Nutritional Journey

Posted February 27, 2013 @ 6:01 pm | Filed under: Reflections

I’m no nutrition expert, but the Paleo approach works pretty well for me. About a year and a half ago I wanted to try to eat healther and more naturally, and in my search for different approaches I stumbled upon a niche of journalists and nutritionists who promote paleo (a.k.a. the caveman diet: lots of meat and vegetables, moderate dairy and fruit, and grains and everything else very sparingly or not at all). So I started trying it out gradually, first by ditching any and all sugary drinks (including so-called “natural” fruit juice). I didn’t really buy into it though until I saw a documentary called “Fat Head”, which is basically a response to Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” but about 40 times more educational. From there, I started progressively replacing the majority of the carbs I ate with good sources of natural fats like meat, olive oil, coconut oil, and some organic dairy. Importantly, Paleo is not low-carb per se like Atkins is, it’s just a focus on eating more like our pre-agriculture ancestors did, which did include some carbs but most of them came from fruit. I usually shoot for around 100g of carbs a day which is the equivalent of about 8-9 slices of whole wheat bread or 4 apples. (The USDA’s original food pyramid recommended 6-11 servings of grains a day, plus 2-4 servings of fruit. And you wonder why America’s gotten so fat.)

So my typical daily diet consists of:
Breakfast: Eggs, and bacon or sausage if I have time; or if I’m really in a hurry I just eat a spoonful of coconut oil. Also a cup of black coffee.
Lunch: Sometimes I skip lunch, but when I eat it it’s usually a salad made w/ spinach, orange peppers and cucumbers, with various other ingredients like avocado, beef, chicken, ham, hardboiled eggs, cheese, etc.
Dinner: Usually a beef or chicken main course, with some cooked or raw vegetables.
Snacks: Nuts (I never realized how freaking delicious raw pecans are until all this), fruit (grapes, blueberries, pineapple, etc), or the occasional bowl of rice or corn cereal (with whole milk of course)… especially around exercise times (your muscles need carbs when they’re worn out).
Beverages: Mostly water, but also whole organic milk, coffee, and beer. No pop/soda ever, not even diet, which I’m convinced is worse for you than the regular stuff.

Interestingly, my goal wasn’t to lose weight, but I did anyway… went from 185 to 155 over the course of about a year, whithout changing my relatively minimal exercise routine (occasional hiking, bicycling, walking). Ultimately, losing weight is about how many calories you eat vs how many you burn, but fat calories make you feel fuller than carb calories, which just make you hungry again and keep your body from burning the energy reserves it stores in your body fat.

Even more interesting was that while I assumed that being gassy all the time and having some digestive discomfort was normal for a guy, as soon as I got serious about giving up grains and sugars my digestive tract calmed down and my “number twos” were much more pleasant.

Now that I’m at or below my ideal weight, I let myself cheat more often… but when I do almost inevitably the digestive discomfort returns, and often I get a headache or feel jittery if I eat something carby. And I always want to take a nap exactly two hours later. Fortunately, I can usually get away with one or two beers a night without much trouble. Beer is something I’m just not willing to give up.

I’m not qualified enough to really recommend paleo as being the ultimate diet or anything, like some people seem to do, and I’m especially not saying that the majority view of nutrition is “wrong”. But I do think it’s worth seriously trying out for a month or so and seeing what happens, because ultimately it comes down mostly to your particular physiology.