Crisis, nouna stage in a sequence of events at which the trend of all future events, especially for better or for worse, is determined; turning point.
As I’ve mentioned before, my health has been in a downward spiral for a while now. I can’t point to any particular reason, other than general sloth. In September of ’20 I hit my goal weight and climbed Mount Whitney. I felt fantastic. All health markers were exceptional. I decided to take a “timeout” from the strict diet for a short period. Fast forward 14 months and I put all that weight back on, plus a few. While I’m generally physically active, as the weight increases my frequency and intensity of activity drops. Basically, I feel like crap. Tired all the time. Sore after every attempt at working out. Depressed because I can barely run a mile, when a little more than a year ago I was comfortably doing 8-10 mile trail runs at 7,000 feet. It’s truly frightening how fast you go backwards.
Some weeks prior I started trying to turn this ship around. Increased workouts, trying to run a bit again, and half-assed paying attention to my calories. And then a number of days ago the ship ran aground. I wasn’t making much progress. And then an event happened that hit me hard. In a nutshell, vanity and embarrassment at how I look prevented me from doing something fun. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back. I finally had the courage to step on the scale again and measure BP, HR, and blood sugar. [cue blaring klaxons and flashing red lights]
I don’t remember the exact statistic, but over a three year period, something like 95% of all diets fail. That’s why the experts generally don’t want you to “diet”, but rather make small, incremental healthy choices that are sustainable over the long term. Unfortunately, in crisis management you don’t have the luxury of long term planning. You need to make choices to solve the immediate, critical issues in front of you. When the crisis is over you can revisit plans and recalibrate your long term path forward. That’s where we’re at today… crisis management.
So, say hello to my old friend the ketogenic diet. I really didn’t want to go back to keto. I was on it for almost two years. I found it very restrictive and do have some concerns about long term heart health. Back in my peak health I was just about to do some advanced calcium tests to get the true picture of my heart, and then the pandemic hit and everything was shut down. So I really don’t know what the full impact of almost two years of keto was.
But, for me keto worked. I don’t think it has anything to do with ketogenesis – there are too many studies showing equal weight loss and health results with other diets. I don’t believe insulin/sugar/carbs/inflammation, etc… are the great drivers of fat loss/gain (note – when I started keto I went hard down that rabbit hole and was a rabid convert. Like the old joke, how do you know if someone is vegan/keto/paleo/Crossfit? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.) Don’t misunderstand – I think controlling blood sugar is massively important. But you can achieve the same blood sugar control with exercise and being lean in most cases. Keto is not a magic bullet for this… but it can jump start the process.
Keto worked (in my opinion) because it forces you to pay attention to macros which lends itself to being aware of calories. High protein and fat is much more satiating, which helps curb cravings. And when you really can’t eat/drink carbs, those in-between meal snacks tend go away. Keto, for those of you who haven’t gone down that road, has another benefit. When you first enter ketosis, for a while you tend to dump a ton of water weight. The result is seeing the number on the scale plummet rapidly. You see progress and that’s self-reinforcing to keep going with the diet/exercise. Positive feedback loops are a good thing.
So here we are. Crisis management. Keto. Officially day 4. Peeing like a racehorse. In ketosis (via blood test). Down 3.6 pounds (mostly water weight). As an interesting anecdote, I am a believer in teaching your body to be fat-adapted. We evolved cycling between high protein/fat and then long periods of plant based carbs and intermittent fasting. Our ancestors had to go long fasting periods, running down antelopes, fueled only by stored fats. When I first attempted keto it took several weeks to just edge into ketosis and several more weeks of dropping in and out before I was solidly in ketosis. Throughout the next year and a half I took three or four calculated one week breaks from keto (but maintained the same caloric intake). Each time I restarted, it took shorter and shorter amounts of time to get back into ketosis. Even after a 14 month break, I was (barely) back into ketosis after only a day and a half. No fasting, just high fat/protein. Your body remembers what to do. I find that fascinating.
- Side note for those who don’t know. Generally “in ketosis” means blood ketone levels greater than 0.5 mmol/L. After a few days I’m hovering around 0.8. At my peak 14 months ago I was generally between 1.5 and 2.3 mmol/L daily.
I’m not sure what the long term eating plan is. I originally quit because of how strict keto is. Eventually, I want to be able to have a beer now and then. My favorite food is Mexican. I freaking love potatoes. Nachos are my kryptonite. None of those are compatible with keto or my current weight. When things are back in control, I’ll need to figure out a lifestyle plan that works. The weight cycles are so incredibly unhealthy, I can’t keep doing it. I’d love to hear what you diet experts feel is a sustainable eating plan?
Besides, when the supply chain / economic collapse / zombie apocalypse finally hits, anyone not fat adapted is going to struggle. As the movie Zombieland stated, there are 53 rules for surviving. Number one is cardio. And you can’t run from zombies if you’re feeling woozy from lack of carbs. But that’s a post for another day.