Continuing the thread I started last time, this post will summarize my various experimentation and resulting experiences…this time regarding nutrition.
Growing up, I ate the Standard American Diet (SAD) – cereal and skim milk for breakfast, cold cuts or peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and a home-cooked meal (cheeseburgers, chicken and veggies, pasta, etc.) for dinner. When I got home from school I’d have two microwaveable pizzas, an entire box of cookies, or another less-than-optimal snack. On weekends we’d order pizza or go out for dinner and, on more nights than not, my dad and I would make ice cream sundaes. It was enjoyable…but I was chubby, suffered from severe acne, and wasn’t particularly active.
I continued this way of eating until I discovered the world of bodybuilding in college. I learned about “clean” eating according to the governmental standards of our country. This meant I ate tons of carbs (over 50% of my daily calories), a moderate amount of protein, and low fat. I was still new to the health-world and impressionable so, every time I read a news article about risks of fat, cholesterol, salt, or meat, I’d cut back even further on these. Finally, by senior year of college I was a vegetarian – eating egg whites and oatmeal in the morning, then meals comprised of rice, quinoa, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, soy, dairy, or legumes for the rest of the day. I was miserable. I was bloated, had indigestion, suffered migraines, and experienced mood swings if I went more than 3 hours without eating. It got to a point where I was soaking my beans to remove excess salt from them and choosing medium-grain brown rice instead of long-grain because it had 1 more gram of (incomplete) protein per cup!
Two years ago, my mentor (who had been a “high-carb, low-fat” advocate) admitted he had been eating a “Paleolithic Diet” for over a year and was healthier than ever. His blood markers improved, his performance increased, and the aches-and-pains that were considered a side-effect of aging all but disappeared. I purchased The Paleo Solution, by Robb Wolf, to learn some of the science and rationale behind this alternative approach to nutrition. Robb is a strength and athletics coach with a degree in bio-molecular chemistry. I started consuming as much information from as many sources as possible and the science seemed to check out. I learned: eating cholesterol does not necessarily raise bad cholesterol levels in the blood; naturally occurring saturated fats do not “saturate” the blood resulting in blocked arteries and death; properly raised meat does not cause cancer.
I decided to have my blood work done before making any changes, and then have it done after 30 days eating “paleo”. It’s possible to cherry-pick studies to make an argument for or against anything but a blood lipid-panel would show what’s truly happening in the body. After years of eating a doctor-recommended diet of high carb, low protein, fat, cholesterol and sodium, my LDL and triglycerides were “borderline high” and my HDL was “poor”. I’ll talk more about these terms and specific numbers another time but clearly, an American Heart Association (AHA) recommended diet was not working for me. After merely 30 days of eating paleo, my LDL and triglycerides lowered to “optimal” and my HDL went up to “best”. Not only had these markers improved but my digestion was perfect, my energy levels were stable, and my body composition was better. I’ve been eating paleo for over 2 years now. I check my blood regularly and my HDL is still on the rise and my triglycerides are still dropping – both very good signs of cardiovascular health.
I don’t want to turn these posts into short stories all about me so I’m going wrap up here. In my next post I’ll talk a little bit more about optimal eating habits and the pros and cons of different nutritional approaches. I’ve certainly experienced success using the paleo diet as a starting point, but, my goal on this blog will never be to push anything onto my readers. My only intentions are to provide a combination of personal experience and science so people can have an idea of what may improve their health and well-being.
Thanks for your patience over these past two posts! I wanted you all to have an opportunity to get to know me and my history in this world of physical health. Keep in mind, health is a lifelong process and I have many years to learn and experience even more. I hope you all take the journey with me and can find some value on this site.
See you soon!