Thursday, September 29, 2011

What a week

What a truly amazing week in life. For starters, we finally got the results from our 30 day paleo challenge, which started this whole adventure in the first place. I was so fortunate to actually win the male challenge which took in to account body composition change and food logging. So for some numbers. In 30 days, I dropped from 192 lbs to 184. Both of these weights were taken at the end of the day and quite off from what I consistently got at home. On my scale I went from 190-179, that's weighing in the buff and in the morning though. Even more importantly, my overall body fat went from 24.4% to 16%! I couldn't believe the amount of change there. I dropped two and a half inches around my waist which translates into almost 2 pant sizes. Im posting pictures below from week one to the final weigh in. I don't really know how much different they look to other people, but I see a huge difference when I look at myself in the mirror. I'm pretty much done with the scale, it's going to lose its importance to me with the amount of muscle I'll be gaining so who knows what the number will end up being. I couldn't be happier with the results, and I'm even happier with how I feel. I'm going into serious marathon training this week and I predict I'm going to have to up my carbohydrates, but I still plan to take them totally from natural sources like fruits and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and winter squashes. It's still definitely a work in progress but I'm nothing but excited about what's coming up.

Day 1 of the Paleo Diet

After 37 days on the Paleo Diet

I had a really cool breakthrough on my 12 mile long run this weekend too. I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do about nutrition during long runs and have bounced back and forth between bananas and Lara Bars, but the bananas often give me heart burn if I eat them during exercise and the Lara Bars work awesomely on long bike rides, but I hadn't really tried them on long runs. Well getting ready on Saturday morning I was faced with the reality that I hadn't planned anything and I also remembered that the week before I had started crashing because I had nothing to eat on a long run. I started rummaging around to find anything that wasn't Gu and finally settled on a container of organic flame raisins. Looking at the numbers, a quarter cup of raisins had almost the same calories as a Gu (Raisins 120, Gu 100) and actually more carbs (32 raisins, 28 Gu). My only concern was, frankly, the fiber. I knew that the possibility of a bathroom break was a real one, but I decided to go with it anyway. 12 miles was going to be my longest run by a couple of miles since the Ironman in May and man was this a good one. It didn't hurt that it was 59 degrees and stayed in the low 60's the whole time, but I felt awesome. I started out at around a 9:00-9:10 pace, remembering also that the week previously I had gone out a lot faster than this to stay with some people, and I know better than that. It was a glorious run, and each mile split got quicker and quicker, such that I ended my 12 mile run with an average of an 8:50 pace, with the last two miles being sub 8:10. The raisins did great, but I did have to take a potty break. I can't say for certain if the raisins were the reason for this or not, but either way, I didn't care, I felt tremendous. So, long story short, I'll be using the raisins again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

No more confirmation needed

Yesterday officially marked the end of my 30 day "Paleo Challenge" through my crossfit gym. The "winner" get's announced tomorrow or the next day, but I already know I won. I don't know if I'll be named the winner of the challenge, but I definitely won something from this challenge. I have no doubt in my mind that this is how I will eat from this point forward. I'm going to wait until the results are out to give all of my final numbers and post some pictures, but what I will say is that the results were tremendous for me. I dropped significant body fat, dropped around 10 pounds, and feel like a million dollars. More than anything my mind is so clear on why this is good for me. It's clear to me not because of all the scientific reasons or because of what I've read, although all of that plays in. I know it's good because in just 30 days eating this way has transformed almost every part of my life. I don't even care if that sounds over-dramatic. I can't exactly explain the feeling of knowing that all of the food I eat is, as close as is possible living in a modern world, what my body was designed to eat. Naturally one of my big concerns was how it would affect me in my athletic pursuits and I have to say the results were great. I do see that in the future I am going to have to do a better job of planning for increased calories and carbohydrates when I have longer workouts, but paleo or no paleo, you have to plan to fuel during endurance sports.

If I had any doubts that I would continue this way of eating, I erased them yesterday, by not eating this way. As the challenge wound to a close, it felt "appropriate" to celebrate by going out to eat Tex-Mex. I set rules for myself before we went, no chips, no rice, and just try to be sensible. I think I did that, only had one chip, ate no rice, and didn't get the cheesiest most tortilla heavy thing on the menu, but I did take a hit on the churros and ice cream. Afterward and then today, I just don't feel like myself. It was one meal, and I don't feel any real guilt, just resolve. I don't need that anymore. Celebrating with food seems silly. Food is just fuel so that we CAN celebrate our lives, it doesn't need to be the celebration. That doesn't mean a treat now and again is bad, and I definitely know that I'll have them from time to time, but honestly, I don't need it. Bread, pasta, grains, sugar; I don't need those things to feel celebratory. I could go on and on and on about how we, as a culture, turn food into a drug more than an energy source, but that's another day.

To wrap up, I can't wait to see where this diet evolves from here. (yeah, that pun was very much intended) I look very forward to seeing how much more seamlessly I can integrate this way of eating into my life and the long term benefits it will have.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A bit of a hard day

I've been lucky since starting this particular phase of my journey, almost a month ago, to not have had many rough days. At the beginning of the paleo diet I had some sugar withdrawals to get past, not to bad. I've had to defend myself a few times, nothing too hard there. Today, I faced a challenge that I frankly didn't expect, and it's all on me.

Since my first crossfit workout a week ago, I've had trouble with my left knee hurting. All through foundations it was fine, it wasn't until I started squatting with heavy weight that my knee started hurting. I figured that my form could use some focus, and that more than likely I had some weaknesses to address. I wasn't overly concerned about it and my knee did feel better during the next workout, and I was able to run on it without pain for 8 miles on Saturday. Today my knee felt completely fine, even going down stairs (the consistent trigger of discomfort all week) so I felt very hopeful going into today's WOD (workout of the day). Not 2 minutes into the workout my knee was hurting from one of the movements. All of this just leads to what made the day hard. Over the last two years of becoming an athlete, I've had tweaks and injuries and the first thing you know is to slow it down, modify what you are doing, and above all don't just keep pushing through something that really "hurts." For some reason as I was performing my "man makers" tonight, I ignored all the things I knew about not getting myself hurt. I could have shallowed the squat, modified by not squatting with weight, but what I shouldn't have done is exactly what I did. I just kept going, but my form started to degrade, I started to short reps and I became very defeated, very quickly.

The other thing I did that triathlon, running, and endurance sports in general have taught me so well not to do is focus on something other than my own effort. I let where other people were in the workout, what time was on the clock, and what I "should" be able to do impact my workout more than actually doing what would have been best for me. I was more focused on being able to put a "good time" up on the board than I was on getting a quality workout done. It's a bitter pill to swallow after you feel like you've learned how to focus. In a way I'm glad this happened on day 3 of crossfit, and I guess I should be glad I realized it at all.

On the board at the box we have a section of white board where we are supposed to write our monthly goal. I didn't make one for September just because we were over halfway through the month. My "rest of September" goal? Don't focus on the clock, stop looking at where other people are, and do a workout RX (as prescribed) no matter what the clock says.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Three Weeks In

I've been eating the paleo way for 21 days and I'm really starting to see a difference in my body. 3 weeks is a relatively short period of time and so far I have lost 11 pounds and my clothes are really starting to fit differently. I'm not really losing weight anymore and I'm not going to be surprised if I actually start gaining because I started doing Crossfit last week and am hoping to start adding some muscle. With the paleo diet plan in full force, I do feel like I'm definitely losing body fat now and not just water. I'm having to make sure I keep my calories up so that I'm burning my body fat and not any muscle. I feel absolutely great, and even I can see change in these pictures.

Gamechanger: The little bitty muffin

Yes. I ate a muffin. No, I haven't "cheated" once on my paleo diet since beginning it 21 days ago. Part of me just wanted to blog about the incredible paleo friendly banana/apple muffins (made with almond flour) that my lovely fiancĂ© made, and then I realized that these muffins meant something huge. I've been trying to live for the past 21 days according to the Paleo/primal diet lifestyle, and have found it to be intensely rewarding. As I've blogged about before, I've caught some flack about it, and usually land on the defensive. The "did caveman eat that..." comments always get to me, but if I'm honest, I never had a good response. Well these little bitty muffins not only gave me a response, but much more importantly they made me see this lifestyle differently. The word "lifestyle" gets overused almost as much as the word "diet," but that's really what this is. No, I’m fairly certain a caveman never ate a muffin made from almond flour, but I bet he damn sure wishes he could have. I'm not a caveman, I’m not even trying to be a caveman, I'm trying to eat according to what, evolutionally speaking, our body's are designed to eat. That's what I realized; finding NEW, INNOVATIVE, UNIQUE ways to eat a really old way is what I'm all about. Trying to eat just "like a caveman" is not only difficult, but it doesn't capture the idea behind what I'm after. That would simply just be another fad diet, a change in behavior to resemble something other than what I really am. Instead, I'm trying really hard to become something that I really am.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Animal I have become...

No, it's not just a subpar song lyric. As I'm reading and trying to understand more about why I would want to eat and live this way, I ran across something last night that really clicked with me. I can't tell you how much I get asked about why I would bother, or what sense does that make, or more often, just, snickers or head shakes when I tell people about the paleo diet. What I read last night was one of Robb Wolf's explanations and it makes perfect sense to me. If we look at the total scope of human existence, whatever we believe that number to be, we've been eating as a result of established agriculture for about 5 minutes. For the millennia before the Mesopotamians decided to revolutionize the world by planting and harvesting grain, we lived as hunters and gatherers. This fact isn't under much dispute, but it's easy to ask, who cares? It's also easy to look at this and say, "Yeah, progress, we were making progress into civilization and more sophisticated ways of life!" That may be so. Trust me, I love the internet, my iPod, the internal combustion engine, and TV as much as anyone, but in regards to the way we eat, I think we are missing something pretty key here, and that is WHAT we really are.

We are animals. We are smart animals, we are the smartest animals, we are animals that God gave abilities to that no other animal has, but we are still animals. Our ability to reason and feel doesn't change our biological processes, or at least, I don't think it should. I'm not a scientist, and I'm sure there is an animal out there somewhere that enjoys a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, but if I think about it, almost all animal, and certainly all mammals', diets consist of fruit, meat, vegetable, nuts and seeds. This is also what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Now the next immediate comment I get is, "Well what was the average life expectancy of a caveman?" When I say comment and then type a question, it's not a grammatical error in this case, because no one really wants to know, they are saying it because they already know that Paleolithic man had a shorter life span than modern man. What they don't know, or at least don't say, is that paleo man had to live outdoors, be chased by tigers, hunt, run, and be in danger in ways we don't face in the modern world. Again, progress. What I find more important than any of this is would be the research that shows things like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer were virtually nonexistent until we started eating grains.

So do I hate progress, heck no. I carry almond butter in little plastic pouches, pre measured and ready to eat. Caveman didn't have that. I can buy grass fed, hormone free beef steaks at the grocery store, I don't have to chase down and kill a mean cow. (Yes, cows used to be mean) I get to eat every fruit under the sun when a caveman might have only been able to get what was in the few square miles where he lived. Progress is awesome, but it should be to take what is already good and make it better, not replace what was good with what was easier, cheaper, and more available. I'll save how governments decided to mandate "progress" for another time, maybe some time when I understand what I'm talking about. (Don't hold your breath.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Yeah, You're right, being on the paleo diet sucks...

What you see above is the toil and suffering we are going through in depriving ourselves of grains, dairy, and refined sugars. I can't even type with a straight face. I'll admit, we don't eat this way every meal, this was kind of a treat to get so much different grilled meat along with some salad and guacamole, but the point is, it's not depriving ourselves of anything.

I've been quite surprised over the last two weeks by the reaction of the people we tell about the way we are eating. I'm not surprised by people who are skeptical of it because it is a very different way of eating from the standard American diet, but what does surprise me is that the skepticism is almost always accompanied by condescension and even outright criticism. I'll start by saying, I'm not pushing this diet on anyone. I do tend to talk about it if people ask questions, and I've been quite open about how good I've felt on it, but I by no means have been going around, looking at other peoples' plates and shaking my finger. I would love for everyone I know to feel the same benefits I am, but not only do I not feel it my place to push anyone into anything, I don't feel I yet understand all the aspects of the paleo diet enough to "pitch" it to anyone effectively. I say all of this because I feel if I were on a soapbox all the time, or passing judgement on peoples dinner plates, I should expect some criticism of what I'm doing, but I feel like I'm careful not to be judgmental. That's why it strikes me as strange when people consistently try to nail me on the finer points of "well would a caveman cook it that way?" or "you really going to eat that with a metal fork?" or (my favorite) "I don't think a caveman would approve of you warming that up in the microwave." People for some reason don't want me to eat this way, or if I'm going to, they at least don't want me to enjoy it. I think as a culture we have established an environment where eating healthy or changing eating habits has to be painful or sacrificial. They are looking at me like I've lost something, like my mind, and all I feel like is that I've finally found something, and I think it's the right thing.

The most fitting comparison I can make came from teaching my junior English class last week. We were talking about how monumental the change in philosophy was from the renaissance to the enlightenment when the world started to realize that it wasn't sinful to explore the natural universe that God created. Discoveries like, the earth's orbit and rotation, ocean waves, the solar system etc. are all things we now don't even think twice about because they are so universally accepted as truth. Who knows how we will feel about the way we eat a couple hundred years from now. Maybe another example of why we should look back to move forward.

My First Paleo Powered Race

Yesterday I competed in a sprint triathlon in Freeport, Texas. I did this same race last year when I would have considered myself in the best shape I've been in athletically. I love this race and have been looking forward to it all year, partly because it's just a really fun, local, small race, and partly because it's the first race I ever placed in. Last year I got second in my age group, so I was hoping for big things again this year. This was all before the whole paleo thing entered the picture, so a couple of weeks ago I started to wonder how this was going to affect my performance. In the early days of eating paleo, a couple of my workouts went, well, less than perfectly, so I was anxious as to what it would do (or not dot) for me.

I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I have fairly little to report as far as feeling anything different than normal. It's definitely a good thing that I didn't feel that I had any less energy than I normally would at a race of this distance. It was a very windy day and so the bike portion zapped a lot of the energy that I would normally take with me to the run, but again, this didn't in any way feel due to a lack of anything to do with my diet. On the positive side after the event was over I felt like I recovered perhaps a little faster than normal. Relatively speaking, a sprint is a short race that doesn't require a ton of recovery, but it is an intense event that does leave your body depleted and in need of some care. Yesterday, however, I took down a lot of water and some fruit after the race, then went and had an omelet with my friends, and I felt pretty much normal for the rest of the day. I took about a 15 minute power nap and sat on the couch watching a movie for a couple hours, but today I have zero soreness or fatigue. I usually would have left over soreness and a lot of fluid retention the day after a race of any distance. Today I'm actually down a little in weight, and feel totally hydrated and fueled.

My conclusion? I love this for competition. I didn't see a huge up swing in energy during the race, but there was definitely no down swing, and if I can recover faster and hop right back into the game, then that's a huge bonus. After getting over my initial sugar withdrawals the first couple of days, I continue to be so pleased with how eating this way makes me feel.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One Week Down

So today is Day 8 of eating on the Paleo diet and I am so incredibly pleased. I could go on and on about different things that I like about it, but I'm sure I'll get to all of them individually at some point. For now I'm going to say that what I love the most about it is the way I feel. There were a rough couple of days at the beginning, as we were told there would be, but after my body got used to not being inundated with sugar, I started to feel great, and now I feel even better. My body has stopped feeling those huge up and down swings from when I'm hungry to when I eat. When I get hungry, I eat, and when I eat, I gradually gain energy, but I don't have this instant, "ahhhhh" sensation that now that I ate I'm ok. I've also made great strides in the mental aspects of eating that I've talked about before.

I'm also really pleased with the results. From a numbers standpoint I've lost about 5.5 pounds this week, going from 190 to 184.4. I know some of this wait is water and inflammation, but I feel like I look better. Whether or not I do, I'm not sure, nor do I really care. I'm putting week 2 pictures up more to see if there is a progression, like I hop there will be.