30 Days of Paleo

"I took the mission ... what the hell else was I going to do?"
Captain Willard 'Apocalypse Now'

Like minimalist footwear, I found my transition to paleo to be quite straightforward. I already ate a diet which I have heard described as "JERF", that's "Just Eat Real Food", and so I simply had to drop out all agents of disease - foods which create a high insulin response, which cause cortisol responses, which inflame the muscles and flesh, which strip my gut of good bacteria ...

Walk like a Monkey, Eat like a Caveman!, The Logistics of Going Paleo and Living in the Ice Age stand as my journey into paleo; into purifying my diet and making a change in my lifestyle to include the joy of increased activity and play, decreased inactivity and refusal of the downward spiral of snacking, drinking and those other modern methods of relaxation.

Paleo/Primal writers like Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson challenge us to 30 days - do it their way for 30 days and see how you feel. Go back to your old ways and ... well, you'll be running, screaming back to your new ways!

I have "revolved" ...

The single most useful principle I have relied upon is J Stanton's Eat Like A Predator, Not Like Prey - eat meat and vegetables, not cereals and seeds; do not "graze" and do not drink your food.

While an easy transition for me, I have had to approach paleo with imagination and flair - I must confess, I looked at the food and it did not inspire me. I love meat, fish, eggs and vegetables, but what I saw on the paleo table left me thinking it could be a lot more appealing and so I set about applying my confidence with food and competence as a cook to paleo.

I have started a food blog which I hope will inspire fellow paleo converted as well as the paleo-curious.

Introducing ...

As outlined in my initial mission statement, if you like, I have weight to lose - I have been doing this with a combination of activity and diet. I have also been using "IF" - intermittent fasting. Actually, it has been quite regular and that is probably not good for me as a long term thing.

I have been skipping breakfasts, savouring the hunger and eating within a compressed window of eight hours from midday.

Want to know more about IF and the health benefits of fasting? Check out Mark Sisson's 'The Primal Blueprint' website on the matter:
I think I have come about as far as I can with that IF regimen - I need to start eating breakfast! At the weekend, I do. I feel great for it ... and as a curious paradox feel to be losing weight as a result. Using IF every so often when not being able to eat comes outside of my control (or desire) is the way I should be looking to use it now that I have lost the dangerous weight and fat.

That initial weight and fat loss is almost certainly down to increasing activity and coupled with a significant drop in excess carbohydrates, specifically from potatoes, has brought me back to a more normal state but not necessarily normal size.

Paleo is not a regimen which focusses on low carbohydrate intake; lower carbohydrate intake is a benefit of the paleo regimen which focusses on reducing insulin responses. I have retained a lower but sensible intake of carbohydrate mild foods in the form of butternut squash, celeriac, carrot, swede and beetroot, for example, and very occasionally, white rice.

Fat loss (not necessarily weight loss) is my goal and for that, IF and a body state known as ketosis seem attractive since fat stores can be reduced. Pushing the body into what is essentially a state of starvation, albeit in a controlled manner and for short terms, seems at odds with striving to achieve a normal state of health: homeostasis

More useful is MF - metabolic flexibility.

To quote J Stanton, "our bodies always burn glucose when it's available. But eventually we run out of glucose, and that's when our bodies need to switch over to beta-oxidation—burning fat. The ability to switch back and forth between the two processes is called metabolic flexibility in the scientific literature."

In his article The Science Behind The “Low Carb Flu”, and How To Regain Your Metabolic Flexibility two key points stand out to me:
Summarised, Stanton gives us the following: "... if we keep our carbohydrate intake under our body's requirement while not in ketosis, which is perhaps 20% of total calories - and only eat those carbohydrates with meals involving complete protein and fat, not by themselves - most of us should be able to gain the fat-burning benefits of metabolic flexibility without suffering the pain of trying to adapt to ketosis.".

Thanks J! As always, a simple distilled whack of good advice backed up by biochemical science.

Back to the establishment! I have read, digested and understood three core books from the paleosphere - Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Mark Sisson. I am a firm adherent to Sisson's approach.

Mark Sisson holds central to his 'The Primal Blueprint' the joy of life - life is to be lived, not endured and not travelled through as if a monk. Grab life by the balls and live it!

Mark has a notion of 80% - strive to live 100% primal, but do not shrink from those occasions which will bring you joy where you might have to sacrifice your principles for a short while. Seeing friends and family, where paleo/primal is not altogether on the menu, days when it is unavoidable but to compromise your diet, days which you are not going to get the very best of sleep, or might miss a workout for whatever reason.

Mark also has a great chapter in his book devoted to "sensible indulgences" - alcohol and chocolate, largely. And therein lies the other side of the coin - eat and drink on one side, play and rest on the other; indulgences welcome!

In Mark's words, "miss a meal ... that's an intermittent fast" ... "miss a workout ... that's recovery".

In terms of life balance, anything out of normality should be done occasionally and infrequently, and there is a healthy benefit to be had from that; keeping the body on its toes! That goes for high carbohydrate intake, IF and overindulgence in sensible indulgences!

The final pieces of the picture are coming together. Having increased activity and play, removed the foods which biochemically damage my body, levelled my insulin response and started on the path to healing my damaged gut, the next significant focus is upon cortisol response - that's the stress hormone.

Cortisol is higher in the morning than the evening - the graph should take a dive down throughout the day. Cortisol is the fight/flight hormone and no surprise, is stimulated by stress - largely, work stress! Limiting stress at work, at home, on the daily commute and throughout the day is a challenge. Properly winding down in the evening and ensuring a reviving sleep is possibly the most important thing in leading a healthy life.

I walk in the evenings - whatever the weather, I walk. I delight in evening sunlight with clear views, savour lashing rain and howling wind and hope to thoroughly enjoy blizzards and those beautiful clear winter days when the land is under a clean blanket of snow. I walk; I see horizons - this is important.

Reducing stimulants for the hour before going to bed is critical - this means finishing reading e-mails, forums and feeds, not going to sleep with the TV on, not relying on a drink to wind down ... even, not exciting the mind with factual books. Escaping into a novel and sparking the mind to dream is good. Furthermore, sleeping in a dark room - blackout curtains, no digital lights from TVs, DVD players or alarm clocks; pure darkness and whichever side of the house is away from traffic.

Understanding how to rest and focussing on ensuring quality rest is as important, if not more important, than activity ... and activity which is "play" is more important than activity which is "exercise".

While we're pushing books, check out J Stanton's 'The Gnoll Credo' for some gripping fiction - I have been reading it a chapter at a time while I have been out enjoying my evening and weekend walks.
"We are born and we die.
No one cares, no one remembers,
and it doesn't matter.
This is why we laugh."

There are no such things as gnolls, they never kill and eat people, and they can't read or write -- much less write something so stark, so raw, so beautifully bleak.
Because if there were, someone might have risked a violent and painful death to find them, study them, and bring back this book.
Then you might read it.
And then you might have a joyous and bloody and terribly strange adventure, and you might find yourself laughing with the gnolls.
And then what?
I have "revolved" ... Viva la evolucion!