How the Food Industry is Killing Us

A photo from the early 1970’s, location unknown.

Take a look at that picture carefully. Look at it. What do you see? Or more importantly, what do you NOT see? A lot of obese people. That’s a photograph taken at a beach in the 1970’s, before the low-fat diet was introduced to the world. At the time, people were still eating a normal diet consisting of fats, meats, and vegetables. Carbs came in more natural forms with the worst being bread or pasta. But in contrast to today’s high-carb diets, the eating of grains when the majority of your diet is meat, fats, and vegetables is mitigated by the benefits of the former.

Another photo, this one from 1976 in England.

We’ve been taught for decades that the key to health is a low-fat diet, yet our population continues to careen towards morbid obesity. Diet plan after diet plan has been developed around a low-fat diet, and the success rate is under 30%. The health industry continues to push low-fat diets for heart health (allegedly), yet heart disease continues to be a leading killer. Type 2 Diabetes, once thought to be a disease of middle-aged and old people is now being diagnosed in children as young as 8 years old (Type 2 Diabetes is almost always caused by obesity). In this glorious age of modern technology, how did we get here?

Bad science. Greed. A lack of understanding the most basic biological processes of the human body, or rather, a disregard for understanding them. Or all of the above in varying degrees. Regardless, it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that whatever we are doing as a civilization isn’t working, and is in fact killing us slowly. More damning is that obesity is a Western Civilization issue. If you look at many developing countries, you’ll be hard pressed to find obese individuals. Sure, you can find them, but they are (as they were in our past) rare.

I was trapped in the obesity cycle. I had to break free, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, compared to all previous attempts at losing weight and getting healthy, doing my first Whole30 and then adopting the Paleo Diet have been the easiest health and weight loss experiences I’ve ever had (and I’d tried dozens of times in the past to lose weight, all with no lasting success). I’ve lost 150 lbs and kept off the weight for four years and I’m still enjoying the food and feeling satisfied between meals.

We don’t have to starve ourselves or become gym rats to be healthy. We just need to eat healthy food. Drop the fast-food and the low-fat trash and start eating meat and vegetables and fruit. Your body will reward you by being healthier and thinner.

Completed First Weightlifting Workout

…and I now have spaghetti legs. The rest of me is only slightly sore, but those squats? Holy cow! That’s a serious exercise. I followed the plan perfectly and while I wasn’t nearly as sweaty as I am after a run, I’m definitely spent. I can feel the after effects of the session, and I can see why a day’s rest is so important.

I don’t feel confident in my form yet, but I enjoyed working out. I honestly did. I enjoyed it more than I like running; that’s for sure. I think it has to do with the fact that I get so bored during a run, whereas in the gym, I get to do many different things. I get to listen to music, or even watch videos on the TV! I can’t wait to be much stronger, though, and to start making some serious progress in my pull-ups. I want to be able to get back to running at some point, too. I just need to make more progress with the weights for a while.

It’s a beginning. I did it. I hit the gym, I hit the weights, and I’m on my way. The next chapter in my health and fitness journey began today.

My Grandparents

My grandparents were amazing people. They endured a World War, a revolution, and emigration. They lost everything twice, and they persevered and overcame, retiring in comfort. As for health, they were relatively healthy with a few bumps and scrapes here and there. They ate moderately, ate only healthy and home-cooked meals, and even exercised regularly. They also both lived into their 90’s.

My grandparents are where a lot of my motivation comes from. They taught me that it doesn’t matter how often you fall or are pushed down. What matters is that you keep getting up and you keep moving forward. No matter how little the progress you make is, it’s progress. Getting up and walking may not be as good as running, but it’s far better than staying on the couch.

When my grandparents first got to Canada after fleeing Hungary in 1956, after a week of work (my grandmother worked two jobs; my grandfather worked three), they put all their money together and subtracted what they needed for bills. The net income was 35 cents. They took that dime and quarter and put it into a coffee can. Once the can reached $5, they went down to a bank and opened a savings account and made sure to make a deposit every week, regardless of how tiny it was. Their reasoning was that every penny saved was going to be worth much more later in life when they retired. Sure enough, they were both able to retire in their early 60’s, buy condos in Florida and maintain a residence in Evanston, IL. They never had to worry about money because of their discipline with saving.

While I’m not as financially smart as my grandparents, I took the lesson from the perseverance and apply it to my health and fitness. There are days when I don’t want to do it, but I do it anyway. There are days I don’t or can’t push hard, but at least I get out there and get some physical activity done. Why? Because it pays off in the end.

We are very fortunate to be alive in 2019. We have all the comforts that humanity can provide; we have plentiful food, excellent healthcare options, and relatively easy existence compared to our forebears even 50 years ago. We don’t have to toil to keep ourselves fed. We work, we go to the grocery to buy our food, and we sleep in comfort. Inexpensive fast food has made us overweight. To combat this, I now eat mostly home-cooked healthy meals, and I get exercise as often as I can (at least 3-4 times a week). Exercise is not something I would put at the top of my list of most fun things I do, but I do put it at the top of the list of most important things I do right next to eating healthy food.

My grandparents lived through a lot of adversity and made it through. The only adversity I had to make it through was getting obese, and that was my own doing. If they could get through all their troubles and keep their heads up and smile, I can do the same while I eat right and get stronger.

Gearing Up to Re-Start a Fitness Plan

I had to take two and a half weeks off from exercise due to recovery from my SFAB Assessment and Selection (which was GRUELING) followed by oral surgery, and in that time, I feel like I’ve gained a little weight and lost a lot of conditioning. I hate having to start over again, but it is what it is. There’s more to re-starting a fitness plan than making the plan. There’s, for me, the most important component: motivation and hyping myself up.

I’m not wanting in the desire department. I have been chomping at the bit to get back to exercise. I’ve been really excited to start using my home gym and to start getting stronger. I was really hyped to get back to running, but the achilles heel and surgery together made it impossible for me to do anything for a while, so I’ve had time to hype myself and to mentally prepare for getting back into the swing of things.

I actually have to worry about over-training, truth be told. I tend to go all-in, and I tend to go too hard/too fast. I need to temper my enthusiasm and realize that I’ve been out of it for two and a half weeks; I need to ease back into this, at least when it comes to my running. For the weight lifting? I need to start easy and make sure I do my proper warm-ups, check my form, and don’t start with too much weight. As important as those, however, is making sure I get the proper rest between workouts.

I’m starting the StrongLifts 5×5 program on Wednesday. It’s a three-exercise weight lifting regimen with 5 sets of 5 reps. Sounds easy, right? Well, the 5×5 program is actually geared towards new weightlifters and gets them into lifting weights in a way that promotes building strength through unassisted lifting without the use of machines (which limit range of motion and stability).

I’m going to take my two-view photos on Wednesday as I get started and I will post them after three weeks to see if any changes had taken place. I’ll also post again after 6 weeks, and so-on. I’m not recommending anything just yet; I want to see how this works for myself, and I will be reporting on its efficacy to you here on my blog. If it’s a bust, I’ll say so. But if it works? Well, you can decide for yourself if lifting weights is something you want to do.

I want to say here that weightlifting was never something I wanted to do. A few things have led me to this decision. First, I need a lot more strength to be able to handle the Army schools I’ll be attending. Many of them require a lot more upper-body strength than I currently have, and I need to fix that. Second, while I’ve lost weight, running hasn’t done much for me in the way of firming up my body. I want to sculpt what I have and try to mitigate the soggy-skin look I have since losing over 150 lbs. I’ve seen many photos of people who have lost a lot of weight and took up weightlifting, and they seem to have a much better appearance than I do. I’m hoping to benefit from that as well.

So, in two days, it begins. I’ll be posting progress and any tips I learn along the way. Don’t worry; this blog isn’t about to turn into a weightlifter’s blog. It’ll just be another facet in the many sides that are the PaleoMarine experience!

How I Got Past the Fallacies and Started Losing Weight

Four years ago, this photo would have been impossible. I’m now light enough for my daughter to pick me up and carry me on her back.

I would see people who got fit and lost a lot of weight and ask them how they got their results. More often than not, they would say, “I worked out a lot.” “I hit the gym.” “I stopped being lazy and became active.” Ugh. None of that helped me, because I was so overweight that physical activity was downright dangerous for me to undertake.

When I started reading online about people changing their lives through diet alone, I was incredulous. I figured that there HAD to be some sort of work to be done. How else would my body drop the weight and burn the fat?

The first fallacy I had to get past was burning fat. You don’t “Burn fat” when exercising. Your body will use the stores of fat after your exercise. Your body will burn energy in your blood and even your muscles before it actually burns any fat. Because it never burns fat.

The second fallacy I had to get past was exercising to lose weight. Your body will drop weight when you have a calorie deficit. That’s why people who watch what they eat can lose weight. It’s just much harder to create a good calorie deficit with calorie rich foods which is why the healthier you eat, the easier it is to create the calorie deficit because healthy foods take more to fill you up. I guarantee a 6 oz steak will fill you up better than three Twinkies (454 vs 450 calories).

The third fallacy I had to get past was that eating right was going to be boring, bland, and nothing more than baked chicken, salads, and white rice. Whole30 is restrictive, but not as restrictive as you would think. If you set your mind on all the delicious foods you already enjoy that are on Whole30, it gets easier than to think about the foods you can no longer eat. The same goes for Paleo with the added benefit of being able to recreate a lot of non-Paleo foods with Paleo-friendly ingredients. My quality of life remains almost unchanged since going Paleo as it pertains to food flavor, satiety, and variety.

The fourth fallacy was that losing weight was difficult. Losing weight in and of itself is not hard. Temptation can be hard for some people, and discipline may be another problem area, but when you’re eating healthy and delicious foods in quantities enough to leave you filled up and not needing to snack, it gets much easier to stick to the diet. I was so concerned with the ease with which I was losing weight that I went to a doctor to make sure there wasn’t something else wrong with me. Turns out that eating right and avoiding foods with added sugars, grains, legumes, dairy, and alcohol really was good for me, and it made it actually easy to lose weight.

There’s a lot of bad information out there, and a lot of people claiming to have the answers to losing weight. If they want money from you, steer clear. If they want to sell you a product that promises weight loss, turn the other way. All you need to do is eat good, healthy food and maybe get out and move a little bit every now and then (and even that isn’t actually necessary). I never had to count calories, I never had to count portions, and I just ate healthy food until I felt comfortably full. Our bodies are good at telling us when we’ve had enough, and when you’re eating healthy food, it will tell you when you are done eating. It’s up to you to listen.

You Don’t Have To Be Miserable to Get Healthy

A common misconception many people have is that to get healthy, fit, and to lose weight, you need to go through discomfort, pain, and that it takes a lot of work in the gym or on a track. But, if someone were to tell you that this is not true, you’d be skeptical, right? I know I was. Yet, here I am about to tell you the same thing.

I was 320 lbs at 5’7″. I was 47 years old. I was diabetic, had fatty liver disease, declining vision, nerve and circulation problems in my feet and legs, and my health was rapidly declining. My cousin, a physician assistant came to me and told me what I wrote earlier: that I could get healthy and lose weight without the discomfort, pain, and physical activity. I didn’t believe it either, but I trusted her, and I knew that she’d lost a lot of weight but didn’t know how. When she told me the plan, I was skeptically optimistic. But, like I said, I trusted her, so I tried it.

And it worked. I had lost 130 lbs in a year, and an additional 20 lbs after starting a fitness plan of my own that allowed me to become physically fit enough to rejoin the military to complete my 20 years of federal service. My life had completely changed due to the advice I was given, and the changes that my wife and I made in our diet.

The one thing that was surprising to me was that I was able to adopt the new lifestyle easily. Sure, it took discipline, and for some, that’s the hard part. But I ate delicious, filling, and most importantly, healthy foods that kept me from being hungry between meals and kept me satisfied. My standard of living didn’t suffer, which is to me, the most important aspect of adopting a healthy lifestyle.

I see people not even want to start eating right or exercise because they think it’s going to alter their quality of life and bring them pain, discomfort, and that they’ll have to do a lot of physical work to get results. This always brings me sadness because I know the truth, and I know that they’re basing their decision on bad, outdated, and tainted information.

The diet and fitness industry want you to spend money. That’s how they survive and thrive. They prey on those who are unhappy with themselves and their health, weight, and lack of fitness. They promise results that anyone would want, but the problem is, that they don’t deliver.

What does deliver is eating right and getting some exercise. The best part is that eating right is easy; you just have to learn to make food for yourself. It’s a basic life skill that we all should have, yet many have never learned. Well, now is that time. The hardest part of eating right is food prep, but it’s a small price to pay for eating delicious, healthy, and filling foods. The best part is that it will keep you from being miserable, and you won’t have to eat baked chicken and rice for weeks on-end.

My standard of living today is miles ahead of where it was four years ago. I eat amazingly delicious foods that keep me satisfied and filled up between meals, and I don’t have to count calories or portions. I just eat sensibly until I’m full, and I don’t eat again until it’s time for my next meal. The crazy part? I’m not starving between meals, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. Do I miss pizza, pasta, hot dogs, and bread? Sure. But I also get to eat a bunch more foods I have always loved like steak, sausage, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, lobster, shrimp, fish, and more. People tend to focus on the things they can no longer eat whereas I chose to focus on the things I can.

You don’t have to be miserable to be healthy. It just takes some planning, learning, and a little bit of work, but the results are well worth it, and you will find that it’s a much better way of living. You will feel so much better for it. And it’s not all that hard.

Dig Down Deep

OK. Time to be honest, not just me being honest with you, but you being honest with yourself. You want to do things the easy way. You want to get results with the least amount of work and effort. You want to erase years or decades of bad decisions with as little pain as possible.

Dont’ lie to me, or to yourself. You know that’s what you want.

I know it’s what you want, because I wanted it, too.

What I had to do to finally make progress and succeed at getting healthy and losing weight was to dig down deep and find the strength inside me to see something through to the end. I finally hit a point where I decided that failure was not an option. It’s easy to say, but I actually had to get to a place where I honestly believed in that phrase, “Failure is not an option.”

Every time I was offered something that wasn’t on my diet, I had to tell myself that failure is not an option. It helped me decline.

Every time I wanted to take the easy way out of meal prep and just go get some food from a fast-food place, I had to remind myself that failure is not an option. It helped me find my inner strength.

Every time I wanted to come home and sit on the couch instead of going out for my three mile run, I told myself that failure was not an option.

Something else that helped: positive thinking. While failure was no longer an option, positive thinking became my new mindset. In the beginning, I had to fake being positive about eating right. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that thinking positive can make the difference between success and failure, so I decided to go into my new lifestyle with a positive mindset. Fast forward a year and I had lost 130 lbs.

When it became time for me to start running, I decided to use the same trick. I started pumping myself up every day before my run, telling myself how lucky I was to be able to run, to be physically able to make myself stronger and faster. I told myself I was going to enjoy not only the run, but how I would feel afterward. Then, something crazy happened: I actually began to enjoy it. Honestly, deep-down, I began to enjoy exercising. When I didn’t or couldn’t, I felt badly and yearned for my next time on the road.

Digging deep down isn’t just about finding your strength or motivation. It’s about finding yourself. It’s about finding who you are, what you want in life, and making it happen regardless of the effort. I had to find mine, and you need to find yours. To do that, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and make a commitment to yourself. It’ll be the most important thing you can ever do for yourself and everyone you love.