TWIR #97: Snow + Schnitzel + Stiffness, oh my!

In many ways, this week has felt all over the place. There was a long weekend, a road trip, a strange week at work, further attempts to run, and further SI stiffness as a result of said running attempt.  And on top of all that, I ate so, so many carbs throughout the week. In other words, I am a creature of habit and as soon as I deviate from my routines, I have no idea what’s happening in my life.  Enough rambling.  Let’s see what the week looked like.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: minimal walking, maxium carb-age
Observations:  Road triiiiiip!!! I spent most of the day on my ass, eating donuts (okay, that sounded like I ate multiple donuts, when I promise that I only ate one) and sausage and schnitzel. But we did walk for maybe, like, 2 km so that obviously balanced out the sitting and eating, right?  I know, I know. It doesn’t. The worst part is that our favourite schnitzel place was closed and the place I chose as a backup sucked, which means that I ingested thousands of schnitzel calories that weren’t even worth it. Schnitzel fail.

Activity: mini hike
Relevant Stats: 9.2 km, elevation gain unknown (but very moderate)
Observations:  I cannot say this was my favourite hike. We definitely either ended up on the wrong trail or the trail descriptions were wrong about the distance (quite likely since three sources showed three vastly different distances). Either way, we never found the ridge and encountered a river of mud and melting snow for what felt like a solid kilometer, all of which made me grouchy. However, the day was redeemed with the following: outstanding Mexican dinner, mucho craft beer tastings + fudge from a roadside fudge shop.

Activity: semi planned rest day
Relevant Stats: so much car sitting + border waiting
Observations:  This felt like the world’s longest day thanks to some serious border lines. It shouldn’t have been a surprise as it was a long weekend. When we left the cabin, I was fine with not stopping to hike on Stevens Pass, but by the end of the day I wished we had because sitting for six hours straight is not good. Also, I ate way too many carbs, breaking the cardinal rule that just because you slip a little bit in one day, doesn’t mean you have to spiral into excessive carb consumption.  You win some, you lose some.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: OMG, 5:25 a.m. felt so very, very early. And then my trainer did so many activities that involved me holding a squat position, or that required coordination (of which I have none). It was the kind of training session that made me feel both weak and like a lumbering oaf.  On top of that, I felt a bit stiff from Sunday’s hike, not because it was strenous but because I was careless walking on crappy snow and mud and jolted my body a couple of times. That’s what I get for hiking grouchy.

Activity: running intervals + core work
Relevant Stats: 45 min (8 x 2-3 minute running intervals)
Observations: I cannot explain how excited I was to do running intervals, if for no other reason than to break up the monotony of strength training.  I was still a bit stiff so I took it slower than usual on the old treadmill, but pushed it a bit harder for at least one minute of each running interval. I found mixing running with core work meant my legs had more energy for the running intervals, so that was a win too.  Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

Activity: strength training (core and glutes)
Relevant Stats: 45 min.
Observations: Alas, of course I was stiff from running intervals. I took it a bit easy and focused on very controlled core and glute work, and felt pretty good by the end of the workout. I celebrated with some fantastic aburi sushi at one of my favourite destinations, and tried not to think about the fact that it was probably the last time I’d eat there for a very, very long time…or the fact that I was ingesting more mid-week carbs…

Activity: strength training (legs and arms)
Relevant Stats: 43 min.
Observations: I know, what’s up with the 43 minute workout right? After a few sets of heavy prowler pushes, the first I’ve done on my own in a long time, I was just done. I no longer feel the need to ride out a workout just to a ensure it’s a certain length. When the old body says ‘that’s enough’,sometimes you just have to call it a day.

And just like that, the weekend is here. We have snow in the forecast (!!!!), which I wanted to be excited about, and yet I fear will never actually make it into the city. This is the one downfall of moving from the suburbs back into the city. We never get the snow. Alas, snow or no snow there shall be some golf watching, some wine drinking, and maybe even another attempted run. Happy weekend y’all.

I’d also appreciate all of you doing a snow dance for me.



Training Tuesdays: being at peace with your version of fit

This weekend, I went on a 9.2 km return winter hike.  It’s the longest hike I’ve been on in what feels like forever (but in reality has been about 1.5 years). On the car ride back from our weekend getaway, my friends were talking about how I used to not consider anything below 20 km as a ‘real hike’.  Oh how the tides of turned. But it got me thinking about the importance of being at peace with how you define fitness for yourself right now, not how others define it, and not even necessarily how you might have defined it for yourself in the past.

You may have heard the expression comparison is the thief of joy.  When we compare ourselves to others or to our past self, we are essentially telling ourselves that wherever we are right now is not good enough.  We all have that friend or colleague who runs marathons. We all know that person who swears that Crossfit is the be all and end all.  We all probably even know that person who, like I used to, tries to hide their eye roll when you talk about the 2 km hike you went on this weekend because that’s obviously not a ‘real’ hike.

For every activity that you do, there will always be someone who does it better, faster, longer, or harder.  Even the marathoner has to contend with those pesky ultra marathoners (she says as someone whose whole blog was brought about by signing up for an ultra marathon…).  It’s far too easy to feel as though you’re not doing enough with your fitness.  It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable with sticking to small hikes, barely ever running, and even the small things like having to avoid burpees, mountain climbers and split squat jumps because they aggravate my injury. Will it be this way forever? Maybe not. Or maybe it will be.  It doesn’t really matter because right now this is my fitness reality.

Does that make being at peace with my current fitness easy? Not at all. I still struggle at times to be okay with my current fitness. I spot people at the gym doing all the things I used to do, see runners bounding past me like gazelles, read a trail description for a 40 km hike and at least half the time my initial reaction is “ugh, I used to be able to do that”. If I hear people talk about their half marathon or marathon training, I sometimes have to bite my tongue to keep myself from pointing out that I’ve run a damn marathon too.  This is despite being stronger than I’ve ever been, despite having built muscle, and despite (mostly) having kept my injury in check for the last 1.5 years.  I still have moments where I let myself feel down about not being ‘as fit’ as I used to be or as I perceive others to be.

Here’s what I’m learning, though: I don’t need to justify that I can barely run 5 km these days. I don’t need to justify that I choose not to hike 30+ km every Saturday and Sunday. I certainly don’t need to beat myself up because jumping split squats throw my SI out of whack.  I am the fit that’s right for my injury to heal. I am fit for being able to lead the type of life I want to lead. I am fit enough to allow myself donuts every Saturday (don’t underestimate the importance of this in my world) without fearing I will swell to unnatural sizes.

What’s my point to all this? Find a way to be at peace with whatever your version of fit is, whether it’s walking a half hour as often as you can, taking a spin class a few times a week, lifting weights in your basement, or even running an ultra marathon. If it’s what feels right to you and your body, and it allows you to live the type of life you want, let all those comparisons you’re making slide right off your back. Your version of fit is good enough.

TWIR #96: ahhhh, life with a chronic injury

You go for one run and your body’s like “okay, I’ll teach you what you should already know: you have to ease into running, you dolt!!!!”  This perfectly sums up my week. After the joyous occasion of a legitimate (short) run, I spent the rest of the week cautiously working out in fear that my SI was not faring so well. Moral of the story: as ridiculous as it sounds to start with a 2 or 3 km run, it’s probably a wiser choice.

Still, the week wasn’t a total write off workout wise, so let’s see what I got up to.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: declined both a donut and Dairy Queen
Observations:  I sometimes wonder who I am becoming when I say no to both a donut and Dairy Queen in the same day, my only day of the week on which sugar consumption is a free for all.  Don’t get me wrong, I still ate sugar. I’m just shocked at turning down two of my faves.  In other news, we fit in some good walking, some beer flights, and a homemade pizza night. In other words, Saturday got a thumbs up in my books.

Activity: run!!!!!!
Relevant Stats: 5.7 km run/40 min.
Observations: This run is a true testament to how much I loathe driving to the gym on weekends. When the alternative is a painful (not injury painful, but painful nonetheless) and painfully slow run, you know you really needed to spice up your workout routine. I was proud of this run. I felt accomplished. I was slow as molasses and, perhaps for the first time in my life, I avoided feeling utterly defeated despite being slow as molasses.  That’s growth.  But I gotta say, between the run and additional walking (another 4 or 5 km), my legs were done like dinner.

Activity: light strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: Not wanting to push it too much after a running day, I kept things pretty light and pretty basic with Monday’s workout. I focused on controlled movements and reduced my weights.  My SI was feeling okay, so I was optimistic that all would be fine and perhaps running no longer had a vendetta against me.

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations:  Ugh. Just when you think your injury has maybe taken a back seat at long last,  you wake up stiff and tender. I suppose this is why they call them chronic injuries. As my trainer pointed out, it’s also ludicrous that I tried to go from running interval laps at the track to a 5+ km run in one fell swoop. Evidently, 5 km is not a small start.  I’d like to say lesson learned, but it’s probably not.  At any rate, she took it easy on me in some respects but not in others. For instance, she added weight to prowler chest presses  as if she knew I’d made comments on my blog about the fact that they were getting easy.  The worst moment, however, was when she subjected me to the horror of watching my form on film. There is nothing like seeing yourself in video to make you feel as though you are making no progress with how good your body looks.

Activity: strength training (focus on arms)
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: I tried, I really did, but I had nothing in the tank for this one. It could’ve been that it was my second early morning workout in a row, and that I’ve gotten too used to my cushy mid-morning workouts.  Who knows? All I know is that I tried to focus on my arms to give my stiff SI a break, and they had nothing to give me. Push ups were a disaster. Presses were wretched. It all just felt off.

Activity: strength training (focus on controlled stability movements)
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations:  Thursday’s workout could be summed up with the following words: still stiff, still no desire to work out. I cobbled together a decent workout, still being ultra cautious so as to protect my tender SI.  I have to tell you, though, that I was pretty frustrated by the fact that my SI wasn’t feeling 100% better even four days after a relatively short run. It’s one of the things that is most difficult to deal with chronic injuries. You just can’t count on your body to bounce back as quickly as you want it to, and you can’t always predict how it will respond to things.

Activity: strength + treadmill running intervals
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: See? You really can’t predict things. After four days of SI stiffness, today my SI felt 100% absolutely fine. To stave off boredom at the gym, I decided to go crazy and do some slower running intervals. I kept the pace way low for my sets, and stopped after 7 sets because I was starting to get some stiffness around my tailbone, but other than that it felt fine. However, I also know that tomorrow will be the true test.

Speaking of tomorrow, we are off to Leavenworth for an annual trip that involves giant pretzels, schnitzel, spaetzle, beer and Bavarian-themed village fun. Oh, and road donuts…which are nothing more than donuts eaten while on the road.  In other words, I’m outta here for a weekend of fun and indulgence, along with some snowy outdoor adventures for good measure. Happy weekend y’all.


Training Tuesdays: what are you committed to?

Bear with me: this is a bit of a long one.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what gets in the way of achieving fitness goals, even when they’re incredibly important to us. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple issue to unpack.

I don’t talk a lot about my work in this space, and when I do I tend to be complaining. This isn’t really fair to my work as there are parts of it I’m supremely passionate about, like the concept of commitment or, more accurately, competing commitments.  What fascinates me about human behavior is that we can have goals that are really and genuinely important to us, yet still fail to make progress towards those goals because we act in subtle (and not so subtle) ways that work against us.  In my work, I am looking at this paradox of human behavior through the lens of leadership, but it’s equally applicable to fitness goals.

How many of us have set out to improve our health at some point, to exercise more, eat less, get in better shape, run a marathon, the list truly goes on and on?  Research shows that most of us suck at achieving our goals and resolutions, with studies showing success rates ranging from 8-40%. Those are strikingly poor numbers.  It’s easy to simply assume that the reason we fail with these goals is because they really don’t matter to us and, following with that logic, if the goals mattered more we’d be more successful.  Well, as it turns out, that’s not actually the way that our brains are wired. We can be firmly committed to a goal and still find ourselves making zero progress towards it.  Enter: the competing commitment.

I have been consistently committed to my fitness for the last 12 years or so, but prior to that I struggled with sticking to fitness routines. I’d start then stop like it was my job. Was my health important to me? Absolutely and without question. So what was the problem?  At the time, I had no idea. But as I’ve spent time delving into the world of human behavior, I’ve been able to shed light on this question.  I share this in hopes that if you’re struggling with making progress towards fitness goals, this might help you too.

The Quick & Dirty

Here’s the thing: humans are protectionist little creatures. We are hard-wired to resist change and avoid perceived risk–and note the use of the word ‘perceived’ because in the case of assessing risk, perception is reality. The odds are stacked against us to make progress when our actions might ignite the little threat centers in our brains.

What does this have to do with fitness goals?  For some of us, the reason we’re not making progress is because, in some way, the thought of taking action towards our health is perceived as a risk to our sense of self or our way of seeing the world.  When that happens, we suddenly find ourselves committed to minimizing that risk. Unfortunately, in order to minimize the risk, we sabotage any and all efforts to achieve our initial fitness goal.  In other words, we are committed to our health goal but we are also equally committed to reducing any risk or threat to our way of seeing our self and the world. When two competing commitments collide, the end result is that things come to a grinding halt and we make no progress towards our goal.

Digging Deeper

I’m sure some of you are thinking ‘okay, how could I possibly see getting fit as a threat?’ I hear you. It sounds ridiculous.  I invite you to walk yourself through this bit of a process.  I’d like you to consider the last health or fitness related goal that you had (or maybe have) for which you’re not making progress.

With that goal in mind, ask yourself what are you doing, or perhaps not doing, that is working against the goal? For me, when I’ve failed to stay on the fitness track in that past, my list included things like: telling myself I’d work out tomorrow instead of today, choosing TV or plans with friends over my workout, hitting snooze so many times that I’d run out of time to workout before work, “forgetting” my workout clothes at home, trying to run fast and frustrating myself instead of starting slow and building up.  And those are just a few of the ways I was getting in my own way.  When answering this question, it’s important to list actions or inactions without judging them.  They are neither good nor bad. They simply reflect what you’ve done or not done.

Here’s where things get interesting. My natural reaction in the past would’ve been to assume I could just do the opposite of whatever I’d listed and my problems would be solved. Just stop hitting that damn snooze button and fitness will be mine! Sadly, when we focus on the actions themselves, we miss the underlying beliefs that are the real source of our action and inaction.

Instead, try this: for everything you’ve listed in your list of things you are doing or not doing, contemplate having to do the opposite. When you think about having to do the opposite, what worries does that raise for you? If I’m honest with myself, the thought of working out made me worry that I’d look foolish, that people would judge me for being unfit, that it would feel hard and uncomfortable, that I would lose out on time with my friends.  These aren’t pretty to look at, nor should they be. Our worries and anxieties are rarely pretty, but they give us powerful insight into what’s really going on under the surface.

We have to ask ourselves: if these are my worries, what am I committed to?  If we look at my worries, I was committed to never looking foolish, I was committed to avoiding discomfort. I was committed to being seen only as capable and skilled.  So what’s the problem with that? Well, unfortunately getting fit was going to require me to be uncomfortable at times. My muscles would have to hurt. I’d have to struggle to build up cardiovascular fitness. I’d potentially look foolish trying out new exercise moves and not being able to master them first time around.  My competing commitments were working against my health goals and keeping me in a steady state of being unfit.

Our work doesn’t stop here, though, because our hidden commitments are the manifestation of underlying assumptions and beliefs. The question becomes, for my competing commitments to be true, what must I believe to be true about myself or the world around me?  In my case, I believed that people pay attention to and judge those that are trying to get fit; I believed that getting fit should be easier for me; I believed I would struggle to rebound if I embarrassed myself in the process of getting fit. Were these beliefs true? Of course not, or at least not in all cases. That’s the thing with our beliefs, though. They don’t have to be true for us to believe them at a very deep level, and to let them dictate our behaviour.

Once we start to see the underlying beliefs that are holding us back from our goals, we’re in a much better place to start to question those beliefs with small and safe-enough actions (i.e. actions that are a bit of a stretch but not so much of a stretch that they sent us into amygdala hijack).

What’s the point of all this?

If you’ve got a health or fitness goal that’s really important to you, but you’re not making the progress you want to make. Perhaps you feel frustrated or stuck and like you just can’t ‘make yourself’ do what you know you should be doing, work your way through these questions. Challenge yourself to really dig deep, to pay attention to your feelings. If you do this, you’ll notice when you’ve hit on a belief that’s been really powerful in holding you back.

Is this going to get you on track with your health goals in one fell swoop? Not at all, but it might give you a different perspective on how to make progress. So, really, what are you committed to?

**Full Disclosure: The concepts discussed in this post are from the Immunity to Change model created by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. I’m an Immunity to Change facilitator and use this model extensively in my work and coaching.  It’s based on sound research by smarter people than I, so if you don’t believe me, check out their work.







Monday Musings: what I learned on my first 5k run in 5 months

I ran yesterday. For the first time in at least five months. And I ran 5 km. Well, actually, I ran 5.7 km thankyouverymuch. Actually, it’s more accurate to say I ran 6-7 minutes at a time sprinkled with some walking breaks because apparently you’re not supposed to go from not running at all to running 5 km, especially when you’re injury prone, which I think we can all agree that I am. But I am starting to digress.

I came out of that run feeling the most positive about a run that I’ve felt in a long time, which I assure you is not my usual state. I’m usually one to be highly self-critical, to beat myself up about how far I have to go, how much slower and less fit I am now than I used to be.  To be sure, those thoughts crossed my mind throughout my run.  In fact, a running tally of my thoughts would have looked something like this:

Okay, here we go. We are doing this. Yes we are.  Oh my god, have I really only run two blocks? This is not a good sign. Okay, wait, this downhill stretch is kind of nice. I got this.  No wait, I was wrong, this ever-so-slight incline sucks. I don’t got this. Just slow your roll. This is your first run in months. There’s no hurry. You’re not going to win any races. Ah crap, other runners, I better pick up my pace so I don’t look completely incapable. How did I used to run these hills like they were nothing? This is the shortest hill ever and I am dying. I think that man is walking faster than I am running.  I think I could walk faster than I am running. Thank god that hill is over. Back to a reasonable incline and pace. Yeah, yeah I really do got this.  Another hill. WTF. Okay, okay, this is starting to feel okay. This is so much harder than it used to be. I am so slow now. You haven’t run in 5 months. What do you expect? It should feel hard. You know what, it’s not bad that it feels hard. This feels great. I am running again, people. Running. This is awesome. I wanted to do this today and I am doing it. Breathe in. Breathe out.  Keep moving. I forgot what this feels like. I did it. I am awesome. 

See? There’s a whole lotta negative in there. But if you’ll notice, and you will because I’m about to point out, I ended with positive thoughts.  This is the part that’s atypical for me.  I’m proud to say that I’ve been working with my coach on letting go.   What I mean by letting go is noticing all the pesky little unhelpful thoughts that go flitting through my head constantly, and proverbially letting them go in one ear and out the other.  I’m still a major (major) work in progress in this area, but I noticed on my run that once I let go of the thoughts about how much faster, fitter, and better I should be at running, suddenly the run was great. I finished feeling accomplished rather than discouraged. I want to try to run again (after suitable recovery days and making sure my SI doesn’t act up).  I felt good.

It’s hard to get into something, or get back into something, after time away, whether it’s running, working out in some other way, eating better, writing more, the list really does go on and on. What I learned from this run is that I am capable of letting go of all the negative chatter that makes me feel worse about a situation rather than better.  I can run 5.7 km in 40 minutes and feel good about it even though I know that I used to run 8 km in the same amount of time, even though every other runner out there was going faster than me, even though I had to work in walking breaks.  Instead, I can focus on the fact that I did it. I kept going.

If you’re trying to tackle new challenges in your life or recommit to old behaviors that you’ve let slide, I challenge you to pay attention to the critical, negative chatter inside your own head and see when and where it may be causing you to feel badly about your progress instead of celebrating your efforts.  If you’re putting one foot in front of the other, literally or metaphorically, you don’t have time for that chatter. Let it go.

TWIR #95: some days are better than others

Well if that post title isn’t stating the obvious, I don’t know what is. It seemed fitting for this week, though. This week my energy ebbed and flowed, my body tried to decide if it had a cold or not, and my head tried to decide whether it wanted to kick this bizarre headache or keep it around just for shits and giggles. As a result, my workouts were all over the place. Here goes nothing:

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: never ending rain trumps motivation
Observations:  It is cliche to complain about rain in Vancouver. It comes with the territory when you live here. But seriously, it has rained every single day but one this month. That is too much and sometimes it causes me to lose my will to leave the house.  I didn’t even get out for a walk and I am embarrassed to admit my step count for the day, and therefore I will not.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats:  potential immune system meltdown trumps motivation
Observations: I spent most of the day certain I was fighting off a wicked cold. My head wasn’t right. I was exhausted. I felt like one of my nostrils was on the verge of clogging up. My throat was scratchy. On the upside, I successfully left the house–not to do anything active, mind you–but it was progress over Saturday, and you can’t take that away from me.

Activity: strength straining (attempt)
Relevant Stats: 20 min.
Observations:  Several weeks ago, I had this strange (read: annoying as all hell) headache. It wasn’t a migraine. It wasn’t a tension headache. It was this headache that got progressively worse throughout the day, and which made me feel as though my brain was bouncing around inside my skull with every step. In other words, it sucked. Well, it came back on Monday and haunted me during my brief attempt at a workout. Not only that, but my massive gym, the one that I love with all my heart, the one where I rarely have issues with equipment, it let me down. There were no benches. None. Just people hovering around benches, which I presume they were using at some point but certainly didn’t seem to be using as I walked by repeatedly giving them stink eye. I’m still not over it, as you can tell.  Between the headache and the why-are-there-no-god-damn-benches drama, I had a short and terrible workout.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I must have been in a slightly better headspace because there were still no benches available (?!?)  but I managed to stick it out for a decent workout.  Guilt over Monday’s pathetic workout plus feeling like my belly had gotten decidedly more jiggly over the last week were to thank for this workout. I also felt like maybe, just maybe I’d dodged my looming cold, but the glee over that was overshadowed by my headache’s continued presence.

Activity: track workout
Relevant Stats: 35 min./8 lap intervals + strength intervals + run home
Observations:  I thought perhaps my cold was back on Wednesday, but despite this I opted for a track workout. In my experience, running when you’re not sure if you have a cold is either the best or worst idea ever. It’s the best idea if it turns out not to be a real cold, and the worst idea if it turns out to actually be a cold. Only time would tell. The workout was rough as I haven’t run on the track in a while–damn you treadmills for making running feel easy–but I persevered. Huzzah!

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations:  When I woke up I was certain my cold was turning into the dreaded flu. I felt tired and sapped of energy.  My trainer took considerable pity on me. I know this because she let me do split lunges without weights, and that minor concession felt as good to me as that time my parents surprised us at Christmas by telling us we were going to Disneyland.  Not to create the impression my trainer is too nice, she also integrated a new hated activity: backward plank walks into a low squat. I can’t explain it any better than that, but what you really need to know is that it sucked and left my quads burning. By mid-day, I was convinced that my cold was not in fact a cold, but then by 9 o’clock at night I knew I was wrong. Seriously, I feel like this on-again-off-again cold was in the midst of an existential crisis. It needed to decide if it would stay or go.

Activity: light strength training
Relevant Stats: 35 min.
Observations: Well, there is no doubt now that the cold has made up its mind: it’s here. I had to make the tough call: to work out or not to work out? I’m always the most conflicted when I don’t feel like a total bag of crap. When I feel awful it’s easy to turn down a workout, but when I’m just sort of tired and have a few symptoms I feel like I’m really just being lazy. In the end,  I went with a somewhat shorter, definitely lighter workout and now feel as though if I hermit inside to hide from the rain and my cold tomorrow, somehow it is ever so slightly more acceptable.

I am ready for a weekend of being lazy, blasting this cold out of my system with epic amounts of oil of oregano and ungodly dosages of vitamin C (laugh if you want, I swear it works), and hopefully still finding my way to a donut even though sugar is super unhelpful for the old immune system. Sigh. Hope your weekends involve less phlegm and congestion than mine may. Happy weekend y’all…also, sorry for kicking off your weekend by talking about phlegm.

Real Talk Thursday: the low carb experiment part II

I’ve been following a loose ketogenic approach since early November.  That’s 2.5 months of mostly avoiding carbs and sugars. Saturdays are my exception to this rule, but so was Christmas…and there has definitely been wine on the odd Thursday…and I think once there was even a Wednesday donut.  So when I say I’ve been ‘loosely’ following a keto lifestyle, I’m not exaggerating. I’m not counting my macros, not testing for ketones, and don’t feel an ounce of remorse for integrating a weekly cheat day. Life is short, y’all.

Here’s the thing, though, I totally understand that the keto diet does not really work this way. Going off and on it, having ‘cheat days’, treating wine like it’s not really a carb, that’s going to throw the old body of ketosis.  I went into this experiment knowing full well I wasn’t going to live and breathe the full-on keto experience.  Regardless, I wanted to see what drastically lowering my carbs and sugar and drastically increasing my fat intake might do for me on a number of fronts:  curbing my insane sweet tooth, exponentially increasing my energy, and mellowing out my somewhat erratic emotions.  I knew so many (i.e. four) people who had experienced revelatory transformations in their minds and bodies. I wanted so badly to experience the same.

So what’s my experience been? I’ve organized my thoughts on semi-keto life around my three primary goals: killing my sweet tooth, stabilizing my mood, and increasing my energy.  Let’s get to it!

Sweet Tooth 
This is where I’ve noticed the biggest difference. I’ve gone off sugar many a time in my life, and I’ve always been plagued with epic cravings for sugar in the early days (and sometimes beyond the early days). With ketogenic eating, sugar cravings even during the first few days were minimal to non-existent.

You’re probably thinking that it seems like I’m still really into sugar. Based on what I’ve written on this blog, you likely assume my cheat days are a headfirst spiral into manic sugar consumption.  The reality is that my cheat days aren’t actually that bad, and really I just have a flair for the dramatic.  I can honestly say that I don’t crave sugar the same way I used to. Even worse, it’s with great sadness that I admit that my sweets just don’t taste as good to me anymore. Seriously, saying that almost breaks my heart. I realize it’s contradictory to want to curb your sweet tooth and then to lament the loss of it, but such is the human paradox.

To add insult to injury, 95% of the time I don’t even miss carbs.  Not having oats for breakfast, or a side of potatoes, or even pasta dinner doesn’t really bother me all that much.  I don’t even miss pizza. What is the world coming to?

Mood Stability
I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m less prone to emotional reactions, and then sometimes I see something on TV that anyone else would find benign  and I find myself welling up with tears.  I don’t think that we are the best judge of our own emotional stability, no matter how self aware we think we might be. I’m certain those around me would have a better read on this.

But since it’s my blog, I’ll share my own perspective anyway, which is that I I’m not feeling as irritable as usual and I’m not struggling as much to cope with, you know, basic life circumstances that shouldn’t be upsetting.  But then again, if you saw me driving during rush hour you certainly wouldn’t think my coping mechanisms are doing all that well, so…The big measure for me is that I haven’t cried at work in months. Never you mind how low a benchmark that is.

This has been my biggest disappointment. Normally, when I cut out sugar I feel 100 times more alert, awake and high-energy. This time around: no dice. I still feel tired and sluggish, to the point where I’m fairly convinced that my current energy levels have nothing to do with my diet and everything to do with my work situation. My only energy peak was three or four days before Christmas, when I felt what I can only describe as euphoric. This energy boost also coincided with actually being busy at work for once, though, so you do the math.

My workouts are also hit and miss. I expected to tap into an amazing wealth of energy for my workouts. The friends who sold me on keto living bragged at length about the seemingly limitless energy they had for workouts. I now consider them liars. Some days I feel great whereas other days I feel weak and lazy, which is really how I felt before upending my diet.  Since this was really the big driver for me, it leads me to believe that keto living may not be my jam. Likely, cutting sugar and refined starches alone would’ve had just as much impact.  I know I just said I don’t miss carbs but maybe some oatmeal wouldn’t be all that bad…

Bonus Commentary
There’s one elephant in the room that I haven’t addressed in my keto posts: weight loss. Most of the people I talk to are doing keto to drop pounds, and often with great results.  Though it definitely wasn’t my primary motivator, I’ll admit that weight-loss-as-a-fringe-benefit was appealing.  My reality is that I haven’t lost much weight at all (if any). My own thoughts on this are that I probably eat more than I need to on the keto diet because I’m not counting macros and, thus, worry that I’m not getting enough fats.  I’m also fairly certain that cheat days really throw a wrench in ketosis, and thus ketosis-associated weight loss. I’m certainly no nutritionist, but I can’t imagine my system understands what’s happening when I eat clean for six days then load it up with donuts and wine and chocolate. My best guess is that it’s shouting WTF at the top of its metaphorical lungs.

There you have it, one more perspective on ketogenic living to add to the growing list of perspectives because, let’s face it, ketogenic diets are everywhere these days. Will I continue? I don’t know. I suspect that my body doesn’t actually hate carbs as much as some do, and that my workouts are more consistent when I do consume them, but I am not ready to throw in the towel quite yet. In other words, stay tuned.