Some of you may know this about me, others may not, but I am a rule follower. I like rules and I feel like they provide me with a lot of direction. I want to share with you a personal story about following “rules” as they pertain to food and nutrition. And how following them blindly is not always how they are intended or what serves the world.
We live in an interesting time as more and more research on nutrition is becoming publicly available. This is wonderful in the sense that we are finally beginning to see some results of how certain diets, trends, and nutritional philosophies are playing out in real people over the long term.
However, we must all remember that we are so vastly and incredibly unique.
Each of us is truly an experiment of 1.
My Recent Experiment of 1 Story
The Paleo diet or lifestyle (as I like to call it) has been working for me for a number of years now. It has led me to some serious breakthroughs in my health. Relief from chronic migraines, depression and anxiety, fibromyalgia, chronic constipation, adrenal fatigue, and more. I’ve studied it in the literature, in interviews with professionals, and most importantly, how it’s created results in my own life.
Recently, I’ve been dipping my toes in other food philosophies beyond “just Paleo” as I’ve begun to feel like I’m in a rut in my health. I now know that no single approach is meant to work for one person forever. We change and evolve way too much for that to be possible. However, I haven’t completely dived into anything else because I always come back to everything that I know about the Paleo lifestyle and how it just makes so much sense to me. Plus, it has truly been a miracle for me.
There has been a lot of research hitting the news and interwebs lately about intermittent fasting and ketogenic approaches. Especially within the Paleo community. These are hot topics and the research and clinical results produced are fascinating. I’ve heard stories about people having amazing success with using one or both of these approaches. It is something I’ve lightly experimented with and decided why not go all in?
Both intermittent fasting (IF) and a ketogenic approach (becoming fat-adapted) are things I could implement easily within the Paleo framework. Perfect.
I jumped right in. I decided that I would try cycling with both IF and ketosis. For one, I figured it would be less of a stress to my body to cycle in and out of ketosis and to not always be putting my body in a fasted state. Second, I thought it would provide me with a good way to compare these approaches to my more standard Paleo approach. Lastly, given my history of hormone and thyroid issues, I wasn’t sure that anything too extreme would be beneficial for me.
Sounds great, right?
The first couple of days were FANTASTIC! I felt amazing, my energy was thru the roof, my swim workouts felt powerful, and I didn’t feel so bloated all the time. I wasn’t at the point where I was measuring ketones or counting carbs but I knew I was eating a very low carb diet. This was enough for me for now.
Then after about 4 or 5 days, things began to shift. I started feeling more bloated than I did before implementing IF and keto, my energy would seriously slump in the afternoon, and my swim workouts felt lethargic. Oh, and I started to get more constipated. I still felt really energized in the mornings in my fasted state though. That’s a good sign, right?
I thought to myself, “Ok this is probably normal, my body is just adapting to this new approach and it’s working out the kinks.”
On day 9 of this IF and keto experiment, I met with my new naturopathic doctor to review the results of my recent stool analysis and blood micronutrient test. (The tests were completed before the experiment began.)
The results were very telling. Everything pointed to pancreatic insufficiency. Meaning my pancreas is overburdened and underperforming.
I had undigested fat in my stools, low levels of pancreatic enzymes, a Vitamin K deficiency (most likely due to the fact that it is a fat-soluble vitamin and I’m not digesting fats), borderline B Vitamin levels, and a borderline Glucose-Insulin Interaction.
In a nutshell, my pancreas is not secreting enough enzymes to properly digest my macronutrients, specifically fat. This is resulting in the uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating and gas. Because I’m not properly digesting fat, I’m having trouble absorbing fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin K and D. The B Vitamins play a significant role in the metabolic function and converting the macronutrients to energy. This could be key to understanding my fatigue and afternoon energy dips.
The pancreas is in charge of releasing insulin when there is rising glucose in the bloodstream. Since my pancreas is already stressed out by trying to keep up with enzymatic function, it is falling behind on its ability to regulate insulin.
By using an intermittent fasting approach, I am unknowingly creating more severe highs and lows for my pancreas and my body’s ability to regulate my blood sugar levels. This is why I felt great in my fasted state but lethargic after breaking my fast. It was too extreme!
The high fat, keto approach was only making everything worse. Not only am I not secreting enough enzymes to break down balanced micronutrients, I’m really having trouble breaking down fat. The thing is, before trying to eat a super low carb diet, I was already eating a pretty high-fat diet. My poor pancreas just can’t keep up… yet!
I’m a total numbers person. I like seeing the results of tests and having graphs and charts of everything. So of course, seeing it on paper like this, everything made perfect sense. But the thing is, my body was already telling me these answers. Maybe not in so many words, but it was telling me that it didn’t like what I was doing. I just didn’t want to see it.
Like I said, with the research and the results that other people are having using IF and keto, it all made so much sense to me. The science behind why these approaches work is so persuasive. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in these approaches as very valid and powerful forms of healing. They most likely work well for a large percentage of people. I really wanted to believe that it all applied to me too. I wanted it so badly that I ignored the best evidence there is, the evidence of my own experiment of 1.
Moral of the story?
Don’t get so distracted by what’s out there that you don’t listen to what’s inside. You and you alone hold the best answers for you and your body and your life.
My new plan (for now) is to basically do the opposite of what I was attempting. Go figure!
Eat often, basically be a grazer. Instead of 2 large meals a day, eating small amounts throughout the day (as long as I’m actually hungry). This will ease the load on my pancreas by giving myself less to digest at one time and allowing it the opportunity to keep up with the insulin by not requiring large amounts all at once.
What I’m eating will now reflect a more balanced macronutrient ratio. As a regular Paleo person, I was eating about 70-80% fat, 15-20% protein, and 5-10% carbohydrates. Now I’m aiming for more of 35-40% fat, 35-40% protein, and 20-30% carbohydrates.
Maybe I’ll even throw in a beach vacation for my pancreas! 😉
This time, I’m going to try to pay better attention to the cues my body is giving me. I will tweak as necessary. I will try to be less dogmatic and more curious about what applies to me. Just like everyone out there, I am a work in progress. Just because I coach others doesn’t mean that I am perfect. I’m still learning and growing, too.
Why did I want to share all of this with you? Simply because I want you to know that I am walking this path too, I am right there with you. I see you and I hear you. I am committed to learning, growing, and transforming. And I know you are, too. This is why I love being a Transformational Nutrition Coach.
When I think about what that “title” really means to me, I see it as broken down into three parts: Nutrition, Coach, and Transformation.
Nutrition. I enlighten and educate you on all of the powerful research surrounding food and how it affects our bodies. I pass along my knowledge surrounding nutrition so that you feel empowered.
Coach. I help you implement and experiment with the changes that feel right for you at this time. Sometimes these changes are really challenging. I am here as a guide, who’s probably already done it (I’ve experimented a ton) so that you don’t have to do it alone. With tools and strategies, support and accountability, I’m right there with you.
Transformation. It is my ultimate goal to help you learn how to tune into your body and gut feelings so that you transform into your own best doctor and healer. You gain the tools and the ability to tap into your intuition to continually conduct your own experiments of 1 to find what best serves you.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from you! Spread the Love and share this post with someone!
If you would like help conducting your own Experiment of 1, then Transformational Nutrition Coaching could help!
Book a FREE Discovery Session with me today and let’s work together to create a plan and transform your life!
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Disclaimer: The information in this post is not intended as medical advice, or to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional. Marcelle encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research, and in partnership with your doctor, licensed dietitian, or nutritionist. The information provided in this post and the entire contents of www.marcellephene.com are based upon the opinions of Marcelle Phene and are for general educational purposes, and have not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.