New Years Day 2012 I started following a Paleo diet. It’s worked well for me.
The Paleo-style diet I followed was Mark Sisson’s “Primal Blueprint”. Other people call it a caveman diet or hunter/gatherer eating. Whatever it’s called, paleo diets center around eating like a caveman – whole, unprocessed, pre-agriculture foods. Lots saturated fats and nutrient-rich foods, low in carbs & sugar.
It was easy to follow. No calorie counting, no equipment to buy, no long cardio workouts, no gadgets or downloads, no looking at labels. Just asking yourself if the food you’re about to ingest was available in the stone age. If so, and if you’re hungry, eat as much as you want.
I’ve been eating lots of fish, pasture raised meats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and oils. I’ve been excluding or avoiding grains, beans, dairy, refined sugar, and processed oils. Somewhere along the begining of this journey, I saw the motto, “If it’s grown or raised, it’s food. If it comes with packing it’s an edible product”. I’ve just focused on eating real food.
Towards the end of 2011 I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t unhealthy either, but I certainly wasn’t happy with the way my health and weight were trending.
Looking back, I was pretty typical. Following the Standard American Diet, getting older, gaining some weight, and taking some meds. When when I felt motivate, I’d go jogging. Typical, right?
On the last day of 2011 I weighed about 205 pounds. I didn’t look huge, but that’s definitely in the overweight spectrum for someone 5 foot 10. I was on medicine for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My vision was getting worse and every time I went to the dentist, my teeth and gums were in bad shape.
Definitely on a downward slope. But why?
I thought I was eating healthily. Never ate fast food, never drank soda, rarely drank alcohol. Most of what I was eating was organic, so it must be healthy.
A typical day might have looked like this:
- Breakfast: big glass of orange juice. Organic cereal with organic (but pasteurized) milk.
- Lunch: A sandwich – sourdough bread, avocado, cheese, turkey.
- Snacks: Organic chips or a granola bar. Maybe an Odowalla juice.
- Dinner: We might make pizza from scratch or maybe rice and beans with chicken and soft-shell tacos. A side of green veggies, maybe some mashed potatoes.
- After Dinner: Another small glass of juice, maybe a little ice cream, or small bowl of cereal for a snack.
I was model citizen, following the USDA’s food pyramid to perfection. Not a lot of sweets or fats, a little meat, a good amount of dairy, lots of fruit and veggies, and tons of bread, grains, and starches.
I believed, as the USDA’s MyPlate recommends, that the leaner the meat, the better. Replacing meat with another “protein” like beans was even healthier.
My exercise routine was pretty standard as well: go to the gym once or twice a week mostly focusing on cardio. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought treadmill was tiring and boring, but I did my part.
And still, I was slowly gaining a couple pounds each year and generally declining in overall health.
Then I read this intro to Primal by Mark Sisson.
After Christmas I was in a bookstore and saw a book by the same guy - The Primal Blueprint 21-Day Total Body Transformation.
The 21-day plan looked pretty easy to follow, so I gave it a try. 365-days later, I can’t stop.
I started loosing weight right away. 30 pounds disappeared in a couple months and it’s been easy to maintain. Within 6 months I was off the blood pressure meds. Within a year I was off the cholesterol meds.
My last dentist appointment was a breeze, instead of a gum-bleed-a-thon.
Last New Years I weighed 205 pounds. This New Years, 168 pounds.
- Less sugar. Sugar is horrible. We all know that, but we consume 80+ pounds of sugar per year . Carbs break down into sugars as well. Eating paleo forces you to limit carbs and sugars dramatically.
- Eating paleo also forces you to opt-out of the USDA/industrial-agra/Monsanto-based world of edible products. You eat real, local, seasonal food. You shop at local meat markets and farmer’s markets. You support farmers not industrial agriculture corporations.
- Avoid genetically modified organisms - Over 80% of corn and soy is GMO. If you look at labels you’ll see corn, soy, or derived products in almost all packaged food. Since there are few requirements about labeling GMO, a great way to naturally avoid it is eating paleo – no corn, no soy, no wheat. That cuts out most GMO.
- Improved cooking skills. I do spend a lot more time preparing meals, but that’s to be expected. It takes longer to cook a mushroom, leek, spinach omlette than it does to pour a bowl of Kashi and milk.
- Bacon. And steak and duck and bison and sausage. I eat bacon at least twice a week and cook with left-over bacon fat almost every day. I’ve eaten more steaks in the past year than the 10 preceding years. Eating primaly is eating good.
- Raw milk. Any excuse to opt-out of industrial-agra is good with me, but the pasturized dairy industry is the ultimate model of everything wrong with modern farming. Pasturized dairy is also bad for your gut. Conversely raw milk can repair your gut and is usually produced by small scale grass-based local farmers. Limited raw dairy worked for me.
- Skip the cardio. The primal plan I followed was a lot more than just a list of foods to eat or avoid. Even the workout recommendations looked to the stone age. More lifting and moving. No jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes.
- Never read labels because real food doesn’t come with labels
There are so many benefits, but I can’t do the justice that either of these books do:
Primal Blueprint 21 Day Total Transformation
Practical Paleo - Customized Whole Foods Lifestyle
Some other web references:
- Petitefi – Paleo/crossfit girl with lots of good tattoos
- Nom Nom Paleo – A tumblr with lots of good recipies
- RobbWolf.com – Robb Wolf’s site is full of paleo-related resources
- Fitbomb – A crossfit site with a good resource page on Paleo
Via castlegrok.com, this Paleo/Primal food pyramid flips conventional wisdom upside down…
…but really, it’s not even that hard.
For me, one of the most inspiring photos from the Primal Blueprint was of these 3 aboriginal dudes. They hunt, gather, and eat like cavemen. They actually get stronger and fitter as they grow older. I turn 40 this year. Hopefully by the time I’m 70 I can look like the middle dude.
This coming year, I’ll continue eating like this. I hope to exercise and lift a little more. Maybe try some alligator and more offal (organ meats). But I see no end to the paleo lifestyle.