First day of no caffeine for a week. Mild headache, a little lethargic on our daily 3 miles. My honey, however, was a hot mess – headache, achy, took naps throughout the day, really didn’t feel like himself until late afternoon.
We had another showing today – 3 cars and 8 people. They were househunting for a long-distance relative who’s soon to relocate to TN.
Grilled steak and salad for dinner, and a wonderful RfRx session.
Tuesday, May 19. Day 65
Took our morning walk and were back at home before 9am. Decaf coffee again, and we both had a much better day.
Leftovers to clean out the fridge today. Roast beef with gravy, fat pork sausage, and a couple of BBQ chicken thighs.
And here’s a little update from a few weeks ago:
Wednesday, May 20. Day 66
I’ve made the decision to go to Georgia to check on my parents, and I’m an Anxious Amanda (trying to give Nervous Nellie a break).
My brothers live in my hometown, along with my parents, but they are both single, and just to be blatantly sexist about it, they don’t see what I see when it comes to our parents’ wellbeing.
But I haven’t left my house in 10 weeks, and I sure haven’t driven my car on a road trip in that time. I’m being irrationally neurotic – do I have air in the tires? wiper fluid? gas? oil? My car registration expired in April, because I didn’t take it to emissions because they have to get into your car for that procedure. If I get stopped, I’ll have to explain that, and take whatever citation they give.
Then there’s the visit itself. They’ve distanced, I’ve distanced, but we’ll still wear masks and visit on the porch and not share food or utensils. I’ll stay in the downstairs, that has its own entrance, and strip the sheets and clean the bathroom before I leave, in addition to asking my mom not to go downstairs for about 3 days afterward.
Thursday, May 21. Day 67
It hasn’t been too bad. Once I got on the road, and got the heebiejeebies out, I was fine. Turned on a podcast, put on my shades, and 4 hours later, I’m there.
They are managing, but not flourishing. Who of us is at this point? Dad’s memory is a real challenge, but between the two of them they get through the days. We do grocery delivery once per week, and have their medications delivered.
Georgia is one of the handful of southern states which doesn’t have a phased reopening plan. Their church is still not meeting, for which I’m grateful, but most stores and restaurants are open.
They’ve moved a couple of folding chairs to the driveway, so that when my brothers stop by, they can safely have a few minutes’ visit.
Mother’s 4-year-old iphone is deteriorating and she can’t access data, which is a hardship because it’s the only internet they have (for Facetiming and Zoom calls with the family, as well as streaming her church services). We’ve ordered her a new one, and I’ll zip back down when it arrives to get it set up for her.
Friday, May 22. Day 68
I mentioned my brothers live in our hometown. My older brother was out of town, but has recently had his kitchen rehabbed, so Mother and I took a trip over to see it. It’s gorgeous, but then this happened:
He had a litter of kittens in his garage, and because I’m losing my 2 grown cats back to their rightful owner (my grandson), it was perfect timing to adopt this pile o kittens:
After driving back home, they’ll ensconced in my bathroom for a few days of adjustment. No names yet – we’re watching their little personalities develop first.
Saturday, May 23. Day 69
Sunday, May 24. Day 70
Here it is Sunday again. Memorial Day weekend. Spring is about to transition to summer. We’ll continue our hunkerdown strategy for a while yet.
Totally forgot about the No Caffeine week. I dropped the effort in my visit to my parents, but my honey continued, and his blood pressure has stayed a little lower than usual. He thinks he’ll continue it for a while.
3 showings today. Can’t get anything done, but it’s a good problem to have.
People seem to love the house (how can you not?), but still no offers. Living in an 80-year-old house is not everyone’s dream. That’s far more made up for by the glorious 8 acres with barns and pond and peace and quiet.
Corona hearings in Congress, listening in live to the Supreme Court arguments. All politics, all day.
I’m trying not to go off on rants here too much, so I’m going to just let this go. But it was cool as hell to listen in on SCOTUS oral arguments today.
Wednesday, May 13. Day 59
I’m the Executive Director of an international non-profit, Recovering from Religion. Our mission is simple and straightforward: To provide hope, healing, and support to those struggling with doubt and non-belief.
In the midst of the pandemic, we have implemented a new program we are calling RfRx: A Prescription for Coping. We have a guest presenter each week, and earlier sessions are available to watch on our Youtube channel.
If you are social distancing with religious family, and feel like you need a little help and support, please visit our website, call or chat with a trained agent, check out our Resource tab, and please join us on Monday evenings at 7pm central.
Thursday, May 14. Day 60
Tech people. I need you.
I need an app that lets me take over my mother’s iPhone. She’s 82, and tries very hard to manage her phone. She likes to play crosswords, she reads her church email to her, she can text, Facetime, and talk on the phone. She’s trying to learn to order her groceries, but that’s been a challenge. We just do that over the phone. She gives me her list, I Instacart, they get delivered.
She gets stuck. That’s her word for when she can’t figure out what to do. Sometimes an ad has popped up on her crossword and she can’t x out of it. Sometimes she gets into the wrong gmail tab. They’re all simple things to fix, but with her isolating in Georgia, and me here in Tennessee, it becomes a huge ordeal.
First, when she has a problem, I have to get her to put me on speaker so she can look at her screen while I talk her through the problem. They still have an old-school landline but it’s corrupted and sometimes it works and sometimes not.
Then we have to talk through getting to the problem screen.
Press the Home button.
The Home button – the button at the bottom that controls everything.
Oh, I remember that.
Now let’s find the app. Swipe left.
Swipe left. We’re looking for the crossword app.
I don’t see it.
Ok, mom, describe the screen you’re looking at.
It’s the one with all the little symbols.
Can you find the one with the crossword symbol?
Of course, why didn’t you say that?
And on and on and on.
I’m making light, but it really is her line to all of the rest of the family, and if I had the phone in my hand it would be sooooooo easy to get her out of whatever she’s gotten into.
Friday, May 15. Day 61
Saturday, May 16. Day 62
Facetiming my girls in Nevada and Oregon. This I’m sure hasn’t been the longest I’ve gone without a visit, but I can’t hardly wait to make a trip out to see them!
Sunday, May 17. Day 63
Beautiful powerful rainstorm came through today. Sitting on the porch swing, watching it roll in, covering up with a blanket with the wind blows the rain toward me, hanging baskets swinging, chickens racing to get in the coop, grass and plants soaking up the drops, made this the highlight of the day.
We’ve been doing nutrition experimentation while we’ve been sequestered, because it’s been so easy to control our environment. So far we’ve done an Egg week, a Carnivore week, and our usual go-to, Keto. Next week we’re going to try a little caffeine-free experiment. We’re switching to decaf, but keeping our morning bulletproof coffee in place. We only usually drink one cup a day, sometimes 2, and we don’t drink soda with caffeine, so it may not be a huge difference.
One of the things I have been surprised about (although I shouldn’t have been) is how weather-dependent my days have become. Looking at the weather forecast is the first thing I do each morning, and I structure my entire week’s activity around the forecast. Rain means inside work, cleaning the house, catching up on email, etc. Sunny days are for walks, working in the yard and garden, watching the chickens, and simply being outside. Before Covid, I was aware of the weather, and might have watched the forecast to know when to mow, but not nearly to the extent I am now.
Tuesday, April 28. Day 44
Tennessee “opened up” yesterday. What a mistake.
I understand and embrace that there is nuance that we are missing with a full-on, blanket Stay Home order. In my non-medical opinion, there is tremendous value to being outdoors, including vitamin D levels, and many folks stuck inside are missing that. More effort should be put into trying to schedule time outside in communities. Open parks and green spaces, but schedule a system where not everyone is out at one time.
Many stores have no-contact pickup dialed in: TSC, Kroger. Our experience with ordering from Walmart resulted in canceling our simple order of birdseed when we discovered their pickup required GOING IN TO THE STORE TO FIND THE PICKUP DESK. Not exactly curbside.
My parents are beginning to worry about the food supply. They have plenty, both my brothers and I have farms, we have lots of resources available, but it still causes them to stress. To them and to others, I offer this as the insufferable know-it-all I can be: most of the country could embark upon an eating strategy, and survive and even improve their health by adopting intermittent fasting.
When we force our human bodies to burn fat instead of sugar, which means eliminating the sugar (carbohydrates of all forms) in our diets, we can live off of our own fat stores for long periods of time. Even a lean adult human has enough fat to survive for days, and those who carry more can survive longer, “eating” ones own body fat.
And the hunger/psychological piece of the equation? When insulin is stable, we don’t have the wild fluctuations that lead to craving and what is perceived as hunger. We don’t think of it this way, but why would we be hungry when we have so much excess “food” hanging around on our body? Switching to a fasting lifestyle involves both retraining your body to burn fat, and simultaneously eliminating the urge to eat caused by massive insulin spikes.
This was a sweet, unexpected view on our walk this evening:
We walk the farm most evenings. This event occurs every year, and we look and wait for the babies. Tonight as we crested the bank, we saw this lovely couple and their little gozzes. If you’re a reader, you’ll remember the big nasty snapper I posted recently – unfortunately, this is that pond. We’ll keep an eye on this family and post updates.
Thursday, April 30. Day 46
Oh April, you’ve been such a tease! Warm, cold, cool, hot – you’ve had it all. A frost on the 12th and a freeze on the 15th. And you go out today with a brrrrr. Buh bye. Maybe May will be a little less fickle.
Friday, May 1. Day 47
What a joyful day! Observing precautions and safe distances, my 2 sweet girlfriends, one with her precious little daughters, came to the farm for the annual Releasing of the Butterflies! This young mother ordered caterpillars for the girls to watch as they cocooned and then emerged.
Saturday, May 2. Day 48
Today was Mulch Day.
We’re still trying to get the farm ready to put on the market. I’m ready to relocate to the Pacific Northwest, to be nearer to my 4 adult children. If I could scoop up this sweet little 8-acre paradise and move it to the west coast, I would. Since I can’t, I’m looking forward to someone else enjoying this beautiful place as much as I have.
Sunday, May 3. Day 49
And we end the week with a bang! Thunderstorms have been rolling through middle Tennessee all evening.
I took this picture at 4:24, just as my honey was pulling dinner off the grill. It began to cloud up, but we thought we could get through dinner, which we did. As we were clearing the table, the wind picked up.
I took this picture at 5:12.
And this is the back deck:
And the front yard:
Power is out all over town, and big trees down everywhere. Grateful the damage wasn’t worse. We’ll start the cleanup tomorrow.
4/20, and here I am in Tennessee. I think it’ll be a while before Tennessee passes even medicinal cannabis. I ran on a decriminalization platform when I ran for state senate in 2016 and 2018. There is a lot of grass (see what I did there?) roots support for it, but we have a Republican supermajority in our legislature, so I’m not optimistic.
My children all live in 420-friendly states, so I have to be a little jealous. I can partake when I visit, but since I’m grounded, I’m going to just have to manage.
So happy 420 to everyone who can celebrate, and commiseration with those who can’t.
Tuesday, April 21. Day 37
Sometimes we catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife with whom we share our space. Today was this big fella crossing the driveway. There are quite a few living in the pond, which you can see when they poke their snouts just above the surface. I’ve never been able to keep ducks, and I think the blame lies squarely on the ridged shells of the snappers.
Also, following up from last week’s blog, we both received negative results from our coronavirus test, which are the results we expected. We dreaded hearing otherwise, but the sensation remains that we’re being stalked by this thing, and with the lack of a national or state plan, it feels like it’s just a matter of time, even with our distancing efforts. Ugh.
Wednesday, April 22. Day 38
Today’s pretty weather brought more planting and mulching. We’ve added a row of mandevillas to a new stretch of fencing I’d added, and now we wait for the beautiful pink blossoms to bring the hummingbirds to the yard. I’ve had about 4 separate sightings, and the pattern here is that their visits pick up as the weather warms.
Thursday, April 23. Day 39
I’ve blogged before about our Way of Eating™️ – our low carb, moderate protein, moderate fat lifestyle. I’ve written many posts about it, and if you’re interested, just choose Nutrition on the dropdown of categories. Occasionally, we’ll do an experimental day or week, since one of the factors we embrace about health and nutrition is that all of us have our own unique physiology, heritage, habits, preferences, enzymes, metabolism, etc, and the best we can do it take the current broad science, apply it, record and examine all the data we can, and come to a reasonable conclusion: our N=1.
In our effort to stay up-to-date on metabolic health and its impact on reaction to the coronavirus, we’ve been seeing that in some cases, elevated blood sugar, insulin, leptin, inflammation are all contributors to one’s reaction.
Therefore, this week has been Egg Week. 5 days of only eggs, cheese, and fat. There are several variations on the theme, so Google away (Egg Fast) if you wish. We set some basic parameters: at least 6 eggs/day, an ounce of cheese and a tablespoon of fat for each egg consumed, lots of water. We also expanded our usual 4-hour eating window to about 6-8 hours.
There are a lot of ways to fix eggs, fat, and cheese!
Not pictured are the Everything Chaffles, egg salad, omelets, and even crepes. We did our 5 full days, enjoyed all of it, both lost a few pounds, and we felt that we had a mild appetite reset. Other results don’t differ much from when we eat our usual keto-style (we sleep well, no aches/pains, good energy, no meds).
We’ll do it again in a month or so.
Friday, April 24. Day 40
iPhone quality shot, but here’s a closer look:
Saturday, April 25. Day 41
Sunday, April 26. Day 42
Ugh. 50 degrees, rainy and windy today. No yard work for me. But these kinds of days force me to catch up on inside work and emails, and to be grateful for the warm glorious springtime sun.
As the week ends, there’s a lot of noise about states/cities trying to “open up”. My parents live in Georgia, and I’m here in Tennessee, and both state governments have lifted some restrictions. I don’t see where either have based their decisions on the growing science we have on Corona. So we’ll stay put a while longer. We’re all a little bored, a little restless, and a lot concerned, but we’re also safe and warm and dry and fed.
In addition to keeping my honey and I isolated on the farm, and conversing with the 4 adult children and their partners in isolation, and tracking my grandson who lives in Utah, I’m also trying to ensure that my 83/82-y-o parents are complying with social distancing protocol alone in their home just south of Atlanta.
They’re doing a great job of tolerating the circumstances. Their church services are all cancelled, I have groceries delivered once a week, we text and chat every day. They have vast cable tv resources, but no internet, so to me that means they miss a lot (streaming their online church services), but they’ve never had it, so they don’t complain about it.
Last week I had a delivery made to them of some plants from their local nursery. It was a gorgeous pile of blossoms:
She was so surprised and delighted. They have a big front porch and they sit out there for hours birdwatching at the numerous feeders. Her hanging baskets are always beautiful, always red and white, and last year I found tiny hummingbird feeders that can be added to each basket so the birds get really close.
She immediately set to planting, digging and designing, then getting my dad to help her hang them.
She sent picture after picture of getting them arranged – 4 large baskets to hang on 4 hooks on the front porch.
Then this morning, she called me in tears, hardly able to talk. You can imagine me holding my breath, waiting to hear what she was so upset about. Did one of them fall down? Is it one of my brothers? My dad? Is someone showing symptoms?
The squirrels had gotten into her baskets and dug around and flung plants everywhere. In the span of 5 seconds, I went from relieved, to anger at her reaction, to laughter, and back to neutral as we talked it through. By the end of the conversation, we decided I would have some kind of rodent repellent delivered, she can pick up all the plants and sweep up the dirt and reassemble the baskets. She was even able to laugh about it at the end.
The whole experience fractured me. Of course I know the psychology of it – her emotion was entirely displaced, she’s tried so hard to be optimistic and comply with the rules, and those baskets mean a lot to her in a non-weird spring season. But sadness overwhelmed me at the thought of their suffering at this time in their lives – the isolation, the loneliness, the separation from their very active senior adult group at their church.
It will be a story we can tell and laugh about in the future. But right now it is a total gut-punch, and tiny example of what is playing out in millions of households around the world. This is so unnatural, and is taking a toll on our social species, in far more dramatic and significant ways than this short tale reveals.
It was a lovely day on the farm, but my morning phone call stayed with me well after sunset.
Tuesday, April 7. Day 23
Nothing but planting from sunrise to sunset! I think this theme is a little repetitive on this blog, but it is spring on the farm, so.
Wednesday, April 8. Day 24.
Today was a day.
We lost John Prine last night. I went to bed sad, thinking about listening to him in college, the impact his music and lyrics had on me.
I was out of sorts when I woke up, stressy and worried and restless. It was house-cleaning day, although 2 old people don’t mess up a house too much in a week. Before my honey and I got started cleaning, I put on some Prine, and the first chord hadn’t finished before I gave in to my tears. I cried about everything – fear of the virus, worry about the children and my parents, the loss of this beautiful man, the absolute frustration of what the Republicans have done to the country, the despair for the suffering that so many are experiencing in this health crisis.
I swept and mopped and scrubbed as JP’s voice soothed my raw nerves, like it used to do in my youth. In a couple of hours my house was clean, and my emotions were spent. My honey took my hand and led me outside without a word, where we headed out for our daily 3 miles on our little country lane.
We walked and chatted, he gave me space to grieve and rant, and before long around the bend came a very familiar car.
It’s hard to see, but that hatted bandit is my girl Steen. She took a moment to drive out to wave from the window, and at a safe social distance to see our faces. It was the sweetest moment, and one I needed.
I had also posted a little whiney rant on Facebook, and after our walk I saw comment after comment of love and support.
I am an optimistic person, sometimes almost unrealistically. I rarely have dark moments, and when I do, they pass quickly. Today was one of those rare occasions.
But with the love and support of my honey, my family, my friends, and my community, I had my moment, felt it, expressed it, and moved on. I know this won’t be the only day like this. I know there are others who are suffering so much more than we are. I know that everyone is affected by this crisis to varying degrees.
Thursday, April 9. Day 25
Ay, this spring weather. Spent the day bringing in my as-yet-unplanted plants, and covering what I’ve already put in the ground.
Friday, April 10. Day 26
This is the easiest day to write a happy thing of the entire distancing series up to now. Today, at 10am, my oldest son texted me one word: PASSED.
What he was referencing were the results from the February 2020 Washington State Bar Exam. Which he passed.
He’d already been hired in the Public Defender’s office in Chelan County, in Wenatchee, WA, but he needed the pass to be official.
Having taken the Bar Exam myself (California), I know how hard and challenging this test is. I’m so very proud of him, and so excited for his career.
Meanwhile, on the farm…
Expecting a low of 34 degrees tonight, so all those tender plants get a nice cozy blanket.
Saturday, April 11. Day 27
I know I’ve blogged about how we’re eating: low carb, no grains/no sugar, mostly one meal a day, with a later snack. But we’re also trying to be a little playful about it. Here’s the menu board for a few days this week:
It’s a little silliness, but helps us keep our good humor about not going out to eat, which we love to do.
Sunday, April 12. Day 28
End of the fourth week. Still no plan, especially here in Tennessee.
On this rainy Sunday, it is as good a time for a rant as any.
We have a binary system in our presidential election, for all intents and purposes. You vote for one, the other, for a nonviable 3rd party candidate, or not at all. That’s it. Those are the choices.
We are at such a level of destruction and emergency in our country, it is my opinion that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. In other words, if you are not with us, you are against us.
So I don’t care what your motivation is to vote for Trump.
Don’t like abortion? I don’t care.
Hate liberals? I don’t care.
Bernie didn’t win? I don’t care.
You’re not in a swing state so you claim you can make your political point with no damage? I don’t care.
Your own important and special reason? I don’t care.
Who you vote for is your choice and your right. But it is not without consequences. When you vote for Trump, you have chosen to empower the damage and pain he causes. I take that personally – that hurts so many people. And while I respect your right to vote as your conscience leads you, it affects how I feel about you. If we were friends up to that point, your vote alters the friendship. It alters my respect for you. Our values are too far apart to sustain a friendship. Your voting action far exceeds a difference of opinion or political strategy, or whatever it is that you claim you are doing.
So on your social media when you boast about voting for Trump because derpderpderp, don’t expect my respect or friendship.
And as to it being my responsibility to convince you otherwise? You’re a Trumper, by definition and your own statement. I have learned a slow hard lesson that it is not worth the breath and frustration it takes to try to reason with a Trumper. Hard pass. I’ll be out doing what I’ve done for years: registering new voters, encouraging nonvoters, and trying to win what is left of the persuadable middle.
The last day of the 4th week. Let’s end with a photo of my lone little azalea.
It was a week of highs and lows. Squaring my shoulders to move forward.
A good day on the farm. Sunny and bright, a little cool. Chicks are growing by the minute, and loving their coop. They’ve learned the ramp, and can put themselves to bed at night (as opposed to me getting the top half of body on the ground into the coop, catching them and putting them “upstairs” under the warming light, one by one).
Baby donk is adorable. A little pastoral shot with mommy:
We have a 3-mile loop on our dead-end country lane, and Eliott and I have made it a habit of walking it daily. It’s rural and I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve met another person walking while we are. Nice for social distancing, one little piece of elevation, so rural there are no lines painted anywhere. It was wonderful to get out and walk it today – it lends itself to long, uninterrupted conversations, as well as a good hour of exercise.
Tuesday, Mar 31. Day 16
Cold and rainy again, but that’s Tennessee spring. It’s convenient when it falls on a day I have to work at my desk, and the end of the month means closing out the old budget and beginning the new.
I’ve modified my plan just a little since my partner got home. I get teased by my kids for my dry-erase, color-coded life, but I’m ok with that. I know all of our minds work differently for how we manage ourselves, and this is what works for me. Back when I was a young mother, I used an old-school clipboard, with a precise schedule for the week’s activities, tasks to do, grocery list, calls to make, etc. Raising 4 children close in age made it necessary, for me, to empty my brain of all of that, so I could be fully engaged and focused on the moment.
So when I share with you the images of this method of management, you’ll understand me a little better.
Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Seasonal. Projects for the yard. Calls to make. Things to do. As soon as it gets written, it goes into the queue of my life, and it moves up the priority until I get to it. More peasy than easy, but you get the drift.
Wednesday, April 1. Day 17
I’ve always celebrated April 1. I know it’s not the equinox, just a day on the calendar, but it’s always been my tradition that it’s a transition day. I think I began the habit before I was tuned in to using nature instead of the calendar, and I’ve just continued it.
My April tasks include filling and hanging the hummingbird feeders, setting out the hammock, putting the outdoor cushion and umbrellas out. It’s still too early to plant my tomatoes and flowers, but I can herald the coming of spring with some of these rituals.
Today was a little cool and still damp from yesterday’s rain, but I pushed forward. The grass is greening by the day, every tree is full of green buds, some with blossoms already, and there’s no doubt the earth is moving.
I suppose that is today’s thought. No matter what our attitude is, no matter how we approach this era in our world/nation/personal history, time will pass. This phenomena will run its course, whatever it is, and we will move on to a new phase. That’s what I mean when I put Take the Long View on my vision board. Someday this will be in the past, maybe even when you’re reading this blog. While there’s no right way to have done it, I hope I did the best I could with the circumstances.
Thursday, Apr 2. Day 18
Now beautiful again. I wonder how different it would have been to distance in another season. We kind of do a winter quasi-hibernation to begin with, which would seem to be a better time, but now at least we can get out and walk and get exercise, so sort of a trade-off. Tomato tomahto.
My honey is still adjusting to being home – walking around the farm, interacting with the animals, walking around the yard. We’ve begun a projects list, and like all of us, he enjoys adding to it and thinking about the sequence. He’s still tying up loose ends at work, so his head is in both worlds. He was working long, busy days before leaving DC, so the adjustment from that to this new pace has him marveling.
My dear friend Darrel Ray lives on a bit of property, and he and I both remarked on a phone call that we’re being more methodical and slow about how we’re getting things done; we don’t want to get all of our projects complete too quickly. We both acknowledged how fortunate to be both on land that inherently ALWAYS has projects to do, and for it to be spring to get out and do them.
Friday, April 3. Day 19
A beautiful spring day on the farm. Today was a day for mowing, tilling, and weeding. And a little chickie-watching.
Saturday, April 4. Day 20
If you’re bored with farming pics, this blog isn’t going to entertain you much. It was another really pretty day on the farm, so it was a day of mowing and tilling. However, it started off with a pretty exciting phone call.
I had ordered and paid for some tomatoes, peppers, petunias, geraniums, and jasmine from our local nursery. They’re still open for business, but we arranged a contact-free pickup, and they called to tell us our order was picked and ready. We drove the old farm truck over, called them when we got there, and they loaded our things right into the truck bed, and off we went back home.
I was thrilled to get my plants, but it was distressing to see all the shoppers at the nursery, unmasked, ungloved, not distancing in the least. I just don’t think Tennesseans are taking this seriously at all. Between Trump’s message, and the soft stay-at-home gentle suggestion our governor made only days ago, they are not grasping the situation.
Sunday, April 5. Day 21
A beautiful sunny day to end the week.
I’ll mix up the farming pics with food pics. We’re eating low carb, as we have for years, and we’re doing daily fasting of about 20 hours a day. We have fatty coffee in the mornings, then have a big meal around 4, and another snack/small meal around 8. In nutrition circles, that’s known as OMAD (one meal a day). We keep a lot of meat in our freezer, so our grocery delivery has consisted mostly of fresh and frozen vegetables. Eliott and I both enjoy cooking, so we take turns.
We use our daily walks to talk through our plan, to ensure we understand what we’re facing, to share any news that we have read that the other might not have. We discuss our coping strategies, how to help the children, how we’re managing my parents (82 and 84, distancing together a couple of hundred miles away). It’s been a lovely week, and we recognize how incredibly fortunate we are to be isolating, in such a beautiful place, with the animals, together.
Because this is an experimental, n=1 adventure, I spend a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, etc. In and amongst that learning, I’ve been hearing a lot of encouragement to have a Coronary Artery Calcium test performed. CAC. I hadn’t heard of this test before now, but I set about researching it.
The test is known as the coronary artery calcium (CAC) test. It is performed by taking an ultrafast computerized tomogram (CT) scan of your chest. … The CAC test measures the amount of calcium that has built up along the inner wall of the coronary arteries in your heart.
Have I learned a truckload! There is an entire documentaryabout this diagnostic test. I’m not one for conspiracy theory, but if I ever were to lean into one, this might be it. This test reveals the single most relevant factor in your likelihood for a heart attack. (Here. Here. And here.) It’s cheap, non-invasive, painless, and quick. Most insurance doesn’t cover it. Mine didn’t. Eliott’s didn’t – and his is Medicare. Eyeroll level infinity.
This test reveals whether you have blockages in your coronary arteries: both plaque – soft and squishy, and calcium – older and harder deposits. The vessels that are scanned in this test are the vessels that supply the heart, which means if you are to have a heart attack due to insufficiency here, the heart itself begins to collapse, earning this type of heart attack the nickname Widowmaker.
The higher your calcium score, thus the more your arteries are blocked, the greater risk you are at of having a cardiac event.
I found a facility in my town who will perform the test without a referral. Very cheaply. Make an appointment, pay your $50, lie in the CT tube 5 minutes, come back in 2 days for your results.
I am proud and delighted to report our scores.
None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
Keep in mind my diet is loaded with saturated fats – butter, fatty meats, full-fat dairy, and coconut oil. Eliott’s score was a 15, and he’ll be 69 next Friday. Here’s the interpretation:
I think what this means is that we are much more likely to be hit by a dump truck while we’re out on the rural roads riding our bikes than we are to have heart attacks. Wahwah.
Next tests we want to do are a series of blood work – cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. We’ll post here as we journey through our experiment.
Before you even ask, at the end of this post is a link dump to some of the research supporting a periodic, extended fast for cancer prevention. Read these at your leisure – I tried to supply a mix of scientific papers with more accessible articles and interviews.
In August of 2018, when the honey and I first began to discover the benefits of fasting (IF: intermittent fasting, EF: extended fasting, TRE: time-restricted eating, ADF: alternate day fasting), we embarked on a 7-day fast. We opted to include coffee with butter/cream and coconut oil, and bone broth. We have since learned that the protein in the bone broth might diminish the effect of fasting, and of course the calories in the coffee prevented it from being a true, zero-calorie fast.
Another year has rolled by, and we have just completed what we now see as our annual 7-day fast. We mixed in some water only days with coffee-with-cream days.
Since this post is already link-heavy, I will simply describe what our experience was like, and will leave our regular fasting schedule, and the science behind it, for another day.
Day 1 – We fast regularly one day per week. In the fasting universe, this is referenced by how many hours are spent fasting.. For example, our usual pattern is one 42-hour fast per week. That means dinner on a Monday around 6, fasting on Tuesday, and eating again on Wednesday, midday. So today is no different than what we’ve been doing for over a year. Are we hungry? Comes and goes. We stay busy, stay hydrated, and think about what we’d like to break our fast with.
Day 2 – A good day at Freethought Farm. We stayed busy with tasks and didn’t feel too much hunger. I had a lovely walk on the Greenway with a bestie who is also a faster, so we enjoyed talking about what we’re each learning about fasting and nutrition. We had electrolytes and an abundance of water.
Day 3 – This seems to be the day for most fasters that it gets a little easier, and that is true for us too. Hunger comes in waves, so we drink a little water, go for a walk, make a phone call, etc, and the sensation passes. It’s not cumulative – we don’t feel hungrier and hungrier and hungrier.
Day 4 – If you research intermittent fasting at all, an important component of every plan includes consuming electrolytes: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium. We have both a homemade recipe, and commercial drops we use in water. Especially when you add in outdoor exercise in the heat, replacing electrolytes is absolutely critical.
Day 5 – Now we’re beginning to think about what we’ll eat to break the fast. We have a list of things we get hungry for (sometimes that helps when you get a little obsess-y thinking about food). It also helps for us to review the books and blogs I have posted below, and to visit a couple of Facebook pages we follow for inspirational stories from other people who incorporate the keto and IF lifestyle.
Day 6 – Almost there. Our sleep has improved, as have the other markers we measure daily – blood pressure, ketones, weight, mood, energy, performance, focus. We measure this whether we’re fasting or not, so it gives us the opportunity to compare. We have continued our regular workout schedule (6x week), and have recorded our results for those as well.
Day 7 – We made it! We don’t plan to do this again until next year. We are excited about breaking our fast, we both feel mildly euphoric (unless that’s an oxymoron), and looking forward to eating!
Breaking the Fast: We began with a small salad, then progressed to a medium rare ribeye with roasted broccoli and every bite was better than the one before. We’re glad not to do it again for another year, but we like what the exercise of extended fasting does for our appetite, our patience, our enjoyment of food, and potentially, our long-term health.
Unlike CR, fasting induces changes associated with cellular protection to actually protect against weight loss initially and increases protection from oxidative stress. Fasting results in a more significant drop in insulin levels, as well as an increase in insulin sensitivity in a shorter amount of time compared to CR. Given that insulin levels play a role in cancer risk, these differences are potentially clinically important.
All cancers can be linked to impaired mitochondrial function and energy metabolism. It’s not a nuclear genetic disease. It’s a mitochondrial metabolic disease… therapeutic ketosis can enhance mitochondrial function for some conditions, and can kill tumor cells.
If I were ever diagnosed with cancer, the first thing I would do would be to begin fasting immediately; my hope would be to slow down the progress of the cancer during the time it took to develop a more conventional treatment strategy for my cancer. I would also do my best to try to convince my cancer doctor to read Thomas Seyfried’s book in the hope my cancer doctor might get some good ideas for improving the treatment strategy.
This is a link to the paper itself, and I didn’t want to pull a quote from the research, but here is part of the abstract:
The therapeutic potential of fasting would be even greater if it also increased the death of cancer cells. Here, we tested this possibility by studying the effect of fasting on cancer cell survival in the presence or absence of chemotherapeutic agents.
Apoptosis, which is also known as “programmed cell death”, is when cells commit suicide. It sounds kind of macabre, but it’s essential for good health. The cells of the body are like cars. When they get too old to be repaired they need to be destroyed to make way for healthy new cells – up to 70 billion every day. Not all cars need to be scrapped, though. Sometimes you can replace the parts, and this is where autophagy kicks in. The word derives from the Greek ‘auto’ (self) and ‘phagein’ (to eat), so literally means ‘to eat oneself.’ It’s when a cell doesn’t die, but replaces the worn out ‘sub-cellular’ parts with new ones. Autophagy is a form of cleansing: the process of breaking down and recycling cellular components when there’s no longer enough energy to sustain them. Once all the broken-down parts have been cleansed, new tissues and cells are built to replace the old ones. So, our bodies are in a constant state of renewal, but when these processes are hijacked, unwanted cellular bits build up and diseases such as cancer occur. Increased levels of glucose, insulin and proteins all turn off autophagy, and it doesn’t take much. Even as little as three grams of the amino acid leucine can stop it. But fasting turns these cleaning mechanisms on.
“It may be that by always being exposed to so much food, we are no longer taking advantage of natural protective systems which allow the body to kill cancer cells,” Longo said. “But by undergoing a fasting-mimicking diet, you are able to let the body use sophisticated mechanisms able to identify and destroy the bad but not good cells in a natural way.”
Whereas chronic CR provides both beneficial and detrimental effects as well as major compliance challenges, periodic fasting (PF), fasting-mimicking diets (FMDs), and dietary restriction (DR) without a reduction in calories are emerging as interventions with the potential to be widely used to prevent and treat cancer.
Next post: We both had the Coronary Artery Calcium scan, which might be the most important indicator for heart health. Stay tuned for our results!
To review, I’m shooting for an Iron-distance race in 2019 or 2020. This summer’s goals are a sprint race or two, and an Olympic distance (double the sprint length). And I’m planning to do it as a keto-fed, fat-burning, intermittent-fasting machine.
My workouts are built around the progressive training that incorporates all 3 sports. If you Google Triathlon Training, you’ll find dozens of plans, and there are trainers everywhere who are capable of taking you to that level.
I’ve trained for and participated in 3 Iron-distance races, each time with a little different training schedule. This time I’m building my own. Keep in mind I’m not competitive, which just means that my goal is to finish, and suffer as little as possible, not to establish any records or win any awards. (Although this is funny – I’ve won my division in this race before because no one else was in my category!)
Here’s what my training looks like:
Every week, on Sunday, I plan my workouts (and food) for the week. I have to work around the weather (bike rides), the lap lanes at the pool, my work schedule, social events, etc. And I have to stay flexible when life happens and scuttle the whole week and start over sometimes.
With a tweak in length/distances from week to week, this is what I schedule each week (blog posts to come about each session):
Two 45-minute full body strength training exercises
One tabata sprinting session
One bike ride
One swim session
One brick (2-sport workout like swim/bike or bike/run) or one long bike ride or run
One rest day
You can see that there are days when I have to have 2 workouts to fit them in to the week: strength training and swim in one day, sprints and walk/run in one day, for example.
Right now, these workouts are little more than 30-minute sessions each. As I build, some will become longer (although some, like the strength training, will stay 30-45 minute sessions).
Additionally, these are simplifications of what I’m actually doing in the workout. If I were to drill down, for example, in the 30-minute swim sessions, it would reveal that I’m working on form, sprinting, technique, breathing, etc. Then I’ll add open-water swims to the basic schedule. I’ll write posts further detailing each of these as I go.
There’s the overview. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have equal parts structure and flexibility: without both, I’d never get the workouts done. The least worrisome part is what occurs within the workout time – getting there is more than half the battle.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more news about Iron Training 4.0!