Low-carb for me has always been about weight loss, but lately I’ve been thinking about it more in terms of cognitive enhancement. Low-carb started for me as a low-carb, low-fat, and high protein diet called a “protein-sparing modified fast”. For the past decade I’ve often gone through periods of losing a good amount of weight (20 – 40lbs) using that tactic or a more traditional low-carb high-fat. But when it comes to goal setting, weight loss is a lousy goal. First, it doesn’t seem to be achievable for me. Not directly. Second, low-carb itself is not the only tool to get to weight loss.
Enter cognitive enhancement. I almost certainly feel better mentally while eating keto. The mental clarity I get from fasting or eating only fat is unmatched. When I’m supplementing right (enough salt), I do a great job of avoiding brain fog. I make better decisions at work and recover from stressful events more quickly. I feel better overall. Maybe cognitive enhancement is a goal that will help keep me aligned to a low-carb diet?
For 2015 I am setting goals that I think are 100% achievable. Weight loss, in any kind of relative or absolute terms, is not. Daily keto, as a goal, is not. Tracking my food intake daily is achievable. Taking a few minutes each day to be mindful about how I’m feeling and reflect on how what I ate may impact that is also achievable.
Another change I made is 2015 is to do my best to avoid “elimination” goals. What I’ve observed over the past few years is that I’ll often eliminate one habit, which may or not even deserve to have been eliminated, and then quickly get creative about replacing that habit with an equally bad one. Instead, much better to set a desired habit first and then let creativity works its magic in figuring out how to get there.
So this is the tack I’ve taken for 2015: set very small, easily achievable goals that lead to habit formation. How to apply it to my desire to maintain a keto state? First, I need to prevent my gut health from going downhill. So I think one goal has to be to get enough fiber and other plant matter:
“Eat 5 servings of vegetables a day”
Another, I need a way to get excited about cognitive enhancement. I’ve had 3 ideas so far on this front:
“Read 4 hours per week”
“Write 500 words 4 days per week”
“Study online course material 4 hours per week”
My current thinking, after tracking against these reading/writing/studying goals for about a month, is that I cannot achieve these cognitive enhancement goals without the cognitive enhancement that comes from keto. Or, if I can, then I am probably operating at 50% efficiency or lower without keto. I would measure this cognitive performance on two main factors: mental endurance and ability to focus.
One of the most interesting points about these SMART goals that I’ve chosen is that they all feel incredibly underwhelming. There is something to be said for a bombastic, unrealistic goal. However, that is very much not what I am aiming for. I am aiming for consistency in my life. I am trying to form repeatable and sustainable habits and patterns. My belief is that by cultivating this consistency and discipline, I will be able to set and achieve wildly unrealistic goals in the near future.