Lessons from Keto

As most of you know, I’ve been following a Keto diet since February. The results have been amazing.

Now, to reach my next goals, I am needing to change the carb balance going forward. I need to optimize for performance, and the carb balance and calorie deficit I have used to get to this point are not sustainable going forward. But I have learned a few things from the time on keto that I can pass on to help others:

1. Once you clear your system of sugar, the cravings stop. I eat less than half of what I used to, quantity wise. I no longer like buffets, for instance, because I can fill up for less than half of what the buffet provides. It’s just not a good value. And I seriously NEVER feel hungry.

2. Sugar plays a bigger role in other issues than is generally recognized. I used to mock my own absent mindedness. At times it was severe. And the issues go back to childhood.

As I have become educated on my own health and healing, though, I am researching the role that blood sugar plays in memory. It is entirely possible that the effects of high sugar levels in my bloodstream impacted me decades before I was diagnosed with diabetes. As an antipoverty advocate, I have to wonder if many issues of poverty are tied to our sugar intake. It, of course, ties to obesity, but I am certain there are other factors as well.

3. Keto may be temporary, but the nutritional lessons are for life. I have become a label scrutinizer. If I cannot see what is in it, I don’t want to eat it.

It almost saddens me to leave the keto diet behind. The results have been dramatic: over 40 pounds weight loss (around 15%); A1c from 11.1 to 5.7 in 3 months’ time, fasting blood sugars from the 200s to consistently under 100, systolic average blood pressure drop of over 40 points, diastolic drop of over 20, cholesterol now under 200, triglycerides under 150. But I have little doubt the lessons I have learned will continue to impact me going forward.

Moving Forward

I’ve put enough time in that I’ve stopped expecting people to motivate me. The only options are those who do it for profit, and I don’t have the budget for that.

One of the mistakes we make in life is that we make our failures private, and our successes public. I think we need a little less of both. Because, see, I lived a lot of my life believing I was the only one who felt the way I did, who had the same insecurities and failings.

The trick, I believe, is in HOW we talk about it. We can discuss our failures without, as a recently departed friend put it, “wallerin’ in yer slop”. They can and should be discussed in a way that keeps us moving forward.

One of my favorite kids’ movies is “Meet the Robinsons”. “Keep moving forward” was, apparently, Walt Disney’s mantra, and it is the theme of the movie. And it’s something we forget, and lose focus on too often.

Yesterday I had high blood pressure (138/107). That is out of character as of late, and it’s discouraging. But I had to think that less than 6 months ago, that was normal. I brought my walk time under 46 minutes today, running 0.75 miles out of the nearly 3 mile route, but I have to remember that only 2 months ago, I was struggling with running 3/10 of a mile over a 2 mile route. So it’s all relative.

So, even in moving forward, it is useful to look back, to remember what you’ve achieved. But it’s not helpful, or useful, to stay there.

I’m looking forward to the road ahead. But the last few months have told me it wont be easy.

Some Days are Harder Than Others

Today, I really, REALLY didn’t want to get up at 5:45. I definitely didn’t want to walk. But, like all things, I’ve made enough progress that I really needed to get out and do it.

After yesterday’s attempt at time, I decided today the goal would be just to get it under 10 minutes per lap. And running, as always, my requisite 6/10 mile.

I do a warmup lap, and a cool down lap, and run the 1st and 3rd 1/10 mile segmeants of laps 2,3, and 4. Because I start at the coffeeshop, which is at the middle of the walking trail, the 3rd 10th comes up first. It is decidedly the easiest. The 1st 10th becomes increasingly troublesome, and I’m not sure if it is because I need more calories, or need to adjust my breathing or what. But I am dragging myself across by the final tenth.

So, as I am increasing difficulty, I’ve added a new twist: on the 3rd tenth, on the final lap, I run it as far as I can. Because I am already gassed, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The goal is to make it past the next marker, and I have been able to do that the 2 times I have continued it so far. I am encouraging myself, though, to run as far past it as I can, and today made it about 100 or so feet further than yesterday.

So all told that means I am running 7/10 mile and some change. That’s a long way from my goal of 1/2 marathon this fall, but it is incrementally closer.

And it’s those increments that will ultimately get me there.

The Hardest Mile

I intended to write yesterday. Butt, the best laid plans…

Anyway, on Tuesday, I was most of the way through work when I experienced a sudden, sharp pain in my shoulder. Because of my diabetes, because of my high blood pressure, I was taking no chances, as the pain was radiating down my arm.

It turned out to be a false alarm, but I did discover my blood sugar was a little low. I knew that day was coming, and am hoping for the time when I get to cut back my medications, or get off them entirely.

As a result, I gave myself an unplanned off day yesterday. Today, though, back at it.

I am trying to post my morning exercise routine of about 3 miles under 45 minutes. I know I can do it in a 5k setting, as you push yourself harder in a competitive environment. But could I do it in training?

I have been struggling towards the end of my routine with one of the running legs. I run the same 1/10th mile sections of laps 2,3, and 4 (lap 1 is warmup; I now run the first running leg of lap 5). I am changing up my eating routine and carefully reintroducing carbs (although I am putting refined sugars/refined flours on my “forever no no” list!). I have been hydrating during the walk/run, and today brought a protein bar with me, because I am not out of breath, only out of energy when I run it.

So I watched each lap. My splits were close, but not good enough (but something I ccan adjust going forward). I entered the final lap needing to finish in 7:20, so I knew I was going to have to run to even have a chance. I ran the first running leg as far as I could, about 150-200 feet past the 1/10 mile marker. And I determined if i had a chance at 45 minutes, I was going to run the final stretch.

As I was about 2/10 mile out, it became clear I could not make it. I figured, oh well, there is always next time. But I stopped and thought about my daughter’s running days, about how I always taught her to finish strong.

And so I ran across the finish. Now you must know my running gait somewhat resembles that of a wounded rhino. But I get credit for it nonetheless. I finished, running. With a time that represents my personal best on that trail, but not by enough to claim bragging rights.

But I WILL claim bragging rights for finishing strong. And for putting in 3/4 mile running today. Those I can claim.

Will I do it again tomorrow? No; you don’t race every day. But I will in about a week or so, because it really is the best way to measure progress. For now, though, going to soak and prepare for a regular routine tomorrow.

Beginning Phase 2

I have been a bit sidetracked over the past two weeks, as the tornado and its aftermath forced us out of our routine for awhile. I still kept up the exercise routine; in fact I already ramped it up slightly, as the walk from the hotel to the river was just under 3 miles, and, well, I never much enjoyed walking without there being a point to it.

I tried cycling out to the river and then walking, but that is an option better suited to when I have been at this a while longer. As I discovered, you use different muscles in cycling vs. walking/running, and my body was quick to remind me it isn’t yet ready for the transition.

So, coming back, I adjusted my walk in the park. I added a warmup lap and a cool down lap, bringing the total distance (according to Map My Walk’s app) 3.16 miles. Very close to 5k distance.

I benchmarked my time today, and it was just over 47 minutes. I’m still running 0.6 miles of the distance, but it is the slowest, ugliest run one could imagine. Still, it is running.

So I’ve decided it is time to transition. I’ve proven I can manage my blood pressure and blood sugar. My cholesterol and triglycerides have been heading in the right direction. I am finding on my morning routine, though, that while I am capable of running even more distance, I am gassed out by the final tenth off a mile. So I am reintroducing carbohydrates accordingly (and staying off of refined sugar.

I suppose I’m far enough into this to tell you that the goal is a half marathon in the fall. I do not just want to be conditioned for it, though; I want my initial time to be under 3 hours. That’s very doable; the concern is building up the stamina to maintain a slightly faster pace than my current pace for 13.1 miles.

Surprisingly (considering the years they have carried a heavier weight), my knees are holding up well. My back is, as expected, seeing bouts of pain that are likely attributed to carrying the weight differently (I have an old injury in my upper back.

While I am not, at 255 pounds, as trim as I hope to be, I am definitely at a weight where I can start exploring other possibilities. Harry Chapin once mused, “I guess our dreams have come and gone, you’re s’posed to dream when you are young”.

I’m out to disprove that!

An Hour and a Half From a Place Called Hope, Pt. 1

“Hey, I have some drippings from the meatloaf to take home”, the waitress told the gentleman, an older local who sat at the table next to me and with whom I had been engaged in conversation. I’ve learned over time that when going into a new community, when you find a local establishment, ask the locals what they prefer. They will never steer you wrong.

The city is Malvern, Arkansas, and the place is Keeney’s Food Market, a new inductee into the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame. It is off the beaten path, located in a mostly residential area, and the cafe sits in the back of the market. “unassuming” would be an apt description.

A very large part of my life has been spent exploring places that other folks tend to overlook. I guess, being overlooked myself, I’ve always felt a special affinity. And every community has color and character, Malvern being no different.

When I was a starry eyed youngster (the first time — I’m still working on the second, as you know), I remember a young Presidential candidate by the name of William Jefferson Clinton telling us, “I still believe in a place called Hope”, referencing Hope, Arkansas, a community near where he grew up. And, being the geeky sort I am, I duly noted that if one were to continue on down the road that brought us here another hour and a half, one would, indeed, find themselves smack dab in the center of a place called Hope.

It’s a fitting metaphor for this small, beautiful community on the banks of the Ouachita River. In my expressions with locals, they have expressed disappointment as they have seen plants close, buildings abandoned, and, as with so many other rural communities these days, their youth so often lost to addiction and crime. and yet, to speak with them, there is still an enthusiasm, an optimism, and an encouragement that hope is, indeed, not so far away.

I spoke with the owner of Miller Drug Store, who allowed me into his back room and the old soda fountain equipment, and he told me of his daughter, who is inheriting the role of being the fifth generation of pharmacists in his family, in this community of 10,000. I saw the forms where the pills would normally be packaged, and sealed with a hot iron before they were sent out to the nursing homes. And I saw the old strip mall, and a bank whose window almost mournfully proclaimed: “Sorry, we are closed”.

A discussion with the Chamber director told me about a gentleman who has since passed, whose friendship with Billy Bob Thornton secured him a bit part in the movie “Sling Blade”, and a few small parts in Hollywood through his friend “Bob” (Duvall), who frequently checked in on him.

Initially, I was going to write a single piece about this small community, a half an hour away from Hot Springs. But a single article cannot do it justice. So, while this article lacks pictures, I have pictures a plenty, and as soon as I can get my phone and computer to agree, I’m happy to share. I invite you to enjoy this experience with me as I share about this community just an hour and a half from a place called Hope.


Malvern, Arkansas

So, for work I am about a week in to a 2 week sojourn in Malvern, Arkansas, a small community less than an hour outside of Little Rock. As the floodwaters rise back in Fort Smith, I’ve looked around this community and seen a devastation that continues to grow.

In many ways, it’s the typical story of the heartland: factories close one by one, and the drugs move in. The hotels are up on the Interstate, the shining false front that the tourists see. It was only by accident, by taking the first exit, rather than the second, that I was able to come across the reality that is Malvern for many of the residents.

I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that every step, every breath, is for a purpose, and it is my sincere hope that my time in this small community can somehow turn into a blessing for the people who live here. Yes, there are needs back in Fort Smith, but there are eyes there, too. We will be fine. There are no eyes in Malvern, and the tourists who come here to book a cheaper rate for proximity to Hot Springs will never venture beyond the false fronts.

I will post up pictures later, but for now, a day off gives me time to try to connect with the community and see what I can do.