Friday, March 30, 2012

Easy paleo beef tongue

Astute readers of this blog may notice that this recipe is so close to another on this same blog that I ought to be ashamed of myself. But truly astute readers will know that it takes more than that to make me ashamed of myself.

Plus it is stupid effing easy; yet you might not have thought of it yourself because it involves a beef tongue, and most people's reaction to a beef tongue is one of two things: (1) never to buy one because it looks gross, or, for the slightly more adventurous, (2) to buy one and then leave it in the freezer forever because it looks gross.

I am here to save you from all that and give you yet another option for deliciousness.

(And when I say "stupid effing easy," I really am not kidding.)

--one beef tongue (2-3 pounds, usually)
--one can of coconut milk

Do this:

--combine all that stuff in a crockpot. If you want to be oh-so-fancy, heat up the coconut milk in a saucepan and add the spices to it first, so they all blend together. Then pour that over the tongue. Use as much of the seasoning/spices as you think you will want. Then add a little more, because crockpot cooking tends to mellow all flavors
--cook on low for ten hours

Yes, ten hours. The only mistake you can make is cutting short the cooking time. Like beef heart, tongue can be a little chewy if it doesn't cook long enough. Patience is its own reward here. (I can't believe I just wrote that).

(Skipping ahead ten hours) Remove the tongue from the crockpot. All the good stuff is hidden beneath a thick, er, tongue-y membrane. Slice that open and dig out the delicious meat with a fork. the beauty of the thick membrane is that it is pretty easy to distinguish from the meat, so you can really scrape the meat out easily without any getting wasted.

Tongue is absolutely nothing like real organ meat, e.g., liver. It tastes just like shredded roast beef. I generally just dump it into a container and stick it in the fridge to be put into anything from omelets to salads. Even my wife, who is slow to dig into other offal, loves this stuff. In fact, I think the only reason tongue gets lumped into the offal category is because it looks somewhere between gross and comically pornographic when you first get a gander at it.

The offal train rolls on yet again.... Oh, and if you dig this sort of thing, there may be more soon. We are getting most of a Cowshare cow next week, complete with all/most of the innards. Wheeeeeee!

Post-cook, removing the membrane.

Shredded tongue-y goodness.

Tongue/spinach/Dubliner omelet in the pan.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The elbow surgery chronicles

4:30 a.m. That's when we left the house. It made for an easy drive into Philly. Any semblance of "rush hour" was a good hour or two away. And when you arrive for surgery at 5:20, the check-in process is shockingly quick, slowed only by a woman shrieking over a mouse in the foyer of Methodist Hospital.

I have told you before about the woes of my right elbow. X-rays and a CT scan showed that it was blocked by bone spurs in two directions. So both extension and flexion were severely compromised. And that has led to tendonitis in my right wrist, which is compensating (read: taking the brunt of the punishment) at the gym during overhead lifts, pullups, pushups and anything else that requires a straight, locked-out arm. Likewise, the absence of full flexion means that I can do a power clean, but my squat clean is non-existent, and my front squat, if heavy, has to be done with either straps or folded arms (a.k.a. the "I dream of Jeannie" pose). Likewise, it has gotten to the point where more than 30 minutes of drumming starts to hurt deep down inside the elbow, and my volleyball team has had to suffer through some ridiculously erratic games from me: fine one minute and unable to serve overhand the next.

So it was time to get it fixed. I had been given the choice of dealing with it or surgery, and for someone like me who likes drumming, CrossFit and volleyball, and has been feeling seriously compromised at all three of late, there didn't seem to be much choice. The prospect of reduced pain and increased mobility was pretty alluring. Unfortunately, to get there, surgery means a recovery full of increased pain and decreased mobility, for a while.

I had been told to prepare for an overnight hospital stay, but my hopes of making it to my fiftieth (!) birthday this summer having never spent a night in the hospital were buoyed when I learned that I was the first surgery of the day. The decision on releasing me that day was going to be made solely on the basis of pain control, and there was a better shot at having that In order if I were the first on the operating table.

So the anesthesiologist and I shot the proverbial shit. Nice guy. Guitar player, wannabe drummer. He totally dug the fact that my gnarled arm was the product of rock and roll. Then we talked about nerve blocks. Apparently my surgeon didn't use a nerve block during the procedure. Instead, he used general anesthesia and then the patient has an option of a post-op nerve block or some cocktail of narcotics. The nerve block has a minor risk of damage, but the bonus of no pain while it lasts, whereas the druggy combo just dulls what is described as some hefty pain.

I was a little torn. The notion of a totally dead arm in a sling for 8-12 hours didn't sound too appealing. But they had me at: "It'll greatly increase your chances of going home if you do the nerve block because pain won't be an issue." I voted for the block.

In retrospect, it was the right call, but once I had my wits about me post-op -- this took a little while including an embarrassingly long harangue from a nurse who was pissed that my still-stoned self apparently kept trying to roll over onto the surgery arm as I came to -- the 13 hours that that arm was dead were some of the most annoying times of my life. Yeah, I was released from the hospital at about 2 p.m., but when they said the arm will be "dead," they were not kidding. It was like a hunk of cement, in a sling, attached to my neck. Bend at the waist at all, and the cement arm swung like a weathervane. And the last four hours or so were the weirdest of all because no matter how many times the anesthesiologist told me that the block would last "up to 15 hours," what I remembered better was both he and the surgeon saying something like: "But often it is more like only eight hours." So when the eight-hour mark hit and I still couldn't even twitch my fingers, it was a little freaky. Enter a little hypochondria (what did they say the nerve-damage rate was for these nerve blocks? One in 2500? That's a lot!), and it was amazing that I drifted off to sleep. Percocet helped that.

I had been advised by a number of people to "stay ahead of the pain" by not waiting until the nerve block ran out before hitting the Percocet. That strategy began with one pill before we left the hospital, another at 6 p.m., and another at 10 p.m. I konked.

90 minutes later, I awoke to my fingers twitching. The block was wearing off. I drifted back to sleep and woke up at 1:30 a.m. with the feeling that a freight train was repeatedly running er my elbow. Wowzers. I cheated by half an hour and gobbled another Percocet, but it had minimal effect. I was up every 30 minutes the rest of the night.

By 5:30 a.m., I was sleep-deprived and let's face it, a little crazed. After pissing and moaning about the nerve block for most of the evening, I had mercifully spared my wife my post-bedtime restlessness by setting up shop in the spare bedroom. I *knew* it was likely to be a rough night, but when the pain hit, it was more intense than I had expected.

Then I remembered the Indomethacin. As I left the hospital, the doc had given me two prescriptions -- one for Percocet ("for pain") and one for Indomethacin, which he said was an NSAID that I should start the next day. It would control inflammation and slow healing just enough to prevent significant scar tissue. What he didn't tell me was that its once-a-day dose would take a *huge* bite out of the pain. Wow. I took it at 5:30 a.m. along with a Percocet and pow! I was sound asleep for 2.5 hours. I woke up at 8 a.m. and have had only minor pain the rest of the day.

It is amazing what reduced pain will do to brighten your day.

So that is my not-very-exciting tale of surgery. I am left with an arm that needs some hardcore physical therapy. That starts with a physical-therapist visit on Thursday, and I already have been doing exercises that the surgeon gave me. Let's face it.... the arm is unlikely to be truly straight, but he told me that when I left surgery I had 20 extra degrees of flexion and 5-10 additional degrees of extension. Now that all that crap is out of there, it's up to me to take this thing the extra mile. That is going to require a little care -- one part of the surgery was moving the ulnar nerve -- but mostly it's just going to be work. Let's go.

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

When the ego gets in the way of smart training....

A bunch of us CrossFitters were out the other night, eating meaty things and drinking drinky things, and a blogger friend and I started yapping about the bloggerificness of it all. I was mock-hassling her about not posting very often, and her response was that it is hard to think up new topics for posts. I said something like, "Yeah, but lately I just try to think about whatever I have done lately and, invariably, there is something colossally stupid or, occasionally, vaguely smart that I did that gives me fodder for a post."

File this one, like most, under "colossally stupid."

See, I am fitter than the average 49-year-old you might work with, see at the mall, etc., but I am not particularly strong. I seriously suck at overhead lifts -- although I am hoping that tomorrow's (tomorrow? aaauggghh!) looming elbow surgery does wonders, over the long haul, to help that issue. My back squat is OK (one rep at about 1.5 body weight), and my front squat is similarly OK/mediocre as well. But my deadlift is a little better than all that. It is not astounding by any means, but it's my best lift. As of last Monday, when I was headed into CrossFit for a little deadlifting, my one-rep max was 365.... about 10 pounds over double bodyweight. Nothing awesome, but not bad for an old guy who weighs just a hair north of 175.

But old guy was not satisfied with that. No, old guy -- brimming with enthusiasm over the chance to get in One Last Pre-Surgery Lift Before My Arm Hurts So Bad Post-Surgery That A Cup of Coffee Feels Heavy, *and* hoping for a new PR -- went to CrossFit last Monday night all fired up.

We were doing three-rep deadlifts. OK, let's be clear: *they* were doing three-rep deadlifts. My plan was to do some threes until it got a little heavy and then switch to ones. Total beast mode, duuuuuuuude. One last hurrah! Hell, yeah! I was ready.

I am a jackass.

Here's how it went...

Oh, wait... I should mention that my lower back was already ever-so-slightly sore from doing heavy sled drags two days earlier.

Anyway, up the ladder of three-rep deadlifts we went: 3x135, 3x225, 3x275, 3x325. At that point, when asked by my lifting partner what the next weight was going to be, I donned the costume of the Lone Ranger of Ego, and said, "Fuck it. 375. If I screw around at a slightly lower weight, I might not PR my one-rep, and, I am really just here to PR my one."

Like I said, I am a jackass.

One rep at 375 went fine. Vaguely difficult, but totally solid. The second rep was not so good. It got about two inches off the ground before I failed. But I didn't care. Let's remember that I was there for a one-rep-max PR and I had just gotten it.

This is when sensible people would have quit. Failing a deadlift rep is not all that advisable in the first place. It is an enormous strain to dig in hard and not have everything work right. So, I already deserved at least a small kick in the ass for not realizing (or caring) that attempting a second rep at a weight already higher than my old one-rep PR was not terribly smart. Double the intensity of the boot to the posterior for doing that when my back already hurt to start the day.

But the triple-strength ass-kick should have followed my next words, which were, "What the hell.... Let's try one rep at 385."

The universe sensibly replied, "No."

I did it anyway. Well, I tried to do it anyway. The bar got about as far off the ground as the last failed rep.

But now my back definitely felt like it was strained.

This, of course, is the moment when I regained my senses, packed up my stuff and decided to skip the metcon that followed.

Ok, that's not what happened. Demonstrating nothing if not mindless consistency in my jackassery, I did the metcon too, five rounds of: five 225-lb deadlifts, 15 pushups and 8 chest-to-bar pullups.

Then my back really hurt, and, timing being everything, I couldn't even take an anti-inflammatory for it, like ibuprofen, because it happened during the two weeks prior to surgery when you can't take that stuff at all. Ouch.

*Then* I played volleyball the next night (Tuesday) because, you guessed it, it was my last chance to play before surgery.

You are catching the theme here, I presume?

By Wednesday morning, in more than a little discomfort, I had finally learned my lesson.

You might think that lesson is as simple as "Don't let your ego run your training," and that is a very large part of it, but I think it's maybe a little more than even that (extremely) useful mantra. If you trust your trainer -- and lord knows, if you don't, why is he/she your trainer? -- don't go into a workout where the trainer's prescribed rep scheme is three or five or whatever, and try to pull one freaking monstrous rep. It is not only moronic, from a potential injury standpoint, but against the designs of the trainer that you trust, *and* it is also wildly self-defeating, because as good as I briefly felt ("Yay me! One-rep PR!"), the ebullience passed pretty quickly in favor of the pissed-off realization that I had better sit out the rest of the week to let my lower back recover. So I did, grumbling under protest against myself.

Whether your training scheme is CrossFit or some other strength/conditioning program, there is a reason your trainer programmed the reps in a particular workout. When you listen to your ego and do dumb stuff just to PR, you may not only lose the benefit of that workout. You may miss the rest of the week as well.

Lesson finally learned.... and maybe just in time, considering the fact that whenever I get back to the gym post-surgery, I am going to need to leave my ego in the car and go inside with a plan to rebuild my strength in a smart, sensible way that doesn't involve a lot of failed reps.

Talk to you next time all jacked up on pain meds and hungover from general anesthesia....

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Primal/paleo libertarians.... there seem to be a lot of them.

I generally try not to push hard on a political point of view here, but the subject of politics fascinates me. Sites like Real Clear Politics and Politico get my attention on a daily (or more) basis for the latest blahblahblah on the 2012 election. I am an unreformed political junkie of the most addicted sort.

My own political viewpoint is best described (or I haven't figured out a better description, anyway) as "libertarian-ish." I am a registered D, for no reason at this point other than that is where I started at age 18. But I find myself squarely in the middle of the overall political landscape -- an "average" obtained from landing all over the map on individual issues. I am -- to use a phrase that I really desperately wish *I* had thought of -- "pro-choice about everything," which means that on personal-freedom issues, like marriage rights, end-of-life decisions, reproductive choice, etc., I tend to side with the Dems, and on fiscal matters I am more conservative, prone to believing in the value of balanced budgets, free trade/markets and lower taxes, and I say things like: "Do whatever you like as long as (a) no one else gets hurt, and (b) I am not forced to pay for it." And that "protecting me from myself" stuff, like seatbelt and helmet laws, just drives me batty. But.... (and politically, for me, there's almost always a but) I walk a generally pro-environment line that offends hardcore "big L" Libertarians, and I can't say I really care about/understand the Federal Reserve very much, so the Ron Paul folks get mad at me for *that*. It seems, in the end, that *no* politicians agree with me on most things (although I am amazed at how often this guy does).

Since my politics tend to piss off almost *everyone* at some point, I try not to go there too often on my little blog, lest you inappropriately/incorrectly begin to believe that I care what *your *politics are, and, by and large, I really don't. I am friends with people from all over the political spectrum, and I believe that respecting one another's viewpoints are the only way we can all get along. (Or maybe it's that I think that if I am polite enough about it, you'll start to agree with me... muwahahahaha). So it is with some fear and trepidation that I begin to muse, out loud, right here on this little blog, about a question that keeps coming up in my head:

Why do so many CrossFit/primal/paleo people lean libertarian in their thinking?

No, I am sure it is not all of us by any means, but some of the leading luminaries of a lot of this stuff -- folks with names like Glassman, Wolfe and Wolf, to name a few -- have made it quite clear from their posts that they take a libertarian-ish view of things political. And down the ladder of importance, 850 or so rungs below those folks, there's me.

So what gives? I suppose there's a simple/stupid "caveman" answer that involves mere defiance of convention combined with a self-reliant burning urge to slay the nearest elk with an atlatl and feast upon its carcass, eating its entrails like grapes, of course followed by heavy deadlifting and grunting.

Or maybe it's more akin to this:

But I think it is a little more than all that (admittedly appealing) caveman/punkrock/hippie stuff. Yeah, sure, there's a thread of "don't tell me what to do, maaaaan," running through many of our thoughts, but there is actual human experience at work here too. It's the experience of having doctors, nutritionists and, since the advent of that damn food pyramid, *the government* tell us the wrong way to eat (grains! low fat! margarine, not butter!) and then having the government follow all of that up with policies -- particularly subsidies to grow grains that are at the heart of many of the health issues in this country -- that are making the problem worse. Then you see the behemoth machine of government going further, expending money to prosecute people who are -- gasp! -- selling raw milk to people who want to buy raw milk, and you have a large WTF moment.

So it's no surprise that folks who already lean toward a pro-freedom, less-government political stance find that paleo pushes them just a little further in that direction. It underscores the libertarian point nicely (and substantially closer to home) when you find a lifestyle choice that does wonders for how you look, feel and perform, and you realize that government policies are set up in a way that encourage you to live and eat in a way that is exactly the opposite of what is working for you. And then, in some cases -- the raw-milk prosecutions, for example -- you find that people can go to jail for selling a food product that other people want to buy for their own personal consumption. It's enough to send a person who is already flirting with libertarian thought into a full-blown romance with Reason Magazine.

Or you might come at all this from the other direction. You start eating paleo, without a political thought in your head, or even with *other* non-libertarian political views. And then you might begin connecting the dots, and you realize that there are lots of analogies to be made from the government's intrusive actions in the realm of food/nutrition to other topics that you might ordinarily think of as more overtly "political."

Some wise person once said, "All politics is local." Things don't get any more "local" than what you choose to put in your piehole. It seems that large numbers of us would like the government to play a much smaller role in all of that. If you are one of those people, however you got to that point of view, good for you. Keep thinking. I like thinkers.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Disconnected thoughts and rambles, Friday edition....

Happy Friday, readers. I don't have any, er, "big" thoughts today, just lots of unconnected little ones:

--Every March I think about going to SXSW, you know -- the South by Southwest music fest in Austin. And every year I skip it because, having had more than a little experience with music fests in my not-so-distant past, I am, well, kinda done with them. It's a blast, or it can be, but a certain level of "I'll sleep when I'm dead" Warren Zevon-isms coupled with copious beer and energy-drink consumption are how I got through all of those prior multiday extravaganzas. And, really, in these paleo/primal days, I think about the current state of health of Mr. Zevon (hint: he's "sleeping"; he's dead) and I think about how poorly beer treats me when I dabble in it lately, let alone when I dive in head-first, and what a miserable MF I am when I am overtired/exhausted/etc., and yeah.... I'll pass. But damn, I wish I had been in Austin this past week. No, not so much for SXSW -- although I would have been better with that if I just dropped in for a gig here and there if I were already in town -- but rather, for the Paleo FX conference. Tons of smart paleo/primal people learning new things, trading stories, shooting the proverbial shit.... Would have been good times. If you went and wanna share some of the experience in the comments, that'd be cool.

-- As for beer, I think I am pretty much done with it. I mean, yeah, I was pretty much done with it anyway. I think that, since early October, I had only had something like a grand total of three beers, but Sunday we went to a "Brewers' Plate" dinner to benefit the fine folks at Fair Food, and I had probably the equivalent of three 12-ounce beers, albeit in the form of a bunch of three or four-ounce samples. Monday: blech. Irritable, cranky and sporting some lovely zits on my neck that sprouted up overnight. Oh, and yeah, they don't call them "beer farts" for nothing. Thanks, gluten. Thank you very much for reminding me why I need to avoid you. Lesson learned? I like to think so.

-- With elbow surgery pending in only ten days, and, looking at a four-month recovery period because this is a full-slice into the elbow, not an arthroscopic one, I am starting to think about some dietary tweaks that I can do to optimize my recovery. I have my eyes on some mega-hiking in the Sierra Nevada in August, so I wanna be close to 100% for that trip. My thoughts so far are on drinking lots of bone broth, eliminating all booze and upping the consumption of organ meats. I am a little less clear on whether a full-blown autoimmune protocol without eggs, nightshades or dairy would be beneficial. We will see.... I kinda hope not; I love eggs and (grassfed) dairy.

-- If you have a chance to check out Henry Rollins on his current spoken-word tour, do it. I caught it last night in Philly and, damn, if he isn't still smart, interesting, funny and well worth your time, 30-some years after joining Black Flag. The ticket said: "Doors at 7, show at 8," and Henry walked out onstage at 8 p.m. sharp, and proceeded to talk straight through, no breaks, for more than two and one-half hours without so much as a sip of water. The dude is still hardcore.

-- If the state of the (music) world has you, like me, often wondering where all the great albums are, check out the latest from former Screaming Trees lead singer Mark Lanegan. It's called Blues Funeral and is credited to the Mark Lanegan Band. As a real-live-human-being sort of drummer, I do not easily recommend albums that are, at times, awash in drum machines, but this is dark, brooding gold. I had a small epiphany with it on a recent early morning fog-filled 50-mile drive. Truly awesome. Here is a sample:

-- And finally, if you want to make your way through a crazy, schizophrenic beast of a record that never is content to settle on one style of music, but, rather, weaves and turns through punk, shoegaze, twang and even a credible Sonic Youth imitation, head for Open Your Heart by The Men, a band from Brooklyn whose debut, the sometimes-engaging, sometimes spotty Leave Home, left me wondering if they would turn noisier or more melodic for their second venture. They have answered that with more melody... noisy melody. Well played, Men. Here's the Sonic Youth-sounding one:

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Taking one for the team, so you don't have to....

I have told you before about the ecstatic wonders of "bulletproof coffee."

You may also recall that sometimes, when I am in a hurry pre-workout, I will have a combo of coffee and protein powder mixed together. It is pretty delicious.

Under no circumstances should you do this with bulletproof coffee.

Ack. Ick. Yuck.

I am sure there is a scientific explanation for this -- undoubtedly using the word "emulsified" --
but let's just say that the protein powder doesn't dissolve very well with the butter and coconut oil in there, and it forms a layer of chewy pond scum on top of your coffee.

Mmmmm. Chewy pond scum.

Here are the GEICO girls to help you out with what to say to all that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It's a veritable sausage party, I tell ya....

You may recall the wonder of the bacon-wrapped dates. Those ones have goat cheese in them. They are delicious.

But what if you are not a dairy person. What then? You could just eliminate the goat cheese, but, while undoubtedly delicious, that option seems a little dull.

Which brings us to sausage.

We learned last night, when attending a birthday party where there were a lot of Crossfitters, some of whom do not indulge in dairy, that sausage is an amazing substitute for goat cheese in this recipe/idea. We brought both, and they were popular.

So, yeah, do that. In my opinion the sausage-stuffed ones are not quite as delicious as the goat cheese ones, but it does raise an interesting prospect, as yet untried: stuffing *both* goat cheese and sausage in there.

Whoa. Someone get on that and report back immediately on the results.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Plantains.... Do this with them.

I love plantains. I particularly love them as a post-workout blast of clean carbs. But I swear that a couple of times that I have mentioned my penchant for them to friends, I have gotten a puzzled look and the question: "What do you do with them?"

It's easy, and since we have previously reviewed the fact that some cooking ideas are too ridiculously easy to be called an actual "recipe," may I suggest the following "idea" (not "recipe") for plantains?

Fry 'em in butter and cinnamon.

Look at that. You already figured out how to do it. But I'll tell you anyway:

Buy a bunch of plantains. Around this neck of the woods, the ones at Whole Foods are about 1000 times riper than the ones at Wegman's. I cannot vouch for whether this is a nationwide phenomenon.

You want the ripe ones. You want the really stupidly ripe ones, like almost black. If you buy them green, put them on the counter until they are, at a minimum, yellow, or, even better, damn near black. The blacker, the sweeter. The greener, the starchier.

Peel them. Slice them. Put a lot of (grassfed/raw) butter in a pan and melt it. I said a lot of butter. Dump all the sliced plantains in there and cook them on med/low heat. The trick is to cook them at a temp that is hot enough to make them golden brown but not burn the bejeeezus out them. This is going to vary with the stove and the pan. Because someone was really nice to us and got us a Le Creuset pan last year, I opt for pretty low heat because that pan gets super hot even on low, but do what ya need to do to get those puppies golden brown.

A digression: If you bought the really green plantains, like those ones at Wegman's, and you are positive that you will be paying college tuition for your newborn child before those plantains actually ripen, you can, er, sweeten the deal by throwing some ripe bananas into the mix, but that is: (a) sort of cheating, (b) not as all-fired clever as you might have thought because the bananas get crazy mushy in the pan.

Somewhere near the end of the whole process, dump enough cinnamon on them that you think you've gone a bit overboard in the cinnamon department. You haven't.

Cook just a bit longer. Eat.

See.... Not really a recipe, was it? But one hell of a good idea.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Spreading the offal

I just entered my vaunted bacon/onion/mushroom-stuffed beef heart recipe in a contest at the Weekend Gourmet Blog Carnival at Hartke is Online. I am betting that if you head over that way, you are going to find a boatload of great recipes by the time the contest ends.

So do it!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Q: Can I half-ass this paleo thing? A: Maybe! (For a little while)

So, you are really trying to get yourself in shape. You are lifting heavy things, trying to eat properly and now you, or maybe your whole gym, are about to embark on a 30-day paleo (or primal) challenge.

Good for you. Good luck. I am not focused on you today, though.

Instead, I am taking several steps back and centering my thoughts on the more, er, nutritionally remedial amongst you.

You are the person who is utterly convinced that while paleo/primal sounds like a great idea on paper, it is clearly not for you. Not right now. The thought of, tomorrow, giving up *all* the bad stuff, particularly all grains, sounds like it will be as unsuccessful as every other "diet" out there has ever been for you. It also just sounds, well, awful -- like the "no fun" police have suddenly taken over your life.

So you have a question: "Um, Mr. Paleo Drummer, sir, can I, um, half-ass this paleo/primal thing?"

Instead of the answer you expect -- a nasty and/or sarcastic "No" delivered with a heaping helping of phrases (that I, by the way, truly believe in) like "60% paleo is not paleo at all," and perhaps even a side order of derisive laughter -- I say:

"Um, yeah, sort of. But it depends on whether you have big goals or whether you are satisfied with half-assing it."

Let me explain....

See, I know what it's like. I used to be one of you.

Just a few years ago, I was, to use a technical term, all fucked up. And get this.... I didn't even know it for the longest while.

I was eating a mostly vegetarian-plus-fish diet that was low in fat, heavy on "whole" grains, nearly absent of any animal protein, and, when animal protein was in there, it was always in some pathetic, nutritionally deficient form like factory-raised skinless chicken breasts or skim milk.

I thought I was healthy. But my numbers -- like the ones you get from blood tests at a physical -- were not so hot. Strangely, they were just okay enough -- like barely in the allowable range -- that my doctor was cheering me on. "Whole grains! Vegetarianism! Yay!" he would say. (To be fair, he probably wasn't *that* goofy about it, but he *was* enthusiastic). But my HDL sucked, about 43, and my triglycerides were pushing, but not quite at, 150, and my fasting blood sugar was 97, just under pre-diabetic.

More importantly, I was always hungry or eating. A day would go something like: go to gym and do a lot of running followed by maybe a little weight stuff, but never with a barbell, always on a machine; cereal for breakfast; starving by 10 am so a grainy snack like a Clif Bar; starving by 11:45 so two sandwiches for lunch of PB and J or turkey (low fat! whole grains!); starving by 2:30 so another Clif Bar; starving by 5:30 so another grainy snack, and then dinner of pasta/fish/veggies. Pizza was eaten in enormous quantities for dinner at least once a week.

And I was such a raging a-hole when I was hungry too. Once I would start to feel hungry, I had about ten minutes to eat something to take the edge off or I would get uncontrollably mean/nasty. (I learned later this was the result of insulin spikes and crashes).

But I just thought this was what happened. I wondered why I exercised so much and still had low HDL and high-"normal" triglycerides. But I never did anything about it because the doc was cheering me on and -- and here is the catch -- the first time they ran a blood-sugar test was when I was 46 years old.

The high-"normal" blood-sugar number of 97 caught my attention like nothing else had previously. I had (overweight) friends with diabetes -- one who then just recently died from it -- and, even though my own physician and a doctor pal at my then globo gym told me 97 was "perfectly normal," the logic of that phrase puzzled me when I knew that only three little points higher equaled "pre-diabetic."

I (moderately) freaked out. I read up on diabetes. This transformed the moderate freakout into something heavier. Trust me on this: you don't want to be diabetic. So I decided to cut my carb intake and start taking fish oil.

That was almost four years ago.

Progress/effort was slow, but here's the thing: I was never satisfied with moderate success. "Cutting my carb intake" began with what, in retrospect, seems like a ludicrously tiny step: cutting out most pasta from my life and turning those two lunchtime sandwiches into two open-face sandwiches (half the bread). I lost a little weight and I noticed that the crazy hungries were no longer completely ruling my life. Oh, they were still there, but not all the time.

So, I ditched the bread in the sandwiches entirely -- started putting all the meat, etc in baggies instead. PB and J? No more. And I noticed that despite having no bread, I was getting just as full and, get this, *staying* full for longer.

And, in 2009, when I had my age-47 physical, the combo of the low(er) carb eating and the fish oil dropped the ugly numbers a bit. No increase in HDL yet, though.

Cool, but I wasn't satisfied (are you catching a repeating theme yet? I knew you would).

So I cut more grains, even tried to cut back on the beloved beer elixir, and, when I joined CrossFit Aspire in 2010, I started reading up on nutrition. The Zone diet was still hot then, but paleo was the up-and-comer. I tried the 40/30/30 ratios of carb/fat/protein of the Zone for a couple months, learned what "blocks" are (don't worry about it...) and saw a little more progress. I also started taking even more fish oil. My physical at age 48 showed a dramatic drop in triglycerides and blood sugar and a small increase in HDL.

So I kept going, looking for the next step. Never being satisfied until you reach a goal.

And then I found paleo. And I am not going to drag you through my paleo journey blow by blow, but it started slow in 2010, and it progressed to the point where I don't ever eat gluten anymore. Beer is not a part of my life. I nearly worship the full feeling that adequate dietary fat gives me. My wife has ditched 30 years of vegetarianism to go paleo and is beating an autoimmune disease while simultaneously flat-out killing it in the gym. We eat tons of grassfed meat, have a share in a local organic farm CSA and try to buy most of our beef from Philly Cowshare. My HDL is nearly 70, my triglycerides 46 and my blood sugar 87. I am 30 pounds lighter than I was in 2009. My insulin management is pretty damn good for a guy who used to spike and crash multiple times a day, and I (nearly) no longer ever have symptoms of Raynaud's, which is all about insulin regulation.

And we still aren't fully satisfied, having just recently made the jump from fish oil to Green Pasture fermented cod-liver-oil/butter-oil capsules that should have "PR" stamped on them considering how many PRs my wife and I have gotten in the gym lately.

So this is the point of all this interminable yapping: yes, you can half-ass paleo, but only if your half-assing is part of a determined plan to make progress and not to stop until you have reached the goal of being fully paleo (or primal... Grassfed dairy is a debate for another time).

Don't say things like, "I am 60% paleo." That is complete bullshit. You are not paleo in any meaningful sense at all if 40% of your caloric intake is from non-paleo sources. But -- and this is critical -- it is okay if you happen to be at that 60/40 balance right this minute. Just make it better. Make it better every freaking day until you get to that point where gluten is gone, legumes are gone, processed vegetable/seed oils are gone and your meals -- all your meals -- consist of animal protein, veggies and a good fat. This can be a slow process if that's what you need to reach your goal. But always strive toward that goal by getting a little stricter, a little closer to where you ought to be.

And *then* do a 30-day challenge. And then stick with it. You have no idea how awesome you can feel if you get all that crap out of your diet. Actually, you probably *do* have an idea. Go make that idea happen, always progressing, always moving forward.

And then, one day, you can be satisfied (almost, anyway).

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