Proper nutrition is a challenge enough for most people as it is. These days with the buffet of options on nutrition, diet, and health plans, it makes it even more of a challenge for us to keep our heads screwed on straight and make choices that are in OUR own best interest. With the best of intentions, we experiment with different products, foods, and fitness programs to enhance our lifestyles and well being. What it comes down to is that we want to look and feel our best. It’s the truth. And I’m no different than anyone else. All my life I’ve gone over, above, and beyond the norm in order to stay in shape and keep the extra pounds off.
So when I’m not looking and feeling my best, I’m quick, like everyone else, to jump to action and make necessary changes. With the media, internet, magazines, and books that are just calling out to us, it’s so hard not to be tempted to try the next best thing.
I recently, about 2 months ago, came across a lecture from Mark Sisson who’s website, Marks Daily Apple, got me really thinking about the way I have been eating in my life. And although I’ve always eating a clean wholefoods kind of diet, I never really considered going back to the primal/paleo way of eating. It just always felt way too restrictive and to be honest, there was way too much emphasis on meat and fats in the diet. No grains, no legumes, soy, beans, or any kind of starch. Well, at the time I wasn’t eating all that much starch as it was so I figured what the hell, I’ll take his challenge. So for the better part of a month I stuck with leafy green veggies, eggs, poultry, a bit of red meat, fish, and very low glycemic vegetables. I consume copious amounts of fats in the form of olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, avocados, nuts, olives, and whatever came from the proteins I was consuming. I thought I could do this with no problem. And I did. When I commit to doing something, I follow it through to a T.
The eating part was no problem at all. I love my proteins and I love my fats. But I also love my gluten free oatmeal, sweet potatoes, kabocha squash, and an occasional sushi roll….WITH THE RICE!! But 28 days was short enough where I wouldn’t really miss the foods.
It wasn’t the foods that I missed. It was my sanity. Although I wasn’t hungry during the day, my blood sugar was substantially lower, too low in fact, to give me energy throughout the day. I became extremely moody probably due to low serotonin levels. And despite the information given that the extra fats eventually will be your source of fuel for energy, I felt weak and lethargic all the time. My digestion suffered severely. I became extremely constipated and my skin looked pale, blotchy, and I broke out. Supposedly this diet, being low (or no rather) glycemic, helps to reduce inflammation in the body by keeping insulin levels low and in check. I felt more inflammation than ever before. I had a weight gain of about 6 pounds and I felt bloated and puffy most of the time. I also had a great deal of trouble sleeping, constantly waking up in the middle of the night. But I kept going with it just to see if my body would balance out.
One morning I woke up feeling absolutely drained, as if I hadn’t slept at all the entire night. I decided to have a good old bowl of oatmeal along with my usual eggs. Within minutes I felt better. I had an amazing workout that day. Within a couple of days, the weight gain dropped. Despite the fact that the paleo/primal diet has worked wonders for so many fitness minded people out there, it clearly wasn’t for me. I felt heavy in the body and foggy in the mind. Adding back my oatmeal, yes the gluten free oatmeal, my sweet potatoes, kabocha squash was the best thing for me. My mind is clearer, and thankfully my digestion is back on track. My energy is in check. I’m stronger at the gym. And my skin isn’t pale like it was on this diet.
There are thousands of diets out there. Every single one of those diets promises to be the be all end all of dieting. They say eat this way and you will get the results you are looking for. And I’m not against the primal/paleo way of eating at all. In fact, I do believe that there are many people out there who thrive on this way of eating. Just as there are those who thrive on grains, soy, wheat, and dairy. There really is no right or wrong way to go about it.
The problem is that we depend too much on unqualified books and blogs to tell us how we should be eating. When in fact these diets really lack a significant amount of scientific data to support them, let alone they are not specifically written with one individual in mind. How can one single book cure everyone’s weight and health issues when the reasons for our health conditions are so individualized???
Having tried so many different programs out there, I have, and continue to, narrow it down to what suites my needs. Up until the past few years, I have never been one of those low carb type of people. I, like so many women out there, can be influenced by websites, articles, books, and people in my gym. I would have to say in all honesty that some of the greatest influences on my nutritional plan have been what I see on the fitness pages on Facebook, the industry I worked in, and the lectures I hear in school. I’ve been doing way too much experimentation based on what works for others and not just listening to my gut.
When I look at the healthiest people that I know, they are the ones who don’t take their diets to the extreme. In fact, they don’t diet at all. They eat a balance of macronutrients to support their fitness and overall lifestyles. Sure we all have specific needs. If you have a health condition that requires modification to your diet, then by all means, take that into account. But don’t take things to an extreme unnecessarily. Actually, I’ve seen more people, including myself, suffer with more digestive issues from extreme diet changes than those who walk the middle line and don’t really diet at all.
Clean eating, moving your body, and following a plan that is suited specifically for YOU, whether it be Primal/Paleo, gluten free, dairy free, high carb, low carb….whatever suites you is what’s important. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Listen to your gut.
If you are in need of nutritional guidance, seek out a health or nutritional coach or someone qualified to guide you in the right direction. An article from “Fitness Today” isn’t going to cut it.
We are all individuals who require individual plans. What works for one person will not work for another. So don’t even go there. And remember, if it doesn’t make you feel good, then it simply isn’t good for you. The most important thing with diet, nutrition and fitness is that it should make you feel good in your body….not just look good on your body.
So as far as my 28-day Primal/Paleo Challenge, it was definitely and interesting experiment. And I would recommend it to those who have tried many other diets that have failed them. But for me, I’ll stick to a balanced approach with all foods. This way I never feel restricted.
To Your Health!!