Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eating Like a Caveman

That is how I usually explain the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet to people.  Basically, it's going back to our roots before agriculture was invented 5,000-10,000 years ago (I know that's a big delta between 5,000 and 10,000 but somewhere in there... I'm not an anthropologist here, though I do love shopping at Anthropologie).  Since I joined CrossFit last March, this is something I've heard about, thought about doing, but just didn't have the gumption to try.  Well, the time has come.  Starting next Wednesday, I am participating in a six week lockdown put on by my gym.  What does this mean?  In short, it means I cannot eat grains, sugar, dairy or legumes (or ALCOHOL).  Honestly, the dairy and alcohol are going to be the toughest aspects of it.  In long, it means I'm probably going to lean out, feel amazing and have better overall health.

The idea and science behind the Paleo lifestyle is that the human body was not created to process a lot of the foods we eat today.  We were made to be hunters and gatherers, so Paleo encourages eating in that manner.  There's also a lot of science that goes into it such as Omega 6 (not as good for you) to Omega 3 (very good for you) fatty acid ratios.  Omega 6 is more prominent in a lot of our protein sources, because these animals are also being fed diets which they are not meant to eat (corn and grain).  Wild animals eat grass, vegetation, bugs and other animals.  You need Omega 3s to balance out all the Omega 6s you get from "dirty" meat.  Most people take a fish oil supplement which contains EPA and DHA (yes, the nutrient now recommended for pregnant woman for fetal brain development) to balance out the Omega 6s.  Robb Wolf has a good fish oil calculator here for how much you should be taking.  I am going to do more research on this, as it is an anti-inflammatory/blood thinner (naturally) and more than you'd get in a standard prenatal vitamin, so I want to make sure it's safe for me to take as much as he recommends (6 grams per day) (and, no I am not pregnant).  The other thing with Paleo is creating a consistent blood sugar level all day long instead of the highs and lows most of us experience from our carb and grain rich diets.

There are three main categories of food: protein, carbohydrates and fats.  Your body thrives on these three things.  Below are examples of foods that fall into each category.  Stop thinking about the fat free fads - it's all a lie.  Your body NEEDS fat... but good quality fats.  In fact, there is such a thing as undereating, and if you've been dieting and exercising and not seeing results, you should get some metabolic testing done (check out FitLab or the BodPod).

chicken, fish, beef, pork, venison, bison, eggs, turkey, etc.

veggies (especially dark greens), fruits (lower glycemic load is better), sweet potatoes (sparingly) - no white potatoes, corn, grains, etc.

avocado, olives, coconut, nuts and seeds (not peanuts - they are a legume)

If you are eating a carb, it should be balanced with a protein and/or fat.  Your big three meals a day should contain all three food groups, with an emphasis placed on veggies as a carb.  An example of a paleo breakfast would be eggs cooked with spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, onions and sausage and topped with avocado.  Throw in a side of berries for good measure.

I won't bore you with all the science, but basically, I believe the fact that high cholesterol causes heart disease is somewhat of a myth.  I have slightly high cholesterol.  I also have extremely low blood pressure, am active and healthy and would be shocked if I had any blockage in any of my arteries.  In fact, there are two different types of LDL cholesterol (the supposedly bad cholesterol), and I'd be willing to bet that I have high good LDL.  I also have very high HDL (probably from my diet already rich in fatty acids like fishes, avocados, olive oils, lean meats, etc).  Triglycerides probably have  more of an effect on heart disease risk, and if you're eating Paleo, it's guaranteed your triglycerides will be where they should.  In any case, I'm getting pre and post blood work done, in addition to the BodPod test (measures body composition - % fat to % lean muscle in addition to other things).

I plan to chronicle this journey on ye ol' blog here, so I will share the ups and downs, test results, recipes, links to good websites, etc. as the time goes on.  This lifestyle definitely requires a lot more thought and preparation as far as meal planning, but from what I can tell, the results are so worth the effort (and I'm not even talking about being thin, though that's certainly a plus).  And, who knows, maybe when it's all over with, I'll move to an 80-90% Paleo lifestyle (what most people do), so I can still have a drink or an unrestricted dinner out every now and then.  I am probably going to go ahead and start on Monday (since I'll be doing meal prep on Sunday), but until then - cheers to some non-Paleo food and drink... I might not see them for a long time... and perhaps, good riddance.


Your BFF said...

I think we should share a bottle of wine this weekend in preparation for this journey. Or two. Just an idea. And I can't wait to see what meals ideas you have- I may begin to follow a 60% Paleo diet ;)

Haley said...

Awesome! I was just reading a blog yesterday where people were aghast at Paleo, calling it unnatural. So glad to see more bloggers are adopting it. I've got a few Paleo recipes on my blog ( in case you need ideas. A lot of people think of it as a diet I do to lose weight, but you're right, that's just a by product. It makes me feel good and keeps me well. Definitely post your recipes if you make anything. I love finding new things to cook. Good luck--and be sure to invest in some coconut milk if your challenge allows it. It's great in coffee and tons of recipes as a cream substitute.

Tiffany said...

You go girl! I can't wait to read your "diary" of the next six weeks!