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Meet Amy & Kevin

Amy in July 2019 on the left and in July 2020 on the right, after losing 50 lbs.
Kevin describes the photo on the left as 280 lbs. or more, while the photo on the right was taken in July of 2020 after losing 67 pounds in just over six months.

Let me just get something out of the way, right up front.

These are two of my favorite people in the world!

This in no way diminishes my feelings for other people I care about- but let me ask you- are there a couple of people in your life that are really and truly riding the same wave length as you? Can you talk to them for hours and feel like no time has passed? Can you engage with them on matters of significance or meaninglessness alike and it all feels like it’s contributing to your bond? That’s how I feel about these folks.

Kevin is my husband’s cousin and Amy is his wife. Kevin’s mom and my husband’s mom were sisters and best friends so they raised their children together in Hawaii, as sisters and best friends do.

We don’t get to see these cousins very often anymore, as Kevin and Amy live on Oahu, while we’re across the Pacific in Washington state. But they came for a visit last fall and during that visit they got an inside view of the positive impact the Ketogenic dietary model has had on my health. After a few nights of talking story and sharing good meals, the visit ended and they flew back home to paradise with a little seed of an idea planted in their noggins, mostly due to one statement I’d made,

“Hawaiian food is totally Keto! Lau lau, Kalua pig, Lomi salmon, poke!”

As they settled back into post vacation life, rejoining their colleagues at work and sitting in rush hour traffic, they stopped thinking so much about potential big life changes and just kind of got on with business as usual. Then, at the beginning of 2020, things started to get more complicated for my favorite couple.

But before all that, a bit of history.

Kevin and Amy fell in love in 2001, at the ages of 34 and 28 and were married in 2002. Amy says that one of the first things Kevin told her was that if she was going to date him, she was going to gain weight. Kevin and Amy are both self described “foodies”, although I think it’s safe to say that Kevin leads the charge on that one. Like any good couple with Hawaiian and Midwestern roots, food was for celebration and meals were a way to express their love for each other and those around them. The thing is, Kevin and Amy aren’t short on love and for these exuberant, active humans, every day is a happy celebration. As it happens, Kevin and Amy experienced incremental weight gain over their (almost) 18 years of marriage- a few pound last year, a few pounds this. Then, when Amy suffered a severe foot injury that limited her physical activity for a prolonged period, she gained 30 pounds in one year. This prohibited her from being able to have a much desired breast reduction surgery, shook her confidence and threatened her ability to experience life as joyfully as she always had.

In both Kevin and Amy’s family lines, metabolic illness and obesity ran strong. Kevin lost his dad to heart failure and Amy her mom to colon cancer. Kevin also lost his mom, my husband’s aunty to a rare disorder not related to metabolic health or diet.

Back to January

After Kevin returned from his annual physical, he received the lab results from his doctor with a message that his A1C was 6.5. He’d need to return at a given time to be retested, but should that number still be as high, he would be given a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. Kevin immediately began searching for a way to reverse this condition and was reminded that a Ketogenic diet was being used to treat metabolic illnesses such as insulin resistance and T2D. He also recalled my story and how I’d explained that not only were some of his favorite foods included, but that I’d said it was a totally sustainable, satisfying way to live the rest of a life. He walked into the room where Amy was and exclaimed,

“I’m going on the Keto diet, right now!”

Amy was a little dumbfounded, having just returned from a $700 grocery shopping trip (groceries are expensive in Hawaii). Never the less, she dug right in to supporting her husband in making this change and began researching and learning everything she could about the Keto diet. With Amy’s support and a really positive attitude, Kevin embarked on his adventure and immediately began dropping weight. When Kevin returned to the doctor for his follow up testing, his A1C had dropped and he avoided that diagnosis! He also began experiencing better sleep with reduced symptoms of sleep apnea and brought his blood pressure back to normal levels. He’s been unable to track his A1C further or have a sleep study, as Covid prevents unnecessary doctor’s visits, but he says he feels better and is able to track his blood pressure at home. And by the end of July, Kevin had lost 67 pounds!

While Amy began January helping Kevin with a smooth dietary transition, she was also busy trying to eat through those unhealthy groceries she’d brought home previously. Waste not, want not, right? But she had also become ill at the end of the year with an “unidentified lung infection” that was really hanging on. She was getting sicker and more run down, not to mention the fact that she was effectively picking up the weight Kevin was dropping. At a pivotal moment for Amy, enough was enough. She and Kevin cleared their home of any remaining unhealthy foods, restocked their kitchen with a couple of thousand dollars in groceries (I wasn’t kidding- Hawaii is expensive), stopped eating out almost completely and went to work together to get healthy. Amy has been teaching herself to cook differently and is finding it to be a labor of love. Where once she found little joy in cooking, now the opposite is proving true.

And what about that mystery illness? Well, in December Amy had close contact with an individual who’d recently returned from China and was sick. Amy will never KNOW that she had Covid19, but Amy knows she had Covid19. When Amy got sick nobody knew to look for the then yet to be identified illness. It just wasn’t on any radars. And so she got sicker and sicker for months with fevers, a painful cough, fatigue and restricted breathing. Her doctors were increasingly alarmed, running any tests they could think of and prescribing a steroid. Amy and Kevin both say they were extremely scared. When Covid19 was identified in Hawaii, Amy’s doctors suspected the virus could be the culprit, but many of her critical symptoms had begun to improve, if not go away completely. She does however have bronchial scarring that will likely not repair itself. She was finally administered an antibody test in July, since she is due to return to her classroom in a couple of weeks (Amy is a high school history teacher). The test was inconclusive. I guess we’ll never know.

The bright side of this story however is that Amy credits the Ketogenic diet with her ability to recover from her mysterious lung infection. She is confident that had she continued to fuel her body with glucose and her insulin remained high, her ability to survive the virus would have been lessoned dramatically. She lost weight, although at first quite slowly in comparison with Kevin. But hey- have you ever met someone who didn’t gain weight while being pumped full of steroids? I haven’t. Amy didn’t just maintain her weight, she began losing. After six months on a Ketogenic diet, while being sick, Amy has begun to reverse an unhealthy metabolic condition and has lost 50 pounds! She says that the most significant change for her however is the ability to move well. Amy is a world traveler, having visited all 50 states and 34 countries. Those weight gains over the years were bogging her down. She’s relieved and overjoyed that she can be comfortable moving around in the world again.

What now?

So, what happens next for Kevin and Amy?

Well, Kevin just took a promoted position as a civilian Environmental Protection Specialist for the US military. He’s still Insta-ing his “Keto Kanak Attacks” (look it up if you don’t know), although now they’re usually photos of Amy’s home prepared meals instead of local grinds (look that up too) from area restaurants. He’s on his way to his goal weight with only 33 more pounds to lose.

Amy is preparing to head back to work, although she does worry a lot about how Covid19 will play out within her school district. Amy really is more historian who teaches than history teacher, although she has a deep and abiding love for her students. And they love her back. Many of Amy’s students keep in touch with her for years after they graduate. With so many emotional threads being pulled because of this pandemic, Amy is keeping her mental health and stress levels in mind, not just her physical health. She’s keeping calm and Keto-ing on and at half way to her goal inside six months, she’ll be there before she knows it.

Kevin and Amy credit one another completely for their own success. They give their total support to one another selflessly, in any ways that the other might need and therefor are never left feeling alone and isolated in their endeavors.

Family and friends are beginning to recognize the changes in Kevin and Amy. People are cheering them on and have started to inquire about how they can adopt healthier eating habits. They’re happy to help of course. That’s what this movement is all about- learning about dietary misconceptions, eliminating processed foods, feeling our way through, then paying it forward to the next guy.

Kevin and Amy both say they can’t imagine ever reverting back to their previous way of eating. They report feeling good physically, mentally and emotionally and Kevin reports happily that he,

“loves keto food”!

Who doesn’t Kevin? Who doesn’t?

The Missing Piece- Compassion

In January I was invited to be a guest on The Keto Woman Podcast with Daisy Brackenhall and on February 22nd, the episode was released. During our interview, Daisy and I discuss my “Keto origin story”. If you’d like to give a listen, you can click on the image above, or find The Keto Woman podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.

On the whole, I’m proud of this interview. We managed to paint the broad strokes of my life story in about an hour and while I was initially nervous about revealing some of the more intimate and vulnerable aspects of my personal history and current life, in the end, I’m sure glad I did. It feels as though it’s opened the door to a few more of those personal growth spurts I’m so fond of.

Of course I could have rambled on for an hour about any one of the numerous topic points we discussed- and part of me wishes I could have painted with the finer brushes of detail, personal history and nuance. But a podcast isn’t meant to be a full memoir or autobiography. That’s just not it’s job. There is one point of the interview that I’m readdressing within myself however and thought I’d share it with you, dear friend and reader.

Toward the end of the interview, I talk a fair bit about how a few people in my life have expressed displeasure and sometimes even a kind of hostility toward me regarding my weight loss journey. I had meant to express some of the social burdens obese people carry when negotiating the terms of their relationships, versus the social burdens formerly obese people carry and how one might go about renegotiating those relationships in the face of change. Unfortunately, I never managed to close the loop on the stream of consciousness and it just came off like bitter complaint. But this post isn’t meant serve as damage control for one of my lesser moments. Instead, it’s meant to give an account of how this one moment (and one person) managed to shift my whole perspective within the course of a couple of days. There are gifts contained in our errors.

Where I Was

I have been aware since the beginning of my transformative journey that my comfort level with big change was kind of an anomaly. In fact, as the path I’m walking continued to develop, comfort with change turned into out and out excitement! On average though, people don’t like big change. And I knew it. Given that, expressing any surprise that some folks would be uncomfortable with my changes would be disingenuous.

While part of me knew these things all along, another part of me felt indignant, and more often than not, that part was winning the arguments in my head. To be sure, that indignant part of me has some valid points. This is in fact my life and nobody gets to dictate to me how I should live it, particularly in the interest of their own comfort. Further, I don’t and can’t carry the onus of how another person responds to changing circumstances that are outside of their control. I’ve got a ton of my own work to do. I’m not even going to try doing yours too.

And I thought that was my part of the work about it- stay focused on my own work and don’t worry about someone else’s. Don’t feel responsible to “bring someone along”. Learn to let go of relationships that don’t seem to be able to weather big change. Grieve them surely, but in the end, let them go.

Then This Happened

The day that my interview aired, it’s release was announced on my favorite online forum, The Ketogenic Forums. This is a forum of people all around the world who follow one version or another of a Ketogenic dietary model, where they can seek and offer support from/to others across the miles. While spats and disagreements abound, there is a foundational culture built on respect, dignity, motivation and good science. I’ve enjoyed many relationships on the forums, and despite the fact that we’re not likely to ever meet face to face, those relationships can only be called genuine friendships. Posted as a comment in reply to the interview’s announcement, one of those friends said this:

“I’m listening to (Daisy’s) interview with (Brandy), talking about people’s negative reactions. It is sadly true… but also reminded me of a nice story. This is how I wish everyone would react…

A friend moved out of town before I lost weight, then came back for a visit when I was getting close to my goal. She was happy and asked all the usual questions about how I did it and such. After a couple hours she looked at me curiously and said, “I don’t know why, but I prefered how you were before.” I replied that she was used to how I used to look and since she was away when I lost weight I didn’t quite look like her friend anymore. She nodded, relieved to understand what she was feeling. And it was done.

It was a perfect example of identifying an uncomfortable feeling and dealing with it, with no blame or negativity on either side. I love her even more now.”

Now, I don’t know if this responder intended for her story to serve as a highly skilled moment of teaching or not- but either way, that’s exactly what it was. I read this story a handful of times over the course of a couple of hours and each time I did, I recalled another person in my own life who has responded somewhat negatively to the new me and in each case, the indignation I had felt melted away and was replaced with feelings more akin to empathy- and compassion.

See, what this lady did was consider her friend’s emotional position in their relationship on equal footing with her own. Instead of presuming a right to her friend’s complete joy regarding her accomplishment, she considered ways in which her friend may be experiencing her own sense of loss. She didn’t look like the same friend. There were probably some behavioral changes at play as well that served to further her friend’s disorientation. And instead of becoming indignant and protecting her own pride, she chose to recognize her friend’s discomfort and to embrace it with compassion and honesty. When indignation would have served to sever or damage their relationship, the alternative choice she made served to deepen the bond of friendship. It was a masterful, positive choice.

Assuming Positive Intent

A while ago, I began a thought experiment that I’d hoped would turn into a full blown outlook on life- “assuming positive intent”, whereby you engage with the world assuming that the actions of others are taken only from a place of positive intent. You may have heard about this in the work place. I used it mostly to diffuse anger within myself when I got cut off in traffic or something like that. It really did work too. If I was in public and someone was rude, I’d make up all kinds of stories in my head about the reasons for their actions. Maybe their kid’s school called because their child was injured and they needed to get there ten minutes ago. That kind of thing. Sure, those stories about strangers weren’t true. But neither were the stories that assumed they were just a jerk who had it out for me specifically. The story about the medical emergency created feelings of compassion in me. The story about the jerk inspired feelings of anger. Whether they’re on their way to save a child or a big selfish jerk, they will remain completely unaffected by my emotions around it. I’m the only one who carries that burden. So, what’s the better story?

But I never even considered applying the assumption of positive intent in my personal relationships. And I don’t know why. When I do so for people I know and care for, not only do I have a much better chance of assuming a story about their intent that’s actually true, since I know them, I’m likely to be given an opportunity ask! Also, unlike the stranger, my assumptions about their intentions don’t only affect me, but have consequences for them too. I’m thinking that’s unfair and I mean to change it.

The Takeaway

There’s a place for indignation. But maybe that place exists only in the macro. Maybe we can save it for going to war with the food and pharmaceutical industries. Or maybe we can save it for governments that are hell bent on crushing the wills of their own people. Maybe we can save it for the voting booth and the protest marches.

For me, I don’t think it can have a place within my interpersonal relationships. If a friend tells me outright that they begrudge me my autonomy over my health and body, then fine, we can make a decision together to bring our relationship to an end and grieve it’s loss separately. Really though, what are the chances that anyone I know actually feels that way? I bet slim to none. If I approach the situation with compassion and address peoples’ senses of loss over one aspect or another of the old me, what are the chances that we can strengthen our bond of friendship? I bet pretty darn close to 100%. I’m going with the compassion.

So, in the end, I’m so glad I never closed that thought loop during my interview. Although I describe that part of it as “cringey”, if I’d have been more polished or diplomatic, that forum user would have never felt compelled to share her story and I’d have never had my “ahah” moment around this thing. And not quite two days later, I’d still be sitting with little bits of frustration and uncertainty. Instead they’ve completely dissolved and been replaced with optimism and gratitude. So cheers to screwing it up once in a while.

Resolute

Happy 2020 y’all! I hope you all had a festive, lovely holiday season, however you celebrate. Mine was certainly full, surrounded by family and friends and lots of good, nutritionally sound food. I did find that it’s definitely possible to overeat Ketogenic foods and as I sit at the computer, penning this love letter to you and watching the snow fall out my window, I do so having not lost an ounce during the holidays- and I really don’t care. I am however glad that the season has come to an end and am enjoying eating a more streamlined daily diet again. My Keto got a little dirty there for a minute and that’s not how I usually roll.

Recipes!

I’ve posted a few new recipes. This time, it’s all about pork butt (shoulder). This inexpensive, yet delicious cut of meat can be prepared in so many more ways than bbq pulled pork (although that too can be delicious). I’ll typically buy more than 20 lbs of it at a time from stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, restaurant supply stores or a butcher, then break it down into 4 to 6 pound roasts for my freezer.

Although pork is safe at an internal temperature of 145 degrees, I still like my lean cuts of pork cooked to 160. It’s just a preference. But pork butt is fatty and kind of tough, so it needs to be cooked to 180 degrees to be tender and sliceable and 200 degrees to be pulled. Get a meat thermometer if you don’t already have one. If you’re going to make pork butt, I suggest not trimming the fat prior to cooking. It helps keep the roast moist and tender over the sometimes long cook times. And I mean, I’m Keto over here right? Less carbs, more fat!

This herb crusted roast pork is roasted in the oven, kind of low, kind of slow.

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Herb Crusted Roast Pork

The easiest, quickest way to achieve Hawaiian Kalua Pork is in an Instant Pot, so this is an Instant Pot recipe!

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Kalua Pork & Cabbage

My recipe for low carb carnitas start out in an Instant Pot and finish in a hot oven to get those crispy bits.

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Street Taco Lettuce Wrap Night with Carnitas

On to today’s subject matter:

How do you feel about resolutions? I for one and typically against them, particularly in the “new year” sense of the darned things. They just seem like exercises in futility, often times literally. I can’t count the number of times I previously made resolutions with a new year, only to experience feelings of guilt and loss by the time summer rolled around. That roller coaster for me, is one filled with determination, short term success, backslides, temptation, emotional self flagellation, wavering resolve and finally, total non-compliance. I don’t want any of that for myself and I don’t wish it for you.

If we’re talking specifically about diet and weight loss resolutions, the ultimate failure isn’t even really our fault, despite what you may have been told. Calories in/calories out; move more/eat less; low fat/high fiber- these traditional dietary tag lines are lies that may provide short term results, but result in a wrecked metabolism over the long term.

I’m not knocking the concept of having a goal or three. We all want healthy bodies. We all want financial freedom. We all want peaceful minds. And the truth is that if we’re going to get any of the things we want, we’re going to have to, at some point, become resolute about meeting those goals. I’m just questioning our typical methods and mindsets. We don’t need to “start over” once a year. We don’t need to spend our precious little resources enriching industries that are designed to bilk desperate people. We don’t need to jump on bandwagons. We don’t need to keep feeding habit loops, whether individual or societal, which serve only to increase our suffering over the long term.

So what do we need to do? I say, be resolute! But lets consider being resolute differently. Lets be resolute about our own curiosity- about our minds, bodies and well being. Lets be learners and seekers of truth and knowledge. Lets be resolute in our quests for those things. If we’re talking specifically about nutrition, lets figure out where our personal blind spots are and educate ourselves. Lets learn to cook and to take the time in our days to eat intentionally. We are worth the slowing down. And the slowing down is, in my experience, completely necessary. And finally, lets be resolute about building the skill of perseverance within ourselves. Our story is not over once we’ve reached a goal or benchmark. How can we maintain reached goals? What’s the next thing we’re meant to do? How must we persevere and how do we actionably do so? The answers to these questions won’t be prescriptive. We’ve all got our own paths to walk. Ultimately, I think I am resolute in only one thing- living an examined life. And that’s it.

A Very Healthy Holidays

In many parts of the world, the last months of the year are a time of celebration, which revolve around family and friends, harvest festivals, religious occasions, cultural events- and food. Always, always- food.

Families pass treasured recipes down through the generations and each year, people recommit to these acts of love and tradition by getting up early and happily laboring in the kitchen. Loved ones wake up to the same smells and anticipation that the cook woke up to when they were little. Whatever our specific origin, tradition- particularly food tradition, is central to our culture and personal feelings of comfort, connection and well being.

One hard truth of the matter however is that the holiday season, particularly in the US, lasts for months. It seems like every week of the season there is another celebration to host or attend. Our coworkers bring their candies and baked goods into the office to share. The mail person delivers caramel apples and tins of popcorn, sent from loved ones who are far away. I do not advocate denying ourselves food tradition. I think deprivation during times of celebration is emotionally and psychologically harmful. I also think that one nutritionally deficient but tradition rich meal occasionally can go a long way to creating feelings of comfort and belonging. But two to three months of solid, nutritionally deficient food celebration is also harmful- emotionally, psychologically and physically. That is a good chunk of time. A body will revert back to metabolic illness in that amount of time. With world wide epidemics of obesity and metabolic disease such as Type 2 Diabetes, I submit that we’ve got to form new food traditions. Further, I believe that the way we form those new traditions in the “right” way will be as individualized and varied as the kinds of side dishes passed around millions of holiday tables.

Brined and smoked turkey breast. I mean, c’mon!

Holiday Meals

Holiday meats are pretty easy peasy. Roast a turkey or a prime rib roast. If you brine your turkey, don’t add sugars or syrups. A brine is the proper amount of salt to liquid. Everything else, including sweetening agents are just for flavor and frankly, they don’t add enough flavor benefit to justify using them. So add the spices and cut the sugar! Another impressive main course on a holiday table is an herb crusted pork loin roast. Salt, pepper and copious amounts of chopped rosemary, all suspended in butter and slathered over that roast- yum.

Cranberry Sauce – delish!

For sides and some desserts, I use a couple of Keto Holiday cookbooks that have fantastic recipes. My favorite is Keto For the Holidays by Carrie Brown. Carrie has figured out stuffing and cranberry sauce and for those of us who love it, even cranberry jelly (like that yum from the can)!

And speaking of desserts, there are so many Keto desserts out there on the inter webs. While you can turn out some really amazing grain free baked goods, my favorites are desserts that are Keto compliant just by switching out the sweetener. It makes it easy. Think crustless cheesecake, creme brûlée, or ice cream. I make pumpkin custard and pecan tarts! You don’t necessarily need a “Keto” recipe to start. Take a look at your own recipes and experiment with ingredient swaps. Don’t be afraid! It’s fun!

Parties and Events

If I’m hosting a party, I typically only offer Keto friendly appetizers and snacks. I make charcuterie and cheese boards. I use small crockpots to make buffalo chicken dip and artichoke dip, both with veggie sticks for dipping. Sometimes I make grain free meatballs and do them Swedish or Italian style, using only Keto ingredients. I make crustless mini cheesecakes and Keto candies. And you know what? Nobody ever even realizes what I’ve done. They don’t miss the carbs. They don’t miss the sugar. Everything appears normal to them!

If I’m attending a holiday potluck, I bring a dish or two that I know I can eat. That way, even if my dishes are the only things I can eat at the party, I can still share in the food celebration and not bring unwanted attention to myself. If I’m attending a catered event, I can usually find some things to eat, but I do tend to eat my main meal of the day prior to attending, so that I’m not so hungry that I’m tempted to pig out.

Some final thoughts.

And at the end of the day, if you choose to eat a “traditional” holiday meal, snacks or dessert, do a couple of things for yourself.

Make a choice to take the food. An informed decision rather than just “giving in” is a tiny mental shift that can make the difference between staying in control of your eating over the long term of the season versus “falling off the wagon”.

Consider fasting for the day before you attend the event. I don’t recommend fasting for folks who haven’t been using this dietary model for a good, long time. If your body is still used to burning glucose for it’s energy, fasting is a struggle not worth going through. So if that’s you, please disregard. But if you’re fat adapted, consider having your holiday meal be your one meal of the day.

Drink plenty of water. I mean plenty! Like, a lot!

And finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. The past two years for me have not been perfect. If I beat myself up every time I made the choice to eat some carb-y food, I wouldn’t be able to sustain the way of eating over the long term. I try to take a realistic view. Sugar exists. Carbs exist. They are EVERYWHERE. Especially this time of year. Just move on. Persist. You’ll be fine.

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Chaffles, Chaffles Everywhere

Sweet Cinnamon Chaffle

Maybe you’ve heard about Chaffles- a grain free alternative to bread or toast or pancakes- or waffles. Unlike their wheat laden counterparts, these cheese and egg wonders are packed full of healthy fat and protein instead of destructive carbs and sugars.

You’d think, since the basic chaffle recipe is simply mozzarella cheese and an egg, that they would taste eggy, or cheesy but they don’t. They taste delicious and their texture is bread-like as well. It’s a weird thing. Some science-y explanation exists no doubt but I’ve not sought it out, nor will I. While I am analytical in nature, I do still enjoy small mysteries and magics. The chaffle strikes me as such. It’s food artistry at it’s best- simple, accessible, photogenic, tasty and inexplicable.

The basic chaffle recipe requires no recipe at all. Just mix an egg with a 1/2 cup of mozzarella, then cook half of the “batter” in a mini waffle maker for about five minutes, then repeat the process with the other half. But really, the sky is the limit with the direction you want to take a chaffle. The photo at the top of the page is a recipe for a Sweet Cinnamon Chaffle I developed after I had a hankering for cinnamon toast.

Keto Rueben on a Rye Chaffle

One of my favorite chaffle sandwiches was this Rueben, made with deli corned beef, live culture sauerkraut, Jarlsberg cheese and homemade Keto Thousand Island, all piled high on a rye chaffle made with caraway seed. The recipe for the rye chaffle is provided on the 2 Keto Dudes blog, written by Keto Dude Carl. The addition of baking powder and konjac was the textural inspiration for my Sweet Cinnamon version. Thanks Carl. Was delish!

When I’ making sandwiches I typically just make a basic batch of chaffles. When I’m making myself little pizzas I usually add Italian Seasonings and garlic. Again, you can get creative! Do whatever you want! There is one thing that, in my mind, is absolutely required. It’s a cheap, little, mini waffle iron. Weather round or square, these little non-stick gadgets make perfectly sized portions for your sandwich or breakfast or pizza. The one I use is a Dash, which can be found on Amazon in a variety of colors. They range in price from 9.99 to 15.99 typically. Because of the chaffle craze, they sometimes run out of stock.

Is Your Head On Straight?

I’ve recently been to the doctor for my annual physical. I was lucky enough to snag as my physician a doctor who has been treating patients with a Ketogenic dietary model for over 20 years, so I felt confident that I’d be well taken care of and receive advice that was relevant to me (a luxury that thousands of patients do not have). Imagine my surprise when he advised that now that I’ve dropped so much weight, become fat adapted and restored so much metabolic flexibility, I begin to increase my protein, drop my dietary fat intake and introduce a few more complex carbohydrates (although still very low carb). He was very clear- I’ve pulled the first lever in healing- a lever that was necessary to pull. But there are two more levers to pull: intensive strength training and increased protein. The basic formula is to eat as many grams of protein as I do fat and carbs combined. This will apparently also help to alleviate some of the less pleasant hormonal symptoms of being an aging woman. So I’m giving it a shot. I don’t know if it’s going to work for me the way a medical Keto model has worked, but if it doesn’t, I can just go back to the more strict medical Ketogenic model, right?

So if there’s no harm in the attempt, why did my brain immediately want to reject the idea? Why did the idea literally strike cold terror inside my gut? It’s something to be examined. And the truth is, any number of circumstances have arisen since I took on the task of healing my body that have required examination. The bottom line is that if we don’t confront the narratives of our minds throughout our lives, we will have no access to change and transformation, no matter the context.

The thing is, our thoughts get in our way. We create these story lines inside our heads about what’s true about us, what’s true about others and what’s true about the world around us. We have a penchant, as human beings, to tell ourselves that we or others or things are “just the way we/they/it are”. The problem is that those storylines are rarely actually true and they’re almost never helpful.

When you embark on a life altering transformation, the universe is going to throw all kinds of garbage your way. And if you can’t learn how to identify that garbage and put it where it belongs, your transformation will never be complete, even if you’ve finally got all the right tools you need to get the job done.

Here are a couple of the obstacles I’ve encountered over the past 18 months. In the beginning, I didn’t think it’d be possible to lose more than 50 pounds. I’d never been able to do it before. I was afraid to get on the diet train one more time. I was profoundly afraid of my own early death, but felt so immobilized by my past failed attempts to change my circumstance, that I had accepted the narrative that I was going to die before my husband. Being morbidly obese was just the way I was.

Did you know that not everyone is happy when you change? Not only is that the case, but a surprisingly large number of people are unhappy with it. I have been astounded at the anger I’ve encountered regarding my personal change. Perhaps people don’t like being confronted with an illustration that their own self narrative about the ability to create change isn’t true. Maybe people get uncomfortable when their expectations don’t match reality. It is after all true that we see what we expect to see. If someone expects to see the historical picture of me – smart, funny, fat Brandy and what they get is smart, funny, kind of attractive Brandy, maybe their minds go on the fritz a little bit. I don’t know. All I know is that the hostile attitudes I’ve encountered from time to time have fueled the possibility of total derailment in my transformation. I want to belong just as much as the next person. Like everyone, I’ve spent years cultivating the terms of my relationships with others. Now I’ve changed those terms and didn’t know how to handle it when the relationships too began to transform.

I’m currently learning what I look like. My brain thinks I’m bigger than I am. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? But it’s true. I’ve spent so many years avoiding mirrors and photographs so that I didn’t have to know how big I was, that I can’t now look in a mirror and have it reflect my shape and size back to my mind with any accuracy. The story in my mind about my physicality simply isn’t true.

I’ve approached these and the other mental challenges to lasting change in the same way- by practicing mindfulness. I know, I know- sounds pretty woo woo right? But stay with me here. I’m not talking about some transcendental, existential experiences. I’m simply talking about learning how to observe my thoughts for what they are- pictures in my mind about myself or another or the world. About sounds that I hear and tastes on my tongue and pain in my temples and grief in my heart. And my thoughts about these things cannot inform me of any truth or reality if they are constantly imbued with emotional charge. I’m learning how to observe my thoughts without judgment and for crying out loud, without acting upon them immediately in a scrambled, desperate attempt to alleviate discomfort. Even learning how to practice mindfulness meditation doesn’t create comfort or alleviate pain. It simply teaches me how to hold that discomfort without responding to it with self destructive behavior. It removes the charge. The reality of any given situation exists, whether you ever have a thought about it. So what good is your personal narrative doing? Can it offer you anything other than negative consequences and suffering? I’m coming to think not. I’m not suggesting that anyone become detached from or devoid of emotion. That would be to deny the human condition altogether. But I for one am totally done allowing my emotional narratives, that don’t even reflect reality, to rule my roost.

So that brings me back to that fear I have about changing up my dietary model, even a little bit. It’s not even a change as much as it is a tweak. I realized this week that I have created a ton of charge around the idea that the strictest medical Ketogenic model was the “right” answer. And I don’t doubt that it has been, for a time. Shoot, it may still be. But it also may not be. I can’t know if I’m too afraid to experiment. I’ve told myself that Keto in this particular way was not only the right answer, but it was the one and only answer that I ever got right related to my health and nutrition. So I’ve been sitting with it, observing it. And I’m ready to tackle it.

If you’re interested in learning to practice mindfulness meditation, there are always mental health professionals in every community who are skilled teachers of the practice. Alternatively, there are many apps that are available for all phone platforms. My personal favorite- the one I use every day, is called Waking Up from Sam Harris. It literally teaches you how to practice, from the very, very beginning. It also contains an entire library of lessons outside of the meditative practices. It’s fully fleshed and truly helpful. It’s not free and it’s not cheap at about 15 dollars a month or 100 dollars a year, but if you can’t afford the app, you can email them and they will give you a year’s subscription for free. Look into it. It’s a game changer. You’ll thank me.

Strong Old Ladies

This week I got together with my friend Donna to make kimchi and discuss her “Keto Origin” story. Can I just pause here, before I even introduce her to say that I hope all of my future interviews flow the way this one did? What is better than talking story and making good food with a good friend? I was listening to the recording of our time together this morning and it really set the tone for the rest of my day. Feelings of joyousness abound.

Kimchi & Keto Nuggets

The kimchi turned out spicy and bright. It’s day three today- it’ll only get more funky and delicious with time.

Also featured here are my Keto Chicken Nuggets. They’re super easy to throw together. Even though the recipe states that it serves two, I typically eat the entire recipe. Often times a person following the Keto WOE eats more in a sitting, but those sittings occur less often. So there you have it.

Back to it. Donna and I met in 2009. We both managed separate but similarly missioned non-profit organizations in the community and she approached me to collaborate on some programming. Because that’s who Donna is. She’s a collaborator. Eventually neither of us worked in the same jobs or field any longer, but our friendship endured.

Donna D.

In early 2013, after much moaning from me about how unwell I was, how fat I was, how worried I was, Donna mentioned that she’d been doing some reading about an “Atkinsesque” way of eating that cut out carbohydrates and sugar- and increased healthy fats. It would be almost five years before I even took a serious look. But that’s another story altogether.

When I asked Donna about how she discovered a Keto diet, she took me back to her childhood. In a time when mass food production and processing was really getting it’s feet under it, Donna had a grandmother who was buying none of it.

“She used to drive a long way to get her hands on whole wheat flour to make her own bread, because it wasn’t a thing in the stores. You couldn’t find whole wheat or whole grain anything.”

She grew an organic vegetable garden and used copious amounts of butter.

This attitude led to whole generations of Donna’s family shirking the conventional wisdoms of the Standard American Diet (SAD), from a time when SAD wasn’t nearly as “sad” as it is now. Passed from her grandmother, to her mother, to her and finally her sons, the whole family embraced dietary principles like consuming healthy animal proteins and fats. Her youngest son stated regularly to his friends that, “margarine will give you a heart attack, but butter is good for your brain”.

That didn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t metabolic illness in Donna’s family. Her grandmother, she and her sons were the only people in the family to escape Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, her sister died from complications of the disease at the age of 53. But when, in 2013, Donna’s doctor observed a weight gain of 28 pounds over the previous year and she was at her all-time heaviest weight of 238 pounds, she kind of already knew part of the answer that would turn her situation around.

Still, she talked to her sons, one a body builder and one who had recently shed some excess weight. They pointed her toward the Keto threads on Reddit.

At this point in the conversation, I start laughing out loud. Donna hanging out on Reddit with her sons is hilarious to me. “Hey”, she retorts. “That’s all there was then! Or at least all I could find”.

Through Reddit Donna found videos and a blog by Dr. Jason Fung. Dr. Fung is a Canadian kidney specialist who treats many patients’ metabolic illness with a low carb diet and fasting. His book, The Obesity Code was key in helping me fit all the pieces together. He’s also written The Complete Guide to Fasting in partnership with Jimmy Moore and more recently, The Diabetes Code. Dr. Fung also runs the Intensive Dietary Management Program, which is a medical program but the website also has a very informative blog, as well as a series of educational videos and stunning testimonials.

But Donna stumbled across Dr. Fung long before any of that, when he was making low budget YouTube videos with hand drawn whiteboard graphics- just trying to get the truth out there. She had a solid dietary philosophy as a foundation, coupled with a killer intuition, so she knew that what the good doctor was saying was in fact, the truth.

Donna adopted a Ketogenic way of eating during that time and to date, has lost 65 pounds! She admits that in more recent years, she’s occasionally slipped away from the WOE for a meal, or a day, or even a few weeks. But she hasn’t regained any of the originally lost weight and in fact, continues to drop a pound here and there. What does that mean? It means that Donna has spent the last seven years restoring her metabolic flexibility. Some folks get too far into sickness to ever experience a full restoration. But Donna has healed enough that her system can efficiently and effectively burn through the array of fuels available for human energy. And at the end of the day, she’s low carb for life.

“No woman is upset when she can shed some pounds”, Donna says. “But really I just wanted to feel healthy and move well.”

And she has achieved that. But she also told me that she’s recently begun doubling down on adherence to the way of eating. She’s interested in taking all of this to the next level and working on her fitness. Donna became a first time grandmother almost a year ago you see. And we both agree that the end goal is to be STRONG OLD LADIES.

*Know some awesome Ketonian you think I should interview and write a feature article about? Let me know through my Contact Page!

Most Asked

As I move through the world interacting with all the people, a lot of questions come my way. It’s an understandable circumstance. The changes in my body and mind are total. Acquaintances and neighbors often don’t even recognize me in public. When spending time with friends, it’s like there’s a one ton elephant in the room, or more accurately, the absence of a 325 lb. elephant (or woman if the term elephant rubs you the wrong way). By virtue of existing in this changed body, questions arise. That, coupled with the fact that I’m all too eager to share my excitement, means that social events often get hijacked by one topic of conversation, which is, “Brandy & Keto”. It’s just too compelling a topic. With that in mind, maybe a good inaugural post is to answer some of my most frequently asked questions. It’s a good starting place I think.

So you’re doing Keto. What is it exactly?

Keto is a low carb/high fat dietary model with an emphasis on whole foods. It’s pretty simple really. I just limit my sugar and carbohydrate intake to those found naturally and incidentally in above ground vegetables and replace those lost calories with fat. I don’t eat grains, most fruits, most root veggies, or legumes or seed oils such as canola or vegetable. I focus on meats, eggs, some dairy, nuts, and veg. There are lots of reliable sources about getting started with Keto on the internet. Alternatively, you may want to get yourself some Keto coaching, particularly with regards to the meals you’re going to eat. There is one in particular that I like to refer people to- Happy Healthy Keto with Carrie Brown and Kim Howerton. These ladies have put together an affordable eight week coaching program that includes several different meal plans to suit everyone’s needs. There are a lot of people selling “Keto Snake Oil”. Carrie and Kim are not those people. They’re the real deal and can really get you launched in the right direction.

Don’t you feel deprived? I could never give up carbs.

Did you know babies are born in a state of Ketosis? They aren’t kicked out of a Ketogenic state until we give them those first meals of highly processed formula and rice cereal. Think about that for a minute. You were born in a certain state of being. You only exited that state because some full grown humans forcefully took you out of that state of being. Doesn’t that rub you the wrong way- even a little bit? I’m not kidding man. Read up on it here.

The answer is no. I do not feel deprived. I eat delicious, fully satisfying food every day. I like to cook (which is a definite advantage with Keto) and I’m good at it to boot. The joke around here is that I’m literally cooking my ass off. I still eat baked goods and sweets on occasion. I just use alternative ingredients to make them. Some of my favorite recipes are coming! I promise!

Yeah but, what about all that fat? Your cholesterol! You’re going to have a heart attack!

You know what causes coronary disease? It ain’t fat! It ain’t dietary cholesterol! It’s sugar. It’s being awash in insulin. You may be thinking, “but I don’t even eat a lot of sugar”. Well, do you eat anything from a package? Do you eat bread? Do you eat noodles made from grains? Do you eat a lot of “healthy fruits”? Do you eat any products labeled “low fat”? If the answer is yes to any of these, then you eat a lot of sugar and frankly, you’re at a much larger risk of having a heart attack than I am. Read this article. Its important.

Did you get the Keto Flu?

Yep, I got the Keto Flu. I hope you’ll consider a few things about that though.

Firstly, lets not call it the Keto Flu anymore. Let’s call it Carb Withdrawal. Let’s not even give it proper status. Let’s call it carb withdrawal. I mean, why are we assigning the blame to the remedy? Shouldn’t we be assigning the blame to the thing we’re fighting? Processed, carbohydrate and sugar laden stuff is not food. If your body gets sick in their absence for a period of time, it’s simply not food. It’s drug. And you’re an addict. Hello, my name is Brandy and I’m an addict. Full stop.

Secondly, it is not necessary to suffer the full effects of a bad carb withdrawal. Had I been armed with the right information, I could have lessoned, or even skipped over this highly uncomfortable portion of “Keto induction”. When we get rid of carbs, our bodies stop retaining so much water and what’s in that water? Salt. Just a little more water and some sea salt would have prevented the worst of it. That simple.

When are you going to start eating normal food again?

Well, if you mean by “normal”, the Standard American Diet, the answer is never. Recall what I said above. Processed, carb and sugar rich food is not real food. Add to that the idea that I spent the first 43 years of my life putting my body into a catastrophic state. It’s going to take some years to heal all that. Probably all the rest of my years, may they be many.

There is a caveat here however. Someone in a thread on a forum I belong to said today, “Keto is a way of eating, not a religion”. That seemed so poignant to me. On a very rare occasion, say a wedding or a big event, I’ve been known to try the cake or have a cookie. Those occasions had their consequences, especially at first, by way of carb cravings for a day or two.

On occasion I drink dry wine or liquor. Many wines and liquors are naturally low carb. Alcohol is fermented and then sometimes distilled afterward (spirits). Fermentation is the process of eating sugar and starches. That’s how it becomes alcohol (or vinegar). It eats the sugars and starch, thereby lowering the carb count in the finished product.

And finally, I still eat sweet potatoes and taro. These are nutritional power houses in relation to their high carb counts. The benefits my body gets from eating these foods on occasion far outweighs the negative. So I eat them.

There are lots of people who don’t ever let sugar, alcohol or even complex carbs pass their lips. They have various reasons for such strict adherence. Some may be much, much further down the disease rabbit hole than I got and their bodies simply can’t handle it, ever again. Some may just have bad physical reactions every time, or they can’t trust themselves to not go on a six month carb binge after one taste. Some may really look at this way of eating as a religion. People love their religiosity after all. Have you listened to a Vegan lately? Anyway…

Speaking of vegans, aren’t you worried that all your meat eating is ruining the environment and is inhumane?

I am in fact, but my worry isn’t restricted to animal products. Listen, the way we practice agriculture and food production is totally bananas. Both plant and animal farming in it’s current iteration has got to go. Right now, I buy grass finished beef, heritage pork, wild caught seafood and free range chickens. I look for farms and sources that are proven to be running small, humane operations. This is such a deep and intricate topic that it deserves it’s very own post, so I’m going to keep it short here. But I look forward to being a part of the conversation about how we return to local, restorative farming practices that not only restore human health, but restore our planet as well.