Thursday, November 20, 2008

Being different. Trying new things

As I've been searching around the internet, looking for possible blog posts, I've discovered there's a whole world of people out there dedicated to eating like early man. The idea (and it's not really a new one) is that our bodies evolved to eat lean meats and plants- not the dairy and grain we've started giving them since the dawn of agriculture. Even though we think of agriculture being around forever, there's actually even more forever in human history when it wasn't.

One of the best paleo/primal websites I've discovered is Mark's Daily Apple. Not only does Mark have great information and personal anecdotes on his site, he has a dedicated reader question section where you can ask him anything about fitness and nutrition (and he answers e-mails every quickly!)

All this leads up to the fact that I'd like to try moving toward a paleo/primal style diet. I have terrible problems with diet and strength training monogamy, but I do believe that playing around with your diet and exercise plans can help you find that "sweet spot" that really works for you. Maybe the reason I can't stick with dieting and strength training (as opposed to running and cycling which I enjoy tremendously) is that I haven't found programs that really fit my needs.

So what led me to decide to try to really overhaul my diet? And why now, right before the holidays? A few things, really.

1. It appeals to me because it's unconventional. I've started working out using the FIRST training plan. It's a totally unconventional approach to distance running- you only run 3 days and do some kind of non-weight bearing cross training activity (I enjoy indoor cycling) 2-3 days a week- but I'm having good results, and best of all, I'm enjoying my workouts even more. But the traditional approach to running says the only way to improve is to run every single day and always add more more more mileage. But that wasn't working for me. It was too hard on my body, and my hard days and easy days began to blend together into a boring sameness. So I do believe that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and tell common knowledge it has to step aside for new thinking.

2. I gave up diet soda again 5 weeks ago. I think this is important for two reasons. The first is that, it used to be if I pricked my finger, I bled Diet Coke. I drank a ton of it, and I couldn't imagine giving it up. But I did. And even though I still have occasional cravings, I'll never go back to it again because of reason two: I found out it really hurt my stomach. It's weird because while I was drinking it, I had no idea it was causing the bloated feeling I got every once in awhile. Because I drank diet soda all the time, I didn't realize it was the cause of my discomfort. When I quit drinking diet soda, my midsection got smaller within a day or two. Even though I've gained about 5lbs and some body fat since the summer, I actually look leaner now just because I quit the soda. All this leads me to believe that I there are foods that I "can't live without" that I can live without, and I might feel a lot better without the grains and just not know it yet.

Mark's primal eating plan (see his site for the difference between primal and paleo) guides people to eat vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, and oils, abstain from all grains and dairy, and keep carb grams low. He advises people, especially people who have been on very high carb diets like yours truly, to start making changes to gradually work toward those goals. This should help avoid the cloudy brain experienced by people who go low carb all at once. For athletes, it also helps to find the right amount of carbs to include in your diet (which is the fewest you can get away with while sustaining your workouts).

We still have some rice, pasta, tortillas, and oatmeal in the cupboard that need to be eaten or given away, but I'll be shopping for groceries this weekend with primal eating in mind. Thinking about it, there's a lot of our go-to dishes that would be easy to primal-ize. Two examples would be stirfry without sugary sauces or rice and fajitas without tortillas. And eating out at restaurants really isn't a big deal because the nicer ones almost always have a good salad option. Will it be hard and weird to go to Panera and not get a baguette? Will I feel like I'm missing out? Maybe at first, but I have to wonder if it will be like diet soda, and I'll feel so much better with grains out of my system that, even though I get cravings sometimes, I'll never go back to the dark side.

One final point about the diet. Mark says over and over again on his website that 80% of body composition comes from what you eat (and if you take a look at his pictures, he knows what he's talking about). I've been trying to make exercise be responsible for 80% of what my body looks like, an it just.isn't.working. Right now I feel like my diet causes me to have to exercise. What I want is to be able to say, "I think I need to take some time off. Good thing my diet will keep me from gaining weight."

So we'll see how it goes.

8mi with 5mi tempo
1 set of stairs
Upper body and abs???