Jerseygator's Blog

Update to Paleo…I’m coming up to my one year anniversary!

Posted in Cooking,food politics,food pyramid,Primal by jerseygator on May 17, 2012
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If you and I haven’t talked lately, you may not know that I changed my dietary template last July, becoming a “cavewoman.”  Well, I’m not out hunting bison, but I am continuing to refine my version of the ancestral or “Paleo” diet.  First the basics…my diet consists mostly of the following:  grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, limited pastured chicken/pork (just cause I’m not a fan), lots of vegies, fruits in season, and healthy fats (coconut oil/olive oil/ghee/nuts/seeds/avocados).  I don’t eat grains, legumes, or dairy (with the exception of ghee or grass-fed butter).

I think the key to a good diet is simple: does it make you look, feel and perform optimally?  Add to that your health indicators (blood tests, etc.) and I think you have something to go on.

From a physical aspect, I ended up losing 30 pounds, so am sitting at 125 pounds on a 5’2 frame.  My BMI, which is not a great measure but is what the government uses to measure obesity in America, went from 28.3 (overweight) to 22.9 (normal weight).  (A BMI of 30 is considered obese, so I was on my way.)  I lost 6 inches off my waist, going from a size 10 to a size 2.

How do I feel?  Man, I haven’t felt this good in decades.  Mental clarity and memory have been noticeably improved (and commented upon by coworkers). I went from sleeping 8+ hours per night to sleeping about 6-1/2 to 7 hours, waking up without an alarm clock every morning refreshed and ready to go.  My sleep is much deeper; I just don’t get sleepy as early as I used to.  My feeling is that a lot of this can be attributed to the addition of coconut oil to my diet.  (That is a post of it’s own.)  Interestingly, I have not had any illnesses since changing the diet with the exception of a UTI (that was my own fault…I let myself get dehydrated).  I have had NO allergy symptoms this year, and it’s been a tough year for allergies due to the warm winter.  Normally in the spring I’d be on Allegra, Flonase and Singulair.  I haven’t taken anything this year at all.  My skin problems (seborrheic dermatitis) have completely cleared up.  All gut issues are gone (no heartburn, or IBS symptoms).

Performance:  I certainly have more strength and endurance than before, but now that I have the diet dialed in I’m looking at adding some exercise.  I’m currently reading “Body by Science” by Dr. Doug McGuff and am intrigued.  I’m certainly leaner and have visible muscle definition in my abs.

Blood parameters have not been measured since my last post, but to repeat those:  Fasting blood sugar 67, total cholesterol 148, HDL 63, LDL 70, VLDL 15 and triglycerides 76.  My physician was thrilled with the numbers and encouraged me to “keep doing what I was doing.” I take no medications.

I get lots of questions regarding the diet, of course.  One is about macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein).  My current diet is about 60% fat (by caloric intake), 30% carbs and 20% protein.  This is not a high protein or low carb diet (although I certainly eat less carbs than someone eating a standard American diet).  Nor is it an “Adkins” type diet…paleo focuses on food quality…whole, real unprocessed foods.  Adkin’s is really all about processed foods lately, since they can sell that.  Adkin’s also focuses on ketosis (especially during the induction phase), which paleo does not.

A typical day of eating looks like this:

  • Breakfast:  “Bulletproof” Coffee (coffee made with grass-fed butter and coconut oil) or 3 pastured eggs scrambled in coconut oil, or a coconut milk smoothie (coconut milk, frozen berries and almond butter).
  • Lunch:  A big salad with nuts, dried cranberries/cherries, topped with a protein (chicken, salmon, tuna, strips of steak or other meat) and 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or leftovers from dinner.
  • Dinner:  Protein (grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish) with 2-3 vegies in season.  Right now that means lots of asparagus and spinach.  We eat a cruciferous vegetable almost nightly (cauliflower “rice,” broccoli, cabbage).  We may add in-season fruit for desert.
  • Snacks:  I’m seldom hungry so don’t snack often.  Usually it will be a handful of raw almonds, perhaps with a couple squares of dark chocolate.
  • Alcohol:  very rarely.  An occasional glass of wine, and if I’m going off template I may have a beer.
  • I eat fermented foods daily in the form of kombucha tea, sauerkraut or other fermented products.  I think this has been key to the improvement in my digestion.  Without going into TMI territory, let’s just say everything runs very smoothly.

Another question I get is about saturated fats and cholesterol.  As a traditionally trained (Western medicine) pharmacist, I have been taught that eating cholesterol and saturated fats are harmful.  However, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and reviewing of clinical studies and can find no real evidence to support this hypothesis.  I can, however, find many to refute it.  Since eating more saturated fats and cholesterol, my blood lipids have improved.  If I didn’t tell my physician what I was eating, he would probably assumed I was drinking the low-fat/high carb Koolaide put out by government recommendations (mixed metaphor, but you know what I mean).  What I have discovered in all my research is that government recommendations are highly political.  What a shock, huh?  When dietary recommendations are put out by the same government agency that subsidizes the food it recommends (The USDA), what else would you expect?  I’ll stick with my sample size of 1 and keep doing what I’m doing.

Darrol has moved to Paleo more whole-heartedly as well.  I convinced him to go dairy-free in January and within 3 days all his sinus symptoms disappeared: no headaches, no congestion, no snoring.  This was, truly, a life-changing event for him and the rest of the family.  Of course, we all know when he “cheats.”  He can’t hide how the dairy makes him react!  Since embracing the diet more fully he has taken off over 25 pounds and is now going to go off his cholesterol medications.  He looks awesome and feels great.  He is key to our diet, as he does most of the cooking.  We have amazing meals at our house!

This post is a lot longer than I expected, and there’s still so much to talk about.  I promise I’ll try to keep posting, in between 2 full time jobs and being a wife, a mom and a Memaw.  Please let me know if you have questions…I have tons of resources, links to studies, recommended reading, websites and podcasts that I can share.

Good eating and good health!


Moving toward Meatless? A semi-vegetarian goes Paleo

Posted in food politics,locavore,Primal,Uncategorized,vegetarian by jerseygator on September 6, 2011

Earlier this year a friend of ours lost a tremendous amount of weight following “the caveman diet.”  I had never heard of it, but it didn’t sound healthy.  It is, however, hard to argue with success,and I reserved judgement until learning more.

If you’ve been reading this blog you know that we’ve been trying to decrease the amount of meat we eat, both for health and ethical reasons.  But have our “healthy” changes met with success?  Over the last few years both Darrol and I have had difficulty maintaining a healthy weight, despite eating a diet that is pretty consistent with the government’s food pyramid (or the new MyPlate).

October 2010

In addition, we cooked most of our meals at home using good ingredients: olive oil, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, organic/local vegetables and pastured meat from a local farmer.  Despite this, we were both overweight and on various medications.  Something wasn’t working!

I started researching the Paleo or Primal way of eating, first by asking our friends how they ate and what the rational for the diet was.  They were very helpful and pointed us to a few websites.  In college, my initial degree program was biochemistry and I was fascinated by evolutionary biology (total Stephen Jay Gould fangirl).  So when I began to understand that the underlying science of this way of eating was based on the evolution of the human species, I really got interested.

The basic premise of this eating lifestyle is that humans evolved for the vast majority of their time on earth as hunter-gatherers, not agrarians.  The introduction of grains, in the grand scheme of time, is very recent.  In addition, the last 100 years or so have seen a rapid manipulation of our foods, moving us farther away from “whole” foods to manufactured, processed food-like substances.  So to adapt to this lifestyle, one moves back to the initial way of eating to which our bodies evolved.

In addition to that basic premise, the role of insulin and other hormones and how they have evolved to work with our physiology is critical.  By eliminating grains, one is eliminating massive amounts of carbohydrates from the diet.  As insulin responds to carbohydrates, and insulin also promotes fat storage, the amount of fat stored decreases.  (I will blog on all these points soon, but just want to hit the basics today).

So what changes have we made? Surprisingly few.  The basics of the diet are grass fed/pastured meats (already doing),  vegetables (which have increased exponentially), some fruits, and healthy fats, such as coconut oil and avocado.  We eat a lot more eggs (pastured, from a local farmer) and no processed foods.  We seldom eat out, but when we do we avoid grains, breads, and starchy foods.  I’ve eliminated most dairy (no big deal for me), and Darrol’s moved to 2% or whole milk instead of skim.  We eat some cheese, mostly as garnish.  No breads, pastries, rice, pasta, etc.

Well, the proof is in the paleo pudding.  I had my lab work done and a doctor’s appointment today.  I have lost 14 pounds (just shy of 10% of my initial weight) and am in the healthy weight range for my height.  I’ve also lost 4 inches (!!) off my waist.  More importantly, my doctor looked at my lab work and stated “Wow!  Whatever you’re doing keep it up!”

Fasting glucose 67 (down from 87)

Total Cholesterol 148 (relatively unchanged…I was still on pravastatin)

HDL 63 (up from 54)

LDL 70 (down from 112)

VLDL 15 (down from 26)

Triglycerides 76 (down from 132!)

My vitamin D level went from 14 to 28 (still low but doubled from last time), so I’ll continue supplementation for a while, plus get my 30 minutes of sunshine daily at lunch (and much more when I’m not at work).  My thyroid level has been low off and on, so we’ll continue to monitor (I have no metabolic symptoms so am not overly concerned).  I’m off all medications and don’t have a follow up for 6 months!

So, I’m retiring the “Moving Toward Meatless” posts.  I’m excited to learn more about eating this way, and can’t see ANY reason to go back to the conventionally taught nutrition (eg, MyPlate).  I think one of the reasons it’s working is the focus on whole foods; removing the processed garbage removes so many non-food, potentially toxic things from the diet. I’ll be blogging about the science behind some of the ideas, as well as recipes we try.   Feel free to ask questions, and I’ll research what I can, or link you to some great sites.  I’m off to make some guacamole!

Darrol and I celebrate his recent birthday at Fogo de Chau