Thursday, October 29, 2009

Repost: Paleo-riffic!

Ok, that title is only fun if you say it out loud, and laugh because it sounds so much like "Paleolithic".

Yes, I am a dork, and my jokes are usually only funny to me. :)


What I'm trying to write a post about is my current endeavor to change the way I eat.

If you mingle in CrossFit circles or blogs long enough, inevitably you will hear about the Paleo / Paleolithic / Primal / Cave Man diet.

In a nutshell:
Plants (vegetables, fruits, seeds and herbs) and animals (meat, fish, fowl, and eggs) should represent the entire composition of your diet.
- Mark Sisson, The Primal Blueprint, 2009
What's different about this style of eating (I hate the word "diet", it makes me think of starvation and grapefruit...) is that it's not necessarily one that people seek out to lose weight. Most people who switch to eating Paleo do so because they want to improve their health, well-being, performance, etc.

For me, the most intriguing thing about Paleo is that it can help you discover whether or not you are sensitive to dairy (lactose) or gluten.

Sorry, but I'm about to go TMI.

I've had issues with digestive upset / diarrhea ever since I can remember. I came to realize as I got older that my "normal BM" was not the same "normal" as others. If I had ever gone to the doctor about it, I might have been diagnosed with IBS (inflammatory bowel syndrome). During particularly stressful times in college, I definitely thought I had IBS.

It is really freakin' annoying. And gross. And annoying.

'Nuff said. You get it.

At some point during college I noticed I had particularly acute reactions to eating milk with cereal, and sometimes from ice cream. So I eliminated milk and switched to soy milk for my cereal, and tried to cut down on ice cream. Those changes helped a little, but the general trend of digestive issues continued.

I've primarily initiated this change to find out how my body feels without any dairy and without gluten (wheat / grains).

I made my decision to try Paleo just before I left on my road trip. It's hard to make that type of change while on the road, and while I was eating carefully and mindfully while away from home, I didn't succeed in cutting out all dairy and grains.

What I immediately noticed was that anytime I did eat anything in those two categories, a digestive upset clearly followed. And when I was successful in avoiding those foods, things were OK in that department.

The biggest thing I learned from those slip-ups is that dairy clearly is not a friend to my digestive system. So, at this point I'm fairly certain that I'm lactose intolerant. I kind of already knew that, from my previous diet changes, but I guess I was in denial. I love cheese! And I will probably eat cheese in the future, just with the knowledge that it will make me sick after the fact. Which is a lot like most kinds of alcohol, so that's not so different, right? :-p

I'm still not sure about whether or not I'm sensitive to gluten. I want to stay strictly on the Paleo diet for a full 30 days before I experiment with eating anything in the grains category. During my first few weeks, any grains that I ate were always paired with dairy as well, so I didn't get a truly clear picture of the effect grain was having on my digestive system.

All that said, I have been feeling great since I got back from my trip a week ago today. Some of it I have chalked up to the energizing factor of visiting so many friends and family while I was away. But something tells me what I've been eating is a factor as well.

Obviously the improvements in my digestive system must be from the new diet. That is irrefutable. This is a freakin' life-changer people. Amazing. I am so happy about this.

But one other thing I know for sure is that I have lost weight. Between October 7th and October 27th I lost 3 pounds. That is huge for me, because even with going to CrossFit I have been hovering around the same weight for nearly a month. What is crazy about this is that I was primarily on the road, and not working out very consistently or intensely during those 20 days. (PS - Yes, this means that I did weigh myself after that post earlier this week about dreading it.)

Which is why I'm kind of amazed that I'm kicking so much ass in the gym. Today I did a set of 11 pullups in a row with the smallest resistance band. That was while completing the first round of a workout that included sets of 21, 15 and 9 pullups. I thought by the time I got near the end that I would have to switch to the middle band, which provides more assistance, but I didn't . That made me feel freakin' awesome. And I completed all the ring dips with the smallest assistance band as well. I had a slow time due to the dips taking forever, but I was still pumped. I haven't felt this kind of mental energy about athletics since my high school soccer days, or maybe my running days just around the time I met LT when I brought my mile time down near 8 minutes.

Anyway, that kind of got off topic -- the point is, I feel good.

And what I love is that I didn't make the choice to do this because I want to weigh a certain number of pounds, or because I want my upper arms to stop jiggling (don't get me wrong, I do want that!). I'm doing it because it's what is healthiest for my body.

In a way I feel lucky that I have these sensitivities / allergies - it's a built-in incentive to fuel my body optimally. It's a motivating factor that won't change with the season or with my pants size.

In closing, I just want to say that this isn't just a "crazy" diet for those "crazy people who do CrossFit". This diet would've benefited me at any point up until now, CrossFit or not. It just so happens that the CrossFit community is a primary source of information / anecdotes about this style of eating, and that's how I was informed about it.

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. You may not like the idea of CrossFit, and you may have no desire to try it, which I totally understand. But I think a diet like Paleo still deserves your consideration, especially if you are like me and have even an inkling that you might have some undiagnosed food allergies.

There are so many other cool health benefits to Paleo, but I will leave those to the experts (hellooooo keeping blood insulin levels from spiking for one!). This is just an account of my experience so far. If you want more in-depth information, this post is a good jumping-off point: Getting Started: A Brief Guide to Paleo / Primal Living.

Happy eating!

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