“Yesterday was not a good day.” “I cheated.” “I was bad.” “I completely blew it.” “Back to square one” “I don’t think Keto works for me.” “I just have no wil power.” These are some of the many things we say when our diet goes wrong. But not this time.
As you know if you’ve been following me, I’ve been on the Ketogenic diet and the weight and my fasting blood sugar have been dropping fast. Until yesterday. Yesterday I had my first major binge since I started keto. That’s what I want to talk about here.
Note: In most of my posts I try to be objective and I do a great deal of research. This is not one of those posts. This is an opinion piece. It is based entirely on my life experience and my own thoughts.
So what happened?
Food wise the day started out normally, 3 boiled eggs for breakfast. I wasn’t very hungry at lunch time. I had an avocado and half a lime. Then came dinner.
The plan was to make a big pot of keto chili, one of my favorites, and then separate it into individual servings to freeze for other meals, like I usually do. A serving heated in the microwave and poured over riced cauliflower, makes a delicious easy meal, no cooking, very little cleanup. That was the plan, anyway.
The chili turned out great. I had outdone myself. (The secret is in the cumin, but I digress.) I decided I’d skip the cauliflower and have a double portion of chili. I didn’t measure “double,” I just eyeballed it. I finished the bowl. I had another. I knew I was in trouble. I turned off the chili pot. To say “this meal is over” I decided to have dessert. I’m not a sweets guy. My dessert is usually nuts, or cheese or maybe some berries. I had a spoonful of Hazel Nut butter. Then I finished off the jar. Then I finished off the chili. I crawled to my bed and passed out.
In the cold light of dawn
After a fitful night’s sleep, being up several times to take antacids, I finally gave up trying to sleep and got out of bed, bilious and demoralized. But I think I have learned a thing it two. Rather than waste my time on pointless regret or damaging self-recrimination. I decided to assess the damage objectively, without emotion. I wrote down everything I ate yesterday and looked it all up.
I think we can all agree, that’s ’s an awful lot of food. Way more than a person needs. The macros are skewed as well. Protein was a higher percentage than fat. I also discovered that my fasting blood sugar went up to 127, the highest it’s been in weeks. I don’t know if I was in ketosis before this binge, I’m pretty sure I was out of it after.
I’m glad I did this little exercise, I’m even a little cheered up, because to tell you the truth, I was expecting it to be much worse. Yeah, it’s bad, but not irredeemable. I didn’t destroy 3 months of keto in one night. I can recover from this incident rather quickly. Anyway, that’s what happened. Now, why?
A Deadly Disease or a Deadly Sin
Gluttony is one of The Seven Deadly Sins. In art It is usually depicted as a very fat man. Like me. Sloth is another member of this sinful septet.
Sometimes depicted as a fat man, Sloth is always depicted as a man who just sits around all day. Like me. So traditionally, obesity was viewed a moral defect.
I know, historians will point to the nudes of Rubens and claim that fat was once considered beautiful. That’s not really true. Ruben’s women are not really fat. They are just heavier than is considered normal in this modern dysmorphic era where the paradigm for beauty is an anorexic teenager. Most women today probably look more like the women in Runen’s Paintings. And we tell them they are too fat to be beautiful. (I’m digressing again, aren’t l.)
Where was I? Oh yes, traditionally my obesity was a sin, deserving of damnation. Dante puts us in the third circle of Hell where we are forced to eat putrid mud and then be devoured ourselves by Cerberus, a voracious three headed dog. This view pervaded, functionally and metaphorically, if not literally, well into the 20fh Century. Obesity was a character flaw.
But in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries a new model emerged, the disease model. Studies of hypothyroidism, and one of its major symptoms, weight gain, suggested to some researchers that there was a hormonal element to obesity. But hypothyroidism sufferers made up such a small percentage of the obese population, that hormonal causation was abandoned in favor of the newly emerging science of psychology.
Obesity became a psychological ailment, an obsessive behavior, a maladaptive coping mechanism. The obese were no longer evil sinners or people of weak character. Now the obese were mentally ill. I can accept that overeating is a maladaptive coping mechanism, I guess. Know I overeat when I’m stressed out or depressed. The thing is, I also sometimes overeat when things are going well.
Then the shrinks added a new layer to their theory. Not only was I overeating in response to stress, but subconsciously, I actually wanted to be fat. To build a wall against the world. To keep myself safe. To avoid intimacy, etc, etc. For too many years I bought into this psychobabble. After a lot of self-examination I have come to realize that this theory is nonsense. There is absolutely no part of me that wants to be fat.
What I want, what every dieter wants, is to overeat and not gain weight from it. We want to keep doing the same thing and have a different result. Some have called that the definition of insanity. I think it’s more about denial and acceptance. Lots of otherwise sane people feel that way about one behavior or another, but with overeaters the result is visible and obvious.
The Diet-Heart Hypothesis
Then in The 1950’s, along came Ancel Keys. Keys launched a study which intended to show a correlation between heart disease and both saturated fat consumption and what he called the Body mass index( the percentage of your body weight that is made up of fat). The study showed a correlation between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. Remember, this is a conclusion based only on correlation, not a proven causal link. The BMI results were inconclusive.
But despite these tenuous findings, Keys implied, though he hadn’t proven, a causal link between saturated fat and heart disease. Saturated fat, he theorized, increases your intake of cholesterol which is the real cause of heart disease. The Diet-Heart Hypothesis was born. Heart disease was caused by what you ate.
The medical profession, nutritionists, the food industry (who funded Keys work), government policymakers (who also funded Key’s work) and eventually the public at large, bought into the Diet-Heart Hypothesis whole hog ( you should pardon the expression.) Keys made the cover of time magazine. Soon his theories were treated, not as the suppositions, which they were, but as established scientific fact, which they were not. Even the BMI results, which had proved inconclusive, were embraced.
A further step down the garden path.
In a gross oversimplification of Keys’ “findings,” the medical and nutrition professions combined to come up with a theory of their own. Cardio Vascular Disease was caused by 3 things: dietary fat, dietary cholesterol, and body fat. Starting in the early 1960’s, the Low Fat-Low Calorie Diet was introduced. And eggs, which were high in cholesterol, became poison.
So, doctors, dietitians, the FDA, and the food industry (especially the food industry) began to promote the low fat-low calorie diet as the only healthy option. And it seemed to been working. After peaking in the late 50’s, the rate of heart diease began to steadily decline. The lo-fat-lo-cal crowd felt vindicated. The fact that the rate of decline exactly matched the rate of decline of smoking in the general population was ignored.
Two other correlations were also ignored. The rise in the adoption of the low fat, low calorie lifestyle, matched almost exactly, the national rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes.
We come full circle
While my results may be extreme, they are by no means atypical. Studies have shown that of “successful” dieters, as much as 97% gain it all back and then some. So, since the current dieting model has a 97% failure rate, doctors and nutritionists have abandoned it, right? Wrong.
A few intrepid souls have started questioning the accepted dogma, but most are treated with censure and derision by their peers. Fortunes have been made and careers built on this flawed paradigm. Many healthcare professionals, nutritionists, the food industry, big pharma, personal trainers, diet gurus, government and private sector policymakers are not going to let some upstart Copernicus rearrange their universe. They have too much to lose.
So, why do otherwise intelligent professionals, continue to adhere to this failed model. By what twisted logic do they rationalize what amounts to belief system? This is fascinating. The diet succeeds, they proclaim. It’s the patient who fails. Patients lack the will power, the motivation, the fortitude to continue. If the dieter abandons everything they have been taught and returns to their old habits, then the patient is to blame.
So, we have come full circle. The patient is defective. The patient is weak. The patient is lazy. The patient is a Sinner. Better keep a lookout for that three headed dog.
So what happened yesterday? Here is what I believe. After a lifetime of following bad advice, alternately starving and bingeing has become a deeply ingrained habit. The brain tends to follow the path it knows best. . In me, that bingeing pathway has been worn into a deep rut. Building new neural pathways takes work and it takes time. And that deep familiar rut is always there for the taking.
I used to take that path every day. On Keto, I have taken it once in 90 days. I could regret it. I could wish it hadn’t happened , but it did and I can’t change that. So I put it behind me, I climb out of the rut and continue on my new path.
Author’s note: The binge was on Thursday. This blog was composed late Friday night on the clarity and energy of hour 26 of what turned out to be a 30-hour fast. The fast wasn’t penance or an attempt at remediation. I simply had no appetite. That brings me to another thing I forgot to mention. During this whole incident, even deep into the obsessive eating, I was never really hungry, just behaving compulsively and not really feeling anything at all.
Anyway, that wasThursday. I’m publishing this on Monday night. Everything is going fine. Keto works.