DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or a medical practitioner. Do not take my advice and experiences as one size fits all. Though unlikely, I am not responsible if you try any of this and get sick or die as a result. I recommend dialogue and coordination with a professional medical practitioner.
Sat on this post for a long enough time. I have some strong positions on diet protocol. Anyone who knows me, knows it’s a little peculiar how I eat. This is a result of a lot of research, along with personal trial and error over the course of the past 7+ years. Fortunately, the present is kind to alternative lifestyles and it’s not too awkward to make unusual requests at restaurants and such. I will format this post to provide a background and then my approach to different topics.
Some details about me. When I was little, I was fairly skinny up until early grade school. After this point, I blew up to borderline obesity and maintained that until I was well into college. I was never really good at most sports so it was logical to me that it was related to my level of activity. However, I would later prove this was not entirely the case. Concurrently, I also faced some health issues regarding constant fatigue that plagued me until adopting changes to my diet.
My first experience with medical inquiry into health issues started in high school. I was sleeping excessively and falling asleep in class as well as getting lightheaded when standing. My doctor warned me that it was likely due to a lack of conditioning. Basically, when standing my veins were not constricting properly and so my heart had to compensate quickly for the sudden drop in blood pressure. My resting pulse would go from around 60bpm to over 120bpm just by the simple act of standing. The medical term for it is “postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome” (POTS). Conditioning through exercise, in theory, would help treat that. In high school, I was active in marching band and by junior year I took up running as a hobby. This caused some weight loss but did nothing to improve my fatigue and daytime sleepiness. I turned into a bit of a coffee and energy drink junkie.
I peaked at 220-something pounds in college, probably around early 2010. Working at a store with junk food and slamming energy drinks in the afternoon to stay awake at my second job didn’t help any of this. This was all compounded by a very unhealthy relationship and a pending civil lawsuit against my college. It was the breakup from that relationship which became the catalyst for my subsequent research into diet lifestyle. I knew I needed a dramatic shift at this point of time, and decided that rather then try to pick any one thing that was wrong with my lifestyle at the time. I quit everything for a period of time. Caffeine, my job, even food.
Fasting is taboo. I knew when approaching initially that there’s a long human tradition of its use for spiritual, religious, medical, and cleansing purposes. But this history doesn’t change its public perception in the US as being unhealthy, unsafe, and a component of disorders (anorexia nervosa). In leaving that bad relationship, I felt I needed to do something a little extreme. So I stopped eating for a week, aside from water. Only the first day or so was tough. My family worried about my health but I wanted to do this. I read every piece of available information I could find across the web on the topic.
What I found was after the first couple days, I could think clearly. I wasn’t getting drops in energy in the afternoon. I occasionally had some minor heart palpitations and the roof of my mouth would get sore, but this is apparently normal. I read and I read about how people use water fasts over set periods of time to induce a mental calm. From this year on I made it a point to fast for 7-10 days at the start of each year. I do not like the idea of a ‘juice fast/cleanse’. This is strictly a water fast, no supplements. In recent years I have replaced this with only a ketogenic diet as I feel physiologically this provides a very similar benefit.
Most importantly, fasting gave me the ability to free myself from one desire/addiction in my life. It was an empowering experience and allowed me to view eating and diet in a logical light. It was as if I was no longer as much of a slave to the world in which I lived.
Ketosis and low-carb, high-fat eating #
In the late 90’s my parents tried the Atkins diet. It worked for them. They lost a substantial amount of weight and then stopped. I remembered this, but didn’t apply It to my lifestyle because at the time I was focused on just exercising to lose weight and get in shape. The biochemical changes from eating a low carbohydrate diet are very similar to a fasting state. Most importantly it will lose or maintain weight without feeling hungry and without substantial exercise (though I recommend doing at least some exercise)
On allergies #
I suffer from severe seasonal allergies. Pretty much any sort of grass pollen I’m extremely allergic too. When I moved to the family farm I used to help cut the hay fields. I had to stop when one of my eyes began to swell out of its socket. Years of going to an allergist and undergoing immunotherapy shots seems to have increased my level before I react, but it had been similarly as violent. I noticed when I was fasting and later on keto, if I did it around spring, my allergies substantially improved. I also stopped having any acne. The questionable item in my diet had been gluten which was virtually eliminated while on keto. I really am not certain if this is what causes me to breakout and feel like crap. New studies are coming out now that point to it possibly being a fructan intolerance in place of gluten. I plan to try to research a bit more this year (being able to do things like eat ramen again would be nice). I’ve ruled out crohn’s a few years ago with a doctor and celiac seems very unlikely.
As of this time, I’m doing keto again for the first month or quarter of the year (depending on when I lock down to maintenance weight, get bored, or go back to lifting). Katie is doing it with me this year, primarily to see the mental benefit and as a test to see whether she can get herself to avoid sugar. She’s doing great so far. A return to running is planned, it’s just a little treacherous where I live (on a mountain with snow/ice) so I might find a gym or something I guess.
Helpful resources #
This video I saw a few years after doing annual keto. It is probably the most concise explanation of biological factors influencing why a low carb, high fat diet works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM. Also, shout out to /r/ketoscience on Reddit and Sci-Hub for giving me access to read so many scientific papers.