Breaking up with Keto

So, I’ve got a theory.  A theory that I am ready to test out.  My theory is that my mind is more powerful than my body.  You see, my whole life I’ve worked to try to fix my body, trying to do things to it to make it better, to change it.  For as long as I can remember, I have fought with my body. Today I’ve decided to surrender.

When I was about 13 years old, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy.  It was a diagnosis that my parents and I had been searching for over a number of years to explain the insurmountable sleepiness and lack of energy I was experiencing.  I took that diagnosis and wrapped it around me like a security blanket. It was the explanation for why I felt so awful, and it became my identity.

Year after year we tried treatment options, none of them worked. Deep down, maybe I didn’t want them to work, maybe I didn’t believe they would work. I don’t know how I felt or what I believed, I was just a kid.

I know that I believed I was a failure. I went through a really depressed period in my teens where I didn’t care about anything at all.  I believed there was no purpose to life. So I tried to end it.  I failed at that too.

The truth is, I barely remember those years.  And the memories I do have are probably majorly inaccurate because I was experiencing difficulty telling the difference between my dreams or nightmares and my reality. I didn’t believe my brain was trustworthy, I didn’t believe my own memories.

I kept doing what I believed I was supposed to be doing anyway. When I graduated college, got a real job, and realized I was actually sort of functioning in life, I started to believe I could do more.  However, I was struck with some debilitating headaches. The doctor called them cluster headaches because they came out of nowhere and were so intense there was no possible way to function when they were around.  Now I think of this as the signal my body was sending me that it was time to do more.

woman holding head
Credit StockSnap on Pixabay

I finally got some decent treatment for narcolepsy as a result of those headaches. I started taking Xyrem that is a quite controversial medication and there are a lot of requirements you have to meet in order to take it.  You cannot under any circumstance drink alcohol and you cannot eat for 2 hours before the medication is taken. There are many more rules that require a training DVD and phone calls from the company that you have to complete before the drug will be delivered. There is a fancy measuring tool, special cups, and a titration schedule to adapt to the medication. All of these steps I think helped me believe that the medication was going to work. It had to work, or why would so many people put up with all of these limitations and various side effects.

And it did work for me.  I slept like I had never slept before and it felt amazing! In the mornings, after the hangover feeling wore off, I would feel like a new person! I could make it through whole days without feeling sleep attacks in the corners of my mind, and without the brain fog! I lost a lot of weight, food was repulsive to me but I had to choke it down, but I still believed my life was a million times better than it had been without it.  When the doctor wanted to lower my dose due to weight loss, I cried because I believed I wouldn’t feel good without my full dose.  I believed the medicine was crucial for my survival.

After about a year of restorative sleep, I began to believe I wanted more for my life.  I started looking at getting jobs abroad.  Unfortunately, I found that my medication was illegal in many countries.  Luckily, it wasn’t in Spain and soon enough I was packed up to head there. I took a lot of the medication with me with the expectation that I would be able to get more once I established a doctor there.  However, that wasn’t the case. The doctor only wanted to prescribe me a stimulant and recommended some lifestyle changes. But I was happy and believed this Spanish doctor must know so much more than the ignorant American doctors, so I tried it. And it worked.

tomatoes, sliced avocado, boiled egg, pink salt
Credit to zuzyusa on Pixabay

The keto diet was AMAZING. I immediately had to start cutting back on the medication I was taking because it was way too much on my new eating regiment, the ketogenic diet. I gained muscle and felt more fit and healthy than ever before.  Eventually, I was only taking the Xyrem because it seemed like a crime to throw away this precious liquid that had a value of about $3,000 a bottle.

For the last 4 years, I believed in the keto diet.  I made it my lifestyle. I don’t touch sugar, I avoid rice and noodles like the plague, a 12-year vegetarian, I embraced eating meat. I have been absolutely terrified of the side effects of “messing up” on the diet.  I am living my dream, traveling the world and working online. The only negative is how difficult it can be sometimes to follow the diet, and I miss out on experiences because I am so afraid to even try one bite of rice, noodles, or anything containing gluten.

But now I am starting to call it all into question again.  Did the keto diet work for me because I needed it to, and believed that it would? Does eating carbs make me feel sleepy because I believe that it will?  I have done a few random tests of this over the past months, and it seems like its possible my body doesn’t really need keto, but my belief system has a hard time with change.

Salad with tomatoes, pumpkin, nuts etc.

As of today, I am changing my beliefs.   I believe I can eat a balanced, healthy diet, and feel even better than I did on keto.  I will feel better because I will have more variety in my diet, I will be able to try new foods that I have been denying myself, and I will constantly be saying YES instead of NO.  Now, I’m not going to return to eating processed crap all the time, and I’m not going to eat whole loaves of bread. My plan is to start with rice and some more carb heavy natural foods like chickpeas and sweet potatoes.  I will cut back on all the fatty things I have been devouring, but also not be scared of fat.

fresh market vegetables
An average market purchase

I think I am ready for this because, throughout this process, I have learned self-control.  I have learned to understand the value of fresh ingredients and I have a much better understanding of nutrition than I did before going keto.  But more than anything, I have learned to shift my belief systems. I am learning to believe that my body is amazing, but my mind is even better.  I believe that I can be even happier and healthier than I am now by saying “yes” more and saying “no” less.

So here is my farewell to keto. It’s been great!

 

Disclaimer: I by no means want to discount the value of the keto diet! If you haven’t tried it and you are stuck I highly recommend it and I suggest starting with Madcap Narcolepsy’s program. 

 

 

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