In order to change we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired. ~Author Unknown
It's October folks. Yup, you might not have noticed the halloween junk in all the drugstores yet, but be sure of it: the holidays are just around the corner. There is just over a month before thanksgiving, and a shy two before christmas jingles around, tiding in the next 5-10 pounds to add to your body, along with the 5-10 you haven't worked off since last christmas. Oh yes, the years are now flying by, and like bad credit card debt, your freshman 15 has compounded into something of a little monster.
Mon petit monstre reared its ugly head this past year with a few changes in my lifestyle: the "snuggle weight" that slowly piled on from having a very handsome man to nap on the couch with every weekend (very low on the caloric burn rate but great for oxytocin levels), the corporate expense account used when I traveled (which meant I was in restaurants at least 70% of the time), poor nutritional knowledge, the ill effects of constant jetlag and changes in sleep schedule, severely reduced amount of exercise, and the very difficult issue of finding food that supported my body on the road. Yeah, shit happens. All these factors created the perfect storm for my gradual descent into "why the hell can't I fit into my jeans" syndrome. I know a few of you are rolling your eyes at my size 2-4, and my fractional weight gain, but hear me out on the jeans: who the hell likes wrestling with buttoning up those $170 premium denim jeans that you splurged on because of muffin top? Muffintopland is a destination I would rather not go. Disneyland, however, is. But my last visit was far from utopia from what I saw: child obesity everywhere. No longer is the one fat kid in class made fun of, the entire class is a morbid joke. First Lady Michelle Obama announced combating child obesity to be her biggest priority (www.letsmove.gov). Even the US department of health (gasp) is finally revamping the very outdated (and lobbied) food pyramid. (mypyramid.gov) Face it folks: we have an epidemic. We are getting fat and sick, and disneyland is being overrun by jellydonut-fueled fat potlickers.
Serendipitously an email made its way into my inbox from a friend's blogpost: Tim Ferriss - How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days). The thought of how poop might end up in my bloodstream and how it is connected to losing weight definitely was thought provoking and down right gross. The post was about a guy named Robb Wolf, a former research biochemist who then opened his own gym: NorCal Strength & Conditioning, one of the Men’s Health “top 30 gyms in America.” He’s also a former California State Powerlifting Champion. He then went on to write the NYTimes best seller The Paleo Solution and this book was the subject of the post. The Paleo Solution unearths the story of the original human diet by uniting the anthropological knowledge of our hunter-gatherer past with the latest, cutting edge discoveries from genetics, biochemistry, immunology, and life extension research. His book completely changed the way I view food and lifestyle, along with a host of other paleo websites and nutritional sites that pave the same road.
Enter: the Paleo Lifestyle
Drop the bagel
In fact, drop the croissant, the potlicker's jelly donut you stole, and the cinnamon roll. Put down the pasta. No more Brüno-esqe carbicide. I know, I know, you're screaming bloody murder because you can't imagine your life without bread, just like how you said you couldn't live without that good for nothing ex- you'll get over it. That crap is killing you. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye oats, barley. READ: (from Latin gluten "glue"). Other grains such as corn and rice have similar, but less problematic proteins but still wreck havoc on your system. Grains, just like poison oak on your skin, do everything they can to make sure they don't get eaten. Here is what Robb says in his book:
"Grains contain lectin, a protein that does not get broken down in your body and attaches to receptors in the intestinal lumen and are transported intact through the intestinal lining. Certain lectins “fool” transport molecules in an effort to gain entry into our bodies intact. These large, intact protein molecules are easily mistaken by the body as foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses, or parasites. It’s perhaps unpleasant to think about, but the intestines are not the nicest place to hang out. This area is a major source of infection by bacteria and viruses, and the immune system lies primed, waiting to pounce on any invading pathogen. Not only does lectin enter the system intact, it damages the intestinal lining, allowing other proteins (danielle's note: and just about anything else like viruses, bacteria, and poop) to enter the system. Why is this a problem? Our immune system mounts an attack on these foreign proteins and makes antibodies against them. These antibodies are very specific to the shapes of these foreign proteins. Unfortunately, these proteins also tend to look like proteins in our body." Which means we start making antibodies against our own body. We fight ourselves. Fight club, anyone?
He goes on. Grains cause malabsorption issues. They do damage to the gut lining, which means we do not absorb nutrients-protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, the whole lot. Grains damage the gall bladder and bile production. If you do not absorb fats and fat soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K, and other nutrients, you will have problems utilizing any minerals you do absorb, to say nothing of the nutrient deficiencies from inadequate essential fats. Grains also consist of nasty Phytates which tightly bind to metal ions and make them unavailable for absorption. This is not a good thing for bone health or iron status. Grains basically open door for autoimmunity and cancer. Once the gut lining is damaged, we are at exceptionally high risk of autoimmune disease and several types of cancers. The pancreas is assailed by grain-induced inflammation due to cholecystokinin problems- cholecystokinin usually sends the “on” switch to the gall bladder and the secretion of pancreatic digestive enzymes. When this signal is blocked, we do not properly digest our foods, particularly fat and protein. Not to mention elevated insulin levels. Well, shit, Shirlock! how does that bagel sound now? Let's add dairy and legumes to that mix. Say cheese! When we factor in their anti-nutrient properties, and potential to wreck havoc on our GI tract, consider dairy and legumes in the same category. That's most beans, soy and all the dairy including icecream, butter, milk, yogurt, etc.
Recap of the "do no pass go, do not collect 200 dollars" list:
no grains, no gluten. No corn, very little rice, but absolutely nothing with wheat. No processed anything: no croissants, no bread, no pasta, no pancakes, no cookies, biscuits, none of it. No dairy: no butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, morning lattes, ice cream, pudding, etc. Look closely at labels. Everything contains gluten and you have to make sure that none has been added. Most salad dressings, soy sauce, soups, and condiments have gluten in it. No soy except when fermented and gluten free (asians who are crying over soysauced rice-i feel your pain). No potatoes. Let's add the rest of the crap we're hurting our bodies with: white/brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, no artificial sweeteners, no agave, no pop, soda, and..men... brace yourselves...no beer. Beer is possibly one of the worst things you can put into your body because of the amount of gluten in it. Since my body keeps telling me to add more things gleefully to the list of things she hates, let's put all alcohol into this category as well since it's horrible on your liver. Try and keep away from coffee( i know i know! I had coffee for the first time in weeks and I B-lined it at the coffee shop for the bathroom and let me tell you it was not pretty!). Okay, phew, I think that's it.
What the hell can I eat then?
Vegetables! kale, one of my new favorites is super high in protein, tomatoes, avocado (though both technically a fruit), cucumber, all herbs, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, asparagus, the list continues endlessly. You can go for sweet potato and any squashes, but beware the carb count if you're still in the reducing phase. (potatoes are out!)
Then comes your meats: beef (grass fed), pork, veal, lamb, chicken, buffalo, duck and whatever else you can think of, all organic and fed their natural diet. Seafood galore of shrimp, fish, mussels, clams, octopus, squid, sea urchin if you are feeling adventurous...the whole lot. I'm going to throw in omega 3 eggs into this bunch as well.
Let's not forget fruit, though you want to go easy on fruit as they are high in sugar, and stay away from fruit juice. Stick to the berries the most as they have the least amount of carbs in them.
Nuts: stay away from peanuts and cashews, but go for almonds, sunflower, pine, macadamias, etc. A favorite new thing for me is almond butter, get it from trader joes, raw.
Oils- oh good old olive oil, sesame oil, and, brace yourself: coconut oil. In droves. Bath in the stuff, and put it in everything. It's super good for you. My mother makes virgin coconut oil in Indonesia- if you're interested let me know. My crowning glory now? truffle oil. truffle aroma that is melded into olive or grapeseed oil is like the elixir of gourmet gods. Angels orgasm when you use it. Heck my house is like an orgy to them, i use truffle oil on EVERYTHING! Also make sure you're eating enough salmon, or take fish oil. They balance out your n-3/n-6 ratio in your body. Really really good for you.
Rule of thumb: Just shop organic around the perimeter of the grocery store. For the visual learners of you lot, here is a handy-dandy diagram:
Still sounds boring and tasteless to you? Try my dinner from last night :
sliced spiced peaches
Danielle's paradise poke: ahi, mango, avocado, shallots, furikake, truffle oil
iced lime young coconut drink (fresh coconut people- hack it yourself at home!)
organic rosemary thyme rack of lamb with traditional english apple mint jelly
roasted butternut squash with apple pie spicing
raw kale salad with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, heirloom tomatoes and avocado (massage the kale, it is 40-50% protein, it will break down a bit and be much much softer)
lavender chocolate fudge- lavender, cocoa powder, maple syrup (pure), coconut oil
raw refresher: apple juice, frozen banana and basil smoothie
booyakasha. I'm from the paleo massive.
Take a chill pill, man. Back in the day say 500,000 years ago, we weren't stressing out every minute. Sure, when a beast charged us and we had to run, we had spurts of cortisol release. But it was not a i-have-a-deadline-for-the-rest-of-my-life sort of stress. Our cortisol levels now are high and constant, low in the morning due to lack of sleep and higher at night because of the enslaught of concerns: omg, how am I going to pay my $600 lease car payment? How am I going to deal with me overworking myself at the job I hate? I see you now, medicating at night to shut your ever noisy mind clatter, and medicating with coffee in the morning to keep you awake till the donut sugar kicks in. Taking the time to get enough sleep (that's 8-10 hours or whenever your body wakes you up), reducing and streamlining your life so you don't create more havoc will keep you alive longer, and stop pumping cortisol into your system. Cortisol is a hormone that has the job title of "pump more sugar into bloodstream so body has fuel to run away from charging beast". Constantly give the charging beast signal and that extra sugar will be stored around your midsection. Hello michelin tire.
Without proper sleep your body does not have time to rest and when you wake your insulin levels will be so damn high that even if you're eating perfect paleo, it won't do jack because your insulin will counteract any good that you did that day. Do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars, go straight to fat jail for the day. Do invest in heavy blackout blinds, turn off with any sort of light in your room, and for God sake, take out the night light in your kids room. Wait till little Bobby finds out all this. If he's scared of the dark because of monsters, make him watch monsters inc. 300 times.
Becoming a new person: change your body through gene expression
You can literally change who you are by what genes in your DNA are "on". Your cells choose based on your activity what genes to express: stay in active and seditary and you'll get just that. Burst into movement and you'll become that. Think about when you first broke a bone and had it cast, or signed someone else's cast. The muscle surrounding that bone wilts down to nothing while it is out of use, and springs back up to size and strength again after the cast is removed and your muscles are worked again. You need to be moving: long, low impact cardio like a long jog, or 14 hours walking around disneyland like I did a few weeks ago. Ontop of that you need to lift heavy things for your body to say "holy poop batman! we need more muscles!" (women- this includes you! the higher the weight and less reps, you will NOT swell or bulk I promise). Do compound moves that build core muscle groups: do bench, bulgarian split squats, lunges, anything that includes full muscle groups and not just isolates. Also, sprint intervals that will build your fast twitch muscles. Play- have fun, go on hikes. Play helps dissipate the negative effects of stress hormones from the day. Just keep moving. I try and have a dance party with myself before I start work just to get my body moving, it can lift depression! move move move!
So where am I today on my new lifestyle?
I've been paleo for a month now, meaning I have no had dairy nor wheat or anything else but coffee on the list I gave you before. I have dropped back down almost to fit my clothes again. My skin has cleared, that "mental fuzziness" has disappeared and I am no longer bloated. The muffin top that had started to rise on me is disappearing, I never feel exhausted after I eat, and, here is the big one... the cellulite that was starting to form on my body that i was freaking out about, is going away. I feel amazing, I'm learning so much about cooking and I feel proud to treat my body like the temple it is. I bought really good running shoes, a new gym bag and I have workout clothes that I feel cute in. My boyfriend expertly taught me how to bench press and all the compound exercises mentioned above and I am hurting right now deep inside my body in places i never knew could hurt. This is good. I go to cooking classes at whole foods and learn all sorts of neat cooking skills and recipes, and am an Alton Brown "Good Eats" fan. I even have a happy dance to his opening showtune.
So go for it. Try it for 30 days and see what results you get. But I caution you to fully be 1000% into this: cheating "a little bit" on paleo is like cheating "a little bit" on your spouse. Be fiercely loyal. Your gastrial-monogamy will pay off. As the year rolls by and you rewrite your new years resolution, think about what you really want for yourself. Take a chance, and an inventory of your life, your health. I urge you to take a blood test before hand and see how your blood work improves. Read the book, and go to a multitude of other sources that I will list below, and look good this winter, and into the next year. If you want to sneak in some holiday cheer:Try some paleo pumpkin muffins.
Happy holidays in advance, everyone.
Robb Wolf: The Paleo Solution, www.robbwolf.com
Mark Sisson: The Primal Blueprint, www.marksdailyapple.com
Loren Cordain, Ph.D, The Paleo Diet, www.thepaleodiet.com