Friday, January 11, 2013

Why Paleo?

Today is a good day to tackle this subject I think.  First of all let me reassure all my friends and family that I am not a zealous, crusading paleo fanatic,  preaching the ways of the caveman diet lest everyone die tomorrow and the world ends.  No... Trust me it is nothing like that.

First of all let's talk about what did not work for me in the past because I had tried a few things in the past as well.  Atkins... boy... that one was hard and I did that back in 2009 and 2010.  The biggest thing I learned from Atkins was how much of a carb addict I really was but the diet worked.  For me, it worked too well sorta in the other way.  See, even after I got through the initial indoctrination phase (which was miserable having less than 25g or carbs a day) of Atkins, that diet, with all of the protein consumption coupled with all of the heavy weight lifting and running I was doing worked awesome as an anabolic diet for me.  My strength and lean body mass went through the roof!  So I lost a lot of fat, was stronger than hell but the irony is that after always being a person with more of a wiry build all of my life, I finally had the physique that I always wanted but in truth did not need, especially as an ultrarunner.

Late 2009 after 3 moths of Atkins.
2010 hovering around 160.  I went to LT100 in 2010 at 158.  No kidding.  
It was nice being able to lift a ton of weight and have that confidence but was that really a healthy weight for me?  Was it an efficient weight for me?  And was I happy with that format of eating and lifting?  Really, not so much. Coach Weber said I was too big in 2010 when I ran Leadville and was in his words "built like brick shit house." I knew that if I wanted to do better in the sport that some changes would have to be made.

So to be honest I don't know what I did between Leadville 2010 and March 2011 but I had managed to lose weight.  (But I did gain a lot in the fall.) I stopped lifting altogether in hopes of losing mass but I don't recall exactly what I had done "diet-wise" to drop weight but I did.  By the time for the Salida Half Marathon in 2011 I was now "ultralight" and efficient.  Some thought perhaps too much.  But whatever it was had worked.

Salida,2011.  Probably low 140's. 
2011 was really not a bad year in regards to weight.  I still wanted to drop more but I went into the LT100 that year weighing 144.  A whole 14 lbs lighter than the year before.  Progress.  I was even able to remain lighter through the fall and throughout the Fall Series which really helped me then.

2012 though was a hard year and my weight wasn't consistent.  High, low... High, low... get stuck, get frustrated.  Somehow I managed to weigh in before Leadville at 147#  so up three from the previous year.  I wasn't too happy about that.

Trying to cut back what I eat really didn't work.  Cutting back on things I liked and enjoyed like sodas and some fast food every once in awhile... well that didn't work either.  And sometimes in frustration I would say screw it and eat and drink everything in sight.  I mean why not, I work really hard.  Regardless my 40+ year old metabolism would not collaborate with me and my efforts and as much as I wanted it to the "if the furnace is hot enough anything will burn," theory just did not work in my case.  Damnit.

After Leadville 2012... huge, huge HUGE weight gain.  I had majorly cut back on volume but definitely did not cut back on snacks, eating, drinking, etc.  Maybe more denial but the needle on the scale kept going up.   As an experiment... maybe my last one I started tracking every calorie in vs. every calorie out.  Meticulously I kept a food log in a small notebook that I carried with me most of the fall.  I didn't limit or eliminate any foods but worked hard to have a consistent calorie deficit if not daily then definitely weekly.  I was burning more calories than I was taking in but I was also gaining weight.  Rapidly.

One of the hardest things for an addict to face is the truth about their addiction.  Time to give up my hopes of having my cake and eating it too without any negative consequences.  I had proven to myself beyond the shadow of a doubt that controlling calories alone DID NOT WORK! I was faced with the truth that it didn't matter how much I ate, but what I ate or didn't eat that made the difference.  Damnit again!

I looked back historically in my life and made some observations from my past.  One... when I was a kid, I wasn't heavy, not by a long shot.  Even as a young adult I was super light.  As a kid in grade school I didn't know any "fat" kids at all.  Maybe a handful were big boned, maybe a little pudgy but even they were rare.  If I knew anyone who was obese it was more than likely due to a glandular issue.  This struck me as peculiar and strange.  Then to look at me now... and my activity level, how in the hell could I be heavy?  How?!

I focused on what I termed as the "traditional diet" looking at what people ate in the early 70's.  We didn't drink a ton of sodas.  And yeah I had cookies but maybe one or two a day if that and that wasn't all the time.  My mom would buy a 8 pack of Coke in the glass bottles that came in the cardboard carrier and that would last the family more than a week. (Hell I could drink that much in a day now and often would.)  We didn't have HFCS yet and fast food was a once a month treat if that.  We had cakes and pies and candy but those were more like "blue moon foods" rather than every day occurrences like now.   I'd never even heard of a bagel and Dunkin Donuts only existed in the "big city."  We ate three meals a day... we ate... food, real food.

So there it was again... the "what" and "not how much" concept...

Me as a skinny 16 year old.  I never skipped a meal and ate like crazy.  Why wasn't I heavy?
I read a lot this fall and I watched different movies, and as crazy as it sounds, I considered going vegan.  No shit!  I love veggies and a huge salad for dinner is one of my favorite things, so why not? Well, Prime Rib is why not!  16oz boneless rib eye steaks is why not!  Seafood is why not!  Time to search for another option.

Paleo... I had heard of it, thought is was sort of faddish and something just those crazy CF people did.  But as I studied and read about it more and more it made sense to me.  Well most of it anyway.  For starters, cut out all of the processed crap in the diet... two, cut out sugar especially HFCS which didn't really exist when I was younger.  No more bread, wheat, crackers, pasta, etc... this made sense to me for a lot of reasons which I will explain at a later time.  Cut out dairy.... WTF?  I love milk and cutting out milk meant giving up one of my favorite meals of all time, tomato soup, grilled cheese and two huge glasses of milk.  My number one comfort food gone.  Damnit... Oh, yeah, so no more pizza or milk shakes either... Really?

I gave my self time, plenty of time to think about it all and come to a decision.  I would definitely try paleo and give it an honest 100% (or as close to 100% as I could) effort.  The day that I implemented the diet was to be Monday 12/3/2012. I gave myself time to "enjoy life" for a last couple weeks... and I also gained more and more weight.  I have kept this a secret but I was 164 on the morning of Thanksgiving and I fault that (and myself) for my piss poor 5K that day as well.  I cut back on calories the following days but still had what I wanted and got back down to 157.4 when I started the Paleo diet.

For me... for right now it is working.  The weight is off, 143.6 this morning and I am used to it.  I don't have the mood/energy peaks and valleys throughout the day based on sugar anymore.  I eat a lot still and I eat a lot of good stuff and I have been recalibrating my sense of taste to appreciate an orange as much if not more than I used to like a Snickers bar. I love getting to eat all of the fresh veggies, as much as I want and quality steaks, chicken, and seafood. And I am noticing more and more that I am less hungry at times and it takes less food now to satisfy me.  But when I am hungry?  Watch out!

Is this something I will do forever?  I don't know.  Is it something that I think the world should embrace?  I can't say for certain.  I just know that for me, for the past several weeks, eating "real food" as opposed to what is marketed to us as "food" has made a huge difference in many ways and I am happy about that.  If for no other reason, I might be saving myself from the inconvenience of diabetes which is rampant in my mother's side of the family.  If not, hopefully I am limiting the damage.  Unfortunately I didn't escape the crazy gene of the Wooten/Jones clan though... can't dodge all the bullets I guess.  Anyhow...

So there you have it... why I did it and why I think it is working for me.  One last thing I will add in order to be transparent.... I still consume maltodextrin based products on long rides and runs.  Heed, Perpetuem or Carbo-pro but that is it. That is probably my only deviation and I do not plan to alter that through this training and racing season.

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