Two years ago, my sister Keebe and I were packing the car to head home after a week of hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains when I spotted a forked wishing stick in the gravel. My competitive nature flared and I picked it up, challenging her to grab the other side.
Being a fundamentally kind person with a strong moral code, Keebe hesitated. “But what if I win? I’ll feel bad.” To which I - the epitome of a sarcastic little sister - replied “I know, right? I’ll feel bad if you win too.” And it was on.
I’m not sure what she was wishing for, but after a week of low-fat, squeaky clean eating and trudging all over creation, I simply hoped to be able to squeeze back into my medium-fat jeans.
She reluctantly grabbed one side, calling in a flimsy effort, and I prodded her to put her back into it. We were two adults on top of a mountain battling over a stick. And when it cracked, the most unusual thing happened. That stick split right up the middle. I kid you not.
We tied the little miracle branch back together and hung it from her rearview mirror. And it was still there - a gently swaying reminder of luck shared - when she picked me up at the airport two weeks ago for this year’s hiking trip. (I arrived with my CamelBak and my perennial denim-clad skinny wish.)
My sister is an independent bookseller and a voracious reader- all vacations come surrounded by stacks of books. This year’s theme: The Ketogenic Diet. High fat, moderate protein, and low carb. Sounds easy enough, right? (<-- um, no.)
Starting out, this feels more like a food cult, replete with a two week induction period mandating less than 20 carbs a day. Whattttttt? I’m already halfway there with my morning coffee! This diet goes cold coconut: no grains, no beans, no sugar, no root vegetables, no fruit, and no beer or wine. Adieu, Sauvignon Blanc. You will be missed! *covers face*
On the upside: full-fat dairy, eggs, leafy vegetables, berries in moderation, and most nuts are allowed. All manner of fatty fish, fowl, and meats too, but being a vegetarian since high school, this fits into the cold comfort category for me.
But guess what? Booze has zero carbs, so hellllloo, Scotch! *raises glass* I’ve found that a couple of fingers over ice works wonders to muscle over depressive potholes. Like the ones that crater in the aftermath of aimlessly wandering through the grocery aisles, only to realize that you can’t eat 90% of what you see.
So we hiked and ate and read.* (And watched the Tarheels absolutely hand deliver the ACC title over to Notre Dame. Boo!) And whaddayaknow? The ketogenic diet has been used for decades to treat our old friend epilepsy, and is known to improve autistic symptoms. (Mood, anxiety, impulsivity, energy, sleep, cognitive, and gastrointestinal functioning – also helpful for most humans, I wager.) This is both good and bad news for Roman; he is a devoted carbophile, and risking improvement will mean change. He is not a fan.Normalizing and lowering blood sugar, the ketogenic diet flips your alternator, pancreas-punching insulin, and converting your operating system from fat storing to fat burning.** In theory.
So we drank the Kool-Aid, braiding each other’s hair, giving each other henna tattoos, and making yogurt. (<-- I actually did make yogurt, but the rest is untrue. Have you seen the sugar content in Kool-Aid?)
Brass tacks: the high-fat jury is still out on me. I lost 5 pounds last week, although I did also hike 45 mountain miles. So there’s that.
In practice, I’m finding it hard to be vegetarian AND ketogenic at the same time. My luck split up the middle on that one, because Brie demands bread, and there are only so many blocks of lonely cheese one can eat. N’est-ce pas?
Maybe the time has finally come to get my bacon on? It has been thirty years since I’ve had a strip - I was probably rocking Dolphin shorts and a headband at the time.***
Breathe, Kelley. Step away from the bacon ledge. For now, melt another spoonful of coconut oil in your coffee, and queue up some cheese-covered eggs with sour cream and a side of avocado. Then sit down to mastermind the starving out of Roman’s carb supply. Because Lady Luck is running low on Romeo: Carbaggedon is nigh!
* I highly recommend Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog by Grant Petersen for a bare bones, straight talking overview of the ketogenic diet. It reads in a couple of hours. For a more sciencey approach, Keto Clarity by Jimmy Moore is a solid, if somewhat cheesy, read. For fellow bacon-avoiders, The Vegetarian Low-Carb Diet by Rose Elliot is a great recipe collection and how-to guide to the diet in three handy phases: cleanse, ease up, and maintain. I am particularly looking forward to the onset of phase two. :P My sister also gave me a copy of Carb Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson, a collection of recipes that look to be a good match for phase two or three.
** Beware the brain fog as you come off carbs though- mine lasted a couple of days, and was major.
*** Bacon is the gateway meat for vegetarians. Fact.