Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Vision therapy and the ketogenic diet

What is a ketogenic diet?

A ketogenic diet is a diet that puts the body into a state of sustained ketosis: that is when the body uses fat for fuel instead of carbohydrate.  Ketogenic diets are, therefore, very high in fat and very low in carbohydrate.

What does it have to do with vision therapy?  I don't know that it has anything to do with vision therapy, but I suspect that at least in my case it might.

People use ketogenic diets for many reasons.  Most probably use ketogenic diets for weight loss.  Many people who have difficulty losing weight are able to lose weight using a ketogenic diet.  Often they'll lose tons of weight and then get close to their goal and then stop losing.  Then they'll cut out the remaining carbs so that they're close to zero carbohydrate, and then they're able to lose the rest.

Another reason people use ketogenic diets is because it allows them to avoid the glucose/insulin dynamic, particularly people with type 1 diabetes.  For instance they don't produce insulin, so ketogenic diets work out very well for type 1 diabetics.

Another reason people use the ketogenic diet is that it's supposedly really helpful for assuaging the symptoms of epilepsy.

I don't know why I tried it initially -- I think it's because I'm a believer in experimenting on the self.  You never know what can be your baseline experience of reality unless you change up the inputs in a systematic way.  A small and simple change can have a radical impact on the quality of your life.  For me, the ketogenic diet is an example of this.

For me, the ketogenic diet doesn't make me particularly lean.  I stay at about the same BMI, but I eat quite a lot.  Probably around 2,000-2,500 Calories, and maybe about 50 Calories worth of carbohydrate since it's difficult to completely eliminate those.  But very highly ketogenic, very high fat, and I try not to get too high on protein.

The main benefit I get from the ketogenic diet is cognitive.  I remember the fourth day of doing the ketogenic diet I remember coming back from the gym and a few hours later I suddenly felt a very unusual cool calmness wash over me.  I was sitting at my desk doing work and I suddenly noticed that I was in sync with myself.  I wasn't making any typing errors.  I stopped having to use the backspace button.  I wasn't rushing ahead of myself, and I could focus very easily.  I could watch myself focus and direct myself easily without getting distracted.  It was one of the most unusually pleasant experiences I'd had.  Very similar to being in a meditative state, but it was stronger than any meditative state I'd experienced.

Later that night I was reading a book.  At one point I noticed that I was reading much more quickly than I normally do, and I wasn't going back to re-read things.  I was just continually reading quickly and comprehending everything I was reading perfectly.  It was a very new experience.  Yet another thing I noticed is that I didn't lose energy.  Never had any sagging.  Just always awake, high focus energy throughout the day.  And I didn't seem to need to sleep as much.

I kind of got off the particular way I was doing the ketogenic diet.  I'd experimented with Calorie restriction, and I've also experimented with doing ketosis continually for more than a week.  That was bad.  Doing Caloric restriction on the ketogenic diet just takes away a lot of the huge energetic benefits that a high Calorie ketogenic diet gives me without any change in body composition.  Doing the ketogenic diet for multiple weeks in a row gets me really sick, I've learned.  After one week of high Calorie ketogenic diet with close to zero carbs, I get to about 3.2 m/MOL blood ketone levels.  If I keep at it, the m/MOL levels just keep climbing and by the end of the week it'll be at 6.8 m/MOL, which is very close to ketoacidosis.  Supposedly non-diabetics have buffering mechanisms which prevent ketoacidosis--I probably never did, and some people can stay at these levels indefinitely.  But I've done this a few times, and each time I did it, I felt god awful and got sick.  But taking a day off to load up on carbs fixes this almost immediately.

Thus, I now stick to high Calorie ketogenic diet and I load up on carbs every Saturday.  When I do this, everything works amazingly.

But I finally got back to doing two ketogenic meals per day--one in the morning, one in the evening--and the original experience is back.  I feel freaking fantastic, energy is there, and if I sleep like crap one night, it's no biggie.

I do suspect that it's having a positive effect on my vision therapy.  Like I mentioned--if you're doing high Calorie ketogenic--you get insane focus--or I do.  In particular doing the fixation cards--the accommodation seems to be getting more easily achieved.  I can get closer and closer to the cards without running into the accommodation out of sync issue.  It's still there, but I can get farther than ever before.  More energy, or I've gotten better?  I think probably both, but the energy has helped me get better.  I don't come home from work tired.  I come home from work ready to do stuff.  So the extra energy is definitely helping with vision therapy in my experience.

And I think this mental focus that a high Calorie ketogenic diet has given me has been helping a lot with my vision therapy exercises as of late.  Vision therapy is all about focus.  The better you can focus and concentrate on what you're doing the better.  The better your brain works, the more effective vision therapy is going to be.

Everything--all of our salient traits--from a biological standpoint--seem to be touched, influenced, and perhaps shaped, by the fact that we're energetic beings with a finite amount of energy.  Everything is an energy trade-off.  And this is definitely true of the visual system.  One part of your visual system can sap and take aware energy from other aspects of your visual system.  Coordination of your cilliary muscles can take away your ability to coordinate the direction of your eyeballs and vice versa.  Vision therapy can make you physically exhausted.  This might be at least part of the reason why doctors tell their patients to sleep a lot after LASIK surgery.

But if you have a huge amount of energy available always, it seems like there may be fewer required biological compromises to make.  And I don't know why this wouldn't be true of the visual system since it is part of our biology.  That's at least what my experience with the ketogenic diet has been.  It definitely feels like I need to make fewer compromises.  I can take it for granted that the energy is going to be there if I eat the fat.  I almost feel guilty because it makes me so much more effective at everything.  Almost.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Brock string and fixation cards are still effective

There's still quite a bit of work that needs to be done.  But the good thing about the way I'm using the fixation cards is that it tells me what needs doing and how far I have to go.

The closer I am able to get to the card while having good accommodation for both eyes while fixing each eye on its respective target, the closer I am to achieving my goal of stereopsis.  My eyes have to be accommodated and focused on their targets clearly in order for stereopsis to happen.  That might not be the only thing that's needed; there may be other things as well, but I am focusing on this for now, and doing this is proving beneficial.

In the past few weeks I've noticed quite a bit of progress, especially earlier this morning.  I was able to get pretty close.  Then I close one of my eyes and then bring the paper within a few inches of my eyes until I reach the limit of accommodation.  I realize that I don't have that much further to go.

These changes to my vision seem to be translated into other areas.  I've noticed this while looking at my eyes in the mirror.  Double images of myself when I look at myself in the mirror are particularly uneven.  One set of images is significantly off.  But that seems to have improved quite a lot.  Brock string has improved a lot.  One of my weaknesses has always been getting superimpositioning the beads on top of one another when I'm looking at them obliquely, particularly if they're at the top right of my visual field.  Well, this is still an issue, but the distance of how far away the double images are has significantly gone down.

So I'm still chugging away, doing eight minutes fixation cards, eight minutes of Brock string, and then messing around with my HTC Vive.

Oh yeah, I haven't mentioned my HTC Vive.  I got it a few weeks ago.  It is goddamned incredible. The motion controls, the walking around in VR.  There is a pretty cool zombie shooter that I've been playing called Hordzes.  Because I do not yet have stereopsis, VR is not as engaging or stimulating as it is for people with stereopsis--not by a long shot.  I think the level of stimulation that some people are able to achieve with VR opens the possibility of people getting PTSD from experiences in VR.  VR is a powerful medium that has the ability to give people experiences that they remember.  It sears memories into their brains, the stuff is so powerful.  To give you an idea of what I mean:


But the past few times I've been playing Hordze, I've been noticing that I'm finding it harder and trickier to not shit myself at times.  I can feel the 'oh shit' come and the electricity jumping through my arms and feel sudden clamminess on my arms and hands.  A real visceral response.  Not sure if that's just a testament to the immersion that the Vive is able to give to people with stereoblindness, or if it means that my vision is really improving and that I'm on the way to no longer being stereoblind.  I suspect the answer is that it's both.

The motion controls really are amazing, as they change from game to game.  There is an element of cheesiness because the motion controller I'm holding is light, but in the game I see this giant assault rifle that I can turn around and look at from all angles.  As they say, stereopsis really applies only to fairly close objects.  You don't really benefit from stereopsis when you're looking at mountains (although I'm sure there are still other advantages to looking at mountains with two eyes).  The stereopsis sweet spot is really up close, and I notice it particularly when I'm looking at my motion contollers in VR.  It's not true stereopsis, but it is definite a form of stereopsis that I'm experiencing.  I do get the impression that practicing this stereopsis experience, even in if it is at a low level, is helping me achieve my goal of stereopsis along with the other exercises I'm doing.  I feel like what I'm doing is working, and that feels good.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Minor change made a significant difference

I recently made a minor change to my workout.  I'm now doing about eight minutes of fixation card exercise and another eight minutes of large bead jumps with the Brock String.

The goal that I'm currently working toward with the fixation cards is to get the images to come in clearly for both eyes simultaneously at all distances.  Just a few days ago I appear to have made very significant progress in that regard.  When using only one eye at a time I can get the image to come in clearly when the paper is about three inches from my eye.  That is a normal accommodation limit for most people.  But when I use both eyes one of the eyes gets much blurrier sooner.  But I noticed the other day that I can get much closer than I could before.  This seemed to coincide when I began implementing those bead jumps into my regimen a few days ago.

So that's good.  I did seem to have a particularly good eye day yesterday.  I was looking at my eyes in the mirror as well.  The deviation---it looks pretty good.  Sometimes I forget and don't realize that I'm making progress until I check in like that.  The workouts have just become a part of my life, I guess.  It'll be weird to think of a day when I'm not doing any vision therapy.