15 May 2009

Paleo Year in Review

Hard to believe that it has been a full year of Paleo eating. We got notice in the mail again this year that the USPS was having its annual food drive. That's when we cleaned out our cupboards last year of all the processed crap. Several observations:

- Eating mostly (and heavily) meats, fish, veggies, plus (moderate to sparingly) fruits and nuts has had a profound impact on our body compositions. My weight is down about 30 lb, and body fat is reduced from almost 20% to 10%.

- Personally, I have taken more of an interest in cooking. I'm still a hack cook, but can make my way around the kitchen. By using the basic ingridients, this implies nothing out of a box and necessitates preparing things to build up a meal. I don't mind, and am always looking to improve my techniques.

- Without the wild blood sugar/insulin swings associated with simple carbohydrates, some things such as mood are improved (i.e., stabilized) and hunger pangs are greatly reduced. It is amazing that after a 20+ hour intermittent fast I can wait and prepare a time consuming, but wholesome meal without going nuts. Before I would be like a ravenous wolverine and would eat cardboard or anything in the house. We would order take-out probably about once a week beforehand. Now, it is once every 2 months or so - and we make healthy choices.

- Carb face is gone. I was looking through some older pictures and was shocked to see how puffy my face and my wife's face was. Some days I look through more recent pictures and am shocked to see how thin it is.

- The word diet implies two things to me: a) weight loss is the goal, and b) it is a temporary eating behavior. I somewhat cringe when I use this word, since I definitely do not view this eating as temporary, and our goal was not to lose weight (although it did happen). Our primary goal was really to eat healthier.

- With a Paleolithic approach to eating, counting points or calories is unnecessary. On non-fasting days, I'm confident I'm putting down at least 2000 calories if not more. I did count calories one day out of curiosity and that was almost 2500. Since wholesome, natural foods are consumed, the high calorie/zero nutrition foods are takend out of the equation.

- Although the Paleo approach is lower in carbohydrates, it is not Atkins. Atkins advocates zero carbs to start and works them gradually into the diet until a weight management threshold is achieved. (Note that I've never done Atkins, I've only read about it). Paleo allows complex carbohydrates that occur naturally in fruits and vegetables. These non-processed foods have a much less dramatic impact on blood sugar and therefore insulin response.

- Lipid panel improvement. Below are my cholesterol results for the previous few years. Bottom line is that despite eating mostly like a carnivore, my lipid panel was improved after several months of the Paleo way. Physical scheduled for July, so probably around August I'll update that.

2005 / 2007 / 2008
CHOL: 168 / 163 / 161
TRIG: 98 / 100 / 29 (not a typo)
HDL: 24 / 38 / 46
LDL: 125 / 117 / 120

- No after lunch crash. I used to really bonk and need a siesta around 2pm, but that is gone now. My energy level is pretty constant all day long.

- Exercise is a little different story. It has indeed changed. I've tried various protocols that I would have immediately dismissed previously. I could not put my finger on one that I think is best as I'm still experimenting with this. But slow and steady cardio treadmill work is much decreased as are the days of three sets of 10 for exercises. Increased variety in the exercises, both with speed, weight, and actual motion.

Sooner or later, when I'm feeling less shy I'll post some before and after pictures.


  1. Awesome progress and great review.

  2. Cool post.

    I officially started EvFit/Primal Blueprint last August and it has become second nature. Most of my cravings for things like bagels, sandwiches, french fries are gone - they are uninteresting to me which is amazing given how long I was a carb-hound. I still get sugar cravings though and I seem to go on binges. For example, if I might have high fat ice cream (the real stuff) one night and then find myself binging on dark chocolate the next night or some other junk that lives in my house given our children and their "helpful" grandparents. It frustrates me bit and makes me think I am missing something in all this.

    All in all, though, I have been done remarkabley on this lifestyle. You are right, it's not a diet but a change in how you live. I, too, have really gotten into cooking real food. I enjoy it - it's become a hobby.

    I've also become much more in tune with the environment, small farming, and big business. I'm not much into politics though I find myself getting more and more interested as it relates to our food supply (NAIS for one).

    I will say, though, that I am missing something as I haven't really lost much weight since August. I still have too much body fat in my opinion and I get frustrated that I am not as lean or find it as easy to get as lean as people say they do with this lifestyle. Perhaps I need to really cut back the carbs to < 50 for a period and see if that does it. On the plus side, I eat a lot and haven't put on any weight. I struggle in the evenings - I seem to be driven to eat and have a hard time suppressing that.

    We want before/after pictures!!!

  3. Mark, thanks for the input. You and I have a lot in common.

    Most carbs like bagels and sandwhiches have no appeal to me. Occassionaly, I still have the sugar craving and I'm sure I cheat more than Jeff for example. I try to limit this to 1x/week and see it as a treat. Challenges are still there at work where there is plenty of free food (the wrong kind) and at social events. I have to constantly remind myself that I'll regret it if I overdo it. I still have the occassional beer; that's not something I'll give up. But given that we have beer in our fridge that is probably a year old, I don't worry about my consumption. In reality I probably have about 2-3 beers a month.

    So, let me get this straight. You changed your eating habits in August and your weight is unchanged? Maybe you were pretty lean to begin with. I think I'm about your height (5'10") if I remember correctly. I started out at 167 with about 20% body fat. This morning I was 145 on the scale and last measurement I was 11% body fat. But to your point, my weight dropped drastically in 3 months down to about 150, but has been relatively stable since then. I'm still trying to get the BF% lowerer, but the abdominal fat is stubborn for me. Unlike Jeff who dropped to 8% very quickly.

    Another thing is that I was both a carb and running junkie, and even though I was doing about 20 miles a week (yeah, not hardcore, but consistent), I still had that higher BF%. I think both you and I still have too many ST muscle fibers lurking about and the ship is slow to change course.

    Great point about the environment and farm raised food. This is something I definitely want to explore more. The supermarkets aren't horrible, but I realize that they are not the best choice even for Paleo foods given the upbringing and nutritional intake of the livestock.

  4. Mark and Andy,

    Mark, you look pretty lean on the pics I saw of you on your site.
    Here's something to maybe keep in mind; we are "desk jockeys"! The prolonged sitting actually "creates" imho, a little pooch in the abdominals. Why does this happen? I think it's a bit of a posture issue. Try and really make a conscious effort to keep that torso elongated. With the way your eating and exercising my guess is that you are around 12-14% bf. You won't really SEE the abs unless you're under 10. sometimes even closer to 6-8 for some. So don't stress. A nice flat stomach is where health is at......
    I only get to under 10%bf when I completely cut my drinking. And since I enjoy my red wine and beer, I hover at 11% most of the time.
    I was visibly ripped at bewtween 7 and 8%.
    Keep going and make sure you lift (safely please) really heavy from time to to time to stimuluate those FT fibers..

    I'm sure you've read it before, but try the coconut oil as a "sugar craving buster"
    2 strawberries dunked in coconut oil make for a very satisfying treat.

    Great post!!!


  5. Marc, thanks for the insight and as always, the encouragement. Coconut oil is one of my favorites to cook with. Keith of TTP also recommended trying coconut butter which I am going to search for in the local stores.