Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Paleo 3 Months In

With all the Paleo blogs and sites on the internet you might ask yourself why I would even bother adding to it. The short answer is that I have made some 'not so subtle' changes (dropped ~ 30lbs) in a short amount of time (4 months) and so people have inquired 'how?' I have had some pretty crazy mind boggling success with Paleo and I'm glad to share what I've learned; so here goes.  The longer story is that Paleo is starting to to get some traction in the media, but the coverage is AWFUL and in most cases COMPLETELY WRONG. Through this blog I hope to help inform people what the Paleo lifestyle actually is so that they can make up their own mind.

This is my story.

Three and a half years ago, just before the birth of my daughter, I was in pretty rough shape. My weight had ballooned to 185lbs, which given that I'm only 5'5", is not a good thing. In addition to weight problems I also was lethargic, stressed out, anxious, had insomnia, was constantly hungry, had back pain and neck pain to the point I had to go on meds, and a host of other digestive and psychological issues. Part of my problem was diet, but  the remainder was simply a lack of exercise, or so I thought at the time. Somewhere along the line I decided that enough was enough, and I took up running. I was never a big fan of running but it was something easy I could do with little prep time and therefore I would not have an excuse not to do it.  I started running short distances, then 5K, then 10K, and then finally half-marathons. I trained 3 - 4 times a week and put all my energy into running longer and faster.

Three years later I was down 15lbs and much healthier. However given that I was running anywhere from 10 to 50km per week you would think that I would have lost more than 15lbs. I was eating a lot better than I had been but I still found that my weight yo-yo'd between 165 - 170+ lbs on a frequent basis. I didn't eat out much (maybe once per week on average), I made my own lunches from 'healthy' ingredients, and still I could not lose weight. If I ate very clean and strict for a couple weeks I would push down toward 165 lbs but then I'd have a 'splurge' weekend and I'd be right back at 170 again.

Earlier this year my wife decided that she wanted to lose some weight and proceeded to drop a good chunk of weight simply by recording her calories on a website and doing basic caloric restriction. Since she had good luck with it, I decided to give it a whirl. I calculated my base calories and set myself up to lose a pound per week by shaving off 500 calories per day! After 6 weeks I was down a whole 2 lbs and most of that was during the last few weeks where I ran 30K+ each week. Sweet crap something was seriously wrong with this picture.

At that same time a few co-workers were reading Tim Ferriss'  'Four Hour Body' so I decided to give it a read and see what it could offer. I devoured the book in a weekend and started his 'Slow Carb Diet' on a Sunday night. After 1 week I was down 2 lbs, and after 6 weeks I was down a full 12 lbs to 156lbs.  While I was losing a good chunk of weight I didn't feel much better than before. Part of Tim's plan involves a 'Cheat Day' once a week, which I chose to be Saturday, where you splurge and eat anything you want. I would spend Sunday feeling like utter crap and it would be Wednesday before I started feeling better (and was back down to my Saturday morning weight). I begun to feel that while this diet was working great, it really was not sustainable for the long term.

I spent about a week reading through the numerous forums and websites that were dedicated to 'The Four Hour Body' book trying to look for a longer term plan. One evening I stumbled upon a blog post by Tim entitled "How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)"; I was intrigued.  The post is worth the read and contain a few excerpts from Robb Wolf's Paleo Solution book. After reading the post I read a few dozen reviews of the book and snagged a copy from the iTunes bookstore. I read through the book in a couple evenings and decided that I would give it a go starting the following week.

Three months later I'm now down to about 139lbs, almost a full 30lbs lost since May, most of it by following a Paleo lifestyle. In addition to the weight loss I also have a lot more energy, my mood is more stable, I sleep great, and I just generally feel better. If I splurge on the weekend and let loose a bit I don't gain 5lbs and whatever weight I do gain is lost within a matter of days. As a matter of fact I now have to EAT MORE just to MAINTAIN my current weight.

 I have also mostly traded in my running days in for strength training. While I still run periodically, it is mostly sprint intervals or short trail runs. While you are more likely to see me in the gym these days than on the trails running, I do not spend a lot of time there either. I generally do two 30-minute workouts per week. In a few words, my training can be summed up as "lift heavy things and run quickly for short periods". The rest of the week I relax and get a bit of light 'fun' exercise like talking a walk and enjoying the sun or just playing with my kids.

Eating on Paleo is not really that hard either. There are no special pills or powders or timelines or tracking of your food (unless you want to). I eat REAL WHOLE FOOD that tastes awesome and I don't bother counting calories. The strongest 'supplements' I take are a multi-vitamin (which I'll likely ditch once the bottle is empty), some vitamin D, and a bit of whey protein. The hardest part of Paleo for me was the first couple of weeks while I tried to figure out what the heck I was allowed to eat. Now I'm more or less in a rhythm and enjoy a wide variety of foods and dishes. Part of what I plan to do with this blog is to chronicle a bit of this so that it makes the whole thing easier for the next person.

The only other difficulty I've had is simply a lack of choice when it comes to shopping. I'm pretty strict (you do not necessarily have to be to see improvements) and strive to eat as clean as possible. This pretty much eliminates much of the food at a traditional grocery story in Fredericton as you will not find a lot of grass fed beef at the superstore or sobeys. The only spot in town that I can find grass fed beer (or other pastured meat) is Real Foods Fredericton. I can't say enough good things about these folks; they are awesome. My only complaint, and its a small one, is that it can be challenging to get there. The store is only open Saturdays from noon until 5pm, and during the week from 10am - 7pm. This is reasonable! However it can still be challenging to get there on any day other than Saturday. If I happen to be out of town on the weekend I usually try to stop by at lunch. Luckily work has a nice big fullsize fridge with a freezer so I can keep everything cold.

Some pics of me before and after! http://www.freddybeachpaleo.com/2011/11/paleo-in-pictures.html

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