The Butter Coffee Dip

No, not something for dunking your donut.

The Dip. This is the term used by Seth Godin to describe the valley of hardship you must cross to reach the promised land of whatever endeavor you start. Every good result, beneficial enterprise, and upgrade in life involves some form of a dip. I’ll use the word plainly, without emphasis, moving forward.

Stop: This article is not for the sensitive or faint of heart. It’s meant to help you determine whether you’ve got the resources to be able to adapt to fat using butter coffee. There’s a bit of explicit and abrasive content here. And it’s long. It’s meant to challenge you. If you’re ready for it, please proceed. Otherwise save yourself some grief and leave this page – hopefully for another day.

The dip that I describe here is the barrier to using butter coffee for fuel. It involves the challenge that lies between you and proper fat utilization for energy and wellness. If you want to be ketogenic, or be able to primarily utilize fats for energy, you will come to this dip and be forced to reckon with your current metabolic tendencies. Butter coffee is an excellent gateway tool to optimal fat metabolism if you love coffee.

The rewards are great. If you have ever fasted, or had to skip breakfast to do something first thing in the morning, you may have felt a type of euphoria before finally eating. High focus, light mood, ease of effort, and creative outpour. Some people fast regularly for these benefits.

There is a way to access this “mode of operation”, let’s call it, without the hunger. There is a way to have it for a long period of time. Every day. And for the rest of your life. Once you get past the dip.

For some this will be easy. My own adaptation was fairly simple, as well as that of other people I’ve spoken to. Anecdotally, these “lucky” people are under 40, have no major health issues like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, or organ dysfunction, and are physically active or relatively fit. You may not agree with the term lucky if you are within this group. Regardless, these are attributes I have seen that make the dip shorter or less troublesome.

I have seen others struggle with the dip more than I have. Much more. The type of person I have seen struggle to maintain ketosis are over 40, have some health issues like obesity, diabetes, or metabolic dysfunctions, and generally are not as lean or muscular as the first group. However, I have seen a few examples of people in this category of mine who made it through the dip, regularly drink butter coffee, and enjoy the benefits of ketosis.

Many people I’ve talked to, in both categories, had decided to discontinue their efforts toward ketosis because the struggles did not justify the goal. There are definitely people of the first category who did not make it through the dip.

Don’t take this as a scientific grouping of people who will and won’t benefit from fat adaptation or butter coffee. Argue all you want about this. This is my narrow, limited experience with people. Whatever your current physiology and life circumstance, I believe you have the chance to enter a new realm of wellness. And I believe it is most likely through a transition of diet that relies on carbohydrates to one that is more strongly based on fats.

I will apply an insight from a field outside of medicine and health to the task of overcoming the dip here. I heard this from a conversation between Tony Robbins, master life coach, and Tim Ferriss, the human guinea pig. It is an insight from a plastic surgeon, one who’s created more attractive looks for women by minuscule adjustments to their faces. This surgeon lives by the practice that a mere two millimeters of adjustment can make all the difference. Most people are just within one or two tiny millimeters from being irresistibly beautiful.

Take this with a grain of sea salt. I know the general feel about plastic surgery, and I understand how this comes off. However, I look at the core lesson. A tiny distance separates me from accomplishing things I feel are impossible.

This can be expanded to wellness. The idea that for most people, the prize of a healthy body and mind awaits just a few more steps from where they’ve stopped. Just a couple of tiny steps from the point of utter pain, suffering, or misery. I believe that for most of humanity, for most of the endeavors that have been attempted, this is true. Wellness on an individual level is not exempt. Here, I address a very small endeavor that has slipped past many because of the tiny adjustments that need to be made before reaching the rewards.

Before you fully enjoy the benefits of butter coffee and other good fat in your diet, you will come to a few barriers to pass. They were well worth my time and effort to overcome, and so I share this with you. I urge you to read these elements of the dip that I encountered in the past five years to adjust myself to this superior energy source. I welcome you to join me in enjoyment of ketosis, higher focus, and overall improved wellness. But only after accepting the reality of what you must surpass to get here.

First

You will need to move through the fear that grips most people.

  • It’s partly the fear of eating fat. Simple. Although you might eat animal fat already, the social mores against butter, lard, and other forms of fat are strong. People around you will stare, ask hard questions, and flat out make fun of you. I’m talking about people you work with, play with, and love. By starting this experiment of wellness, you are entering a world of fat consumption. You will be harassed. You must embrace this to proceed through to the other side. My most effective quote for dealing with this: “Fuck’em all”. In gentler terms, I didn’t deal. I simply looked ahead and kept moving.
  • There’s also the fear of taking control. You are tackling this big aspect of your life called wellness. If you are afraid of actively making changes to improve your wellness, you are not alone. It sucks to try something you thought was good for you and find it was a waste of time, money, and attention. It’s also embarrassing when your friends and family find out and they tell you that you shouldn’t have done that. So, you’ll need to accept this fear and move through it. You will need to accept responsibility for your wellness. Whether you suffer or not is in large part a result of your own daily doing. To be well, you must decide to do. Know that it only seems harder to be healthy. The reality is that it takes just as much effort to eat candy as it does to eat grass fed butter. You put either in your mouth and swallow. Eaten. The hard part is all the intangible stuff surrounding the butter. Fear. Accept and move through it. As a hack to get there faster, may I suggest meditation.

Second

You will need to adapt to fat. This means your body will need to physiologically learn to effectively absorb nutrition from fat. This takes several days to weeks for some people, maybe more if you are not in the habit of eating a lot of fat. Keep your regular meals at first. Have just a cup of this coffee beverage with breakfast, or an hour before training. Eat “normally” otherwise. Feel it out.

  • Do you feel dizzy? This is a sign that you had too much MCT oil and your brain is in overdrive. Reduce MCT oil.
  • Is your stool wetter or more sour than usual? This is a sign that you are not able to digest as much as you ate. Reduce butter until stool is solid and smooth.
  • Did you get “cold diarrhea”? This is the classic sign of too much MCT oil for your system. Your body is trying to rid itself of excess nutrition. You aren’t ready for however much you took. Reduce MCT oil.
  • Did you get hungry within the next few hours of drinking the coffee? This is a sign that you are not able to optimally utilize fat for energy. Eat other food with the coffee, enough to satiate, not to the point that you are bursting and too full. Adjust the amount of food as hunger levels change through time. Balance the amount of butter in your coffee with the amount of food you eat. More butter, less other food.
  • UNLESS you went through a lot of stress the previous day. If you trained strength or exercised, if you had an emotionally difficult episode like a high stakes meeting or a fight, if you did not sleep enough, or if you had some other taxing situation the previous day, you naturally need more nutrition the next morning. Go with your gut feeling in the morning – literally. If you are hungrier than usual, add more butter than usual. Test the degree and duration of satiety.
  • Did your cravings come back? Distinguish cravings from hunger. Cravings are mostly in the mind, but they stem from a lack of significant nutrients. There’s an interaction between brain and gut that tells you you’re hungry or full. This goes back to amount of butter, adapting to fat utilization, and slowly replacing “food” with good fats. Slowly reduce the instinct to reach for sugary, starchy, processed, “fake” foods. No candy, ever. Seek instead “real” foods, incorporating good fats, green leafy veggies, and rice over bread into your meals. Cravings only grow as much as you feed them. Remember, address your brain.

Third

You will spend a lot of time making this every day. It also takes a long time to clean up. One of the greatest hurdles in making butter coffee is making butter coffee. It usually takes me a full 15 to 20 minutes to finish making mine. This includes heating the water, adding all the ingredients, blending, and pouring it out. You will have to make time. This means that other things will get pushed or omitted from your start-of-day schedule. If it’s Candy Crush, good riddance. If it’s meditation, perhaps you’ll want to plan more carefully. Also, don’t forget cleaning time. You’ll have a dirty and greasy blender, knife, measuring spoons, and coffee-making gear to reckon with. If you don’t tolerate dirty dishes in the sink all day, you will have to figure in the cleaning time.

Fourth

You will need to adjust and test the ingredients of butter coffee to suit you. You must find the best possible quality of ingredients within your means. Cleanliness of the coffee, source of butter and MCT oil, and quality of water are examples of components that affect your wellness. Do not disregard any symptom, do not diminish the value of any single ingredient, and pay attention to adjustments that you make.

Obtaining quality ingredients is one of the most difficult things in the dip. It is both “expensive” and hard to find some of these things, depending on where you live and how much money you can use. But know that this cost can undermine the cost of breakfast, going out for lunch, snacks and candies, and “healthcare” from complications related to your body running primarily on sugar.

Do your best. Compromise on ingredient quality only with full expectation of compromised results. The beginning is often exciting, with the heightened capabilities you feel from the first cup. The dip will require you to make adjustments and will stop most people from getting past the initial highs.

  • Did you get the jitters or a headache? Low coffee bean quality, cheap stuff, and blends are more likely to contain mold contamination, be overcooked, or not fresh. Coffee is a naturally enhancing food. There are a lot of qualities that aren’t identified. Much of the benefits from coffee are lost through these subpar characteristics.
    • Aim for single source or single estate or single origin. This means the beans are grown and processed in one place. The time and attention to the beans is more focused and you will get cleaner product.
    • Dark roasts risk overcooking the beans. If you “like” uber smoky coffee, carefully examine your symptoms. Overcooking coffee can damage the fats and the beneficial elements within the beans. Big name brands usually are careless about this process. Look for brands who pay attention to the roasting process, who talk about it and highlight it.
  • Did you get acne? I am prone to acne. Any bad fats I eat result in different types of acne. Some cause the small bumpy skin on my forehead, others cause large zits deep in the skin, and still others cause the smaller white fat pustules. Now, assuming you are avoiding fried foods from outside home, sugar, and vegetable or subpar animal fats, check your ingredients for the following:
    • Butter. Is it really grass fed cow butter? Research and get a clear answer. Grain fed cows produce fat that is not clean. You might as well be eating margarine. If you cannot find a clear answer, ditch and move on. I would avoid it altogether if I get noticeable acne.
    • MCT oil. Where are the coconuts or palm oil from? Thailand is usually the best source from my experience. The processing also matters, and some companies do not have control over that. Does the product you are using have that level of quality guarantee?
    • Powders. Chocolate, vanilla, cacao butter, cinnamon, collagen. Whatever it is, is it sourced from identifiable places? Or blended from multiple locations? Remember that blends involve extra storage and shipping times, unaccountable processes, and reduced integrity.
  • Is your coffee flat or greasy? Follow the instructions I laid out, verbatim, for making the beverage. Check your timing, making sure to keep things hot and blending fast and long enough for good emulsification.

Fifth

You will need to find the goldilocks amounts of nutrition, the golden timing, and fine tune the quality of your results.
  • Hunger will come sooner or later. The more fat-adapted you are, as they say, the more energy you can obtain from butter coffee and the longer you can perform without eating. Adjust amounts of butter to see how much you need for proper energy. You don’t want to be faint later in the day, and you don’t want to physically deteriorate. I can last ten or more hours on butter coffee if I must. Ideally, I eat around hour eight. Remember, I have been doing this for years. My body is adapted. In the beginning, and for a very long time, you will not be. Prepare to experiment!
  • Find the ideal time for this drink. I like to have my coffee first thing in the morning. Sometimes I can sit all morning and work and drink all my coffee within a couple hours. Other days I have to go somewhere far and will sip while I drive, over a longer period of time. Lately I’ve had to walk the dogs at my mom’s place, and I find that doing this first thing (yes, before my coffee) is most beneficial for every creature. It hasn’t killed me. I have plenty of energy first thing in the morning without any nutrition added, so I am sticking to this schedule. You are different from me. Find your ideal timing for coffee.

Sixth

You can’t avoid discipline. There is no way around this in the dip. You simply must stick to your goal. You must regularly work to make butter coffee right for you and to become fat adapted. Let me end this long article with a long quote by Jim Collins from his excellent book, Great By Choice:

“Discipline, in essence, is consistency of action – consistency with values, consistency with long-term goals, consistency with performance standards, consistency of method, consistency over time. Discipline is not the same as regimentation. Discipline is not the same as measurement. Discipline is not the same as hierarchical obedience or adherence to bureaucratic rules. True discipline requires the independence of mind to reject pressures to conform in ways incompatible with values, performance standards, and long-term aspirations… the only legitimate form of discipline is self-discipline, having the inner will to do whatever it takes to create a great outcome, no matter how difficult.”

I told you it was long. Now make a decision.

Live powerfully,

Steve

If you need more information or guidance from my experience, please contact me by email. I have limited availability for consultation. If you have questions or comments for other readers, please leave them in the comment section of this post.

 


 

Collins, Jim. Great By Choice (2011)

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

Ever A Traveler

I’m on a bus back to the Bay Area. We’re somewhere on Interstate 5 between the 46 and 41 junctions. To the west the blue mountains separating us from San Luis Obispo sleepily lay. Between us and the mountains stretch acres of dry, golden flats. Methodically straight rows of corn and fruit trees come and go at intervals.

The bus is a double decker, laid out spaciously and set with large, vista-friendly windows. Still, the seats are a bit short, and it gets to feel crowded after a few hours. I must be spoiled after a month back in the states. In Thailand we would have been rejoicing that there was A.C. and a bathroom, no less.

I was worried that after coming back from our travels my wife and I would return to the same old life. That being back with family, friends, and the people of our environment would quickly bring us back to the same lifestyle.

But I’m surprised to find today, on this bus, how happy we were to be going somewhere again. I didn’t except it. We were straight up gleeful as we put our bags away, found seats, and buckled up.

Once a traveler, always a traveler.

There’s something about having removed ourselves from familiar society at length. We suspected that life was different elsewhere. When we found it to be true, we saw that we could live differently. Not just in the fact that we weren’t working, though that was a big part of it, but also that we could get along with different infrastructures, languages, cultures, and geographical locations.

We weren’t tied to any one place in the way we thought we were. Or at least me. My wife had grown up on the other side of the world, then moved to the states later as an adult. She’s also traveled far more than I have. In a sense, this stage of her life might simply be a return to the familiar.

It’s almost like having a crutch removed. Actually it’s more like having a third leg torn off, and discovering that it’s possible and quite more advantageous to move around with just two. There’s a sensation of a great skin having been peeled away, like a shedding snake. Yes, it’s a bit traumatic. To be honest, there is pain in leaving a home and a lifestyle.

We sold, donated, stored, or dumped everything we owned in the blink of a month. It had taken years of hard work to buy most of it, and a lot of thought and heart went into the style and feel of our cozy apartment. It was our love nest, not for a baby, but for the time we grew into steady, working professionals together.

Our home was our safe haven. It was where we cooked and enjoyed our dinner, where we slept, where we brought friends for hilarious games and vulnerable conversations. It was as much a part of us as our organs, like an extension of our hearts. We expanded like vines on a tree into our apartment, becoming yet again better versions of ourselves in a new stage of life.

To let go of our home was to have an organ removed. It bled, it hurt. We cried, we yelled. We desperately struggled to rid ourselves of everything even as our hearts told us to keep it. We were tired beyond tired.

And we were scared. But fear was the one thing we were prepared to handle. It was the battle we had committed ourselves to fight in order to move to this next stage of life. Fear, I knew.

It was the one thing keeping us from what we wanted to explore. What if? What next? How? The unknown haunts anyone daring to step outside of her life as she knows it.

Committing to travel meant accepting fear and deciding to look on the other side. It’s always a decision, at the end of each day.

So we accept consequences, act with decency and accept grace as it comes. But we never lose what we learned. And that is that we are ready and willing to face fear to see the other side.

Live powerfully,

Steve

The Brilliant Beast Blog Daily

It isn’t that easy

You did something new. Something that captured your heart and made you act. You may have known it was big from the start. Maybe you didn’t know. After going for it, you met with much difficulty. It was much harder than you thought. It took more time than you expected. It was more expensive than you could currently afford. You discovered a lot of resistance when you tried to go there.

It isn’t that easy.

You may have heard these words. Whether or not they come from someone who has accomplished what you are trying to do, doesn’t matter. It’s a condescending statement. An easy one to make for someone who isn’t willing to take the road you are walking. It’s a defense against doing something so directly, so abruptly, so truly.

That’s threatening. I know, because I’ve used those words. As much as I’ve met with resistance to trying to follow my dreams, I have also tried to protect myself when confronted with someone who was following theirs. It’s scary to see someone doing something bigger, better, greater, more amazing than what I’m doing. Especially if it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and haven’t had the courage to.

We are all dreamers. And I think naturally we are go-getters. But we get resisted, pushed down, discouraged, on a daily basis. From childhood we’re told what is realistic and what is impossible. The important thing is that as dreamers we set out for that which we yearn. That we have faith and go for it. And tell ourselves what is possible.

Then, who will care how clumsily we did it, how long it took, how much it cost? It’s not a matter of doing it the best, quickest, and least expensive way. For the naive dreamer, it’s about exploring oneself and finding out how to reach what’s inside. It’s about simply doing something about the dream we hold. Not to prove anything, but to discover.

Just as important is that as dreamers, we allow each other to dream and follow dreams. We’ve got to be careful with our words. Words have power and power moves people and it stops people.

You’re doing great.

The dream I’m following now is to travel the world. Fortunately my wife and I share this one. It’s a big dream, but maybe broken down into small fragments, day by day, hour by hour, it will be doable. Many have gone a similar route, but each of us has to find our own way. We have strengths, weaknesses, discoveries, and problems that will be unique. To me, this is what makes travel meaningful.

It’s not a package deal that you follow from A to Z. Travel means something different for everyone that endeavors to do it. Living well is my great motivator. I love the challenge of keeping up my nutrition on the road. I go to great lengths to find grass fed butter in unfamiliar locales. Let’s see how this goes in Southeast Asia.

Meeting new people while butter hunting around the globe is amazing, but not easy. We no longer hold regular jobs. We don’t know what we’re going to do about health insurance in the long run. We don’t have a house to call our own. We live with these fears.

I’m reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts again. He gives a quote by Tim Cahill: “Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don’t go right now, we’re never going to do it. And we’ll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely.”

The greatest parts of life for me have involved doing big things, facing fear, and learning more of who I am. It starts with a dream. It’s never “that easy”. But it doesn’t matter.

Live powerfully,

Steve

Meditation and Powerlifting

My Brilliant Friends,

I used to think meditation was for religious people, or Buddhist monks. I first tried it in high school though and noticed some very real benefits to sitting, breathing, and focused mind exercising.

More than just “clearing” the mind, it’s a practice of setting yourself back to zero. Equilibrium.

Meditation helps me to take root in myself and come from a place of solid foundation. I’m aware of myself, who I am, why I think and feel what I do in specific situations, and how I react to cues. Knowing this through quiet breathing and awareness of the things that live in my mind allows me to let it go and just be myself.

During my first powerlifting meet, breathing and awareness helped me to stay calm and focused. More than the amount of weight I was attempting, the newness of everything, the nervousness of being there for the first time, and being in front of the judges and spectators could have been an overwhelming wave of stimuli. I warmed up a bit and went to my car to turn on the emWave2, for some breathing, calming down, and focusing. This substantially leveled me out and positioned me to utilize all my skill and strength that I had built up during training. I successfully achieved my goals for squat and deadlift. Bench press wasn’t a great concern, but I did hit a PR as well.

EmWave Powerlifting Meditation

Some short and long term benefits of meditation that I experience:

  • Calms nerves
  • Self awareness. Seeing where thoughts come from, identifying fears.
  • Letting things go that are necessary baggage
  • Reduces effects of lack of sleep
  • Focus and concentration improve
  • Ability to be clear minded in the middle of stressful situations
  • increases oxygen to the brain and rest of body
  • Happiness
  • Pure joy and bursts of laughter, if you get deep enough long enough
  • Helps relationships, from increased self-understanding
  • Mind healing. You become aware of traumas, sources of stress, and become empowered to work through them.

For powerlifting, it’s invaluable. Anything that requires a high level of performance can benefit from focused breathing and mental equilibrium.

At the 2014 California State Championships in Irvine, I pulled my first “official” deadlift of 391 lb. Watch me take a deep breath in and out before grabbing the bar, in front of the judges and everyone.

I didn’t really know if that was gonna come across as weird, but I wanted to give it a try because it’s something I do at the gym before challenging sets. Most often, at the peak of our performance demands, the challenge isn’t in our musculoskeletal capabilities, but in our minds’ ability to allow that power to be released in full.

On my hardest training days, when I had trouble getting myself to put on my shoes and get out the door, it was a battle of my mind. I didn’t want to face the heavy weight on the bar, for fear of failing, fear of getting injured, fear of being weak. I dragged myself many times to the gym when I did not want to go. And when I got there, most of those days I performed better than ever once I tucked my head under the bar and lifted it off the rack. The key was to jump through the fear, grip the bar, and do what I knew I could do.

Tim Ferriss encouraged me through his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, to “feel the fear and do it anyways.” He challenges his readers to identify the worst case scenario, the thing we feel most afraid of, and when we do that, we realize it’s not so bad after all.

To do this, especially in the moments of paralyzation from our greatest fears, it helps to have trained yourself to go the route of courage. I’m more able to face challenges now if I am meditating regularly and identifying my weaknesses, my kryptonites, and simply knowing that they exist. I recognize my weaknesses in real time because I know them. I practice pausing before I react, focus on the problem at hand, and harness my resources and skills to effectively address the problem.

When the problem is a heavy weight in front of me, and fear of getting crushed by it, getting injured, or embarrassed, it’s in the mind that I first address all of this. I take a moment away from the bar, close my eyes, and take a deep breath or two or three. I concentrate on the breath going out, revel in my brain’s love of oxygen, and come back to my core self. I become me again, let go of the thoughts and nagging possibilities, and when I’m clear and strong, I open my eyes and step up to the bar.

Only then can I grip the bar, suck in air, and crush it.

To powerful living,

Steve

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Steve EmWave2 Meditation Powerlifting

Note: the links to the EmWave2, which is a heart-rate variability device used to aid in meditation, and the book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, are affiliate links with Amazon.com. I get a percentage of their sale if you use the link to make a purchase. I only share things that have made a significant impact on my life in this blog. Hope you check them out and enjoy!