Well, it’s Pancake Day, and man, I’d love a damn pancake. But I won’t have one. This is as good a time as any to talk a bit about our current diet. I’m not trying to evangelize here; I’m too lazy to care whether other people do what we do. But I’ve been mentioning words like “primal” and “paleo” on Twitter and Facebook recently, and a few people have asked me what that’s all about. So why not?
For the past six weeks or so, the Snook and I have been following a modified primal/paleo diet. We eat meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and dairy. We try to avoid grains, potatoes, legumes, and sugar. We’ve each dropped a couple kilos, but it’s not really about losing weight. We finally realised that eating this way makes us feel the best. It’s been a long process to get here…
Some of you will remember that ten years ago we decided to try the Atkins low-carb diet, and we had some moderate success with it. It was hard though, mostly because we kept trying to replicate our favourite carby things using weird Frankenfood ingredients. We also weren’t good enough cooks back then and our repertoire of low-carb meals was much smaller. Eventually we just gave up, got a bread machine, and put the weight back on.
Seven years ago I joined Weight Watchers and we ate according to the WW Points Plan for most of the next year. I ended up losing a lot of weight, but I was starving and obsessed with food the whole time. I was terrified of going to social engagements where I couldn’t control what I was going to eat. it worked, but it sucked. Then I developed some painful stomach issues (duodenitis), stopped going to meetings, and gradually put the weight back on. Again.
Then came the running years. I ran and ran. I ran 5Ks, I ran 10Ks, I ran half-marathons, and last year I ran a marathon. I never lost any significant weight from running. Not a bit. We didn’t have a specific eating plan during these years, but it was pretty healthy. (No junk food, minimal sugary treats, cooking just about everything ourselves.) Some people lose weight by doing lots of cardio, but I don’t. I just got injured and burnt out.
Last year I read an article about the Slow Carb Diet, and we decided to give it a try. The idea is that you eat low carb for 6 days out of the week and then go nuts on one day. (A lot of the Jamie Oliver meal posts refer to “Cheat Day.”) We switched from eating muesli and yogurt for breakfast to eating scrambled eggs, meat, and beans. We started making extra dinner and taking the leftovers for our lunches (rather than buying sandwiches). We both noticed how much better we felt eating like this. We also noticed how CRAPPY we felt on the Cheat Days. We didn’t lose a lot of weight, but we liked the other aspects.
The final changes happened late last year. My friend Geoff was doing Slow Carb too, and he pointed me towards the Mark’s Daily Apple site. I started learning about the paleo diet and “going Primal” (Mark’s philosophy about eating/exercising/living in the way humans were meant to). Out of the blue, an old Weight Watchers buddy sent me a copy of Gary Taubes’s book Why We Get Fat, which also argues that modern life and the modern diet are bad for us. The more I read, the more convinced I became that we should give it a try. We made the final switch after the Christmas holiday.
So what does this actually MEAN in practical terms? For breakfast, we have eggs and protein. For lunch, we have leftovers from dinner. For snacks, we eat nuts, fruit, and the occasional bit of cheese. For dinner, we just make good food with meat, fish, and vegetables. No pasta, no rice, no bread, and no potatoes. We don’t even miss it; I swear. In terms of alcohol, we opt for red wine over beer. We try to observe the “80% rule” and don’t stress or worry about occasionally straying from the plan. (I had garlic bread, beer, and potatoes on Friday, for what it’s worth.) For exercise, we’re focusing less on “chronic cardio” and more on incidental exercise (what Mark calls “moving around a lot slowly”). We ride our bikes. We go for walks. We do the occasional personal training session. We have a short run every now and then. For lifestyle, well, we’re doing our best there. We’re trying to “unplug” more. We’ve moved our morning alarm back a bit as well as our bedtime. We’re trying to get outdoors more often. We’ve dropped a little bit of weight, but nothing major. My blood pressure, cholesterol, and iron levels continue to be just fine.
So that’s that. We’re not, like, militant about this and I’m not going to be offended if you invite me over and serve potatoes. I’m also not going to try to convert you; there are no bonus points for bringing more cavemen into the fold. (But if you want more details or links, let me know and I’m happy to provide.) If you’re one of those weird people who find it, like, personally offensive that I don’t eat bread, please just don’t bother commenting. I am perfectly willing to concede that some folks are fine on a high-carb diet. I’m just not one of them. But isn’t that great! More pasta for you! I’ll just be here in the corner nomming on some pot roast, turnip mash, and garlic green beans. Yum.