Friday, August 17, 2012

Ketosis - An Experiment

For someone who’s been eating “low carb” for a year and a half, it’s funny that I haven’t really been too concerned with whether or not I was in ketosis. Sure, the goal was to be burning fat more than sugar, but I just kind of thought it would take care of itself if I kept the carbs pretty low. Recently, I’ve been learning a lot more about this, mostly by following Jimmy Moore’s latest experiment. He is one of my greatest inspirations – his openness about his struggles and attempts to overcome weight stalls and regains has been very illuminating. I am happy for those few that find success quickly and easily, finding it possible then to maintain those accomplishments long term with seemingly little effort. But those folks are few and far between because however hard this weight loss thing is, keeping it off is even tougher.

That being said, Jimmy has taken the goal of becoming a fat burning beast to a new level – and is reaping some amazing results so far. This has got me thinking about my own strategy and how I could possibly tweak things a bit to get the fat loss going again. I know that eating my version of a Paleo Diet is working for me in terms of improved health and the fact that I’ve maintained a 45 lb weight loss for the past 5 months or so since the scale stopped its slow creep downward. Yes, it would have been awesome to have been losing fat the whole time, but I can’t forget that even staying the same for an extended period is a major accomplishment for me. I’ve spent my entire adolescent and adult life either losing or gaining weight. Kind of sad, but true. Staying the same just hasn’t been a state I’ve enjoyed – ever. Periods of restriction were always and inevitably followed by periods of permissiveness and thus, weight gain. I am so happy to have finally broken that cycle. I’ve found a way to eat and live that actually works for me long term – I have no feelings of deprivation causing me to crash off the “diet”. This is nothing less than amazing to me and for this, I am so grateful.

Yet. Yet, I really would like to lose about another 45 lbs. I’m “stuck” right there in the middle (45 down, 45 to go). I don’t actually want to be thin. My goal is kind of ironically to just dip my toes into the merely “overweight” category, if you can believe that BMI nonsense. I got there briefly just after I did my first marathon back in 2003 and that felt really comfortable for me. But how I did it (Jenny Craig!) was not sustainable and back on came the weight, slowly but surely. I’d like to get there again, this time for good. I just could not imagine going down below that size 10/12 place and really have no interest in trying.

So, ketosis. The idea is to restrict your body’s access to glucose so that it must, out of necessity, switch over to burning fat for the majority of its energy needs. That means restricting carbs. Yes, but that is not the whole story, as I’ve been learning. Part of what makes this lifestyle so appealing to me is that within the framework of Paleo foods, I feel like I have few restrictions. That free-eating style has gotten me this far and helped me tremendously from a psychological perspective. As a result, I would not change a thing about how I’ve done things so far. That said, it doesn’t mean that it’s not time to shake things up a bit now. I feel like I can handle some changes now and won’t freak out in an overly restrictive or disordered way.

The “new” piece of the puzzle I’m working to incorporate revolves around how our body uses protein and what the means for the amount I should be eating. (This info isn’t actually entirely new to me, but I’m just now processing the importance and trying to apply it). It is true that our brain needs a small amount of glucose, no matter what. Low carbers generally supply that by the small amount of carbs we DO eat (mostly veggies) and from a process called gluconeogenesis – after using the protein we eat for our body’s infrastructure, any excess can be converted into glucose, which is preferentially shuttled to the brain since it’s of vital importance and needs it the most. This is an amazing fail-safe we have to keep us going through periods of starvation (it will do this with our own muscle tissue, if necessary, to keep us a live) or simple carb scarcity. Many cultures (think Inuit) have survived thanks to this mechanism when little plant matter has been available. For my purposes, the problem crops up when we eat more protein than we need to build and repair our tissues or produce the pretty small amount of glucose needed for the brain. What happens to the rest? Our body burns it just like the sugar we purposely are NOT eating. This produces the same insulin response and cascading effects we are trying to avoid by eating low carb. Doh! And we thought we were doing sooooo good.

For this experiment, I’m going to cut out the fruit, chocolate, and most of the nuts that are adding more carbs than I want to be eating as well as slightly decrease the amount of protein I eat. But much more interesting and exciting than what I’m cutting down on, is what I plan to add. More fat! Yummy, yummy fat. It adds satiety and makes keeping protein moderate a lot easier. To make this easier (and more fun), I’m going to lift my moratorium on (high fat) dairy. We’ll see if I have any adverse effects but I’m going to try incorporating heavy cream, regular cheese, and butter again. A girl’s got to live a little and letting these back in makes me feel like I’m getting something in this deal. If I start to feel crappy, out it will go. Again. I’m also going to give Stevia a pass on this one so I can do these fat bombs as a treat. I also am doing the Bulletproof coffee again, which tastes WAY better with a little Stevia. This also opens up the option for an evening hot cocoa, one of my faves from a past life. Another treat I’m going to try is this crust-less key lime pie recipe, in which I’ll use Stevia and a bit more coconut milk or heavy cream instead of the honey. Cross your fingers on that one.

This is a bit of change for me, so I’m going to gear up to start on Monday, that old cliché. But in this case, Monday will be my 35th birthday, so it adds something of significance to the whole thing. Is it weird that I’m super excited for this change?


Mama Youtz said...

Happy birthday girlie! See, I'm keeping up with you even though I never see you. How was day 1?


Thanks so much, Dina! Always great to hear from you. I’m doing well so far. Day 1 was pretty painless as these things go. I got a bit cranky towards the end of the day, but not too bad. It’s weird seeing a calorie goal – there’s no real way to turn that off with the tracker or any tracker I’ve found, so I can’t help but want to stay within the max they give me as much as I know it doesn’t really apply. Otherwise, I am having fun with tracking the numbers. It’s amazing to see what eating 75% of calories from fat looks like. It’s not what you’d think. I’m not eating butter by the spoonful or anything.

Sabine said...

Mascarpone cheese will be your biggest friend, and i highly recommend erythritol as a sweetener!

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