My Ketogenic Journey

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Who?

Me: aka Mr. Research in Action.

What?

A ketogenic diet is one where you burn fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. You do this by eating high fat, moderate protein, and low carb. This produces ketones in your body which are a superior fuel source and lead to a ton of health benefits.

When?

I began pursuing a ketogenic diet about a year ago.

Where?

I tend to eat one meal a day, usually at home. I have enough knowledge about which foods to eat and and which to avoid that I can usually stay on track when I’m eating out.

Why?

I wanted to think more clearly, have more energy, feel happier, and be healthier all around. All my research on the optimal diet has led me here. Note: I use the word “diet” in terms of a lifestyle switch – not the popular definition which is usually referring to a temporary, unbalanced, unsustainable, and ineffective attempt to lose weight.

How?

I read Keto Clarity, The Ketogenic Bible, The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance, The Complete Guide to Fasting, and Fat For Fuel. I skimmed a bunch of blogs (here’s a great one) and listened to a lot of podcasts from various experts and practitioners like Dominic D`Agostino. Since then Mark Sisson has come out with The Keto Reset Diet which is probably the best place to start. I use a Keto-Mojo meter to test my blood sugar and ketone levels so I can confirm when I’m in ketosis and how different foods affect me. I pursue a ketogenic diet in tandem with my amazing wife Kim, which makes life WAY easier for both of us.

Struggles

Weaning myself off of my sugar addiction, overcoming emotional eating, embracing intermittent fasting, sticking to a new schedule, and getting over my fear of needles.

Successes

Learning how to fat fast, staying motivated through the ups and downs, learning how to get back on the wagon, discovering how to strategically incorporate exogenous ketones, shifting my focus from what I’m giving up to what I’m gaining, teaming up with Kim.

Results

I’m feeling better and thinking sharper than I have in a long time. All the work has been worth it. Although I still have my moments of weakness, I can’t imagine ever going back to a standard American diet. Pursuing a ketogenic diet has fundamentally changed how I think about food and my relationship with eating. It’s empowered me to be on top of my health instead of always feeling beneath it. It’s provided the structure and clarity I need to thrive. It’s forced me to face my inner demons and take an honest look at all the ways I’ve abused food and myself in the process. No doubt how I eat and fast will continue to evolve, but I’m so grateful that I have this foundation in place and God has given me the grace and strength to establish it.

Up Next

I’d like to practice extended fasting (fasting and ketosis go hand in hand) and continue growing in my ability to differentiate between real and false hunger signals.

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How Small Changes Can Lead to Big Results

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.” – Lao Tzu

I’ve got a picture of an elephant hanging in my office. It’s there to remind me of two things:

  1. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
  2. By the mile it’s a trial, by the yard it’s hard, by the inch it’s a cinch.

I love the idea of accomplishing big things. But the work of getting there can quickly become exhausting.

That’s why I loved One Small Step Can Change Your Life by Robert Maurer. It’s a book about the kaizen philosophy: an embrace of ridiculously small steps which can lead to significant change over time.

I’ve known that the “go big or go home” philosophy is dumb and dangerous for awhile now. I’ve read (and re-read) Getting Things Done and understand the importance of breaking projects down into bite-sized chunks and defining next actions.

And yet. There’s still a part of me that wants to ignore the wisdom of all that and take on more than I can handle. I needed this book to rein me back in.

Here what I found most helpful in Maurer’s work:

Change doesn’t have to be as hard as we make it. Using Kaizen, we can practice taking simple, small steps that eventually lead to big results.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.” – Lao Tzu

We think that taking massive action will create the change we’re looking for, but it usually backfires. Trying to change too much, too soon, is a setup for failure.  “Too often, you meet with success in the short term, only to find yourself falling back into your old ways when your initial burst of enthusiasm fades away. Radical change is like charging up a steep hill – you may run out of wind before you reach the crest, or the thought of all the work ahead makes you give up no sooner than you’ve begun.”

“I long to accomplish a great and noble task but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” Helen Keller

“Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small incremental improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.” John Wooden

“All kaizen asks is that you take small, comfortable steps towards improvement.”

“Low-key change helps the human mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success and creativity.”

“While the steps may be small, what you’re reaching for is not.”

Our brains are often irrationally afraid. We imagine worst case scenarios and avoid taking risks. We set ourselves up for failure by creating huge goals, which then trigger our fear/stress response, which then shuts down our higher level/logical thinking, which in turn paralyzes us or causes us to run away, which leads to our inevitable failure. The kaizen approach bypasses our lizard brain by assuring us that it’s only a small risk, a small step, and therefore we are relatively safe in pursuing our goals. Kaizen “unsticks you from a creative block, bypasses the fight-or-flight response, and creates new connections between neurons so that the brain enthusiastically takes over the process of change and you progress rapidly towards your goal.”

So too, big questions can overwhelm us and others. A boss asking, “What is each of you going to do to make our company the best in the industry?” shuts employees down. A boss asking, “Can you think of a very small step you might take to improve our process or product?” opens employees up. Kaizen questions are so small and non-threatening that they bypass our defenses and allow us to leverage our subconscious and intuition.

Mind-sculpture (a form of visualization) is another kaizen technique we can use to tackle big things in approachable ways. “It requires practitioners to pretend that they are actually engaged in the action, not just seeing but hearing, tasting, smelling, and touching. In mind sculpture, people imagine the movement of their muscles, and the rise and fall of their emotions. in this way, you can approach a difficult task with a purely mental rehearsal, avoiding the unproductive fear that comes with the ‘feet-first’ strategy. You can train your brain by small increments to develop the new set of skills it needs to actually engage in this task.”

Examples of kaizen goals and actions:

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“People who struggle with kaizen do so not because the steps are hard but because they are easy. They can’t overcome the cultural training that says change must always be instantaneous, it must always require steely self-discipline, and it must never be pleasurable. We think that if we’re hard on ourselves, exhorting ourselves to do more and to do it faster, we’ll get better results. We say: How can I get to my goal in one minute a day? At this rate, it’ll take years! But kaizen asks us to be patient. It asks us to have faith that with small steps, we can better overcome the mind’s initial resistance to change.

By practicing kaizen, we can help ourselves transition from not wanting to do something to actually desiring it. Kaizen reduces drag and increases motivation. Kaizen makes it easier to do the right things and harder to do the wrong things.

Kaizen works both ways; it’s not just about establishing good habits or achieving positive goals, but also about catching bad ones and noticing problems while they are still small before they have a chance to become big.

Kaizen can become a way of life – appreciating the small gifts that life brings; embracing small ways of loving others.

The essence of kaizen: “an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”

So there you have it. Post some of those quotes where you can see them, and  consider picking up a copy of the book. You could read, like, one page a day. 😉

Is The Enemy Outsmarting You?

What The Wall can teach us about Spiritual Warfare

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I finally got a chance to watch The Wall (free on Prime if that’s your thing) and couldn’t help but notice the spiritual warfare parallels. This may not be a subject you’re very familiar with, which is fine by Satan. He’d prefer you live in ignorance/arrogance, confident you’re running the show, while he quietly tips the scale, pulls the strings, and destroys your life.

My reason for watching it in the first place was because it’s directed by Doug Liman. He’s the guy behind Edge of Tomorrow which is my favorite film. So it was almost mandatory viewing. Spoiler alert – I loved the ending.

No, trolls, I don’t enjoy the thought of American troops dying, or any soldiers dying for that matter. Few things delight Satan more than watching people kill people, especially in the name of God or some supposedly just cause. Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, yet our crusades and holy wars live on. Hauerwas was on to something when he said that America’s real religion is war. The cross only makes sense if there’s a bigger and more important story at work; otherwise it’s foolishness. Thankfully, “The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of foolish plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)  But I digress…

I loved the ending because 1) it wasn’t what most people expected 2) it wasn’t what most people wanted 3) it wasn’t politically correct. How often do you get that in our age of play-it-safe, formulaic Hollywood money grabs?

But there’s another reason the conclusion resonated with me. It reflected reality better than most war flicks I’ve seen. In general, we like to keep our combat stories patriotic: overflowing with can-do optimism, military martyrdom, and righteous zeal. But in The Wall, the “bad guy” wins by outsmarting and outlasting the “good guys”, reminding me of how the Viet Kong persevered in the Vietnam War, or Russia recently hijacked our elections.

When you move beyond pop-culture Christianity and the propagandizing that goes with it, you begin to see how many Christians are actually winning the wrong battles and losing the ones that really matter. When you stand before God one day and give an account, he won’t ask you how dedicated you were to your political party, how successfully you attained the American Dream (read: nightmare), how safe or comfortable or smart or attractive or popular you were. He’ll ask you about love and obedience and faithfulness. He’ll inquire about what you did with what he gave you.

So let’s get to it, shall we? My theme verse for this film is 2 Corinthians 2:11, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Do you see what this implies? Satan has strategies bent on your destruction. If you are NOT aware of his schemes, odds are you WILL be outsmarted by him. Think about that for a second. The Wall does a brilliant job of illustrating exactly how this happens.

The enemy sniper is educated and experienced. He knows the tools, tactics, language, and protocol of his targets. He’s not stupid or crazy and he has a plan. Sound familiar? Before he was cast out of heaven, Satan was part of the angelic elite. He knows the Bible better than you do. And he pretends to be an angel of light. You might be cooperating with him without even knowing it.

If you are not discerning and alert (1 Peter 5:8), don’t have your armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18), and are not actively taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), odds are you’re gonna get played and/or taken out.

You may have no idea how generational sins are keeping you stuck in destructive patterns. You might not see how bitterness and anger are corroding your soul. You may not notice how your love for food, football, Xbox, or Netflix has turned you into a Christian couch potato, completely ineffectual in the fight. You might be self-righteous without realizing it. You may have allowed our culture’s definition of success to replace God’s. Your endless pursuit of more might be leading you off a cliff. Your non-stop busyness and addiction to achievement could be crowding out all the room for love in your heart. Your secret addictions may be costing you more than you know. The culture war you’re waging might be hurting your witness and hardening your heart. There are so many ways that Satan can trick you, trap you, accuse you, shame you, deceive you, contain you, distract you, and destroy you.

Simply put, if you are not regularly connecting with God and other believers, if you are not consistently praying and reading your Bible, if you are not walking in obedience and engaging in spiritual disciplines and living in love, you are an easy target. You are a Martha or a Pharisee or a tax collector, but you are not a Mary. You are not putting first things first.

It’s true. God loves you and has a great plan for your life. He wants to do amazing things in and through you. But it’s also true that Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life and wants to do destructive things in and through you. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Don’t let the enemy outsmart you. Put your armor on. Get your mind right. Stay alert. There’s a war on and you may be in the crosshairs.