Monday, January 18, 2016

An experiment

Most people who know me know that I am on a ketogenic diet.  In a nutshell, this means that I eat so few carbohydrates that my body uses fat for energy, putting the body in ketosis, at which time the body will throw off ketones (which can be measured).  This is what makes the Atkins diet work - and why I eat an unbelievable amount of fat and remain at a normal weight.  If you are interested in getting to the real nuts and bolts of why it works, try this book.  The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Phillips and Volek is thorough and has plenty of footnotes to follow in case you doubt.
This month, I am celebrating six years in ketosis, and five and a half years without the med that prompted me to try a keto diet. While I am very happy not to have to take lamotrigine anymore, the book's in-depth explanations of how our brain functions when in ketosis gave me food for thought. Could there be another added bonus, other than the weight loss that I initially experienced?
I'm doing Pimsleur to learn French, will graduate to level 3 in a couple of days. I do a half hour lesson most days. Some days it comes pretty easily, others I am backing up so often that I spend an hour getting through that 30 minute lesson. After reading the details of our brains on carbs in said book, I decided to start tracking my keto reading (which measures my carb intake from the previous day) against the time it takes me to do a lesson. Obviously there is a lot of backing up and replaying on a bad day, so the time it takes me to complete the lesson is an approximate indication of how easy it was for me. Does my brain work better when the keto stick reads 45 rather than when it reads 5?
Starting today, I am making a chart with my keto reading, and the French lesson start and stop times.  I figured that using the minutes was objective, whereas writing down whether lesson was easy, hard or in-between leaves too much room for subjectivity.  I already know that I feel considerably better (and more focused) on days when the keto reading hits at least 15.  And I know that I feel pretty rotten if I drop totally out of ketosis.  So this is an opportunity to have a fairly objective measure of how my brain is working day today.  How many minutes does it take me to finish my lesson on a 45 day?  a 15 day? a 5 day? 

It will be interesting to see where this goes.  I am already finding it easier to turn away from a carb laden treat when I think that eating it might make that French lesson a real pain the next morning.

Just an aside - I have been trying to learn to speak French since 1984.  I had two years in college, went to Alliance Francaise, took a course at Berlitz, had a private tutor and have many books and CDs on my shelf.  Wouldn't it be something if eating butter, the national food of France, helped me to finally learn this language? 

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