Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guest post: another paleo-diet success story

Anecdotal evidence continues to mount. Today's post is from a friend who has managed to lose 25 pounds in three months. He is the fourth person in my circle to have successful weight loss with a whole-foods, paleo approach to nutrition. This was originally posted at Thanks, Andy!

This is actually my second kick at the paleo can and, with one exception, it's gone much more smoothly than my first time around. In case anyone out there in Internet-land is as half-witted as I am, here are some basic tips from my go around that may help clarify things so you can get it right sooner.

And of course, I have been getting things wrong and will doubtless continued to do so (it's a gift, really), please revisit this thread as others who are much wiser than I correct me.

1) Don't over-read because you may confused between: the wealth of information, the various ideological camps within the paleo world and what things mean depending upon what you are trying to accomplish: are you trying to lose weight or maintain a particular weight. You also may be talking to someone with completely different goals from you. A 22-year-old who wants to get six-pack abs will have one set of needs rather different from you when you're a 55-year-old who's had two C-sections.

2) Keep it really simple to start: meat plus all the green vegetables you want. Where I made my mistake was treating all meats as equal -- in my first go around, I ate bags of cold cuts and paté, which have their place but lay off them to start. What I tell people is eat steak and all the celery, salad and spinach you want; or, salmon nuked on a plate with California mix veggies.

3) Your reading and people's opinions about what to eat depends in part on where you are.

Dairy and fruit in the weight-loss phase are completely different from the post-weight loss phase. There are pitched ideological battles over this but in the weight loss phase, less dairy is better. Now, I got confused by thinking dairy came from cows, cows are animals, ergo it's an animal fat, so I was slathering full-fat tzatziki on all my pork and lamb, and full fat sour cream on all my fish. No, not during the weight loss phase.

4) Nuts, eggs and the like are power foods. During my first paleo attempt I was eating nothing but and there was zero weight loss. I'm not saying never have these but moderate. I also have no natural immunity to nuts. If nuts are in front of me, I will finish the container, no matter how large the container is. It's like Kryptonite, I swear.

5) Add bacon and fish or freshly cooked meats and that unsalted salad spices to salads. This'll help wean you off of salad dressings. (Your taste buds will change, it's true.) Salad dressings I needed to cut in phases in my second go around. During my first go, I went through them by the vat but they're full of crap. Beware of fake bacon bits, too. Also consider buying fresh dill or coriander to scissor into your salads. These taste even stronger than any salad dressing.

Salads don't have to be complicated to be good.* When I restarted paleo, I bought many, many salad dressings. Well, after two or so months, they stopped being used. In fact, they're doing nothing but sitting in the back of the icebox for when guests come over. (By the way, a lot of them have sugar!)

6) In my first kick at the can, I found it hard to understand how the diet caused my lack of hunger. It works like this:

Animal fat keeps you from getting hungry -- particularly if you're overloading yourself with cheese as I was. With the amount of brie and nuts I was eating, my poo became frankly evil. Now that I eat no dairy apart for whitening my morning coffee, I've definitely started answering the second of nature's calls less because I'm getting my fats from freshly-cooked meats. Having fat in the meats keeps you from getting hungry.

That's normal so don't freak as is going 3/4 of a day without feeling peckish.**

By the way, if George Foreman has 'knocked the fat out,' why isn't he thin?

7) Fruits I also overdid when trying paleo for the first time. Again, your taste buds will change and remember that the weight loss phase is different from the maintenance phase. You can track down these nigh-religious debates over fruit in paleo discussion fora. Take home point: sweet fruits may slow your weight loss but if you've been having grapefruit for breakfast for the last 20 years and nothing short of Martians coming and kidnapping all of the grapefruit trees will stop you from doing so, dig in.

8 ) Get a crock pot.

9) Follow 80/20 rule to start. You will make mistakes, but if generally if you're doing 80 per cent of it right, you're going in the right direction. Staying at 80/20 to start rather than 'getting religion' and trying to stay at 100 per cent paleo to start will allow you time to experiment, and develop tastes. You're not a machine, you're a person with psychological quirks.

I deliberately gave myself open meals in the first month or two, and just...stopped. I found I could go a lot more toward the paleo side more quickly than I imagined. You may differ.

I once had an e-mail from someone who told me that I might as well not bother doing anything in paleo since I have cream in my morning coffee. That's elevating this nutritional plan to a religion. I mentioned to the same person (or was it someone else) that I also chew gum. Well, my goodness, it was like saying 'I'm a Nazi' to this one paleo practitioner. Since cavemen didn't chew gum, I wasn't on the diet therefore I should go to MacDonald's this instant.

Look, the point of eating this way, at this stage of the game, is to lose weight (another 25 lbs to go!) not adhere strictly to one person's strict interpretation of edge case items. Thog and Urg the cavemen also didn't drink Perrier or fizzy water but since my practical goal is weight loss, at this stage of the game the strictest possible interpretation of paleo is frankly 'paleo-ism' if I may coin a term.

Some discussions and articles flip freely between what foods mean in the weight loss phase, versus the maintenance phase because the authors themselves are confused or because they're answering an issue that's unrelated to your weight loss/maintenance status. Some people deal with edge cases and core foods the same way. People who do so can be well-meaning but cause you short term confusion. However, once things become clearer in your mind thanks to experience, you can have quite a lot of fun yanking their chains because they don't typically have senses of humour. If you're confused about what's nutrition/opinion or ideology, ask yourself if it fits within the 80/20 rule when explaining it to a really smart friend who doesn't know anything about this subject -- and relax.


*They also don't have to involve cutting tomatoes, which I regard as an imbecillic waste of time but that's just me.
**You'll also miss farting, one of the true pleasures of life but no diet is perfect.