cafe to write and work. Being up while the sky was still dark, before most people were awake, energized me like no other time. There is something magical about the early morning hours. I began to crave having that extra time for myself, before I even do work for clients. To carve out this space and time for me and my own writing — what a heavenly treat that was!
This entire week, I’ve been working on my novel every morning. Whereas before it didn’t seem there was an end in sight, now I feel encouraged by the possibilities. I know I will finally finish this year!
(On that note, I’m going to go work on my novel scene list, set the timer on the pomodoro, and summarize for 25 minutes. Just 25 minutes. I can do this!)
ANYTHING can be done, one thing at a time:
1. But you need to first set an intention (I am going to stop and do ___.)
2. A container of time (ex. I’m setting a timer–a pomodoro— for 25 minutes).
3. Add some motivating or focusing music.
4. Ask yourself what are 1-3 tiny steps I can take to get started?
5. Then tell yourself to “Go!” (And if you add a dose of Jia’s badass courage to face your fears of rejection and failure, you, too, can become “Rejection Proof!”)
A lot of the above has to do with mindfulness. Whether it’s getting through a run or a workout (one step, one rep, at a time), writing a novel (one word, one scene, one act at a time), or copywriting (just one small step at a time, first a sh%tty draft, one line at a time, then a “done is better than perfect final edit”).
Jia Jiang is motivating me to try experimenting with rejection, with welcoming “no’s” into my life, to look at fear in the face. So many things are swirling around in my brain, around trying things I’m usually afraid to do.
Some of my biggest fears when it comes to rejection:
1. Writing to publish
2. Submitting and pitching my writing to _____ (magazines, contests, literary journals, residencies)
3. Publishing articles on Medium and elsewhere
4. Finally hitting “Publish” on a draft that’s been sitting in my Medium account from over a year ago about how I used LSD for the first time as an adult in my 40s, combining it with carnivore, fasting, ketosis and having the most healing time in my life, despite once been diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2 with debilitating depression, now mentally happier and physically healthier without any meds.
5. Talking to strangers and making small talk/eye contact
6. Being in big groups (parties, conferences, etc.)
7. Chatting on social media, Slack, Zoom meetings.
8. Asking for a rate increase
9. Applying for other jobs/gigs/courting new clients
10. Taking improv and other creative classes
11. Texting/emailing friends back (afraid too much time has already passed)
12. Traveling alone
13. Making new friends in a brand new city
Inspired by Jia Jiang, I wrote up a “100 Rejections Challenge” for myself in my bujo, as a place to log all the tasks that make me uncomfortable and fearful, just so I can practice this facing of possible rejections in my daily life.
It’s funny how the tiniest things can make me fearful sometimes, induce stage fright, such as responding back to people on social media, texts, Slack messages. How making a simple ask from GoFundMe donors to help a grieving friend can make me want to run into a corner, drink wine and numb out with movies and/or bread or sugar. The thought of writing a Medium article or pitching a magazine editor makes me want to vomit. Sometimes, when I’m really off (like when my GKI is in the 50s or non-existent), even making small talk in the elevator with strangers makes me feel as if I’m jumping off a cliff without a parachute. Parties with people, even good friends, scare me. Reading my own writing aloud at literary readings have always been preceded with many glasses of wine. Once the structure of a workshop or class is over, I don’t know what to do with myself, my safety behavior is to run and hide, wishing I had an invisibility cloak to wear. Afraid to be found out, that I’m just a socially inept human being unable to interact normally.
I’m embracing rejection today.
“I dare you to reject me!” My insides are shouting. “I welcome it!”
What if I welcomed rejection every day this year? What would happen? What could possibly happen? Really?
I’m up early again. Day 3 of my 7-day challenge to wake up early at 5am. So far, I’m doing it! Can’t believe I’m up so early, but once I’m up, it feels damn good to plan my day and write before anyone else is up, before the sun dares to even peek out.
Outside it’s dark (it’s now 6:19am) and I’ve already had half a cup of coffee, meditated, checked my fasting glucose (87 mg/dL :), ketones and GKI, planned out my day, tracked habits in my habit tracker, and am now typing out Morning Pages. Such a good feeling! I really love the energy of the early morning. That is, when I’ve slept well. Yesterday morning, I didn’t feel quite as refreshed as today or the first day I awoke at 5am. But what a difference a full night’s of rest makes! I feel ready to slay my day!
I’m going to try this self-imposed 7-day challenge to wake up early at 5am to see if my writing life improves. So far, I’ve been kicking ass (powered by ketones and caffeine), getting up early to write, getting some novel scene list exercises done, even some blogging here, before making breakfast and lunch for my kid. I love waking up when everyone else seems to be still asleep, the outside skies pitch black, except for the occasional glitter blasts of headlights on the streets below. This year I am devoting to writing, to a more literary life, to finally finishing, revising, and querying this novel.
The other night I came across a fascinating account of a guy who decided to practice his exposure to rejection. His name is Jia Jiang, and for 100 days, he challenged himself to getting rejected in public, something he was deathly afraid of, having been rejected in public as a small kid in elementary school.
I’ve decided to, inspired by Jia Jiang, to start my own 100 Rejections Challenge. Inside my bullet journal, I numbered 1-100 and decided that anything that could possibly end up with a rejection, could go in there.
Applying for a writing conference like Bread Loaf, for example, is going in there.
Asking others to help out a grieving friend for the third time was another.
Writing up a draft for a client knowing that it may not be well-received went in there too.
At some point, I’m going to try higher-stake ones, such as querying my novel, writing Medium articles and hitting publish (even if no one ever claps for it)…
Pitching and submitting pieces and ideas to magazine or literary journals…
Going to a social event and talking to at least one stranger.
Taking an improv class and not rushing home as soon as it ends.
Perhaps joining a writing group or signing up for a writing class here in Austin.
Posting a poem on my blog even though I’m the furthest thing away from being a poet (here we go: see below).
My intention for this challenge? To be more brave, more courageous, more badass. To be fearless, I must be able to face fear in the eye and say, “You’re not as scary as I thought.”
On that note, here is my attempt at a poem I wrote earlier this morning (having gotten up at 5am to try a new habit to awake early to write, a la Toni Morrison):
Early Morning Poem
I spent the morning drenched in words
For an hour I sat, saturated in poems
three women poets
Lost in words
Laced in lust
Love like lace
lulls a lullaby
of lavished imagery
Not a waste
scaffolding my day
a foundation built
with nothing more
details and descriptions
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!