I’ve recently went on a very long fast.
I went into it as a mind-cleansing, a change in perspective and lifestyle, an asserted, conscious effort to spin my life-on-a-dime and head in a more productive, fulfilling direction than where I felt it was gradually drifting towards.
I think it’s working.
At least I feel so much better now.
It was hard.
It was challenging.
I had deep lows, I had nice highs.
It has been rewarding in ways I was surprised at.
It's been difficult in ways I didn't imagine.
It’s a personal journey you have to decide to take and it can be very lonely.
Nearly all people in our western society have no way to mentally process a very great time span of no food consumption, so most people just simply won’t get it or understand or be of any help to commiserate with you.
That can be a bit depressing when you want to reach out and get social comfort. If you do happen to have a supportive person to bounce feelings off of, that is a big help and you’re lucky. If you don't, realize that this long-term fasting thing is a hard, radical thing to do and I hope you have strong strength of character and will to pull from.
Recently I’ve spent some time reading books to find if anyone out there has been through any of the psychological, physical experiences I’ve found myself going through.
I was curious.
I don’t know a lot about human physiology or bodily functions.
I’m not a medically trained person.
But I thought I can’t be that unique. I’m a pretty standard, unremarkable person.
There must be something out there...
One thing that grabbed my attention was this thing called the Keto diet.
Understand, mine wasn’t a diet.
I simply fasted.
I’m not that socially addicted or needy to follow much of anything (especially some 'bacon-and-steak' fad California diet).
I simply had nothing but tea, water and coffee for many, many days.
(I won’t mention how many actual days because at the time of this writing, I’m not done yet, and nobody would believe the numbers anyway)…
I simply did lots and lots of distance walking, meditation, and got proper rest every night.
Not too complicated, no big secrets.
It worked very, very well.
I’m happy with the results.
I’ve actually done it before (but not to this extent) but I’m hoping I won’t be doing it again in the future except in the way that I intend to live out the rest of my life in an austere, disciplined, self-fulfilling lifestyle.
So, anyway, I was reading books at a library, and I came across literature of this ‘Keto’ thing, (that I’ve also heard about in the last year or more on various podcasts and the occasional article in newspapers), and after reading a bit about it find it has similar workings to my experience.
I thought I’d share some notes in this text that I jotted down and even though I haven’t noted references here (I didn’t bother to be that empirical) I just wanted to share. (BTW… It’s pretty easy to find more in depth info out there, if you’re really interested, so feel free to investigate further or not if you’re so inclined).
People in the ‘progressive’, ‘woke’ parts of our society are putting ‘grass-fed butter’ in their coffee, downing ketone drinks, eating blocks of cream cheese, and replacing their cereal and pasta with eggs and avocados. Keto diet devotees believe that if you banish most carbs (including fruit) and embrace saturated fat, you can lose weight without feeling hungry.
The Keto diet’s long history in biology and nutritional science lends somewhat to its credibility. Doctors have been prescribing ketogenic diets to treat epilepsy for nearly a century and increasingly believe it may hold promise for people with Type 2 diabetes as well.
But what’s lost in the many trendy articles and books about ‘going keto’ for weight loss today is that this diet is the same one the now-late Dr. Robert Atkins and other low-carb evangelists had/have been selling since the 1960s. (Diet peddlers have an incredible knack for rebranding old ideas over and over, under new brands and names, and in our eternal confusion about what exactly to eat, we keep falling for the latest and greatest trend).
But the truth about diets has never changed.
Diets aren’t about the diet.
Diets are about the person who uses them.
It is about only you in the end and the diet is just a tool.
It's your hammer. It's your vehicle. It's your window to crawl to something better through.
Those older keto style diets didn’t work in the long term for most people hoping to slim down, and there’s no evidence the newly popular Keto diet will be any different.
Commitment to healthy diet and exercise is a lifestyle, not a temporary measure or fix.
It’s a mindset, a lifelong practice, not a procedure you apply then revert from to return to former bad practices and crazily expect temporary outcomes to ‘cure’ former poor choices or expect that now you can carry on without a new, firm commitment with stronger, personal discipline.
How the ketogenic process works:
First, you need a quick primer on how the human body gets energy.
We are fueled primarily by glucose, or blood sugar. Much of this we derive from carbohydrates in foods like bread, fruit, potatoes (for ex.), or sweet foods.
If glucose levels in the blood drop to really low levels, we’d pass out and if not remedied, we would eventually die. That sounds like a design problem. Yes, interestingly, the body can’t store much glucose. Actually, the body has the capacity to only hold enough glucose in its system to last a couple of days without a resupply or refeeding. So, if we were to forgo eating carbs, voluntarily or not, for a few days, we’d need other ways to keep going wouldn’t we?
Yet, notice that mankind hasn't disappeared over the countless centuries of existence.
...Not even through scarce times has it?
Don’t worry, nature provides.
The way the body does this is with a bodily process called ketogenesis.If we turn our evolutionary clock back a million years to our ancient ancestors on the African savannah you can imagine that many times, probably four, five or six days would go by before you found the next berry bush with fruit on it or the next carcass rotting in the sun to gnaw on. The body simply had to evolve and adapt for days of running on just stored fat tissue and glycogen stored in our liver and muscles. Because we left the trees and developed a nomadic history, unlike other primates, humans uniquely developed this ability to fast while chimpanzees for example are unable to metabolize their fat tissue for prolonged periods of time and actually store hardly any subcutaneous fat either.
In ketogenesis, our pancreas induces our livers to start to break down the long-chain molecules of fatty acids released from our fat cells stored throughout our body in all that puffy stuff we can grab around our thighs, bellies, and arms, that we begrudgingly pinch into a thick sloppy fold and wince wistfully at as we look at ourselves in the mirror. The liver converts this fat into a usable energy source called ketone bodies, or ‘ketones’ for short.
“Organs like the brain, that normally rely primarily on glucose for fuel, can begin to use a substantial amount of ketones instead,” says Kevin Hall, a National Institutes of Health senior investigator (U.S.A) who has studied the ketogenic process for years. “Ketones can stand in for glucose as fuel for the body when there’s a glucose deficit. It’s a physiological adaptation to starvation that humans have developed over the thousand millenia that allows tissues like the brain and other vital organs to survive -- and survive in times of scarcity of food, which was once a lot more common than now."
In these days of plenty everywhere, however, we tend to overconsume and stock-pile excess energy as fat that will probably not be needed for the rest of our lives. It slowly accumulates year after year around our body as we notice our tight clothes need to be replaced with new, roomier ones.
Forced or involuntary ketogenesis goes after stored body energy reserves.
Once it kicks in and ketone levels are elevated, the body moves to a state commonly called ‘ketosis’ or the ketogenic state, where you’re now burning stored fat from your body instead of having to rely on the now depleted or deprived levels of glucose within your bloodstream.
As this different energy source gradually comes into play, ketogenesis is an entirely different fueling ‘engine’ within your body compared to the carbohydrate supplied ‘glucose-from-the-blood’ system. Yet it yields the same result of sustaining the body's brain (that requires approx. 20 percent of the energy the body produces!), the other organs and functions, and making sure the creature does not die in a time of less or no food intake. The continued, needed energy to sustain the functions of life is supplied and is simply converted from the body's storehouses.
We carry around our own, personal fridge.
And yes, along with this energy source being utilized, just as importantly, waste cell material and toxins stored and accumulated in the body's fatty material are now able to be easily extracted along with the fuel. They're channeled into the waste disposal system of the lungs, kidneys, liver, bile and intestines of the body so there's a side benefit of a natural cleansing function of wastes that had remained a bit stagnant and tucked away before, when on the glucose-produced-from-carbohydrates system.
There are a few ways to get into ketosis.
One way is through fasting.
A fast (water-fast) is when you cease your food intake and are soon running on only stored fat cells.
Beware, once you burn through the entirety of your stored fat cells and start metabolizing muscle cells for energy you are now in starvation mode.
That's a different thing and that's bad.
At that point you should stop.
Skinny people shouldn't fast long or at all.
People with Type 1 diabetes shouldn't fast.
Just as an aside, a funny thing comes to mind:
When you commonly hear someone exclaim "I'm starving!", they are rarely correct.
They're most likely only starved of self-discipline.
When you stop eating altogether for an extended period of time, the body will ramp up fat burning for fuel and be forced to decrease its use of carbohydrate produced glucose, due to its lack of it. It will also shift into a mode of conserving energy throughout its systems. People can commonly survive for as long as 70-plus days without food if they have a bit of body fat hanging on them. You'll also commonly see inflamations reduce or disappear, skin rashes diminish or resolve, etc. because the body doesn't waste precious energy sustaining them and toxins that initiate and irritate things are leaving your system every day which takes pressure off your immune system.
Another way to cycle into ketosis, though a milder form, is by strict diet observances. Hence the Keto Diet thing. You can consistently eat less than 20 to 50 grams of carbs (the amount in a slice or two of bread, for example) per day. That in itself, by the way, would be a big challenge to most people in our western society, given our habits with food and lifestyle choices. Once depriving themselves of constant carb intake, people on a ketogenic diet generally get approx. 5 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, approx. 15 percent from protein, and approx. 80 percent from their own body fat. Note that that’s a much lower ratio of protein and a lot more fat than you’d get on most other, common 'low-carb' diets and it’s this ratio that will force the body to derive much of its energy from ketones. The body is simply forced to burn body fat to fuel its systems instead of easier carbohydrate-produced glucose that simply isn’t there to pull from.
A person instituting a ‘keto’ style diet is mainly subsisting on small (<-key word!) quantities of meats, eggs, cheese, fish, nuts, butter, oils, and vegetables each day — and carefully avoiding any sugar, bread and other grains, beans, all fruit or sugary foods, and certainly any and all processed, modern foods.
Regular exercise is also a very much recommended component of any diet choice and encourages blood flow (walking is good for fasting), tissue and organ stimulation, and certainly the transportation and disposal of waste fluids and toxins within the interconnected systems.
And, if you abandon all these practices and revert to once again consuming much protein or many carbs, your body will be subsequently thrown out of ketosis or the ketogenic state and your body will migrate back to the easier, more quickly absorbed energy source.
And, of course, you also return to the risk of storing extra unused energy that isn't called upon to fuel your body, as fat. : (
Just a note:
I've read that researchers have suggested that the body’s ability to tolerate carbohydrates can decrease after following a low-carb, high-fat diet. Not sure if these claims are solid or not since no studies were cited.
Another common effect of the ketogenic cycle is said to be what is called 'keto flu': fatigue, lightheadedness, and dizziness that people have reported when they greatly reduce their carb intake.
Yeah, well, this describes just about any person that I've ever encountered who has ever attempted a fast for even a few days without understanding what really drives their want and desire of food.
I find most people aren't really very self-aware of their preconceived notions about food or aren't very much in control of them (or most any of their urges for that matter).
Anyway... not a very surprising anecdote to me.
(Psychosomatic people and their 'woe-is-me' thing is common...)
Oooops... opinionated GregO strikes again...
Anyway, I haven't experienced this stuff but I suppose some may have? Don't know.
Benefit of the doubt is due I suppose.
There are also writings that say that after the body adjusts to this state and stays on it for a long time there may be problems that arise with kidney stones, high cholesterol, constipation, slowed growth (in young people), and bone fractures.
Nope, no constipation on my part.
Fell on icy steps, nothing broke, luckily?
And I've been done growing for a long time now.
Cholesterol I don't know.
Kidney stones sounds gross but I suppose you could make a cool necklace.
My blood pressure is now consistently 115/76 and I'll keep monitoring it periodically.
My BMI is just below the "normal" at 23.6 and when I'm done will be in the lower range of the 'official' BMI recommendations for a person of my height and weight.
Like I said before, I'm not a medical expert but there are markers out there we can check ourselves against.
I can walk briskly a very long while and feel just fine cardiovascularly, energy-wise, and within all my joints and muscles and I find the mental benefits to be very wonderful.
I know we aren't all built the same but some markers are pretty universal for any human.
Here's another interesting thing that I read:
Obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet said, "There’s not a single historic traditionally living human population that was in chronic nutritional ketosis.” He pointed out that even the Inuit, who are the more remotely positioned of people on the Earth, mainly subsisted on fatty whale, seals, and fish, but were not in chronic ketosis because they developed genetic mutations that prevented them from overproducing ketones.
Huh... well... hopefully I have some Inuit ancestry hey? :>
Well, that's it...
There's probably much more to talk about and research.
This is just a bit of what I've read and noted.
I realize my experience is doing a fast and not exactly the 'Keto Diet'.
But the similarity of mechanism interested me.
All I know is that I feel much better now.
I feel lighter and more agile.
My body and guts are calm, quiet and smoother now.
I feel better than I have for a long time...
In the long run, of course, it's your business how you maintain yourself and your life.
We're each responsible for our own happiness and well-being but I think we could all probably stand consuming less during our lives, in every way.
Believe me, if you do, your future self will thank you.
Just my two cents...