The Story I’ve Never Told

After almost ten years, it finally feels like the right time to share a story that could easily destroy the lives of the people involved. Consequently, I will not name anyone in my story. Besides, it’s really just my story to tell.

In October 2007, I left the world I knew behind and arrived at Parris Island, South Carolina for Marine Corps Recruit Training. Seven months later, my training – including Marine Combat Training (commonly known as MCT), Recruit Training, and Personnel Administration School – concluded and I was stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, about fifty miles south of Washington DC.

Looking back, I can recall my eighteen-year-old self and how nervous I was to actually finally be stationed! If you happen to be a Marine, I’m sure you can relate – the training was over and I finally got to be a fleet Marine! Ironically, I think I learned that very first night – from the Sergeant who was on Duty in Barracks 2003, formally named Singleton Hall – that Quantico was absolutely not the fleet. I wasn’t aware at that point, but that very Sergeant and his future wife would become the best support system I had while serving in the Marine Corps. Of course, that’s beside the point.

The first weekend that I arrived (I checked in on a Friday night, so I was a lone drifter for the first couple days), I made a mistake that many young, female Marines do; I built a reputation for myself. I would later spend years destroying and smashing that reputation, but I was so young and naïve that I didn’t understand the full price I would pay for my stupid decisions. I’m sure some readers are concerned that I blame myself for whatever result I’m working up to, but the truth is that I do: I trusted the wrong people, I drank alcohol underage, and I had a reputation. There are many people out in the world who agree with me; I had it coming.

Bright and early on Monday morning, I checked into the battalion and found out I was going to be working in Training and Education Company (TECO) as the Company Clerk. Unfortunately, as I would soon find out, a company office is not the ideal for a “boot” Marine to work. See, the Marine Corps is full of people who learn from each other, but I was placed in an office with all senior male Marines who – quite honestly – didn’t have the time or the desire to teach an eighteen-year-old how to do her job. Was it my fault that I ended up in that office? No, and it also wasn’t my responsibility to ensure that Marines that were fresh out of training were sent to proper units. Of course, I guess the monitor who somehow assigned me there wasn’t aware of what it would lead to.

Due to my not having a personal vehicle and the TECO barracks being the farthest from the building I would be living in, my Company Gunnery Sergeant arranged with the Headquarters Company Gunnery Sergeant for me to stay in the barracks for the first few months. In result, I ended up becoming friends with many of the Marines that worked in the Installation Personnel Admin Center (IPAC). As the spring turned into summer, I would spend my weekends chatting and drinking with other Marines in our barracks smoke pit. I wasn’t legally allowed to drink and I knew that, but all the other kids my age were doing it, so I didn’t see the harm. I mean, really, I was just a young adult trying to fit in.

Eventually, I was moved from the Headquarters Company barracks to the TECO barracks (2074), but I remained friends with the people that I had come to know during my first summer. So, in November, when I was invited to a wedding reception at an on-base home, I went. Everyone that was there was drinking, so soon I was intoxicated and suddenly, I didn’t feel so well. The Marines I was with put me in a guest bedroom upstairs – probably assuming I was safe – and went downstairs to continue drinking. Ironically, less than two years later, I would write a Personnel Casualty Report for a Staff Sergeant that would literally drink himself to death in that very house with those people. If that had happened before this fateful night in November 2008, perhaps I would have known better than to trust the people drinking downstairs.

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What felt like an hour later – I was really intoxicated so it could have been ten minutes – one of my “friends” came upstairs to check on me. At least, I’m sure that’s what he told the other people downstairs. The next few minutes are this distorted memory, filled with fear and odd flashbacks of him shoving his way into my pants, of me mumbling in an attempt to scream for help… then it’s over. That’s all I can remember. Isn’t it funny, I don’t even fucking remember if I was raped! I have no idea what happened that night, all I can positively remember is that he shoved his hands down my pants without my permission.

Since I couldn’t remember what happened, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone. I mean, no one would believe me anyhow. Plus, I had been drinking and I didn’t want to get in trouble for that. However, on Monday morning – a few hours after the start of the day – one of my superiors called me into their office and started asking questions about where I had been on Saturday night. See, a Marine from IPAC had been bragging about our sexual encounter and one of the Chief Warrant Officers had called him – my senior – to inform him.

I don’t know what the guy was saying. I assume that the Chief Warrant Officer had put together some of what had happened and somehow she knew that I didn’t provide consent. The next thing I knew, I was called into the Company Commanding Officer’s office and he explained that I didn’t have a choice, an investigation was going to ensue.

nsvrc_infographic_sexual-violence-in-the-militaryFor a very long time, I held a grudge against the Chief Warrant Officer for not just leaving good enough alone, but now I know she was probably very concerned about me. I also hated that Commanding Officer for making me go through the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation process, but that wasn’t his fault.

The investigation itself was horrible. I was asked so many questions, so many times. I was so tired. I was told to be honest, so I admitted to drinking. I was told I wouldn’t be punished, which turned out to be a lie. See, after weeks of being told I couldn’t speak to people, after weeks of relentless questioning, after weeks of what felt like constant accusations of lying, I told them I didn’t want to continue the process. I wanted it to be over. Just like that, it was.

Looking back, I don’t even know if my own mother believed me. Quite honestly, I don’t recall how the hell my integrity came into question when the offender had literally been bragging about it at work the Monday after it happened. I was quickly moved to a different office – which was part of Headquarters Company – and ushered out of the TECO barracks to a room less than ten feet from the man who assaulted me. Again, the fact that the senior Marines who were in my original office just shoved me into that horrible position angered me for a long time. Then I realized that in condoning the end of the investigation, I’d probably made it seem as though everything had been made up. Beyond that, I never even mentioned how near I was to his room to any of my superiors because I didn’t want to cause any more drama than I already had.

It took an additional year after my ending of the investigation for me to finally be Non-Judicially Punished (NJP’d) at a company level for underage drinking for drinking that night. At the time of the incident, that wasn’t necessarily a career-ending offense. However, by the time 2012 rolled around, it was. So, yes, being punished for being drunk while I was sexually assaulted did eventually end my Marine Corps career. When it came time to re-enlist, I didn’t even bother submitting the paperwork.

Even worse, most of my friends don’t know the story about what happened or why I really got out. See, in the military, females who cry rape are basically excommunicated. As I said before, when I decided I was done with the endless questioning and the other accusatory bullshit involved in the investigation, I basically made it appear as though I had cried rape. I was ashamed of the entire situation and I preferred to just pretend it wasn’t real. When people asked why I was NJP’d, I’d just make up some stupid lie about how I was underage drinking at a party and someone ratted me out. People believed me and that’s how it stayed, no more questions asked.

When I look back on my time in the service, I prefer to just not think about the incident. During the time of the investigation, I was the social pariah to all of the people involved. I was completely alone and hundreds of miles from my family and any form of support system. Even though there were people who cared, I was specifically told not to have any contact with them. The Marines that were in charge of me discarded me like a piece of whorish trash. I had no friends, I had no one to run to, and – in that time frame – I realized just how hard it is to stand alone. I heard from someone a few years down the road that the offender had pulled a similar stunt at another unit and was punished for it; sometimes I wonder if I had gone through with the investigation, would I have saved someone else from such a painful experience?

The rest of the time I spent in the United States Marine Corps was honorable. I did eventually make trustworthy friends and many people apologized for how they had acted immediately following the incident. I forgave them. Hell, I forgave the people who didn’t apologize, I forgave the people who looked at me like I was a piece of shit for crying rape when they had been right downstairs – too busy drinking to realize I, their “friend”, was in trouble. I pretended to move forward, but I think that the first time I have ever actually moved forward is today, as I write this down and share my story – the true story – of what happened.

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Day Nine: 9 Things Everybody Needs To Know Before Starting Keto

The Best Side Effects

To begin, I’ve tried a lot of different methods for not only losing weight but also a447a303b7533ba246d78936e03d87e9maintaining. Today is my ninth day eating a ketogenic diet and this is by far the best dietary choice I’ve ever made! Since I started keto:

  • I’ve been around sick people and – for the first time in a really long time – I haven’t gotten sick.
  • I went an entire weekend without having to take nap.
  • I can stay up past ten p.m. and still feel amazing in the morning.
  • I wake up in the mornings feeling refreshed.
  • I have no heartburn (and before I started, I was taking Zantac every day).
  • I have regular bowel movements and my stomach doesn’t twist anymore.
  • I save money because I make the majority of my meals at home, from scratch.
  • I actually know what’s in the food I eat.

I feel better and, if I keep feeling better, I will never want to stop living a ketogenic life.

Nine Things You Need To Know Before You Start

Before I started living a keto friendly life, I read so many different blogs an articles because I wanted to know, for a fact, that I was making a healthy decision. I mean, it didn’t sound legitimate that – if I cut back on my carbohydrate intake and increased my fat and protein consumption – I’d actually lose weight.

However, while you’re surfing the web and checking out info, you most likely will run into recipes with foreign ingredients, worries about the keto flu, and many other concerning things. Then you might start questioning whether you can even do this. The answer is: Yes, you can. So, before you start freaking out about spending too much money and feeling lousy, check out these nine things you need to know:

Number One: The “Keto Flu” is very real, but also very preventable. On my first day, I literally had a meltdown in my car because all I could think about was a turtle sundae from Culver’s. My head was pounding, I was so tired, and – I swear – if anyone had so much as looked at me the wrong way, I would have attempted to attack them. So, yes, the “Keto Flu” is a very real thing.

Keto-fluPerhaps it’s a combination of your body going through sugar and/or carb withdrawals and dehydration, but you also have to remember that you are essentially “reprogramming” the way your body works – so your body is confused. It’s been burning certain fuels your entire life and suddenly you’re telling it to do something different.

So, to help curb the effects of the “Keto Flu”, drink a lot of water (I was pushing 96 ounces per day, using my Contigo water bottle), get the excess sleep your body is craving, and up your sodium intake (it’s okay, you need extra salt to retain water).

Number Two: There are some weird ingredients that you will eventually need. Unfortunately, this is true and the special ingredients aren’t always the most affordable – actually, normally they are just plain outrageously priced. That’s totally okay, though, because you don’t need them all right away. In fact, I haven’t needed any yet, but I keep purchasing them – one at a time – because I know that I might need them one day.

meme10A few of these weird ingredients that I’ve run across, so far, include cream of tartar, almond flour, guar gum, and xanthan gum. Together, buying these four ingredients will add about $45.00 to your shopping trip. However, if you buy one at a time, you can survive at least four weeks without need any of these ingredients and you add maybe $10.00 to your grocery total.

In case you can’t live without bread, some of the keto-friendly “bread” recipes – like Cheddar Garlic Biscuits – don’t even require any “fancy” ingredients. 

Number Three: Your ketone levels do matter, but don’t make them a primary focus. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t even buy a box of Ketostix until my fifth day of maintaining a keto-friendly diet. I should note that I did invest in a Keto-Mojo for blood ketone testing last Friday (ordered it online, so I bought the Ketostix for initial testing). This was mainly due to the reasoning that – in accordance with basically everything I’ve read – the test strips for a blood monitoring device range from $3 to $5, on average; but if you by a Keto-Mojo Founder’s Club package, you get test strips for $.99 a piece – for life.

Back to the point of number three: yes, your levels matter. During the first week, keto-funny-memethough, you will most likely feel your body shift out of “Keto Flu” mode and into ketosis. You’ll suddenly just feel better and will probably have a gross, metallic, sweet taste in your mouth. Do realize, though, that people progress into ketosis at different paces; so, the speed that your friends obtain the goal may be different than the time it takes for you to do the same. Trust the system and don’t get discouraged.

Number Four: You need fiber so, for the love of God, eat veggies. Depending what version of the keto diet you are personally embarking on, there may be different “carb limits”. However, right now I’m eating less than  30 grams of carbohydrates per day and I can confidently say that the majority of those carbs are from natural sources of fiber – aka vegetables.LC-BG-veggies3_good_2400px_3 (1)

If your wondering why eating a lot of vegetables – and fiber – is important, just think about what happens if you accidentally eat too much cheese and then evaluate how much cheese you might add to your diet if you increase fat and protein intake. You don’t want to be constipated, do you?

Number Five: At first your friends might not understand, but they’ll come around. We live in a society that has lived of the premise of fat being bad since the 1960s so when you’re friends suddenly see you layering on the cream cheese and 732d3dc0114a1c788a1eadb5c53e2452butter, they might not completely understand. In fact, if they care about you, they’re likely to try to talk you out of it – especially if they don’t know someone who has tried to maintain a keto diet.

While this might be annoying or discouraging, let your results show them that it is working. If they’re concerned that you’re going mess up your health, check out my blog Keto & Cholesterol to scientifically argue with their reasoning. I have people in my life who don’t believe in – or understand – how the ketogenic lifestyle works, so you aren’t alone.

Number Six: Join a support group. It doesn’t have to be an in-person group. In fact, Facebook is loaded with groups of specific “types” of people – whether you be a veteran, woman, male, or powerlifter (or just about anything else). You might be thinking, “Oh, I can do this on my own!” You also might be right, but I can honestly tell you that, if you’re experiencing something that you might categorize as weird, someone else has experienced it too and the only way you’re going to find them – as well as their magical solution – is by searching for them. What better place to search than a keto specific group with thousands of members?

Number Seven: Know you’re likely to succeed. Did you know that the success rate for people sticking with a low-calorie diet is roughly 50%, versus the nearly 75% success rate of ketogenic eating? That means that, if you’ve tried different diets before and failed, you’re more likely not to do it again. I mean, three-out-of-four people succeed in maintaining a healthier life by committing themselves to the ketogenic lifestyle.

All you have to do is not be “the one”, cause we all know there’s always one.

Number Eight: Keto is a lifestyle, not a diet. While researching and planning on starting the keto “diet”, I saw this fact everywhere. Leading a ketogenic friendly life isn’t really a diet. Sure, when you start it, you might want to lose weight. Yet, while your on it and so many aspects of your health improve – from mental health to lower blood glucose levels – you’ll realize that you always want to feel energetic and better than before. Does that mean you’re committing to not eating bread for the rest of your life? Nah, not really. Take a break from keto, re-evaluate your macros (especially if you’re starting it for weight loss, those will change), eat some carbs – which will likely make you feel horrible – and then, bounce right back into your keto lifestyle.

Number Nine: Get creative! Here you stand, at the edge of a cliff that can change fab0740a556f064096e929b6614b4475your life from what it is to what it could be. The only thing is that you have to maintain a low-carb, high fat, and high protein diet. So, take those requirements and change them into stuffed chicken breasts, tasty salads, and delicious desserts. Recommendations for new recipes are everywhere and most of them are free. If you want some ideas, check out the Keto Recipes I’m Dying To Try!

Recipe Review: Bacon-Wrapped Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

This week, I tried out three new recipes. One of them was for Bacon-Wrapped Spinach Artichoke Stuffed Chicken, originally posted by Ashlyn on “Belle of the Kitchen”.

Modifications

I did modify the recipe, ever so slightly. First, the original recipe called for 4 large chicken breasts, sliced in half. This was modified because let’s be honest, Ashlyn and I probably have very different understandings of the term “large”. So, instead, I purchased 1.55 pounds of Organic Chicken Breast, which turned out to be two very large breasts. After that, I sliced them in thirds. I then used a tenderizer to make sure all of the slices were about even in thickness. Furthermore, I adjusted my recipe on MyFitnessPal to reflect 6 servings, as I only had 6 breast slices to use. (Note: I did not modify any of the other ingredients amounts to do this, I just stuffed my slices with a little extra deliciousness!)

The next modification I made was substituting the 10 ounces of frozen spinach with 2 cups of chopped, fresh spinach. This wasn’t actually intentional, but I forgot to buy the frozen spinach and my stellar roommate has some fresh stuff left over!

The final modification I made was to the cook time. I should warn everyone that I am super neurotic about not eating undercooked food, so I used my meat thermometer and cooked all of the breasts until they were cooked to 175° Fahrenheit (it took about 70 minutes).

Prepping It

I was actually surprised by how easy this recipe was to prep! Furthermore, it was also really fun to make (I mixed the creamy artichoke and spinach mixture with my hands).

I was cooking a few other things at the same time, but I would estimate that it took about fifteen minutes to prepare all of the stuffed chicken breasts, wrap them in the bacon, and shove them in the oven.

How’d It Taste

In the end, all of the “hard” work paid off. The meat was thoroughly cooked and so tender. Mix that with incredibly creamy spinach artichoke dip and slightly crunchy bacon and you have a gold mine! I know that I will definitely be making this recipe again. Overall, I’d say it deserves a definite five-star rating! Thank you to Ashlyn for posting this incredible recipe!

 

Bulletproof Coffee

If you’ve checked out the keto lifestyle at all, you’ve probably run across the term “Bulletproof Coffee”. Honestly, there are a million different recipes out there; I think this is mainly because you can kind of modify it to meet your needs. Check out the recipe I use below!

Bulletproof Coffee
2011 Creative Commons photo “Latte Art” by Kenny Louie.

Bulletproof Coffee

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: However long it takes you to brew the coffee and mix it!

Makes 1 Serving! (I normally prep 3 servings (of the mix-ins) at a time and store them in my refrigerator using the Rubbermaid TakeAlongs On-the-Go 2 Cup Twist & Seal Food Storage Containers)

 

Ingredients

Mix-Ins

Coffee

Directions

For Prep

  1. Scoop the coconut oil and heavy whipping cream into the larger container (not the cup insert).
  2. Pour the syrup into the cup insert.
  3. Close the containers and throw them in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

For Use

  1. Place either the contents of the premade cup or the coconut oil, heavy whipping cream, and syrup into a coffee mug.
  2. Pour in the freshly brewed coffee and stir (or use a frother – I recommend the PowerLix Milk Frother.)

Calories: 363 – Fat: 38g – Carbohydrates: 0g – Protein: 0g

I am not a nutritionist or doctor! For precise nutrition facts, I recommend you calculate your own!

IMG_0686If you enjoy it as much as I do or if you just want to try out my version of bulletproof coffee, I have the recipe listed on MyFitnessPal (username: cfawley89)!

Also, like I said earlier, a great aspect of Bullet Proof Coffee is that it can easily be modified to meet your goal macros!

“The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) James Dashner

Concept: ★★★★☆ – The concept of “The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) By James Dashner was excellent, as the author took a commonly assessed theory of the future of the world and turn it into a novel. After escaping the Maze, the Gladers are hopeful that the deceit and evil that WICKED represents is over. Unfortunately, the morning after they are rescued and brought to a safe haven, they realize that the “Trials” are still just beginning.

If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, grab a copy of “The Maze Runner” (Book One) By James Dashner, or check out my review here!

Again the Gladers are left to their own devices to face the challenges that the over-arching government, WICKED, seem to think are necessary for the survival of the human race. Remembering only as far back as their own first day in the Maze, the Gladers adjust quickly to an uncontrolled “real” world. Made up of a desert, a broken city, and a dusting mountain… what could possibly go wrong as these boys face the unknown to arrive at an undefined destination.

Writing: ★★★☆☆  – Think about when you’re writing a paper for a class and then, out of nowhere, you lose all motivation and suddenly what was a craftily developed thesis turns into a “C” paper, at best. That’s kind of what the concept in this book reminded me of. At first, the descriptive essence of the novel dragged me into the book. I was in the desert, the climate had changed, and the world had quite literally lost it. The first two-thirds of the book were so… painstakingly defined. I was there with Tom, Minho, Brenda, and even Jorge. Then, towards the end, it actually started to feel as the author was rushing through the motions to bring the book to an end. He did an excellent job catching the interest of the reader enough to pull them in for a third novel, but – except for that – the third portion of this book felt as though the author wrote it in an inattentive state, causing disinterest for the audience.

Character Development: ★★★★☆ – Although this book had a substantially lesser amount of character development than its predecessor, Dashner does not fail to appease his audience, fulfilling the reader’s desire to know each of the characters and “who they are”. In this novel, the author builds on the personalities of the Gladers, which are already familiar to the readers – assuming they’re like me and refuse to read a series in the wrong order. One thing that disappointed me is that, even by the end of the novel, the girls in Group B aren’t entirely familiar. We know how many there are and a few of their names. I’m hopeful that this will be settled in the third novel in the series!

Plot: ★★★★☆ – The plot was creative and well written, however, it wasn’t necessarily original, per say. It’s not that every book I’ve ever read is about a group of kids marching through a dystopian city in order to save their own lives, knowing little to nothing about the reality of how the world works. (Sound familiar… I think so, too.) However, given the setting of the book, Dashner tossed in a few flares to make sure that people would be able to decipher the happenings of his book from the happenings of other end-of-the-world fiction. Again, like the first book, no matter how clear the plot seemed, a turn of the page threw me – the reader – back to the starting line.

Pacing: ★★★★☆ – If the pacing in the first book had been so superb, my rating would have most likely been five stars for this novel as well. Unfortunately – or maybe it is fortunate – that isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, this book is action-packed and I still had a hard time putting it down. Yet, there are portions of the book that just feel like fluff, ensuring that the author hits a word quota. The book definitely got where it was going, it just took a little too long to get there.

Ending: ★★★★★ – Even though it may have taken a few minutes longer to get there than I would have preferred, the ending was both spectacular and disappointing. Scorch TrialsDisappointing because, if this was real life, I would hate to be the characters in this book. Thankfully, I’m only reading the books, so bravo James Dashner! The ending was a finale to a topsy, turvy, roller coaster of a novel.

Cover Art: ★★★★★ – Like the cover of “The Maze Runner”, this cover did an excellent job encompassing all aspects of the book. From the dry heat of the desert to the lightning storms and back to the broken down city, every aspect of the plot is covered in this cover.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Spoilers below!

Continue reading ““The Scorch Trials” (Book Two) James Dashner”

Day Five of Keto: What Your Friends Say

After what feels like, well, a normal week with an abnormally healthy eating plan, here I sit – half way through day five of keto. The truth is, when I first made the decision to start living a keto lifestyle, I figured the first week would be hell.

Maybe, in a way it was. Suddenly, I had to explain to everyone what I was doing, how it supposedly worked, and what I wanted to achieve. Why was that difficult? Because it’s my first week of the keto lifestyle and, for at least the first two questions, I didn’t know how to explain what I didn’t – and don’t – really completely understand.

Let’s see, when I’d try to explain it in the briefest way possible, I’d say something along the lines of: “Well, I’m cutting carbs, eating a lot more fat, and my overall goal is to lose weight.” Then, most of my friends would look at me like I was stupid and others just looked baffled. Every now and then, a friend would exclaim that they know someone that does the “keto diet” and they dropped SO much weight. I have to admit, that’s a nice break from people trying to advise me on how I should go about losing weight – in moderation, eating more veggies (and more carbs), or trying some weight loss pill.

See, what a lot of people don’t realize is that I am quite familiar with many of the weight loss strategies out there. As a Marine veteran, I have been forced to “maintain a healthy body weight” by starving myself, sitting in the sauna for four (plus) hours before a weigh in, and avoiding having my hair wet at the exact time of the weigh in. For those of you who haven’t had to put your body through literal hell in order to obtain (and maintain) an unrealistic – at least for women with breasts and an ass – standard, it really sucks. What’s worse is that, although you learn how to drop five pounds “like that”, you also completely destroy what was most likely a shitty metabolism to begin with.

So, it actually pains me even more when people don’t fully understand how much I know about how losing weight works. I know that if I cut my intake down to 1,000 calories, I’ll drop weight in no time. I know that, if I eat a bunch of really healthy food, I can maintain my weight. I know that, if I cut back in moderation, I can slowly watch the pounds fall off. Unfortunately, I also know just how quickly every pound hops back on the Cassi Train.

Above are three photos of me, exactly seven years ago today. Just by looking at these photos, I can tell you that I was in the “best shape of my life”. I was chowing down about 1,500 calories a day, hadn’t touched any fatty foods since September, and I weighed a whopping 165 pounds. Oh, and don’t forget that I was running eight miles almost every day, just to make sure none of those extra pounds crept back up on me. Guys, this is no way to live.

Within two years after this photo (so roughly 2013), I’d gained about 80 pounds. I cut back on calories, picked up running again, and dropped it down to about 200 right before I moved home at the end of 2014. So for those of my friends who don’t fully think I comprehend what methods can be used for weight loss, I do. I know about most of them and I’ve tried so many I can barely keep track.

The thing is, I remember what the breaking points for almost every one of my huge weight losses were. It was the moment I lost my true support circle. Whether that means that I moved eighteen hours away to a location where friends were scarce or my best friends were deployed to third-world countries, half a world away; the point remains the same, without consistent support and encouragement, people fail.

IMG_0660I understand that my friends that are questioning the keto lifestyle are worried that it’s not a good choice. I mean, look at the South Beach Diet and how quickly that thing turned into a fault of shit. I’ve done my research – a lot of it – and not just by reading blogs. I’ve read at least 25 academically reviewed articles in the last week. I’ve learned about enough studies that I’m kind of worried my head might explode (that would be some awesome weight loss, though). Me not taking your advice isn’t me choosing to ignore you, it’s me trying to better myself in a way that I know can work. I know that this lifestyle – which I intend to maintain long after I drop the weight – can lower my bad cholesterol, lower my blood sugar, knock me out of my obesity, up my energy levels, and help stabilize the catastrophic storm inside of my mind. 

But I need your support. Some of you have been awesome, encouraging me and reminding me that I got this. Others have suggested I use less extreme manners. The reality is, I am about 100 pounds above a healthy weight for myself… 100 pounds. Moderation is no longer an option. I need to change my way of life before my life ends way too early.

This is my request: Instead of doubting the choice I’ve made, encourage me. Right now, my life literally depends on it.

Keto & Cholesterol

I would like to think that most people are, at least, aware that there are two very different kinds of cholesterol – High Density Lipoprotein and Low Density Lipoprotien, commonly referred to as HDL and LDL. Just in case you aren’t aware of how exactly they work, I’ll give you a brief lowdown.

HDL Cholesterol – The Good Guy

HDL cholesterol is our body’s own little clean up crew. The higher our HDL level is, the lower our LDL level is. This is because our HDL transports cholesterol that has been stored in our arteries to our liver, which then processes it and dispenses it from our body.

Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol – The Bad Guy

Whereas HDL cholesterol is extremely beneficial, LDL cholesterol is not. This guy is the one that spreads cholesterol throughout our arteries and, unfortunately, leaves it there to build up into plaque. LDL cholesterol is frequently the underlying cause for chest pains, heart attacks, and strokes.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that, in order to keep the LDL cholesterol levels low, people eat a low sodium diet – full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains – while limiting their intake of animal fats and moderating their consumption of good fats. If you’re anything like me, red flags just popped up all over the keto lifestyle, which lacks fruit and whole grains and promotes the consumption of fat and/or protein.

The Good News

The good news is that there is literally so much research that demonstrates that living a keto lifestyle is actually extremely beneficial, especially in regards to keeping your HDL high and LDL low. To verify this information, I read through three academic journal articles that reflected on findings of three different studies, where obese individuals entered into a monitored ketogenic diet program.

Study Number One

This article reflects on a study that actually compared the results of a low-carb, ketogenic diet versus the results of a low fat diet. In order to participate in this controlled trial study, individuals had to be between the ages of 18 and 65 years with a body mass index (BMI) between above 30 kg/m2 – yet under 60 kg/m2 – and, finally, a desire to lose weight. Using a computer-generated randomization program, individuals were assigned to either the low carb or low fat diet.

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The ketogenic eaters were allowed to consume unlimited amounts of animal foods – meat, fish, and shellfish – and two cups of salad veggies, one cup of low-carb veggies, as well as four ounces of hard cheese. On the other hand, low-fat dieters were instructed by a registered dietitian to have a diet that consisted of “less than 30% of daily energy intake from fat, less than 10% of daily energy intake from saturated fat, and less than 300 mg of cholesterol daily.” (Yancy, William S., et al., 2004)

In the end, over 75% of the individuals participating in the low-carb (ketogenic) diet completed the entire 24 week study, where only 57% percent of those in the low-fat program lasted through the end. Stunningly, these ketogenic dieters had greater weight loss, reduction in triglyceride levels (which works with LDL cholesterol to cause strokes and heart attacks), and a notable increase in HDL cholesterol.

What does all this mean, though? Well, this first study indicates the following:

  • The ketogenic lifestyle is less difficult to stick with than the low-fat lifestyle.
  • Ketogenic eating actually increases the level of good cholesterol in our bodies.
  • The low-carb, ketogenic eating plan is a lot less confusing that the low-fat alternative (seriously, I can’t even understand the requirements they had to meet).

Study Number Two

The next scholarly article I reviewed was in regards to the results of a study that quinoa-salad-6looked at the long term effects of the ketogenic diet on obese participants with high cholesterol levels. In this diet, 66 individuals followed an eating plan that consisted of the following:

  • Less than 20 g of carbohydrates in the form of green vegetables and salad
  • 80–100 g of proteins in the form of meat – fish, fowl, eggs, shellfish and cheese.
  • Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (5 tablespoons olive oil) were included in the diet. (Dashti, Hussein M., et al., 2006)

In this study, there was a 74% completion rate for the 56 week study. After the first week, the levels of the participants HDL cholesterol increased and the level of the LDL cholesterol – and the level of its helper, triglycerides – significantly decreased. Not only that, but their blood sugar levels also dropped!

What we can see by looking at the results of the first two studies is:

  • The low-carb ketogenic diet has a three-out-of-four success rate!
  • The eating plans aren’t only simple, but they sound pretty delicious.
  • The lifestyle raises the good cholesterol, decreases the bad, and even lowers blood sugar levels.

Study Number Three

The final study I reviewed was focused on the long-term effects of ketogenic eating on obese individuals. In this case, the 83 participants were required to begin the program with a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

Again, the participants were presented with a fairly 6a2b7accd3610c99cd8043ff0c0e7972--hey-girl-meme-girl-memessimple eating plan that consisted of 20 – 30 grams of carbs from green veggies and salads, 80 – 100 grams of protein from animal foods and cheese, and polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats. They were then monitored at eight weeks, 16 weeks, and, finally, 24 weeks. (Dashti, Hussein M, et al., 2004) During each “check-up”, the following was reflected:

  • A decrease in LDL Cholesterol, which continuously dropped in levels.
  • An uninterrupted decrease in triglycerides.
  • A steady increase of HDL Cholesterol.
  • A steady decrease of blood sugar levels.

One thing I particularly liked about this study is that it discusses other benefits of the ketogenic lifestyle, including it’s ability to be a mood stabilizer for bi-polar disorders and depression. Furthermore, it helps prevent osteoporosis and chronic diseases that result from high sugar intake. Finally, there are less – or no – side effects for obese individuals who utilize the ketogenic lifestyle to lose weight, unlike many quick-fix weight loss drugs that are on the market today.

What This Means

So, here we sit. I’ve just gave you the low down on three different studies that were conducted on three different groups of people by three different sets of Doctors. All of these studies present data that goes directly against what has been believed for decades by the general population. Not only can a low-carb diet that is high in unsaturated fats help people lose weight, but it can also decrease LDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides all the while increasing HDL cholesterol – also known as the good cholesterol.  Additionally, unlike the fad low-fat diets and weight loss supplements flashing across our television and computer screens regularly, there are minimal negative side effects.

Not only can a low-carb diet that is high in unsaturated fats help people lose weight, but it can also decrease LDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides all the while increasing HDL cholesterol – also known as the good cholesterol. 

I’m not a doctor, but I think that the conclusion is obvious: the ketogenic lifestyle is not only easier to maintain, but more likely to beneficial to your health and well-being than the alternatives.

Bibliography

  • Dashti, Hussein M, et al. “Long-Term Effects of a Ketogenic Diet in Obese Patients.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology, Pulsus Group Inc, 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2716748/.
  • Dashti, Hussein M., et al. “Long Term Effects of Ketogenic Diet in Obese Subjects with High Cholesterol Level.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, vol. 286, 2006, pp. 1–9., doi:10.1007/s11010-005-9001-x.
  • Yancy, William S., et al. “A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, 18 May 2004, annals.org/aim/fullarticle/717451/low-carbohydrate-ketogenic-diet-versus-low-fat-diet-treat-obesity.