Jenna’s N=1 and Accountability Thread

(Jenna Ericson) #1

I’ve decided to start this thread now because I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to figure a lot of things out, including aspects of my health, and I think that documenting my progress will help me stay on track. I also welcome any feedback on my approach!

First, to get super personal, and to give some context as to what I mean by “trying to figure a lot of things out”…I’ve been going through a separation from my husband. We were together for a long time, so while it’s hard in a lot of ways, our separation will give both of us a chance to figure out who we are as individuals. Even though being on our own is tough I think both him and I will come out of this stronger and more resilient than we were before. That’s my hope anyway.

Even though we’re all kinda living our own n=1 all the time, for me I think setting specific goals for myself here will keep me focused on something productive and help me feel healthier both mentally and physically.

My hypothesis is that I have a tendency toward being insulin resistant in response to three different factors: an overabundance of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable/seed oils, carbohydrates, and environmental stressors. Here’s where I get a little radical though, I don’t think that the carbohydrates and the environmental stressors would be enough on their own to cause real metabolic dysfunction. Yes, if I ate pastries all day and lived a stressful, but sedentary life I would probably be unhealthy without the seed oils. However, I think those oils make it much, much harder for me and others to stay healthy despite great efforts to do so.

I’ll try to do a summary of why I think this overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids is so metabolically disruptive to give an idea of how I came to my hypothesis. My interest in this subject started around the time I first posted on this forum. This is from that first post: “While reading “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” I had a few aha moments. One of these moments was when I found out that the membranes of our cells are made up of polyunsaturated fats, and that the wrong ratio of pro-inflammatory omega-6 to anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats in our cell membranes could influence insulin’s ability to interact with our cells, leading to worse insulin resistance.” I hope it’s okay that I just quoted myself like a weirdo, it was just easier than re-stating :slight_smile:

Then I watched Michael Eades’ video “A New Hypothesis of Obesity” where I first heard about the ROS Theory of Obesity. For more info on that I would recommend checking out other threads like this one: Fire in a Bottle - The ROS Theory of Obesity and The Proton Theory. The first post from @RightNOW is especially helpful. Basically this theory focuses on the way that different fats affect energy production in mitochondria. These different effects depend on the length of the fatty acid chain (longer chain fats create more reactive oxygen species) and on the ratio of how much FADH2 vs NADH is produced while the fat is being oxidized. Fats with a higher F/N ratio will cause a cell to become physiologically insulin resistant, which in this case is a good thing because it means the cell will not accept any more energy until it has used up what it’s already got. Omega-6 fats are both long chain fats, meaning they create more reactive oxygen species, and they have a lower F/N ratio, meaning a cell will not become insulin resistant and will accept more energy than it needs. Anyone here let me know if you you think I was off on any of that!

My next thought is my guess at the connection between the overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids and chronic inflammation (I’m summarizing from one of my previous posts): Omega-6 fats cause hypertrophy (fat cells getting stuffed with too much fat) over hyperplasia (fat cells multiplying) because the cell stays insulin sensitive even after the fat enters the mitochondria, meaning the cell accepts too much fat (and/or glucose). Fat cells that are stuffed with too much fat cause cytokine release and other immune system responses, hence the link between obesity and inflammation! On the other hand Omega-3 fats promote fat accumulation through hyperplasia rather than hypertrophy.

This again is my opinion, but I think what makes this high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats so deleterious when it comes to our health is that we have to think not just about our daily consumption of these fats in food, but also how much is stored on our body. The ROS theory leads me to believe that omega-6 fats are more likely to get stored, at least temporarily, and that burning them for fuel causes a demand for insulin, leading to blood sugar rollercoasters and, over time, to insulin induced insulin resistance. What I think this means is that if you are losing weight and burning those stored fats for energy, you will probably experience hunger, stalls, inflammation, etc. We also know that the meat from animals like pigs and chickens can have differing fatty acid profiles depending on the food those animals were fed. I think it’s reasonable to assume that as humans which fats we store could also depend on the food we eat.

Now that I’ve written a novel, what’s my actual plan for how to address this issue? I am going to attempt to change my own fatty acid profile :slight_smile:

I’ve been losing weight slowly over the last view months while focusing on decreasing the amount of omega-6 fats in my diet. I want to continue my cut to bring my body fat percentage down, and then I will do a bulk, during which time I will focus on filling my diet with omega-3 fats and continuing to avoid omega-6 fats. I’m not unhappy with my weight, but I would like to see a change in where I store fat and I think that will happen as my hormones adjust. I’d also like to gain muscle to bring my metabolic rate up.

Here are some numbers from my smart scale (taken this morning):

Current weight: 131.6 lbs
BMI: 21.4
Body Fat: 22.2%
Fat-free Body Weight: 102.4 lbs
Subcutaneous Fat: 20.6%
Visceral Fat: 4
Body Water: 53.4%
Skeletal Muscle: 45.3%
Muscle Mass: 96.2 lbs
Bone Mass: 6.2 lbs
Protein: 18.6%
BMR: 1372
Metabolic Age 27 (I’m actually 29 so yay I guess)

This is more info than is necessary, but that’s what I get from the scale so I thought I’d include it. I’m also not really sure how accurate the scale is, so those numbers might be off. I’d like to continue tracking my weight here, but probably won’t go into the other details after this.

I’d like to get down to about 120 lbs and then when I bulk I’d like to gain back about 8 to 10 lbs.
As far as food, for the rest of my cut, which I hope to finish before the beginning of summer, I’m going to do a mostly animal product diet with the exception of berries. I will, however, cheat when I go out with other people because that’s just easier for me socially. I also find that if I’m drinking alcohol when I go out it helps to have some carbs with it. When I bulk I’ll try to get at least 8 grams of omega-3 fats a day, probably from mackerel, sardines, salmon, fish oil and maybe chia seeds. While I’m gaining weight I’ll also add in some more carbs maybe in the form of potatoes, squash, and fruit. I’ll have to play that by ear a little bit.

As far as exercise, I’ll continue to focus on doing some in the form of strength training and maybe a little HIIT at least twice a week for now and will increase strength training when I want to start gaining weight. I’ll hopefully talk more about this later, and figure things out as I go.

While on paper I’m pretty healthy there are a lot of things that I would like to see change through this experiment. One of the biggest things is my mental health. I feel a lot of guilt and shame around talking about my issues because in general I’m fortunate to have the life that I do. I think the amount of mental pain that I sometimes feel doesn’t seem reflective of the amount of actual adversity in my life, and I guess that’s what I’d like to see change.

There are a lot of other changes I’d like to see, as far as body composition, how easily I gain or loss weight, the health of my skin and hair, etc.

I’m excited about the future and looking forward to continuing to share this stuff here. Thanks for listening :slight_smile:

(Susan) #2

I will be following your thread, Jenna, and encouraging you along the way =).

(Jenna Ericson) #3

Thanks Susan! :slight_smile:

(Full Metal KETO AF) #4

Jenna you have really studied up on the fatty acids. It’s great that you have a vision going forward and a pretty solid idea of what you’re doing. I’ll be interested in how your plan affects you down the road. Out of curiosity what are your sources for Omega6? Isn’t it enough just avoiding vegetable oil that upsets the balance?

Interesting Jenna. The fact is that pain mental or physical is brain chemistry at work. We experience those things completely alone and separate from others. I’m an amputee but I have worked at homeless drop in centers and it slapped me, there’s people a lot worse off. But truthfully it doesn’t make your feelings about you and your life experience less significant. I think some people feel sorry for me but it’s been so long it’s not a big thing to me anymore. But I had some big pain back then. So feel what you feel and work through it without guilt. I wish you the best with all your plans and life changes and quest for self discovery. :cowboy_hat_face::heart:

(Jenna Ericson) #5

As far as omega-6 fats, you’re right that I think it’s best to just try and avoid vegetable oils. I won’t be actively trying to get them from any source, but I will probably get a small amount from the meat that I eat or from any eating out that I do. I definitely won’t be trying to actively add them into my diet.

I really appreciate your perspective on pain. It’s especially interesting to hear you compare physical pain to mental pain. As far as their effects on health the two can probably potentially have similar results. You’re right that they are both brain chemistry at work. I used to blame certain feelings on some shortcoming in my personality and while I’ve become more aware that these feelings are not my fault, I am making an effort to figure them out and address them. We will all experience hardships in life, but it’s how we choose to process them that matters. I kind of want to quote Gandalf here, but I’ll refrain :blush:


Hey Jenna,

I dove down the ROS omega-6 fatty acid rabbit hole, so maybe I can share some of my insight. I am carnvorish, histamine intolerance has taught me that veggies aren’t very beneficial for my body, so my opinion on vegetables is biased and leaning towards veggies=bad. Chia seeds - vegetarian-sourced fats (ALA) arent readily available for conversion to DHA, only about 20% can be converted in our bodies, plus I would avoid seeds due to xenoestrogens.
My approach is similar to yours - I avoid all seed oils, I don’t eat processed foods, I eat mackerel, sardines, and eggs, keep my chicken and pork cuts lean (breast and tenderloin) and the majority of my meat intake is beef. I watched sooo many podcasts over the past few weeks, I’m having trouble remembering who said what and where, but I watched a podcast on fatty acid metabolism in our mitochondria, one theory is that we need a pool of all fatty acids for the system to work in the most efficient way. Then we get to nuances - should our own fat add more than enough PUFAs to the system, should we still add omega-3 to raise the ratio of omega 3:omega6, etc… I try to approach it with an 80-20 rule, 80% I can control, the other 20% will just have to be good enough.

(Jenna Ericson) #7

Thanks @Meerkatsandy, I think I’ll have to be careful with things like Chia seeds if I try to add them back in down the road. My ultimate goal is to find out if changing the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids stored in my body can affect my metabolism enough that I am able to incorporate a wider variety of foods into my diet without experiencing negative side effects, but that’s just a theory that I’ll have to test as I go. I’m not really familiar with what histamine intolerance is, but when I was a kid I had a lot of allergy symptoms and had a RAST test (IgE antibodies test) which came back saying I was allergic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, and yogurt. My crazy theory is that because omega-6 fatty acids are inherently inflammatory, they might put the immune system in overdrive and cause it to overreact to foods that it sees as threats. I really liked your 80-20 rule. As many people do, I tend to use food as a lever of control in my life, but it’s necessary to keep in mind that there are things I can’t control and that is okay.

(Jenna Ericson) #8

Here’s a status update for the day:

Today’s weight: 130.8 (down 0.8 lbs from yesterday)

My scale says that I lost 0.2% of my body fat and and also says I lost 0.2 lbs of muscle mass. 0.8 lbs to me is a lot to have lost in a day so I assume that some of that is water weight. This is where I think the scale gets confused because it says my body water went up from 53.4% to 53.5%. I think it might be confusing water loss for muscle loss, but I might be wrong.

I was kind of worried that I would gain weight today, which wouldn’t be a very good start, but I was determined to report in either way. I think a big problem that plagues science is that people have a tendency to disregard data that doesn’t support their claim. I will try not to do that here.

I tracked my food yesterday using My Fitness Pal which was interesting because I haven’t tracked food in a while. It was kind of like exposure therapy :blush: The app tells me that to loss 2 lbs a week I should be eating 1200 calories a day, which is what was my goal for the majority of my life. Yesterday I basically ate two meals (lunch and dinner) and ate to satiety eat time. My total number of calories was 1,452. When I look back to my post from yesterday, my BMR is supposed to be 1372, so eating more than that, based on conventional wisdom, means I should have gained weight or stayed about the same since I didn’t really do any extra exercise. It will be really interesting to see if this trend continues because it will seemingly disprove the calories in, calories out things, or at least lead me to conclude that the amount of calories my body burns in a day is much more variable than previously believed.

I’m not sure how to easily share data from My Fitness Pal, but I’m not going to look into that now because I think I’m going to switch to Carb Manager. I like the visual breakdown of macro percentages better in that app. I did figure out my macros from yesterday (adjusting for the higher caloric density of fat) and found that I ate 70% fat, 6% carbs, and 24% from protein, which I’m pretty happy with.

I sort of wish I hadn’t said I was going to do a mostly animal product diet because I decided that’s more limiting than I want. I should probably redefine somehow, but I’ll figure that out later. Here’s a basic breakdown of what I ate (dinner was a weird mix of quarantine leftovers):


Coffee with heavy cream

5 oz. Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon cooked in olive oil (plug for ButcherBox)

6 strawberries with ¼ cup of heavy cream


7 oz. beef liver cooked in beef tallow

Small leftover piece of sirloin steak with butter

1 uncured beef hot dog

Some strawberries with melted cocoa butter mixed with cocoa powder poured over them

I also took 3 fish oil pills.

I won’t include what I ate everyday and may not even track everyday since it is kind of time consuming and tedious, but I thought this was a good starting point.

(Full Metal KETO AF) #9

Good morning Jenna, so I don’t know what BMI scale you’re using but I have heard many times that the results they give can be pretty wide and inaccurate. Just don’t put too much into the data it gives you. And don’t let those numbers that it gives you cause you any stress. :cowboy_hat_face:


I try to avoid omega 6 as much as I can, my body is very prone to auto-immune reactions and inflammatory processes. I am definitely looking forward to your experiment, we can all learn something from your n=1. :slight_smile:

One thing I would add in regards to your weight - you are a young woman, don’t forget to take your monthly cycle into consideration and the changes it causes in water weight. Compared to men, our bodies are very different, we have different hormonal phases almost every day/month, and that causes changes in weight.
Also something to consider - dairy can be problematic (I can’t handle it well, symptoms of inflammation show up within 2-3 days (itchiness, bloating (especially around my ankles), etc), some find that even A2 dairy causes a reaction, strawberries (allergic reaction, also one of the dirtiest foods pesticide-wise)…


At the risk of saying something untoward- but isn’t this a bit too much concentration on the body and not enough on life? You are a 29 year old woman in the prime of her life, in good health, and of normal weight. I am thinking you should be concentrating on getting married if you haven’t already, and maybe starting a family, your profession whatever that may be, and spending less energy on every microscopic detail of your nutrition? You sound pretty healthy to me. If this is a control issue, then learning to deal with this is a processs of learning to let go of that need.
You wrote. “I think the amount of mental pain that I sometimes feel doesn’t seem reflective of the amount of actual adversity in my life.” This isn`t something which fits in the realm of a nutritionist, This is something for a psychoanalyst to help you with. I think this is also the main issue here. Because you are really a healthy young woman.
Best wishes to you!

(Jenna Ericson) #12

Chantarella, while I appreciate your advice, this journey is an important one for me at this point in my life. I just got out of a long-term relationship and I’m enjoying having some time to focus on something that interests me. Maybe nothing will come of my experiment, but if I end up feeling better or even if I don’t, I think I will have gained something from this. Also, I have a successful career that I like and I don’t think that this will detract from that. I’ve had to focus on what I eat my whole life to avoid metabolic dysfunction so the only thing that’s really different now is that I’m sharing my experience.

Also, as far as relationships, they are very important to me, but I’ve never been someone to seek out a partner just for the sake of not being alone. Also, I’m not sure where you are, but aren’t we all quarantined right now? This isn’t my style, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone hit up tinder right now. Although who am I to judge :slight_smile:


I am sorry you have lost a loved one. Thats tough. I know- happened to me before too. Gee- I don’t even want to remember the pain and suffering. Whew.
But there are a lot of us on here who are really sick. High blood pressure and diabetes and all that.
I think it is your heart which is ailing more than your body right now
Take care-

(Jenna Ericson) #14

I haven’t experienced issues with dairy yet, but I will keep that in mind if I stall. You may be right about strawberries and I’ve switched it up to eating a combo of blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. I think optimally I would remove all plants from my diet and just eat nose-to-tail, but I really like sweet things and having a little bit along with some fat satisfies that craving. Also, because I’m not really eating much else in the way of carbs I’ve kept them between 15 and 25 net grams a day even with the berries.

(Jenna Ericson) #15

I know I’ve just started this, but I’ve been liking the progress I’ve made so far and I wanted to do an update on the last few days.

To recap since my actual n=1 might have gotten lost in the novel I wrote for my first post, my goal is to loss about 10 lbs and then put on almost that amount of weight while eating as little omega-6 fatty acids as possible and making an effort to raise the amount of omega-3 fats in my diet. The point is to change the fatty acid profile of the fat stored on my body, and to gain muscle mass as I put on weight.

Yesterday I had lost 0.2 lbs since the day before (I’m sorry to make this so much about weight, but honestly it’s the best metric I can think of for measuring progress toward my goals). I was happy with having lost 0.2 lbs because I had been up late/early working the night before and had only gotten about 3.5 hours of sleep. This is kind of a normal occurrence for me and when I get that amount of sleep I usually end of gaining some weight the next day. I should probably work on solutions for minimizing this habit. Anyway, this is an example of what I meant by environmental stressors influencing my metabolism.

This morning I had lost a pound since the day before! This amazes me because my eating has been similar to the first day I logged my diet and I’ve been eating more than my supposed BMR.

I would like to eventually talk about how I think vegetable and seed oils may influence brain function and how I hope to influence my own brain function through this experiment. I don’t really have enough science to back this up, though, so we’ll see how it goes. It can be hard for me (and I hope others can relate) talking about any mental issues that I have because I worry that others will pathologize me. In other words, there is a fear that once you admit that “something is wrong with you” others will trust your judgement less because they think of you as sick. I really don’t think the feelings and thoughts that I experience are outside of the norm for many people, but it can be hard to talk about this stuff.

P.S. I’m really enjoying sharing and having a discourse about this. Thanks again for listening :blush:

(Susan) #16

I am reading along, I always enjoy reading other forum member’s Keto adventures, even if I don’t have specific advice/ideas to offer up.

I have been doing another dairy free experiment myself since the beginning of March, and hoping that it will help me. I went off plan the other day for the dairy by adding a bit of marble cheese (that I grated myself not the pre-grated garbage full of sawdust) and 1 tablespoon of sour cream for a taco salad, but that is the only dairy I have had this month so far. I miss my HWC but losing weight is more my focus for now, haha.

(Jenna Ericson) #17

Hey guys! I’ve been staying on track with my goals and loving that this thread is keeping me accountable. It also makes it easier that I have more control than usual over what I eat because of social distancing. This won’t always be the case, but I’m taking advantage of it while I can. I’m not trying to make light of dark times, just trying to see the bright side :slight_smile:

I had been meaning to talk about the effects of polyunsaturated fats on the brain. Here are two relevant articles:

The first article was posted on this forum by @Tmdlkwd a while ago. It’s about a mouse study that looked at the effects of soybean oil on the brains of male mice. This is not ideal in inferring how this oil would affect the brain of a human, but I think it is still worth looking at in the context of everything else we know. Apparently “the scientists found pronounced effects of the oil on the hypothalamus, where a number of critical processes take place.”

Here’s wikipedia’s description of the hypothalamus: “The hypothalamus is responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. It synthesizes and secretes certain neurohormones, called releasing hormones or hypothalamic hormones, and these in turn stimulate or inhibit the secretion of hormones from the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviours, thirst,[2] fatigue, sleep, and circadian rhythms.”

If you think about illnesses of the modern world, don’t they seem to have to do with a lot of the processes regulated by the hypothalamus?

The article also said this: “The research team discovered roughly 100 other genes also affected by the soybean oil diet. They believe this discovery could have ramifications not just for energy metabolism, but also for proper brain function and diseases such as autism or Parkinson’s disease. However, it is important to note there is no proof the oil causes these diseases.”

The second article sites studies “that found a correlation between a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids (most often obtained from fish) and lower murder rates.” I don’t think it’s that far of a jump to say that if omega-3 fats decrease violent behavior maybe omega-6 fats increase it, since they compete with each other in the body.

Anyway, even if this isn’t completely new info, it’s definitely relevant to my experiment!

(Troy) #18

Same one you linked I think
Here’s the above mentioned study @jennasaurus👍

Have a great day😄

[SOYing The Seeds of Soybean Oil and Brain Change]

(Jenna Ericson) #19

I’ve been doing pretty well with my n=1. My weight has been stalled or going up slightly over the past few days, but I think that’s just normal weight fluctuation. I’ve lost 1.6 lbs since a little over a week ago so I’ll take that as a win and just keep calm and keto on :slight_smile:

I thought I’d take a moment (or maybe 5 hours) to give a little background on myself since I haven’t really said much about why I’m so focused on diet and metabolism.

Around the time I started first grade (so age 6) I began having a lot of allergy symptoms including wheezing, itchy eyes, hives and a constantly runny nose. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had allergy testing done and found that I was allergic to wheat, eggs, peanuts, and yogurt. Around that time I also got diagnosed with dyslexia as I was having a hard time learning to read. I avoided the foods I was allergic to for a couple of year, but eventually decided that I had outgrown my allergies. In other words, I really wanted to eat a brownie one day and when I experienced no immediate symptoms, I decided I had been cured :slight_smile:

Over the next few years I gained weight pretty rapidly and by age 12 I weighed 150 lbs. I was chubby and shy and while I’m lucky that I didn’t really experience much bullying, I remember the feeling of being invisible. Around that time I started restricting calories to 1200 a day and cut out breakfast. That worked really well and I ended up losing about 25 lbs by the time I turned 14. I continued to try to maintain this as I got older which became increasingly difficult and caused me to have what, in my opinion, was an unhealthy relationship with food. Any time I would deviate from my 1200 calorie limit I would gain weight rapidly and then blame my lack of will power. I’ve heard very similar stories from other women, and in many ways I think this kind of behavior has become the norm.

While my experiences with calorie restriction have certainly had a lasting effect on my mental health, I believe my low self-esteem has been reinforced by a much more insidious stressor - inflammation. Here is an article about the link between depression and inflammation:

It’s funny, I was about to write that I don’t think I have really struggled with depression per se, but I think that’s a bit of denial. There are definitely times when I have felt deeply unhappy for no apparent reason and life has seemed like just a long series of coping mechanisms. Sorry to be so bleak, I’m just trying to sort out my thoughts.

To get back to diet I often get into very negative thought patterns after eating something that doesn’t agree with me. With respect to my n=1, I think these feelings were in response to vegetable or seed oils, specifically. For a while I thought that I had a gluten intolerance because I would feel terrible after eating processed foods with wheat. I realized this happened after eating things like store-bought (gluten free) corn chips too. I did an experiment where I ate a bunch of seitan, which is just straight-up wheat gluten and while I found it disgusting, I felt otherwise fine after eating it, so it was pretty clear gluten was not the problem.

My theory is that I’m not only affected by these fats in my diet, but I’m also negatively affected by burning the fat on my body that contains these omega-6 fats because their oxidation is particularly inflammatory. For example, I have been into hiking since I was a kid and on longer hikes I often start to not only feel physically exhausted, but I start having these terrible uncontrollable thoughts circling in my head. I refer to these moments jokingly as my existential crises. After the hike, even if I’ve eaten a relatively small amount, I will often feel sick and achy for days and end up gaining a few pounds. I think this is because on those longer hikes I am most likely tapping into my fat stores, and I think that is causing an inflammatory response.

I also have noticed that recently, I tend to get achy, tired, and depressed in the evening around the time that my ketone levels rise.

At this point you might be rolling your eyes or raising your eyebrows, or some other facial expression of incredulity. If you think my theory is ridiculous, just remember, there are a bunch of people out there who literally think the world is flat. They are not joking and neither am I :slight_smile:

(Jenna Ericson) #20

So I think I’ve had a breakthrough. I had originally said I was going to try to get about 8 grams of omega-3 fats a day when I start my bulk, but that I wouldn’t really focus on that during my cut. By chance I ended up eating more omega-3s than usual on Monday and then decided to do the same thing again yesterday. Each day I had three 1000 mg fish oil pills, 5 oz of salmon, and a can of sardines in olive oil (on top of my normal diet). This morning I’m down to my lowest weight since starting this thread. My guess is I’m eating between 6 and 8 grams a day and will continue doing this.

Here’s the podcast where I got the idea to eat 8 grams of omega-3s a day:

I highly recommend listening to it!

I’ve got a busy day today, but really wanted to share this. I will be very interested to see if this continues to be helpful going forward!