This past week I’ve been sick with the flu. I have my lovely nurse wife to thank for that.
Jayne often comes home from work (she’s a nurse at a pediatric hospital) with a little sniffle, a sore throat or some other minor complaint.
Lucky for her, it usually only affects her for a day or two.
Unfortunately for Zac and myself, we catch it and it lasts us a week and knocks us off our feet.
This was one of those times. A sore throat hit Jayne and she went to bed early. The next day she’s fine. A day later, I wake up feeling like razorblades are in my throat, my glands are all swollen and my head feels like it’s about to explode. It’s been 6 days, averaging 12 hours a day in bed and the antibiotics are only just starting to work.
Ergh… This isn’t normal.
For a couple of days I stayed true to my new eating habits. But I was feeling more and more run down.
Does ketosis work or help when you’re sick? Or does it make things worse? I’m not too sure.
Initially I started dosing up on vitamin C tablets, thinking it would disappear after a day or two since it did for Jayne. WRONG! It didn’t go away and I felt like crap.
I got to a point where I was feeling so lethargic, sore in my body and over-tired due to lack of sleep/broken sleep at night that I figured it’s best to give my body a break. A short term spike in energy would help me feel a bit better.
Still, I wasn’t prepared to throw everything away and stuff my face with chocolate biscuits. All I wanted to do was add enough carbohydrates and natural sugar so I wouldn’t be in ketosis any more.
I told Jayne about my plan and that I would see how I go over the weekend. She had a girls night planned for Friday, so I would be home alone. The last thing I felt like doing was cooking.
So I drove down to KFC.
KFC as it turns out can keep me in ketosis. I learned this a few years ago. The original recipe, with skin on, doesn’t have enough carbohydrates or sugar in it – so you don’t store it as fat. The chips on the other hand do. When I tried KFC on the Atkins diet several years ago I could buy 5 pieces of chicken, throw them in the fridge and eat a piece with some salad for lunch and stay in ketosis.
It’s not ideal but when I was working for someone else and didn’t have much time for food preparation, it helped.
I grabbed a chicken and chips.
I kept feeling like one of my friends who knew about my health goals would see me in the drive through and call me out “HEY STEVE WHAT THE HELL??”
In my mind I’d start the conversation to justify my purchase “Well you see, I’m not feeling great and I figured…”
Who am I kidding?
I’m not losing weight or improving my health for anyone else except myself!
At the end of the day, it’s my decision and in my control. Whatever I choose to do is OK.
I drove home without being seen and without feeling like I had to justify anything to anyone.
I ate the chicken and chips and remembered how deliciously disgusting KFC was. After wiping the gallon of grease from my goatee, I felt the short term relief that comes from fast food.
It did however serve a purpose. I felt less run down than I had been feeling.
The next day I decided to add some more carbs and natural sugar back into my meals.
I had bacon and eggs for breakfast and I also created one of my favourite juices, with a few apples.
Here’s the juice recipe;
- 1 x large beetroot unpeeled
- 2 x red or green apples
- 3-4 sticks of celery
- 1 x large handful of spinach
- 1 x knob of ginger – peeled (leave the skin on if you like a stronger pepper taste)
- 3 x 4 large carrots
While on my diet I would normally exclude the apples from the juice. Carrots have enough natural sugar to make the drink quite sweet and apples push it over the limit if I’m trying to stay in ketosis.
Within a few hours, I felt much better. Even though I was still run down, I could feel my body respond to using the energy I gave it through the last couple of meals instead of eating away at itself.
So I made the decision. No more ketosis or trying to lose weight while I’m sick.
It doesn’t take much – a bit more fruit and some rice does it. This is what I intend to do when I want to plateau for a while at a certain weight range or once I hit my goal weight of 80 kilograms.
Tim Ferris actually recommends breaking ketosis every week in his book The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman. He calls it ‘the slow carb diet.’
It’s similar to The Atkins Diet but he includes a cheat day one day a week.
I think that he’s onto something there too.
When I tried that diet previously, I found that having a cheat day totally took my body out of ketosis for a 3 day period, meaning only 4 days of fat burning each week.
From a sustainability point of view if you keep your body in starvation mode for too long, probably isn’t healthy. I have some thoughts that our bodies might have some kind of fat store memory – which would explain why people who lose a lot of weight suddenly often regain it and more very quickly.
It’s like our body has been saving up for a famine then when it arrives it’s prepared. But when that famine is over, our body rushes to store as much as it can in case there’s another famine.
The slow carb diet might help prevent that sudden weight gain.
I discussed this with Jayne at the end of last year. My goal is to reach certain milestones, then plateau on that weight for a few weeks in ‘maintenance mode’. The first milestone will be when I hit 110 kilograms. That will mean I’ve lost 20 kilograms, and I’d like my body to get used to that weight.
Being in maintenance mode will also help me get used to maintaining my weight by eating a balanced diet – not one that is as strict as the one I’m following now.
Adding extra carbs like a small amount of rice will mean I can enjoy curries again. I’m also a big fan of Thai food and Jayne loves pineapple rice. A little treat on weekends like a muffin or a thin slice of cake won’t tip me over the edge. So long as 95% of what I’m eating is good, real food.
I did that during December. I had my birthday on the 11th, then Christmas and Boxing Day feasts and our New Years Eve celebration. On each of those days I ate whatever was served and a few alcoholic drinks which have a lot of sugar. I totally ignored what I know about the negative health effects and sugar loads in each food. And yet in December I still lost 5 kilograms.
So breaking out of ketosis isn’t all bad. It might actually be a good thing. Most importantly, knowing what is good for me and what isn’t will mean a more sustainable, healthy eating pattern in the future.
If you’re on your own health journey, don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t sticking perfectly to your plan each day. Instead, realise we live in a world that isn’t on our same path. Our partners might not be on the path we’re on, and that’s OK. Our friends aren’t, our family aren’t.
It’s our own path and we’re making better choices than we have been before.
And that’s great.