Why does Paleo work?

In some of my own online reading today, I found an excellent article that explains why Paleo works. Here is an excerpt that sums it up nicely:

Because it very nicely balances calorie density and nutritional quality in a way that lets you lose weight by listening to your own hunger signals, not by counting calories.

This is what I think one of the main keys of my success has been: allowing me to listen to my hunger signals and not have to experience cravings caused by sugar.

I recommend everyone do their own reading and research. When you have questions about anything relating to the Paleo lifestyle, do some reading. Keep in mind that there are as many detractors as there are proponents, but weigh what each group says and decide for yourself which makes the most sense. For me, the pro-Paleo crowd made the most sense, and my results and improved health have added credibility to the Paleo lifestyle.

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Grilled tuna steak with butternut squash and spinach.

I know that there are different body types and depending on genetic backgrounds, body chemistry is different. There are a few people I know who were unable to complete a Whole30 due to the way their body processes fats, but they are in the minority. That’s why we need to find whatever works for us. I do know, however, that going low-fat is not a good solution as many of the foods that cut fat add sugars to make them palatable. The effects of a low-fat diet are proving to be devastating to the health of those of us who have been taught our entire lives that low-fat is the preferred diet. It’s so pervasive that even many in the medical community continue to regurgitate this bad information to their patients.

The winds are changing, however, and more and more good, solid data is being released to show that high-carb foods are not as safe as previously believed. It’s up to you to do your own research and reading to get to the truth of nutrition that makes sense for you.

High School Reunion

This past weekend, my wife and I attended my 30th high school reunion. We had a great time, and it was wonderful catching up with people who were influential in making me the person I am today. From my two biology teachers, my assistant principal, and all the people who were my friends and peers over 30 years ago, it was a happy reunion and it was great to be able to hug all these people who meant so much to me back then.

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My wife and I at my 30th High School Reunion this past weekend.

My wife and I danced for most of the night and I have to admit it was one of the best times I’ve had with going out in a very long time. She mentioned to me that she thought we had danced more in that one night than we have throughout our entire marriage. I explained to her that it had nothing to do with being embarrassed and everything to do with the fact that as a heavy person, it was physically difficult for me to dance for longer than half a song or so. Now, at my lighter weight, it’s not only possible but enjoyable.

This made me think of all the other things I’ve been able to do since losing this weight and how it has greatly improved my quality of life. Not just the little things like flexibility and mobility, but the ability to really get around while on vacation and fit in so much more in a day than I could previously. My ability to hike along a river and climb small hills to see amazing waterfalls in Canada. My ability to fit into small seats and to get into the cockpit of the plane we flew in while sightseeing in Vancouver. Heck, just sitting in a booth at a restaurant or being comfortable in an economy seat on an airliner are things I never want to give up again!

I was asked by more than a few of my high school friends at the reunion how I feel now that I am over 100 lbs lighter than I was at the last reunion. I thought about it and I told them that while I may be older now, but I feel younger than I have over the past 18 years. I feel great, I feel healthy, and I no longer feel like an old man. I can get up in the morning and not be completely sore and I can go through the day without being winded, tired, or experiencing joint pain.

It’s never too late to eat right and change your life. The effects aren’t immediate, but they do follow quickly. My 70 year old neighbor started in April, and by June, he’s already lost 18 lbs and is not only feeling better and more mobile, but he’s using 25% less insulin and may be taken off other drugs soon by his doctor since his blood chemistry has improved so much. I’m proud of him and every person who has taken the steps to regain their health and lose weight.

Eyes on the Prize

Sometimes, when a goal comes within reach, you want to power through to the end to just be finished. It’s so close you can taste the victory. That’s how I’m beginning to feel being within 20 lbs of my goal.

This weekend saw me imbibe a lot of alcohol and eating some foods that had sugar in them which resulted in my weight loss being stalled again and likely will be for another 4-5 days. That is hard on me mentally as I’m in the home stretch toward my next goal. I was hoping to at least get to within 15 lbs of my goal by my birthday, but I don’t see that happening now. I’ll be lucky to be back at my lowest of 192.5 by Tuesday next week.

This is one of those times during weight loss that people feel tested with a diet or eating plan. I totally get it; there’s a sense of failure and sadness, feeling like you’ve messed up and that all the hard work you’re doing has been sabotaged. Even at 95 lbs less than I was on September 1st last year, I still feel like I’ve derailed my progress when in fact, I’ve only delayed it a bit. I have to remind myself that I still fit into my 34″ waist trousers, and that the weight gain I’m experiencing right now is mostly water weight from swelling (which I experience whenever I eat anything with sugar in it now) and that the delay in weight loss is only temporary.

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My daughter and I recently (2016).

I comfort myself in knowing that this is a cycle I’ve experienced before, and I powered through it each time by sticking to the plan. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a delay, and won’t be the last. I also comfort myself with the knowledge that as I continue to stick to the Paleo lifestyle, I feel full after each meal, my body gets the nutrients it needs, and I’ll be back to losing weight again soon enough. It’s like long-term financial planning. The markets will go up and down and our nest egg may lose some value every now and then, but ultimately, as long as it keeps getting bigger and bigger, those dips in value become inconsequential.

I have never considered giving up. I made a decision last August to stick with the Paleo lifestyle and I’m proud to say that I’ve never given up. With the few exceptions of holidays, special events, and the rare treat, I’ve followed Paleo to the letter. That’s why I’ve been able to lose weight at such a steady rate with such great success.

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My daughter and I in 2015.

My wife says that my secret weapon in my ability to be completely dedicated to my weight loss is that I am a former Marine. She thinks that I’m able to steel my mind on a goal and stick with it better than the average person. I don’t know how true this is because I think it’s within all of us to dedicate ourselves to sticking with a goal. Think of it this way: It’s a promise we make to ourselves.

If you are the kind of person who takes promises seriously, then make a promise to yourself to stick with the lifestyle. Write it down, post it on the refrigerator or make a desktop wallpaper for your computer and put it there. Write it on a Post-it note and put it somewhere you can see it daily. Do whatever it takes, but if you are the type of person who keeps promises, then keep this promise to yourself!

We all stumble and fall sometimes. It’s the tough who get back up and continue towards their goal. Be tough. You can do this.

Sacrifice

Something many people don’t want to do is sacrifice. It’s interesting that we’ll sacrifice to buy a boat, a house, or to attain a degree or certification, but we won’t even consider it when we think about getting healthy or losing weight. People will go out of their way to find logic in not giving up certain foods. Some will even eschew finding the logic and plainly state that they refuse to give up any foods at all to get healthy or to lose weight and decide on finding an alternate path to better health.

Exercise alone will not make you healthy. Your body can only be as healthy as the food you put into it. You can exercise all you want, but if you eat bad food, your body will continue to have problems. Whether it’s high cholesterol, diabetes, or a host of other maladies, the food you eat influences your health more than exercise does.

Sacrificing certain foods or groups of foods is what people fixate on when they hear the details of the Paleo lifestyle. While it is true that I no longer eat breads, pastas, beans, rice, potatoes, and any foods with grains or added sugars, Sherry and I have found that for nearly every food that has grains in it, there is a completely healthy alternative that is just as tasty, or at least nearly analogous. Her site has a section for recipes we’ve found that we really enjoy, and many of those are for foods that, with their normal ingredients, would be off-limits.

Sacrificing food for short-term is what people normally do on the extreme diets that restrict food groups. Avoiding high-carb foods is quite easy, and it’s amazing how well I’ve adapted to it. I thought not eating breads and pasta would be hard; it hasn’t been. Being able to have delicious foods that are actually good for my  body has allowed me to stick to the Paleo lifestyle and to improve my health while losing weight. I haven’t had to sacrifice nearly as much as people would think I have.

Sacrificing and replacing bad ingredients are not the same thing. If the Paleo lifestyle didn’t have the healthy alternatives, I think it would have been much harder, if not impossible, for Sherry and I to stick with. The fact that we can even have Paleo pasta and Paleo cakes and even Paleo bread really makes a huge difference. Our lives are pretty much normal now due to the grain alternatives.

With all that said, there are some things that you plain and simply cannot ever eat while you’re losing weight on Paleo or you’ll sabotage your progress for days. Anything processed with added sugar will definitely throw a monkey wrench into the works. I have found that imbibing alcohol also slows or stops my weight loss progress for days afterward. I try to avoid alcohol as much as possible right now as I make my way to my goal weight.

Once at your ideal weight, however, you can introduce treats and foods that contain grains or beans, but it’s important to monitor your weight and stick to a strict Paleo diet the rest of the time. My wife has been in a maintenance mode for the past three months, and she’s been successful at holding at her weight.

Sacrifice is a strong word for giving up foods that are bad for you and replacing them with foods that are good, especially when you can make a lot of Paleo foods that mimic the real thing but without the grains or added sugar. Yes, you are giving up certain foods, but you are gaining your health and a lower weight. For me, that’s worth it.

What if it was called something else?

People ask me all the time, “What is your secret to your weight loss? You must run a lot!” I’ve noticed that their reception to what I do is based on how I present that information to them. If I say I’ve cut carbs, grains, and beans, most people will say, “Oh, so you’re doing Atkins.” I tell them, “Similar, but with a few differences.” The main difference is that I don’t allow myself any grains or beans, and definitely no added-sugar. I also don’t count calories or carbs; I go with as little as possible. When I explain this to them, people think it’s a little nutty, but they can’t argue with my results.

If I tell them straight away that I’m doing Paleo, I get the crooked brow/confused look. “You mean, like a caveman?” I tell them, “Well, that’s the name the diet gets, and yes, it’s based off the premise that cavemen didn’t eat grains or foods with added-sugar,” but before I really have a chance to finish, I’ve lost them. They think it’s a fad, ridiculous, or just some stupid thing that is too restrictive to contemplate. They also think, “Cavemen didn’t live long. Why would I want to eat like them?”

If you’re reading this, there’s a chance that you are not one of those people. If you are, and you’re wondering what Paleo is about, I recommend going to the Paleo website link on the right side of this website (bottom of the site for mobile devices and tablets).

I will say that my personal opinion is that while I understand how the Paleo movement came about, I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. However, I think that the Paleo diet came across a diet that happens to work well for people with my body type and genetic background. It has allowed me to lose a lot of weight and to get healthy. It’s also allowed me to put a label on the way I eat to make it easier to explain to people who ask without going into a long dissertation on what I eat.

However, organized nutritionists, government agencies, and medical studies are working overtime to denigrate the Paleo movement and diet. In statement after statement, agencies that are supposed to be looking out for us and providing us information that helps us live healthier and longer continue to dole out bad nutrition information based on flawed science from the 1950’s. No real money has been put into researching the Paleo diet as it’s not in the best interest of the food lobby or even the government agencies. The FDA, for example, doesn’t want to admit that they’ve caused not only more harm than good, but have been a large factor in the obesity and diabetic epidemics our country is facing. This is exacerbated by the fact that many countries with smaller budgets rely on the US for nutrition advice. The food lobby pays colleges to run studies to prove that their food is good for us, and who wants to bite the hand that feeds them? Much like the tobacco lobby had studies made to show that smoking was okay, the food lobby is doing exactly the same with grains and carbs.

Coming up with a new name for Paleo is ridiculous; there’s already Low-Carb, No-Carb, and Atkins, and while these aren’t exactly Paleo, they’re so close as to almost be synonymous to the uninitiated. What’s worse is that when people hear about giving up grains, beans, and foods with added sugars, they immediately concentrate on what they can no longer have. That’s why I quickly mention the foods I can eat that are normal, delicious, and likely among some of their favorites. This seems to make headway, but soon, they are back to thinking about what they have to give up.

Ultimately, something’s gotta give. If you want to get healthy and lose weight, something in your diet has to change. You can’t continue to eat the same foods and expect a different result. That goes against ANY basic science. Even moderation of the same foods is suspect as most people who are overweight and unhealthy are actually in a never-ending process of gaining weight. Moderation would, at best, only stop the gain and put these people into a holding pattern of bad health and obesity.

When talking about Paleo, know that it’s not about donning a leopard skin loin cloth and cooking wildebeest over a fire on a spit. It’s about eating foods that have no added sugar, no grains, and no beans. It’s eating foods with low sugar content, even if it’s natural sugar, because sugar is what the body uses to make fat. It’s about eating food that is whole, good, and healthy for us. It’s about food that is as unprocessed and natural as possible.

Finally, let me address the “Cavemen didn’t live long” statement from above. They didn’t live long because they didn’t have modern medicine, safety awareness, and protection from the elements, from enemies, and from wild animals. Much like a wild animal lives longer in the safety of a zoo, paleolithic man would have lived a lot longer were he in modern society, but only as long as he stayed away from carbs and grains.

 

Body Changes

IMG_2475Tuesday, I noticed as I was walking in the hallway at work that my thighs no longer rub together when I walk. This is not only a new sensation, but one of those realizations I can’t believe I am only now noticing. This made me think about the other changes in my body that have happened that I may not have paid attention to.

My arms hang closer to my body, and straight down. In the past, when my body was at its fattest, my arms would never go straight down. They would rest at an angle because the fat under my armpits was so big. Now, my arms hang straight down to my sides.

I can hold my hands easily behind my back. In the Marines (and in the military), this is known as “Parade rest.” I have been unable to do that for years. I found myself doing it unconsciously last night as I talked to my neighbor in his driveway. It was comfortable and felt completely natural.

I can run across streets without sweating and breathing heavily. I did this today as I picked up my new license plates from the tax office today. I came upon crosswalks that only had 11 seconds left (both times!) and instead of waiting, I knew I could make it across before time expired if I ran, so I did. The most glorious feeling overcame me when I reached the other side of the street: I wasn’t winded, tired, or sweaty. Something like that would have left me out of breath for at least two minutes in my fat body.

Scratching my own back is possible now. This is something I haven’t done in over two decades, yet now, if I have an itch on my back, I can scratch it. Now that there’s less fat restricting my mobility and flexibility, I can actually touch spots on my back I couldn’t think of touching just ten months ago.

My neck mobility is amazing. I can look really far now in both directions by turning my head. This is something I could not do before, and if I needed to look far to the side, I would have to turn my body as well. This is no longer the case as my neck flexibility and mobility are greatly improved.

I can fit into clothes better. Things made for thinner people just fit better. Things have less extra room in them which, while I’m putting them on, makes me think that they’re not going to fit properly. As a fat person, all my clothes were very stretchy and felt loose while donning. Thin people clothing has a lot less play and fits closer to the body. I do like how I look in my new clothing, but it is weird as I’m dressing.

There are some strange things that I’ve never dealt with before as well. For example, I do have a bit of skin accumulating at my midsection, both over my lower stomach area (beneath my belly button) and on my sides. Even though I am wearing much smaller trousers now, the skin takes up a bit of room. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d feared it might be, but it’s still something I notice.

IMG_2474I also find that the volume of food I eat is far less now, and I am satisfied sooner with less food. I used to love eating a lot of food. Not just until I was full, but even past that point. Now, if I overeat, I feel physical pain and my entire body reminds me that what I had done is not to be repeated.

As you lose weight and get healthy, your body will change. Most of the changes will be good, while some of them, while not bad, may be strange. I’m experiencing these changes all the time, and since they’ve happened to me over a relatively short period of time, its as if the differences are exacerbated. It also makes me feel like I’m living in someone else’s body now, which I didn’t expect. Overall, I’m happy to experience the changes, and I must admit that most of these changes bring a smile to my face. They are all signs of my dedication, for better or for worse.

Current stats:
Weight: 192.5 lbs (Started 289.9 lbs on 9/1/15)
Body fat: 20.5% (Started 47% on 9/1/15)
BMI: 30.1 (Started 45.4 on 9/1/15)

Solid, steady progress

2016-06-24 18_06_18-StartThis morning, I found that I had made some more steady progress. I had been experiencing quite a slowdown in the rate of weight loss in April-May, but June has been a good month with 5.7 lbs lost. I’m very happy with that, as I’m getting closer to my goal. I’m also very pleased with 97.5 lbs lost since September 1st. I’m close to the 100 lbs lost mark (since September) while I’ve lost 116.1 lbs since August 2013.2016-06-24 18_07_18-Track My Weight on Fitbit

As you can see in the graph above, my current goal is 175 lbs. As stated in an earlier post, that’s my penultimate goal. My ultimate goal is to be 165 lbs or less. I’m hoping to hit that by September 1, 2016, my one year anniversary with Whole30/Paleo.

Current stats:
Weight: 192.5 lbs (Started 289.9 lbs on 9/1/15)
Body fat: 20.5% (Started 47% on 9/1/15)
BMI: 30.1 (Started 45.4 on 9/1/15)