For a long time, Alexia Bjarkan definitely did not feel bulletproof. In fact, she used to feel terrible.
Bloating, diarrhea, an urge to overeat and mood fluctuations that eventually led to an erroneous bipolar diagnosis, and medication that created even more unpleasant side effects.
Three years ago she was living in London and floundering. Then she discovered Bulletproof Coffee.
“That was the turning point,” explains the 31-year-old Swede. “From the very first coffee it was like wow, I really felt very strongly that that was going to change everything for me. I felt so different from that cup. It was like turning on all the colors in my life, I felt a rush of energy.”
The Bulletproof brand was founded in a similar life-altering moment as hers, after an overweight American named Dave Asprey drank some butter-laced yak tea a guide made for him in Nepal. Essentially, it’s based on a morning coffee that includes MCT (medium-chain triglicerides) oil, grass-fed ghee and organic coffee, although there is a variety of hacks including grass-fed butter and coconut oil. Fans include the famous – American talk show host Jimmy Fallon and actress and Instagram stories star Busy Philipps, for example – and the locally health and fitness-obsessed, including Livehealthy.ae’s own expert panel member and Biohack.ae founder Alex Azzi.
From that first cup Bjarkan began exploring and discovered the Keto diet, which is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate eating plan that forces the body into ketosis, where it burns fats rather than carbohydrates. While the diet has many fans, it isn’t for everyone, with warnings that it comes with a variety of side effects, which can include brain fog, bad breath, issues with hydration and a lack of studies on the long-term impacts. It is recommended to consult a registered dietitian before embarking on any new eating plan, including the Keto diet.
But for Bjarkan, and so many others, it has proven to be a magic bullet.
“I started incorporating as much as I could as quickly as I could,” she says. “With every new thing I added I continued improving, more and more, so all those health issues I’d been having cleared up.”
Her moods evened out – she figured out with her doctor that she wasn’t bipolar, and tapered off the medication – and she began sleeping well for the first time in years. The excess weight she’d carried for years also dropped off.
“So basically every single area of my life was improving, just due to healthy eating,” she says. “That gave me this realization of how powerful food is. It can ruin us, but also empower us to be the best version of ourselves.”
Bjarkan traveled to New York to become a certified Bulletproof coach, and decided to quit her job so she could help others navigate the Keto/Bulletproof lifestyle.
Bjarkan, who has been traveling around the world, decided the time was ripe to bring the concept to Dubai, after visiting and falling in love with the city. She’s just set up The Benefactory, her coaching business, and will hold a free information session on Friday, July 13 through Meetup.org.
She’s calling herself a Keto weight loss coach, figuring not that many people in the UAE will be familiar with Bulletproof. There are few key differences between Bulletproof and Keto, however, that make Bulletproof slightly less restrictive, Bjarkan explains.
Some good carbs
While Keto is very strict about even “good” carbs, Bulletproofers bring in some white rice, sweet potatoes and carrots once a week, during the evening. “To make it sustainable it can be good to add in once in a while, every week,” she says. “The body needs some good carbs, especially when we’re training, especially for us women.”
Focus on toxins
“On a general Keto diet, they say have lots of fat, all fats,” says Bjarkan. “And that’s where many people go wrong because they basically start drinking cream or eating cheese all the time, and maybe they have some good results in the short term, but that’s where a lot of low-carb, high-fat diets have gone wrong.”
Those fats – cheese, for example – can tend to contain toxins that can lead to inflammation, which can spark weight gain or difficulty with weight loss, she says.
“A lot of these low-carb diets, they say, ‘have a lot of protein,’” says Bjarkan, “but too much protein can also cause inflammation, so on the Bulletproof diet, we also do a protein fast.”
The idea is that skipping protein for a day and going plant-based basically cleanses the cells, she says.
Many people don’t realize until they try that Keto and Bulletproof lifestyles are fairly basic and easy to maintain. There are even a variety of Keto desserts to enjoy, which become increasingly palatable the more people change their diet, she says.
“That was my fear, in a way, because I had such a bad sugar addiction and I was terrified of that,” she says. “Now what I realize the taste buds change, so now when I have sugar I’m so grossed out, it feels toxic.”
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.