89.5-Hour Fast — After Action Review

I decided to add an extended fast to my “keto on the cheap” strategy, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way that things turned out.  In fact, it was such an amazing experience that I thought it was worth sharing here on the blog.

On December 5, 2019, I started an extended fast after my evening meal.  I had my last bite of food around 7:30pm. I had originally intended to break my fast on Sunday evening, but by the time I had been fasted for about 40 hours, I decided to keep going as long as I felt great.

In March of 2018, I completed an extended fast that lasted about 93 hours.  Looking back at my notes, it seems that I lost 6.4lb during that fast, but over the course of the next week, I gained most of that weight back.  And since I’ve slept a time or two since March of 2018, I had to look back at some blog posts to see how I felt during that fast. Silly me only documented the first two days of the fast, and I didn’t do any sort of after action review, so I wanted to do better this time.

This most recent extended fast was my fourth according to my notes.  While I only fasted for 89.5 hours this time, it seems that I did a lot better this time around and there are some great lessons to learn from this experience.

Before I talk about the nitty-gritty of the fast, I’ll share some stats.  My starting weight on the first full day of fasting was 240.6. My weight on the morning after I ended the fast was 236.2.  My lowest weight during the fast happened on the last day of the fast. It was 236 on the nose.

Some people set up all sorts of rules and restrictions for fasting, but my goal was to fast with zero-calorie beverages, coffee, tea, and possibly broth along with copious amounts of salt and the occasional teaspoon of butter if I thought I needed it.  I get that “they” say that broth breaks fasts and non-caloric sweeteners break fasts, but I didn’t really care. I wanted to fast in a way that was sustainable for me, and it turns out that what I did worked amazingly well.

I’ve been listening to the 2 Keto Dudes podcast from the beginning, and I happened across an episode with Megan Ramos where she talked about “switching it up”.  That’s actually what inspired the idea of the fast and the strategy that I was going to use afterward. Words can’t express my gratitude to the dudes for affecting my life without even knowing me.

So let’s talk specifics.  I knew that day one was going to be relatively easy.  When you eat a ketogenic diet, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of intermittent fasting because your blood sugar and insulin are controlled.  You’re just not hungry. I knew it’d probably be challenging on day two though, and in fact, it was. There were some times when I dealt with hunger, but it wasn’t that kind of hunger that I used to experience while sugar-fueled.  It was, however, persistent several times that day, so I dealt with it by drinking some water with some salt. It’s amazing how much salt helps with hunger!

When I wasn’t hungry that second day, I felt pretty darned great.  I didn’t have a fresh battery for my Keto Mojo meter, so I couldn’t get blood ketone numbers, but I was able to track my blood sugar.  On Saturday, what I’m called day two, my blood sugars were running in the mid 70s and there were a couple times that I felt a little low, but I knew I was just waiting for the ketones to ramp up so I could get that amazing euphoria and energy that usually comes around day three.  And guess what. That’s exactly what happened for me.

On day three, my blood sugars were sitting in the mid 60s and I felt amazing! I wish I could have tracked ketones because I’m betting they would have looked amazing too, but honestly, I didn’t need numbers to tell me how I was doing.  I felt so good.

Day three also turned out to be the day that I had 24 ounces of broth over the course of several hours in the evening.  I was craving salt something fierce, and hot, organic chicken broth seemed to be the perfect vehicle for that salt. I remember fixing my first cup of broth and stirring ¼ treaspoon of lite salt into my cup.  I tasted it, and it didn’t taste salty to me. I added ¼ teaspoon of pink salt, and I tasted it again. I could taste the salt, but it still didn’t taste salty enough. I added another ¼ teaspoon of pink salt, and finally, that was enough.  I was shocked that I’d put that much salt in eight ounces of broth and it tasted “just right”.

By Monday morning, I’d already fasted 12 hours longer than I had intended to fast.  People were asking me when I was going to break my fast, and I just kept telling them, “When my body tells me I need to.” I know that seems like a strange answer, especially coming from a fat person who clearly had issues with food in her past, but that’s how I felt.  It was relatively easy, and I was determined to listen to my body.

When my husband came home for lunch around 11:45, I was starting to feel hungry, but I dismissed it as my body’s way of telling me, “It’s lunch time, Sarah.  You’re supposed to eat now.” By the time Fred went back to work though, my hunger was more gnawing, and after trying to let it pass for an hour, I decided to break my fast.

So how did I break my fast? Well, I’ve heard stories about folks who had some uncomfortable side effects from breaking a fast quickly with lots of food, so at 1:00pm, I had about two ounces of summer sausage and an ounce or so of cheese.  Then I put my lunch into the air fryer (three chicken thighs), and I ate that at 1:45pm. I had no intestinal distress whatsoever, so my body must have liked the way I did things.

Here’s the best part of my whole fasting experience though.  When I did the 93-hour fast last year, it took me a week to gain back most of the weight I’d lost.  This time though, the highest weight I saw on the scale after breaking my fast was 236.4. And today, five days after breaking my fast, I’m sitting at 235.2.  That means that not only have I kept the weight off that I lost during the fast, but I’ve lost another .8lb this week! I’m thrilled!

So what did I do differently this time? Well, I credit my success to that podcast I mentioned earlier where Megan Ramos encouraged people to switch things up.  In the first 96 days of my journey, I had pretty much fallen into the same pattern of eating where my calories were restricted, my eating window was restricted, and I was trying to meet macro targets rather than eating intuitively.  After listening to Megan, I decided that once I broke my fast, I was going to feast like I meant it, and the only macro I was going to worry about was carbohydrates. As a result, eating intuitively, my near-carnivore diet managed to bump up my metabolic rate so that eating MORE calories resulted in more weight loss.  You could have knocked me over with a feather! I was so shocked!

So to summarize, here’s the most amazing part about my extended fast and the week following it.  In the first 97 days of my journey, I lost 18.8lb. From day 97 to day 105, I lost another 5.4lb.  That means that means that 22.3% of my weight loss happened in those 9 days. I’ve never had results like that other than those weeks when I’m first recommitting to keto where I’m dropping water weight.  It just blew my mind!

So what’s next? Well, I’ve been dealing with a cold this past week.  I had originally planned to do another fast for 24 or 36 hours to keep things mixed up, but since I’m recovering from this cold, I’m just going to listen to my body.  I’d like to be able to fast through my husband’s surgery next week because that’ll just make logistics easier for me, but if I can’t do it, that’s OK. Feasting is working, so I’m not interested in messing that up right now.

Today is cycle day 24, so I expect to see some water weight gain soon.  I’ll do a follow-up post in a week or two though to keep folks posted on how things are progressing.  As I’ve said before, the thought of losing fat and getting healthier during the holiday season is pretty darned encouraging.  It seems like a pretty great way to start 2020!

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Keto on the Cheap: 100 Days In

Today is day 100 of my keto on the cheap challenge with no relapses! I’m feeling fantastic, and I have so much great news to share.

First, I’ll share my stats.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb
  • Start Weight: 259.4lb
  • Current Weight: 236lb

And then, of course, there are some non-scale victories (NSVs).  I had a phone visit with my keto-friendly doctor during the last week of November, and we decided to cut my blood pressure meds in half.  I’m down to the tiniest dose — 2.5mg of lisinopril — and I’ll bet that when a little more weight comes off, I’ll be able to ditch it altogether.  I’m not quite there yet though, because I tried ditching my previous dose of 5mg because I was having blood pressure drops, but after a few days without the meds, my blood pressure wasn’t where I’d like to see it and I had some pretty uncomfortable edema (sweeling) in my feet and legs.  I know I’ll get to the point where I’m only taking thyroid meds, but that time isn’t now, apparently.

Yet another NSV is my ability to steer clear of whatever viruses my family has been growing in this house.  I’ve definitely had periods of time where I’ve felt like I was trying to fight something, but I haven’t gotten full-on sick yet, and this is usually the bad time of year for that.  We’ll see if my luck holds out through my birthday in mid December, and if it does, I’ll consider that a MAJOR NSV!

I also took some measurements today since day 100 seemed like a great time to do that.  It still amazes me to see how my body is changing even though it doesn’t always feel like the scale is cooperating.

Here’s my progress with the measuring tape.

  • Hips: 51” (down 5” from day 14)
  • Waist: 41” (down 3” from day 14)
  • Body Fat %: 54% (down 6% from day 14)
  • % of Starting Weight Lost: 9.02%

Now that we’ve gotten the “keto” part of the update out of the way, let’s get to the “cheap” part.  We’re doing well there too. We’ve fallen into a decent pattern of grocery buying, and as long as I can keep my youngest from becoming a ribeye addict, we should be OK.

It’ll be interesting to see where our final pattern of grocery spending lands because I was talking with my 14-year-old son about switching him to low-carb.  Right now, he eats low-carb at home because I don’t buy poison that the rest of us don’t eat. He eats carbs at school though, and while that’s keeping my food costs lower, I really think he’d feel better if he switched to low-carb.  (I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that he’s on the autism spectrum and he has ADHD.)

If my son switches too, I’m imagining that we’ll be back at spending around $200 per week on groceries.  I’ll definitely be implementing strategies to keep costs down, but it’ll be worth it. My son gets to choose though.  I’m not forcing it on him because that sort of thing doesn’t go well. My kids are old enough to choose how they eat, and they’re old enough to understand the consequences of said choices.

I’ve also managed a little bit of savings recently by doing an extended fast.  I hadn’t done one since March of 2018, so I was a little apprehensive, but so far, it’s going beautifully.  I’ve been fasting for three-and-a-half days now, and I don’t intend to end the fast until I stop feeling fantastic.  Right now, I have so much brain clarity, and my blood sugars are AMAZING! So far, it’s really working for me, and it has only cost us the occasional cup of coffee or chicken broth.  Oh yes, and we can’t forget salt — lots of salt.

I can’t think of a better way to thrive through the holidays, and I’m loving almost every minute of it!

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Keto from Food Storage: Pumpkin Soup

One of our favorite fall recipes here at the homestead is pumpkin soup.  While I typically make this soup with ingredients from my fridge, I’ve come up with a version that’s just as tasty made from shelf-stable ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 1 T ghee, lard, or coconut oil
  • 1 13oz can chicken breast
  • 2 4oz cans sliced mushrooms
  • 1 T dried onion flakes
  • 1 t sea salt
  • ¼ t black pepper
  • ¼ t grunlated garlic
  • ½ t crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin
  • 1 qt chicken broth or stock
  • ½ c canned cream or coconut cream

Procedure:

  1. In a heavy 2-quart pot, melt oil of choice.  Drain chicken and mushrooms and add them to the pot.  Add salt, pepper, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and onion flakes.  Cook on medium heat until meat is browned and fragrant.
  2. Add the canned pumpkin and stir.  Add the chicken broth and stir again.  Increase heat to medium-high, and once the soup starts to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Add the cream or coconut cream and allow the soup to continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes.  Serve.

Notes: When I make this soup for my family, I prefer to use Italian sausage and fresh red onion.  Although I haven’t tried it, I think this soup would taste great with any canned poultry, beef, pork, or game.  I don’t think it’d work with canned fish, but experimenting never hurt anyone, I suppose.

And here’s the recipe on which I based my food storage version.

Sarah’s Pumpkin Soup with Italian Sausage

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Grocery Shopping Tips & Tricks

Recently, I watched a YouTube video by Thomas DeLauer called “Grocery Shopping 101 | How to Shop Healthy”.  His video definitely shared some interesting perspectives, but he and I do things very differently, so I thought I’d share my strategies here.

One of the first things Thomas mentioned in his video was a budget.  As you all know, I have a budget, and it’s an important part of managing resources that come onto the homestead.  We seem to agree that a long-term view of a grocery budget allows for the purchase of bulk items to get the price down as well as sale items that are at a “stock up” price, but the similarities in our strategies stop there.

Here are some of the strategies that I use for grocery shopping.

Use a Log and a Price Book

If you’re trying to make the most of financial and material resources, you have to know what you use and how much it costs.  I use a spreadsheet, but you can use any method that’s convenient for you. Start by logging what you buy and when you buy it.  Some folks also log what they use, even if it was purchased before they started logging. I absolutely think that information is helpful too, but in my experience, it can be a challenge to keep it all straight since I’m one of five family members and I’m not aware of every single item that is used by every single family member.

Next, start a price book.  Again, mine is based on a spreadsheet.  I have a column for the store at which the item was purchased, a description of the item, the weight or quantity of the item, the total price of the item, and the unit price of the item.  This might seem like a lot of data to track, but it’s only challenging at the beginning. Most of us buy the same things, so the longer we maintain the price book, the fewer data points we end up adding.

I hadn’t used a price book for years, but when I started keto on the cheap, I decided it was worth it to start tracking again.  One spreadsheet in the book has keto foods, one spreadsheet in the book has non-keto foods, and the last spreadsheet in the book has grocery items for the household that aren’t food at all (like paper goods, trash bags, and the like.)

Since I’m the one who makes the grocery lists, I thought I knew where to get the cheapest prices for certain items, but as I started entering data into my price book, I was surprised to discover that not everything was as cheap as I’d thought.

Don’t Buy All Your Groceries from One Place

While the homestead is in a rural part of the county, I live outside a town with a population of around 50,000 people.  That means that I can have the peace and quiet of country living while still enjoying the convenience of living within 15 miles of almost everything I could want on a routine basis.

While some folks think it’s a waste of time to shop at multiple stores, we’ve managed to plan shopping trips to use our time as effectively as possible.  That means that I can buy groceries from three or four different places without wasting time (which also is a resource that needs managed.)

What does this strategy look like for us? On each payday, I start with a grocery list.  I look at sales, and since I have my price book, I can add items to the list along with the store from which they’ll be purchased.  I go one step further and add list items in the order that we shop the store, so my designated shopper doesn’t have to keep referring to the list in fear of forgetting something.

My routinely buy groceries from four different stores — Sam’s Club, Aldi, Kroger, and Walmart.  During every two-week pay period, my husband or my daughter will visit each of those stores at least once, and they do it when it’s convenient for our schedule.  For instance, we have to take our boys to scouts in town every Monday night. Rather than going back home for an hour, we typically do our Sam’s Club shopping to make the trip into town more efficient.

And if our list includes something from Walmart, it’s not uncommon for my daughter to pop in after work and get items off the list.  She works about a quarter of a mile away from Walmart, so it works out pretty well.

Kroger is about two miles away from my husband’s job and Aldi is about 3 miles away, so again, we can orchestrate things so that we’re not making special trips into town for grocery shopping.

Lastly, my shopping list is accessible to my husband and my daughter online, so they don’t have to worry about forgetting things on the list (unless I forgot to put them on the list.)

When I was little, my mom shopped at multiple stores to optimize her grocery money.  The thing was though, she went to all of the places on a Saturday morning so “shopping” got pretty exhausting.  She didn’t work outside the home at that point though, so she couldn’t weave routine visits to each of her stores into other errands “in town”.  We have that luxury though, so we don’t have to get overwhelmed by the time commitment of doing all the shopping at once.

Plan to Avoid Waste

We use bulk buying and stock up deals to extend the budget, but if you’re not buying with potential waste in mind, you’re missing an opportunity.  What do I mean? Well, has this ever happened to you? You find a great on something perishable so you snatch it up with the intentions of using it all or portioning it for the freezer.  For whatever reason, that doesn’t happen though, and then you end up with rotten meat or vegetables in your fridge. At that point, the bulk buy or the sale price actually cost you money.

I’m not always perfect.  I still toss stuff that I didn’t use up or put in the freezer, but because I’m a lot more aware of this pitfall, I can plan for success.  For example, I buy a lot of chicken thighs. If they’re not on sale, I pay $1.08/lb at Sam’s Club. That package lasts my kids and me for a week or so.  I know that I can get an 8lb package for my family and there won’t be any waste. A couple weeks ago though, Kroger had chicken thighs on sale for $.77/lb.  I bought three packages, around 20 pounds, and I brought them home. When I opened the first package, I fixed my lunch and I packaged the rest for the freezer.  The next day, I did the same thing. On the third day, I opened the last package and kept that one in the fridge. Then, when my fresh supply ran out, I started tossing two-packs of frozen chicken thighs into the fridge to thaw.  I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out a rotation that didn’t involve running out of chicken or emergency defrosting because I forgot to take something out of the freezer.

Some Final Thoughts

One of the strategies that DeLauer shared in his video included shopping the store based on food importance rather than layout.  I understood his point, that you should shop based on the importance that the foods play in your meal plan, but in practice, it wastes time and keeps perishable items at room temperature for longer.  At my Sam’s Club, for instance, if I were to get meat first followed by produce, dairy, oils, nuts, and snacks, I would be zig-zagging across they store in an illogical patern that would undoubtedly have me forgetting something on my list.  Because I use the strategy of planning my trip before I set foot in the store though, I don’t have to worry about ruining my budget. Sure, I run across the occasional deal that isn’t “on the list”, but as a family, we’re pretty good about to the strategies that help us accomplish our goals.

I get that my strategies won’t work for everyone, but I thought I’d share a different perspective that might help folks who haven’t thought about grocery shopping in such a methodical way.

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Boundaries Supporting Success

Several weeks ago, my kids started putting together their Christmas lists.  These lists always provide entertainment for me, but this year, my daughter’s list really stood out to me.  At the very top of her list, she wrote, “*Please, if you love me, do not give me candy or sugar filled foods/beverages. If you wish to give me food/beverages, please see the ideas below.*”

My daughter is a beautiful, smart, funny 17-year-old who has dealt with some tough stuff over the last 18 months.  Last year, she was diagnosed with PCOS, and she spent a lot of time dealing with sinus issues, allergies, recurring illnesses, and extreme fatigue.  On top of all that, as a family, we had our lives turned upside down after the loss of our housemate. Needless to say, it’s been rough.

Fast forward to this summer.  My daughter finally got an allergy diagnosis, and we found out that she needed sinus surgery.  She had a sinus infection that wasn’t going away, and despite treatment with all sorts of medications, she was still just treading water.

In September, she decided that she was going to buckle down and recommit to a ketogenic way of eating.  Since she had used keto before when she was spending a lot of time in the gym, she knew that she could feel better with that approach.  She also realized though that she’d have to be more strict now because she was changing her eating for health gains, not necessarily weight loss.

I told her I’d do whatever I could to support her, and we talked about strategies for dealing with food choices at school and at work, and off she went! She was doing great! She was feeling better (relatively speaking), and she started seeing changes in her body composition.  She was focused, and she was staying on track because she new that healing from sinus surgery would go so much better if she was keto.

But like it does every year in the United States, Halloween happened.  There were sweets at work, there were sweets at school, and there were sweets at a Halloween party that she had with her friends.  She had originally planned off-plan eating for the night of the Halloween party, but it took her about a week to get back on track.  Afterward, she and I talked about it. She saw first hand how hard it was to get that positive momentum, hence her “boundary” at the top of her Christmas list.  And to be clear, that request was all her. She was the one who was being mature and responsible enough to assert a boundary that was meant to support her priority of getting healthy.

How many of us have found ourselves in situations where we haven’t wanted to assert boundaries because we were worried about inconveniencing someone or hurting someone’s feelings? Surely, I’m not the only one who’s ever felt like that.  Sadly, it took me a long time to realize that I can be assertive without being aggressive, and there are times when I have to put myself first.

Putting ourselves first some of the time is hard, especially if we’ve fallen into a pattern that has us putting others’ needs first at all cost.  With the Christmas list example, is the risk of a backslide from gifts that won’t support my daughter’s health goals higher than the risk of hurting folks’ feelings because she doesn’t want junk? Are her goals protected more by putting that boundary out there or by attempting to protect the feelings of folks who might otherwise choose to give her candy that she’s worried she can’t avoid?

Words can’t do justice to the pride I feel in my daughter’s choice to use a simple boundary to advocate for herself and her own best interests.  It takes a great deal of maturity to set yourself up for success the way she did. A lot of us adults could learn a thing or two from this young lady.  More important than any other lesson though, I think, is the importance of boundary setting as a life skill. Imagine how much more successful we would be in our endeavors if we were more effective in this area.

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Shelf-Stable Keto Long-Term Food Storage

As a practically-minded “prepper”, I found myself thinking about survival needs this morning after responding to a question on a Facebook discussion group.  A gentleman wanted to put some long-term food stores in his bug out trailer, and he was looking for suggestions that’d fall in line with a ketogenic way of eating.  I had some thoughts that I shared with him, but it occurred to me that I haven’t written about this topic in a LONG time, so we’re overdue.

This question is a common one in the survival/food storage space.  “How do I build a food storage and rotation plan without resorting to carbs?” While the answer can be complicated, I’ve never thought that answering by saying, “If it’s a true emergency, you’re not going to care what you eat,”, handles the dilemma.  The fact is, “emergencies” can take many forms, and for those of us who depend on a ketogenic way of eating for our health and well being, that answer is dismissive and unproductive.

As most of my readers know, I have reversed diabetes and kidney disease with a ketogenic diet.  Other folks I know are managing conditions like type 1 diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and mental illness with keto.  A disruption to that eating pattern, especially during a time of extreme stress, is something that we have to plan to avoid, so here are some thoughts I have about keto and emergency food stores.

First, let’s talk about the actual foods that one can store to stay on track with a ketogenic way of eating.  Then, we’ll discuss strategies to make that food last.

The majority of my keto food is stored in my freezers and my refrigerator.  Part of my emergency plan for food if I were sheltering in place involves keeping those freezers running.  It also involves an ability to cook said food. We have a small generator and stored fuel so that we can keep the freezers cold.  We also have the ability to power appliances with our cars if necessary.

The problem with this strategy though is that it relies on us sheltering in place with the resources we have at our house.  If we had to leave our home for some reason, it wouldn’t exactly be practical to haul coolers full of frozen meat to some place off site.  So how do we reframe our thinking for those times when we don’t have the resources of the homestead? How do we shift our food choices from refrigerated and frozen foods to shelf-stable foods? I have a few thoughts.

Before I share those ideas though, it’s worth mentioning that we have several “diets” happening in our house at the moment.  I follow a version of keto that’s almost carnivore. My 12-year-old son does as well. My daughter eats a more veg-heavy version of keto, and my husband just follows a low-carb diet.  Lastly, my 14-year-old son eats the standard American diet (for now).

For the purposes of this article, I’ll share strategies that can work everything from liberal low-carb all the way to strict carnivore.  I’m not saying I have all the answers, but submitting some food for thought might help others come up with ideas that’ll fit their personal needs.

Canned Foods

Personally, I don’t use a lot of canned foods in my day-to-day eating plan.  I do, however, have a huge selection of canned foods in my long-term food stores that get used, albeit slowly, in meal prep.  Some of my personal favorites include canned proteins like seafood, chicken, beef, Vienna sausages, a Spam knock-off that we buy at Aldi, and canned bacon.  I also have home-canned meat and stock which are rotated more quickly than store-bought foods.

Also, don’t forget about canned vegetables that can be used to add some variety.  Artichoke hearts, asparagus, spinach, green beans, mushrooms, chiles, and tomato products can be used to stretch protein and fat stores, and it can make meals more interesting.

Lastly, don’t forget about things like coconut milk and canned cream.  While these items are a little more expensive, you can get them at any grocery store, and they provide you with that all-important fat that’ll help with satiety.

Dry Goods

When folks think about this category, they typically think about things like jerky, trail mixes, and nuts.  While these foods are nice to have, I don’t think they should be the primary basis of your food storage plan.  The carbs in nuts add up quickly, and they’re also somewhat fragile. I keep nuts in my freezer so the oils don’t go rancid, but if you’re keeping these kinds of foods in your car, storage unit, or trailer, you’ll have to use a very consistent rotation plan to keep these foods from going rancid or moldy.

Dry goods that I include in my preps (other than nuts and dried meat) include things like a protein powder meal replacer, sea salt, other dried herbs and spices, tea, coffee, and chocolate.  I also keep some keto and whole-food bars on hand.

Like the nuts and dried meat, these items require careful consideration for rotation, and here, that’s less of a problem for us because the items I listed above are used here with more frequency than some of the canned goods I mentioned earlier.

And last in this section, I’d like to give credit where credit is due.  A gal in the Facebook group I mentioned at the beginning of this article suggested adding seeds to your preps.  I thought that was pretty genius, actually, but not for the reasons that some might think.

More than likely, if you have to leave the safety and comfort of your home, you’re not going to find a place to grow some lettuce or kale, nor are you guaranteed to have that as an option because of circumstances or climate.  One could, however, pack sprouting seeds. They’re quite easy to manage, and you could theoretically be eating sprouts within 5-7 days. Having access to something fresh could be a complete game-changer for morale. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any “designer” dry goods like freeze-dried meats, eggs, or vegetables.  While I do have these items in my preps, I wanted to limit the scope of this article to foods that are easily accessible and not prohibitively expensive.  Adding these foods to your preps can add some variety, but they aren’t necessary.

Fats

For most of us who’re keto, this is usually the part that we really worry about.  If you’re like me, you use a LOT of butter, and while you could take butter with you, it doesn’t last indefinitely at room temperature.  And canned butter, while it exists, is expensive and impractical.

All that being said, here are some of my thoughts on practical fats that are shelf-stable.  I have MCT oil, coconut oil, ghee, lard, avocado oil, and olive oil that I use in rotation along with my butter.  The avocado oil and the olive oil are more fragile, so their rotation has to be managed, but the other oils hold up almost indefinitely.  I have some coconut oil here that I’ve had for 8 or 9 years and it’s still fine. Also, I have some MCT oil that I’ve had for 6 to 7 years, and again, it’s fine.  Let your nose be your guide though.

Other fat sources can include things like nut butter and condiments.  I have some avocado oil mayo and dressings that I really enjoy, but frankly, if the choice was soybean oil mayo in tuna or a meal of carbs, I’d rather have some soybean oil mayo in my tuna.  My situation would likely be short-term, and I can totally live with that choice.

Supplements and Medications

While it’s not directly related to food, I feel it’s important to remind folks about medications and supplements, particularly electrolytes, that can support a person through a physically and emotionally stressful situation.  Plan to thrive!

Other Considerations

I’ll be the first to admit that I wouldn’t be terribly happy eating meals based only on the foods I mentioned above.  While my macronutrients would be well managed, I’m simply not used to eating out of bags and packages. For that reason, some planned fasting would likely be a tool that I would implement.  The fasting will help my body deal with any physical or emotional stress to which I’d be subjected, and it would eliminate boredom and dissatisfaction with limited food choices.

And lastly, don’t forget that falling off the wagon, especially in a time of extreme stress, will just make your situation more unmanageable.  If you plan for situations like this before they happen, you’re supporting your health and you’re doing the absolute best that you can do given tough circumstances.  We’ve all heard the saying before, right? If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. For that reason, we have to get a dialog going now before we find ourselves in situations where we have to rely on shelf-stable preps.  It’s the only way we can thrive in spite of bad circumstances. What we do matters!

And don’t forget to watch the blog for a follow-up article where I’ll share meal ideas using the kinds of food stores that I mentioned above.  Knowing what to store is one thing. Applying that knowledge in meal prep can be an entirely different challenge.

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Keto on the Cheap: 11 Weeks DONE

In this “keto on the cheap” update, I have several encouraging bits of news to share, and as always, I have some insights as well.  Finally, it seems like I’m falling into a pattern that makes things easy and sustainable for my family, but I’m not letting my guard down.  The holidays can be a stressful time for some, but we’re determined to thrive right through the trifecta of temptation events — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

First though, I’ll share my stats from the 11-week mark.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb (May 2017)
  • Start Weight: 259.4lb (9/1/19)
  • Current Weight: 237.2lb

Yep! That’s right! I finally made it back into the 230s! I haven’t seen numbers in the 230s for 14 months.  Hitting these new, old milestones keeps me encouraged, and I’m building confidence about my ability to make my way of eating a true lifestyle.

On the financial side of things, we’ve done a lot better about minding our budget, probably because over-spent for a couple pay periods and added extra food to the freezer.  We came in about 10% under budget past period and we’re on track to do the same thing this pay period. Granted, that won’t immediately off-set the two pay periods where we were 60-70% over budget, but as I discussed last time, hitting a certain number on a grocery budget isn’t the only marker of success for keto on the cheap.

A day or two ago, I was thinking about another aspect of this journey that affects the bottom line.  My husband woke up and in pretty short order, he was ready for breakfast. He doesn’t typically follow a ketogenic diet, but he eats low-carb — I’d guess 50 to 70 grams of carbohydrates per day.  It struck me how quickly he’s ready for breakfast when he gets up each day. He’s usually having a “meal” after having been awake for 45 minutes or so. This pattern is very different from my pattern or my keto teens’ patterns, and it got me thinking.

“People” like to say that keto costs less because you fall into a pattern of time-restricted eating.  Also, folks who follow a ketogenic diet tend not to snack. It seems logical that if you’re eating when you’re hungry and you’re stopping when you’re full, you wouldn’t consume extra food that costs more money, right? The problem with that logic though is that when we DO eat, we’re eating nutrient-dense foods that frankly cost more money than grain-based food stuffs.  I often like to joke that there is no “broccoli subsidy” nor is there a “ribeye subsidy” sadly.

After a little more thought, I came to a conclusion about how keto can actually cut food costs.  I’ll call this idea “how to avoid ribeye creep”. When I first recommitted to keto in September, I didn’t restrict my calories.  As long as the food was on my “yes list” and as long as I didn’t eat more than 20 grams of total carbs in a day, I didn’t really care if I needed a pound of bacon, six eggs, or a pound of ground beef to feel satiated.  As I got fat-adapted though, I started eating less frequently, so I got it in my head, albeit unintentionally, that I could afford the foods I enjoyed because I wasn’t eating as much food now. While that’s completely reasonable and understandable, it doesn’t really help your financial bottom line.

Yes, I love ribeye.  I feel really great on ribeye.  I could live on ribeye! But there are other foods that I can eat that afford me the same success, and they cost a lot less than a pound of ribeye every day.  And as I started to turn to these foods when I was hungry, the grocery bill started going down because I wasn’t as hungry AND I was intentionally choosing less expensive foods.

For example, my son and I LOVE roasted chicken thighs with crispy skin.  He and I have been eating them every day for several weeks now. Sometimes we eat other things alongside the chicken thighs and sometimes we don’t.  The fact that fatty meat that costs as little as $.77/lb fits into our food plan really helps the bottom line. Yes, I get it. Beef is probably a better choice than chicken, and we do eat inexpensive beef too, but by adding something that’s cheap that we love ALMOST as much as ribeye, we can get a handle on the “ribeye creep” that a lot of folks justify by saying, “Keto saves money here, here, or here so I can afford to spend more money on food.”

I’m not suggesting that folks shouldn’t spend their money on quality food.  Please don’t hear that. What I am suggesting is that you can succeed on keto without the lack of a “ribeye subsidy” as your excuse.  Is it better to buy quality meats and organic vegetables and dairy? Probably so. Should an all or nothing attitude prevent you from taking charge of your life and your health? I don’t think so, because I strongly believe that a diet or CAFO beef and big poultry chicken will help folks get to their goals much faster than doing nothing.  I’ve seen it too many times to think otherwise.

I just ask folks to consider some of these things when thinking about how keto can become a lifestyle instead of a “diet”.

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Managing Addiction One Choice at a Time

We have a long-standing birthday tradition in our family.  When a family member has a birthday, he or she chooses a “birthday restaurant”, and the family enjoys a special meal together.  We’ve been doing it for years now, and it has always been a great experience.

In August, my husband and daughter decided that we’d try a new place that we’d never visited.  The place is called “Sushi Club”, and it’s known for their all-you-can-eat sushi. The rest of us were on board with the decision since we all enjoy sushi, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice.  Every kind of sushi that we tried was excellent. The service was fantastic, and the atmosphere surprisingly nice even though you wouldn’t have necessarily guessed that from looking at the outside of the restaurant.

As we headed back home, I said, “You know, that’s where we’re going for my birthday,”, and the whole family was happy with my choice.

Fast forward to September when I recommitted to eating keto again.  Despite the fact that I was wholly committed, my birthday meal at Sushi Club still came up from time to time.  I fully intended to stay the course with my eating until my birthday meal. Then, I planned to eat sushi with my family and “get right back on track” with my next meal.

In November though, I started looking at some of the work of Dr. Robert Cywes.  He’s a bariatric surgeon by trade, but he’s trying to work himself out of a job by teaching folks about the keto way of life to manage carb addiction.  His ideas really resonated with me personally because I’ve always known that I’m a carb addict, but I hadn’t woven that idea into my thinking for long-term success.  That’s why I’ve been battling my weight all my life — not because my “diet” failed.

As I continued to listen to more podcasts and watch more videos, my thinking was changing.  I started thinking about eating carbs as a “relapse” and not a “cheat”. In reframing my thinking about my “drug” of choice, I felt like I could start to see my choices for what they were — relapses in an addiction that can and will kill me.  That might sound harsh to some, but it’s not for me because that’s my reality.

Anyway, as I continued to reframe my thinking, I was starting to have second thoughts about my choice to eat sushi for my birthday.  On one hand, I was fairly certain that I could come through the experience without sliding down a slippery slope, but on the other hand, I was worried that my choice to eat sushi would leave me vulnerable to a full on bender that would last through the Christmas season into the new year.  That thinking was starting to provoke some anxiety for me for sure.

A couple days ago, I shared my thinking with some of my friends.  These friends happen to be really good at sharing perspecitives that I hadn’t thought of without telling me what to do, so we had what I thought was a really productive conversation.  We talked through the pros and cons of deciding to eat sushi, and by the end of the conversation, I knew what I was going to do (even though I didn’t share that with my friends right then.)

Later that evening, I was talking with Fred.  “I think I’m going to make a decision that’s going to make the rest of the family unhappy.”

“OK?” He seemed a little worried.

“I don’t want to eat sushi for my birthday meal anymore.”

Being the sweet, supportive husband that he is, he just said, “Well, I’ll strongly believe that we should do whatever you want because it’s your birthday,”, and then he was prepared to just end the conversation.  I knew he’d react that way, but frankly, I wanted to talk about it more. I think I needed that conversation to solidify my choice in my own head, but he was ready to move on to something else.

I ended up sharing a bit of my rationale with him, and then he asked me where I thought I’d like to go instead.  “Amazing Joe’s!”, I told him, and he was happy with that choice because they have such good food and it’s really easy to eat on plan there.

After talking with Fred, I knew I was eventually going to have to share my news with the kids, especially because we’d just been talking about going up there earlier this week.  I pulled my daughter aside yesterday and told her first.

“What? Why not?” She was really surprised and she sounded disappointed.

I was just really matter-of-fact with her.  “I’m 90% sure that I could eat sushi without any issues, but that leaves a 10% chance that eating sushi would trigger a relapse.  Any other time of year, I MIGHT take the risk, but the risk of a relapse before Christmas and New Year’s is a risk that I’m unwilling to take.  I’ve worked too hard to get where I am now, and each relapse makes it that much harder for me to build forward momentum.”

My daughter’s such a smart girl.  She listened carefully and then said, “Ooooh! You’re right.  I hadn’t thought about the whole Christmas thing. That makes perfect sense.  We definitely shouldn’t eat sushi.”

I really love that kid.  She’s on her own journey right now because of PCOS, so I knew she would understand, but on the other hand, the kids are more liberal with their off-plan eating than I am even though they have already discovered that it’s hard to get back on track after a relapse.

This whole process of deciding not to eat sushi has taught me a lot.  First and foremost, the decision has alleviated the anxiety I was starting to feel about the precautions I’d need to take to guarantee my success.  It has also helped me to realize that celebrating success with my drug of choice is like an alcoholic celebrating his sobriety with a few drinks. It just doesn’t make logical sense.

Going through the process of choosing, talking about the choice with so many people, also gave me confidence in my own decision-making skills.  Was my desire to eat sushi and my justifying of the choice the addiction talking? I don’t think so, but I’m just not willing to risk it considering the number of relapses I’ve had that started with just one bite or just one meal.  I’m just not there yet, and that realization actually makes me happy because it keeps things simple. My drug of choice has no place in my eating plan, period.

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Keto on the Cheap: Update and Strategies

I know that I haven’t posted an update in a while, but I’m still here kicking butt and taking names.  I have been on track without a “relapse” for 69 days now, and while progress on the scale is slow, I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way things are going!

Here are my stats as of today.

  • High Weight: 290.2lb (May ‘17)
  • Start Weight: 259.4lb (9/1/19)
  • Current Weight: 243lb

On day 66, I hit a new low of 241lb, so I know I’ll be seeing the 230s before I know it.  I just have to be patient with myself and understand that my biggest victory is that I’m more than halfway through day 69 of NOPE (no off-plan eating).  It definitely feels good to have that accomplishment under my belt (that happens to be about 2.5” smaller now than it was 69 days ago.)

As for my budget, we’ve completely blown it.  I’m just being honest. But as I was discussing that fact with a friend yesterday, he asked me to consider some other victories and metrics in the challenge that I set for myself.  Sticking to a budget isn’t the only point of “keto on the cheap”.

Bulk and Case Pricing on Meat

I have an immersion circulator for cooking sous vide style that I absolutely love.  On of the benefits of cooking sous vide style is the fact that I can take less expensive pieces of meat and turn them into incredibly delicious meals.  For us, the jackpot has been the purchase of whole sirloin tips at our local Sam’s Club. These cuts cost about $3.25 per pound. We bring them home and cut them into thick, amazing steaks and one nice-sized roast, and we pay an entire dollar less per pound compared to buying the steaks and roasts that have been cut from the whole sirloin tip.

And there’s something else I learned that might help folks.  If I had enough money to buy a whole ribeye, I’d save about a dollar per pound on that cut also, but the meat guy at Sam’s Club will cut it for me for FREE! That means that by buying whole cuts, regardless of the type, I can same money when compared to the pre-cut and pre-packaged steaks.

Similar money can be saved by investigating case pricing.  Most items at my local Sam’s Club are discounted by about 10% if you buy by the case.  I can’t think of anything specifically that my family uses where that kind of discount would benefit us, but the option is there.

Macronutrient Density

Another strategy that we use around here is the choosing of foods for their macronutrient density.  While I don’t count anything at this point, I can tell you that I experience more satiety when I choose foods that are nice combinations of proteins and fats.  For instance, today, I have eaten three roasted chicken thighs. I didn’t discard the delicious crispy skin, and as a result of that, I don’t know that I’ll eat anything else today.  It’s not because I’m trying to count calories or follow some sort of time-restricted eating regimen. I’m simply not hungry. And if I do get hungry later, I’ll have something, but since it’s after 6:00pm as I write this, I doubt there’ll be more food for me today.  That means my food today will have cost us $2.18. (Don’t worry! They were enormous chicken thighs.)

I have definitely noticed though that if I nibble and graze, even on foods that fall in line with my way of eating, I consume more food which can cost more money.

Lastly, I want to remind folks.  I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it as long as it needs said.  Don’t let perfection be the enemy of “good enough”. If you have to start out with ground beef, chicken legs, and store-bought eggs, then start there.  Just start SOMEWHERE because your health depends on it. Your eyes depend on it. Your kidneys and your feet depend on it. Don’t put it off because you can’t be “perfect”.  None of us are perfect, but a lot of us are still changing lives!

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If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)

There is a concept to which some cling in the “diet” world that says, “Eat whatever you want ‘if it fits your macros’.” While this might sound appealing to some, I contend that it’s a terrible idea, and I’ll share my rationale below.

This concept isn’t new, sadly.  I remember a time in the late ‘90s when my best friend was following a popular calorie restriction program that required you to “count points”.  Fiber grams allowed you to offset some of the calories, thus fiber-rich foods tended to be worth less points. Eventually, folks started trying to “work the system” by eating whatever they wanted alongside fiber supplements.  In essence, they were the early adopters of the IIFYM eating model.

Then, in the early 2000s as low-carb eating became more popular, I saw people doing things like “saving” carbs so they could continue to put sugar in their coffee or eat junk food in place of nutrient-dense carbohydrates like vegetables.

Since my experience over the last 20+ years has been primarily keto, I want to discuss IIFYM in that context, although I’m sure many of these points will apply to whatever eating plan a person chooses to follow.

IIFYM in the Context of Grief and Loss

A lot of folks have a pretty strong emotional attachment to food.  It’s human nature, right? We celebrate with food, we reward ourselves with food, and the process of eating can be a very social experience.  When we change our meal plan though, some folks, especially those who have an unhealthy relationship with food, will experience feelings of grief and loss.  This is where the idea of IIFYM comes in.

The five stages of grief and loss are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  I’ve personally experienced all these stages at one time or another when I’m trying to make positive changes in my life, but denial and bargaining are often paired with the IIFYM way of eating.  “Well, this way of eating doesn’t have to apply ALL the time, so I can keep eating bad stuff as long as I’m still playing by the rules.” In reality, that’ll only set you back in the long run.

Inflammatory Effects of Poor Food Choices with IIFYM

The ketogenic way of eating is inherently an anti-inflammatory diet.  When we choose foods that simply fit the macros though without paying attention to food quality, we increase inflammation, glycation, and sometimes even stress hormones as a result.  Claiming that a jelly donut counts the same as an entire day’s worth of vegetables is flawed logic. It relies on the idea that a calorie is a calorie regardless of where it comes from, and both anecdotal and scientific evidence have shown that this simply isn’t the case.  Quality does matter, regardless of what eating plan you’re following.

Way of Eating vs. “Diet”

I’ve seen it so many times.  “I’m going to go on this diet and then when I lose my weight, I’ll eat ‘normal’ again.” IIFYM fits perfectly into this logic because folks are simply looking for a way to make it through until they can go back to the terrible habits that made them unhealthy in the first place.  Looking at a healthy human diet like keto as something that’s temporary though means you’re likely to end up right back where you started — sick, fat, and miserable.

“Diets” sell products and make people lots of money.  A “way of eating” requires nothing but smart choices at the grocery store or farmer’s market.  “Diet” in the commercial sense implies an intervention that’ll end when you’ve met your goal. A way of eating implies something that’s sustainable for a lifetime, and IIFYM has no place there in my opinion.

IIFYM is Like Heroin Instead of Methadone

As I discussed earlier, the IIFYM model is often used by those of us who have unhealthy relationships with certain kinds of food in certain situations.  I can tell you from my own experience though that using IIFYM when you’re trying to deal with food addiction is one of the quickest ways to guarantee failure.  It’s like saying to a drug addict in rehab, “We’re going to let you have a little bit of your drug of choice as long as you can fit it into the program.” It makes no sense.

Some will contend that food addicts should quit cold turkey without any sort of methadone, and that’ll be a topic for another day.  Using “just a little bit of heroin” while you’re trying to quit heroin essentially guarantees failure or relapse. Ask me how I know because my drug of choice has always been food.

The whole concept of IIFYM encourages backward thinking and I would strongly advise anyone who’s serious about their health and longevity to avoid this trap.  It’s usually just the grief or the addiction talking, and those guys can say some pretty convincing stuff sometimes when you’re vulnerable. If you’re going to put in the effort to make your life better, don’t short-change yourself.  It’s not worth it!

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