Tag Archives: Paleo

Study update…

14 Apr

Well, that officially takes care of my second week as a Personal Training Student. I’d forgotten how much fun learning can be, particularly when it’s subject matter that interests me. Here’s the thing though… the more deeply I dig into fitness and bio-mechanics, and all that basic anatomy that they’ve been drilling into me over the last two weeks, the more I can’t help but be in awe at the sheer complexity, and the beauty, and the incredible efficiency of the human body. Yes, sure, there are several “design flaws” with regards to the way the body is put together, particularly this crazy stuff to do with female plumbing and confusion surrounding the placement of both the waste and pleasure bits, and yet if I had the ability to create an efficient biological machine, I would be hard pressed to do nearly as well, and I’d like to think that I’m a pretty smart guy when it comes to understanding such things.

The course itself has been well thought out, and even with some of the teething problems that the provider has been having with some of their on-line content (which is new and appears largely untested), it doesn’t take anything away from the content, the pacing, and the approach to drumming all of this knowledge into the minds of a very broad student audience. I’ve met lots of really wonderful people on this course, and I feel a basic connection with each and every person I am studying with, which is really saying something for someone like myself who spent many years in my youth finding it difficult to connect with almost anyone. Each person brings unique experiences and perspectives to the group as a whole, and I’ve been feeling that it’s a privilege to be able to get to know each and every one of them.

Studying this course has reinvigorated my urge to train regularly, and while it’s been hard to get the extra time, I’ve been finding a way to do it. Yesterday I managed to go for a 6.1km run with my youngest son, and I’ve even squeezed in a couple of sessions in the gym where my studies take place. It’s a good thing too, because the extra exercise will be needed to burn off the extra calories I’ve been consuming ever since my parents-in-law arrived.

Yes, my mother-in-law is a great cook, and she loves to bake. It’s a blessing and a curse both, because her cooking is extremely tasty, and I can’t say no to her, in part because I don’t wish to discourage or insult her, and in part because my resolve to eat healthier and more Paleo is weakened every time I enter the house and see something new and tempting. The good news however is that the prior 3 months of Paleo and lifestyle changing has been great preparation for my in-laws visit, and I’ve been able to find a workable compromise between eating healthy and enjoying a few naughty treats, without completely backsliding into my old habits. This has been a really big thing for me, and shows me just how far I’ve come on my health and fitness journey.

Somehow, I’ve managed over this past week to spend time with my boys, spend time with my wife and her parents, drive everyone about from place to place as needed, and still make the time to study and attend lectures. I’ve grown beyond feeling the need to make excuses about all of the stuff that I allowed to slide, putting aside stress, and simply getting on with stuff as best as I can. it really has been about not sweating all of the small stuff that causes people so much personal anguish and stress, and while the hectic schedule has been difficult, I feel as if I’ve been making the most out of every moment of each day over the past few weeks. It’s like I’ve reached a real turning point where my personal growth gets to accelerate daily and doesn’t seem to look as though it will be slowing down any time soon.

While I’ve been enjoying the education, I’m starting to really champ at the bit for the day when I can finally be turned loose and go out on my own as a PT. I’ll probably look for regular work as a PT or an instructor at a gym or two to start with, while I begin to build a business around this new career that I have chosen. I have a ton of ideas about how to really get the most out of my training, and I can see a huge untapped market out there just waiting for me to not only earn a dollar or two, but to also find lots of people who could really benefit from a little training/ coaching who might otherwise be unable to access (or be unaware of ) the opportunity to have a personal trainer helping them to achieve their health/fitness/life goals.

I’ve been feeling really encouraged by everything that has happened to me over the last few months, and yes I’m even including all of the “bad” stuff. I really feel as if this is my year, and that I’m on the verge of some really great things happening. It’s as if I were a fish that had finally learned to swim with the tide instead of against it, and things just seem to be getting easier and easier. I’m sure there’s a clever psychological explanation for how I’m feeling, but regardless, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and enjoying a period of fulfilment in my life that I’ve felt has been long overdue. Every moment ahead – good or bad – is an opportunity just waiting to be taken, and I intend to be there, ready and waiting to do so. This is perhaps and example I can show to others of how powerful positive thinking has been for me, and how far it can carry you if you allow yourself to be open to it.

And yet, my enjoyment of everything that has happened to me lately would not feel so complete if it wasn’t for all of the positive feedback I have received from those of you who have been reading my blog, and for all of you bloggers who I have been reading who have also been turning your lives around. You have all encouraged me to be stronger, not just for myself, but for you also, and you have all been a source of strength for me whenever I have felt my spirits flagging. This wonderful and supportive community has been a great gift when I have needed it, and I hope that you feel that I’ve been keeping up my end and have been able to encourage you also, in my own way.

Let me tell you why I am a reformed Paleo & exercise guy

10 Mar

It was about 10 years ago when I found myself living in a very stressful period of my life. My work was tough and the company I worked for was new and unlikely to ever pay me what I thought I deserved, the demands of a new project manager were over the top and it was clear he didn’t have a clue about how to adequately manage a software development team, and of course because he was new he was “asserting” himself quite strongly to make his mark and secure his position within the company. I was starting to wonder if moving to the new job was a mistake, and to make matters worse, my home life offered me no respite because my wife at the time (now thankfully a long and nearly lost ex) was doing her best to fight over every little thing, where all I wanted to do was rest and spend time with my kids and to de-stress from a hard day at work, so in the end I actually believed that I was going to work in order to de-stress from my home situation instead!!

The thing about stress and in particular with long term stress is the effect it has on your metabolic processes. Your liver for example can start to play up, and you’ll see indicators of stress in your blood work, but that’s IF you can be bothered to see your doctor to get a blood test. For me though, the real kick in the guts at the time was less about liver function, and more about the news that I had very high levels of cholesterol, with a total count somewhere in the vicinity of 13 mmol/L where it would have been better to have seen it well below 5. At the time my dad (then aged 56) had recently undergone surgery to have a stent inserted into one of the arteries of his heart. His cholesterol was at a less unhealthy 8-9 at the time, so you can imagine my concern as a young 30-something faced with the possibility of things like angina, stents, coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and all of those other nasty situations that can arise when your cholesterol is messed up!!

I made a lot of changes to my diet which mainly involved cutting out what I thought must be excesses of fatty red meats such as lamb and beef, I cut out all pork, and limited my intake of chicken. I read all of the ingredients on the oil bottles, and went for the least fat and trans fats in particular. A lot less effort was made to improve my exercise, and unfortunately I found my carb intake getting higher as I tried to replace all of the protein I was missing with other foods. Even so, by about this time in 2011 I had managed to slowly claw my total cholesterol down to a high yet less scary 6. While my HDL cholesterol was low, at 1.1, it was still considered acceptable, however my triglyceride was high at 2.2, and my LDL cholesterol was also high at 3.9.

There was a problem with this approach to food however. Lower protein with higher carbs meant that my weight started to grow out of control, and no amount of exercise seemed to prevent this. What made things worse was that the more I exercised, the more I found I needed to eat, and without a good source of protein I felt like I was hungry all of the time. I didn’t really understand how to exercise either, so the other problem that I had was that I kept getting recurring injuries in my back, knees, elbows, shoulders, and feet, and so I would find myself at rest more often, and physically active only when the injuries seemed to have resolved. So in short I got fat, but surely I should have been happy that my cholesterol was at a less dangerous high, right? Well… no. I was fat, uncomfortable with my own body and my body image, and it seems I was eating my way into malnutrition and what felt like starvation.

At about September of last year, my wife was browsing randomly at some on-line coupon site, and found a guy selling 6 weeks of his boot camp program for about $20 per person, and when she told me about it, I said to here that we should do it. I knew that I needed some help getting my fitness kick-started again, and perhaps this guy might be able to show me where I had gone wrong in my training. So Through November and a bit of December, we attended the boot camp. The workouts were hard, I was the oldest and fattest guy there for the first couple of weeks, and after that I was simply the oldest guy there. I was also the least fit person.

In my first session, I found that I couldn’t physically push myself to complete the exercise set out for us to do (I was in the easy group). I felt nauseated, but even pushing myself physically, willing myself to keep going no matter what, I reached a physical limitation early where I simply couldn’t move my muscles any further beyond the pain and the muscle shakes. By the end of the week, I had attended only 3 sessions, and I felt completely wasted. My back gave out on me, and I needed to rest it up for about a week because I didn’t understand at the time where the back pain was coming from and why, and yet a strange thing happened during the rest of the boot camp. Not only did I find myself getting stronger, I found myself wanting to do better.

I also started to learn more about recovery, and somehow my injuries started to slowly go away and my efforts at the boot camp became easier to handle. The only thing that was failing me was that I was still struggling with a really messed up diet, feeling hungry all the time, and craving things like biscuits and chocolate. It seemed that the harder I worked out the more of a sugar junkie I became, and the weight loss seemed to be a very slow thing given all of the physical activity I was getting. Cutting out all of the sweets and the better exercise did have a very positive effect, because for the first time in a long while my cholesterol levels dropped below 5. The problem however was that my HDL levels had fallen below the recommended minimum, while my LDL’s and Triglycerides still remained too high.

It felt so disheartening to see all of that effort only to find that my body chemistry was still a mess, I was always hungry, getting paranoid about food, and found trying to figure out how to exercise and eat such a complicated mess that it made me wonder both what it was that all of the leaner people knew that I didn’t, and whether there was enough time in the day for all of the exercise that it seemed I would need in order to become and maintain a leaner person. So I did what any modern day person does when searching for answers in life. I went seeking answers from that mighty “oracle” that we call the Internet!!

Cover of "The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and...

Cover via Amazon

At about mid December, I came across the idea of the palaeolithic diet. The webpage that mentioned Paleo was a little… to say “odd” is doing it a kindness… but for all it’s strange over the top new-age-ish evangelical vibe, it had a few statements that kind of flipped a switch in my brain. Something seemed a little odd, yet the root concept seemed to make a lot of sense. So I dug around, found out all I could about the Paleo diet, read Loren Cordain’s book, and by the end of December realised that I was going to try doing it. I’d give this Paleo lark a 30-day trial to see whether it lives up to the hype, and then see how it goes.

I’ve blogged several times about how well the Paleo diet has worked for me, but what I haven’t been able to show to you so far is some real science to back up the claims, and whether the stuff that I feel and that I now believe is real, or simply a lot of empty words on your computer screen. So I went to see my doctor and had a full blood work-up done. Samples were taken recently on the 1st of March, and I got the results back yesterday. Everything came back listed as Normal !!!

In only two months of an easy to managed healthy diet, and with a bare minimum of exercise, I have cured all of the abnormalities in my blood, apart from a slightly elevated bilirubin which is consistent with hereditary Gilbert’s Syndrome (which means my liver behaves funny but that’s normal for me and most people of Mediterranean descent). I also found out that my total cholesterol is now only 3.9, my LDLs are safely normal at 2.2, triglycerides are fractionally above the desired range at 1.6, and my HDLs are now right on the minimum at 1.0. So all of that effort I made to avoid animal fats according to the long-held knowledge that the medical community had been telling us really was the wrong thing to do and was very unhealthy for me. What I should have done instead was get rid of excess hidden sugars, eat those lean meats (including the red meats I had been avoiding) and ingest only healthy fats to get my cholesterol back on track.

I now feel confident that my cholesterol will be much healthier when I go in for a check-up at the beginning of next year. I am 100% convinced that I have proven that the Paleo/SANE approach to healthy diet is the best way to recover from health problems relating to diet and that it is also crucial to recovery after exercise. Yes, I know that I am only 1 person with one set of results and that this is hardly a peer-reviewed scientific study. Frankly I don’t care whether or not if you would draw the same conclusions that I have. I know what I feel, and what it has taken for me to reach this point. The reality is that I am the healthiest I have ever been, and I am getting healthier and stronger every single day.

I have a system that works, I can show the world how well it works, and I’ve been documenting my journey here to offer some empirical evidence that it works. It’s relatively straight forward and doesn’t require a herculean effort to achieve. So why aren’t more people doing this? Why is it that the world seems to be convinced that only Brand X supplements, Brand Y fitness tools, and Brand Z diet systems are the only way to go? I have a feeling that the problem is in the message of “eat healthy and exercise”. It’s just too glib, even if completely true, and has been said so many times that it’s now easy to ignore the underlying message. It really does seem too easy that you can deal with all of the cravings, eat as much as you want, exercise as much or as little as you want, and still be completely healthy. It goes against everything that the medical, pharmaceutical, diet, and fitness industries have been telling us for the last 20-30 years, and it just seems too good to be true.

The real issue though, is that a Paleo/SANE diet is sustainable activity. It’s not something that you need to work at. It doesn’t require special attention to “cheat days”, weighing and measuring food, counting calories, understanding the finer complexities of food labelling, abstinence, denial, obsession, or any other thing that makes the simple act of eating food so difficult to manage or understand in a modern world. Most people who go on a diet fail to achieve their goals, and most dietary changes where there are difficult to manage restrictions, and complex systems of measurement are abandoned as soon as a goal is reached. Inevitably most diet’s are fads that fail to deliver long term sustainable results, and make the dieter feel like a failure when goals aren’t reached when it is a failure of the dieting system itself that sees poor results and a high rate of abandonment.

Likewise exercise need not be overcomplicated, and should be able to be easily incorporated into the daily activities of your life. You don’t need to go to a gym and do an hour of cardio every other day to maintain your health and fitness, and you don’t need to attend every single fitness class, or to become an expert on the use of all of those complicated fitness machines. Do those things because they interest you, or because you want to, but not because you feel like you are supposed to. Instead, move some furniture, do some gardening, paint a fence or a house, chase the kids/dog around the park, go for a hike and climb over a boulder just for the hell of it. Everyday activities that will keep you fit and will match the effort you are making in the kitchen.

So why am I a reformed Paleo and exercise guy? Because it’s simple to do, and it’s easy to sustain as a lifestyle rather than as a task. Perhaps most importantly however is that compared to everything else that I have tried over the years, its because I KNOW that this works, and I now have a healthy body to prove it.

Day 30 update = ???

30 Jan

Between the workout I did yesterday, and this evenings fitness tests (Yeah, I couldn’t wait and did it all a day early), my arms and legs are seriously totalled! The effort was entirely worth it though, because now that my numbers are all in, sorted, added up, calculated, and compared, I can now say that operation “Bring my sexy back” has started to get some real results! 😛

My main plan for this month was to make 3 specific changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Drink a nutritionally appropriate amount of water
    • Pace myself and spread it out throughout the day
  2. Change my diet to be nutritionally sound, and simple to follow
    • Go “cold turkey” on the “no” foods, and be strictly Paleo
  3. Do something daily to keep my heart rate slightly elevated
    • Rockin’ the standing desk

Now none of these were actual goals because they aren’t specific enough, so they were more like strategies to attempt to effect permanent changes in my life without making those changes too large or impossible to achieve.

Yes, diet and standing around for hours each day has been responsible for the the results I’ve seen. I’ve had only 3 decent workouts this month so my activity levels have been a lot lower than I’d originally planned, but this has turned out to be a very good thing because it showed me just how effective the little lifestyle changes have been. This has really reinforced my belief that you don’t get great results by jumping into the deep end and trying to do the impossibly difficult things all at once. That’s how I approached things in the past and it never worked out. You get great results from the sum of all of the achievable little things that you do to make positive changes in yourself.

Ok, so I’ve given you lot’s of talk about how great my first month results are, so here they are straight from my little tracking spreadsheet:

TestResults.2013.01.30

Compared to the previous measurements:

  • 7cm (2.8in) off the hip
  • 11.5cm (4.5in) off the waist
  • 3.3kg (7.3lb) overall weight loss
  • 5% body fat reduction (Based on caliper measurements)
  • Waist to Hip ratio is now “Good” (was in the “Unacceptable-Average” range)
  • Waist to Height ratio is now OK as it is below 0.5 (was in the Increase Risk range)

Of course, all of that stuff is just numbers. The real evidence is in the photos I took recently, and in the results of my fitness tests:

  • Fractional improvement in resting heart rate
  • 3 extra push-ups takes me from below average to average
  • Increase plank by 21 seconds indicating a stronger core
  • Extra 5 shuttles (100 m) in the beep test, indicating aerobic improvement

Now, if an ordinary guy like me can do all of that in 30 days without really trying, just think about how much more YOU will achieve if you make a few simple yet effective and permanent changes to improve your own health and fitness!

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