Monthly Archives: November 2011

How To Diet: Emma’s Paleo Journey

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Emma Now - Leaner, happier and in optimal health

A Life Changing Experience:

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Before Paleo

I started the Paleo way of eating/life February 2011, 9 months ago. My health wasn’t good, I was exhausted and felt bloated and sick most of the time. I had followed many of the so-called ‘healthy’ diets in my life, and had been particularly seduced by a well-known low fat diet in the mid 90s, which in resulted in me eating tons of carbs such as cereal, bagels, bread and beans that I ended up desperately trying to burn off through long runs each day.

I started to put on weight on this diet, and found it almost impossible to control the amount of food I was eating. I became addicted to eating breakfast cereal, and it started to form the basis of nearly all of my meals during my first year at university. I developed IBS after several months on this low fat diet, which was so bad, it affected my attendance at university. I became so exhausted and depressed, I eventually went to a specialist, who diagnosed me with ME.

Before-paleo-image-emma

Before Paleo

Although I achieved some remission from ME after seeing a nutritionist who advised me to cut out sugar and junk for a while, my real health breakthroughs have come through following a paleo/primal way of eating. I was sceptical when my brother-in-law fitness instructor discussed some of the benefits of following a way of eating that included animal fats and coconut oil. Like many people, I had been fully brainwashed into thinking that these foods were unhealthy as they contained saturated fats.  However, after hitting yet another brick wall with my health, where I was having problems conceiving, had polycystic ovaries, and was gaining weight rapidly, I felt I was running out of options. I went to a ‘functional nutritionist’ who ran some tests showing me the extent of my health problems. I remember being shocked when he said that my body was having a ‘health crisis’, and if I had carried on eating what I was eating, I could end up with some serious health problems. The tests showed I had a parasite in my gut, my hormones were out of sync (estradiol and testosterone too high, progesterone too low). He also suspected that I had become insulin resistant. He explained that my hormones had probably been affected by my years of following a low fat diet, as they need fat to remain balanced. He put me on an eating programme that was in line with the Paleo/Primal guidelines.  Although it’s not hard to follow, it took me a while to re-programme my thinking and allow myself to eat fat again without guilt. I also had to get used to not eating sugar, grains and cereals; the foods I have been consuming in huge quantities all of my adult life.

So, 9 months into the Paleolifestyle change, I have lost 2 ½ stone, am no longer bloated after eating, no longer have a parasite, my progesterone is now within  the normal range and I have so much more energy to do things I’ve wanted to do for years in my life. I come back from work in the evenings with plenty of energy to work and play in the evenings. I feel fuller than I have for years, and enjoy the most delicious, rich food that is full of fat to help my body keep my hormones balanced.

After-paleo-emma-celebrating

Loving Life

People at work can’t believe I’ve lost weight eating the amount of fat I have in my food! I lost the weight at a slow, steady pace and reached an equilibrium for several months, but I wasn’t bothered; this was not just about my figure, this was about me reclaiming my life back and supporting my body to heal itself from the damage I had caused it through poor lifestyle choices. Anyway, my body has started shedding excess fat again and I’ve recently lost another 4 pounds. I never thought it was possible to have vibrant, optimal health without feeling deprived, but now I do:

Paleo Rocks!

What is Paleo?

What is Paleo: lets look at the bigger picture

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Not a pretty picture...

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...and getting no better.

Paleo is short for Palaeolithic Diet or Paleolithic diet, also known The Caveman Diet or Stone Age Diet. Although there are many adaptations of this diet the basic premise is of eating only natural real foods. These being the foods our grandparents and those before them knew as foods, and not those modified and artificially produced by machines. Though before we can understand what is paleo, we need to know a little about what has been going on.

Why are we getting Fat and Sick?

There is something seriously wrong with the modern diet, obesity and it’s associated diseases are at Pandemic levels .  Two governmental reports into the matter, the  House of Commons Select Committee report  and the Foresight Report concluded the cause of obesity to be  Gluttony & Sloth (Overeating and Laziness).

As a result official advice to resolve the issue is simply a matter of reversing the equation i.e. eat less and exercise more.  Is this right? Has it worked for you? Has it ever worked? Well with obesity (UK Obesity Statistics), heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, alzheimers and many more on the increase, it would be fair to suggest not – .

Standard Dietary Advice

You see it takes an extreme amount of effort for this method to work, much more than the average ‘joe’ has that’s for sure.  To eat less and do more just doesn’t equate, this is simply because when you do more it increases your appetite and makes you hungry.  As you will learn willpower doesn’t stand a chance due to the power of a chemical called Ghrelin (the hunger hormone)which gets produced in ever increasing amounts until you give in and feast.  OK more on this later but for now let’s move on a little further and look at what else is going on.

There is growing scientific and biological evidence to suggest this current advice (eat less and exercise more) is not just wrong but leads to worsening symptoms, actually making the problem much worse, in addition that it not only makes us gain more weight, but makes us sick too.

Yes you’ve heard it all before a thousand and one times, choose 5-a-day, low-fat, low cholesterol, low calorie, whole grain. Eat these type of foods in smaller quantities and exercise more to lose weight and be healthy.

These are the core principles of a healthy diet, being commonly accepted by almost all, this is what is known as Conventional Wisdom.

A Paleo Diet v All Other Diets

On the back of this we’ve had quick fix pills , Atkins, Hollywood, Weight Watchers, Slimming World and Dukan, Dash, HCG to name but a few. All of which are short-term temporary solutions, which means once you Yoyo Flow chartstop doing as instructed by a particular program, you will almost certainly put all the weight back on plus some additional. These of course are what are known as ‘fad’ or ‘yo-yo’ diets due to their unsustainable nature and cycle of weight loss/weight gain. They actively disrupt the bodies metabolism, which is perhaps not the best route when we are focusing on our health.

In addition to add to the confusion over diet we have vegetarianism and even worse veganism. Both of these lifestyle choices focus on some sort of moral high ground at the expense of complete nutrition, long term exposure to these diets is detrimental to health due to the nutritional deficiencies and chemical imbalance caused by a high carbohydrate diet and the absence of essential fatty acids found in meat and fish. Vegetarians are particularly prone to Cancers of the nervous system and reproductive organs.

What is needed is a simple, sustainable, easy to understand solution…one that school children can follow and understand. One that stays with you for the rest of your life and doesn’t require periodic renewal of diet club or gym memberships, visits and re-visits to clinics. restriction, lack and general misery.

“One of the unintended consequences of decades of terrible health advice (eat low fat foods, avoid red meat and saturated fat, do endless cardio on machines while indoors) is that being healthy becomes miserable drudgery.  Good health and diet should be joyous and life-affirming.  If it isn’t we’re doing it wrong” – J Stanton Gnolls

It is not our intention to point the finger of blame at anyone for the current situation in which we find ourselves. Further reading on this and the historic events that led to the present day situation can be found in the book Why we get fat (and what to do about it) by Gary Taubes, or if you prefer you can watch the shortened video summery below:

If we look at the biological evidence, we find that the single biggest cause of obesity is in fact due to chemical imbalance within the body,  causing  production of key hormones to be disrupted. Therefore stabilisation of this hormonal imbalance is where we will find the real solution. 

So why should this happen? Why are so many people affected? Why are we getting fatter? Why are we getting sicker?

If you look at the rising numbers of overweight and obese people today and the volume of autoimmune and degenerative disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Cancer, Heart Disease,  Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,  DepressionArteriosclerosisNephritisAsthma, GERDOsteoporosisStroke.  What you will find is a close correlation with high carbohydrate intake, in particular refined carbohydrates and sugar contained in processed foods which make up a significant proportion of the western diet.

Why is this so? This is the body’s response to foods it does not recognise and thus is unable to process in the manner it was designed. We have evolved on a diet high in natural fats, protein with moderate fibrous carbohydrate, increasing seasonally with the availability fruits, you will all be familiar with the term ‘fattening up for winter’.

Never in our history have we been exposed to the level of carbohydrate we are today, never in our history have we been in such poor health.

What makes us fat?

Our bodies like to operate with stable blood sugar (glucose) and maintain temporary energy stores in our cells, liver and muscles for instant access should we need it. These stores get used up with moderate activity or exercise. When this happens, fat is released from the fat cells to be used as energy.  Consuming processed foods, HFCS, sugar, starchy vegetables and grains causes blood sugar to spike and high levels of insulin to  flood the system in order to stabilise rising blood sugar. Fat normally used for energy when our temporary energy stores are depleted is now locked away due to high insulin levels.

In short refined carbohydrates create an excess of glucose, far more than our temporary stores (muscles and cells) can take or use. High blood sugar is toxic and so it is insulin’s job to get rid of it, the only place left is our fat cells where it is delivered via the liver and converted to triglyceride’s to allow this to  happen.  Regular exposure to high carbohydrate loading will result in the condition known as insulin intolerance (Type II Diabetes).

But why does the body not recognise these foods as food? Why do they not satisfy our appetite? The fact is that when digested all carbohydrate is transformed into glucose (blood sugar).   The rate at which this happens is what is important as it has a direct impact on the level of insulin production.  Remember fat cannot be used as energy in the presence of insulin.  And insulin is caused to be present in response to eating foods that are high in carbohydrate (refined carbohydrates) which convert easily and quickly into blood sugar.

If you consider our exposure to sugar, fructose, sucrose, dextrose in our diet and compare this to what our ancestors ate, you will notice a huge difference. If you gave a caveman a Mars Bar do you think he would recognise it as food?  Then neither should you!

Our ancestors  matured fast to adulthood and independence, lived healthy active lives then died.  By contrast increasing modern societies spend ages maturing (some much longer than others, some never getting there), live a life of dubious health and well-being and then spend ages getting old and dying.

You Choose…

So how do we really resolve the obesity issue?

What’s needed is another radical shift, only this time in the opposite direction. A healthy diet is aligned to and similar in principle to that on which we have evolved, a natural diet of nutritionally dense foods.

In the mean time and to this end, based on Palaeolithic dietary principles we have created The Paleoworks Challenge, developed using nutritional experts, proven science fact, and evidence dating back over 2 million years into our prehistory. This is a series of programs aimed at education, advice and support to enable you to live life as nature intended.

Lean, Fit, Long, Rewarding and Fulfilling.

The following is an interview with Doctor Frank Comstock:

This is the food we were genetically designed to eat. This is evolutionary nutrition incorporating the worlds healthiest foods.  When you eat this way, body fat is maintained at normal levels without even having to watch what you eat. You eat when you are hungry and because you’re eating real foods, your body is able to tell you when you’ve had enough and to process it without any fuss.

However as we have learned so far, this is much more than just a diet. It is a sustainable lifestyle.

A move away from  Sugar, HFCS , starchy vegetables, grains & legumes means you will be leaner, fitter, faster, stronger, look younger, have more stamina, in short your general health and well being will be at a level you previously thought impossible.

And finally:

“In the end, we subscribe to perhaps the most Conventional Wisdom of all – the time tested, naturally selected wisdom spanning hundreds of thousands of years, the wisdom, founded in the incontrovertible facts of evolutionary biology, that guided our ancestors. We may not ever change the minds of society at large, but we can make the small – or big – changes in our own lives that will ensure health, longevity, and wellness”Mark Sissons.

So there you have it, you now know not only what is paleo but also the history, principles behind it and why we all you too should eat this way. Though of course that is up to you, but what is not in question is that Paleo is and always has been…

The World’s Healthiest Diet!

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