All I can Do is Smile


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Praise be to strawberries

Back in college, I had a “Do It Yourself Genius Kit,” which was a collection of 4 tiny books (seriously, like 1.5″ wide by 2″ high) with a different random fact on each page. For instance, Napoleon was afraid of cats, and blondes have thicker hair than brunettes. Stuff like that.

You can tell that some of it has stuck with me.

I thought of another fact while I was grocery shopping: lemons have more sugar than strawberries.

Thanks to the age of smart phones, I have determined this is not true! (Napoleon is a maybe, and blondes have more, although not necessarily thicker, hair.)

But! Strawberries are significantly less sugar than “regular” fruit.

You bet your sweet ass I picked up a clam shell of strawberries. I don’t even care that they’re going to taste like nothing since they’re out of season. Also picked up some heavy whipping cream. You see where I’m going with this? A keto-friendly dessert that doesn’t break the carb-bank and keeps my sugar monster at bay.

strawberries

Oh strawberries, I’m going to eat you up so good. Strawberry shortcake! (Without the cake.)

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Keto Life: The First 30 Days

Technically, it’s been 38 days, but who’s counting? Certainly not me. Most definitely not me.

We’ve hit the one-month mark and I’m not dead! Or miserable!

Well, except when we watch the Great British Bake-Off, which is essentially TORTURE, and I want to eat all the things, and I remember how wonderful bread and pastries were….

*deep breath* We should probably stop doing this to ourselves, but the people are the show are just SO FUCKING BRITISH — which is to say, they’re simply lovely, and nice, and say stereotypical British-type things like “I’m dead chuffed,” and “Bollocks,” and “Bang on.”

Note to self: must find new fluffy British show to watch. Any recommendations out there? (Francie, I’m looking at you.)

Moving along, we have hit our first milestone: 30 days. As you well know from my week-by-week updates, there has been a TON of learning that occurred this past month.

Here are the top 3 things I would have told Day 1 me:

  1. Cook the same, but make it low-carb
    If you already eat whole foods, don’t worry so much about following someone else’s meal plans. Take your favorite (and easiest) recipes and make them low-carb. Supplement with keto-friendly recipes as needed.
  2. Remember net carbs are different than total carbs
    Many vegetables I was initially avoiding have far fewer carbohydrates than I thought. Spinach is your friend. So are avocados. Calorie counting apps can only tell you so much, and can sometimes be misleading! (I’m looking at you, FitnessPal.)
  3. Drink enough water. Seriously. Like it’s going out of style.
    I read this advice over and over again, but it wasn’t until I had massive cramping in my calves each morning that I finally understood this to be true. There I go learning the hard way, again. Start drinking water EARLY in the day so you don’t have to cram it all in at bedtime and then have to get up to pee every 3 hours, all night.

Do I still want to shove my face into anything sugary or dough-like? Yes, but less than I used to. The sugar monster who lives inside of me has quieted a bit. The desire to just chuck this whole thing out the window, and consume an entire box of oreos with milk and a side of pudding (because go big or go home, right?) has lessened. So that’s something.

Onward, ho!


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Keto Life: Week 3 (and then some)

Let’s start with some administrative items: November’s blood work & oncologist call occurred without incident. All blood marker levels are within in the normal range — my CA-125 was slightly elevated, but my HE-4 was down a significant amount. (No, I cannot thank the diet for that yet since the tests were done about 4 days after starting keto.) I’ll do another round of blood tests and a CT at the beginning of January.


Last week & weekend, I traveled up to Northern California for my BFF’s birthday. Any fears about staying keto-friendly while I was up there were quickly abated by her texts and emails — with food questions & answers, as well as menus for the restaurants at which we’d be eating.

Sidebar: SHOUT OUT TO YOU, HILARY. YOU FUCKING ROCK SO HARD.

Despite the preparations made, it was still hard, and I fell out of ketosis while I was there. I made simple “mistakes” that messed with my net carb intake — namely, a cappucino (damn you again, milk) and too many nuts as snacks.

I laugh because I thought to myself, “I’ve SO got this.” #smug

I have SO NOT got this.

*shrug*

It’s becoming annoyingly clear that measuring and tracking everything I eat is going to be required longer than 2 weeks. (COME ON. I just want this to be EASY. But yeah, we’ve already talked about the easy way and the right way, right?) Even more annoyingly, I’ve recently realized my food tracker does not differentiate between total carbs and net carbs.

Sidebar: Total Carbohydrate – Dietary Fiber = Net Carb

This is a big miss by MyFitnessPal, because I’m limiting my net carbs, not my total carbs. For instance, 78g of carrot has 7g total carbs, but 2g of those are fiber, so REALLY, I’m getting 5g of net carbs. Two grams makes a big difference when all you’ve got to work with each day is 25.

#accuracyfail

I’ll be exploring other options. (UGH.) Since I already meal plan, I’m thinking I may just create my own tracking system with the nutrients figured out after I grocery shop. This will also allow me to pre-portion everything, and make grabbing food quick and easy — both for myself (my phone reminder to eat is helpful, but it’s not going to make the food for me) and Kenji (who leaves most mornings at 5:30am and doesn’t have time to portion out from larger dishes). (Plus, he makes the coffee each morning and that’s WAAAAY more important than feeding himself.)

Speaking of quick and easy, I found a keto-friendly meal delivery service! (Seriously, where would we be without the internet?!) Our first 6 meals arrive today, and I’m hoping this will help in overall preparations. It’s not inexpensive, so we’ve committed to not eating out as long as we’re getting them.

The experiment continues, as does the search for information and advice. I’m working on a separate post with the science behind this for those of you who are interested. And apologies to friends in person who have to hear me talk about this ALL. THE. TIME. It’s (obviously) one of the main things on my mind right now.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Eat some pumpkin pie, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes for me. Gobble, gobble.


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Keto Life: Week Two

New week, new lessons learned.

The 2nd week of this experiment has gone far better than Week 1. Probably because I don’t have to withdraw from sugar again. And probably because it’s not as new and scary as it was the first week.

In any case, keeping it simple has paid off in dividends and I’d like to report some GOOD things after last week’s complaints.

  1. Mental clarity
    I’m finding that my concentration is better. It’s hard to describe, but there’s a noticeable difference in my ability to think clearly, ponder, and generally stay alert.
  2. All the energy
    This is a complete 180 from Week 1. Last week, I was dragging ass. This week, I’m kicking it. I haven’t started serious exercise yet, so that energy expenditure remains to be determined, but in general life tasks, I can just go, go, go!

Which leads me to this week’s (and last week’s) problem. I’m struggling with calorie intake. I find that I’m rarely hungry — or rather, that the feeling of hunger has changed. Because there’s so little sugar in my diet, I’m not experiencing the post-meal “crashes” that would accompany my day.

Sidebar: Let’s talk about sugar for a moment. It’s in everything. And I’m not talking about added sugar (which is a whole separate topic). It’s obvious that in sweeter foods (bananas, pineapple, apples, etc.) natural sugars exist. Did you know that sugars exist in carrots, avocados, cinnamon and even spinach? I certainly didn’t.

To combat a calorie deficit, I’ve relied on technology. I’m tracking my calories & macros with MyFitnessPal. I’ve also set a friendly reminder that pops up every 2 hours to remind me to eat, whether or not I want to. That’s been mostly helpful, but I’m realizing quickly that I need to have keto-friendly snacks on hand. It’s not enough to just grab a handful of nuts (because carbs). And I can only eat so many eggs in a single day. (And I fucking love eggs.)

I’m having to change my entire relationship with food. It has be to be less about something I get to enjoy, and more about fuel for my body.

When I (mostly) cut processed sugar out of my diet a year ago, I recognized I was using sweets as a “reward” — something that I’ve worked hard to change. Instead of food rewards, I started using pedicures, massages, and new books. Which worked. Mostly.

Really, though, why do I feel the need to reward my perceived behavior? Why do I need to figuratively pat myself on the back? I think I know the answer. This is hard work. LIFE is hard work. The reward is a reminder that what I’m doing matters. The real reward though, is a healthy body and mind. Why can’t that be enough? Another thing to bring up with my therapist, it would seem.

**sigh**

As you can tell, there’s been a lot of “Why the hell am I doing this?!” My brain is pissed off that I’m changing the neural pathways it is used to. That’s really the hardest work: rewiring my automatic settings and being conscious about the choices I’m making. IT. IS. FUCKING. EXHAUSTING. Because this seeps into everything, not just my food choices. It’s about how I react to situations, it’s about how I work, it’s about how I exercise, it’s about every. damn. thing.

Life is hard work.


This week’s favorite recipes:
Scrambled Eggs (Gordon Ramsay’s way)
Cheese crisps

Cream Cheese Waffles (my own recipe)
Makes 6 waffles
10 oz. cream cheese
5 eggs
1/4 c almond flour
2 TB cinnamon

Blend all ingredients and pour into waffle maker. Do NOT close the waffle maker lid. Let the egg mixture cook for about 30 seconds, and then slowly lower the lid, keeping it from closing all the way until the steam from the mixture subsides. (If you close the lid right away, you will get overflow. The idea is to let the heat of the waffle maker steam the eggs into a more solid form before you let the lid rest downwards). Cook through 2 waffle maker cycles and you’ll get a deliciously crisp outcome. Can be refrigerated or frozen and reheated in a toaster oven.
Macros per serving: 6.1g cards; 26g fat; 10.6g protein


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Keto Life: Week One

“I hate everything and everyone.” – Me, Day 3 (and 4, and 5)

The week started out ROUGH. No amount of reading can prepare you for the things you’ll actually feel. I realize now the warnings of “keto flu” did not do justice to the true feelings. The fatigue, anger, and mild depression that accompanies a sugar withdrawal, in no uncertain terms, SUCKS ASS.

So much ass sucking.

Still, this is a choice, something that I keep reminding myself. It’s also an experiment, but one that will take time to see the full benefit for, so suck it up buttercup, we’re in for the long haul.

“The right thing and the easy thing are never the same.”

– Kami Garcia

I met with a Kaiser dietician on Friday who nearly threw a wrench into this whole thing. As she put it, “I’m not going to dissuade you from this diet, but you’re pretty much doing the opposite of what we would recommend.”

Typically, the recommendation for after-cancer nutrition would be a plant-based diet (read: vegan) with foods that reduce the inflammatory response in the body. Meat and dairy, which can be highly processed, can cause inflammatory responses.

All that being said, she acknowledged where I’m coming from, and my motivation behind trying this. And so, she gave me guidance on what I can do to make this as healthy as possible.

  1. Eat whole, minimally processed foods.
    This seems obvious on face value, but that means ALL food items. Bacon? Yeah, highly processed. Deli meats — um, no. Even cheese and milk all go through some type of processing. The good news is free-range, grass-fed cows produce higher quality meat, milk, and cheese (imagine that) and the inflammatory issues associated with eating these items is reduced (it’s an omega-6/omega-3 ratio thing that I can explain another time).
  2. Diversify your fats
    At first I thought, “All the coconut oil on all the things! Give me pounds of butter!” Turns out, coconut oil (and butter) is super high in saturated fat. So, a mixture of monounsaturated fats is on the docket (ex. olive and peanut oils). Oh yes, and all the avocados I can hope for. (Though, this past week, they all ripened at the same time. #firstworldproblems)
    An interesting note, adding coconut oil (I use 1TB in a standard coffee mug) makes your coffee taste SO GOOD. There’s an added element of richness. Pair that with some heavy cream… happy mornings, let me tell you.

    A slight rebuttal to the notion of eating a diet that doesn’t have a lot of fat and cholesterol — the science supporting that idea is flawed. So, do with that what you will.

  3. Speaking of fats, modified keto is the recommendation
    Because I lack that fat-busting gall bladder, the dietician recommended against doing the full ketogenic diet (80% fat). GI distress is practically guaranteed, and we already know how much I like not being able to poop.
  4. As read on Reddit:“You better love water more than Michael Phelps himself if you plan to last longer than a fuckin’ week on Keto.” – BCrosby, 2012

    60-80oz of water a day is my goal.

To keep track of how this is affecting my body in other ways (cholesterol, kidney function, hemoglobin, etc.) I’m getting baseline labwork that’s usually part of my regular physical (which I haven’t had for… er… 7 years. Whoops.). I’m also working to not lose any weight.

Ultimately, this is an experiment. While the (definitive) science is still out, I only need this to work for me. My sample size of 1 will be okay if the results are positive.

Week one is in the books. There were lots of lessons learned, and overall, I’m feeling better than I did a week ago.

New recipes we liked:
Cream Cheese Pancakes
Chili Spaghetti Squash Casserole


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Tales from the front lines: keto prep day

Fuck. Me.

This is going to be so so much harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean, I knew it would be hard, but this is next level hard. Planning the shopping list took multiple hours across multiple days. Shopping itself took 3x longer than it usually does (and cost twice as much); and prep… well, let’s just say that even with Olivia’s help, I’ve admitted defeat for the day and will continue to prep items through the week.

I know things will get easier as we progress. (They have to, right? Right?)

It’s hysterically ironic that in my effort to release control, I’ve taken on a diet that requires precision to a point of obsessive. I brought a scale with me to the grocery store, for crying out loud. Am I replacing lack of control in one area of my life with another I can control? I suppose that’s the point (control what I can); but the verdict is out on how sustainable this will be. I’ll sidebar that for my therapist.

cheese

45 ounces of cheese.

Some things I’ve already learned:

  • Conversions are a pain in the ass. And I completely messed mine up this week. (I’m returning 3 heads of extra lettuce from an already obscene amount of greens, AND I didn’t even buy as much as I was supposed to, because I kept thinking to myself, “That’s a lot of lettuce.”)

    So you don’t make my mistake, when converting cups to ounces, make sure you use the dry measurement. Because it’s half what the liquid equivalent would be. (Dry = 4oz; wet = 8oz.) You’re welcome.

    spinach

    SO much spinach. This isn’t even all of it. I am an idiot.

  • I don’t trust other people’s plans. I hoped following someone else’s meal plans would remove a bulk of the work, and if I followed blindly, that might be true, but I’m married to Kenji, so that means I need to have facts and figures, and rock-solid data. During my lettuce fiasco, I figured out the macros listed in the recipe didn’t match my tracker (MyFitnessPal), which now has me second guessing everything else on the menu.

So… Fuck it, I’ll make it work this week and reevalute for week 2. This is a process, and not one that I’ll be “good at” right away. There’s going to be a learning curve as we navigate this new reality.

UGH. SO much spinach. Sonofabitch.


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Things & Stuff: October Edition

And with one thing and another, October is nearly over.

This past month felt more like *real* life than any other since chemo stopped. It’s almost as though I can pretend that nothing at all happened and life has always been this way, right?

Riiiiiiiight.

My work on mind, body and spirit continues! I joined a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge at the beginning of the month, and though I was sick twice (Damn you, immune system! Will you get with the program already?!), I have completed 15 days. This is FAR more than I’ve ever done in this span of time, so I’m already counting it a win. And the fact that I count it as a win, makes me count that as a win, because frankly, a year ago, I would have beaten myself up for not doing all 30 days. Or, when I had to miss 5 days in a row the first time I was sick, would have just quit altogether, telling myself that it wasn’t worth it if it wasn’t perfect.

Fuck perfection.

It’s an impossible standard. Something I am finally understanding.

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I am a recovering perfectionist.

This weekend dawns a new era. One where bacon rules and bread is non-existent. That’s right! Keto life begins on Sunday. Well, actually Monday since we’re grocery shopping & meal prepping on Sunday. I’ve been doing a ridiculous amount of research in preparation for this moment. Except, I completely forgot to order the blood tests, so I’ve put the ever-industrious Kenji on that task. (See, look at me go, releasing control.) It only takes 24 hours to get into ketosis, but the note I’m seeing often is that the first month basically blows. I keep hearing about the “keto flu” — so it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I’m meeting with a dietician next week, who I’m hoping will be a guide in this process.

Interested at all about what I’ve found? You can view my folder of goodies here. Yes, there are spreadsheets. What’s annoyingly necessary in all of this is a strict documentation of what you’re putting in your body. It’s all about the macros. *sung to It’s all about that bass*

I’ll be honest. We’ve been indulging these past two weeks as we prepare to say farewell to bread and fruit. Pizza, pita, sourdough toast…. I’ll miss you friends. I’ll try to post regularly on how it all goes!

Work continues to be great and every day brings something different. My little card business side hustle got some great exposure at the Bike MS Bay to Bay Tour last weekend. Everything continues to be groovy.

Happy Halloween to those celebrating! I’m going to be a sleepy person — and by that, I mean, I’m not getting out of my PJs on Tuesday. #workfromhomelife

XOXO