2013 Update and Big Summary
Over the last few months, I’ve made a few tweaks to my diet and exercise plan. Here’s one big post with an update on both. And yes, I’m still feeling great!
Most important, remember that this is more than diet… its a lifestyle change.
I mostly follow Paleo (or Primal) diet, but after reading Perfect Health Diet recently I’ve been playing with adding in some more “safe starches” and changed around my supplements a little.
My exercise is detailed below but can be summarized as 1x/week 20m sprinting session (Tabata burpees, hill sprints or cycling hill repeats), 2x/week 30-45m body weight only strength workout, 3-5x/week low level movement (walking, biking). During a year, I’ll do one or two cycling centuries (w/o additional training though beyond the HIIT cycling workouts). In addition I’ve been working on my thoracic spine mobility and overall back health.
The other major area of focus has been on getting good sleep. Last but not least, I do my best to reduce stress.
Three books have been most influential in my journey:
- The Primal Blueprint - overall lifestyle
- Perfect Health Diet - diet research and modifications from primal/paleo
- Convict Conditioning - exercise progressions
So what do I actually eat? Most days I follow a fairly consistent pattern. This is partly for ease and partly because I truly enjoy each of these meals.
Breakfast: Two to three scrambled eggs on top of spinach and either sauerkraut or kim chee. Throw in some bacon once/week. Note, on kim chee - you need to pay special attention to ingredients as a lot have sugar.
Lunch: Big salad with lots of greens, lots of chopped veggies and some protein. The protein is often Mediterranean style tuna salad (olive oil, olives, parsley, capers - no mayo) or some smoked mackerel, sardines or trout. But anything will do - leftover roasts (meat or chicken), smoked mackerel, etc.
Dinner: One good size but not large (1/4-1/3 lb usually) of protein with 2-3 veggies. You can peruse some pics here. Since Jan 2013, I’ve been playing with adding a bit more safe starches as well (white rice, white potatoes, and rest of root starchy vegetables I was eating before). For dessert, about half the nights I either have dark chocolate (mostly 99% at this point) or a few dates + tahini.
Do you snack? I occasionally have a light snack. Fruit is generally just 1-2/day after breakfast or lunch. If I’m really hungry at other times, I’ll have a few almonds (literally - I count. Not more than 2-5. Think how long it would take you to shell them yourself!). Kale chips, raw carrots, olives are also all great if I’m really in the need or not eating dinner till later.
Now lets go through all the Yes and No’s in a bit more detail.
Proteins: Use grass fed beef, pastured chickens and wild fish where possible. You should really do this regardless of Paleo. They are substantially better for you (see other sites for details), better for the environment and more humane for the animals. Your body will naturally regulate itself to a good amount but not too much protein.
Eggs deserve special mention. I spend money on eggs from pastured chickens. That’s $8/dozen to be exact. While that sounds insane, my 2-egg breakfast is only $1.30 of eggs plus about a $1 worth of spinach or other veggies. Still very cheap! The pastured eggs are significantly better for you and taste way better to boot. Try a taste comparison if you don’t believe me. And yes, I thoroughly enjoy eating eggs each morning!
Veggies: this is the easiest category. Eat local, organic and seasonal where possible. If nothing else it will mix up what you eat. More colors per meal the better. Some special mentions:
Sweet Potatoes: All good. NOTE: since Jan 2013 more liberal with eating these and white potatoes for that matter.
Root veggies: Yep!
Corn: Officially illegal by the paleo police, but we get amazing corn on the cob here in SF in the summer. Its a super easy meal and super delicious. I ate it all last summer and fall while losing weight. Never more than once/week. Plan on continuing to do the same.
Probiotics: Probiotic veggies (e.g. sauerkraut, kim chi) are awesome for you. Eat up! Just make sure you get stuff made with no sugar.
Oils: This one will be the most against conventional wisdom. Take all your safflower, canola, mazola and other seed oils and throw them out. Instead use coconut oil, butter or ghee, animal fats, olive oil or avocado oil. For cooking that means coconut oil or ghee for the most part since they have the highest heat points.
Nuts: Nuts, but not peanuts!, are generally good in moderation. Only eat a handful at most. I try to limit to 2-5 in afternoon and maybe another few after dinner. Note, some folks out there highly recommend soaking to do deal with phytic acid. Much more important if you eat a lot. I don’t bother.
Legumes: Legumes are out in strict Paleo orthodoxy. However, if you read a lot of Weston Price Wise Traditions you can see that preparing legumes with traditional methods, you can make them okay to eat. There is a lot of back and forth on this subject. Long story short, is we eat on occasion. And I lost the bulk of my weight having beans or lentils almost every day. Now I’m eating no more than 1x/week and I make sure to soak in warm water with lemon juice for 12-24 hours before using. That includes lentils too.
Dairy: Other than butter and cream, dairy is generally a no-no. Butter and cream get a pass as they basically act nutritionally as an animal fat. I used to love cheese. It was one of the major items I cut out. Now when I want to treat myself, I have a little cheese if some excellent and delicious cheese is at hand. This is mostly a once/week affair either at a dinner party we are hosting or restaurant. To put it another way, I used to consume $30 of high end cheese myself per week. Now its a buck or two if that.
Grains: Simply no. That includes, kasha, quinoa, and more. Now there is a spectrum of work on this. The Paleo folks are strictly anti-grains. And certainly avoiding all grains is easier than having to think about it. That said, if you follow the Weston Price work and prepare grains using traditional methods (soaking, fermentation, sprouting) you will probably be just fine. From a weight loss perspective though, its easier to just switch off and then only slowly bring them back into your life and in limited quantities. Note: Since Jan 2013 I’ve been eating some more white rice.
Sweeteners: Sugar, agave syrup and high fructose corn syrup are all out. Honey and maple syrup generally considered okay as a once in awhile treat. There are lots of great paleo desserts out there (e.g. chocolate avocado mousse on almond/coconut crust). We also do some simple desserts: tahini and honey mixed together, medjool dates stuffed with tahini.
I’ve been following recommendations from PHD.
I’ve been experimenting with two different varieties of intermittent fasting. Mostly now do a constrained 8 hour eating window 1-2x/week. This mostly just means skipping breakfast. Sometimes, especially on travel days, I do a longer fast of stopping to eat after dinner and not eating again till next night’s dinner. In all cases I continue to drink water and coffee/tea.
Below is my weekly schedule. Note its less than 2 hours of dedicated exercise time/week!
2-5m each morning: I do one of the following (1) 30 squats, 30 wall presses, 30 vertical pulls. These are simple exercises to get metabolism going and also are a nice way to stretch out the body. I sometimes throw in a crow pose or headstand for kicks OR (2) 20 seconds each of bridge, L-hold, yoga twist plus foam ball rollers on my back. In addition I take a half hot / half cold shower.
3-5 hours of week of moving slowly. This is walking, biking or other activity at 50-75% of max heart rate. If you are used to measuring your HR, you will know this is very moderately paced exercise. I get most of this by walking (or biking) to downtown office (3 miles one way). I fill in other time by walking whenever possible (e.g. phone calls), taking stairs not elevators or weekend hikes with the family.
2x30-45m of lifting heavy things: namely my body! This the one place where I don’t strictly follow PB Fitness. I’ve mixed up the progressions contained in Convict Conditioning and PB Fitness. I think CC has a slightly better view on overall progressions of exercises. This includes ensuring you start off more slowly which builds up systematic strength in your muscles. CC also includes a bridge progression for your back. The places where I’ve mixed it up are working in the jack knife series from PB Fitness into CC’s handstand pushup. And using Bulgarian squats as an extra step from close squats to assisted one leg squats. (This will all make sense once you read the books). The great part about these exercises is you can do them nearly anywhere (other than pull-ups) and often I don’t even bother changing out of my regular clothes.
20m of sprinting: This will be one of the following: (1) 20 hill sprints in front of my house. 5 are warmup. The rest are at full speed. (2) 3-4 Tabata series of burpees. (3) 45-60m session of cycling hill repeats.
Ad hoc abs: Great suggestion from Mark Sisson. Whenever you want - e.g. while driving - do ab contractions. Tighten your whole gut and hold it for 10, 20 or 30 seconds. See this post for more detail.