Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Paleo Skepticism

I am following a Paleo, (or Primal if your prefer), diet for two reasons.  One, the science behind it holds together well.  The best book offering evidence that a diet built largely around fats, and most emphatically ditching carbs is Gary Tabes's Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health, though he offers the same material in shortened form in Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.  The second reason is my doctor recommended it.  My doctor, for some reason, has never expressed concern about my weight.  I've never tested as pre-diabetic or shown any sign of heart trouble, but when I expressed concern, he recommended following the diet recommendations in Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution: Turn Off the Genes That Are Killing You and Your Waistline.  Dr. Gundry follows a basic primal eating plan, though he does recommend cutting back on the animal products and upping the dark green leafy vegetables in your long term diet.

However, I'm a skeptic and a contrarian at heart.  I do have some reservations about the paleo diet, and the primary one is that I do not like eating meat with any regularity.  I'm a Buddhist at heart, and while some Buddhists do eat meat, (I'm thinking primarily of Tibetan Buddhists, but there may be others), most espouse vegetarianism as a means of causing the least suffering.  There is also the very compelling argument that raising meat is more damaging to our climate than raising kale.

Years ago, my wife and I ate raw foods for about four months.  While eating raw food, my weight also fell down into the normal range.  It did so in spite of the fact I was eating a lot of foods that are not hip with the paleo crowd - dates, mangos, oranges, bananas, and so on.  I also ate lots of dehydrated crackers made with sprouted spelt, mangos, orange juice, and cayenne (among other things).

With my skeptical nature, I didn't buy the argument that the reason raw food is good for you is that the enzymes in the food remain intact.  That sounds like rampant bullshit to me.  I would, however, like to hear from the paleo crowd why the fruits and fruit juices I consumed did not cause my insulin to spike and cause me to put on weight, (or at least not to lose it).  You are supposed to avoid, or at least to limit, the sweetest fruit, particularly dried fruit, on a primal diet.  Mark Sisson has a post about what fruits are better in the primal scheme here.

I know there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan eaters out there who are thin and healthy.  Among them, Leo Baubata of Zen Habits.  There are also people who run marathons who don't seem like they are running themselves into the ground.  I also love to go out for a jog from time to time, but I don't know if my running activity really counts as chronic cardio.

I do have to say I have not been hungry over the past few weeks.  I've been paying attention to my body, and I catch myself eating compulsively from time to time, though I try to limit it to two to three peanuts rather than two to three handfuls.  I really want to keep my carbs down as low as possible.  I do not, however, find myself with a growling belly and the feeling that I have to eat NOW!  Normally, I also have periods of extreme tiredness during the day.  At some points, it feels like it is almost bordering on narcolepsy.  I have to struggle to keep my eyes open, and normally, that seems to be during the post-lunch period.  I haven't been experiencing that sensation either, though, to be fair, (and skeptical), that is a condition that seems to come and go throughout the year, and I've never noticed it being connected to anything specific that I'm eating or not eating.

When I was only eating raw foods, I felt ravenous most of the time, and I was eating three to four avocados a day, on top of everything else.  I was also dizzy and weak part of the time.  It got expensive, and it was also disconcerting.  We gave it up as winter came on.  We just craved warm food, and I wanted to have my cup of coffee again.  My weight quickly rebounded from around 170 to around 200, which is where it likes to hover these days when I'm not paying attention at all.

My goal is to keep my carbs down to a bare minimum at least until my birthday in mid-May, to see how it goes.  Every time I regard something like this as a permanent lifestyle change, I become resentful, and the cravings for just one apricot danish or just one croissant begin to occupy me until I find myself down at the café.  If I reach my birthday and treat that as time to make a decision for another stretch of time, I believe it might go more easily.  It might also serve as a point where I can think about experimenting with a combination of a paleo and raw foods diet.  Skipping the refined carbs - i.e. Nutella - seems to be a universal recommendaiton.  In the mean time, I just have to comfort myself with the thought that everything we humans do are destructive, from our irrigation practices, (including the organic farms in California's Central Valley), to our enslaving and slaughtering of animals, though I have to say, I had a more difficult time butchering one of our roosters, (the only time I followed through on my "we should be involved with the production of the meat we eat" idealism), than I ever had with cutting some kale out of the garden.  Mainstream meat production is simply brutal, on both the animals and the workers.  I hope to be able to buy more of my meat from local producers as I get our budget rightside up, thought there's a huge difference in price between the Farmer's Market and Smith's.  I feel like a s**t for weighing cost against suffering and going for cost, but that's a reality that we have to face sometimes, particularly when feeding a family.

I'm also wondering if I should set up some sort of reward system for myself for hitting 185 pounds and 165 pounds, but I don't have any good ideas at this point.  What's a good motivator for a skeptical cuss like me?

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