I'm thrilled to be a Single Mother by Choice, living in Brooklyn with my heart's desire, my precious little girl, Calliope. Oh, I work as a pediatric nurse practitioner in a school based health center. That's pretty fun, too.
Life in Mexico is pretty incredible, really. I actually feel like I have too much time (and too little money) on my hands which is mostly pretty luxurious, at least for the short term. The weather is incredible -- lately it swings from low forties to high seventies or even warmer each day. People are incredibly friendly. It's required to say "Buenas dias!" and pause before starting any business transaction, and to kiss on the cheek any acquaintance you encounter in the street. The girls seem to be thriving at school and Calliope, especially, is loving all the downtime at home in the afternoons to draw and play and create. Amelie seems content too, although she's always had plenty of downtime!
But the thing that is hard? My friends. My two best friends in particular, Amy and Emily. There is a lovely community of expats here that I am meeting and getting to know. Folks are warm and friendly. I just left our Friday morning coffee group. Saturday nights I go out with fellow SMCs Sarah and Jackie and often a couple of other friends, included at random. Sunday mornings we meet neighborhood friends in the park for bike riding and play structure climbing. Sometimes on Sunday afternoons we go to the taco place with the indoor play space with friends for an easy dinner.
These friendships are gradually growing stronger. This week, my friend and neighbor Anna picked up my girls from the bus stop and delivered them home when I wasn't feeling well. That night I kept her son so she and her husband could go out for a birthday dinner. And tomorrow my friend Pamela and I are sharing a sitter so our big girls can stay home, the little ones can go to a birthday party, and she can work. These two arrangements are the first time I've really shared the work of childcare with other families and I hope these will continue happening.
But I so miss the shared childrearing I missed with Amy and Emily. Amy and I shared nannies for seven years for our four children. We saw them every single weekend, sometimes multiple times a weekend, and shared afterschool care when our big girls outgrew the nanny. It was a given that we would have Shabbat dinner on Friday nights and carpool for ice skating lessons.
Emily and I lived in the same building the last few years. We rode the subway together most mornings. When she had a date, her daughter stayed over. We had breakfast together every weekend. If I had a stomach ache, she went out for medication. When she had the flu, I delivered hot oatmeal and Vitamin Water.
I'm missing my best friends. And more than that, selfishly, I'm missing having a best friend.
I'm so thrilled that Amy and her kids arrive for a visit in one short week. I'm breathlessly scheduling our every waking moment to maximize the deliciousness of time together. The girls are likewise exuberant in their excitement to see these children who are practically their siblings.
Best pals Rachel, me, Amy, Emily and Elizabeth celebrating of my last nights in town.
Well, my "fast" yesterday lasted all of about eight hours. It was too hard cooking for a dinner party -- I needed to be able to taste seasonings and then my resolve crumbled. But that is fine. It was a fun dinner party. Among the guests we had a celiac sufferer, nut/milk/sesame/egg allergies, vegan, and Keto-er. Lots of needs. So I landed on a taco bar. I wish I remembered to take a photo of the finished product. It was so pretty! And everything was laid out when they arrived except finishing the guacamole. We had:
organic beef, sauteed with garlic powder, onion powder, salt. No MacLowry's Season Salt because it contains sugar (bad for the Keto-er, me). eaten by the children of the vegans but not by Calliope.
chopped avocado for the picky eaters that don't eat guacamole -- Calliope
regular guacamole with garlic powder instead of raw garlic (for the kids) and oops, I forgot the onion!
chopped tomato, again for those who don't eat guacamole.
sauteed peppers -- no onions for the onion haters
fresh corn tortillas for everyone (including the GF person) EXCEPT me, the Keto-er
shredded Oaxaca cheese for everyone except the vegan and the dairy-allergic child
green and red salsas for the other adults but not for me because i don't like it (but it's Keto friendly) from the tortilleria
rice and beans from the tortilleria for everyone except the Keto-er
I think that about covers it. I heard one of the kids exclaim "this is the best meal EVER!" So I felt very successful.
For dessert, because I forgot to buy sorbet and more ice cream, we walked around the corner to the convenience store and everyone got to pick an ice cream or popsicle of her choice. The kids were thrilled and six ice cream bars cost me less than $5. Win.
Then we came back for Trolls. The kids watched while the grown ups chatted. It was lovely. These are friends I am slowly getting to know. They are more socially connected than me so I feel lucky that they said yes. But their kids are the same ages as mine so it works really well.
After they left I got deep into a bag of tortilla chips. And then some digestive biscuits. But you know, they were DELICIOUS. And so I'm deciding not to beat myself up. I think I need to know I can have a splurge occasionally. Maybe I'll plan one for every Friday nights? I'm not sure if it's helpful to plan for it or not.
Anyway, today I woke up happy and decided to jump into another fast. With three cups of cold-brew with heavy cream added. So delicious! I am fifteen hours in and feeling pretty good. I'm thinking I'll fast until tomorrow late lunchtime if I continue to feel good. Saturday night plans are a little tricky without dinner plans but I am having a massage and then may go see a movie. Tomorrow morning early we are going to Costco in Queretaro with an SMC friend so that will keep me busy. And we want to eat quickly at the mall before the kids are too tired and last time we ate at the mall the food was a huge disappointment. So I'm going to bring food for the kids -- no point spending money when they prefer home food anyway -- and I'll wait to eat until we get home and I can have something I'll actually enjoy. Probably bacon and spinach from the Costco haul!
Amelie was up early this morning so she took a long bath and then Calliope wrote me her daily three sentences and read me a book -- trying to make sure we keep up her English language learning, even if the pace has slowed -- and then we went to our favorite bakery, Buon Forno, for bread for them, and then walked to a nearby playground. Usually we go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning but I figured Amelie would be extra tired from her early waking (due to a nagging cough) so I wanted to stay close. It was a beautiful morning and very peaceful. Now she's reading while C gets her weekend screen time. After this we have a birthday party, a family-friendly art opening, and a massage (and maybe movie) for me while the girls stay with a sitter. Pretty perfect!
New playground near us with mountains in the background
I'm thrilled to share that I got tired of myself and my needling anxieties and just suddenly decided to bite the bullet and try a longer fast (again). Technically I did a 56 hour fast after my stomach bug but that feels long enough ago that it's ancient history plus having a stomach bug for the first 24 hours changed everything.
So I dove in. The first day was hardest, probably around 14-18 hours, which was early afternoon when I was a little bored at home. Once the kids came home and Calliope's tutor came over I was distracted, which helped. I thought the kids might notice that I wasn't eating and I wasn't sure how to respond to that but they didn't notice.
I am very, very careful to never, ever talk about dieting in front of them. I never comment on my weight or changes in it. I haven't discussed fasting. I do tell them that I am not eating sugar because I think it's not healthy. And they agreed to a two-week "sugar detox" where they are only getting one sweet thing a day -- if they want a cookie after dinner, they can't have syrup on pancakes or nutella on their peanut butter sandwiches. I've relaxed my standards a little and will let them have a square of dark chocolate or a piece of dried mango in the mornings but I think it's definitely lowered their cravings for sugar.
Anyway, by dinner time for them it was feeling a bit better. I put them to bed and was amazed to observe that my brain quietly accepted my "the kitchen is closed" decision. Amazing!
I woke up the next morning and surprisingly un-hungry. I'm rarely hungry in the mornings. That was at about 36 hours in. I did have a coffee with cream at home and then another during my Thursday morning Spanish tutoring session at the local bakery. After that, I limped -- because I banged the crap out of my fourth toe a couple days earlier and it's a lovely shade of purple right now -- to the CASA Clinic where I have been volunteering these past three weeks.
Lucky me, one of the midwives told me she had a patient in labor and invited me to participate! That was at 9:30 in the morning. The patient was already at 7 cm and doing great but after a few hours things slowed down. I was very involved, pressing on her back with contractions and doing my best to listen avidly to the midwife's explanations of things -- my Spanish is improving all the time but it's still not easy to understand everything. I was busy enough -- even when the patient fell asleep between contractions -- to not feel hungry. And I swear, there's something about getting past those early hours of fasting... it gets progressively easier!
I was planning a lovely dinner for myself when I finished the day. But the baby took a long time to arrive and I didn't want to rush out afterwards. And then the new father generously offered to treat the midwife and myself to dinner. I wanted to refuse but he was eager and in Mexico, I think it's rude to say no. So he ordered burgers for everyone. And insisted I take some sweet potato fries. I only took a few fries and managed to eat the burger without the bun (mostly) although it had some sort of sweet topping on it. That wouldn't have been too bad but that carbohydrate intake plus fatigue from the long day made me crave more carbs.
I got home and my energy crashed. I got the kids into bed and was desperately craving tortilla chips. I'm proud of my compromise, though. Instead of crashing on the couch, I put a few chips in a very small bowl... and started cooking a few strips of bacon. I ate some of the chips while the bacon was frying then took a break to eat the bacon. After the bacon, I didn't want the chips anymore! Just to make sure, I threw the chips away.
This morning, Amelie woke me up at 4:30 am with a cough and nausea. She felt better very quickly but decided to wake her sister, too. They were both tearing around the house making a ton of noise before 6 am. After my long day the previous day, plus the eating choices the night before, I was in a terrible mood. Some fierce yelling took place.
I had two cups of coffee and cream and got them fed and off to school. Came home to an empty house and STILL was in a terrible mood. And hungry. Even though I knew it was probably more thirst than hunger, I didn't have the discipline to fight it. So I cooked up the last of the bacon plus two eggs and leftover roasted radishes and ate that. I wasn't hungry anymore but I was still having cravings. So I had some dark chocolate and some heavy cream. Still feeling unhappy.
And finally, I realized that the only thing that would make me feel better was fasting again! I wanted a change to redo how I broke the fast. I was upset that I didn't get to do it my way. I had been thinking that with my social plans this weekend I couldn't fast now. But then I realized that was ridiculous. No one else is all that invested in my eating! I can have friends over for dinner and even cook for them and still not eat!
So at 10 am I put the food away and got up off the couch and started cleaning. I always feel better when the house is clean. And now I am three hours into a fast of an undetermined length. I feel much more in control of my life though I can also tell I am in desperate need of a workout. That will help my mood too. But I am excited that I am starting a fast after having had a meal because I know I'm not hungry right now (as opposed to starting it at bedtime) because I just ate. I'm drinking a big mug of mint tea and I have my bottle of lightly salted water next to me. I'm hoping that today will be pretty easy and that I will sleep during the hardest part and wake up feeling great tomorrow! A cool thing about fasting is that it makes your body release adrenaline -- supposedly to energize you to go hunt some wild game -- so far from being tired while fasting, I generally feel great!
I am going to try to have black coffee again tomorrow to be as purist as possible, if I can manage it.
Oh, and yesterday morning, before work... I finally hit a new low... a pound lower than I have been before. Only 3 kg from that to my goal weight! Of course my weight is WAY up today. But I think this photo of me from yesterday really shows that I am smaller. It's interesting to me to observe that I don't just lose from my stomach -- I am smaller all over! I had somehow forgotten that.
I am so grateful that I got through my first longer fast (in a while) and that I felt so good and feel like I am getting control of my destiny for the first time in ages! All I have to do is get my career figured out and I will have everything I have ever hoped for. And how awesome is it that I get to partipate in births and learn from such amazing people? I really just have to figure out the income part of work figured out. And I somehow have faith that if I continue to follow my passions, I will! Next week I am visiting a nonprofit that sends medical vans out into the countryside to provide medical care to rural children. I am hoping I can include volunteering with them in my soon to be very busy schedule! Or who knows, maybe one of these days these volunteer gigs will turn into a paid oppportunity (that still allows me to pick my children up from the school van most days and lets me travel during their school breaks)! I blindly trust that something will work out.
The awesome midwife who invited me to help.
Sweet cuddly newborn and my feeling-svelt self
Braids! From the girl who is excited to cut her hair short. Sniff.
She has noticed grown ups cross their legs and is, as always, eager to imitate.
Gorgeous light in the Jardin
With friend Mika in Jardin
Yesterday versus last June.
Pals in Centro. Amelie has met her match in Teo. He is just as mischievous as her!
Well, I was feeling like I was on a roll this week. My fasts were gradually getting longer. I was getting to about twenty-two hours each day and feeling good and not hungry (until I was ready to break the fast). It also felt like my appetite was dropping. I was getting hungrier earlier in the day and then, amazingly, not feeling tempted to snack at night! I had to push through several uncomfortable evenings to get there and then suddenly, Wednesday and Thursday night, the urge was gone. I didn't see any lasting changes on the scale and resolved to hide them away. But I felt really good.
And then yesterday I ate twice, early. Bacon both times. I was really craving it and it felt delicious but I only ate five slices between two meals plus some spinach. I felt really full and kind of gross after the second meal and decided to see if I could fast for more than twenty-four hours. Before, when I've tried to fast that long, I have hit a huge mental block with the idea of going more than twenty-four hours. That is apparently just too scary to my tiny little brain. But I realized yesterday that if I started fasting at 1 pm I could eat the next day and also fast more than twenty-four hours. Win!
After my workout I was still feeling gross so I dragged the girls on foot to a friend's house (as opposed to taking a taxit) to walk it off. C had been invited to spend the night there so I figured Amelie and I would hang out for a few minutes and then head home. But then they invited us to stay for dinner... turned out they were having a dinner party. I told them I wasn't hungry and that I was doing keto but it turned out they were making a cauliflower-crust pizza which is totally keto-friendly and they served it to me and... I ate it anyway, even though I wasn't hungry. And then I kept eating. And then I came home and ate loads of tortilla chips. Healthy artisinal grain chips but still. Loaded with carbs.
I'm trying not to beat myself up. I'm focused on my successes because I know that's the only way to get back up again and climb back up on that proverbial horse. But it's hard. And then I ate too much lunch, partly because I was really hungry and partly because I was eating with distractions. Because I feel emotionally off right now. Anxious.
So my successes today are:
I fasted 14:30.
I drank black coffee this morning.
I ate bacon and spinach for lunch which are good for getting me back into ketosis.
I did a whole bunch of blogging to hopefully get out of the emotional funk.
I'm about to work out. And will probably feel a lot better afterwards.
I didn't make a list of what I did wrong. Presumably, no one needs to read that.
Hopefully, my workout will get back on the path. Headed upstairs now to do it before Amelie wakes up.
Did I mention I have a sitter and go out every Saturday night? Some of my favorite pals.
These two gals are also great. One in her marketed-to-parents-of-boys clothing and the other in her ballerina gear. Never mind that she has no interest in dance class.
So my update on me. I'm... struggling. Not exactly in a bad way. It's just a challenge. But I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life.
I have a part-time job working for an online company in the states where I answer health-related questions from new and expectant parents. I was expecting to work about twenty hours a week and thought that would be perfect, both financially and time-wise. (I also have rental income from my apartment in the states plus American wages go a lot further in Mexico.) But the work has been very, very slow in coming. And the questions are posted to a sort of bulletin board, and the first employee to see the question grabs it and answers it. So I only get work if I am sitting at my computer, waiting for it. And right now a good pay period is 2.5 hours of work, total. I feel so relieved when there is work but sitting around waiting for it is kind of depressing.
I just started volunteering at the clinic at CASA (Centro de Adolescentes de San Miguel de Allende) two weeks ago. That has been really magical so far. I've seen two brand new families, did a newborn exam, observed an ultrasound where a third family learned the sex of the fetus, witnessed the insertion of an IUD, participated in the prenatal visit of a fifteen-year-old who was pregnant with both a baby AND an IUD (very rare). I'm mostly shadowing two obstetric nurses but the midwives working there often invite me to join visits with families and several folks have offered to call me for deliveries. I haven't gotten any calls yet but I am excited to observe some births staffed by Mexican midwives!
Next month I start a four-month training program to become a pediatric sleep consultant. I am hoping to start an online, remote business providing sleep coaching for American parents, since American customers can afford much higher prices than Mexican ones. Though I'll probably offer to folks living in San Miguel, as well. But won't market myself heavily here?
I had been working on trying to build Amazon affiliate websites here to try to supplement my income but found myself spending a lot of energy avoiding the work. I finally decided that this is just not a good use of my energy. I have to follow my passions.
Monday and Wednesday mornings I go to a Piloxing class which I love -- it's a great workout -- but the social vibe there is very strange and unnerving to me. It feels rather cliquey which makes me anxious. Another friend pointed out to me that I could just decide to not go and this was revelatory to me! It had never occurred to me. I'm going to buy another card of ten classes, I think, and see how it feels. If it's still feeling bad for my self-esteem, I'll just stop. My fitness is not worth my sanity. I hate that I have social anxiety but in my forties, I've also learned to accept myself, faults and all, and not fight them so hard.
Thursday morning I have tutoring in Spanish for an hour and Friday mornings I usually have coffee with a group of English-speaking moms from my kids' school. Since the school is outside of town and my kids take the van to school, I appreciate this connection to the community plus the fact that it is in my language since when I go to school, everything is in Spanish. I love the Spanish immersion for my children but I feel a bit awkward in adult conversation when I so often can't follow what is being said. That, too, makes me a bit anxious. So I've mostly stopped going to the weekly Tuesday morning presentations to parents. They never seem particularly useful and asking folks for rides home afterward feels so uncomfortable.
I'm also -- being honest -- spending a lot of time avoiding dealing with medical bills because I am intimidated by them. Everything feels so complicated and things like making calls to the United States is so intimidating. So often the calls don't go through and I don't know why because I don't understand the automated messages from the Spanish-speaking phone company. But a call that I make at 10 am might not work at 10:30 and that is baffling and infuriating. I have one giant bill from Calliope's ER visit ($3600) in the States plus several other medical bills from that trip and they are so daunting. The insurance company says I need, in addition to the medical report, a statement from the physican and I can't figure out what that statement is supposed to say and how on earth I can get it. Especially from the ER physician. But $3600 is so much money! So I am stalling on that. And I don't even have a bill yet from the hospital, just a letter offering me financial aid in paying it and requesting lots of financial documents.
I'm also procrastinating on doing my taxes. Though to be fair, I haven't received all my tax documents and probably won't get the tax document from my co-op building until March, which is very annoying. But I'm going to have an enormous tax bill this year because of selling some stock. Trying to remember that this money is because of profit I made. I wish I could have handed the money over then, while I was still working, instead of now. I know it's going to freak me out to write that check.
So apart from dealing with those two things, I'm trying to figure out what to do next. I could try to be some sort of "health coach" to expat families here, since my NP license won't be recognized here. I don't love the idea of working solo so I'm planning to pitch a Dr friend here on working together.
I could also try to get a job at CASA. Right now the Director has indicated she would prefer to offer a job to a Mexican instead of me because funds are limited. But I think I could find a way to make myself indispensable and possibly bring in expat clientele who could afford to pay more. I also would love to pitch her on starting a pediatric practice at CASA as right now they only see newborns until they are 28 days old. Again, I would prefer not to work solo but I think my friend might be interested in collaborating on this. On the other hand, I would need to commit to working certain days and hours and would probably be limited in my ability to travel, for example, over the summer. On the other hand, Mexicans don't tend to work long hours like Americans do and it's quite possible, I believe, to maintain a family-friendly schedule. On the other hand, I'd be paid in pesos which is a lot less lucrative than American wages.
And I am hoping to start my business as a sleep coach. But I know nothing about the ins and outs of running a business. I think that I would enjoy elements of that because I come from a family of entrepreneurs. And I love the idea of being able to control my schedule and all the materials that I use. I think I would find the work satisfying and hopefully, financially rewarding as well. But not right off the bat. That could easily take six months or more.
That's all the overwhelming details and scenarios I can think of for now. If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it! I'm not rereading this or editing it because just reading it sounds overwhelming. So my apologies for any mistakes!
Lunch counter at the indoor San Juan de Dios Market
New Year's Eve dinner (observed) with some of our favorite friends.
Attempting to make icing for gingerbread houses with a milk frother and a whisk since we don't have a mixer in Mexico.
It's almost the end of January. Calliope is at a sleepover at her friend's house still and Amelie is happily watching Trolls. We are finally settled back into our regular routine here. It felt a long time in coming. December felt like a very challenging month after Calliope's autoimmune issues in November and into December -- she was waking up with stomach aches and nausea every morning, and was understandably (now, with perspective) was whiny and miserable a lot as a result. We only had two or three weeks of school after our trip to the States before the December break.
But we had a wonderful December break. We spent the first week in Mahahual which is on the Yucatan coast close to the border of Belize. Friends that we met here in SMA had moved there for three weeks. We rented a house three doors down from them (for $32 a night!) in the residential area of town and rented bikes so we could pedal to the boardwalk every day. It had been very cold here at night so it was wonderful to be warm again.
Unfortunately... we came in contact with a stomach bug at some point during our travels. Amelie got it first, followed by Calliope the next day, then me, and then our friends vomiting started the final day of our stay. It was pretty miserable and I felt even worse to get them sick. On the plus side, it was great that it was spaced out enough that I wasn't sick at the same time as the kids? We didn't have internet access at the house but the kids were amazingly mellow and cooperative when I was sick and my friend came over and brought dinner for the kids when I couldn't manage.
I think they were probably glad to be rid of us by the time we left! But they were amazingly gracious about the whole thing. Let's just say the dad bicycled lots of loads of laundry back and forth to the laudromat. And now I know to ask ahead of time if a house has spare sheets in the house -- ours did not and this was far from ideal.
From Mahahual we took a bus up the coast to Playa del Carmen. We spent one night there in a beautiful boutique hotel a friend had recommended. The pool was gorgeous in an inner courtyard but freezing cold because the sun never touched it. But the beach was an easy two blocks away.
I so rarely travel alone with my children and am always shocked to discover that I actually do enjoy it. It's not exactly relaxing but at the same time, it makes me appreciate my cozy little group and feel oddly self-sufficient.
We tried and failed to take a local bus from Playa -- waited 2.5 hours and it never came -- so we hopped in a cab and traveled 30 minutes to our all-inclusive in Puerto Morelos, near Cancun. We met up with my brother and his family there. I think I'm not a giant fan of all-inclusives but in this case, it was very convenient and easy. The five kids had a blast running around, alternating between beach and pool, dancing, scampering, digging, splashing. I hope that this trip really bonded them. The adults got along well and I, at least, never fought with anyone.
After our trip we came back to more than a week of down time before school started again. That was pretty heavenly. Very relaxing and lots of social time with friends. I've resolved not to let social anxiety plague me. So many nice people here. If one person triggers me, just move on to the next one! After biking on the boardwalk in Mahahual, Calliope is also successfully riding the new (bigger) bike she received for Hanukkah and Amelie is scooting along on her little bike without pedals.
And now the kids are settled back in school. I was worried Calliope would be anxious to return but she's actually been pretty happy. Amelie was only clingy for a day. They are both sleeping more than they used to, perhaps because they both got bad colds as soon as we got back -- Calliope ended up missing three days of school.
As for me and what I'm doing, apart from keto... that'll be the next post.
Hanukkah party at our house -- last minute and small but fun
Visiting the x-mas tree in Centro with our friends
Calliope's class (with teacher Yolanda)
Another class photo
The jardin, decorated for x-mas
The gorgeous view from dinner
Dinner with SMC Jackie
A pop-up skating rink in Mexico? Calliope was THRILLED.
I'm thrilled to report that I feel like I am back on track after my tough week last week. Yay!
I do think, in hindsight, that I pushed too hard with the fasting. It may work for some folks but it didn't work for me.
So this week I set a goal to fast sixteen hours a day and limit my eating to eight hours a day. I'm thrilled to report that I met and sometimes exceeded that goal! And after a few days, it got much, much easier. As long as I have my coffee with cream (which some says breaks the fast but others do not) in the morning and some slighly salty water to sip on, I'm good until at least noon every day again. Phew!
On Friday, two days ago, I was feeling so good that I decided to extend my fast to nearly twenty-four hours. No problem! I felt great and my ketones were up to 1.6 by lunchtime. The only drawback was I definitely ate a large dinner afterward... but since it was making up for a whole day's worth of calories, I felt okay if not ideal about it. I definitely ate more than my body needed, though -- there was some mouth hunger at play. Something to work on next time. And my ketones were up to 1.3 the following day and remain there today, yay!
Yesterday I was more hungry and cranky so I stopped my fast after sixteen hours and had a nice big brunch (at home) of eggs, keto mug bread, mushrooms and spinach tossed with cream cheese. Delicious! Dinner was steak with green beans and creamed spinach with decaf with cream for "dessert."
My struggle now is at night and after meals, generally. I feel snacky. Today I had two small squares of 100% cacao chocolate and two small squares of 90% cacao chocolate. And then I set my fasting timer to start timing again so that hopefully I won't be tempted to eat again until dinner.
The sources I have been reading and listening to stress the importance of not snacking between meals so as to allow the liver to quickly process any carbohydrates and begin burning fat again. This also allows insulin levels to drop down.
I listened to the most amazing podcast by a bariatric surgeon who is also an expert on the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. He says that "every snack is an emotional event." He says human beings are only designed to eat once or twice a day and that breakfast is an event marketed by Kellogg's to sell cornflakes in the 1890s. He aruges that carbohydrates are actually not a food because they are not required for survival -- human beings are able to survive without them. In fact, we are the only species (of course) who eats them. When we feed grain to cows, we fatten them up and make them sick. When we feed grains to ducks, we give them fatty liver disease.
Anonymous, thanks for posting and sharing your thoughts. I appreciate the caring that went into them. (I wish I knew your name, though!) I know that this all probably sounds crazy and plenty like disordered eating. Perhaps my pushing too fast and my struggling were disordered. Probably. But I do fully believe in the science of ketosis and intermittent fasting. It's a hard transition to make but often times, my body feels so amazing. And I'm the lowest weight I've been in... golly. Twelve years? I'm about seven pounds from my goal. My energy levels are really good, especially now that I am being more consistent with exercise. My mood is mostly really good. No more post-meal lethargy. Best of all, I feel in control of my destiny.
November 2018 and January 2018
I am planning to join a moderated level one fasting group this week. (Level one is for beginners so much easier than the last time I tried the moderated fasts.) Today was day one with fasting eight hours followed by six hours of eating. I had lunch at 1 pm so I'll have dinner at about 5 to finish by six. Tomorrow I will fast twenty-four hours, which sounds tough but really is just skipping breakfast and lunch; I'll eat dinner tomorrow, as usual, and then do another 18:6 on Tuesday, 24 on Wednesday, 18:6 on Thursday and then, the big challenge, a 36 on Friday. I'll be nervous for that because of how it messed with me so much last time to do a longer fast... but I'll be cautious. If I start to feel crazy again, I'll stop. But I think this week of 18s and 24s will build my "fasting muscle" and my confidence and so I am cautiously optimistic. If it goes well, I'll do another week of beginner level fasting and then reassess how I am feeling.
I decided to track yesterday, just out of curiosity. It ended up being a really big eating day, as you can see, because I was really hungry, so I exceeded my macros. (I'm hoping my period is coming -- keto has thrown it off -- and that may be making me more hungry.) But you can see I eat a wide variety of foods with lots of fresh vegetables (and fat and protein). I try to honor my hunger at every meal and never stop eating if I am still hungry. My favorite keto experts say not to worry about calories and to eat to fullness at every meal (and then stop eating). So I'm doing that, I think, and feeling good. Plus I am working out and so I assume that impacts my appetite plus it helps my mood so much.
Guys. I'm really having trouble sticking to this. I don't know what the problem is. I'm still trying to be gentle with myself and not beat myself up but I also think my tummy is growing back a little and I am scared of losing all the ground I've gained.
Taking a step back and trying to look at this as if I were talking to a friend... maybe I am still pushing too hard with the fasting? I don't understand where my fasting muscle went! It was so easy over the Christmas break. I felt so fantastic.
I'm still really enjoying the food. That's not the issue. But waiting to eat feels really, really hard sometimes.
Yesterday I fasted 16:30, until lunch. We got up early and I had coffee (I don't count the cream in my coffee as breaking my fast) and then went to Queretaro for the day with friends. We went to Costco first and I had a great time finding all sorts of delicious foods to buy. (I am not at all convinced that going to Costco saves any money! It's not like i would've bought that many raspberries, for example, at the grocery store.) I was totally fine for hunger until the check out line. At that point I started to feel a little irritable from hunger but I knew it wouldn't be much longer.
We drove to the mall -- a quick drive -- and then went straight to a restaurant. At that point, I felt ravenous, but that is often the way -- the final few minutes of waiting for food are the hardest. I had eggs benedict (but with salmon instead of ham) and scraped off nearly all the biscuit -- couldn't resist a few bites, so delicious! (I have a weakness for biscuits. English muffins I could care less about.) Plus I ate all the tomato that came with it. I was still hungry after that so I ordered a side of bacon. I didn't really need to eat all of that but I was so distracted (?stressed) by my friend's son's meltdown that I ate it all. After that, we did a few very quick stops at various stores before heading home.
We got home from the mall and I put away all our purchases and I was suddenly exhausted. And starving. In hindsight, I think I was very dehydrated -- I had barely drunk any water all day because I had been drinking coffee (first caffeinated, then decaf). Being dehydrated can make a person feel hungry anyway plus it spikes insulin which also increases appetite. But I was so tired and so hungry I couldn't think straight.
So I made a big plate of carnitas and cabbage and roasted cauliflower. And had a couple of sugar free chocolates (thanks Costco!) to follow it up. I was overly stuffed afterwards but glad I stuck to keto. At that point I was so full I thought it would be easy to fast from then (5 pm) until the next day, hopefully even noon, eighteen hours. I did this the other day and it felt great.
But then only a couple of hours later, I started thinking about the leftover sour cream and onion Pringles in the cabinet. A big weakness of mine. They've been there at least a couple weeks already so mostly I've been fine but... not last night. I did, at least, try drinking a bunch of water first. But I still ate them. On the plus side, I did NOT eat more carbs after that, well, apart from a couple more sugar-free chocolates. Even though digestive biscuits sounded extremely delicious.
This morning I've had a whole lot of coffee, both bullet-proof (has MCT oil and butter instead of cream) and regular with cream. I had a few pistachio nuts too, which isn't ideal in terms of breaking my fast but isn't terrible, either. I did get a pretty good night's sleep. I've been feeling really tired which undoubtedly plays a role in things, too. It's always harder for me to eat well (and appropriate quantities) when I am tired. I'm not sure if more exercise would help or hinder. Last week I did a lot fewer workouts than usual though I did walk a fair amount. I worked out Saturday and it felt hard AND I was exhausted afterwards.
Oh man. I feel like I need a coach to tell me what to do but I really don't want to spend the money on that! I've signed up for a free twelve week program from the Intensive Dietary Management group and I am hoping that will help. And maybe someday all my struggles here will help someone else?
Well. So trying to ramp up my fasting so quickly turned out to be a disaster.
I managed to get through my forty-eight hour fast and gorged myself -- not sure if this is expected and permissible or not -- and then embarked on my twenty-four hour fast... and just ran out of steam. I was completely miserable. I missed eating. All this fasting meant very few eating opportunities. I even missed cooking vegetables!
So I stopped at 22:30 and ate a big keto-friendly meal. And then added in some (slightly stale) potato chips. Though I'd like to ?brag that I didn't come close to finishing them. And added in two digestive biscuits for good measure. Both are foods I miss when I'm keto'ing... though I don't remember to miss them most of the time. But fasting is a good time to think back on the foods I've loved over the years.
The next morning my ketones were down to 1.0, which actually seemed pretty great, considering. And the next day they were up to 1.2 after better eating, though today they were mysteriously down to 0.9, despite eating pretty well yesterday. I'm guessing the artificial sweetener in the sugar free Jello mix I sprinkled on my heavy whipping cream was the culprit?
I'm trying to be a lot more gentle with myself, and backtrack a lot in fasting. I was doing really well with 16-22 hour fasts over the vacation when I got too big for my britches and inspired by the Obesity Code folks on FB. So the last two days I only fasted 12-14 hours overnight. Last night I was really hungry so I ate early with the girls and mentally closed the kitchen by 6 pm which ended up being really great because it was relatively easy to fast until noon today... eighteen hours!
I had a nice brunch, perhaps followed by a little too much dark chocolate and almonds but oh well. Progress, not perfection. I feel like I need to handle myself with kid gloves for a few more days. Anything that isn't cookies and chips is a win!
My goal is to fast 16-18 hours a day for the next few days until it feels really good and easy ?again. (Did it feel easy before? I think so but it's hard to remember!) When I get there, I'll start trying to stretch out my fast every other day to get it to twenty-four hours or so on alternate days. And once that is easy, I'll very gently try to stretch that to thirty-six or even forty-two hours. And then that's it! The IDM Network says 3 x 36 or 42 per week is ideal for losing weight. So there's no reason to go to forty-eight hours.
Getting to twenty-four hours hasn't been too bad in the past but the mental hurdle of going a whole day without a meal (with a twenty-four there's one meal a day) is significant. I think I need to be very, very careful with this or I trigger obsessive thinking and then binge in response. Not good. So I am trying to remember not to rush. And my main goal is just to remain in ketosis. If I can at least do that, I'm doing great!
I have decided to stay off the scale because it doesn't do anything good for my sanity. If I'm focusing on ketosis and intermittent fasting as a way life, as opposed to a diet, the daily ups and downs of the scale simply don't matter. (Right?) I can tell that my skin is softer and smoother from doing keto. And my pants are too big. Whether they are too big since last month or last week, it doesn't really matter, right? I'll keep measuring my ketones every day to make sure I am keeping them in check and otherwise, TRY to relax. Not easy for me!
I'm thirty-eight hours into my my first forty-eight hour (and moderated) fast!
I'm feeling pretty great right now. Especially when I am successfully distracted from thinking about it.
But I'm not going to lie, last night was really, really tough. I felt miserable and hungry. I'm not sure if I was miserably hungry or just hungry and miserable from the mental aspect of fasting.
I tried drinking more water with apple cider vinegar and salt. I tried drinking bone broth. I finally resorted to a mouthful of heavy cream. I figured I would try that, put the kids to bed, and then come back to the kitchen and break my fast.
But to my amazement, by the time the girls were in bed, the misery had mostly passed! I couldn't believe it.
So I bypassed the kitchen which was already clean from the girls' dinner -- they fight over who gets to the dishes lately -- and settled into the couch to relax and hopefully distract myself. Within an hour I was starting to doze off.
Unfortunately, I didn't sleep all that soundly, which can happen because of increased adrenaline during a fast. But that same adrenaline is making me not feel tired now, and is actually making me feel pretty great.
I had one little bout of diarrhea which surprised me because I didn't think there was any food left in my gut. But unlike my earlier fasts, no headaches. My energy is good. My mood is good.
And the two kilograms that I had gained yesterday after my cheat meal... gone today! Phew! My ketones are only up to 1.6 this morning from 1.4 yesterday afternoon which is certainly high enough for fat burning but I would normally expect to see them above two by now after fasting so long. But this is payback for my cheat. Oh well.
I am hoping that I can lose two more kg by the end of the week (which includes a twenty-four hour fast and then another forty-eigh hour fast) to bring me back to my new low that I landed at very briefly last week, just once. If I can acheive that -- and stay at it -- then I would be only 3 kg from my goal weight!
But of course the final pounds are the hardest, and of course there is some rebound weight gain after ending a fast. I'm not too obsessed with the numbers, I think, I'd just like to see some progress in the right direction. I've been stuck at this weight for a couple weeks now.