First off- I just noticed that in changing the format of this blog a few of the blog posts have now gone a bit out of kilter…..But I really can’t bring myself to go back through all the posts and edit them mainly because I cringe re-reading the stuff I have posted in the past….writing blogs is hard! It most certainly does not come naturally to me….as much as I would love to think I am this witty, expressive and informative blogger and people are just amazed when they click on my site…ha fat chance.
Anywho….in other news…
I had the pleasure of joining one of the coaches, Lynda Piper Roche, in giving a talk to a group all about the paleo diet last night at Crossfit Navitas. They are now all set for their 30 day challenge and are going to rock it! Yes life is great without pizza, pasta, bread, cake, sweets, crisps….where am I going with this?!? ….
Well to be fair Lynda and I had it quite easy- This group are already well on their way to health and are happy to think outside the box- they crossfit after all!! But it is always so nice and refreshing to see people so open minded and ready to take the 30 day challenge and maybe even make some permanent changes. I have talked to Lynda so many times about the fact that I often pause mid-sentence and kinda have that thought of oh god they are going to think I am a bit gone in the head now! It definitely didn’t come across that way last night…..might be way off the mark there…
So to summarise the talk and to give my new readers (If I am lucky I might have 3 now!!! Woop!!) some resources to get you started- I am sure I have covered this already in my older posts but as I am incapable of re reading through my own blogs due to the cringe factor, I will attack the age old question (see what I did there??? ha) of what is Paleo and summarise what we covered last night in the talk.
What is Paleo:
Simples. You basically get yourself a cloth and a spear and head out into the wild to forage and hunt down deer and boar (do we even have boar in Ireland), participate in the odd game of cow tipping and chase down some chickens……ok ok not that extreme at all.
Basically the idea is to eat whole, nutrient dense food. I think the summary below is so well written:
That is basically it.
What to avoid:
No Grains: Humans have been on earth for 100s of thousands of years. We have only been farmers for 10,000 years. The first argument is that as a race we have not adapted to this way of eating. In fact, as grain became a staple in the human diet, along came a host of new diseases, illnesses, and weight gain. In fact life expectancy reduced. From a biology perspective, first we must note that the grain we eat today does not compare in the slightest to the grain that existed 10,000 years ago in structure and composition. Our grains today are incredibly processed and modified (yes the situation is a million times worse in America, but Europe is on its way- take note of Monsanto’s attempt to break into the market). Argument number two is the fact that the structure of a grain consists of the reproductive section, surrounded by the endosperm i.e. the protective layer. The purpose of the grain is to spread and reproduce and the purpose of the endosperm is to protect the reproductive parts. So when we eat these grains we are not getting any major nutritional value from them at all-in fact it is straining our digestive system. And argument number three- grains are complex carbs (the word complex suggest difficult to digest at all?) which in their basic part are called polysaccharides or many sugars- So when it comes to energy levels, what most people do is first stress their system by skipping meals like breakfast….then reach that ‘hangry’ phase and dive for something sweet at 11am….then come lunch they choose a ‘healthy wrap’ or ‘low fat sandwich’ which again breaks down to sugar and they finish it off with a bowl of pasta or a ‘super grain salad’ or pizza…the pattern? You get short bursts of energy from sugar followed by dramatic energy slumps (the mid afternoon slump is considered normal these days). One of the main things we want you to get out of paleo is to learn how to love and embrace fat as an energy source. Notably you will have more consistent and elevated energy levels and not be ready to kill someone should something come up causing you to skip a meal (or unplanned intermittent fasting).
We ask to cut all grain for 30 days there are some advocates of grain, if prepared in the right way- The Weston A Price Foundation is worth checking out for some thoughts on this
No Legumes-Again legumes ressemble grains in structure and don’t provide any major nutritional benefit- the common fact that sweetcorn goes in one end and out the other demonstrates this- I know sweetcorn may taste nice but effectively you are asking your digestive system to force it through your body without any nutritional reward.
The take home point: There is not a single nutrient in grains and legumes which we cannot get in vegetables.
No Dairy- A common allergen and again the main reason why we ask you to cut it out for 30 days. However, again there are advocates of dairy, if prepared in the right way-these people consider themselves to as followers of a Primal Diet. Mark Sisson is probably the best role model to check out here and his website provides a huge gamut of resources- check out it out here
No SUGAR- Sugar is a drug. It is incredibly addictive and the food industry does not make life simple at all. It is the main culprit for plethora of health problems the human race has come to consider normal today- Take diabetes: 90% of the world population which suffers from diabetes are Type 2- the type that you bring on yourself. Again going back to grains- these are considered complex carbohydrates. As I mentioned last night, these foods are made up of molecules called polysaccharides (Poly- many, Saccharides- sugars). How can we justify eating a diet rich in many sugars?????? Well the grain industry has forked out a lot of money to make sure of this- check out my post on how the food pyramid came about and another post on sugar I threw together a while back.
So the idea is to cut out these foods for 30 days- an elimination diet if you like. And then to test these foods and see how you react- and I guarantee you will be surprised by what happens! But what is great is that you will start to learn how you are supposed to feel, what full feels like, what hungry feels like, what actually getting a good nights rest feels like and what an allergic response to food feels like.
So this leads on to the final two topics we discussed- leaky gut and inflammation.
Without over complicating things, basically when you eat food it is digested in two ways- physical (i.e chewing) and chemical (the stomach which is a highly acidic environment to break down food into it basic molecules. This then passes into the small and large intestine where the good stuff is absorbed into the bloodstream (into our bodies essentially for future use) and the bad stuff is removed (well you know yourself how…). The problem is that by eating the wrong food, we start to abuse that barrier in our intestines and bad stuff starts to come into our bodies. This then calls on our immune system to have to constantly battle to keep these foreign invaders out- after all we don’t want to get sick. Leaky gut is also caused by other factors. namely stress. And with leaky gut comes inflammation and an increased risk of getting sick.
Inflammation comes in different forms- it can be immediate and localised like when you get a bruise or sprain your ankle or it can be much less obvious and silent like in the case of a leaky gut. Inflammation is the way our body heals- it is an automated response to foreign invaders or damage of some sort. So when we eat a poor diet and stress our immune system, our body is in a state of inflammation as our immune system is put under strain to clean out our system. You might say, well ye who cares, I look and feel fine so why should I bother concerning myself- Lets make this topic interesting with the analogy of fire fighters. So when there is a fire, fire fighters will rush to the scene and put it out- they are highly trained and specialised in their field of work, they are fit and well prepared and so no fire is too big. BUT what if after the fire, when they are exhausted and ready to take a rest, they are told they now have to do a host of other minimal tasks like painting a fence, washing all the floors back in their office, handwashing the trucks etc. Phew that’s quite tiring…..And then just as they finish all that they get called to another big fire. Well as you can imagine, they will not be as strong and prepared as the first time around. Same principle applies to your immune system. By eating the wrong food, or being constantly stressed, or not getting enough sleep etc you are putting a constant strain on your system so that when something big comes along it will not have the power to fight it off. You see it all the time for simple things like the flu…Everyone knows someone who is ALWAYS sick and for lengthy periods. Someone who really suffers when they get the flu-sure the flu virus is changing all the time so it can be inevitable that you catch it, but if you are really healthy you shouldnt really be getting sick.
We asked two questions at the start of our session- What do you think Paleo is and why are you here? To be honest the answers were really good- get more energy, lose bodyfat, get stronger, gain mass etc. Some people called out how tough it is, and used the word ‘misery’. Yes I totally understand and you have to remember we are all human and situations are going to present themselves where we are inevitably going to have to stray. I consider myself to eat 99% paleo all the time and I really have to fight to be so consistent- but it is also a choice I have made, a permanent lifestyle choice because eating differently makes me sick, it affects my mood, my energy, my stress levels more than it might someone else and I have come to realise that I just can’t cope with those side effects. Sure I still slip up from time to time but I pay heavily for it. And I think the important thing is to take this challenge and do it strict for 30 days and see how you feel and see how reintroducing certain food makes you feel. After that, make it your own. Use paleo as a template and start experimenting-one of the greatest lessons you learn is how to listen to your body.
So what now!?
Preparation is key here! Don’t just fly into the challenge and decide you start today or tomorrow morning and see how it goes.
No. First go home and clean out your house of any treats you might have lurkikng around-out of sight out of mind.
Do a grocery shop and stock up on meat and vegetables and fruit- to those new to Paleo I wouldnt consider fruit the enemy just yet- obviously don’t rely on it all day every day but if you restrict to much you might get very disheartened. So if you find yourself eating four apples in one day, dont even bat an eyelid.
Have a think about how you are going to tackle lunch at work-can you get salad? Do you need to prepare something?
Have a think about breakfast- smoothie, paleo pancakes, eggs…
Have some snacks packed just in case.
Be creative and try new things- veggies especially, the more colour and variety the better.
Be careful with condiments! Gluten and sugar are hidden in most! A good soy substitute is liquid aminos which you can buy in the health store. Olive oil, balsamic, mustard, good quality mayonnaise, salsa, guacamole are all good but read the label! If sugar is the first ingredient put it down. Try cajun or other spices.
Check out these posts for more information:
Final word of wisdom-
Start taking note of simple changes like elevated energy levels, better sleep, feeling more rested etc. Tracking what you eat is a really good idea too because when it comes to re-testing foods you can track back and see what you ate and start to see correlations between your food and your health, mood, etc
Phew that was long! Fair play if you read it all- gold star and virtual high five for you!