ALEXIA'S KETO STORY

I grew up in the Swedish countryside. As a child, I was very much a dork. I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I was fantasizing about the big, exciting world out there. Somewhere, far away, everything would be completely different for me one day…

I left home at the age of 15, to start my exploration in the “big city” of Gothenburg in Sweden. I started drinking soon after that and kicked off a few years of debacle. The discovery that I could use an external, such as alcohol, to alter my state of mind felt like the greatest gift. Feeling like myself was terrible and I wanted nothing of it!

My high school graduation, the day before I left my home country Sweden. I put on a smile for the camera but in fact I was feeling depressed and lost.
LEAVING SWEDEN

My restlessness continued. I left Sweden the very next day after graduating from high school, at age 18. I worked as a yacht stewardess for a while and was based in exotic locations such as New York City, Miami and all over the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

I found myself with a front-row view of the “rich and famous” and the glamorous lifestyle of my fantasies. I was surprised to notice that having all you could wish for externally did not necessarily result in inner happiness…

In my early twenties, I moved to Sydney in Australia to study business at university. Choosing a location as far away from my roots as possible felt like a logical choice, as I was still desperate to reinvent myself into someone else. Someone who was confident, happy and felt good about herself – the opposite of who I was.

Around this time, I quit drinking. I’d put myself in many dangerous and horrendous situations with alcohol, and I’d come to the conclusion that continuing drinking was a risk to my life. However, that was not the reason why I finally quit. It was my embarrassing behavior when drunk that finally made me decide to get sober – I couldn’t stand living with the shame.

Without the alcohol to magically transform me any longer, I was just an insecure, dorky countryside girl again. It was excruciating. I didn’t understand: here I was, in the “prime” of my life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, beaches and hot rugby guys everywhere I looked, and still… I felt complete darkness. I simply couldn’t handle the uncomfortable feelings and turned to food to ease the pain.

USING FOOD TO MEDICATE

What started was an eating bonanza that nearly ruined my life. Food quickly became my top priority in life and my solution for every issue. Stressed about studying? A couple of chocolate bars made me relax. Upset about rejection from a guy? Ben & Jerry’s was there for comfort. Actually, any emotion – good or bad – was a reason to take to food.

My eating had an impact on every area of my life. I had terrible acne, a bloated stomach despite desperately working out at the gym six days a week, and constant diarrhea.

My mood was all over the place. I could be either ecstatic or completely depressed, and I had periods when I hardly slept at all. I isolated: I would often prefer staying at home watching Grey’s Anatomy with a sugar feast over attending a social event.

That being said, I was hardly a nun. In fact, I was just as destructive with men as I was with food. I was obsessed with the thought of finding happiness through a relationship and was desperately searching for it. My low self-worth resulted in a long string of more or less toxic encounters.

APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION

My binge eating was also expensive, and my mental state was not exactly conducive to sound financial conduct. I was terribly ashamed of being an adult who sometimes still had to rely on my parents’ support because I couldn’t manage my finances.

But that was nothing compared with the constant feeling of being out of control. The beautiful, exciting life that I had envisioned felt like a joke. I had managed to tick off visiting amazing places and getting my business degree, and it looked good on paper. But it was all falling apart very quickly…

After finishing university, I started a career in sales. Just like I had attempted to reinvent myself by moving between different countries, I now tried to pursue happiness through a corporate career. The sales profession was intoxicating: smashing my targets gave me such a rush. It was also stressful, with a lot of pressure. I dealt with it in the only way that I knew how: by binge eating.

"BIPOLAR DISORDER"

Severe depressions had been a part of my life since my early teens. I had times of believing that they were behind me and that I had figured out how to be happy. But the low episodes kept coming back, and to worse degrees. I was now in my mid-twenties, and I was nearing exhaustion. I could not tell myself that everything would soon be fine any longer because it definitely didn’t seem that way.

One day, I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I had no more hope, no more energy to continue – and I didn’t want to. My thoughts scared me.

I had asked for professional help at different stages before, but never felt heard or seen. I didn’t trust that there was a medical solution for me and thought I had to make it on my own. But now, I feared for my life.

I desperately called a psychiatrist and got an immediate appointment. The doctor’s facial expression when I told her about my madness made me feel that the only thing missing for her entertainment was a bag of popcorn.

GOING DOWNHILL ON MEDS

I started taking the medication. Over the next few months, my world was crashing down. The drugs didn’t help my mood and had horrible side effects: among them weight gain and hair loss.

I was waking up every morning with big chunks of hair spread around me in bed. I was terrified of the medication but at the same time, I didn’t dare to stop taking them. I tried to contact the doctor, and she didn’t return my calls. I felt like the loneliest person in the world.

I realized that I could not take care of myself any longer. I wasn’t capable of performing a job, and my finances were in ruins after my years of erratic behavior. I had nothing to my name and I was in a foreign country with no real safety net. I was panicking.

I realized that I had no other choice than to give up on my Australian dream and return to Sweden, to seek refuge at my parents’.

It was a strange situation. On the one hand, it was devastating to lose the life that I had worked so hard for during my six years in Australia. It had been my dream that this was the place where I would create a safe place for myself and finally, find happiness… Sydney was where I had made most of my friends, who meant so much to me. Now I had to leave it all behind.

On the other hand, it was the greatest relief to end the struggle. I had no more energy to get up in the morning and pretend that everything was fine when I was literally dying.

Family and friends may have the best intentions, but not being understood when struggling with overeating can hurt...
A VISIT TO THE PSYCH WARD

I got rid of my household, said my goodbyes, packed my suitcase and flew back to my parents in Sweden. I felt like such a failure: a decade after leaving home with my grand dreams, I was back to square one.

I felt so lonely. Everyone around me seemed to have their lives figured out, and I couldn’t even manage the basics of surviving… I spent a week locked up in an emergency psychiatric ward. Although that might sound like rock bottom, I was relieved to finally be honest about how sick I was.

After release from the hospital, I stayed with my parents. It was a difficult transition since I struggled with hiding my compulsive overeating. My parents didn’t exactly support my self-destructive behavior, and it was a tense time.

I was determined to not give up on myself. I could accept that my life might never be the rose-colored version I had imagined growing up. But I would not kill myself. And I would not end up living with my parents, hiding chocolate wrappers like a junkie.

I had a few weeks of rest in the Swedish countryside, while I applied for sales jobs in London, England. At this stage, I had no more illusions about finding nirvana anywhere in the world. All I wanted was a job in a new city so that I could move on with my life. I got another sales role and moved to London.

STARTING OVER IN LONDON

My new assignment was with a top IT firm, and I felt like I had “made it”. I was so proud of my new business card with the company logo. This was my chance to redeem myself!

However, my excitement was short-lived. After my first prescription drug disaster, I had started taking a new medication to help with my mood and sleep. It definitely helped my sleeping: it knocked me out so much that I felt like a Zombie during the day.

I was struggling to keep up at work. It was a fast-paced environment, and I had a lot to learn in my new role. It felt like my brain was processing everything in slow motion, and all I wanted to do was to crawl under my desk and take a nap. People around me were bright and successful, and I just felt so dumb. I noticed how some colleagues treated me as incompetent, which was extremely hurtful.

My mental health issues had caused a lot of embarrassment over the years, but being treated like I was stupid was on a different level. I have hardly ever felt this humiliated. The worst thing was that I started to believe it myself: it was true that I wasn’t doing a good job. I was basically forced to quit my role, only weeks after I had started.

I believe that I have a Lucky Star, and this is an example of when I’ve felt its presence in my life. Because around this time, I was headhunted for and offered a similar role in another company. I first declined, as I had decided to give up on my mental abilities and move back with my parents.

But last minute, I had a feeling that I should try just once more. So I decided to stay in London, accepted the offer and started my new role.

SAVED BY BUTTER IN THE COFFEE

The turning point came by chance. I was listening to a podcast interview with Dave Asprey, the founder of the Bulletproof Coffee and the Bulletproof Diet. I thought that coffee with butter in it sounded strange and I was skeptical, to put it mildly.

I was still desperate enough to try a cup. At least it couldn’t make things worse. It didn’t – Bulletproof Coffee blew my mind! I felt an unprecedented clarity and aliveness, and a strong sense that this would change my life forever. I dived into researching the Bulletproof Diet and lifestyle and implementing as many elements as fast as I could over the next few weeks.

During my years of overeating, I had for most of the time had an awareness that my eating was not healthy. I realized that sugar had terrible effects on me, and I desperately wanted to quit my food addiction. I just didn’t know how.

This process always turned out to be a nightmare. I had to use all my willpower to stay away from the sugar and the temptation and cravings inevitably won in the end.

A NEW WAY OF EATING

The Bulletproof Diet was a different way to eat altogether. It’s a variation of the ketogenic diet, which results in satiation and a relief of food cravings. This change in my body chemistry meant that I didn’t have to force anything anymore. The sugar and carb cravings that had haunted me for so many years were gone. I, who could not imagine a life without Lindt’s chocolate balls, now realized that there were even healthy desserts that I preferred over junk food.

The impact of my new eating habits was incredible. My insomnia disappeared, and I could sleep well for the first time in years. My mood swings settled and the depressive feelings lifted. Instead, I discovered a new sense of calm and wellbeing.

My psychiatrist was amazed and realized that my diagnosed bipolar disorder was incorrect, as I no longer showed any symptoms. I came off my medication and was relieved of its side effects: I dropped my excess weight, and the hair that I had lost started to grow back. I had never felt better. It felt like being reborn to a new, fantastic life!

After all of my years in pain, I was ecstatic about finally making progress. I could not get enough! I set out on a mission to give my recovery my all, to achieve the most optimal health and wellbeing possible.

I was in such awe when meeting my guru Dave Asprey, that I forgot to say hi.
FINDING MY PASSION

It is funny how life works out sometimes. Only weeks after I had had my first cup of Bulletproof Coffee and instantly felt that it would change my life, was the Bulletproof Coach training program introduced. I jumped at the chance to participate. Nothing was more important than learning how to help others find health and wellbeing too!

I found myself in New York City a few months later. It was my first time back in the city since my time as a stewardess a decade earlier, and what a different person I was now…

I had the best weekend of my life up until that point. It was simply wonderful to find togetherness within the Bulletproof community: other individuals also passionate about improving their health and helping others. I felt such love for them all!

Everything came together in an almost magical way. At the Bulletproof Coach workshop, I made friends with a guy from Hawaii. We shared our best health hacks, and he told me that the most powerful thing that he had ever tried was something called the Wim Hof Method. It was part breathing method, part cold exposure, and part focus.

CREATING MY TOOLBOX

At this point, I was amazed by the results only from changing my diet. Thanks to the ketogenic diet, I didn’t have any food cravings any longer. I had once been a slave to junk food, and now I felt physically liberated.

However, all of my years of compulsive overeating had strongly reinforced my behavior. I had periods of doing great with eating and times when it was a bit rockier. I was still in a stressful sales role, and I found it difficult to deal with the pressure. I often returned to my old habit of overeating as a way to escape and soothe myself.

In a way, this was almost more heartbreaking now after I had found a diet that worked for me. I was scared: what if I was a hopeless case, and could never learn to eat healthily?

What I now know is that there is not one single solution that will magically solve all of my issues forever. Instead, there is a toolbox of hacks that I can use to sustain my healthy habits on a daily basis.

The ketogenic diet lay the foundation for my healthy eating, through relieving me of the food cravings and making me feel great physically. What I now needed was the resilience to stay on track with my new diet. The Wim Hof Method turned out to be key for this.

Returning to London after the Bulletproof Coach training workshop in New York, I tried out the Wim Hof breathing for the first time. My friend had been right: it was an incredible feeling! I felt euphoric.

I then commenced the cold exposure, through starting each morning with a quick cold shower. At first, I was freaking out. I had always despised the cold, which was one of the reasons to why I had escaped all the way from Sweden to Australia. But I quickly got used to it and carried on.

After a couple of weeks of cold showers, I took the next step by tapping up an ice bath in my bathroom. I was terrified, the sensation was incredibly uncomfortable – but the feeling afterward was amazing! I felt so alive and refreshed. I was so proud of myself for having faced up to the challenge!

Ice bath at Wim Hof’s centre in Holland.
RESILIENCE FROM ICE

My cold exposure exercises had a quick and profound transformative effect. I believe that it was the new habit of starting each day with facing a fear, that trained my resilience. I realized that I’m so much stronger than I had thought I was.

Within weeks, I was able to use this strength in the area where I struggled the most: my eating. I experienced the same stress and challenges as per usual at work, but now I was able to resist reaching for some chocolate to stuff my feelings. It felt like a miracle, and yet it had all happened so naturally!

Just as with the ketogenic diet, I wanted to know everything about the Wim Hof Method. I enrolled in a course to become a Wim Hof Method Instructor and flew to Holland to train with the founder Wim Hof in person. We also traveled to Poland in the winter and climbed snowy mountains with as little clothes as possible, in my case a sports bra and shorts. One of the most challenging experiences of my life, but incredibly empowering!

Taking the wrong medication after being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder caused hair loss, and for a long time I felt like crying when looking myself in the mirror. A silver lining is that my hair eventually grew out better than ever!
TRANSFORMING BY EATING

Just as my illness had crippled every area of my life, so did my recovery now have an opposite effect. I was flourishing! I was happy, laughing – I even did a stand-up comedy course in London.

My skin was glowing. My hair grew back, fuller than ever before. I lost my excess weight and loved my strong, lean body.

As my mood leveled out, my relationships improved. Not having tantrums turned out to make a great difference. I had a new sense of self-worth, which started to put an end to my destructive behavior with men.

My new energy and drive had an incredible effect on my career: I aced my sales targets and tripled my income within a year. I had so recently lost everything, and now I experienced abundance! It felt like a dream.

MY REBIRTH

I continued my quest for improving my health and wellbeing. I didn’t hold back. No matter the cost or effort required: if it made me feel better, I did it.

I went to the Alps to do Dave Asprey’s favorite hack “40 Years of Zen”, which is advanced neurofeedback training. I went to the Bulletproof Conference in Los Angeles. I bought countless gadgets for improving sleep and increasing energy. I even changed my last name to Bjarkan, which is a Viking rune stone meaning “rebirth”. Because that is exactly what it felt like!

I was at the top of my game career-wise. Just like I had dreamt about, back in Sydney… Now, I realized that it didn’t matter anymore.

I’d had a burning desire since my first cup of Bulletproof Coffee, and I couldn’t contain it any longer. It felt impossible to now know the effectiveness of simple and natural methods for alleviating suffering, and not share it with others. I wanted to help!

Not being held back by food issues any longer, I now love exploring the world! Here climbing Table Mountain in Cape Town.
STARTING MY MISSION

I quit my corporate career, packed one suitcase with the essentials and gave away the rest, and started traveling while starting my new career as a coach on the ketogenic diet. It will sound cliche, but I think I wanted to finally please that little dorky Swedish schoolgirl who had been dreaming about exciting adventures in the big world.

I had been around the block, for sure, but my unstable mood had always clouded my experiences. It was a great sorrow that I had visited so many beautiful places, without being able to enjoy it fully. I promised myself to now make up for lost time!

Unfortunately, my travels didn’t quite become the adventure that I had dreamed about. Rather, I kept experiencing my extreme low points. I now knew for sure that I didn’t have bipolar disorder, but something was clearly wrong. I was taking good care of myself, I was eating well – so what was wrong with me? I had no idea and by now, I’d literally been around the world to find out. I wasn’t sure if there was a solution for me and I was running out of energy to keep trying.

During a visit to Cape Town, I’d seen a psychologist. She suggested that I’d try plant medicine to heal my long-term mood issues. I was taken aback by her suggestion: since quitting drinking nine years ago, I’d been adamant to protect my sobriety. I was terrified of doing anything mind-altering and becoming a junkie as a result.

But my psychologist explained how plant medicine, such as ayahuasca, isn’t addictive. Although illegal and controversial in most of the Western world, it’s been used for thousands of years as traditional medicine in South America. There is even scientific research proving plant medicine’s positive effect on psychological disorders such as depression and PTSD.

If there is one thing that I’ve learned during my years of health issues, it is to keep an open mind and listen to people who know more than I do. Here was a highly educated psychologist, who I also really liked and trusted. And I had nothing to lose – I had now had recurring suicidal thoughts for half of my life. I realized that if I didn’t find a solution, I might eventually kill myself.

DOING DRUGS IN THE JUNGLE

I was lucky to be introduced by a friend to Rythmia Life Advancement Center in Costa Rica. It’s the world’s first and only legal medical facility offering plant medicine ceremonies. If I was going to take the risk, I wanted to at least be in safe hands!

So I went for one week’s treatment at Rythmia, which I share in detail about in this blog post. In a nutshell: it was the toughest thing I’d done in my entire life, times a million. I thought that no experience could ever be worse than being suicidal. But that was before I was on a hallucinogenic trip to a different dimension in the middle of a Costa Rican hurricane, trying my best not to shit my pants while shaman music sounding like “OMPI LOMPI, OMPI LOMPI!!!” was screaming in my ears.

No words can describe the utter horror I felt during that ceremony. But on the other side of that was liberation. When the effects of the medicine subsided, and I somewhat came to my senses again, an über-strength out of this world filled me.

Life is not perfect. Bad breath can be a side effect of the keto diet.
MY MIRACLE

I was beyond grateful for having survived the trip from hell and for having this amazing opportunity to have a life. I felt like a force of nature! I was in awe of myself for my bravery of having gone through that hell. (Not there is exactly a “STOP” button when you start a hallucinogenic trip.)

The low self-esteem that had always haunted me was gone, as in magic. I was strong and brave, how could I ever feel shit about myself again? I was awesome! And those insecurities that used to plague me, like “Will I ever be good enough for a guy?!” seemed so ridiculous now. The only thing that mattered was that I was alive and I just couldn’t wait to start my life 2.0 and make the most out of it.

I’ve definitely had tough times after my plant medicine ceremonies. Perhaps they’ve mainly been a result of my previously erratic rollercoaster-life: I’ve had to deal with the consequences of years of not having made the best decisions for myself. I’ve been terribly sad over still being on my own in my early thirties, I’ve been in a complete panic over not being as financially set up as I’d like by this stage (my worldwide mission to “fix” myself hasn’t exactly been cheap), and the list goes on.

But that’s life: sadness is part of it. The big difference for me now is that my low feelings are not taking over so that everything feels pointless. And now when I’m healthy and well, I’ve got every opportunity to create the life of my dreams – and that’s what I’m doing!

DOING MY PASSION IN DUBAI

Healing and getting rid of the void inside of me opened me up to a whole new world. During a visit to Dubai in 2017, I fell in love with the city. I’d also recognized the opportunity to introduce the ketogenic diet to the region, where excess weight is very common and the busy lifestyle is not compatible with exhausting and time-consuming diet regimes.

I had the great fortune to get in touch with one of Dubai’s most renowned surgeons, and we decided to start working together to help locals optimize their health and wellbeing on the ketogenic diet. I joined his medical clinic in early 2018.

So here I am, a ketogenic diet coach in Dubai. I’m pursuing my passion, just like I wanted from my first cup of Bulletproof Coffee. My dream of living in a sunny, beautiful place finally came true. But most importantly, I’m healthy and happy and I’m super grateful for my life.

Thank you for reading my story. I would love to hear yours, too! Feel free to get in touch here.

Love,

Alexia Bjarkan

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Are you not at your target weight yet? The chances are that you’re eating too many carbs – and the solution is called the ketogenic diet. This scientific protocol results in ketosis, which puts the body in automatic weight loss mode.

 

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