Why I Did Keto

Since May 2017, I have been following a ketogenic diet. Beginning in July 2017, I started practicing intermittent fasting (fasting either 16-20 hours daily most business days, when I felt like it). I stopped eating after a 5 or 6 PM dinner on intermittent fasting days, and did not eat until noon-2 PM the next day. I drank black coffee and water. I am not rigid about fasting. I listen to my body, and I am kind to myself. Most recently, in July of 2018, I added extended or therapeutic fasting to help reset my body’s set point and to help improve some other health concerns I have due to a family history.

 

All of this has resulted in nearly 50 pounds of weight loss.

 

Why did I start keto?

In 2011, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Though I was just slightly overweight at the time, I worked out several days a week with a trainer and ate a vegetarian diet. I was always hungry. It was a lot of work to stay at that slightly overweight weight.

 

My doctor initially did not want to test me for PCOS because, as he said, “You are not obese. Women with PCOS are usually really obese.” I insisted he test me because I had many of the other symptoms. Sure enough, he said my test results were textbook PCOS.

 

Over time, I gained weight. A lot of weight. I became obese. Though I was confident in my own skin, that excess weight started to contribute to some scary symptoms. Most of my weight was the most dangerous kind – all around my tummy. In fact, my waist circumfrence was more than twice my height in inches. A huge risk factor. 

 

I was on two blood pressure medications. I developed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. I was insulin resistant. I was pre-diabetic. I was on the fast-track to a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in my thirties. I had 15-20 migraines per month. I had a chronic rash/hives on my face. My dad, a physician, had a frank conversation with me about my health and his exact words were, “You need to lose a significant amount of weight.” Not for vanity reasons, but for my health. His words were informed and frank. He explained what all of these things were setting me up for. Lots of health problems.

 

I remember saying, “But I have PCOS! I already eat healthily. I can’t lose weight.” I remember him saying something like I had to change the excuse and I might need to try another way of eating to lose weight for my PCOS. I also remember him saying to stop feeling sorry for myself.

 

I did not do this for vanity. I did this because my health literally depended on it. The inconvenience of changing my diet paled in comparison to the prognosis if I continued down the path I was going.

 

So I did what I do: I looked at the scholarly literature. I found a couple of articles about the efficacy of a ketogenic diet for women with PCOS. I personally think for people without metabolic syndromes, there are a variety of ways to lose weight effectively. I think for people with metabolic syndromes like PCOS, ketogenic and fasting are the most effective. My friend Casey helped me find some resources to study and learn about keto.

 

A lot of people tell me they wish they could have my self-discipline. I think they need to reframe their statement. For me, it was not about self-discipline, it was about liking myself. I like myself enough, that each time I picked up my fork, I had to make a choice. Did I like myself enough to eat food that would nourish my body? Or was I eating comfort food instead of going to people for comfort? Often, my relationship with food was unhealthy because I was sad, stressed, or lonely. I had to change the inner dialogue. Each time I pick up my fork, I have to make a conscious decision that I am valuable and must take care of myself. I think a lot of people don’t like themselves. I think a lot of people don’t think they are valuable. But they are!

 

What were my results?

It is the first diet where I did not feel hungry all of the time.

I no longer have fatty liver disease (confirmed by an ultrasound and lab work). I am no longer on blood pressure meds (was able to stop those two months in). My chronic neck, back, and knee pain are so much better. Instead of 15-20 migraines per month, I have about two migraines per month. Since adding extended fasting, I have noticed that my luteal phase defect is improving. My cycle is predictable. That painful rash on my face is completely gone. My keloids are gone! Fasting also seems to calm my interstitial cystitis flare-ups. And, I have lost 46 pounds. I was obese and now I am not. Today, I can run without knee pain. My skin has fewer wrinkles. I’ve gone from a tight size 12 to a size 6. 

 

Cognitively, I am no longer in a fog. I have a ton more energy and stamina than before. My mood is evener. 

 

I no longer deal with stress by eating. I don’t feel the urge to go to food when I am lonely or sad. And instead of rewarding myself with a cupcake, I reward myself with things like running shoes.

 

About 10 times per week, I get asked for keto resources. Next up, I’ll write about my favorite keto resources.

 

Help Lydia Educate Others About Differences

Last week, Lydia was 1 of 8 children with physical disabilities from around the US selected to model in a non-profit’s national campaign. She will be photographed by a well-known commercial photographer and share her wisdom about being born with a limb difference. The campaign will be featured on social media, websites, and in magazines.

Lydia has encountered a lot of loss in her life because she was born with a visible difference, and Bryson and I want to give her positive experiences around her disability. Plus, the world could learn so much from her.

Would you like to sponsor Lydia’s trip to California to help offset the $3500 in travel fees? Sponsors who donate $15 or more will receive a 5×7 print of one of Lydia’s paintings (please don’t make it anonymous if you want the print).

Lydia and I travel to San Francisco next week for her modeling debut.

https://www.gofundme.com/helplydiashare

 

The Light Inside

“Daddy,” she whispered in her soft sweet voice as she was drifting off to sleep. “Today these boys on the playground were pointing and laughing at my lucky fin.”

“I’m so sorry, Lyddie. How did that make you feel?” I asked.

“Sad.”

It happened today, and it happened Monday when a girl said her hand was “weird.”

That bright light inside her dims a little bit each time. I want to make it stop. I want that light to instead get brighter and brighter.

So, Mandy and I have been toying with the idea of producing a video to help parents teach their kids how to respond kindly and respectfully to other kids with visible differences like ours.

That’s all I have to say about it for now. In the meantime, please tell your kids to be kind to those who don’t look like them.

Bryson

The Pre-K Congratulation

Oh, sweet girl. You were suddenly stricken with a 102 temperature. When I told you that you were indeed sick, you immediately burst into tears.

“But it is my congratulation (graduation) tomorrow!” you wailed, tears streaming down your face. “Cake…present!” was all I could make out between the sobs.

I was stricken with this same virus, as was your brother and baba this week and in all of that craziness, I thought your congratulation was next week, not tomorrow.

And in some way, you willed yourself better. We decided one hour before your congratulation that you were indeed well enough and fever free long enough to go.

And when they lined you up outside that sanctuary for your congratulation, your daddy could see you waiting outside. “They are lining her up,” he whispered.

We waited each excruciating moment to delight in your presence. Those two minutes seemed like thirty waiting to see your smiling face walk down that aisle in your perfect pink dress and cowboy boots.

You picked the outfit, and we compromised on the pigtails. I wanted pigtails, knowing that my days with those sweetly positioned tails are fading.

As you came through the doors, I heard your daddy say, “She is looking for us.” When you found us in the sea of proud parents, your face immediately communicated delight. Those are my people, it said. Your eyes widened and your wave was so big, as if you were there solely to find us. But we were there to celebrate you.

You. Sweet girl from Yongfeng, Jiangxi, China. In three years, you have come so incredibly far.

You told the crowd that you wanted to be a cowgirl when you grow up.

After the congratulation, you asked me with concern, “Am I growing up?”

“You are!” we said.

That answer seemed to trouble you. Just as much as I long to keep you in pig tails, you long to forever be our little girl. We both seem to recognize the days of pigtails and childhood are fleeting.

“But when I grow up, will I still be your baby? Will you still be my family?”

With a firmness in our voices, we assured you, “You will always be our baby and we will always be your family.” We assured ourselves too.

 

 

Part of Our Family

For the past 14 years, I have shared my bed with a little love named Nemo. Each night, he would lay at my feet. I have been told that I would pet him with my feet all night long. 

Once Lydia came along, she joined me in our bed, wedged between her baba and me. Just like her mama, she would pet him with her feet all night long in her sleep. Just like her mama, it became her comfort, her nightly ritual. Most little girls sleep with a blankie or a favorite doll. Not Lydia. Nemo was her comfort. There was a lot of time when she did not like us, but she always loved him. It was him that made our house feel like a place she might want to stay. So protective of food when we first adopted, she was delighted to share each Cheerio with her Nemo. With Nemo, it was different.

We often joked that Nemo had more lives than a cat. His chart at the vet’s office was thicker than most textbooks. ITP. Cushing’s disease. Allergies. Benign tumors. Arthritis. Deaf. Cataracts. Kidney disease. We all knew that this day would come. For the past two years, Lydia would tell people about her favorite dog and say, “Nemo will die in a few days.” A few days or two years. We were all trying to brace ourselves for his exit.

Bryson and I often say he held around just for us. He was with us during the honeymoon years. He provided comfort when I broke my neck. He sat at my feet while I graded 25,000 student papers and sat in my lap as I wrote a dissertation. He sat by Bryson’s side when he started his own business. He was with us when friends exited our lives. He was the loyal one, they weren’t. He licked all of the tears with infertility diagnoses. We needed his comfort so much during the last three years, and he just kept giving and giving and giving and we kept taking and taking and taking.

I often told people he was my Xanax. His fur was an immediate comfort. His paws felt like sand paper and smelled the perfect scent of fritos. His breath was terrible – you could smell him coming and going. But he so loved to give kisses. Lydia says his scent is what she misses most. She said he helped her calm down.

He gave and gave. We took and took.

In the couple of weeks before his death, I think we knew. Lydia suddenly remembered feeding him Cheerios when she first joined our family and asked if I would please buy her some more. I did. And every morning before school, she would sit in front of him and feed him Cheerios one by one. She was saying goodbye the same way she said hello, nice to meet you, here’s a Cheerio.

When he declined, it was rapid. I wanted more time, but he was in terrible pain. And so we gave when we wanted to take even more. We gave him relief and said goodbye. I knew when he was too sick to raise his head up to comfort Lydia that he was in too much pain. The scent of Ammonia on his breath confirmed what I saw.

Lydia is a five year old and fifty year old in one body. She said, “Nemo will be made better in heaven, but my heart will be broken because I’m here without him.” I agree. She begged me to take photos of her with him saying goodbye. It’s like we were all trying to preserve him and all of his preciousness as much as possible. “I must make a book of these pictures,” she said. And it happened so fast, it’s like she needed pictures to believe it.

Since we said goodbye to Nemo, we all have reacted differently. Lydia wailed and then got angry. Barrett threw a tantrum and asked when Nemo would wake up. He is still asking and Barrett didn’t even like him. I’ve been melancholy – even yesterday – I found myself sad at an event I shouldn’t have been sad at. And poor Dory, the little dog who loves to play outside and chase squirrels has refused to go outside and chase squirrels. She just stares at his empty doggy bed.

And though sometimes humans remind us, “Stop. It was just a dog!” You are right, he was just a dog. Ask our daughter, and he was also part of our family. Not a human, but a companion. And though he was just a dog, he so modeled what good companionship, friendship, and comfort looks like. It didn’t matter why we were hurting, but he always knew when we were hurting, and he was present.

Tomorrow, we pick up his ashes. Lydia–who knows loss well–asked us to have a memorial for Nemo and to cook his favorite asparagus, ribeye steaks, and chocolate cake. Because if there was food, he was there, and we want him with us.

Nemo, thank you for loving our family.

 

 

 

 

 

Barrett’s Prayer

Thank you God. 

Thank you mama.

Thank you house. 

Thank you baba. 

Thank you…thank you…thank you (this is where he usually says “Wydia” for Lydia).

Thank you party.

Thank you Thomas Train. 

Thank you Poppy. 

Amen.

 

Holding Hands

This morning, they were cracking up because they went to hold hands and realized there were no fingers on that side. And in true Lucky Fin fashion, they adapted and held elbows, which only brought them closer together.

I’ve Been Keeping a Secret

Last week, the kids, Bryson and I loaded up the car and drove to Oklahoma City where I auditioned for Listen to Your Mother.

During the past year, I have struggled to find my voice or have the confidence to share. I know, it sounds absurd. I am a professor and writer, someone who communicates ideas for a living. But it has been a big struggle this year.

A sweet friend of mine emailed me and said, “I really think you should audition.” I retorted, “What would I share?” She told me I had so much to share. I am so thankful for her encouragement.

And I realized that one of the best ways to grow in my confidence and to find my voice again is to try things that scare me. I leaned in to the uncomfortable and took a risk by auditioning.

I am excited to share that I was selected for the 2017 Listen to Your Mother cast for the Oklahoma City show. The show is April 30 at 3 PM in Oklahoma City.

More details coming soon.

-Mandy

Three Years

At this exact moment, three years ago, Bryson and I met our daughter Yong Feng Qi aka Lydia.

Saying yes to being her mama has been my most meaningful yes. Hard but so good and transforming.

I just cannot even describe to you the joy it brings my heart to see her understand what it means to have a mama and a baba, family, a safe home, and security.

It wasn’t rainbows and unicorns. It was hard work. It was walking away from a successful career. It was dealing with our own garbage. It was putting up firm boundaries with others so she could grow and blossom.

She has.

And even if not, He is still good.