Surprise 3 Day Fast! Should I Shoot For 7 Days?

Water, bone broth, hot tea and coffee are my drinks of choice during this surprise fast!

A few days ago, my husband suggested we do a three day fast. Fasting is easier when both of us are on the same schedule. I agreed, and our 72-hour fast starts started last night at 8:00 p.m. However, when my husband suggested the extended fast, my first thought was: “Why would we stop after getting over the hardest part?”

I’ve done a few 7-day fasts, following Dr. Jason Fung’s fasting protocol. I drank water, coffee with cream, herbal tea, and bone broth during those seven days. Every time the second day was always the hardest when it came to hunger. But the hunger always subsided the next day.

What Happens During a Fast?
In Jason Fung’s The Complete Guide to Fasting, he outlines what happens to our bodies as we begin an extended fast.

Stage 1: Feeding – We eat, and our blood sugar level goes up. The pancreas releases insulin to move glucose into cells to maintain blood sugar levels; Excess glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen or converted to fat.

Stage 2: Postabsorptive Phase – Six to 24 hours after your fast begins, your blood sugar and insulin start falling. At this point the liver taps into our glycogen stores to release glucose. We have enough glycogen to last 24-36 hours.

Stage 3: Gluconeogenesis – 24-48 hours after fasting starts, our bodies have run out of glycogen. Your liver begins gluconeogenesis, the process of creating new glucose from amino acids. This is the time where I find myself getting irritable, hungry and feel like I’m freezing.

Stage 4: Ketosis – 24-72 hours after fasting starts, your body switches to its secondary energy source (ketones, baby!). Lipolysis, the breakdown of fat for energy starts due to low insulin. Triglycerides are broken down into glycerol and three fatty acids. The glycerol takes the place of the amino acids for gluconeogenesis. And our bodies use the fatty acids as fuel, creating ketone bodies: you are now a fat burning machine.

Stage 5: Protein Conservation – Five days after starting a fast, muscle and lean tissue is maintained by high levels of growth hormones. Our metabolism is mostly powered by ketones and fatty acids. Blood sugar levels are stable due to gluconeogenesis (using glycerol). Adrenaline levels rise to help with fat burning and releasing glycogen.

These five stages describe how humans survived before our on-demand lifestyle. For most of human history, people experienced times of plenty and not-so-plenty. That’s why our bodies come equipped with a second gas tank – to survive those lean times.

I’m not advocating starvation. I am advocating the benefits of flipping the switch and running my body off that second gas tank. The beauty is that the ketogenic diet and fasting do just that. No starvation required.

7 Days or Bust!
Based on these stages, my husband and I will reach ketosis on the very day we end our fast.

D’oh!

I’m committed to the 72-hour fast, but if I feel great during that last day, I’ll let my husband know that I intend to keep going. If he wants to stop, that’s fine. I’ve done extensive fasts while he made his own food. I have my techniques to avoid any smells from the kitchen or being in the same room while he eats.

It’s been a while since I fasted for seven days. I used to do them twice a year and I wanted to get back to that schedule this year, including a water-only fast in the fall.

Today seems like the perfect opportunity.


Starting My 2021 Ketogenic Garden

It’s gardening time! Sure it’s February, but I’m getting a jump on my spring and summer vegetable gardens.

It’s early February. It’s 39 degrees outside, a winter storm is forecast for tomorrow, and I’m busy sowing seeds that will produce delicious ketogenic vegetables. Not outside. I’ve been busy starting seeds indoors for the last 2 weeks. In January, it was my spring onions, spinach, cabbage, kohlrabi, and herbs.

Today it’s more leafy greens for my spring garden — Swiss chard, leaf and romaine lettuce, bok choy, collards, arugula, and more spinach.  I’m also starting my summer garden with peppers and eggplant.

My beds are covered in snow, but in just a few weeks I start directly sowing carrots, beets and turnips. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to start working in the yard again.

How I’m Handling Higher Carb Vegetables
I know beets, carrots, leeks and turnips are not considered low carb. And I rarely purchase them. But let’s look at how many net carbs are in half a cup of each.

  • Beets = 5g
  • Carrots  4g
  • Leeks: 6g
  • Turnips: 3g
  • Beet Greens: 2g
  • Turnip Greens: 1g

I do love tomatoes. It’s no wonder they are the king of the garden. My only complaint? I don’t have a big enough back yard to grow more.

Okay, the leeks are very high. But I mostly use leeks for flavoring a big pot of soup. The bigger the pot of soup, the lower the carb count. And leeks make a great roasting rack with onions and carrots. There is some carb transfer, but my roasts always taste amazing.

With the exception of the carrot, I prefer the greens to the taproots when it comes to root vegetables. Yes, I plan to eat the beetroot and turnips, but those vegetables don’t trigger carb cravings.

Now, carrots are a different story. I LOVE carrots. I’m growing three different types of carrots. Far too many for me and the husband. Why would I tempt myself with a high carb vegetable I love when I’m watching my carbs so closely?

First, I do love carrots, but I don’t have very many recipes where I cook with them. Maybe I’ll add a quarter cup of diced carrots to a stir fry for color and flavor. But that is a rare occasion. I also love big salads come summertime. I plan to pluck a fresh carrot out of my yard to go with my freshly picked salad greens. But I’m not going to do that everyday. I’m tracking my carbs so I don’t go overboard.

Second, I plan to give a lot away to family, friends and neighbors. That’s the wonderful thing about gardening. You get the urge to share your bounty!

Last year I grew native Milkweed to help the Monarch population grow. Milkweed is the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on. This was one of 18 caterpillars/cocoons I spotted on my plant.

In reality, I find the act of gardening, more than eating what I grow, the most satisfying.  Don’t get me wrong, I prefer eating what I grow. But compared to working the soil with my hands, getting up every morning to inspect my seedlings, figuring out how to protect my zucchini plant from the dreaded squash vine borer moth (I will win this year!), spotting the season’s first honey bee, and creating a haven for Monarch caterpillars, eating the food just isn’t as exciting to me.

The journey is in many ways sweeter than any root vegetable, melon or tuber I can grow.

Rules for My Ketogenic Garden
I do have some rules for this year’s garden to help me stay ketogenic during the growing season.

  1. Plant what I (and my husband) like to eat.
  2. Share with family, friends and neighbors.
  3. Tracking my carbs doesn’t stop because I grew the food!
  4. Have fun!

Are any of you growing keto this year? If you are, what are you planning to grow?


February Challenge: Giving Up Alcohol For Ketosis

Starting today I’m giving up alcohol for a month. The one item in my diet that is really holding me back from reaching ketosis is wine. I do love the nectar of the gods, but if I’m trying to get healthy, it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. The good news is the husband is joining me on my little prohibition challenge. We’ve noticed during the lock down we’re drinking more than normal and we’re not happy about it.

Considering the big rise in alcohol sales during the lock downs, I’d say we’re not the only ones.

Plus, we don’t like the results – morning brain fog, poor sleep, increase in cravings, weight gain, and zapped energy levels.  Who needs that?

Isn’t Alcohol Allowed On Ketogenic Diet?
Yes, you can drink while on a ketogenic diet. But your body focuses on getting rid of alcohol first because it is treated like a poison (which, it is). That means you burn off alcohol before you go back to burning fat. Why? Your liver is what converts fat into ketones. But if you drink alcohol, your body had to metabolize the booze. Your liver stops the fat conversion and focuses on the alcohol.

One drink, won’t necessarily kick you out of ketosis. But it certainly slows it down. Frankly, I like my liver busy on converting fat to ketones, something it wants to do when you eat keto. Why tax it anymore than needed?

A 28 30-Day Challenge
I didn’t pick February to do this challenge because it is the shortest month of the year. Since there are only 28 days this month, and I like doing 30-day challenges, I’m extending this challenge to March 2nd.

And I’m seriously considering extending this challenge beyond the 30 days.


Sidelined by Knee Pain, Turning Focus to Keto Diet

I did everything right. I eased into my new workout routine slowly to avoid injury. Yet, my knee decided that it does not like 15-minute daily walks. Technically, it isn’t my knee causing the pain. It’s the iliotibial band (IT band), a flexible fascia that runs from the hip to the knee. I’ve felt this pain before. The band is rubbing inside my knee and is starting to swell.

Shifting My Focus to Keto
As I nurse my leg back to health, I’m turning my full attention to getting into ketosis. I screwed up by not doing a menu plan this week. As a result, we ate out way too much. I let my busy schedule became an excuse to go out rather than stay home and cook.

If you want to get healthy, you must put in the work. This week, I didn’t.

My mistake was not planning. I knew how busy I was this week. All I needed to do was make a casserole and use the slow cooker a couple of times.  Leftovers are a busy gal’s friend when you are trying to eat healthy.

Lesson learned.  Last night, after another long day, I browned some ground beef while dicing an onion, garlic cloves, tomatoes and peppers. My keto chili will last a few days. Tonight, I’m whipping up a bacon cheeseburger casserole.

Time to Start Food Journaling Again
I have my target macros and am recommitting to a realistic menu plan for my schedule. What is missing is my food journal. I have no idea if I’m hitting my daily macros, eating too many carbs, or in ketosis.

I know a lot of people think keeping a food log is unnecessary. “Just eat real food until you are full!” I’ve heard this many times. Sound advice for someone whose hormones are in balance and metabolically sound.  But as someone who hasn’t been consistently keto for a few years, I need more discipline. By tracking what I eat, I’ll become more mindful of my choices. In addition to tracking my carb count, I’ll figure out how to course correct if my daily energy level starts flagging, or I’m stuck in a plateau.

For a tracking tool, I’m going old school: pen and paper. At least until I have a chance to research any new apps out there. As you may know, I haven’t been a fan of certain food log apps, like My Fitness Pal. Much of the data is incorrect, and I usually end up doing more work than the app had promised. Which is fine.

Tracking My Blood Ketone Levels
Finally, I’m going to start tracking my ketone levels. My new Keto Mojo arrived.

Although I’m starting today to track what I eat, I’m not going to start tracking my ketone levels until February 1st. I want a solid week of cooking at home, menu planning, and food tracking under my belt before I start pricking my finger with a needle.

I’m rebuilding my good habit routine. I won’t be perfect (I wasn’t this week!). But if I worry about perfection, I’ll never reach my goals.


Setting A Daily Health Goal With My Morning Routine

I’m feeling like the day is running me instead of the other way around. I want to wake up and start the day in a way that serves me best. What I really need is a morning routine that doesn’t call for lounging in bed for 20 minutes.

There’s actually some science around the importance of morning routines. When we wake up, our bodies get an energy spike in the mornings thanks to an increase in cortisol. It’s also when we tend to be our sharpest mentally. But that spike is wasted if we don’t have a routine that sets the tone for the rest of the day. Morning rituals/routines is a way to channel that energy. It provides mental clarity, making us more productive.

I used to have a morning routine and I felt happier, made healthier choices throughout the day and never felt restless. My mornings were 90 minutes of quiet “me” time. I kept it simple and consistent. I rehydrated with a glass of water. Spent 5 minutes thinking about what wanted to accomplish that day. Then it was time for my workout. Not only did that routine put me in a great mood all day, I always accomplished what I set out to do. More importantly, I felt happy, calm and focused. Never restless.

I’m starting a new routine and it’s a work in progress. I’m keeping it simple because I’m creating a new habit. What’s my routine?

  • Get out of bed when I wake up (no more lounging).
  • Rehydrate with a cool glass of water.
  • Hit the floor mat for hip physical therapy.
  • Turn on my diffuser and focus on a healthy goal that I want to achieve for the day.
  • Rap up my morning routine with a walk.

My routine runs about 60 minutes. I’ll make tweaks as I settle into it. I’m not expecting perfection immediately. My dog, who has her own morning routine, will see to that.

Do you have a morning routine that serves you? Or are you serving someone else’s routine?


Getting Back Into Low Carb Menu Planning

Menu planning always kept me on track with my health and fitness goals. Given my weight gain over the last few years, it’s clear that I made a huge mistake not sticking with this habit. Well, that changes this week!

I just posted my first menu for 2021. Going forward, I plan to post  my weekly menus here every Saturday morning. Thankfully it wasn’t that difficult to jump back into planning my meals. Thank God for muscle memory. However, I wasn’t quite on the ball when it came to food prep for these delicious meals. That’s my chore this afternoon.

The meals I’m making this week are all focused on hitting my new macro-nutrient (protein, fat and carbohydrate) targets, which you’ll find below. However, those are just targets and my menu is only as good as my hunger.

For example, today (Sunday), the menu shows I’m breaking my fast at lunch time with a New York strip steak, sauteed mushrooms and cabbage and onion noodles. That sounds delicious. Just one problem. It’s nearly 3:00 p.m. and I’m still not hungry.  This is a very good thing!

You see I got into a habit of eating when my husband wanted to eat. And his eating time was driving more by time of day rather than actual hunger.  So, I’m eating when I’m hungry, and ONLY when hungry.

I’m sure the hunger will kick in during my food prep time. If so, then I’ll eat a larger dinner than expected. That should help carry me into my 24-hour fast tomorrow.

Dot’s New Macros
I used Keto Gains’ Macro Calculator for my macros. I added the fiber information as I’m incorporating elements of Dr. Ted Naiman’s P:E Diet into my keto lifestyle. Fiber is one of these elements. For now, I’m tracking net carbs. That means I’ll eat vegetables high in fiber to keep me at the 20g net carb mark.

Calories (kCal): 1,661
Protein: 168g
Fat: 101g
Net Carbs: 20g
Fiber: 30g

I’m planning a post on the P:E Diet this week.

Updated Dot2Trot’s Menu Page
I removed my old menus from the site. Having gone through them, I noticed a few of the carb counts are out of date. Yes, the nutrition content of food changes thanks to adjustments in farming and the food manufacturing process.

Foods are routinely tested to determine if the nutritional information is accurate.  Those changes are reported using the US Department of Agriculture FoodData Central database, and updates to food labels.

So remember: Periodically check the labels of your favorite foods!


Swollen, Tender Ankle After Walk

Quick update on my 1st walk.  A few hours after my post went live, my right ankle swelled, and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I treated it by following RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation — and by evening my ankle was fine. While I anticipated some discomfort after my walk, I didn’t expect my right leg — the good leg — to have the problem.

This morning, after a few minutes of ankle circles, the foot feels great. I’m about to embark on my Day 2 walk after some stretching. And yes, I’m including ankle and calf stretches.  Rather than just going about my regular routine after my walk, I’m going to take 5 minutes for some cool down stretches.

I’ll monitor the ankle to see if the swelling starts again. My guess is changes to my gait are at work. I’ve certainly had to rely more heavily on my right leg than my left for nearly 3 years. That certainly will take a toll.

Fingers crossed for a smoother post-walk day. Oh, and if you don’t know what ankle circles are, here’s a brief video.

 


On The Road Again – My First Walk In Months

I started the Mayo Clinic’s 12-week walking routine today. Sure it was 15 minutes, but it ended my 10 months as a couch potato. Sweet!  I’m following the routine to ease back into walking. I know from experience injuries happen when you go from zero to 60.

The routine is simple. The first week consists of a daily 15 minute walk: 5 minute warm up, 5 minute power walk, 5 minute cooldown. Every week you add 2 minutes to the power walk portion until week 7. From there on, it switches between 2 and 3 minute increases. At the end of 12 weeks, I’ll be walking for 40 minutes.

Before my walk, I stretched for 15 minutes to loosen my hip flexor, hamstring, glutes, calf, and lower back muscles. Walking on level ground doesn’t bother me. But my home is at the top of an incline and any direction I pick, it’s uphill on the way back home. And unstable hips don’t like going uphill.

There was a chill in the air, but I didn’t mind. It felt great to be outside despite the overcast sky. I did have a gear issue. At 32 degrees, I had to wear my big puffy coat, making the walk hotter than necessary. Because the chilly, wet weather is here until April, I may pick up a cheap, light jacket. I plan on being successful, which means I won’t be able to use it in the fall. No need to invest serious dollars into clothes I can only wear for a few months.

All right, enough of the jibber jabber. What’s my baseline to measure my January walks by?

Dot’s Walking Stats*
Time: 15 Minutes
Steps: 1,773
Distance: 0.62 miles
Avg. Pace: 24.22 minutes/mile
Calories: 102
*Data from Runkeeper app and a 3D TriSport pedometer to track my walk.

The good news is, other than some muscle tightening, the walk was pain free.  The stretching pre-walk was a good move. My ankles felt a little tight at the start but loosened up about a minute into the warm up. I just need to add in some ankle rolls to my stretching routine. My lower back started tightening midway through the power walking section. I paused my walk and did a standing lower back stretch, which hit the spot and let me continue my walk.

However, my tight ankles and back muscles clearly altered my stride. One mile is 2,000 steps. I walked 1,773 steps, which is slightly more than 3/4 of a mile. My Runkeeper app showed I’d walked a little less than 2/3 of a mile.  That means my tight ankles and back muscles forced me to take shorter strides, resulting in 300+ additional steps for a shorter distance.

Bottom line: my core is too weak. A lot of my weight gain is in my midsection, and my core isn’t strong enough to handle it. Core work and dropping 5% of my body fat will fix my back problem. Working on my core and continuing my hip routine should help improve my stride.

When I look at the numbers, my desire is to try to beat the 24 minute mile. But that’d be a bad move. My best bet is to focus on distance first, time second. Speed will come as my body gets used to movement again. And speed means nothing if it’s physically hard to walk more than a mile. When it comes to getting back in shape, I’m the tortoise not the hare.

I have to admit that during my walk I didn’t really focus on my tightening back muscles or how hard walking up a slight incline felt. Only one thought dominated the walk: When can I start training for a 5k?

The hare wants to run free!


Upgrading My Fasting Routine

A great book for those of you interested in learning about the benefits of and ins and outs of fasting.

I never really stopped intermittent fasting. I’ve done IF for the last 7 years. I settled into an 8-hour eating window and 16 hours of fasting. The problem is that over the last few years the hubby and I just did a lot of damage in that 8-hour window. Although I’m still trying to figure out which direction to take my diet – low carb, keto, carnivore or P:E – I’ve decided I want to push myself on the fasting front.

After a morning binge of Dr. Jason Fung videos, I dusted off the good doctor’s The Complete Guide to Fasting.  I have to say: I love the grids of his fasting protocols. Visually, it’s a great way to show what a 24-, 36- or 42-hour fasting routine looks like.

This week I’m starting the 24-hour fasting protocol. I’m still doing the 16 fasting and 8 hour eating window, but every other day I’m only eating dinner. Today is a fasting day. That means my last meal was last night’s dinner, which I finished eating at 7:00 p.m. My first meal today will start at 7:00 p.m. – 24 hours later.

The only thing I’m allowing myself is water, herbal tea, and one coffee with 1 tbsp. of cream during my fasting hours. Now, I know that some of you are asking: How can you have cream on a fast? Good question! And I have two answers for you.

First, I’m following Jason Fung’s liquid guidelines. That cream is adding so little to my total caloric intake – 50g – it’s too little to matter. Second, my ultimate goal is to eliminate coffee from my diet. I’m drinking one cup a day. That’s down from five cups! I expect to be coffee free within a week or two.

Fasting Isn’t Starvation
There are real benefits if fasting is done right. Clearly, fasting can help with weight loss by helping me get into ketosis. But if I don’t eat right, I’ll stop burning fat.

Fasting is so much more powerful than fat loss. I’m combining fasting with my diet to help boost my energy levels, banish brain fog, reduce inflammation, and improve both leptin and insulin resistance. Once I’ve removed coffee from the diet, fasting will help stimulate autophagy – the body’s process for cleaning out damaged cells and regenerating healthier cells.

I’m finding the 24-hour fast easy to slide into after doing IF for years.  In fact, Jason Fung uses the 36- or 42-hour fasting protocol with his patients for better results. My plan is to move to 36-hour fasting 3 times a week in February before moving to the 42-hour protocol in March.

Of course, life happens. Family get-togethers, dinner with friends, special occasions… Heck, my birthday is this week – on a fasting day no less! Fasting doesn’t mean I become a hermit. I can still enjoy my life. In fact, it makes sense to fast after a feast.

Disclaimer: Fasting isn’t for everyone. There are people who shouldn’t even try fasting, including children, pregnant women and people with eating disorders.  If you are thinking about trying a fast, check in with your doctor first, especially if you are taking any medications. I’m not a doctor and this article is just to let you know what I am trying in regard to my health. It is not medical advice.


Dot’s 2021 Healthy Living Goals

Getting back into shape

My new resistance bands arrived late yesterday. Hello soreness my old friend!

It’s a new year and that means it’s time for resolutions. I’ve come to hate resolutions because I always fail at them. I’d rather set measurable goals so I can actually track my progress. After putting pen to paper, I came up with four measurable goals for a healthier 2021 for myself. Sadly, they are very similar to my goals when I started my little health journey back in 2012.

Over the last 2-½ years I’ve gained about 50 pounds. I lost my focus and fell into a funk. That means I have to drop 100 pounds to get back to my low point. Well … can’t say I don’t love a challenge.

What are my four health goals for 2021?

1. Get Healthy…Again
That doesn’t just mean fat loss. I’m including mental clarity. That means reading more, improving sleep, creating routines, practicing gratefulness, de-stressing, and de-cluttering (mess creates stress!). When I talk about “getting healthy” I mean the full package – mind, body and soul.

2. Build Strength & Stamina
I’m in my 50s. I know the road before me is shorter than the road behind me. I don’t want to spend my golden years in and out of doctor’s offices or hospitals. Building strength and cardio will keep me mobile as well as boosting my overall health and mood. That means a much better quality of life.

I’m still building my routine, but I plan to use a mix of bodyweight and resistance band exercises 2-3 days a week. As for cardio, I’m thinking more tortoise than hare. I’m starting the Mayo Clinic’s 12-week walking routine. I’m easing my hip back into a routine and the last thing I need is an injury.

3. Walk Pain Free
My body has a weight threshold. If I cross it, it lets me know with lower back pain when I walk too much. I need to loose roughly 5% of my body weight – about 15 pounds – for that pain to go away. Fingers crossed that by the end of January, I’ll fall under that threshold.

4. Stay Active
When I started my journey almost 9 years ago, staying active was really difficult for me. I’d left my job. Despite that, I still found myself sitting at a desk working on my computer.  I really needed a mental shift from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one.

That shift came after finding the keto diet and wearing a Fitbit. I went from an average of 2,300 steps in a day to 15,000-20,000 steps. But it wasn’t all power walks, 5k training, and spin classes. Nearly half those steps were from working around the house and running errands. I hated sitting for more than 30 minutes. I was bursting with energy. Sitting down wasn’t going to release that energy.

This last Thanksgiving, I found an old pedometer and gave it a whirl. In December, I averaged 4,000 steps a day. That’s much better than I thought, but it’s still a quarter of what I used to do. Frankly, I know I can do better. By year’s end I want to average 20,000/day.

Those are my four goals. To keep me honest, the plan is for regular postings here on my progress.

And yes, I’m working on new recipes.

What are your goals for a healthier you in 2021?