My Brain on Ketones #amwriting

For anyone new to this blog, I am diagnosed with adult ADHD. Though it’s called “attention deficit,” it’s more like “attention excess.” I either can’t stop paying attention to everything, (“Oh, look! A lizard! And there’s a hummingbird! Your hat’s on crooked…”) or I can’t stop paying attention to something. (Passerby in a parking lot: “Hey, lady! LADY! STOP READING YOUR DAMNED BOOK! YOUR CAR’S ON FIRE! LADY!…”) The first is a distracted state, the second is hyperfocused. I seldom experience any state in between.

The gears may be crude, but on ketones they mesh. (Image courtesy of Master isolated images at

I once took biofeedback treatments for ADHD. It worked—sort of. But as it is always a conscious decision to use my hard-won discipline, I rarely remember to invoke it, until the situation in which I really needed it is past. And rather by definition, if I’ve become hyperfocused I won’t remember to use it to get out of hyperfocus…

The internet and a smartphone are godsends for me. I never miss a payment any more because they’re all set up automatically. I seldom miss an appointment, because alerts will go off—loudly and repeatedly—until I turn them off because I’m on my way.

But it’s not foolproof. As in the example above, I literally do not hear things if I am hyperfocused. So I have flashy things on my devices. My Fitbit wristband may vibrate. And there are situations that aren’t covered. I go out of my way to make sure that each of the things I might normally choose to carry my stuff on an outing (wallet, backpack, travelling purse, the mid-sized bag I use when I want to write with my iPad, etc.) contains at least a pen, a cheap capacitative stylus, a (tiny) pad of paper, etc. I described the absurdly long list of electronics in my backpack in my post “Back to Basics Writing Gear,” but part of the reason for that long list is the very real fear that I may get to my destination and be unable to write because I’ve forgotten some tool.

I’ve been afraid to start a writing session if there was anything on my calendar for afterwards. Either I’d be coping with distractedness and my pace would be snail-like, requiring a long time block to achieve any goal (such as the daily word count for NaNoWriMo), or I’d become hyperfocused and any obligation besides writing would slip off my brain. (“WHAT anniversary dinner?”)

What does all this have to do with a ketogenic diet?
Since my brain started running on ketones, my track record on remembering stuff is much better. I can get chores done in only twice the amount of time I think I ought to take, instead of four times the amount of time. I can start working on whatever writing project I’m on without fear, as breaking hyperfocus comes easier, and I seem at last to be able to pick up my writing within… well, within an hour of when I intend to start writing. Believe me, this is an improvement.

Moreover, it’s easier to decide to get some sleep, and I’m seldom hungry. I don’t experience carbohydrate cravings. (I’ve withdrawn from alcohol, and I’ve withdrawn from excess carbs. Craving carbs is somewhat less intense than craving booze, but it’s the same feeling.)

This falters if I’m short on sleep, or if I miscalculate and consume too many carbs in too short a time frame (more than 25 net grams of carbohydrates in 24 hours, for me). Even though I’m nominally in ketosis (about 0.2 to 0.5 mmol/L) the wild swings in focus start happening. Small objects start hiding from me. The excess focus on everything (or on somthing) makes it harder to get to sleep, and I start craving carbs again. Not to put too fine a point on it, this sucks.

I’m reluctant to say that I will never want to leave ketosis—having a bit of fruit now and then sounds good. But at what cost? Besides, given my reaction above, would I actually be able to have a bit of fruit without having to claw my way past cravings into ketosis again? I’m not at all sure that I want to experiment with my brain in order to find out. Certainly not today.

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