A Dietitian’s Dichotomy

Two years ago, the paradigm from which I’ve understood nutrition shifted dramatically. That was when a friend, a retired physician, asked my professional opinion on the approach that Dr. Jason Fung was expressing in his blog, Intensive Dietary Management. I began to read it from the beginning and after almost 3 weeks of reading, I concluded that the physiology was what we learned in our undergraduate degrees – and promptly set aside when we specialized in our respective professions. As healthcare professionals, we talk about “evidenced based decisions” and at that point, I had to decide whether the evidence was sufficiently strong to change the way I thought and practiced.  This was this Dietitian’s dichotomy.

Fast forward 2 years, and the learning-curve continues as I read through further studies and watch conference talks from some of the leading researchers and practitioners in the low carb high fat world.

Five weeks ago, I started practicing what I preached, and began eating what I call a “low carb high healthy fat” diet, myself.

So how’s that been going?

Well, I am definitely out of denial. I am overweight, insulin resistant, my LDL was too high and so was my blood pressure – and no matter how I looked at it last week, I had 30-40 more pounds to lose.

But here it is a week later, and I still have 30-40 pounds to lose. Am I discouraged or concerned? No. Here’s why;

Weight and Waist Circumference

I had to ask myself – or shall I say, ‘re-ask’ myself “how do I measure success”? If it is by the scale or a tape measure alone, then clearly I am ‘failing’. But am I?

My fat percentage is down from 40.2% to 39.8% – which means, despite NO CHANGE in my weight or my waist circumference, I’ve lost body fat.

How was that accomplished if I didn’t lose weight or “inches“?

Ketone sticks – for measuring ketones in urine – high

This past week, I’ve been maintaining a higher level of ketones then I did last week, so my body has been breaking down triglycerides (fat!) in my liver and fat cells, to make ketones for my brain and to synthesize glucose for my blood. 

Electrolytes and Water Balance

Something that has been slow for me to grasp hold of, is the need to add salt to my food.  I have been used to eating fresh foods with no added salt and preparing foods with the minimum of salt, but with insulin levels falling, so does the kidney’s retention of sodium.

By eating only when hungry and only until no longer hungry, my insulin levels have the opportunity to fall to baseline – something they do naturally after not eating for 12 hours. On days where I extend the time until I eat by a few hours (i.e. “intermittent fasting”), my insulin levels stay low for an even longer period of time.  In response, my kidneys excrete sodium, in a process called naturesis.

The one thing that has to be monitored closely – even for people like myself who are not on any kind of medication for Diabetes or high blood pressure, is that my sodium levels don’t fall too low, as well as potassium, calcium and magnesium. Sodium and potassium and calcium and magnesium are used in pairs in a number of systems in the body and I’ve learned quickly how important these are. All the more important for anyone taking medication to lower blood sugar or blood pressure! After having one or two excruciating headaches from letting my sodium fall too low, I learned quickly that if I feels certain symptoms, I need to take some salt. As well, I’ve learned that people that let their potassium get to low sometimes experience heart palpitations – not a pleasant feeling. I already was supplementing Calcium and Magnesium (along with Vitamin D) prior to adopting a low carb high fat diet, but how to get adequate sodium and potassium?

“KETO-WATER”

It’s fairly difficult to meet the potassium Dietary Reference Intake on a regular diet, but even with a very high non-starchy vegetable intake, it is still hard.  Many of the good sources of potassium, such as potato and yams are not part of the low carb high fat diet. I do eat a lot of mushrooms (high in potassium) but am severely allergic to avocado, one of the best sources, so I make what I call “keto-water”.  Keto-water is club soda (I make mine at home with my Sodastream!) to which 1/8 tsp of half-sodium / half potassium salt has been added. I put a tiny twist of lime or lemon to round out the taste and also to add a source of Vitamin C to my diet and voila, “keto-water“!

Keto-water salts

Provided I drink two liters of “keto-water” per day, I feel great!

No doubt, drinking keto-water has resulted in my body retaining more water, along with the sodium (which is what it is supposed to do!) which would account for my loss of fat, with no change in my weight or waist circumference.

MY BLOOD SUGAR

Here is a snapshot of what has occurred with my blood glucose over the last 5 weeks.

My fasting blood glucose started off averaging 8.6 and then went up, as I began to mobilize fat reserves to supply my blood glucose. Now, my average fasting blood glucose is 7.4 – with dips as low as 6.2 (this morning!) and higher levels in the low 8’s.

My postprandial (2 hours after a meal) blood glucose is great after lunch, a bit higher later in the day (I’m guessing due to the circadian rhythms of cortisol) but then drops nicely before bed. Keep in mind, these results have been realized in only 5 weeks of eating a low carb high healthy fat diet!

BLOOD PRESSURE

Now this is a beautiful thing! For those that have been following this journey over the last 5 weeks, you may recall that it was a crazy-high blood pressure that was my impetus to change the way I ate.

Week One

The first week my blood pressure was divided up between

50% Stage 1 hypertension

~30% Sage 2 Hypertension

hypertensive emergency (not good!)

<15% pre-hypertension


Week Two

The second week my blood pressure dropped to;

>80% Stage 1 Hypertension

<20% pre-hypertension 

This can largely be explained by naturesis (kidneys getting rid of the excess salt through the urine) in response to the insulin drop.


Week Three

The third week my blood pressure was;

~85% Stage 1 Hypertension

~15% pre-hypertension 

Yes, it was a tiny bit higher, but very stable, with my diastolic pressure (the second number in blood pressure) hitting normal levels several times.

Week Four

The 4th week my blood pressure was;

~81% Stage 1 Hypertension

~19% pre-hypertension 

It has been pretty steady the last 2-3 weeks but certainly down from what it was.

Week Five – this week

Look at this!

From 3 weeks in a row stalled at ~80% Stage 1 Hypertension and ~20% pre-hypertension, it is almost 60% / 40% now…and that is WITH taking sodium and potassium “keto-water”!

This is how I measure success.

Final Thoughts

Success is about achieving goals and my goals have been about lowering my insulin resistance and blood pressure and losing weight and inches in the process.  Success is attained when you measure the appropriate outcomes.

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To your health!

Joy