Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why would I want to do a paleo challenge?

Our CrossFit gym is going to have a gym-wide 30-day good-health challenge coming up soon. I don't think they have come up with a name for it yet, but it is a pretty cool endeavor, encompassing not just the standard-issue paleo challenge/Whole 30, but an emphasis on stress-reduction, good sleep and smart exercise as well.

That latter stuff I covered pretty recently in this post, but the food angle of a paleo challenge is something I haven't talked about in a while.

Why in the hell would you ever want to do one of these things? I will try and answer that for you, and, maybe, give you an inkling of where your paleo challenge is intended to get you.

Let's start with what it is *not*.

There are, you may recall, ten things that are cool to eat/drink during a paleo challenge, but the goal of this challenge is *not* to mindlessly restrict you to those ten things forever.

I think it is a popular misconception that paleo is a blanket/one-size-fits-all sort of bootcamp-ish exercise. It's not. There are as many permutations to the twists and turns of paleo/primal eating as you choose to insert. Remember, I eat paleo/primal and I eat whatever I want.

But the 30 days of a paleo challenge *are* fairly restrictive, and they are that way for a good reason. The goal is to achieve three things :

1. Detox you by removing all the most common sources of gut irritation from your food. It may be that only *some* of the "no" list of grains, legumes, dairy, shitty seed oils, etc. really bothers you, but, right now, we can't be sure which are really bad for you and which aren't. So we are going to remove them all, and let you detox from whichever ones are a problem.

2. Feed you spectacularly well while you are detoxing. That list of ten things that you can eat is so loaded with animal protein, good carbs and good fats that your body will be doing figurative somersaults and leaps of joy at its nutritional density. All the while the bad stuff is being kept away, the good stuff in those ten things is going to supercharge you.

3. The most important thing of all: let you figure out how to take charge of your food and make it work best for your lifestyle for the rest of your life.

See, I think the coolest realization of paleo -- and maybe simultaneously the scariest too -- is that no one is in control of your health but you. Most of modern medicine is geared towards writing you prescriptions and sending you home to eat whatever you want while you take pills to mask symptoms. The responsibility to eat your way to good health is on you. A paleo challenge is your gateway to figuring that out.

Once your 30 days of clean food is up, your body should be in a pretty great place, simultaneously detoxed and supercharged. You *could* choose to just keep eating that way with 100% perfect compliance, but, chances are, you won't. Very few paleo challengers approach day 31 on out as perfectly as they did the challenge days. Instead, you probably will occasionally go off-road a bit. But there are reasonable ways to do that and bounce back pretty well, and there are ways to do it and end up sick and miserable. Figuring out the difference is a pretty cool thing.

An example: I *love* ice cream, and, unlike liquid dairy, it doesn't completely wreck me digestively, so, while I don't eat it often, occasionally I indulge. What I learned from the paleo challenge was, first of all, that liquid dairy is bad news for me -- whenever I try to reinsert it into my life, I get either digestive issues, major snot buildup in my sinuses, or both -- and, secondly, that if I want to eat ice cream, it works a lot better for me as a part of an otherwise-clean carb reboot, either post-workout or the night before a tough workout day. That is a very cool thing to have learned. It means I can, every so often, make a small spectacle of myself with, say, Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz and suffer only minor consequences if I time the creamy caffeine party properly.

And you may figure out something similar with booze or cheese or whatever the non-paleo treat of your choice is. Or you may decide that a strategy like carb backloading or
skipping or delaying breakfast is the thing for you.

In fact, you probably will be able to create a pretty awesome/personalized "Shouldn't versus Don't" list.

A paleo challenge is all about empowering you with the tools to take charge of your own health. Use it that way, and, if you do, following all those rules for 30 days will have a lot more purpose, and, I hope, not seem so onerous. It's not a mindless exercise in ascetic deprivation; it's a very mindful attempt to get you to figure out what works for you for your whole life, so you can have fun *and* feel great for a really long time.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Everything affects everything"

Sometimes what ought to be evident from your own existence comes into a little better focus when observing someone else.

For a few weeks, I have been helping a friend from the gym with some food suggestions. She is already a paleo eater and a really good athlete, but she has some very specific goals in mind and asked me if I would take a look at her food logs in the hope that maybe I could get her past what she perceived to be a bit of a sticking point with respect to those goals.

It's been great. She is making progress toward her goals and, most importantly, is really pleased with that progress. And, even though I think she *thought* she was imposing on me to do this, in fact I am having a great time too. It's giving me a taste of pseudo nutritional-therapy work, and it's really rewarding working with someone who has a burning desire to succeed, and takes suggestions, and even criticism, well.

Best of all, for me, it is totally validating a theory that I had already been heading towards on my own, based on my own experience. The theory is not terribly profound, but it's one of those things that maybe has to wallop you upside the head before you finally "get" it. And the wallop, in my case, finally arrived while helping someone else:

Everything affects everything else.

No, I am not headed for touchy/feely/huggy "love yr neighbor and spread the good will" stuff (although that's probably all true too). I am just talking about the holy triumvirate of sleep, food and exercise.

Oh, and its related uber-lord: stress.

See, I have been pretty sure for a while that when I live clean and awesome, and sleep soundly, my mood, appetite and energy are (imagine!) clean and awesome. And when I go off-road to the country named Reduced Sleep, -- or travel to the Ice Cream Kingdom and visit its rulers, Ben and Jerry, or hop the next figurative flight to Scotland riding the wings of a jet called Whisky -- I can *feel* it the next day. And sometimes the day after.

I am not talking about the simple "duh" stuff, like digestive distress or a full-on hangover. That is all stupidly obvious. But you probably aren't going to have a hangover from one (or maybe even four) drink(s), and you may not have full-on digestive distress from a bowl of Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz (mmmm, sigh...), but (and this, yes, is a big but that does not lie) chances are that those things are *still* messing with you.

Chances also are that you may not notice those effects unless you have, like me or my friend, cleaned up your eating to the extreme. But that doesn't mean the effects aren't there. It's just that, much like a 30-day cleanup/detox like the Whole30 (or a paleo challenge), you only get a clear view of the full picture of toxicity once you are nearly fully compliant with paleo eating.

The particular "wow" moment for me was when my friend -- who had been so perfect with her eating, per my suggestions, and was so on-track to where she wanted to be, that I was beginning to question the value of any further advice -- went a little off-road one day and enjoyed some non-paleo treats. She also didn't sleep so well that night. I gave her the expected, fairly mild speech that went something like: "We all slip up, but you get less leeway on that sort of thing because you have specific goals in mind, blahblahblah." But I also added something that I *thought* was going to be true from my own experience with sleep-dep and indulgence: I told her that the damage probably wasn't fully apparent yet. She was going to be hungry earlier than usual and more often on that "day after," and she needed to take care not to fall all the way to the bottom of the paleo hill, relying on old snacking habits, etc. Her insulin and cortisol probably took a hit from the party night. A day of detox and she should be back on track. I also told her to skip any sort of cardio/metcon work that day, and, at most, just lift heavy.

And it all came true. In fact, it even reminded her of an earlier incident involving a little less indulgence, but still an effect the day after, and, also apparently, lots of times before that where she would try to "cardio" her way out of the stress caused by a poor-food or bad-sleep day.

Your body is this amazing biochemistry experiment where, yes, everything affects everything. When you disrupt normal hormonal function with even a little party time, there is a lingering effect. And the proper response the next day is to regroup, ride the wave of not-so-awesome in a measured way, and get back to home base where you can resume the normal course of business. (And if I am not arrested by the Grammar Police for metaphor abuse based upon that last sentence, I will be a lucky man). Trying to "metcon" or "cardio" your way out of stress is a really terrible plan. Likewise, assuming that "that was yesterday; this is today," is ignoring the reality of the wild ride you took your hormones on when you went off-road. This isn't to say that you can't have fun. But there is always a price, and knowledge and understanding of that price is almost always the key to awesomeness.

Everything affects everything. There are no freebies. It's probably not all that clever, but it really is true. Or, as a wise man once said, "Buy the ticket; take the ride."

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Some links back to old stuff of mine that might be helpful to a paleo newbie

Our gym is going to embark on a 30-day paleo challenge in late May. I thought it might be helpful to anyone starting that challenge if you had a link to some articles I have written about that subject. So, here you go. At the end of the challenge, I will do another post with links to various post-challenge thoughts, which, really, is where the fun begins....

"Shouldn't" versus "Don't"

Things about paleo that (maybe) no one told you

She makes a really good point; don't get too clever with paleo before you can handle it

How to start eating paleo

Stepping outside the comfort zone with food

The only thing that ever works for me when it comes to stress management

Sleep, stress and the whole damn ball of wax

Peanut butter and paleo

Squats and deadlifts rule

80/20 paleo sounds pretty lame to me

From sweet to deranged (your choice)

30-day paleo challenges are fun, but then what?

Ten things. That's it.

How in the hell am I gonna do this? Welcome to the challenge.

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

The snack question
Zen and the art of sleep maintenance (a.k.a. 30 days to better sleep)

30-day paleo challenges are stupid.... sometimes

And finally, back in the fall of 2011, I logged all the food that I ate during a 30-day primal challenge. Note, I was eating dairy. Remove the dairy, and you have a paleo challenge. This link is to a search on my blog for "primal eating challenge." It will take you to all those food logs plus a few other posts that happen to come up on that search.

Good luck. Have fun.

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Sunday, April 21, 2013


That's Milo. He is wary of *everything* and is afraid that *everything* is about to cause his demise.

OK, not quite true.... When we adopted him eight days ago, he really was afraid of *everything*. Within an hour or so, he had learned to trust my wife to a degree that he wouldn't do what he was still doing with me a couple days later: cower and run away whenever I walked into a room. But even that got a little better each day (or more like each hour).

Today, he completely trusts the two of us. But, he is still pretty scared. Yesterday, he spent fifteen minutes at the very very end of his leash, hiding in a flower bed, when a neighbor down the road decided to stop me to talk, mid-dog-walk. On that same walk, he cowered and sat down, shaking, because a fire hydrant scared him. I took Milo to visit my adult son who goes to school in Philly. By the end of our hour with Kevin, Milo stopped cowering, as long as Kevin didn't do anything bold or outrageous, y'know like look at Milo, or stand up from a seated position.

Establishing this dog's trust and boosting his confidence that everyone in the world -- particularly every male human -- is not about to kill him is a work in progress. And it's progressing....
He has obviously had some serious trauma in his puppy past related to men. I don't even want to bother mentally constructing the scenario of the dog-fighting ring he was probably exposed to, or whatever. He pretty clearly had a rough time of it in North Carolina where he was found.

But, as Milo is learning, it gets better, and everyone does not suck.

Really, it gets better and everyone does not suck. And the ensuing analogy is pretty obvious....

You have a right to be really angry -- angrier than you have ever been -- at what happened in Boston last week. You also have a right to be on your guard, and to insist that authorities do the same, as well as prosecute and harshly punish the person(s) responsible.

But, as Milo is learning, even though trust comes slow, trust is also essential to happiness. So, yeah, be wary, but don't forget that, as Milo is also (slowly) learning, most people out there are not trying to hurt you, and most people deserve your respect. And you will be a lot happier and less hate-filled if you do. More specifically, most immigrants, or people of a particular nationality, are not the enemy. Yes, inevitably, there are a few, and we have, just this past week, seen both the fortitude of this country and the overwhelming skill of our law-enforcement agencies to come together and meet that challenge, and to learn from the past.

I am one of those non-jingoistic, non-hating patriots who simultaneously thinks both that this really is the best country in the world *and* that we always need to strive to do better. Maybe there is something that could have stopped this bombing from happening. I don't know. But what I *do* know is that law enforcement has *that* angle covered. They are amazing and are hard at work.... Just like my wife and I have it covered when it comes to making sure nothing *actually* kills Milo.

Our job, as non-law-enforcement citizens, is a lot like Milo's: recover from the trauma of the past, (re)learn the difference between appropriately on-guard and being afraid of everything, and, yeah, remember to wag your tail and lick someone's face.

It gets better. Remember that.

Go here to donate to the One Fund Boston.

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"I eat whatever I want."

One of my favorite talks at this year's Paleo FX conference was by Sarah Fragoso from Everyday Paleo, and I was reminded recently, when discussing food with a friend, of my very favorite line from her presentation:

"When people ask me what I eat or how I eat, I tell them that I eat whatever I want."

It's a great concept for the paleo way of eating -- note, not "diet." And you "dieters" are probably thinking, "What the hell?"

But I totally agree with her. I eat whatever I want.

Now here is the catch: what I "want" to eat depends upon my body's needs and how food makes me feel. I don't "want" to eat bread, pizza, etc, because I don't "want" to feel like crap the next day. I also don't "want" to drink booze very often because it has a cumulative negative effect on my gym performance and mood. And if I were someone focused on hardcore body-comp improvement, I probably wouldn't "want" to go far off-road at all when it comes to food compliance.

But, sometimes, I really do "want" a delicious drink and some Mexican food that maybe isn't totally paleo-compliant. And so I have it. And I don't fret over it, mentally beat the crap out of myself or otherwise wise have a personal breakdown. I eat it, have fun, and then steer the paleo truck back onto the road again. And if I realize, with some post-fun regret, that maybe that wasn't *really* what I "wanted" for the long-term, I chalk it up to a learning experience and drive the fuck on.

Now if this all sounds like semantics, I suppose it is to a degree, but what it is about is... get this.... knowing what you *really* want -- distinguishing between a fleeting desire for something and the realization of how fulfilling the fleeting desire is going to wreck your longer-term "wants," like maybe body-comp or just the old Robb Wolf maxim about "how you look, feel and perform." And, I understand, that that sort of thing is more about what's in your head than what is on your plate.

So, yeah, fix your head when it comes to food. You, presumably do it all the time in the rest of your life, or, otherwise, your existence would be a drama-heavy juvenile/teenage wreck. Food's no different. Eat what you *really* want. Y'know... after you figure out what you *really* want.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A little clarity amidst the coffee and awesomeness....

You may recall that just a couple months ago, I waxed not-so-poetic on how delaying breakfast was floating my personal boat. Shortly thereafter, I began flat-out *skipping* breakfast in favor of waking up, downing some coffee with a sizable hunk of unsalted grassfed butter and coconut oil, and riding the fat-and-caffeine wave all morning. My mind is sharper. I feel great. I get shit done. Boom, and all that.

I love it. I can, however, see plenty of reasons why *you* might not love it. Maybe your insulin is not well-regulated. Maybe you are just different than me, and this ain't yr thang.

Whatever. Everyone's a unique snowflake, blahblahblah.

But.... It seems that, taking an utterly non-random sample of fit, awesome women in my CrossFit gym who have told me recently that they "love" the whole skipping-breakfast thing -- some for the mental clarity, some for the natural caloric deficit it can create if you are headed for more awesome body comp -- I hit a nerve with the original post. Some people seriously dig the idea.

And that's great, but....
Let's fully understand the limits of this deal.

There is one thing that, as far as I am concerned (and let's take a quick break here and make it clear that I am not a professional, so you are actually on your own in the big bad world, and this is not "medical advice"), you simply *cannot* do when skipping breakfast: work out and continue to fast after the workout.

It is fine to hit your morning workout fasted or fasted-plus-coffee, but for the love of all that is good and right and nutritionally sound, don't ever come home from that morning workout and continue to fast!!! Eat!

Your body is screaming for food post-workout, and I am not going to get into hyper-specific post-workout nutritional advice, but you must eat *something* after you work out. Yes, I think it is better if that something is clean, paleo, protein-filled, etc.and there are endless variations of that stuff, but, more generically, as a wise commenter just said on my blog: "You can't build a house without lumber."

And, as I understand it, were you to do as one person I know did and hit the gym fasted (plus coffee) and then come home and try to make it to lunch without eating, you would not merely be feeling like undernourished hell; you'd be potentially seriously compromising a lot of endocrine/hormonal angles in your body. Insulin, cortisol, thyroid function, etc. all take a dim view of starvation, and, when you go do something in a gym, particularly something as taxing as a CrossFit workout, and you try to go hours thereafter without eating, your body thinks you are on the Bataan Death March. It doesn't care that you are an awesome CrossFitter; it thinks you are starving.

So the bottom line of this is a small piece of bad news, people: you morning-workout folks can't really take advantage of all the benefits of skipping breakfast because you need to eat a meal after a workout.

And that meal, if you work out in the morning, is called breakfast.

So, pick your path, and act accordingly, but some things just don't go together: and working out in the early a.m. and eating for the first time at lunch are two of those things.

Everything can't work for everyone.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

"Shouldn't" versus "Don't"

Those of you familiar with this blog know already that I think there is a lot to the notion of a mind/body connection. For example, it is going to be difficult to get anywhere significant with the plan of "fixing" first your sleep, then your food, then your exercise, if, ultimately, your head isn't together. If stress has you down, sleep won't be right, gut integrity will take a hit and exercise will, more than likely, just stress you out more if you push it very hard.

And I also think there is a ton of value in a lot of Zen notions, right down to the healing powers of meditation, a good walk (outdoors, not on a treadmill) and a mindful way of eating (rather than slamming your food down as if in an eating competition).

But there's a whole other aspect of mindfulness that can get lost in the transition to paleo, and, if you can only wrap your, um, *mind* around it in advance, you might save yourself a lot of grief.

While I am not a huge fan of repeated 30-day paleo challenges, one of the great things about your *first* 30-day challenge is that, by eliminating grains, legumes, dairy, etc., you learn, when the 30 days are up, what is (or should be) truly off-limits to you in the future, what non-paleo food items you might eat here and there as an occasional treat, and maybe even which ones you can actually regularly eat.

In other words, you figure out how to eat from there on out. For life.

For me, that list looks like paleo plus fairly regular grassfed cheese, occasional treats of ice cream or booze, and *never* any gluten.

If I eat (or drink) gluten at all, it messes me up. If I make my occasional treats too regular -- in other words, not occasional at all -- they mess me up. But there's a big difference between those two, and understanding that difference is fairly critical to doing this primal/paleo deal correctly.

The "occasional treat" list is a declaration of "things I *shouldn't* eat" that don't slaughter my innards as long as I don't indulge very often. But the "off-limits" list is totally different. That one announces: "I *don't* eat that stuff. It is not food to me."

And, in many aspects, for someone on top of his or her mindfulness, the "don't eat" list is a lot more manageable than the "shouldn't" list. It involves almost no restraint of your decision-making power at all because you just *don't* eat that stuff anymore.

For example, if someone puts a bagel or bread in front of me, it's not that hard for me to say no. I don't eat that stuff. It's not food to me. It certainly isn't part of my regular food and it doesn't even make the list of "occasional treats." That's simple.

Ice cream is another story. It is a "shouldn't" food for me, but it only really causes trouble when "occasionally" becomes "often."

So, if you can truly put a food on the "don't" list, you are going to easily handle its temptation. On the other hand, it is managing the "shouldn't" list, the occasional treats, that is going to make or break how you do on paleo. "Shouldn't" is a long way from "don't." Keep the "shouldn't" list short and manageable, and don't head there often, and you'll handle this paleo thing just fine.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Soon it'll be in the rear-view mirror....

Every now and then I update you on the madness that has been the last 20 months or so. As I told you here, with a link to previous rantings on the subject, my elderly dad lost his mind to a sufficient degree back in August 2011 that he had to be put into a nursing home.

At that point, the bulk of a huge job fell onto me: cleaning out his house. If I called him a hoarder, you probably would get a good idea what it was like, but I never really thought of him as a hoarder, per se, more of just "a guy who didn't throw much out."

Which is a hoarder. I just never thought of it that way.

So, in an effort not to lose *my* mind over the situation, I tried to take the long view: I had all the time in the world to clean the place up, so calm the fuck down.

That sounds good, but I never *really* calmed the fuck down. No, it hasn't been something I think about every day, but it is always there, like some sort of shadow of doom following me around -- disappearing, seemingly, on a very sunny day at noon, and then returning soon after.

So, I plodded my way through the job. I live 50 miles away from that house. I have a life that has nothing to do with that house. So I did what I could, here and there. Seven dumpsters later, the place was finally empty as of a couple months ago.

Seven dumpsters. And not those little compact ones that they have behind the local fast-food joint. No, seven full-size dumpsters.

Then, more recently, the contractors were hired, because you wouldn't expect that a hoarder would have done much renovation, now, would you?

The place was stuck in 1975.

So, paneling was removed, drywall put up, a new kitchen put in, hardwood floors refinished, bathrooms updated. It was an enormous job.

And now, it is, I am happy to say, totally done. It goes on the real-estate market next week. It looks amazing.

When it sells, I suspect my blood pressure will drop ten points.

And no, despite the fact that I grew up there, I have no wistful thoughts about the place. No fond reminiscing. Fuck that. It's not that I had a bad life as a kid there. It's just that all that good stuff has long ago been eclipsed by the drudgery of cleaning up after a crazy old man, who, quite probably, was crazy long before I ever suspected it.

These are the little tests that life presents us. And if someday I look back and think that this is the worst I had, I will have been very lucky.

But for now, there is no looking back. Step on the gas pedal. Drive on.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Tales of Paleo Disasters" -- the world's shortest book?

Every now and then there is an article or a video blasting the paleo/ancestral food movement for this or that. Most recently, there is a TED talk by Christina Warriner that attacks and questions the evolution-based roots of paleo eating. And other articles have criticized paleo for being too meat-filled, too this and too that. And, invariably, some really smart people, like Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser come out and meet the challenge/criticism head-on and effectively.

(In fact, if you want to read Robb Wolf's answer to the TED talk at issue, go here, and if you want to read Chris Kresser's response to the latest anti-red-meat "science" -- which I realize was not an attack on "paleo," but, rather, on red-meat consumption -- go here.)

But what I find fascinating is that the burning urge among some to bring paleo down apparently never drives any of those folks -- from a scientific, or even *anecdotal* basis -- to criticize paleo/ancestral eating because it has actually reduced the quality of health/life of a person (or people). You know... Find the paleo folks who are, in the vernacular, all fucked up from paleo eating. The anti-paleoistas never ever do that.

And I have to think, based on the harshness and intensity of the criticism that they *do* present, that the reason they don't give us concrete examples is that they can't. Yeah, there are likely some folks out there who hated the dietary restrictions of this lifestyle because they missed their bread, bagels or whatever. But where are the people who have tried it and it actually physically messed them up? They don't seem to exist. All I ever hear from are the success stories: type-2 diabetes cured, autoimmune diseases into remission, insulin management restored, inflammation drastically reduced. You know the list.... It goes on and on.

I have said it before and I will say it again: I don't care how *you* eat. But this is how I eat and it has done wonders for me in terms of weight control, energy, insulin management and the like. If you attack this lifestyle, don't chip at the edges. Show us paleo failures, people who were harmed by paleo eating. Compare them, if they exist, to all the success stories. And then let's see where the chips (the bacon?) falls. Otherwise, just fess up that you're pissed off about this lifestyle for some reason other than its actual harmful effect on real people, since, you know, there appears to be none.

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Monday, April 8, 2013

"Is this paleo?" A.k.a.: Fooling yourself with "paleo" things?

You hear it a lot around people new to paleo/ancestral eating: "Is this paleo?" Usually the person is referring to something in a package, with ingredients. Because if that person were talking about real food, he or she wouldn't have to ask. It would be pretty obvious whether the food is on the good or bad list, you know...of "paleo" or "non-paleo."

And it is at that very point that I begin to wonder: has the word "paleo" gotten kind of useless? Or weird?

Or maybe I meant useless after all.

Or maybe "useless" is kinda harsh, but, if it's a package you are holding, with more than one ingredient listed on it, and you are contemplating eating it as anything other than an occasional treat, you might be entirely missing the point of "paleo."

Yes, if you are going to eat something from a package with ingredients, it is generally better if those ingredients are "paleo," but here's a suggestion (unless, again, we are talking an occasional treat): instead of trying to find paleo things in paleo packages, do what the above manifesto -- from Liz Wolfe at Cave Girl Eats -- says: eat real food. Real food...Things that aren't in packages and, you know, they go bad if you don't eat them soon after buying them.

There are a lot of versions of "paleo" out there, but, keeping in mind that this all started as an ancestral/evolutionary-based way to eat clean unprocessed foods, the way to do it with the focus on health, longevity, gut integrity, etc. is to -- imagine! -- eat real unprocessed foods as often as possible.

Note that I said "as often as possible." Starving occasionally and facing a choice between some "paleo" energy bar and a Snickers? Sure, go for the paleo option. But note the formidable presence of the word "occasionally" in that sentence. The point here is, first and foremost, to eat real unprocessed* food as your daily routine. So every time you open a package, "paleo" labels notwithstanding, consider that -- with very rare exception -- you are off-course.

Going off-course here and there is to be expected. Going off-course every day? Or buying tons of allegedly "100% paleo"** snacks*** for daily consumption? I think you got fooled by the word "paleo."

* I will take a quick detour here to say that I can think of one paleo item -- count it: one -- that is basically impossible to find around here in its one-ingredient state: coconut milk. So, coconut milk being ridiculously good for you, we regularly eat it in its processed multi-ingredient (three, I think... coconut milk, guar gum and water) form.

** Just today I saw an energy bar advertised online as "100% paleo." It has honey in it. It also has "egg white protein powder," which I don't recall ever being produced by a chicken in nature. Again, eat the damn thing if you want to, but it's not meant to be any regular part of an ancestral diet focused on unprocessed food.

*** By the way, I am looking at *you*, the paleo/ancestral consumer, not the companies making or selling these things. Just as it is your job generally to feed yourself in a healthy manner, it's your job as a paleo eater not to feast on processed snack food every day. (Indeed, some of those companies -- Paleo Kits by Steve's Club, for instance -- are funding really great charitable work, and that is awesome, but that doesn't change the fact that they are selling food intended to be occasional treats, not daily nomnomnom sessions. You didn't think you were supposed to feast daily on Ben + Jerry's just because they were saving the rainforest, did you? Good charitable work is wonderful. But it doesn't (or shouldn't) make something unintended for daily consumption suddenly part of your regular diet).

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Oh wow, this is good. No, really good. Parquet Courts -- "Stoned and Starving"

I just heard this ten minutes ago for the first time. I loved it so damn much that here we are. From the album "Light Up Gold."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Things about paleo that (maybe) no one ever told you

A number of people at our CrossFit gym started a paleo challenge for April. They added me to their private Facebook challenge group because, I guess, I have a big mouth when it comes to opinions on paleo eating. So, in the spirit of encouraging my paleo friends, but trying not to just tell them things that they already know (e.g., "meat, veggies, good fats".... duh) here are a few things to remember about paleo eating that occasionally get lost in the shuffle ....

1. "Sleep is the most important thing in the whole fucking universe." -- Albert Einstein

OK, he didn't say that, but he should have. Nothing works right without sleep. Hormones are screwed, and everything cascades down a hill named Awful. Get eight hours, in a dark room. Manage your stress or you won't. More about that here and here.

2. Eat a lot of vegetables at every meal.

This was an oft-repeated theme of a number of speakers at this year's Paleo FX. Paleo is not a meatitarian festival. It is a "clean food" way of eating. Remember, also, that green vegetables are going to fit in pretty well with a low-carb approach to paleo. This is not necessarily the case with sweet potatoes and the like. I am not telling you that you need to be low-carb. But you should understand whether or not your food intake puts you in that category and whether to adjust accordingly. And eat some damn vegetables... a lot of them.

3. Bacon is food like mustard or mayo is food.

Bacon is delicious. I love it. But it has the positive nutritional value of cardboard. It is, for all intents and purposes, a condiment. It is also an absurdly delicious condiment, but if your principal source of protein at any meal is bacon, you have fumbled the paleo football and cost your team the game. It is a spectacularly awful protein source. Use it to flavor food, not to provide you with any nutrition. Example: bacon and eggs is a crap breakfast. Bacon, eggs, grassfed beef or lamb plus spinach and avocado is an awesome breakfast.

4. Snacks are dumb.

One of the amazing things about paleo is proper insulin management. Proper insulin management means that you are not spiking and crashing, which means you shouldn't be hungry three (or two) hours after you eat. If you are eating paleo and needing to snack more than very infrequently (maybe once or twice a week?) you aren't eating enough at meal time, and by "enough" I mean "enough good fat." It keeps you full. Pile it on. Or, as a smart author guy once said: "Eat like a predator, not a prey."

5. Try skipping or delaying breakfast, and prolonging the ketogenic/fat-burning state that you woke up in.

Yeah, skip (or delay) breakfast. Really. Coffee or tea is still cool. Coffee or tea with grassfed butter and coconut oil is even cooler because that keeps you full and burning fat. More on that here.

6. If you listen to a paleo podcast regularly, your life will be awesome.

I like Robb Wolf's and Greg Everett's podcast the best because they are funnier than everyone else. But you don't have to listen to them. Liz Wolfe and Diane Sanfilippo do a bangup job on theirs each week. Dr. Lauren Noel does on hers too. Find one (or more) and get hooked. It is a great way to get more useful info on paleo than you ever thought possible.

Now go be awesome.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A hurdle made of ... beer??

One of the speakers at Paleo FX -- I think it was Hamilton Stapell, but I could be wrong -- gave us a little insight into the gender demographics of the paleo movement. Apparently women are *way* more into this stuff than men.

And a look around the room at PFX, as well as an informal tally of the folks I know who are personally committed to this way of eating, tells me that there can be little doubt that that's correct. Women are dominating paleo (and, as I noted in a live tweet from PFX, they are a spectacularly good-looking group at that).

So, I got to thinking... what's up with that gender imbalance?

I suppose there are a couple of obvious answers. First of all, women are *always* more interested in weight loss and body-comp issues than men. Although I don't regard paleo to be a "diet," certainly it is the "diet" angle that draws in a lot of people to try it out. Additionally, women seem to suffer from hormonal issues and autoimmune diseases at a higher rate than men, so a lifestyle that faces those issues head-on is going to be more attractive to women. So, yeah, those two factors are going to play a big part.

But, as I sat in a bar with some of my team after volleyball last night, and my only paleo teammate (a woman) and I ordered booze while the rest of those present (all guys) snuggled up to pints of beer, it hit me:

Beer may be the ultimate male stumbling point on the road to paleo.

Yeah, sure, lots of women dig beer, but more guys regard it as a key part of their (often daily) existence.

And I totally get it. Hell, I didn't used to just *drink* beer every day; I used to brew my own, for crying out loud.

It was delicious.

But lots of things are delicious. Cake, pizza, bagels. But they don't have the insidious *daily* attraction of beer.

I repeat: it's delicious. But, it is, with rare exception, a gluten-laden bomb of gut permeability that will, even in pretty mild doses, potentially derail your best efforts at paleo living. I don't think you would regard daily, or near-daily, ingestion of bread, bagels or pizza to be the way to paleo compliance. The same, sadly, is true of beer.

So, when alcohol is part of the evening's plan, paleo folks will tell you to head for wine, anything distilled, most ciders... things like that. The one drink that is just completely and totally off the table, except in its still-fairly-rare gluten-free version, is, yeah, good old beer.

And the more books and articles I read (and podcasts that I listen to) about gluten and gut permeability, the more it seems that even a little bit of gluten has that derailing effect for days after eating (or drinking) it.

So, fellow dudes, all I can tell you is this: my experience is that if you drink beer with any regularity, your paleo experience will be pretty unfulfilling. I can also tell you that there is a whole world of, in my case, tequila and whisky (and whiskey), or, in the case of others, wine, out there for you to substitute for your beer. Giving up the malt and hops isn't the end of the world, and, although I can't recommend daily alcohol consumption of any sort as the best plan, however often you choose to drink, there are some pretty damn delicious alternatives out there.

Or not. Your call. While you are deciding, my wife and will be hanging out here in the Paleo Bar and Grill having a drink with a lot of beautiful women.

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