My Paleo Eating Journal

It’s such a nice feeling to walk by a mirror and go “wow”. I’ve almost lost the vacation pounds, my weigh-in this past Sunday was 139 and as of today I’m down to 138. In a few more days I’ll see if I can beat my current all-time low of 137.5. To put this in perspective, I haven’t weighed this little since 1999. It’s 5 pounds less than my original goal weight and there is no end in sight. I like that the weight loss is slow and steady, about 1 – 2 lbs per week so long as I don’t indulge. But the fun part is I *can* indulge knowing that I can “be good” for the next week and lose anything I gained in the process.

Honestly, this is just too easy!

I’ve been good this week. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream was on sale at the supermarket and I bought a tub for myself because it was such a good deal. It’s been sitting in the freezer for a few days now and I’m still gonna save it. This was unheard of in my previous life as a carboholic. Meanwhile I’ve been sticking to good, healthy foods. Bacon and eggs, pork sausages with spaghetti squash is a new favorite (I toss the squash in butter and parmesan cheese), and there’s a pork roast marinating in the fridge which I’ll cook all day tomorrow for pulled pork. A homegrown chicken is also defrosting in the fridge. Lunch today was creamy (read: high fat) hvarti cheese with almonds and grapes.

I love going against the grain and eating these foods, which I call Healthy (because they are!), that so many people think of as sinful. It is so contrary to everything our society believes about food. I was on this forum recently where we were talking about taking care of ourselves for the sake of our marriage and this one woman was ranting because she was cutting all the enjoyable foods (read: fat) out of her diet and working out all the time and even though she’d lost 35 lbs she felt it so wasn’t worth it because she was miserable. I just shook my head reading about her weight loss plan. It doesn’t have to be that hard, people!! Okay, I’m a bit zealous given me and my husband’s amazing results from this diet (he’s lost over 40 pounds, and he doesn’t exercise at all!) but it just makes me feel sad for people who, like this woman, are resenting every trip to the gym, every calorie they pass up, every food that is truly satiating…if only they knew.

Here’s a radical suggestion to anybody who’s open to it. Forget the calorie counting, forget regimented workouts (though a good brisk walk outside a few times a week will do you wonders), say Yes to bacon (from pastured pigs) and eggs (farm fresh from pastured chickens), pour on some more olive oil, fry what you’re eating in coconut oil or butter…just cut out the carbs (they’re okay in moderation, it’s not a death sentence for dessert) and the crappy fats (stick to pastured animal fats, coconut and avocado oils) and watch the pounds fall off. I wish I’d discovered this years ago, but better late than never. Now I just wanna shout it to the world!…. but people like that are obnoxious. ;-p

A couple of weeks ago my weekly weigh-in revealed an exciting development. For the first time in over 10 years my weight has sunk into the 130’s. At first I thought it may have been a fluke, but I maintained that weight over the next week until we headed off on a camping trip. There I indulged in pancakes, beer, chips, and other naughty things. Upon my return I found I’d gained only a couple of pounds and already after a few days back on my normal diet the weight is dropping again and I should be back in the 130’s by next week’s weigh-in. My new low is 137.5 and we’ll see if I can get even lower than that as the weeks roll by. I feel great, and as I’ve said before if I go no lower I don’t mind at all. But I can’t get this thought out of my mind that I have slowly been gaining weight since my late twenties, and with no real explanation for that, other than the slow creep of hidden carbs. And, I’ve said this before too – it’s still amazing to me that my sweet tooth has been tamed, and that I continue to lose weight while eating satisfying healthy fats like those in nuts and meats. With a freezer full of home-grown chicken and a huge batch of pork coming in October when our pigs are processed, we’re looking ahead to continuing with this wonderful eating lifestyle. Bring on the Bacon!

So I thought I had reached a plateau with my weight loss, but I weighed myself yesterday to find I’d lost another 2 pounds. After the beer and ice cream of the previous week’s vacation I was really sick of sweets (god, did I ever believe those words would come out of my mouth? no!) and stuck to my usual eating habits this past week. And whattaya know? I lost weight.

As I’ve said many times before, 142 lbs has been my “ideal weight” for years, as it was the lowest I could get with previous diet plans without starving myself. Those plans hadn’t been working for the last couple of years anyway, but still in my mind that was a good goal weight. I’m sitting at 140 lbs as of this morning and faced with the possibility that I could actually sink into the 130’s for the first time since 1999, when a broken relationship finally crumbled and sent me into a depression-fuelled 25 lb weight loss (nothing like cigarettes and loss of appetite to keep a girl’s figure) that didn’t last long anyways. I think the last time I was consistently under 140 must have been in the early ’90s. I haven’t even been doing any exercise, since the dog pulled a tendon a couple weeks ago and I’ve been reluctant to overdo it with her. We just started going for walks again on Saturday.

One last word, relating to my sugar comment above. Last night I wasn’t hungry around dinner time but later that evening I was, and I decided to go for the easiest snack around at the time – a bowl of my daughter’s Gorilla Munch cereal (basically Corn Pops with an environmental twist to the marketing). It was sheer laziness plus the dim memory of enjoying sweet cereals and figuring I could afford such a cheat. I very soon regretted it, my tummy was not feeling happy and frankly I didn’t even enjoy it while I was eating it. This from a girl who spent almost 10 years starting off most mornings with a heaping bowl of Frosted Mini-Wheats. The thought of that now makes me feel ill. I love that.

After my holiday cheat week I was surprised to discover that I hadn’t, in fact, gained any weight. I’m still holding steady at 142 (or 142.5 – it seems to vary and I’m certain at this point that my scale is not accurate to less than a pound). I’ve also been on a big fruit kick this week with all the lovely summer fruits in season right now.

I’m pretty happy with my eating these days and I feel like I may have reached a plateau in terms of weight loss. I’m not sure I’m going to lose any more weight unless I start making some more changes to things, but on the other hand the “carb trap” can lead to slow and steady weight gain that takes years to show up (this may partly explain why we continue to gain weight even after we stop growing in height). It’s possible that my weight loss has simply slowed. If I was wanting to push things I would tweak my diet to be even more Paleo: cutting down on my fruit intake and replacing some of my nuts-and-seeds meals with animal fats. But I’m not going to do that because I feel fantastic in my body these days and I’m enjoying the foods I eat (and the little cheats along the way). I feel like I’m eating in a way that is totally sustainable (in the sense that I’m not missing out on things that I’ll ultimately be tempted to go back to; I’m not being deprived of any wonderful foods that I can’t enjoy in moderation) and that has to be the ultimate mark of success for any change in diet.

According to this online calculator, my BMI is now a healthy 22.9 which puts me in the normal range. However, from that point on the information online gets confusing. The same website says I’m in the 19th percentile for BMI according to my age. However, according to this site my ideal weight is 133 lbs. That would put my BMI at 21.5. Hard to imagine that over 80% of women my age have a higher BMI and yet I could still stand to lose another 10 lbs. Nevertheless, ultimately I think we have to rely on our own sense of how we feel in our body in order to determine where we are with our weight. Averages are just that, and we can’t all be sitting on the median either. I feel great these days, and if this is as far as it goes I’m very happy.

I just came back from a holiday spent with two families that are dear friends of ours. We decided to do meal sharing where each family would responsible for one breakfast and one dinner to feed 14 people. Of those 14 people two eat no grains/potatoes/beans (me and hubby), two are on a gluten-free/casein-(dairy)-free diet (my kids), one is gluten-free, and five eat no pork or beef. However, it all went well and it was surprisingly easy to accommodate everybody’s needs. On our breakfast day we whipped up a batch of 2 dozen farm-fresh eggs, 2 pounds of our home-raised bacon, 1/2 pound of turkey bacon, and two lots of hash browns – one made from potatoes and the other from jicama (it was supposed to be all jicama but one of them turned out to be rotten inside). Our dinner was kabobs done on the BBQ: pork in a mango chutney/lime marinade, beef in teriyaki marinade, and chicken in teriyaki marinade, with zucchini, peppers, and mushrooms.

I confess I cheated a little. I had a wee bit of rice on Thai curry chicken night, I had a small serving of potato salad on BBQ salmon night, I had ice cream (burgandy cherry – my favorite!) on two nights, and on my paleo cereal with yogurt I had cherry jam (homemade with fresh cherries brought down from the Okanagan). So a bit more sugar than I would normally do, and a few nibbles of rice/potatoes here and there. Oh, and I drank a couple of beers and some amazing fresh mango daquiris. But nothing too major. I will weigh myself tomorrow morning in place of yesterday’s scheduled weigh-in. I won’t be surprised if I’ve gained a pound or so, but it will be easily shed now that we are back home again.

One of the things I really appreciate about being on this type of eating plan is that it’s a free choice, and that means I’m free to cheat too. I don’t have dietary or health issues that make me pay later for cheating. For example, one of the adults in our group who is gluten-free gets panic attacks and insomnia when she eats wheat: a pretty intense motivator to stay true to her eating plan! My kids are on the sort of diet that there simply cannot be any compromise with (at least not right now during the elimination stage) and that makes it so very much harder (for them and me, who has to find replacements for everything they can’t have that others get). But for me I know I can indulge in the occasional cheat and suffer no consequences. The truth is I don’t crave any foods and I don’t miss many either, although having them around can be hard (like when one of our friends made his famous crepes for breakfast, served with nutella!), but I’m so happy to have shed the pounds that it’s keeping me on the straight and narrow. Most importantly, I have finally figured out what makes me fat in the first place, so if I do get sloppy and the weight starts to creep up I’ll know exactly what to do to get it back down again. It’s a great feeling of control over my body and my weight, and I’m so happy to have found the key to all of this for me.

Weekly Weigh-In: 142 lbs

Thoughts: I did it. I made it to my “goal weight”. This is the weight that, for the past 12 years, has been my “ideal weight”. I could achieve it by “being good” but didn’t have to go hungry to do so. Still, I have to confess that I have not been able to maintain it for very long, probably because my sugar addiction made it pretty impossible for me to forgo the “good stuff” for very long. But here I am, and it feels great.

My weight loss has definitely slowed over the last few weeks, but I understand this is normal. Especially as I approach what I feel to be a good weight for me. From this point on I’ll be thrilled as punch if I just maintain this weight, but I’m curious to see where my body will finally settle. Meanwhile I’m going off to celebrate by having an illicit Egg McMuffin for breakfast (well, it’s the illicit English Muffin that is cheat part; I never have the cheese because fake cheese is disgusting)!

 

My mother is a fan of the the Cabbage Soup Diet. Every now and then she does a week-long trial of this in order to shed a few pounds. It’s bad enough that my mother buys into the idea that this is a healthy thing to do, but to top it off she is blessed with a perfect figure and probably couldn’t be overweight if she tried. She was an absolute knockout when she was younger and, at age 75, she is still one hot lady (sadly, being adopted, I was not graced with her perfect-body genes). Anyways, she’s considering another bout of this diet (she does it when she feels she has been overindulging in rich foods, usually after travelling, even though if she has gained weight you’d need a microscope to see it) and it motivated me to write this post.

There are a zillion of these diets out there. They tend to have two things in common, a strict eating regimen that often focuses on one or two limited foods (cabbage soup, anyone?), and the fact that they are meant to be followed for a limited time only (usually 1 to 2 weeks).

I have a real problem with these rapid weight loss plans. If you can only follow a diet for one or two weeks that tells me it does not contain all the necessary ingredients for optimal nutrition. Otherwise why not adopt such a diet permanently? Which makes it then pretty obvious that the only reason you are losing weight is because you are entering into an acute stage of caloric deprivation. Anybody can drop 10 pounds in a week or two if they cut their food intake enough. Isn’t that what we refer to as “starvation”? My mother argues that she isn’t starving on this diet. She can eat all the fruits she wants, and (on certain days) can even indulge in all the vegetables she wants. I think that pretty much confirms what I was saying. Just because you can eat something ad libitum doesn’t mean you’ve given your body enough calories (celery sticks, anyone?).

But wait, doesn’t Gary Taubes (and the Paleo folks) argue that “calories in, calories out” is not a sufficient formula for weight loss? Well yes, but they are not talking starvation levels of calorie restriction. Nobody can deny that, with enough calorie cutting, you are going to cause weight loss. Diets like the Cabbage Diet, which are only meant for a short time and promote rapid weight loss, are almost always significantly calorie-reduced. Just because you can eat all the carrot sticks (or cabbage soup) you want doesn’t make it anything less than a starvation diet. Which is the main reason these diets are of limited duration (that, plus their nutritional deficiencies).

But even with these diets it can be argued that carbohydrate restriction is a key factor in their success. In fact, the closer you look at all the various diets out there, short-term or long-term, the more you realize that a variable many people aren’t considering as a contributing factor to weight loss is carbohydrate restriction. One glance at the Cabbage Soup 7 Day Plan confirms that it is, among other things, very low in carbs.

This argument can even be applied to most long-term diets that are based on lowering fat intake. Consider that fat contains more calories per gram than either protein or carbs (9 vs. 4, respectively). So it’s possible to replace each gram of fat with twice the grams of carbs and/or protein and still come out with less caloric intake than you were eating before. Add to that the inclusion of lowered protein (plant sources contain less protein per gram than animal sources, which are vilified in some low-fat diets) and you’ve reduced calories further. To finalize, top it all off with a concomitant increase in physical activity (the whole “Eat Less, Move More” campaign says it all) and your net calories are reduced by even more. It could be argued then, that a low-fat diet is really a low-calorie diet and that’s why it works.

Still, are these then starvation diets? No. I just wanted to make the point that cutting out fat often means cutting calories, which sheds doubt on fat being the critical variable in the diet. But according to Taubes’ followers the calorie-reduction inherent in such diets is a non-issue. What matters is that virtually all low-fat diets also cut carbs, and to a greater extent than they cut fat. This was Taubes’ main point in his article Why Diets Work.

Consider the typical North American diet: heavy on the sugars and refined carbs. Unless you started out on a normal, healthy diet that didn’t include these culprits (and if you ate that way it’s doubtful you would have significant weight or health problems), chances are just by cutting out those two ingredients you will experience weight loss regardless of what diet you choose to follow. Also consider that many fatty foods also contain sugar (donuts, anyone?), so going low-fat when it comes to processed foods and baked goods will also necessarily reduce carb consumption. So when your average North American starts a diet, he/she is adding another variable into the weight-loss equation from the get-go: a reduction in sugar and refined carbohydrates. It could be that this is more important than the diet itself.

But let’s take this further. Taubes argues that any diet which restricts or reduces caloric intake will preferentially reduce carbohydrate intake relative to that of protein and fat because it tends to dominate the diet in the first place (i.e. 20% of a big number is larger than 20% of a smaller number). In fact, in his article Taubes points out a number of studies that compared low-fat diets to low-carb diets which concluded there was no significant difference in weight loss, but the authors failed to emphasize the fact that those on the low-carb diets had no caloric restrictions whereas those on the low-fat diets did (from that information alone which would you choose?). So the low-fat diets, due to calorie restriction, also included a reduction in carbohydrates too. Finally, consider that the carbs doing the replacing of fat in low-fat diets are usually unrefined, such as grains and potatoes, with a lower glycemic index. Compare this to what the person was likely eating before the diet and, even with the allowed carbs, they are better off than when they started.

To summarize this post, what is being argued by Taubes and others is that diets work in only one of two ways. Either you lose weight due to acute starvation (i.e. significant caloric reduction, which is not the same thing as restricting food intake – consider the all-you-can-eat non-starchy veggie allowances). Or you lower carbohydrate intake (or, at the very least, switch from refined carbs to low glycemic-index carbs). This has all gotten me very interested in analyzing the different diets out there and figuring out if anybody is on a low-fat diet and losing weight without cutting their carbohydrate consumption in the process (or drastically reducing their net calorie consumption).

 

The Basics

My way of eating is based on a Paleo/Primal diet and is comprised mainly of saturated animal fat (grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, butter), nuts and seeds (almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, coconut, pumpkin seeds) and their oils (coconut oil, avocado oil) and lots of vegetables and fruit. I eat virtually no sugar (other than that contained naturally in fruit), potatoes or sweet potatoes, beans or legumes, and no grains or grain products.

Weight Loss Tracker

Start date: May 13, 2011
Total weight loss (updated every Sunday): 19.5 lbs