Friday, February 4, 2011

Real food, fake food, and the natural paleo

Real Paleo, what is it?

How I define real and fake foods.

This is a fuzzy area in parts. If you check my wife's blog for the homestead at Lemurs in the Homestead , you can see that she can get pretty creative with paleo ingredients. I wouldn't classify zucchini mint chocolate chip ice cream as anything but fake. Her coffee smoothies utilizing it are (except for the coffee) raw, whole, and complete. Can't fault that. Naturally, the most excellent and amazingly low carb Mock Split Pea Soup made with zucchini instead of peas is totally fine. And it's FINE, too!

More on this in a moment, first we need to look at what makes a food fake:

Processing versus conversion.

Processing is a fundamental change in the nature or purpose of a food. Processing in the commercial sense generally means mechanical, chemical, and heat changes to the food itself- along with additives.

When you take something that should be healthy- like pork fat (lard) and you hydrogenate it for shelf life, you destroy many of the benefits of the natural product.

Some processing is done by most of us- from grilling to canning to making jerky. But the difference in this realm of "fake paleo" is when processing is used for two purposes:

1: To convince someone they are eating something that wouldn't be considered paleo in any other context (cookies, crackers, the godsawful mess that is an atkins shake, etc)

2: To eliminate the whole and fresh aspects of the paleo diet. (healthy food has to be food, if your diet is 80% prepackaged and premade, it's just NOT going to work.)

Conversion, by contrast, is when a food is changed into a different food by a natural- most often living- process. Yogurt is an example, as is sauerkraut, kimchee, or real soy sauce. Or many types of cheese.

I have found that many converted food that would generally not be acceptable become so with conversion. In many to most cases, the specific issues a archevore or paleovore would have with a given food source become moot as the food is converted. (lactose, for example.) Many converted foods are living foods, as well.

Back to fake and real.

I've seen several reports of paleo not working for a specific individual- and atkins as well. In most of these cases where I've talked to people, there is a preponderance of fakery. If you eat 15 servings of "paleo cake" or "grok cookies" every week, things aren't going to go well.

It's best to keep it real, keep it simple as you grow into your lifestyle, and minimize the incidence of fakery.

Grok got fat, now what?

Ah, an actual weight loss post. Finally!

A few cautions before we go in. This is a "ketosis" or "induction" style weight loss program. Ketoacidosis isn't ketosis isn't ketonuria. Go look it up, know what's what! If Dr. Atkins had done that to begin with, a lot of arguments about the dangers of ketosis that were made by people thinking about ketoacidosis would have never come up.

I am not a doctor, nor a nutritionist, nor a guru. This is what I am doing, and solutions to sticking points that I have used and will be using.

Dr. Atkins forms the basis for the very first levels. In his 1973 book, the original "Diet Revolution", he lays out a very workable first phase system for weight loss.

It's not that the current book is...bad. But the original book tends to follow a more "natural" or even "paleo" approach (except for the creams and cheeses) with less fakery. Fakery is bad.

Okay, look. Any of the paleo/very low carb/atkins type approaches are going to work. All you need is to get into ketosis for a few weeks, adjust the habits of eating, not cheat.

Also, while I've tried the fast and feast type of thing- it really does work better if you eat 3 or 4 meals a day. It just does. No idea why.

If you really want to blast the weight off, get a good power interval before each eat. Not food without a sweat right before. Simple!

I topped out at 248 after my wife's last pregnancy, with the move and the diet issues, and I'm looking at 195 now- 5 months of dieting and off and on exercise. Getting down to 215 or so was easy- ketosis. I got stuck, and the two things that seem to have gotten me past it are:

- eating lunch instead of just breakfast and dinner.

- EVERY DAY exercise.

I'm doing 100 kettlebell swings every morning, with various add ons. pushups, pullups, hot potatoes, snatches. Just anything- no real plan, except I always do some kettlebell presses.

I'm not even close to there yet- still 39" at the beer belly, but my neck has popped from 16 to 18 inches, body fat is calculating down at 21%. Another 6% to go and I'll be in "good" shape.

LC and paleo may be the key, but the lock is exercise.

Our ancestors didn't exercise 3 times a week for an hour, either. Makes games of it, change it up constantly, but make sure it's hard and you do it- a couple times a day.

Paleo isn't a weight loss regimen - part three

Mass in Space. I want to get my Muppet on and say it dramatically- MASSSSSSS IN SPAAAAAACE.

Specifically, moving mass in space - or exercise.

In a paleo-lifestyle, exercise is often a key component, but it's divorced from paleo-nutrition. There are exception, like the previously referenced 12 steps of Dr. Harris. Even there, though, it remains a very short statement.

To say that going paleo doesn't work as a weight loss system because it lacks exercise is untrue. Exercise is crucial, and often recognized by the paleo-life crowd. What the paleo lifestyle most often lacks in this regard is a progression or evolution of exercise from "couch potato" to "Grok."

Everything I write here applies to the guy who needs to drop 15 pounds and bump the energy levels nearly as much as it does to the girl who needs to shed 40 pounds, the guy looking at 50, 80, even 100 or more pounds of weight loss. But for illustrative purposes, I'm going to stick with the "middle major" area of needing to drop 40-90 pounds by the BMI index.

Being overweight like this has effects. You can't move the same way you can when lean. You will be moving an automatic extra 40-90 pounds of weight with each squat, each swing, each pushup, each dreaded attempt at a pull up.

Your heart is also feeding a lot more blood to a lot more flesh. And your lungs, more oxygen. There's a fair amount of taxation involved here.

In short, you need a workout plan that you can do, that won't put you in the doctor's office, and that can grow with your rapidly expanding capabilities (and they will expand rapidly!)

I'm not using this short post to get into any exercise programs, just to talk about what we need.

For research, I'm going to leave you with two words: kettlebells and bodyweight.

I'd highly recommend picking up a decent kettlebell book like Enter The Kettlebell, and my bodyweight book of choice for this stage is Convict Conditioning.

What's going to be key here is that you need a solid regimen that

* ignores the high science of specific training,

*boosts fat burning and overall metabolic function,

*and that you can push yourself further with as you succeed.

Paleo isn't a weight loss regimen - part two

Paleo nutrition involves eating a suite of healthy foods, avoiding neolithic dietary - well, poisons- and achieving a natural (even instinctive) balance of intake coupled with exercise to maintain your genetically and environmentally programmed ideal weight and optimal health.

There's a huge danger here for people with a weight problem.

Side note on defining weight problems:
The BMI (Body Mass Index) measurement system is both the easiest and the least accurate method of determining an overweight condition. Easiest because it works on 2 data points, least accurate for... the same reason. However, it is an easy one to use at the higher levels. If your BMI is over 25 and you aren't a professional athlete throwing off the numbers (in which case you already have better tracking systems!), it's usable as a needs and progress measurement. Use it. If your BMI is over 30 and you are looking at weight loss- knowing you have a problem- you can get away with using it until you drop to the 25-27 stage safely.

The Rope&Choke system is the tradition system used in the US Navy to measure body fat. While it has the potential to be inaccurate, the conditions under which it becomes inaccurate involve a heavy powerlifting, weight training, or other situation well beyond the weight loss phase of our journey. Far more accurate than the BMI, you can use a calculator such as this one to calculate body fat. I'd suggest looking at other metrics once you get down to a place where you are feeling fit and balanced. Generally, if you are looking at over a 18% (male) or 22% (female) calculation, you still have some path to travel.

End digression.

The danger here is that if you have a weight problem, your programming is wrong. It's out of balance. Note that it's not just a genetic program, but an environmental program as well. Odds are, if you are in an overweight condition, the programming is awry.

There are any number of ways for the programming to be wrong. From broken satiety, to emotional dependence, to accidental or deliberate physical addictions to high GI carbs (sugar), flavors, and fructose. Insulin spikes necessitating constant grazing on sugary foods, what have you.

Since the programming is gone wonky, you need to institute an artificial program. Which means measuring, weighing, controlling, and recording results. None of this is a natural part of paleo-health, but we're not healthy yet.

You can't just cut calories down, you have to detox. Oh, sure, detox the body, but you have to detox the brain and the programs, too. This is why you need to do more than just eat one donut instead of 3 at the office in the morning.

Some of the major programming elements to change include:

What is and isn't food

What is and isn't a meal

How often to eat

All three of these are covered in many paleo-lifestyle systems or regimens.

In "natural paleo nutrition", a term I have coined to eliminate the fakery of using paleo acceptable ingredients processed into fake foods, the list is very easy and sustainable.

Now, nothing wrong with the very occasional coconut flour tortilla, but these types of fakery have a tendency- especially with persons having or having had eight issues- to become staples.

So, in NPN, you have a basic list of as-nature-provided meats, vegetables, and fruits. If you add dairy, there's unprocessed dairy products. With the dairy and the other areas, there are types of conversions that aren't processing in the normal sense. Fermentations, pickling, cheeses- I'll get a post out about those sometime.

What is and isn't a meal requires deprogramming. I remember my wife having issues years ago with salad as a meal. I could put a thousand calories of meat, salami, cheeses, artichoke hearts and such onto a salad and because it was a
salad, to her it wasn't a meal. (We got over this.)

There's a similar aspect with paleo nutrition, where many people have to deprogram the presence of bread, dessert, pasta, taters, or something else. All I can say is, you have to do it. The Atkins plan for a short term reprogramming has some benefits here as there are no restrictions on quantities in the induction phase.

How often to eat. Man, this is tough. It runs the gamut from athletic training involving steady, 6 or 8 times daily inuts to balance the needs of training, to Warrior Diet style single daily meals. Most paleo lifestyle diets seem to involve 1 to 2 main meals and occasional snacks. We'll see later how this works with weight loss needs.

Measurement. Numbers. We need them. First, they are a concrete tracking system for reprogramming. Second, when dealing with weight loss, they are necessary for controlling the input levels to achieve the reduction in mass.

With a weight loss program, there are a few main areas for measurement. The first is carbohydrates, and psuedo carbohydrates (such as splenda or sweet and low type sweeteners). Second is eating times- I haven't posted about the exercise component yet, but the ideal situation is to never eat without some exercise immediately beforehand. You also have controls on pure number of times to eat per day. Third is input quantities, which becomes important when getting stuck at a certain phase or body fat level. Fourth, is measuring results.

So, the above is another part of your list of matters to convert a paleo lifestyle into a weight loss program. After the exercise portion is covered, I'll try and post about what a paleo weight loss program that works for ME is, in more detail.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Paleo isn't a weight loss regimen - part one

Possibly the most dangerous aspect to the "paleo movement" insofar as it's a single thing is the notion that it's an ideal no- effort weight loss system.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paleonutrition is an aspect of the paleo-lifestyle. Not the sum total, and not necessarily the most important aspect.

We evolved not just to eat, but to Do Stuff. Exercise is crucial, critical important, and unavoidable. Which is something I'll have to get to in another post....

Paleonutrition, again, is not a weight loss plan, and on the higher levels of instinctual eating, isn't very good for weight loss at all.

Weight loss, at its most basic, is fixing a problem. Eating a healthy diet in a healthy body is ideal, but if the body isn't healthy yet, the "regular" paleo diet doesn't get you reasonable wins in weight loss by itself.

Which brings us to the dieting part of my life.

The two times I have needed to and successfully lost weight, and kept it off for extended periods, I used the same initial method.

Minor digression: the first time I was looking at trimming about 4% body fat and getting down the a reasonable "Navy trim" of 15% (measured via rope and choke). The second time was a decade later, and required closer to a full 12-15% reduction. A decade of living...dangerously. That one worked until we moved and between shop issues, family, and budget issues, we got caught in a carb spiral and I started exhibiting addictive behaviors.

Neither of these cases is a failure of diet, but a failure of lifestyle.

Back from our digression, I'll give you the answer to the first phases of weight loss: Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution. The original, old school, 1970s Diet Revolution- sans Atkins bars, minus the "New", without the fakery.

The original meat, eggs, butter, cream, coffee, mayo and salad version.

This is all very critical. Fakery is bad. How bad? I've seen diet bars for the New Revolution with ingredients lists over a dozen and a half, and with carb levels of 14 grams!!!!! Fakery is bad.

I've known, dated, lived with, and cooked for vegetarians over the course of my life. I'm not one, and I doubt I ever will be. But cooking for and living with vegetarians has taught me a lot about food.

Michael Pollan and I may not agree on everything, but one of his Food Rules stands out supreme, among paleos as well as natural vegetarians and agricultural natural eaters:

Eat Food.

Pretty simple on the surface, and incredibly simple once you wrap your head around it.

The vegetarians I've known with the lowest health indexes- they eat regular quantities of tofu burgers, vegetarian hot dogs, tofurkeys, soy or TVP jerky, TVP chili, and.. well, Doritos.

The vegetarians I've known with the highest health indexes eat FOOD. Salads, stews, rice dishes, edamame, vegetables.

The difference is that- while legumes are out for those of us who grok Grok, the healthy vegetarian is eating soy as a natural food- edamame. She is eating rice as a natural product- rice. Not rice tortured into "milk", and not beans tortured into some sort of replacement for turkey!!

Back to those of us who like blood dripping out of our steaks, The original Atkins plan involved primarily eating real food, real fats, real meat, and real meals. No shakes, no fake candy bars. There were some sugar free gelatin desserts and other things to get the psyche past the hump of getting over sugars and desserts, but even these were rel recipes involving basic ingredients.

All this comes down to a couple central points on why "eating paleo" isn't a magical no-effort weight loss magic.

First- a lot of paleo cooking, as I browse the Web, is getting increasingly involved in fakery. faking tortillas, faking cake, even faking sandwich bread! Fakery isn't food.

I'm reminded of a recent conversation I heard involving some questions about getting family members "into" eating paleo. A spouse who doesn't like cooked and boiled veggies, a child who wants peanut butter and jelly every day. Birthday cake. Donuts.

The suggestions mostly involved ways to fake food!

Regarding the spouse who doesn't like cooked veggies- don't try making cauliflower rice, try NOT COOKING the vegetables! Or even just not having many.

I have no comment on the peanut butter and jelly except to say that anything faking a PB&J is going to be worse than the PB&J in it's regular form, guaranteed.

Fakery almost never helps with weight loss.

Second, "Paleo" has too many meanings. You can eat "almost pure" paleo and still load yourself with so much fruit, added to piles of milk and cheese, mixed with the "occasional" bowl of rice or slice of bread as a treat and... get fat.

You have to get a set view of what paleo means (while not the classic hardcore view, Dr. Harris' list of Twelve Step List - taken as a whole and not a step by step approach- is a good rulebook. Or any other reasonable paleo rulebook, but don't switch daily because this or that treat is available. No diet coke paleo? stay off the DC! Diet coke okay, but no dairy? Don't mess with it.

Many of these plans have plusses and minusses. There's something wrong with all of them, if you listen to that person or this study. (I'd argue that the excellent PaNu list of 12 steps is flawed for weight loss and family/group diets primarily by being a progressive list instead of a set of rules you follow in totality.)

Or, in short- there's too much allowed in general paleo diets, with too little control, for a weight loss regimen.

Next up, talking measurements and planning, and why paleo by itself isn't a weight loss plan.

Third, hopefully, The all important movement of mass in space issues.


Boy, what a fall/winter.

By last January I had managed to pull way down to 190, was in possibly the best shape of my life, and had just started adding the convict conditioning into my workouts.

By July, we were in a hectic last minute stress situation moving the family, pregnancy, and knife shop to our new home in Nevada. Coupled with ensuing budget issues, the actual birth of Eira, and my regular tendency to gain all the fat my wife loses during pregnancy, things have gotten back to....

square one.

Well, I've done it before, I will do it again.

Fortunately, in the past 18 months the Low Carb, Very Low Carb, and Paleo Nutrition movements have generated enough social acceptance and research data that my wife is all for it. A fantastic example is the excellent PaNu blog/info site.Added to that is that it's become obvious how my kids behave with various bad ingredients. And our new daughter has the typical issues our kids have while nursing necessitatin my wife go dairy free and bean free.

So, now I've got the ability to eat well without fighting the rest of the household!

Of course, this leads to the fact that a paleo-nutrition lifestyle is NOT A WEIGHT LOSS PLAN. I'll get to that soon.....