Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Paleo Diets and More On The Topic Of Boulders!

I read an article today on whether or not the paleo diet is right for runners.  I almost never comment on articles like this, especially when it involves using my real name!!  However, I did comment...

from the article... link above.

The picture is the best part of the article. I tend to think articles like this are dicey because every body is different and will ultimately thrive on a different diet and the more rules there are in a diet, the less it becomes a self-honoring, accountable way of life. However, processed food is generally bad news for almost anyone. I don't follow a Paleo diet but have found that the more I listen to my body, which thinks gluten and dairy are pretty evil, the less I have. Once I got the "poison" out, my desire for anything processed is pretty limited. I have, however, noticed a drop off in digestion and well-being if I stray too far from what works for me... primarily whole foods, mostly veggies, a lot of fruit and plant proteins, a little fish or egg most days. My starches come from sweet potatoes, and occasionally ancient grains or brown rice, and rarely processed gluten/diary free breads or pastas. My primary fat sources are avocados, fish, eggs, and a minimal amount of olive or sesame oil. Aside from being mindful of my protein needs (a banana does not a meal make!), I just find that when in doubt, it should have leaves. The fewer hard and fast "rules" there are, the more likely I am to make a good choice because I want it. Has it worked? Yes... to the tune of 80 lbs and a major leap in performance and overall well-being! Is it a "diet"? No. It's simply what has worked for me.

Diet for me has become less about doing what I am told (unless it is my body doing the telling) and more about figuring out how the components in my diet affect my body, my training, and my life.  If I can identify a need or deficit, I fill it.  If I find a habit or food that is not working for me, I eliminate it or change it's context (meaning anything from not eating solids before a workout to not allowing containers larger than a single serving of certain foods to live in my house to adding a fat source to my smoothies to increase the staying power.)

I experiment with things the way a child tries different puzzle pieces in the space, setting aside the ones that weren't needed at that moment.  The only thing that causes a food to get eliminated is if it causes significant cravings that undermine everything else that I do, or really irritates my GI tract.  So far, the list of foods I refuse to touch is relatively short, but the list of things I will not do at certain times or in certain ways (example: nuts or nut butters kept in quantity in the house or solid food with a high fat content less than four hours before a workout.... all bad plans!)

If something is bothering me or affecting my performance, I pay attention, try to notice a pattern.  Is there a root cause?  Can I tweak something to make an improvement?  My food is my fuel and if I am putting diesel in a gasoline engine then I should expect sub-optimal results.  If I overfill the tank and it overflows onto my shoes, I try to identify an indicator that the tank is nearly full and respect it in future situations.  If I run the engine out of fuel all the time, not only will it refuse to run, but the fuel filter gets all clogged and it affects future performance.  You get the idea.  I actually don't know enough about cars to use an automotive analogy but I am just reckless that way!

Eliminating the scale was a big component for me.  Taking away the obsession about my weight and focusing solely on performance allowed me to begin to develop this attitude about food.  If something doesn't work, I don't have a meltdown, I just don't do that again.  The trial and error process needed the freedom to have error as well as trial to be successful.  When I was monitoring my weight like an overeager investor hovering over the scientist who's research he is funding, I can't be objective.  I can't make training and performance the meters on which I measure the value of a food or habit.

The other big component was coming to terms with my sleep.  By recognizing that I have a broken sleep cycle, and treating it aggressively as a condition rather than simply accepting a sub-par waking existence, I have finally overcome most of the insomnia that has plagued me nearly all of my adult life.  Getting enough sleep.... and staying HYDRATED... curb cravings, allow my body to relax and heal, reduces cortisol (which is basically the on site manager for The Fat Storage Warehouse), and banishes my Chicken Little mindset.

Do you remember my post about the boulders?  These are boulders in the path.  If you find they are there,  then try to push them out of the way to no avail, what do you do?  Well for years, I sat down in front of those boulders and said, this is where my path ends.  Now, my plans include levers, pulleys, and a book titled "How To Move A Boulder" by DW!  And guess what?  It's working.  I feel better and look better than I have in years, not to mention that I am happier and more confident.  Am I done?  Heck no!  I have a huge pile of BIG A$$ ROCKS in my path!!!  I am working on them, chipping away, moving them aside and making significant forward progress.  Some days I achieve great leaps, some days baby steps.  Other days, I am simply treading water or even backsliding a little.  Overall, though, my good choices are outweighing my bad ones and everything (including the ratio of good choices to bad) is trending in a very positive direction.

It doesn't matter what boulder you have in front of you... There is an video article in the Twitter feed about a triathlon camp for veterans that DW and some pros put together.  These men and women have different boulders, but boulders nonetheless.  They are having to figure out their own pulley and lever system.  Whatever your issue is.... If you can take a step back from it emotionally and begin to look at it as a problem with a solution that you simply haven't found YET... then progress will be made.

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