Jun 122012
 

The 12 Mile Creek Half Marathon is a small race that takes place in the city of St. Catharines. It is organized by the St. Catharines Road Runners and Walkers club. This year it took place on June 2nd, and it was my second time running the race. This entitled me to have my name printed on the back of the shirt, which lists all returning runners. This race is actually my favorite, and I’ll be going back there year after year.

There are few reasons why I like the race so much. It is a fairly small event, with only about 100 participants. The race takes place on single-track and gravel trails, in a fairly scenic environment along 12 Mile Creek. Most races have a defining landmark, and this one is no different. The landmark I’m talking about is Hydro Hill, a 600m uphill portion at the 11 mile mark of the race. The payoff is at the top of the hill: great view of the whole region down to lake Ontario, and a strong feeling of accomplishment.

I decided to do this race on an empty stomach, and did not carry any water or gels. More explanation on how this affected me at the end.

Here is a summary of the various stages of the race:

Stage 1 – Start line and run around the bagpiper: The race starts on Lockhart Drive, heading West toward the Windermere Road intersection. At the intersection, we do a turnaround heading East, trying to get as close as possible to the bagpiper that plays at the start of each race.

Stage 2 – Head on downhill, mind the rocks: The second stage of the race starts right after the piper, and it is mostly downhill, continuing East along Lockhart Drive (paved), past the finish line, and down the single-track off-road trail through the woods. This year the race took place after a very rainy day and the track was really muddy and fairly treacherous. I made it through without any injuries though, and stopped at the first water station around the 1.5 mile mark for a quick drink.

Stage 3 – Gravel, gravel everywhere: The third stage is the longest as you wind your way on the Merritt Trail along the river. The first 2 miles are rolling, but nothing too extreme. At around the 3 mile mark there is another water station and the trail goes over the 406 highway. The flyover is pretty long and somewhat steep, so pace yourself. The next three miles are rolling, mostly downhill, but there is a mile long gentle uphill section right up to the turnaround point, where runners are treated to alcoholic beverages in addition to water. There is another water/snack station before the turnaround, at about the 5 mile mark, where they have chocolates, fruit, and other light snacks. I did not partake this year.

Stage 4 – Deja-vu: Basically the same route, but backwards, a few more uphills along the highway, but the flyover is now downhill, so carry on. Pee breaks may be had in the woods adjacent to the trail, but beware people walking their dogs. Also take care not to go off on the side trail at the bottom of the flyover. It can be easy to lose track of which way the course is heading.

Stage 5 – Not this again: At the 9 mile mark, we are headed back onto the single-track trail, going mostly uphill this time, which is a bit safer with all the mud. The trail ends at Lockhart Drive and there is great temptation to just call it quits as you pass the finish line on the way to Hydro Hill.

Stage 6 – Still uphill: Hydro Hill is pretty grueling, but not impossible, so run or walk your way to the top, while you enjoy the fresh air and great views to the North.

Stage 7 – Brock University and another single-track: At the top of the hill, you turn left towards Brock University on a trail that eventually ends at University Road West. A short jaunt on asphalt is in order to the end of University Road and Alphie’s Lane. The next trail starts around here, but make sure you follow the signs. The track through the woods is mostly downhill, but caution is needed as there are lots of exposed roots and rocks. It is tempting to get lazy here and let gravity carry you, but keep at it and you’ll come out of the woods safely.

Stage 8 – Downhill to the finish line: Once out of the woods, you meet Hydro Hill again, except this time you’re headed downhill. Feel free to embrace gravity and let ‘er rip. I gained two spots this way, from people who didn’t have enough in the tank. Turn left on Lockhart Drive, which is also downhill, and you can almost smell the finish line. If you’re slow like me, you’ll be seeing people that are finished and leaving. Don’t forget to smile and wave. The finish line is on the right in a field, and it is a sweet sight. Give ‘er all you got and finish. Snacks, beverages, beer, and entertainment await the successful finisher, along with complementary towel to wipe off the salt deposits.

That’s about all that I can say about the race itself, but here are some personal impressions. I used the Vibram Five Finger shoes for this race, but they proved to be a pretty poor choice. They had little traction in the mud, and my feet were fairly sore when I finished the race due to lack of cushioning in the sole. I don’t know if I would wear regular running shoes though, I just have to find a better model of VFF meant for trail running, or other minimalistic shoes. I also ran on an empty stomach until mile 11 where my dear wife was waiting for me with a gel. I’m glad I didn’t take it with me because I would have consumed it long before I really needed it. I was hit with a loss of energy around mile 8, which cost me a few minutes, and I was relying on the water station having Gatorade, which they didn’t.

My time was around the 2:30 mark, which is 9 minutes faster than last year. The official race results below say that I finished in 2:28, but when I went past the finish line the clock said 2:30. I don’t know why there should be a 2 minute discrepancy, keeping in mind that we were not wearing chips to track time, and the there was no delay at the start. Overall race results are below.

Race Results

 Posted by at 11:19 AM
Apr 052012
 

This is a bit of a public service announcement and a request for assistance.

My wife and I have been consuming raw milk since November, and I am thoroughly convinced that raw, unpasteurized milk that comes from grass-fed cows is one of nature’s superfoods. The milk is literally alive with beneficial bacteria and has a much higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than pasteurized milk. Raw milk is not processed in any way, there are no additives, and is just plain tasty to boot.

One of Canada’s raw milk producers, Michael Schmidt, is currently undergoing trial, again, for providing his customers with the option to consume raw milk, and raw milk products. Here in Canada we do not have the right to eat what we please, lest we harm our poor, defenceless, ignorant selves. The government of Canada, with the help of milk industry lobbyists, has been fighting raw milk producers on all fronts, with complete and utter disregard of the will of the people.

I do not argue that drinking raw milk from factory milk operations is harmful, even poisonous. However, dedicated raw milk producers do not face the same challenges as the rest of the milk industry, such as infected udders and cattle that sleep in their own feces. There have been no cases of food poisoning from clean raw milk, and this alone should prove its safety, but “common wisdom” prevails in the halls of Parliament and other places that house legislative bodies.

Raw milk producers and consumers are willing to open the discussion and fund research to prove the safety and nutritional superiority of raw milk. The Canadian Consumer Raw Milk Advocacy Group (a bit of a mouthful, I know) is one of the organizations that is spearheading the effort. Please take some time to visit the site linked above and sign the petition if you believe, as I do, that Canadians should be able to choose what they use for nourishment. Also, please contact your MP and MPP to make them aware of this discussion.

Also, please use the comment section for questions or comments.

 Posted by at 8:47 AM
Mar 292012
 

I’ve decided to start a series of articles focused on exposing deleterious influences on our bodies. The first topic will be about not exercising, which is not to be confused with “not exercising enough”. I’d like to talk a bit about not exercising “at all”.

This one is a bit of a no-brainer because the effects of sedentary lifestyles can be seen in all cultures: increased waistlines, sleep apnea, lack of energy, and decreased sex drive are only a few examples. Exercise causes the body to go through a renewal process, which keeps everything “like new”. Cells break down and get replaced at a much faster rate in a body that gets plenty of exercise. One of the studies about this subject shows that the bodies of men who get regular resistance training will behave vastly different after exercise than the bodies of untrained men after exercise, as related to apoptosis (programmed cell death). Insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) levels are much higher in trained men after exercise. IGF-1 regulates levels of growth hormone in the body, which is one of the principal hormones that helps the body repair itself. So if you exercise regularly, you are much better equipped to recover after a bout of intense exercise.

The analogy that immediately comes to mind is the relationship between a car’s engine and the gas tank. The gas tank is used to store gasoline, which is a store of energy, just like body fat. The engine uses the energy in gasoline to propel the car, just like the body uses fat to stay alive. If you leave your car in the driveway for a year without starting it up once in a while, it will be very hard to start, and the engine will take a while to get going at the same efficiency level as before. The human body is no different and if you live a sedentary lifestyle, your engine (muscle mass) is not being used.

When you start exercising, it will take a while to get going at first, your engine needs a tune up and some cleaning. If, on the other hand, you keep your engine tuned up, it will be much easier to get going and, more importantly, to keep going without breaking down.

This is why I recommend resistance training at least twice a week, with some light exercise interspersed for good measure. I’ve personally had a bit of a break in my exercise routine lately due to some minor complications in my life, but I felt much better when I exercised regularly and I can see the difference now, even when doing something simple like walking up a flight of stairs.

 Posted by at 10:31 AM
Feb 032012
 

Three months have passed since I started this little experiment, eating a diet composed mainly of animal protein, fat, and some carbohydrate. I have been adding some carbs back into the diet after the initial restriction. These are mostly root vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, and carrots. The chart below shows the changes, but there are about 2.5 lbs missing, which is due to water loss.

Start Now Change
Weight 233.6 223.8 -9.8lbs
Fat 29.2% = 68.21lbs 27.3% = 61.10lbs -7.11lbs
Muscle 78lbs 78lbs 0lbs
Bone 10.3lbs 10.3lbs 0lbs

I am pretty happy with this change, but I was expecting a bit more weight loss. I will continue in this direction because this has been the most successful diet I’ve tried in the past 2 years. The food I’m eating is also pretty tasty and nutritious. Who would want a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast when eggs and bacon are on the menu? The choice is pretty clear in my mind.

The most amazing outcome of the diet is that I’ve started eating raw milk from grass-fed cows, as well as grass-fed and finished beef, pork, lamb, poultry and eggs. These animal products are much more nutritious than their industrially farmed counterparts, and the animals are treated ethically, which is a big plus.

I would recommend the Paleo/Primal/Archevore diet to anyone, and I think the most important component of all these diets is the elimination of wheat and other grains. Getting rid of wheat has helped my digestion tremendously, and I have unsurpassed levels of energy. These were not transient changes as seen with other diets.

I hope that my little experiment will inspire some of those who read this to try it out. The only thing you have to lose is fat :)

 Posted by at 10:32 AM
Jan 132012
 

My first run-in with the fivefinger shoes was about a year ago when I was thinking about starting running. My wife was reading a lot of running magazines and Vibram had ads in most of them. When I first saw them I thought they were a stupid idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted a pair. My wife started on the other side of the equation, wanting a pair at first, then changing her opinion because “they look funny”.

This past December, after some time being exposed to the Primal theory, I’ve decided that I’d like my feet to be as free and natural as possible. I went and bought a pair of Komodosport foot gloves and haven’t looked back. I also took the prescription orthotics out of my regular shoes which I have because I got a bad case of plantar fasciitis during my very first half marathon. The orthotics did help a lot, and the inflammation has not returned, but I’d like to train and strengthen my feet against this condition without artificial support.

I’ve gone on three short runs with the Vibrams, which is not a lot to form a complete opinion, but I’ve been dying to write this review. I’ve also worn them as casual shoes for walking around and driving, and even attended lots of Crossfit classes with them, so the running was not my only activity in them. My overall impression is that they’re well made, sturdy, and perfect for a range of applications from walking to running to doing push-ups.

Regarding my three runs in them, I tried going for 2 miles (3km) during my first run, which went great, but I could not walk for the next 5 days. My calves felt completely shredded and it was quite difficult to move around. The second run was only 1.5 miles (2km) and that felt a lot better, though I still got some pain. My third run was 2 miles again and the pain experienced in the days following was minimal to none. I will now attempt to increase my mileage as I’m training for a 5 mile race in February. Hopefully I have acclimatized to the shoes and I’ll just have minimal pain post-run.

This pain is due to the different posture needed to use the FiveFinger shoes properly. Casual runners have the habit of striking the ground with their heels first, followed by a push-off with the toes. The Vibrams will not allow this movement and will require a mid or fore-foot strike. That means that you have to land on the anterior part of the foot, using your calves to cushion your landing, and the heel will barely touch the ground. This is the natural running posture of humans because it requires the least amount of energy. Movement is achieved not through the push of muscles, but through gravity. Basically, all you need to do to achieve movement is lean forward and gravity will take care of the rest. Here is a good video describing the natural running posture:

This posture will cause stress on the calf muscles though, and since most runners’ calves are under-developed due to heel-strike running, it will lead to painful muscle tears if you try doing too much too soon. Thankfully, this side-effect of using the Vibrams is counter-balanced by the feeling of unlimited speed and complete freedom that you have in the shoes. I thought I’d be able to fly if I really put my mind to it, achieving a speed of 8mph almost effortlessly. For me, this is quite good as I’m a slow runner on the best of days.

For those of you that skipped to the end, here’s a detailed itemized list of what I liked, and didn’t like, about these shoes:

The good

  • perfect fit for my feet
  • easy to put on and take off
  • enough insulation so that your feet don’t freeze (if you’re running outside in the winter)
  • the sole goes up on the toes, providing some support for various activities
  • the sole has good grip on slippery surfaces
  • they’re designed to not allow foreign matter to get in the shoes
  • they are a great conversation starter

The bad

  • you have to go to a store that sells them in order to make sure they fit your feet
  • they are kind of pricey (I paid $120 CAD, taxes in, for my pair)
  • they will require a gradual build-up for running in order to avoid injury

The ugly

  • they are a little weird looking
  • you will get looks if you wear them in public
  • people will approach you and ask about them
    • don’t worry though, you’ll make friends this way

So that’s about it for the review. I really like these shoes and I can’t wait to go outside and run some more. I hope the review has been useful and that I’ll hear about your experiences with the Vibram FiveFingers in the comments, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

 Posted by at 9:56 AM
Jan 032012
 

Happy 2012 everyone! I’d like to talk a bit about resolutions, since it’s that time of the year again.

With each turn of the calendar there’s so many people that make resolutions to “better” themselves, such as quitting smoking, alcohol, caffeine, saving money, or losing weight. Regarding this last group, most of them flock to the gyms to start the road to keeping their weight-loss resolutions. There’s just something magical about New Year that gives us this idea that we can start fresh. It’s a big milestone in the year and it basically represents point zero for the next 12 months. The trouble with resolutions is that most people who make resolutions on January 1st will not be able to keep them past February. If you attend a gym regularly, you’ll know what I’m talking about: can’t get a machine on January 5th, but by mid-February it’s all back to normal. Some of the new members stick around, but most just quit after realizing that weight loss isn’t easy, at least not the way they’re doing it.

I made my own resolution two years ago, on January 1st, 2010. At that point I was at my heaviest weight of 275lbs and I’d had enough of not being able to enjoy life. I also didn’t like that the Wii Fit system kept calling me obese. I had trouble fitting in airplane and roller-coaster seats. I realized that I became “that fat guy”. This led me to set a resolution to lose weight. Thankfully, I am one of the people who stick to their resolutions and I’m happy to say that on January 1st, 2012 I weighed 224lbs, a full 51lbs lighter than two years ago.

I’ve still got a long way to go before hitting my goal, at least another year of slow fat loss, but I am so happy to be at this point. I also realized in the past few months that weight loss doesn’t have to be hard. The latest holiday season passed without any weight gain, which made me really confident that I can conquer this problem. Having passed the 50lb milestone also makes me happy, mainly for achieving part of my goals.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me, but I have a more positive outlook on life. The more weight I lose, the bigger my grin gets. This positive attitude is also mirrored in the way other people interact with me, which is also more positive and open.

But enough about me, the question is did you make a New Year’s resolution? If so what is it? Do you have a plan to succeed? What’s your time frame to success? Is the time frame realistic? Please share your experiences with resolutions, weight-loss or otherwise, in the comments, Facebook, or Twitter.

Dec 282011
 

‘Tis the season to gain weight!

Starting at Thanksgiving, we all begin making excuses about what we put in our mouths. This attitude lasts from October (for Canadians) or November (for Americans) to after New Year. The gorging on turkey, ham, stuffing, yams, potatoes, and pies leads us to make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, which usually end in failure, only to do it all over again the next year.

How can we safely tread this dangerous minefield of goodies that is the winter holiday season? To me, the answer is quite simple: nothing changes. Just because we’re celebrating some arbitrary holiday(s) does not mean we should gorge ourselves into a food coma.

On Christmas eve I ate ham, spinach salad, and baked potatoes. On Christmas day I ate turkey, carrots and sweet potatoes. Breakfast consisted of eggs with bacon or ham. Snacks were beef jerky, clementines, and some chocolates. I did not gain any weight with this diet, nor did I feel hungry or deprived. Everyone around me was eating stuffing, dinner rolls, sweet bread, and cookies. I felt no need or cravings for these other foods and just stuck to meat, greens, and root veggies. I did make a concession for chocolate, but I did not eat as much as last year, when I gorged on all kinds of sweets.

My main point with this article is that there is no need for willpower if we eat real foods that fill us up and do not cause appetite stimulation. Why indulge in foods that make us sick after we eat them? There is no benefit, except a momentary one to our taste buds.

Dec 212011
 

 

It is very important to conduct scientific experiments/research that produce relevant results. For instance, pharmaceutical companies conduct drug tests to ensure their poisons are effective. They need to get significant results (the drug produces a measurable effect) in order to convince the FDA, Health Canada, and other regulatory bodies to let them market their products as cures for whatever ailments are afflicting humanity. There are some people and companies who are actually doing good research and I don’t want to take away from them, but most research is motivated by financial gains (not bad in itself), not by providing cures.

There are also epidemiological and observational studies which are aimed at extracting meaning about something (disease, addiction, etc) from a large population. For instance, “what is the rate of diabetes in the province of Ontario?” would be a research question in an epidemiological study. These studies are meaningful in order to determine truths about populations, but there are so many variables in play that researchers cannot draw conclusions from their observations. The numbers usually represent averages, and we all know that the average human being has one testicle and one breast.

The China Study (1 & 2) is one of the largest observational studies in existence. Many books have been written based on the observations in the study, most of them drawing irrelevant conclusions from the numbers. Some of them even skew the numbers to fit their pre-conceived notions. Denise Minger did a great critique of one of these books, which is available here.

My point is that we cannot look at observational studies and give prescriptional advice that is applicable to other populations which weren’t studied. So, why did I name my article “n=1 experiments are relevant”? Well, for the simple reason that experiments with one’s own body can reveal relevant information for that particular body. That is to say if I do something to change my lifestyle, and that change causes me to feel better or worse, that is relevant to me. Someone who has peanut allergies may eat a peanut to test how allergic they are (I don’t recommend this by the way), and it turns out to cause severe anaphylactic shock. That experiment on one person (n=1) is quite relevant. As it turns out, that particular experiment and its results can be reproduced in the rest of the population, generating meaningful results.

Even if an experiment cannot be reproduced in the rest of the population, its results are meaningful to that one person undergoing the experiment. There is tremendous bias when doing an experiment such as this, but the results are what they are. In the example above, the person eating the peanut knows it will produce an allergic reaction (bias), the only question is the severity of the reaction (result), which can be quite objective.

The same applies to people undergoing lifestyle changes. They probably expect a change for the better, else they would not be undergoing the change. This bias may carry them through the first stages of the experiment, but meaningful results will eventually emerge after the initial “high” is gone.

My personal n=1 experiment is one of many with the same theme, and so far I’ve had quite relevant results. My original goal was to lose weight, which I did, but this has plateaued recently. Instead of being discouraged, I realized that the goal should be to improve health, not just to lose weight. I realize weight loss will come slowly, as healthy weight loss is wont to do. In the meantime I’ve made the following observations through eating whole foods and eliminating wheat:

  • I don’t feel “hunger” any more unless I don’t eat for 24h+
  • My body composition is changing despite lack of weight loss
  • I consume between 1700 and 2300 calories daily, without counting
  • I have constant energy, not spikes and lows
  • I sleep uninterrupted and I’m not thirsty during the night
  • I don’t have food cravings or the need to binge

Basically, my body is getting to a state of natural homeostatis, similar to that of hunter-gatherer traditional people. These observations are not limited to my own experiment, and many other people experience these changes when switching to whole foods, full fat alternatives, and eliminating grains. Science hasn’t really caught up to us, but I’m sure it will, if only to disprove our findings.

 Posted by at 10:56 AM
Dec 152011
 

 

This post is a look back at how far I’ve come since starting this new way of eating and living 8 weeks ago. I’ve come to realize that the scale is not to be trusted if the goal is beyond simple weight loss. I’ve also come to realize that high intensity training 2-3 times per week can be more advantageous than just low intensity training 4-5 times per week. Since the start of my weight loss journey I’ve actually lost about 9lbs of lean mass (muscle and bone) while using jogging as my main fitness activity. I used to jog 4 times per week, for about 15-20miles (24-32km) of total distance. I understand losing 1lb of bone mass as less bone is required to support my decreasing weight, but I also lost 8lbs of muscle mass. Since starting CrossFit in October, I’ve gained back 2lbs of that lost muscle, which will help me burn through the rest of the fat a bit faster. I’m also gaining flexibility, balance, and functional strength that was simply unachievable through cardio-type activities alone.

Without further ado, here are the numbers. You’ll notice that something doesn’t add up in the “change” column, but remember that some of these numbers do overlap a bit. For instance, if all numbers are added up (fat + water + muscle + bone), the total is way beyond 227lbs (over 270 actually). So the water number should be taken with a grain of salt. Beyond that, the other numbers show a good trend. Even the bone mass decline means that I’m actually losing weight and my body is changing its composition to deal with the decrease.

Start Now Change
Weight 233.6 227.6 -6lbs
Fat 29.2% = 68.21lbs 27.3% = 62.13lbs -6.08lbs
Water 50.5% = 117.97lbs 52.3% = 119.03lbs +1.06lbs
Muscle 78lbs 80lbs +2lbs
Bone 10.3lbs 10.1 -0.2lbs

 

 Posted by at 9:16 AM
Dec 092011
 

 

First, a bit about myself:

As a person who has always struggled with losing weight, I have tried many diets and read many diet books. My initial struggles with weight-loss stemmed from having a poor body image, but that aspect has been getting better in the past few years. I am not, and never was, an Adonis, but a 190lb, 6 foot tall male should not think he is overweight. My weight fluctuated from 165lbs up to 275lbs in the past 8 years, and now down to about 225 (to keep it rounded). This kind of change is quite unhealthy and was mainly due to psychological issues and a poor diet. I got over the psychological issues, but my eating habits left a lot to be desired.

This brings us to the diet books and nutritional mis-information that are rife in our society. One day fruit is good for you, next day you have to avoid it like the plague; red meat can kill you, but don’t forget about iron deficiency; fish is full of mercury, but you need omega-3s. This kind of yo-yoing by the diet gurus is quite confusing, especially to someone who is trying to lose the weight. Sure, the right information is out there, but it’s not very easy to disseminate and understand unless you have a scientific background.

The first “real food” diet that I tried was the “Raw Food Detox” diet from the book by the same name, written by Natalia Rose. This detox diet, like all other cleansing diets, was very effective in the short term. It has enough variety – you are allowed to eat from all food groups – and the results are pretty much instantaneous. The catch is that food must be consumed in combinations, and meat is to be kept to a minimum, with fish being the preferred source of animal protein. The diet calls for consumption of brown or wild rice, whole grains, any quantity of legumes, nuts, nut butters, some dairy, fruit and vegetables. The combination part is that one must eat carbohydrates with fats or fats with protein, but never carbohydrates with protein at the same meal. Also, meals should be had in 4 hour intervals because it is thought that this is how long it takes a meal to exit the stomach if food is eaten in the right combination.

This way of eating is pretty cumbersome because you must always have food on hand and you must always allow 4 hours for the stomach contents to be pushed through before putting anything else in there. The latter part gets hard due to inevitable blood sugar drop and subsequent hunger pangs. The detox part comes after a few days and it takes the form of some weird intestinal bug. It doesn’t last long and the feeling that follows is one of being clean on the inside, which is not at all bad. I would recommend this way of eating for someone who is just starting their weight loss journey in order to clean out the organism of all the crap that has been put into it over the years. I would not recommend that anyone follow this diet for more than a month. This is mainly due to the impossibility of keeping the food combinations rule, especially when going out to eat. Once you fall off the wagon, you think you failed and go back to the old ways of eating. I’ve tried eating this way three separate time over the years and it never lasted more than 3 months, not because I’m lazy or lack determination, but because I could not keep the food combination rule and I would revert to an unhealthy way of eating right after cheating once or twice.

Another point that raw food advocates make is that cooking food destroys the nutrients/enzymes and food therefore loses its nutritional value. This is simply not the case, as outline in this blog post at Coach Calorie.

The last word I’ll say about this diet is that it is very high in omega-6 fatty acids which have been shown to cause inflammation, and very low in omega-3 fatty acids, which usually combat the effects of omega-6s. The proper ratio range of omega-3 to omega-6 is from 3:1 to 1:4, with the ideal being 1:1. The raw food detox diet book does recommend taking fish oil supplements, or the veg*an alternative, but this only serves to neutralize the excess omega-6s. Ideally, the perfect diet should provide the 1:1 ratio without the need for supplementation. It is important to understand that systemic inflammation is the cause of many modern ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease. Eating to much omega-6 fatty acids can only lead down the path of systemic inflammation and premature degeneration.

This brings us to the Primal way of eating, also know as Paleolithic or Archaic. As the name suggests, this diet is based on the way people used to eat during the pre-agricultural period. There are many authors that write about Paleo lifestyles, but I’ve only read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. There are countless others that have written about this topic including Drs. Mary and Michael Eades, Gary Taubes, J. Stanton, and many more. There are even documentaries, my favorites being Fat Head by Tom Naughton and Food Inc. 

The main point from these resources is that people of those times ate what they hunted and gathered, which implies fruit and vegetables in season, animal protein and fat. The most prized animal parts were the fattier ones such as the brain, liver, and visceral/mesenteric fat. Fat was also preserved by primitive people by mashing it up with dried meat and sometimes berries in what is called pemmican, which can last for up to 6 months without going rancid. This would get primitive people through the lean months without starving.

The modern version of this diet is not about re-enactment – eating exactly what the primitive people ate; it’s more about recreating the same dietary components in similar ratios. Primitive people did not eat bread or chicken nuggets though, so those are out by default. They did eat meat, eggs, fish, root vegetables, fruit in season, random helpings of honey a few times per year, berries, and a few greens. There were no legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas), cereal grains (wheat, barley, rye, rice), or dairy products. There is some flexibility with some of these things because we do have them, so why not use them in small quantities? I rarely eat legumes any more, but I wouldn’t turn down a bit of hummus or some lentils. I have eliminated all cereals, but I’ll eat a bit of rice once in a while in sushi rolls. I also eat a bit of dairy each day in the form of raw whole milk, whole cream, yoghurt, and butter. The milk and yoghurt can be a significant sources of sugar if consumed in large quantities, but they have their place if kept to 2 servings per day (1 of milk, 1 of yoghurt). Whole cream and butter are mainly fat, so they don’t really pose a problem. There is some casein and a little lactose, but not in significant quantities. The main point though is that these are all eaten in their raw, unpasteurized form. I have a theory that early people may have eaten the mammary glands of the animals they hunted, so they may have gotten some dairy in their diet, though less than we do today. They certainly did not raise animals for their milk.

The great thing about this way of eating is that I can eat to my heart’s content from those foods. It is very hard to overeat on this diet because the fat intake is large (over 50% of calories),which slows digestion, thereby inhibiting the insulin response. Blood sugar levels rise and fall more gradually, so I don’t get big cravings and hunger pangs. As a matter of fact, I routinely fast from dinner time (about 6-7pm) to lunch the next day (11am-12pm). This is neither uncomfortable nor burdensome.

Lastly, this diet has opened my eyes about how our bodies are supposed to function naturally. I don’t have cravings for junk food any more because I know for a fact my body will hate me if I put something in it that it isn’t supposed to digest. It has also helped me learn more about vitamin requirements and the consequences of nutrient deficiencies. For example, if your diet is made up of processed foods devoid of nutrients, your body will tell you to keep eating until it gets all the nutrients it needs. This is why people get fat yet are undernourished. Conversely, if you give your body what it needs in terms of energy (fat), minerals (calcium, magnesium, trace elements), and vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, K, etc), it will not ask for more food, thereby reducing hunger and keeping food intake at a normal level. It doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything because I’m not. It just feels natural to eat when my body tells me to eat, not at prescribed intervals, and to give it things that it needs to stay alive, in optimal working condition.

As an aside about vitamins, I work in a cubicle with artificial lighting, while living in a northern climate, so I have added vitamin D – specifically D3 – to my diet. It comes in liquid form and I take about 6000 units (6mL) daily. Studies show that vitamin D has a big role in disease management, bone formation, muscle mass retention, fat storage, and many other processes. It is one of those essential things that primal people did not have to think about because it comes directly from the action of UV rays on our skin. We get enough in the summer, but there is a lack of vitamin D in the winter unless one eats copious amounts of pastured meats.

In conclusion, while the raw food diet may help some people for a short period, it is not sustainable in the long run, especially if one is following the food combinations prescription. The constant hunger leads to overeating and the need to cheat is always there. This is why this diet is best done for short periods at the start of a weight loss program or lifestyle change. The primal way of eating is quite sustainable over the long run, with no adverse effects. There is little incentive to cheat because one never feels really hungry. If you’re not hungry, you won’t want to chow down two pounds of chicken wings in one sitting. I think it is also the way nature intended us to eat.

 

“Eat like a predator, not like prey” - J. Stanton

 Posted by at 2:12 PM