Since I now have a target weight and start radiation treatments in the next 30 days, and feel it’s time to do some tweaking to my diet. I’m still eating LCHF, but I’ve decided that once my body is in ketosis, I need to consistently stay there for a while. So basically I’m moving to a ketogenic diet.
We’re still in the early stages of studying the impact of ketogenic diets on cancer, but the results are very encouraging. Eating a diet that’s high in fat, a bit restricted in protein, and very low in carbs switches the body from running on glucose to ketones. Cancer thrives on glucose, but it can’t live on ketones. In fact, some studies have shown it to shrink tumors.
Of course, those studies were done on mice or terminally ill cancer patients using a ketogenic diet that’s around 90% fat, 7% protein and 3% carbs. I’m not doing that. I’m shooting for 75% fat, 22% protein, 3% carbs. Considering my diet is now 65%-70% fat, it seems doable.
Ketones, Insulin and Calories…Oh My!
I’m making a few tweaks in my diet. But changes are also coming to what I track.
Typically I’ve only tracked my carbs. But now I’m toying with tracking my ketone and insulin levels, as well as (dare I say) calories. Since I want to get into ketosis consistently I need to track the level of ketones I’m putting out. Also, when you eat LCHF, you tend to think only carbs are important. But as Jason Fung notes in The Obesity Code, all foods raise insulin levels. And my metabolic disorder (including my obesity and cancer) is a direct result of my insulin resistance.
So I’m in the market for reliable, low cost DYI ketone and insulin trackers. The hunt begins!
As for calories, I know I’ve said the idea of calories in, calories out is stupid. Our bodies are far too complex for something that simplistic. And I still believe that. When I weighed 325 pounds, counting calories made no sense. Eating foods low in carbs, high in fat and moderate in protein was far more important. I didn’t have to count calories because the foods I ate kept me satiated for longer periods so I didn’t have to eat every few hours. The quantity of food dropped without thinking about calories or points while the quality greatly improved my metabolic system.
But now that I’m 19 pounds away from my ideal body weight, calories do come into play. During my quest to get healthy, I’ve found that my body constantly adapted to the amount of food I was eating. It is easy to loose sight of the fact that as you lose weight, your body’s needs change. When I weighed 250, I didn’t eat like I was still 325. Yet, looking at my food diary, I’m still eating like I weigh 200 pounds even though I weigh 185. I’ve done that for over a year and got the same result – 185 lbs. What got me to my current weight isn’t going to get me to my ideal weight.
By moving to a ketogenic diet, the quantity of food is about to change.
Net Carbs Vs. Total Carbs
There’s a debate that occasionally flares up in the low carb community – total vs. net carbs. Net carbs simply means you subtract the total fiber content from the total amount of carbs. So if 1 cup of raw spinach has 1.1g carbs and 0.7g fiber the net carbs you would count is 0.4g (1.1 – 0.7 = 0.4). The idea being that fiber isn’t digestible.
Now, the knock on only counting net carbs is that you are “sneaking” in more food than you should. In other words, you are cheating on your diet. On the flip side, counting total carbs ignores the benefits of fiber. By counting total carbs you are limiting the amount of healthy greens in your diet, thereby reducing the amount of fiber you need, or so the argument goes.
But in reality I think it depends on how carb tolerant a person is. If my body could handle carbs better than it does now, I would eat more vegetables and fruit. There isn’t a right or wrong way when it comes to net vs. total carbs. It’s all about what an individual can handle. Period.
For the last 4 years, I’ve consistently counted net carbs. Today that changes. I’m now tracking total carbs, which means less vegetables, berries and dairy. Rather than aiming for 20g of net carbs every day, I’m targeting under 20g of total carbs.
Carbs are to glucose as fats are to ketones. Bottom line is that some fiber is absorbed by the body as glucose. If I want to shed 19 pounds of fat and starve any lingering cancer cells, then I need to reduce my carbs.
There’s a great podcast where Dr. Eric Westman addresses the Total vs. Net Carb debate.
LCHF is NOT a high protein diet. However, there are lots of different opinions on what constitutes a “moderate” protein diet. A ketogenic diet is also “moderate” in protein, and yet it is more restrictive of protein levels than LCHF diets. That’s because excess protein is turned into glucose by the liver.
Drs. Volek and Phinney, in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living, recommends a range of 0.7-0.9 grams per pound reference weight (my ideal weight). With an ideal body weight of 166 pounds, my protein range is 116g-149g a day. That puts me at about 5 ounces a day, a far cry from my 4-6 ounces per meal.
Considering my oncologist isn’t allowing me to do any exercise, lift anything over 10 pounds, and keep all activity to a bare minimum, cutting back shouldn’t be that difficult (ha!). I just have to be smarter at spreading it out during the day.
Of course once I’m cleared to start weight lifting that amount will go up. Building muscle is key for my recovery and health going forward.
Now that I have an idea of what I’m shooting for, it’s time to take a look at how I can get way more healthy fats into my diet. That means eating more fish (especially salmon, my nemesis), MCT oil, and more monosaturated fats like avocados, olives, and macadamia nuts. While I’m expecting my saturated fat level to go down a bit with the cut in protein, I will make up for it by cooking with lard, tallow, duck fat, butter, and ghee.
Consuming more healthy fats means I need to revisit fat bombs! I’ve made them before and like the idea, but I do worry how much nutrition I’m really getting. Fat bombs are calorically dense and serve as a substitute for a meal. I’ll need to noodle on this one a bit.
I’m setting a few things aside for a while. Sadly, I’m worried that by giving up these items, I may never enjoy them again. After all, once I lose those 19 pounds of fat and kick cancer’s sorry ass, I can’t go back to eating like I do now — not if I want to stay healthy.
- Coffee! Yes I know it is healthy, but I need to reduce my dairy and I tend to like coffee with my cream.
- Wine! This is a biggie for me but my health comes first. Just too many sugars and carbs. Also, I just don’t like the fact that I love wine as much as I do. I’m not giving it up forever, but a much-needed break is desirable.
- Dairy! I’m not giving up totally on dairy, but I am greatly restricting it. For the last 2 weeks of August all creams and cheeses are off limits. I plan to slowly re-introduce dairy to get an idea of my tolerance level. If it kicks me out of ketosis, I know my limit.
- Fruit! This is a toughie. I do love fruit, but it is clear it doesn’t love me back. I had hoped to add some fruit back into my diet once I hit my goal weight. That dream is now smashed to bits. Fruits keep me out of ketosis. Fruits jack up my insulin level. Fruits feed cancer. So my beloved berries are gone. Sigh…
I hope that time away from these items will help provide some perspective. Can I never have coffee, wine, or fruit again? Sure I can. But I need to think of them as special treats. Not something I do every day or even weekly.