I thought the section in The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living: An Expert Guide to Making the Life-Saving Benefits of Carbohydrate Restriction Sustainable and Enjoyable by Dr. Stephen Phinney and Dr. Jeff Volek about “bonking” or “hitting the wall” was particularly fascinating. It happens to athletes when they engage in endurance sports. It has applicability to the NutriSystem diet as well in that it could happen to us to a lesser degree if meals are delayed or skipped. Bonking is the result of the brain running low on glucose. The first symptom is intrusive thoughts about food. Then, after a while if nothing is eaten, anxiety and the shakes can set in. If the person still fails to eat something and he reaches the end of his glucose supply, he’ll feel a profound depression. This is why you might see a marathoner in tears toward the end of a race. He’s hit the wall. This has applicability to my business as well. I doubt that hypnotic suggestions are much of a match against physiologically induced cravings caused by skipping meals. If a client chooses to do an ADA style low-fat/high-carb diet like NutriSystem, then it makes sense to give him suggestions to eat small meals at regularly scheduled frequent intervals the way NutriSystem recommends so that he won’t bonk. Those ketoadapted to a low-carb diet don’t bonk because their brains are running on ketones, not glucose. As long as they’ve got body fat, there’s a continuous supply.
It’s important to do the best we can with the plan we’ve invested in. That’s certainly my goal. My big issue with the NutriSystem plan is making sure that my cholesterol level doesn’t tank, and I’m not entirely sure how to do that or even if it can be done. One of my lowest cholesterol readings ever was 125. This was measured following a round of NutriSystem back around 1990, and this also happened to be when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was suffering with major depression at the time. Somehow, I still managed to function. It’s critical that I don’t let my cholesterol get that low again this time because low cholesterol is a risk factor, and I’ve already seen that my mood dips with my cholesterol readings. My cholesterol readings went down when I was vegan, and I was also beginning to develop depression, so there’s a hint. My intake was very high in fiber while I was vegan, and I know that can lower cholesterol. My guess for this round is that I need to lean my intake toward more fat while, of course, staying in calorie range. I will have blood tests done to make sure that my cholesterol levels stay where they need to be. My mood is good at present at least, so that’s a good sign.
Given the unexpected challenges I have had with my own health, I would advise anyone contemplating making a major dietary change to do so with the assistance of their physician, no matter what your age or how good you think your health is. At minimum, get a lipid panel done before the change and again a month or two into it.
I have decided that veganism is not for me. I followed what should have been a good diet with lots of vegetables, legumes, and some sprouted grain bread. I was eating whole, natural foods. I was having problems with lethargy and generally low mood. My primary medical issue is a mood disorder. It is vitally important that I do what is necessary to protect a stable mood. Apparently, that includes eating meat. My total cholesterol was 147. That is too low. Low total cholesterol below 160 is linked to depression and other mental disorders; so I must keep my cholesterol levels up, and eating meat helps do that.
I’ve read posts from other failed vegans. I did well to give it up after only three months. The health problems could have gotten much worse. They say the average vegan lasts about six months before they give it up due to health issues. Given that the problems I was developing are hot-button issues for me that I consider to be potentially fatal, I did not delay my exit from veganism.
[Edit: This post was recovered from my old Exploring Veganism blog.]