Happy, Quiet Birthday

Time flies, doesn’t it? I still remember the cold winter days like they were yesterday…

It was my birthday last week and we quietly celebrated it, just me and the wife. After a toxic work week it felt like a quiet birthday weekend was long overdue. Although I must admit, the celebration was month-long considering that I have received some of my birthday gifts really early and the anticipation of the things we were about to do kept me going.

I somehow lost my wife’s little JBL bluetooth speaker so she got me this one which is big enough not to misplace it. 🙂
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We have been searching record stores and flea markets for weeks now for some quality second-hand vinyls.

Also, a few months back we got tickets to Sam Smith’s concert here in Berlin and it was just a few days short of my birthday. To be quite honest, I did not expect such a great show. He’s just adorable and a great performer and I’m glad I didn’t give away our tickets or else we would have missed out on all his cuteness. 🙂

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Then on the first day of my birthday weekend, we had theatre tickets to see Die Therapie, from Sebastian Fitzek’s book of the same name which I have written little bit about here. I really loved the book so, sadly, I already knew the twists but it was nevertheless a really good performance and I realised that I actually do like going to the theatre and will be looking out for more shows in the city.

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So on the day before the birthday itself, we checked into the Hilton Berlin. Last year we were in Warsaw and got a great deal on a room at the Hilton hotel there and just loved everything about it, especially the breakfast buffet. Since we decided to stay home this year, we chose the Hilton again mostly for the breakfast but also because I got us a room with a view at a discounted price.

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The hotel is right at Gendarmenmarkt and from our window you can see Deutscher Dom from up close. Waking up to all this was the whole point. We also had access to the wellness area and executive lounge that served snacks and coffee and wine so I can really say it was worth every cent.

We lost track of time the night before my birthday when we took advantage of the facilities of the hotel by going to the gym, then the pool, then the sauna and next thing we know it’s already late in the night when we were ready for dinner. We went out and walked around Gendarmenmarkt looking for a place that still served warm food at 10 PM and ended up at a Bavarian brewery and ate crispy Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle). Really, Keto has not been more fun than that night, indulging in what we Filipinos would call crispy pata without any guilt whatsoever.

After our dinner, we walked through Gendarmenmarkt, appreciating its stillness. The moon was bright and only few people were out considering it was a Sunday night. While waiting for the clock to strike midnight, we took a few photos.

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On the day of my birthday and after checking out, we stayed a bit longer in the area since we don’t really get to roam around there like tourists do and just pretended we were one of them. Really, I can’t even remember the last time I stepped foot inside Galeries Lafayette. Since we have been on Keto for almost two months now, we skipped the whole birthday cake thing and I chose something I get to eat even less often – oysters. We had lunch at Seaside Fish & Seafood Bar for my oyster fix and I was positively surprised. It’s the only restaurant of its kind that we’ve found in the city so far and has instantly become one of my favourites. Fresh seafood reminds me of home. ❤

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My this year’s idea of a birthday cake.

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Soon the day was over and we went home feeling relaxed and I have been receiving birthday greetings by the minute which is always a great way to spend the day.

When I got back to work doing the AM shift, the table was set with flowers and cakes and gifts, a tradition we have that I usually coordinate. But since this time it was my turn at the receiving end, I did not know what to expect. I was even scared that they will all just forget about it. This clearly wasn’t the case, though, and I was glad to be back at work again. They even made a low-carb cheesecake that suits my current diet situation. 🙂

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More greetings came in that day from my colleagues and everyone politely asked if I had some sort of celebration. I always replied that I had my peace and quiet, which I seemed to value more these days. I don’t really miss having a birthday party with food and drinks and friends and family and lots and lots of gifts, or even having to spend it somewhere far from home. I’m not saying that I will only ever be spending my birthdays like this in the future because I might want to throw a party or two at some point, but I am sure that I’d be happy to have some days like this one – just me, the wife, and a view.

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(Had my sister not broken her leg last month, she would have come to Berlin to be with us on my birthday. Not sure what our plans would have looked like then, but I’m sure it would have been a fun day nonetheless.)

The thrill of living in this city is still the same as when we first moved here almost two years ago. We get lazy sometimes but it’s satisfying to know that to avoid boredom, all we have to do is get out of the house, maybe drive a few kilometres, and we’ll see something we’ve never seen before. ❤

Fighting PCOS on Ketogenic Diet

I recently started a Ketogenic diet. It’s an ultra low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat diet which also means using all the fat as fuel for my body instead of what it was used to – carbs. It’s the start of my fifth week today and it has been quite a journey so far.

Why Ketogenic?

My previous post is a recall of the time I discovered that I have PCOS. I was advised to follow a low-carb diet but I never got around to trying an extreme low-carb diet like Keto. I have been cautious about my carb intake (though not strict) since the diagnosis and I wanted to try something with what seemed like a positive outcome – being full of energy without the sugar!

The idea came after our recent trip to Venice last February. We stayed there for six days and it was too much. In my post, I talked about how we felt like we spent way too much time on that group of islands but another reason for my agony were the food options. It was exciting at first to know you don’t have much of a choice but to eat either pizza or pasta until exactly this became the problem. Somewhere in between I would have a serving of carpaccio just to even the score but I still felt like I was stuck with an uncomfortable amount of carbs and I was pretty sure I will not touch pizza or pasta again for the next couple of months. It was the perfect time to start a low-carb lifestyle!

After that holiday, I did some research on low-carb diets and found a couple of articles that were associated with reversing PCOS. It felt like there was hope for finally fixing some issues with my health and I grew more and more excited each day. I had to ask my wife if she would at least support me if she wouldn’t join me but she did her own research and felt like it was also the right diet for her. We did not start right away and dropped the carbs cold turkey, but we took our time to read a bit more about it and to eliminate some food from our pantry that we know we won’t be needing during this process and to make space for all the new food that is coming. It wasn’t until two weeks later when we finally started. We just got home from a weekend at my mom’s where we also went to a birthday party and that’s why we set that deadline so we don’t get distracted when we finally begin.

Goals:

  • Reduce the symptoms of my PCOS. I measure through frequency of my menstrual flow.
  • Have lots of energy. I want to be able to do many things without getting tired easily.
  • Get a jumpstart on a low-carb lifestyle. Starting Keto is like ditching carbs cold turkey which I believe can help with starting to get used to it. Once I’m done with Keto, I am planning to continue eating low-carb to keep my PCOS on track.

Additions to our pantry:

  • Almond flour / Coconut flour
  • Erythritol and other low-carb sweeteners
  • Avocados
  • Fresh leafy greens
  • Zucchini (for Zoodles)
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Cauliflower (for cauliflower rice!)
  • Cheese
  • Even more grass-fed Irish butter (we’ve been consuming this for years now)
  • Coconut and olive oils

Some of these foods we already had but since we would be consuming these on the regular, we had to stash some more.

How we got started:

In Keto, it is important to stick to your daily macronutrient allowance so we got started by getting to know this. There are apps that can help you calculate and keep track of your macronutrient intake. My app of choice is Lifesum. My diet consists of 6% carbs (20g), 14% protein (51g), and 80% fat (116g). Obviously, this is a huge difference compared to, say, when I used to have a breakfast roll in the morning which now would already exceed my present carb allowance.

Benefits of Ketogenic Diet in my experience:

  • One week into Ketogenic, I was surprised by already getting my period. The flow was pretty weak and it felt like it had been forced out sooner than my body had intended to. But that’s already one goal off the list!
  • I remember working the night shift during my first week. I am usually very tired the first night with serious brain-fog due to lack of sleep but I was surprised to have been able to fully concentrate and only felt the need for some shut-eye once I was laying comfortably in my bed at home.
  • You get introduced to lots of new food. Or even old ones that you have been taught to avoid all your life because of its high fat content.
  • It saved us a lot of money. Back when we were eating mostly anything, we wouldn’t even think twice to go out to eat because it seemed more convenient than grocery shopping and then cooking. Now we know we can’t just go out and expect people to serve us Keto food so we have to make our own every time we eat and it helps us becoming more aware of our intake.

Downsides of Ketogenic Diet:

Of course, it has some downsides too. But this is where you really decide whether this is for you or not.

  • In the first week, I have experienced pain in my limbs. At some point they were so extreme I could barely walk. It is a side-effect of Keto during the early stages and it was gone after a few days.
  • People will ask why you are not eating. They see you with a bowl of salad with avocados, some cheese cuts and olives, and a cup of tea and they will ask why you are not eating. You might be surrounded by people that don’t consider what you eat as food. But you have to be strong and remember your goal! During the first and second week there had been a farewell and a birthday party at the office and there was enough cake for everyone to get two servings. I am proud to say that I did not touch any of it.
  • Some people experience the so-called Keto Flu in the early stages of Keto. This is where one can experience flu-like symptoms while adjusting to the low-carb lifestyle.
  • My face is pretty clear most of the time but at some point in our fourth week, my skin started breaking out and I had to go out with two huge pimples on my face. They’re long gone now but I only ever experienced this back in high school and now on Keto. It might be all hormonal or a combination of some other things like working the night shift and stress.
  • The hardest part of Keto for me is constipation (no pun intended, so sorry about that). It did not get better until we integrated some psyllium husk into our diet which is rich in fibre and works greatly in some Keto bread recipes.
  • Anyone who wants to start Keto should get ready to have to explain to their friends why they won’t be joining them for drinks or dinner. Sure, there are foods that you can eat at a restaurant but it’s easy to get tempted to eat past your macros when you’re in a group.

I haven’t really decided yet for how long I will be doing this diet. I was hoping maybe about 3-4 months but I am actually afraid of eating carbohydrates again because of the temptation of having too much. It’s hard to have to adjust again to a new eating habit. Right now I am perfectly satisfied with restricting myself because I know that if I cheat once I may have to start all over again. But I also don’t believe that Keto is forever and it’s only there to help me get used to a low-carb life.

Now that I just started my fifth week of Keto, I surely have been noticing a few more physical changes. For one, I don’t feel bloated anymore. I am not sure what exactly made me feel that way before but eliminating it has surely helped. I try not to focus too much on my weight while on this diet because some of it will be gained back anyway once I start reintroducing carbs back into my diet, but I did lose up to 3.2kg as of today which is reasonable for the first month.

Another change that took me completely by surprise right now is that I just got my period again. This one, though, seems more like a real one unlike the brief and spotty one from last month. But, hey, these are just reminders that I might actually be on the right track to taking my health back. 🙂