Know Your Why

I hear the phrase “know your why” in the keto community. I first heard it from Brian Williamson (a.k.a ketovangelist) who I can paraphrase as: if you don’t remember why you’re doing something, what’s going to keep you doing it?

My why has always been my mom, for many, many things, but specifically, her health struggles have always driven me to try to be healthier because I never wanted to end up with the same troubles. My mom had trouble with diabetes and heart disease dating back a long time.

Vowing to never go down her path, I started avoiding meat, especially red meat, rather I focussed on vegetables and healthy whole grains, exactly what the experts recommend. Fast forward almost 2 decades and that got me the opposite, I was accumulating diagnoses: type II diabetes, sleep apnea, psoriasis, asthma, plus I had to go to a chiropractor several times a week to try to manage back pain.

By this time my mom had her knee replaced, diabetes had led to dangerous neuropathy in her feet (but luckily never amputation) and damage to her kidneys. The kidney damage caused several hospitalizations before she was ultimately put on dialysis in 2017. Dialysis was hard on her, she was out of commission for a while after each treatment and her fistula never cooperated.

Due to her high risk of stroke, in late 2018 her doctor recommended she go through a “Watchman” procedure. It was not supposed to be a big deal, but while she was recovering, she ended up suffering from several TIAs (like a small stroke, precisely what it was supposed to prevent). Recovering from the procedure and TIAs really reduced her mobility.

In early 2019 we discovered her aortic valve was severely damaged from the dialysis and started looking into getting her a TAVR valve replacement at the Mayo Clinic around July. During her preparations for that, she had an angiogram which she did very poorly on, her blood pressure went dangerously low and instead of waiting until July, they did the valve replacement as quickly as possible.

In late 2019 my mom was hospitalized after falling and having persistent wound on her abdomen. If you’ve never heard of calciphylaxis, you are lucky, don’t look it up, just know it is something that can happen to dialysis patients. It turned out the wound was calciphylaxis and it was getting worse. Her doctor started a relatively new treatment for it and he was optimistic that she could fight it. The next few months she never returned home, she bounced between the hospital and a skilled care facility for rehabilitation and finally a long-term care facility (where she spent only a few days over Christmas). Her mobility deteriorated with the hospital stays, she fought through a C. difficile (diff) infection, and dialysis was getting more difficult, often leading to a hospital visit due to dangerously low blood pressure.

The day after Christmas she missed dialysis and went back to the hospital. This time after a day they moved her to the ICU where the doctor informed us she likely can’t handle dialysis again due to her blood pressure and she was suffering from septic shock and fighting a massive infection from her calciphylaxis wound and in her state, the prognosis wasn’t good.

She transitioned to “comfort care” (hospice in the hospital). We spent the next few days at her side and she held on strong with us until just after the start of 2020.

Luckily when I was confronted with my diabetes diagnosis, I was blessed to find Gary Taubes’ work, which led me to Jimmy Moore’s Keto Clarity book and took me down the rabbit hole of following the ketogenic diet. I was healthier at 40 by every measure than at 30 because of it and no longer suffer from any of my ailments or take any prescription medications.

I shared what I did with my mom over the years and encouraged her to change. Her cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic even pushed her to lower her carbohydrate intake. I can’t help but think things would have turned out a lot differently if I had gotten through to her. But I am not a doctor, I was scared to go against what her doctors told her to eat, she was so complicated, I didn’t want to be responsible for screwing something up. She would always tell me that so much fat was bad, “watch out”, “you need more fruit and vegetables” when I only ate (red) meat or “I could never give up my bread”. I tried to explain, but never convinced her.

She was always my why, but now more than ever. More than ever I know eating a mostly carnivore, ketogenic diet is right for me and need to help other people avoid the same fate as my mom. Our health is too important!

These past few months showed me that getting good sleep and keeping stress under control is just as important to health as diet. Despite no variance in diet, this time has been rather stressful and my sleep suffered and I definitely noticed that it impacted my overall health.

Previous writings about diet and health: