With financial freedom and early retirement there are no more excuses

When you are occupied by work and spent most of your waking day working and then doing the stuff around work that needs to be done, it is easy to come up with excuses as why you are not pursuing the goals you actually have in live.

Setting major life goals by oneself after early retirement.


It is always easy to say you are too busy working to actually start on your own projects. Or whatever activity you are day-dreaming about, while thinking you would do it with more free time. But can you imagine that it might become a little scary, once you take the time restriction away? I do not mean the occasional week or two away from work, where your main goal is to relax and recharge, so that you can bear the burden of work again.

I mean “early-retirement-never-having-to-work-again”-free. Free time, to yourself and your own projects, for month and years to come. Then you better come up with a really good excuse or you will feel awful for not actually pursuing your dreams. Either you are the person who can easily live their life just relaxing and not having any long-term goals, or you will have to set those for yourself. As I personally do not know anyone who falls into this category, this will apply to almost anyone. And as you are reading this, I think it particularly applies to you. I guess you are someone who is eager to learn and live life on your own terms.

In the FIRE-Community (Financial-Independence-Retired-Early) an initial adjustment period is quite well known. Here I will link you an article from someone who has been going through that phase. I guess it is something different than going through this phase when you are in your 30s or 40s compared to the usual retirement age in your 60s. You are most likely still fit to take on bigger long-term projects. Even with a lot of self-development work like meditation and self-inquiry, you will most likely still search for some additional direction and engagement through some form of work. A meditation-habit is almost a necessity I would say. It quiets down our usually over-active minds and makes you aware of your more true desires. Meditation also trains the mental capacity to recognize urges and negative emotions when they spontaneously arise.

Additional Self-inquiry work will reveal your more true motivations and desires. After that, you have now clearly defined one or more major life goals outside of regular employment. Will you be able to pursue those goals once time is no longer a constrain/excuse?

This is the point where early retirement becomes really interesting. Why else should one pursue the timely freedom that early retirement extreme provides, if not to pursue some higher goals in life? You would clearly not want to retire an empty life. Many will have plenty of things that they could occupy their time with, like family and friends, sport and fitness, cooking and eating, culture and travelling. After some time a thought is certain to arise: “Okay, all of this free time and the experiences are nice, but I need something more meaningful to do in the long-run…”. If you are not sure what this might look like for you, than go figure that out first.

If you have already a long-term project planned that might provide you with a certain sense of meaning than be prepared that it will become reality with early retirement. And this takes real action and merely thinking about is no longer enough.

I will you give you an example of myself. For a long time I have been thinking about becoming (mostly) self-sufficient in food-production. Not reading all the theory of permaculture and how to grow food is nice, but once I have the time and financial means, I will actually have to go out one day and build the farm and plant the food forest. I am excited about it and that vision keeps me focused on my goal. I am still in the phase of anticipation for that work to become reality. But I am already intimidated by the thought, that one day, after reaching financial independence, I actually have to quit my job and start working on that dream.

Conclusion


Having a clear idea about what you are going to fill your days with after early retirement will help you in several ways. If you are still in the working-phase of early retirement, it will keep you focused and motivated. And if you have already achieved your time-freedom, it will provide you with a long-term and hopefully meaningful goal towards which you can invest some of your time. It is therefore important, no matter where you are right now in your journey, to become clear about your goals, wishes, desires and derive a set of concrete actions from them. That will prevent failure in both the pre- and post-retirement phases.

In the light of personal development, financial independence can be a great facilitator, when the possibilities it offers are actually not wasted. But in the end everyone is free to choose how they spend their time. And not being a mindless consumer is certainly good behavior for the earth and our society in and of itself.

The mental attitude to save for financial freedom

If you want to reach and enjoy financial freedom, I think you really have to confront yourself with the following aspects of it.
When striving for financial freedom you will have nothing to show for it. You might save a lot of money that could otherwise buy you fancy things. But investing in stocks or other investments will not be something you can show off with and outwardly they will not increase your social status. Buying fancy clothes that always look shiny and new will most likely also not be an option.

Going against social norms might be a big challenge of early retirement.


So you will be faced with the situation that you have a large sum of money, but it will never be transformed into something physical that you can show your friends or that you can personally use. The investments in stocks will only look like they are money, because your portfolio will constantly show the price for which they can be sold. To make it easier you should look at it this way: You buy the stocks once and never expect to see that money again. You will live of the interest-gains and dividend payments. Think about the money as gone, just like you would pay someone to cook a meal for you, which buys you free time form cooking. But with stocks you buy general free time in the future when you draw from your portfolio and dividends.

Whenever you put a month worth of your expenses into savings, think more about buying a month of free time than the sum of money and what else it could buy. And if you invest those savings think of the regular passive income it will provide.

So while you are in the process of saving for early retirement or financial freedom, you are basically working more than you momentarily get back. You pay your future self. And be assured that your future self will be very thankful for your past self to have put in the effort. It will be thankful for the security and freedom you have allowed your future self to live in. I hope that future generations can say the same about our current society at large. But with the upcoming climate crisis I see it as unlikely. Still this thought of paying your future self first can be a great source of motivation. At least it is for me.

On another level, saving for the future, creates a need for efficient production. Think about it in absolute terms. What is actually happening when you save and invest a surplus? You are working today, not only for your current needs, but also for your future needs. This can only be accomplished by wide-spread automatization, or financially independent people will always rely on the full-time work of others. Therefore it is wise to invest in the companies that provide access to autonomous production. As you cannot literally produce everything you need for your future today, you will always depend on systems that continue to produce the products. The next level is that those systems become autonomous in reproducing and maintaining themselves. If this is a necessary next step we cannot know, as there will probably always be people available who are willing to work in highly skilled and creative jobs to develop new machines and products.

Motivation on your way to financial freedom will not come from consumerism and all the products you can buy. It will instead come from a developing sense of security and the knowledge that you buy freedom with every increase of your savings. If you live in a modern society you are likely to be dependent in many areas on the monetary system and industrial products. Therefore I suspect that you harbor a certain sense of anxiety around your financial situation, wondering what would happen if you lose your streams of income. This is a constant source of stress that can be lessened with financial freedom. In that case you are no longer only trading time and work for money but you will also have money (mainly machines) work for you. This alone could increase your perceived quality of life, reducing one of life’s worries. Even though this is also a form of push-motivation, it is still a comfortable place to strive for.

The financial freedom you are striving for on the other hand is great pull-motivation. Envision your work-less future as vividly as you can:
  •           Think about what you would do when you have 8 more hours each day to yourself
  •           Plan out things and activities you would like to do more of
  •           Take more time for every-day activities
  •           Meet with family and friends on a more regular basis
  •           Keep your house and immediate environment clean
  •           Build healthy routines around physical activity and move daily
  •           Cook great, healthy meals enjoying the health benefits of eating without stress – try out new recipes
  •          Care for animals, take the neighbors dogs out, offer your help to your community
  •           Find out ways in which you can serve other with your talents
  •           Make music, sing and dance more often or start doing it



These will be valuable sources of motivation at times when you doubt that this path is worth the sacrifices. But to be honest, in my own experience, it can just be as rewarding to not consume as it can be to give in to temptations and not think about how much money you are spending. And not only so, but for me, as an analytical type of person, who likes to plan for the future this lifestyle is even more rewarding, because it gives me a higher goal which makes my actions more meaningful.

The price we pay for consumerism

In order to afford the all the products and services of today's society we pay a high price. But paying this high price has become so normal, that we are not able to see it anymore. We pay with less freedom and less time spend on our own terms. We created a web that ties us tightly to the system that provides all those services and products we are now dependent on. We lost the ability to be self-sufficient human beings.
Over the course of a mere century we have turned ourselves into highly specialized and dependent workers. Whereas the human beings of the past were multi-talented and could provide and source much of what they needed themselves, we lost that ability. Often times we are not even consuming what we produce and rely 100% on others to provide for our needs.
When I realized this, I was quite shocked. If the heating failed in the middle of the winter, I cannot repair it myself. If I have eaten my one week supply of food, I cannot source more without relying on the supermarket. I cannot cook food myself without electricity. All the electronic gadgets I own rely on the constant supply of energy from outside. If I do not want to rely on transport-services, I cannot see my family again. I spent my day working to produce a product I never use. In many places I cannot even take a shit without using huge infrastructures.

Dream-land and motivation in the morning
What motivates you to leave dream-land and get up in the morning?

So we pay for the complex consumer products not only with our working time, but also with the loss of our autonomy and self-sufficiency. Once you drop out of this construct and lose your source of monetary income, you lose vital connections and this creates huge amounts of stress and anxiety. And this stress is constant and basically for many the only source of motivation to work. This is a bad kind of motivation. It does not propel you towards new goals and greater outcomes of your work. It keeps you stuck most of the time, because by generating enough income to fulfill your needs you also reach the maximum of this motivations capability.

Imagine you lived within the community of a small village a few hundred years ago. You had your own small farm. You were living together with your family, producing all your basic needs yourself. Your days would be filled with many different tasks. You would be skilled to produce food, shelter, warmth, clothes, transportation, entertainment, etc.
From that place you enter into the “economy” of your village. Can you see how exchange happens now from a complete different background? You are not desperately in need of earning an income. You can offer you products and services generously, because you are save and your needs are covered. Or they could at any time be covered by your own work and the work of people close to you. Exchange with others is an added bonus and adds variety.

So we pay for our consumer products not only with our immediate time, but also with a great loss of freedom and autonomy. There is not much we can do to reverse this process. But I would argue it is possible to use current systems to gain back both. By ditching the route of conventional employment and living a self-sufficient life, where you offer your services and products through various websites. One day you could be the producer of art and physical objects and the other day you record songs, take pictures, teach what you have learned to others or write and tell stories. This allows for flexible work and multiple sources of income. Even though you have to expect that those do not pay as well as a conventional career will pay you. But you gain autonomy and free time, you grow and learn more than you would in one particular job. This shift in how you see your work is profound and requires a lot of bravery in today’s society.

How can you gain autonomy and freedom in today’s economy?

Let me present you my approach to gain the most amount of freedom and autonomy in today’s economy. I am a 25 year old male, who just finished university two years ago with a bachelor’s degree. In contrast to most of my friends I did not continue with university and decided to start working without a master’s degree. Therefore I had time to travel for one year and could still enter  employment one year earlier than with a master’s degree.
My plan is to eventually have children at a similar age than my parents. Around 32 years of age. I am not in a hurry to have children though. With my current employment I am earning not a lot of money. I am living close to work, but this happens to be in the most expensive town of the country. It is close to Frankfurt, but rent prices are enormous. I am now paying about the same for a shared apartment with two other people as I would in other cities for an apartment of my own. But still I manage to save about 60-70% of what I earn.

I do enjoy most of my work and I can work at my own pace on the projects. It is easy to feel satisfied with the work for about half of the day. But the afternoons until 5pm feel very long and boring sometimes. I know I am the character who does well with more free time. I never feel bored when I am able to decide by myself what to do with my time.

Financially I plan to become independent in a couple of years. I have a good relationship with my parents and they are always welcoming me when I visit them. As they live in a rather big house with many empty rooms, I would like to move back in with them. I also have many friends, still living in that area. Therefore I calculate my financial independence with minimum rent. If I enjoy work enough I will eventually continue to work until I reach financial freedom, where I have a monthly buffer for unexpected expenses and the occasional vacation or luxury item. But in large I intend to live self-sufficient in food and as a next step also do most of the maintenance work around the house myself.
Based on research findings, it is sufficient to have 25 times your annual expenses saved up and invested. I favor investments in stocks. I believe that holding stocks resembles the idea of how this system should work most accurately. Highly automated forms of production will provide the products I cannot or do not want to manufacture myself. Holding a share of the companies producing those products only makes sense.

 I will not stop working and earning money after reaching financial freedom. Therefore I calculate with the 4% rule (25 times the annual expenses in savings). As I outlined above I will work on my own terms and probably pick up part-time jobs from time to time when I find them appealing.

That way I support the system, which will support me for a life-time, within a time span of 5-10 years of full-time work. But I also change my lifestyle to achieve the freedom in time. This will probably have a good impact on the environment. Because the environment does not care if your round the world trips are “for business” or “for private” purposes. And downsizing my possessions to move in with my family again, will obviously reduce the number of houses we need to build and the area we will cover and take from wild-life.

Money is an abstract concept and could lower motivation

For our mind, money is too abstract of a concept. If the outcome and goal of an activity is just to make money, than this is not enough to spark in us intrinsic motivation. I discovered this when I was growing food for me and my brother for one season. I never found myself without motivation to go out into the vegetable garden and putting in the required. Going to work is difficult on some days on the other hand. My mind does not readily make the connection between the sum of money on my bank account at the end of the month and the work I put in. I also derive other benefits from work. Which make it easy for me to work on most days. Intrinsic motivation leads to enjoyment of the task at hand and a feeling of “being in the zone”. When I am in the garden I can see the plants growing and the connection between my work and the outcome is obvious. I do not need to push myself at all and during this work I feel like I am myself and act from a safe, honest and well intentioned state of mind.

But I can imagine that many people do not derive immediate joy from their work for most of the time. This is another price we pay when our work is disconnected from the products we actually consume. No motivation at work means that we are less happy and more stressed, because we need to push ourselves mentally to keep on working.

Try this experiment to feel what intrinsic motivation is like

When you wake up in the morning of a working day, try to think of the following thing for one day and the second idea on another day:
  1. Your alarm rings and you turn it off. Before you get out of bed or do anything else think of what awaits you during the working day ahead of you. Try to imagine the hours you will spend on the tasks that you will be doing. See how you feel about it and if it gets you fired up.
  2. Second day, your alarm rings and you turn it off. Now think of a day of “work” where you provide for your own needs. Maybe you have a garden where you are growing food. You go out and harvest what you need for breakfast. You take the food home and complement the fresh ingredients with something you have stored. Then you cook a meal for you and some friends of family. After you have enjoyed eating, you go on to repair something that needs urgently your attention. You are immersed in the activity for some hours and see the results immediately. You know if your efforts have worked out or not. How would you feel about such kind of day? Acting from a place of intrinsic motivation. Pay attention to how easy it might be to get up out of bed this time. (I hope you are not frustrated, if this is not a reality for you. It isn’t for me either)
This thought experiment can clearly tell you at least two things. Do you truly enjoy your current work? If so, perfect. I think you are lucky and you can continue doing what you love. If option number two (or any other scenario that you imagined for yourself as an intrinsically motivated work-day) sounded better to you, you know you have something to strive for. In this case financial freedom might help you get there.

Capitalism and Freedom

We all have heard the negative aspects of capitalism. It increases our consumption and makes our decisions profit-oriented, neglecting the negative impact it has on the environment and our own health. But does the possibility exist, that we can tweak our individual relationship to money within capitalistic societies so that we gain more freedom than ever before in history?

Money can buy free time.


I would argue it is possible and all it requires is a shift in our mindset around what we hope get from the gains in productivity of the industries. Karl Marx was already of the opinion, that we would be able to reduce the average working time to 15 hours per week in the year 2030. In developed countries we are far from reaching that level of time spent working. Average working time is still hovering around 40 hours per week for most countries. Not even counting the unpaid overtime that many people are putting in.

Why is that the case? In my last post I have presented to basic reasons, explaining this development. And I encourage you to read it. It is not very long.

But now onto the possible alternative: It has been written about under different names. The most widespread names are financial independence and financial freedom. Those are two different degrees of the same concept. Without going into detail about how to approach those goals, I want to elaborate here the underlying economic structures and mental shifts required for these concepts to work.

If you want to read more about how I approach financial freedom, I have written about it in this article.

The underlying economic structure of Financial Freedom

With financial freedom you have enough investments, usually in stocks, bonds and equity, to support your needs from the returns which you are receiving. What sounds logical on a mathematical basis actually requires a certain way of production to make this concept work for a large number of people.
To explain this, let’s look at the typical person striving for financial freedom. He or she might be a young person starting out in his first job. He decides to save a large part of his income. He reduces his consumption of unnecessary products. He is going to take the low-cost vacation, maybe camping, bicycle touring or hiking. The challenges actually making him stronger, healthier and happier. He will skip buying the newest electronic gadgets and should he have a car it will be a practical one and not the one you drive in the hopes of increasing your social status. In that process of building up his investments he is already reducing the environmental impacts of overconsumption.
After several years of high savings rates he hopes to retire from the typical forms of work and his 9-5. In order for this to work on a global basis we need highly efficient production systems, durable products and reduced consumption. For many people early retirement and financial freedom is only possible when they spend considerably less than what they would otherwise have spent.
The requirement of reduced consumption is largely an individual decision. Even though it is made harder by advertising and our consumer-culture, it is still under your conscious will-power to make sound financial decisions. Clearly seeing which purchases will make you happier and which will not. Setting up habits, like putting everything on a wish-list for 30 days before purchasing and clearly evaluating your need for that item during that time, will make this a rewarding way to life. Contrary to the consumer-lifestyle, the lifestyle of achieving a maximum savings-rate can be actually be truly rewarding. You will discover many truth about your own motivations in the process. All the while preparing yourself mentally for the life of reduced consumption which is needed in order for early retirement to work for most people.
The other two requirements are a little bit more difficult to fulfill. Because in today’s economy, these are not so much decisions on an individual level. Let’s start with investigating the requirement for durable products. By choosing to buy only high quality and lasting products you can partly influence this point. But on a large scale, consumer products tend to be designed to fail after a certain period in order to increase profits. And often times it is hard to judge which products have a long life-time and which fail quickly. This needs to change. For the environment and our goal of reduced working time. To achieve it we need to approach the change from two sides. As a consumer we need to inform ourselves about the lifetime of products and purchase the more durable product which actually gives us more value for our money. And as producers we need to find ways to build healthy businesses that are able to make a profit with high quality and long lasting products. Maybe shifting to a more service oriented approach, where the product is shared between customers and maintained by the company who offers the (rental-)service. This is just an example and there are many ways in which we can profit from durable products.

But the trickiest part is to truly increase our productivity. Automatization has already come a long way, but we have also produced ever more complex machines, requiring a lot of work to manufacture. And instead of using the outputs of those machines to buy more free time for ourselves we have found numerous new ways to increase our consumption. We decided (probably unconsciously driven by advertisements) to use the gains in productivity to consume ever more complex products and services. For example it is now quite common to fly around the world for vacations. But few people ask themselves the question if they will really have a better time at those faraway places than during a vacation at closer places or even just enjoying free time in their home-towns.  Because we do not have more free time we increased the intensity with which we consume. Flying around the world is probably the fastest way to burn through savings.
Many people would say that travelling is worth it. I tend to disagree in the sense that airplane-travelling is less engaging and less eventful than the slower forms of travel that true financial freedom allows for. For example by train, in a camping-van, by bicycle or by foot. That way you can more truly experience the culture of a country. But what you need for those forms of travel is time. And you can only gain that by spending less.

Gains in productivity are an inherent aspect of a capitalistic economy. Companies will be forced to strive for higher efficiency. So we do not need to worry too much about whether or not we will build efficient production systems. The most important question will be about the products that we produce with those systems. In part this can be guided by our consumer demand. But a large portion is dictated by political decisions. The way we shape our cities for example, largely dictates our need for transportation and cars. We have built large cities, mainly geared towards cars, that it is difficult to commute by bicycle or by foot. Those political decisions reach far into other aspects of our lives as well. So much that our daily decisions are heavily influenced. But I would argue that with a deep understanding of the forces at work, you can resist them and make the most appropriate choices towards the goal of financial freedom.


The mental shift to Financial Freedom

The most important shift that needs to happen for increased freedom has to happen in our mental space. We need to be able to cope with a reality were we do not need to work as much anymore as we do. Can we fill our lives and give purpose to our actions on our own terms? Can we construct a basis around which our lives should evolve that is not predicted by an employers or higher corporate goal?

I think humans are quite capable of this. We just have not learned to live in that mode. Our whole lives have been directed and shaped by work. Education and our whole upbringing is largely geared towards work and derives much of it’s purpose out of the underlying thinking that it is required to perform necessary forms of work. Can we motivate ourselves to learn and grow our understanding of the world without this as our main motivation in life? This is a question that everyone needs to answer for himself in part, but also our educational systems will adjust to an environment where the end-goal is not so much focused on work in the sense of generating a monetary profit.

Why personal financial freedom is better than basic income

When you strive for financial freedom or early retirement you still have to put in a considerable amount of work. But everyone is free to choose how they would like to approach more free time. You have the possibility to work hard for a few years and then be done with working for an income. Or you could choose to work less per week, but continue working. Taking regular long breaks from work (sabbaticals) are another way to approach this concept of more freedom.

And the savings-phase clearly dictates how long everyone has to work in order to finance his personal level of consumption. Many factors are involved in the calculation of how much investments one needs, but it largely depends on the level of consumption, desired level of security and risk taken in the investment process.

A basic income would leave a lot of room for failure. Questions about people’s work ethic and level of happiness without work are to be answered. While people who strive for financial freedom most likely have a clear picture of what they want to do with their time when working less.

The basic income also does not take into account the different lifestyle people have and how much money each person would like to have. And adjustments to the economic output would need to be made.

In the dividend-based model of financial freedom this is automatically regulated on an individual basis. If the economy does not do so well, people will receive less. Therefore many will increase their earnings through paid work on a short-term basis and thus economic output might increase as well.

Conclusion


This scenario is a uniquely positive side of capitalism. It offers a degree of freedom that is not possible in any other system. On an individual level the choices can be made entirely independent of location and time-restrictions. More time will be available for work outside of the corporate environment. The focus will naturally shift to high quality, durable products and less consumption overall. The requirement in order for this to happen is, that we value our life and our time more than money or consumption. 

What we define as a worthwhile activity

I just read the book “The refusal of work – The theory and practice of resistance to work” by David Frayne. One idea that he is talking about inspired me to get a little bit clearer about my own thoughts with this post. And that is the question whether we as a society could actually accept a work-free life, if technology would take over all our work. I would guess that many people are in the same place mentally as I am. We have been broad up with much of our time devoted to building our employ-ability. The main focus of education has been to give us the particular knowledge we need for a job. Learning for our own benefit and inspired by our own interests has become very rare. And even outside of education we have continued to “work” on our employ-ability. Learning social skills and doing activities that serve a purpose in our CV.

Teaching work-skills has become educations main purpose

Why is work so important to us?

Many of us have now a twisted notion of which activities are worthwhile and which are not. We will rarely pursue long-term activities which are not related to work. This shape our society and living environments in a much deeper way than we might first think. Many fields of knowledge are largely forgotten because they do not serve any economic purpose. We design our lives almost entirely around our jobs and work-requirements. We are willing to abandon relationships, move to other areas, take long regular commutes (daily or weekly), destroying the environment in the process and many more harmful behaviors, only to pursue our careers.
And because this behavior stresses us out, we fall victim to all the advertisements we see throughout our lives and spend our free time, consuming and spending, flying to exotic places, all in the hope of make that little bit of free time that we have as worth-while as possible. The increases in productivity are not used to increase our freedom and free time but to increase our consumption and thus keeping us work as much or even more than before. Advertisers are constantly creating new desires in us and without the knowledge of what is going on a grand scheme we easily spend our money while never getting whatever hopes the advertisements created in us.

How work influences our actions and society as whole

I believe the reason for our actions lie in the way we have been broad up. And the only solution here is proper education about what is going and the knowledge of the alternatives. If most of your days activities served the purpose of work, than it is difficult to give value to any other activity. Realizing that this has been going on consciously or unconsciously your whole life, helps you to see work in a new light. Most of us highly over-rate the value of work and therefore stigmatize the people who actively pursue less working time and more freedom.
In that way it is difficult for us to accept a future with less work. Even if we could have a lot more free time, we are driven to keep amount of work, from two sides.  Advertisements create new desires and possibilities to spend our income. The indoctrination we have been living under, has turned work into the only valuable activity to shape our lives around.


I am highly interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. So please share your ideas with me in the comments.

What living with a chronic disease for a decade has taught me about happiness

When I was 15 years old, I got diagnosed with crohn’s disease and colitis. The doctor was not so sure which of both I really had, so he diagnosed me with both. For years before that diagnosis I struggled with increasing stomach pain, diarrhea and missed many days at school. Finally I got treated with prednisone and felt better initially, but the drug made me feel worse in the long run.
I started my search for health and diet on the internet, read many books and was hooked on the path to get well by myself ever since. I saw immediate benefits of the healthy lifestyle and the healthy diet in particular. I drastically reduced the occasions when I drank alcohol and avoided junk food for the most part, because everytime I indulged in it, I felt the immediate negative effects.

Challenges come to us in many ways. Consciously chosen or not.


Finding what works

I have to say though that it was not an easy journey to find out what works and what does not and I am still tweaking my diet around on a regular basis, trying out new things. But I also tend to forget from time to time what did not work and deviate from my protocols and diets, only to find myself in pain all over again. But those periods have become less frequent and shorter. I am now more stable in my good eating habits and avoid big “failures”.

Can you become happier through a disease?

But I have learned a positive lesson from this disease. I am actually very thankful for the path that this condition has pushed me towards. I know this sounds mad to someone who is suffering badly from this or any disease. But I have found that this disease has pushed myself to grow mentally. To learn and grow in areas that I would probably have neglected otherwise. If you would ask me if I wanted to relive the past 10 years without having this disease, I would tend to answer no. Of course you never know how an alternative reality would have turned out to be, but as I am in a pretty happy state right now, I do not wanted anything to be different. I can imagine many different realities without this disease that would not have turned out so well. Without the interest in eating healthy, I would probably have continued to eat meat and junk food. Ending up less healthy overall in the end.

And the things I learned about healthy living were only the start of a much greater journey into personal development. This path I might also not have taken without all that I learned through the research on this condition. And serious personal development work has probably been the biggest factor in increasing my happiness over the last couple of years. Meditation, inner work and contemplation of death for example have shifted my mental outlook in profound ways. Listening to great teachers like Alan Watts and contemplating on his teachings have paved my way to discover greatly helpful concepts to cope with life’s struggles. And I can honestly say I am much happier since implementing several mental practices into my daily life.

Conclusion

The bottom line of this post is that no matter what difficult situations life throws at you, you are most likely to benefit from them as well. Similar to physical training, where you first have to challenge and hurt the muscles in order for them to grow, life-challenges will grow your character, happiness and resilience. And in knowing that, you can actually appreciate the hard times. Seeing hard times as opportunities for growth allows you to search for constructive solutions to your problems. Leaving you better off in the end than without that challenging life-event.

The different levels of ketosis

If you reduce your intake of carbohydrates, your body increases the amount of fat it burns. Lowered levels of insulin allow for a greater release of free fatty acids into the blood. Their utilization by almost all tissues goes up. But the interesting thing is that not all tissues and organs are able to get all of their energy from metabolizing fat. The brain, some immune-cells and mucous producing cells in the gut have a hard time getting 100% of their energy requirements from fat.

From a certain point onwards, the body starts produce ketone bodies as a byproduct of fat metabolism. In highly adapted individuals the brain for example can derive 75% of its energy from the utilization of ketone bodies. It will always require a certain amount of glucose. This can either come from glucose from food or through gluconeogenesis.

Therefore the adaptation to a ketogenic diet has several phases. At the beginning a low carbohydrate diet is accompanied by quiet a high amount of ketone bodies expelled in the urine. This shows that the body is burning a lot of fat, but organs like the brain are not jet able to fully utilize the ketones that are present. Only if the level of carbohydrates are consistently kept very low (<30gr/day) will the body fully switch over.  After several weeks the levels of ketone bodies in the urine should go down. Though this can take up to several month. Once this happened, protein requirements will drop even further.

A critical point during the adaptation phase

But the most critical point is probably the mucous producing cells, lining the gut walls. They require carbohydrate, from which they form the mucous. It is not clearly known if those cells can ever fully do their job without carbohydrates. There are concerns, that this increases the risk of colon cancer. Because cells in the lining of the colon are no longer optimally protected.
To prevent this it is also critical to maintain a proper amino-acid intake. Heavy reliance on muscle meats as it can be found in many keto-dieters is also detrimental to the mucous lining of the gut. Glycine, Proline, Cysteine, Serine and Threonine are important amino acids for those mucin-producing cells. Mucin is the glycoprotein that the mucus consists of. Glycine and proline are usually the amino acids that most people are falling short in. Even though they are semi-essential amino acids, sometime the body cannot produce enough of them for optimal functioning. Gelatin would be one good source for those amino acids. On a vegan diet though, the best strategy is to eat a variety of nuts, seeds and protein rich vegetables like leafy greens and mushrooms.


The adaptation phase is challenging

Few people truly adapt to the ketogenic state, because it is so hard during the adaptation phase. One cannot imagine that there is light at the end of the tunnel and most people quit before they reap the benefits.

Personal experience with getting fully keto-adapted

I have found that I could get into a highly adapted state by a pure water fast. Afterwards I broke the fast with the most low carb vegan foods I could think of. I feel so incredible different than I did before on a higher carb diet (100-150gr/day) that I plan on staying on this protocol for as long as possible. I am also curious to see where this diet leads me health wise and in my mental performance and wellbeing.
I have found the water fast to be an ideal way to get fully keto adapted. As many people complain about the difficulties of giving up sweets or reducing carbohydrate intake, I have found it easy to compress all the withdrawal symptoms into one week and go cold turkey on everything. That’s basically what a fast does and why so many people feel so bad during the first few days. It is quitting a lot of addictions at once (stimulating food, coffee, alcohol, drinks,…)

The great advantage of the water fast for the ketogenic dieter


After even a short water fast (one week)most of your taste buds have recovered and are very sensitive. You are not craving sweet food anymore and if you break the fast with low carb food (avocado for example) you can expect to have a heightened sensitivity for sweet tastes. Even things like avocado, celery and spinach will have a remarkably sweet taste. This sets you up for success on the ketogenic diet, where sweet tastes are usually very subtle. 

Trying out the opposite of the one meal a day diet: Grazing

I have in the past eaten the one meal a day diet for a couple of month. I felt good on it and liked some aspects of it and disliked others.
Now that I am coming off of a prolonged water fast and my body is highly adapted to burning fat, I will continue eating high fat plant based. But I will switch over to several smaller, even sized meals throughout the day. This means, I am going to eat 5 meals of the same size every three hours. Or, as I plan to prepare a smoothie in the morning, I will drink a few sips of that throughout the day.
My rough calculation:
6days/week: 5x400kcal=2000kcal
1day/week: 0kcal
daily average 1.700kcal
After my prolonged water fast I guess my body is efficient enough to survive on that level of calories.


Nuts are a convenient snack for me

What is the purpose of grazing?

I intend to get better nutrient absorption from grazing. I have found that I did not fully digest my meal, if I only eat once a day. This resulted in muscle-twitching leading me to the conclusion that I am deficient in some minerals.


Grazing and low-carb – a necessary combination?

Every time I start eating a larger amount of carbohydrates, I have a hard time stopping myself before the point of being fully stuffed. And even than I find myself wanting more. Therefore I think the combination of high fat and grazing can be a good combination. I even wonder if hunger will ever be a motivator to eat on that eating pattern. I am more concerned about having to stop myself earlier than what I was used to. After the fast I do not want to gain weight too fast. I want to build healthy lean weight.
But I can imagine, that the combination of grazing and high carb low fat might work equally well. Volume is generally high on that diet and the small meals might level out the blood sugar and not cause huge spikes.

I am going to report my experiences with this in future posts...

Did I fast to completion? And my low-carb fasting exit!

My fast to completion officially came to an end. I wasn’t expecting for it to be so short. But it is not surprising either. I started out with a low body fat percentage (visible abs) and overall with a BMI that classified me as underweight. Additionally I proceeded the fast with an active lifestyle: Working, walking, ice skating and body-weight exercises.

Why did I end the fast?

Given the cold weather I was doing the fast in, it was no surprise that I quickly used up my reserves. But I trusted my body to tell me when to stop the fast. First indicator was that my tongue cleared up. It was no longer coated in white and my breath became much less offensive.
Additionally I noticed a feeling in my throat. I was first thinking it is increased thirst. But it was not relieved by drinking more. So from what I have read, this is the beginning of real hunger. I also had the desire to eat, even though I was confused at first. Because this came so early in the fast and I had expected to go for a couple of more days. But I guess my body went through the issues he had to heal and decided that I should better start eating again. I guess that is a good sign with me weighing 51kg at 173cm after the fast. With a considerable amount of muscle left, it indicates my fat reserves are low.


How did I break the fast low carb?

So I broke the fast, but not in a hurry. I purchased celery and white cabbage to make a juice out of it first. Over the course of 5 hours I drank about 500ml of this fresh juice. Approximately half celery juice, half cabbage juice. It is incredible how good and how sweet even this combination tasted. So the end of a fast is a good point to start on a low sugar diet. Your taste-buds are so sensitive you will get a lot of satisfaction from much lower amount of sugar.
Next morning I continued with a green smoothie with spinach, coconut, flaxseeds and avocado and one date. I made a big shake and took it with me to work. I drank about 100ml each hour. It was a whole avocado in total and about 300gr of spinach.
On the side I drank some diluted sauerkraut juice to repopulate my colon with good bacteria.

I think the most important point of breaking the fast, is to keep the amount of food low. And then it might work with almost any food.


The great advantage of breaking the fast low carb

Many people experience uncontrollable hunger after the fast, when they start drinking fruit juices and eating fruit. This is to be expected, because of the huge insulin spike and blood sugar fluctuations. I experienced the same thing after my first two prolonged fasts. It can be a torture to stop yourself from eating when you mind screams at you to dig in. You have basically cut yourself off from the fuel supply you were using during the fast. Insulin inhibits the use of fats and ketones. Therefore your body is immediately thrown into other metabolic pathways. And those need time to properly restart and build all the necessary enzymes.

Breaking the fast low carb is very different. I experienced no such thing as cravings or hunger. I felt very content with the first sips of the juices. The celery and cabbage juice has probably 5-8 times less sugar than any fruit juice. And given I drank it so slowly, it probably did not cause a considerable rise in blood sugar.
Also the smoothie on the next day was very satisfying. I was not craving more. Instead I was happy that it kept my stomach engaged and working on digesting it. I did not even finish all that I prepared, even though it was only about 800kcal for the day. Would it have been a smoothie of 800kcal of bananas you could be certain, to find me drinking it within one hour and ravenous immediately afterwards.

If you consider the metabolic side, I am actually not changing much from the fasted state. I am utilizing the same metabolic pathways, just that the digestion has to be restarted and the energy is coming from fats that originate from outside the body. From there it is the same thing. And body tissue and proteins that were formerly broken down are now coming partially from glucose and partially from ingested protein.
I am glad, I discovered this way of breaking and entering a fast!

Any issues?

The breaking of the fast this was not without problems. Immediately after my bowels started to move again, I experienced some pain. But I would guess this is not so much related to low carb foods as it is to the hardened feces that formed in my large intestines and that I still did not pass. The pain might be caused by the contractions of the bowels in combination with those stones of waste. So nothing really bad happened and I attribute that to the fact that I was easily able to keep my portion size small. In addition I spread my portions throughout the day instead of having a few big meals.


In another post I will explain why I am now more fully in ketosis than ever before and why I will continue to eat a high fat vegan diet for as long as it is suitable. (Summer with all the fresh fruit available here in Germany might be an exception) There are different levels of ketone adaptation. 

Reasons for fasting to completion

Why fast so long until the body has used up all its reserves? Here are a few reasons I have come across so far and that I find make some sense:

  1. The body will have completed autolysis: In theory, when your body’s fat reserves are mostly used up, you also have gone through all damaged tissues and either repaired or used them for energy. This leaves no damaged dysfunctional cells. Making the body efficient and disease free.
  2. From this point you can start building healthy tissue. As only health cells remained, you will only generate healthy cells when refeeding. As their DNA is still intact proper cell-replication takes place.
  3. All stored toxins have been released from the body. Fat tissue stores most toxins. And once it is gone, with it are the toxins. If you continue to watch your toxin exposure after the fast, mainly through a healthy diet, you should be able to maintain this clean state.
  4.  Addictions to coffee, alcohol and unhealthy food have been broken. If you are careful not to engage in them again it is very easy now to stay away from them.
  5. Your body has reached maximum efficiency. And if your goal was to get to a healthy bodyweight, then this is a good starting point. You can reap the benefits of caloric restriction after the fast, if you slowly increase your calories again.
  6. You are highly adapted to a ketogenic state. This could be the ideal time to start a ketogenic or low carb diet(plant based of course).
  7. Probably for the first time in your life (and maybe the only time) you will experience true hunger. This in turn will lead to the awareness that skipping a meal does not cause hunger.
  8. When breaking the fast earlier, the body is actually not yet ready to take in food. The process of cleansing and healing is not yet finished.


Popular Posts