Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Seeking Advice

I'm seeking advice on getting a loved one into the Paleo lifestyle. After seeing my experiences with and without using a evolutionary fitness approach (Paleo food, Intermittent Fasting(IF), plus strength and sprint exercises in fasted state), as well as seeing some inspirational videos like this and this, she has decided she wants to try it. She would like to lose several tens of pounds she has gained in the last decade or so. She was extremely thin up into her 30s.

However, she has a number of health problems, most of which predated her weight gain by several years. I'm looking for advice from people who have any first-hand experience or informed advice about the kinds of exercises she could try, and what to avoid. While we would appreciate words of encouragement from anyone, if you don't have training or specific relevant experience with these problems, please refrain from guessing what might work. Having done the paleo diet, IF, and resistance training exercise, I have plenty of advice myself, but I know that she can't do many of the things I do or the types of exercises I've found in articles and videos in the Paleosphere.

She does plan to consult with a physician, but (1) most doctors' advice is either too little or just flat wrong (e.g., SAD diet with low-fat, "heart-healthy" whole grains) and (2) it always helps to have options or a plan to present to the doctor when you walk in, rather than making an open-ended request.

I realize that many health problems can be related to poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, stress, and other factors we can control. It's obvious to us what negatives to avoid. Many years ago, she used a Callanetics workout tape (VHS). She has also done a program of walking several times a week. These did help, but we're looking for additional options which may be more effective (or a good addition to walking, for example). Some things we've considered: aquatic aerobic classes (reduced strain) and a moderate circuit training program (like Curves). But these may be too difficult or not very effective.

Her health problems must be considered. She has:

  • mitral valve prolapse, for which she takes heart medicine (when she was first diagnosed >15 years ago, the doctor warned her not to do intense exercises like a stair master as that would be too much of a strain on her heart. Currently, she has problems with dizziness when she stands up, which seems to be heart related. After about a minute, the dizziness fades, though. Doctors haven't been all that helpful, beyond prescribing the medicine to treat the MVP.
  • back problems, including C-shaped scoliosis and chronic back and neck pain. Much of this may be a result of a car accident when she was about 20.
  • non-diabetic peripheral neuropathy, optic neuritis, and some other nerve problems which neurologists have been unable to figure out.
  • plantar fasciitis, which was so bad several years ago she had to walk with a cane. Doctors treated it by taping up her feet for months, which solved the problem at the time. She still has occasional problems with it though, and it may need to be treated again if it gets worse. (Wearing a foot brace at night and rolling the foot over a can does help.)
  • constant muscle pain in her arms and legs. Doctors have diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. I realize these diagnoses are controversial for some, but rather than debating them, just bear in mind that she will need extra time to recover from exercising.
  • asthma, for which she takes medication (but has not needed to use an inhaler but a few times several years ago).
  • ex-smoker (quit 6 years ago).

If anyone has any helpful hints, thank you in advance.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Three Weeks

A little more than three weeks in and I still feel much better than before I resumed the Paleo fitness program. I hit a plateau this week as I lapsed in the fasting and exercise schedule, ate too many calories (nervous eating when I wasn't actually hungry), and perhaps ate too much fruit.

Exercise: I had planned to get more exercise doing yard work. However, we got some rain and I kept telling myself I'd do the work the next day. Things still haven't dried out, so I decided to get off my lazy butt and do a workout inside. I didn't fast until yesterday, when I skipped lunch. After that I used my son's new exercise equipment, a Gold's Gym short series resistance tube kit. (Here is the long series one, which is similar.) I got about 25 minutes into the DVD. Once I hit the squat thrust section, I called it a day. Yeah, I got wimpy not exercising for a year. The good thing is that I have almost no soreness today. I'll have to step it up next time.

I also have an Iron Gym workout bar that fits in the door frame for pull-ups, a couple kettle bells (4kg and 8kg), a lunge bar, and a big Labrador Retriever who loves to play tug-of-war, for working out at home.

Fasting: I only fasted once the past week, and only skipping one meal. Sometimes it's hard to synchronize meal planning with the family, grocery shopping, and fasting. I hate wasting good food by letting leftovers or uncooked food stay in the refrigerator too long*. I'm going to have to apply some scheduling and planning discipline to get back into the rhythm.

Food: I'm about 95% sticking to the Lacto-Paleo set of foods. However, the amount I'm eating is too much and unbalanced (too much fruit, which I eat to satisfy cravings for sweets).

Cheats: I tried hummus for the first time. Twice I ate it on crackers. I had a little bleu cheese dressing which was mostly soybean oil. Maybe a few small squares of chocolate. Not too bad.

I dipped down about 4-5 pounds since last week, but immediately went back up. After fasting and exercising yesterday, I went back down this morning. But I'm going to have to push harder (cut back on calories, fast and exercise more often) to speed up the weight loss.

This is a problem for me that I think I've been overlooking. I often get less than six hours a night, which I've read may hinder weight loss and fitness.

* I've learned the hard way not to take chances with leftovers. With the exception of a few things like cured bacon, I throw away anything I cooked more than three days prior—cooked eggs at most two days. I more readily toss out jars and cans past their expiration date. I once got violently ill from some sauerkraut because some of the cabbage was above the top of the liquid for days or weeks, giving it time to grow something nasty.

Furniture Slider Ab Workout

From RossTraining.com:


What do you call a diet which is limited to Paleolithic foods our ancestors ate, adding back in whole dairy products?

I was trying to come up with a name for such food choices. Previously, I'd made an impromptu, but detailed outline of my own Paleo-inspired menu. But try explaining that to someone in a sentence or two. It was no surprise that when "lacto-paleo" popped into the old gulliver that google found over 1,000 hits. It's just too obvious.

From one of the links comes Mark Sisson's* The Definitive Guide to Dairy, in which he offers detailed information (did you know there were A1 cows and A2 cows, with different characteristic caseins?). To help readers determine if dairy fits their goals, he sensibly suggests eliminating all dairy for a month to see how you feel. After that, resume using dairy and contrast your health symptoms. Personally, I'm not ready to try the dairy cessation experiment just yet.

Blue's Paleo Page and Blue's Diet Page provide a sensible framework for a Lacto-Paleo diet. She has some interesting facts about "New World foods" (squash, cucumbers) and Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers). I love those foods (but will avoid potatoes now until I lose lots of pounds).

The Paleo Diet Defined is chock full of information (some of which I question), and provides a link to PāNu, described as lacto-paleo (even though the Get Started page says, "12. Eliminate all remaining dairy including cheese- (now you are 'Orthodox paleolithic')." I haven't read too much of PāNu, but it looks promising.

* Mark's Daily Apple is one of the most informative Paleo/Primal/Evolutionary fitness websites I've found, so far. His website is well organized, but a few articles I'd pick out for an intro are: this, this, this, and this.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Highs and Lows

Earlier this week, I wrote about my progress two weeks on, including the yard work I'd started. My overall energy has been a major improvement, since I've eaten mostly whole foods and avoided non-Paleo ingredients (except non-skim dairy). I haven't had the post-meal slump or the bloated feeling (typical of processed carbohydrates and too many calories). But I've been having a few off days, which I think are mostly due to my sudden increase in activity level, as well as sleep deficit.

Not having had much intense exercise for about a year, I'm finding it a bit harder to recuperate. When I'd been exercising twice a week for several months, I had little more than mild muscle soreness the following day (maybe a bit worse when I added new types of exercises hitting different muscle groups). Being over 40 makes it even more difficult. Despite having added a lot of fat over a year, I'm still benefiting from the workouts I did before my lapse. I feel just fine when I'm hard at work pulling weeds and lugging around my new toy. I filled up my 5 cu. ft. wheelbarrow about 3.5 times with the weeds I stooped over to pull or gathered up with a metal rake. My Ryobi power head is only 10 lbs., plus the weight of the attachments. However, my yard was seriously overgrown and I was having trouble getting the hang of trimming and edging precisely, especially since it provides much more power than I'm used to with electrical trimmers. So it probably took me twice as long as it should have. I definitely felt the effects in my forearms and hamstrings.

It didn't help that after eating the Sausage and Cabbage Stew for dinner one night and lunch the next day that I had intestinal trouble and felt like I'd been kicked in the gut by a horse for almost a full day. My wife had similar problems. We don't know if it was because the cabbage was overcooked or if the Herbs de Provence (which we had never used before) had some ingredient, like lavender, which triggered a reaction. I had cooked a basic version of the stew (just a few spices) a half dozen or more times since I got the recipe from Richard Nikoley's Free the Animal website. I never had any digestive trouble before. Then again, our trouble could have come from a totally unrelated source. The good thing was, I ate very little food once I did get sick and by evening the next day I was feeling great again.

I purposely work in a fasted state and I suspect that's a big part of why I feel great at the time. Now, when I go into ketosis from fasting (or cutting way down on all carbs), I embrace the feeling. Before doing Paleo with Intermittent Fasting (IF), I would get a panicky feeling after not eating for too long and fell for the "low blood sugar" myth that going too long without food was harmful to my health. Also, I would drink "sports drinks" during exercise and eat "power bars" (might as well be candy bars). As nearly all Paleo Diet or Evolutionary Fitness websites will explain, it makes no sense that human beings must have a rigid, 3-meal-a-day schedule to be healthy, or to fuel up before a workout. Our ancestors fished, hunted, and gathered what was available. When they ate varied due to chance and circumstances, as well as according to the seasons. They had no artificial refrigeration, grain silos, or oast houses. They went hungry until they found their next food sources. So, not only did they not drop dead from hypoglycemia, but the most work they did, the greatest physical effort, was done when they had gone without, perhaps for days.

Not only do I understand this intellectually, but my body feels quite comfortable with throwing out the modern notion of breakfast, lunch, and dinner at scheduled hours. I'm still working on being more attentive to my hunger as I do eat when I'm not hungry sometimes. I know part of that is habitual, "nervous" eating. Junk food, such as processed carbohydrates, do have an addictive quality, which certainly contributes to habitual eating, even when not hungry. But sometimes, I get excited about a particularly tasty meal and can't wait until I'm actually hungry. One of the things about cooking from scratch most of the time and having improved my cooking skills is that I really enjoy most of what I fix. Luckily, these temptations aren't too much of an obstacle.

Another bad habit I need to break is staying up late and getting less than eight hours of sleep (sometimes as little as four or five hours). As I've increased my activity, I should be getting more sleep to help recuperate. When I do get more than eight hours on a night after exertion, I recover much better. When I don't, I have a greater chance of feeling sick, or just taking longer to feel normal again.

Dieticians Wrong About Fat, Ignore Processed Carbohydrates

Anyone who has been reading about honest nutritional science will not lift an eyebrow when Radley Balko says, "What do you know, the experts may have been wrong again..." to blame saturated fat for cardiovascular disease:

Ultimately, saturated fat...may be neutral for the heart. Meanwhile, some mono-unsaturated fats...and some poly-unsaturated fats...could be good for the heart.


If saturated fat doesn't adversely affect cardiovascular health, what does? Sorry, Nabisco: We should be giving a closer look to foods with a high glycemic index—a measure that reflects a food's influence on blood sugar levels, based on how quickly it is digested and absorbed. Typically, that means carbohydrates like cereal, bread, chips, and cookies.

In a 2000 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Harvard researchers...found that the quintile of women who ate food with the highest glycemic load—a measure that incorporates portion size—had twice the risk of developing heart disease than the quintile who ate food with the lowest glycemic load. A 2008 meta-analysis of 37 studies reported a significant association between intake of high glycemic index foods and increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and breast cancer.
Read the full article for more details.

Meanwhile, CNN stupidly ignores the role of sugars in an article titled Fatty foods may cause cocaine-like addiction. Ironically, they call processed food "purified" and "evolve[d]" when comparing its addictive qualities to "evolved" drugs like cocaine (as compared to coca leaves).

Look at the ingredients on your box of "low-fat" whole-grain packaged food. You'll see dozens of laboratory chemicals and industrially mutilated plant byproducts. How is that more pure than a grass-fed rib-eye steak? Or a serving of vegetables, nuts, or fruit you buy in their whole, unadulterated form and prepare yourself? And, how can they use the word "evolved" without remembering how the human metabolism evolved almost entirely before agriculture (and definitely before industrial junk food and sedentary TV/Internet lifestyles)?

Eat like our paleo ancestors did, whole foods including fatty meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. Skip the packaged stuff. Stay active as much as possible, but don't engage in unnatural aerobic or "cardio" workouts (animals don't run on treadmills--they walk around all the time and occasionally sprint).

Mark Sisson gives the lowdown on sugar, how it is so destructive to our health. And still, the "common wisdom" is that fat is the evil.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sausage and Cabbage Stew

I've been cooking Richard Nikoley's comfort food, a stew with cabbage and sausage since I first saw his recipe. It's a favorite at our household. This time, my wife did the cooking. The results were great. Here is her recipe:

  • 1 pork/venison smoked sausage link (any kind of sausage meat will work), U shaped, cut diagonally into1" long and 1/4" thick wedges

  • 1 head of green cabbage, diced into 1" to 2" pieces

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced to 1/2" pieces

  • 5 fresh medium sized tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

  • 1 Calabaza Squash, cut into 1" triangle shaped cubes

  • 2 cups of water

  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic

  • 1/3 of a piece of fresh 2" long ginger, minced

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander

  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds

  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/4 tsp ground curry

  • About 10 fresh Rosemary leaves, pinched into tiny pieces

  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

  • 1/2 tsp salt

Put the coconut oil and olive oil into the dutch oven on the stove. Turn stove to low-medium heat. Add the spices/ herbs (minus the rosemary leaves, pepper and salt) and marry them for a couple minutes, stirring frequently so they don't burn. Add all the cut up veggies, meat, rosemary, salt, pepper and water. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and put lid on and cook for about 20 minutes or so. You want the cabbage to have a little crunch to it. I measured out the Herbs de Provence but all the other spice amounts I used in this recipe are approximate, as I didn't measure them. So you can adjust according to your own liking. You can even add more fresh ginger or add in Tabasco sauce if you want it hotter.

*The Calabaza squash is a Mexican/South American/Carribean squash that is similar to Zucchini Squash in size and color but has a lighter fresher taste to it. You can usually find it in the store right next to the Zucchini. Get the ones that are green and are about 6 - 8 inches long and as big around as an average zucchini. Some stores sell them when they get really big around like a cantaloupe, but don't use that size. It is sometimes also called Calabash. If you can't find it, you can use any kind of squash you want. : )

Monday, April 12, 2010

Two Weeks

About two weeks in and I feel much better. My energy is much greater and more consistent (the post-meal drugged feeling is going away). My "fat pants" are starting to get loose again. I can feel my muscles "coming alive" a little bit. I don't have that bloated, swollen feeling all the time.

Exercise: I've done some work and heavy lifting in my yard and house (it's amazing how things get overgrown and cluttered when I get fat and lazy). Overall, I have been moving around a little bit more, too. Due to my schedule and the list of things to do for work and around the house (yard work and cleaning, once again), I haven't scheduled time for formal workouts. I'm planning on starting that within a week or two. There are about three more days of weeding, leaf mulching, pruning, and trimming to do this week, so I'll have plenty to keep me busy. While I do plan to start doing 2 intense workouts per week, like I did before, I'm more concerned with diet these past two weeks, ending my seemingly addictive consumption of junk food.

Fasting: I've fasted a few times for slightly less than 24 hours. The last time was before and during the yard work I did for several hours Sunday. Working in a fasted state makes me feel like I did last time I did the Paleo diet. Like riding a bike, my body quickly adapted to the change, without any negative feeling this time.

Food: I'm about 85-90% sticking to the diet I plan to make permanent. I have been able to resist the junk, with increasing ease. I estimate I'm eating about 70-80% Paleo (if you exclude dairy from what you consider Paleo). I plan to keep dairy in my diet, which probably accounts for about 10-15% of my calories now. I've been eating some legumes (pinto beans, chick-peas, and a few peanuts), which have some negative nutritional content, but I plan to eat those only occasionally.

I would like to have only strictly organic foods, but I don't yet know of any stores which carry meat or dried fruit which are completely unpolluted. The sausage, bacon, and dried fruit I eat do have nitrites/preservatives. The beef & eggs are not grass fed/free range (I'm guessing).

Cheats: My "cheats" have included a few tortilla chips (with pinto beans I cooked and guacamole I mixed), movie popcorn, a few breadcrumbs my wife put in a meatloaf, some rice and beans at a Mexican Restaurant while travelling, and 85% cocoa organic chocolate (which I eat with pecans and dried apricots). I plan to make the Green & Black's chocolate my consistent, occasional cheat.

Weight: I'm down to 230 lbs.. My morning weight two weeks ago was 235. I did weigh myself once in the evening (so it's "unofficial") and saw an eye-popping 240. The older I get, the easier it is to add weight and the harder it is to reverse that. Telling myself that I can lose my weight again, that I'll get back to eating healthy "soon" but putting it off has been very costly.