Thursday, July 05, 2012

Primal Update - Update

Left: May 17, 2012 - Right: July 5, 2012
Here is an update to my earlier update on my primal experiment.

Same pants, less fat.  I still have been very lazy about starting to exercise.  I am beginning (beginning!) to do some push-ups and I have been trying to do more walking.  Mrs. H. and I went on vacation for two weeks, and we both lost weight!  I'm down to about 145 - which is in the neighborhood of 30 pounds lost since I got rid of the starchy carbs about three months ago.  I just bought some 28-inch shorts (I believe this is the size of pants I wore in high school).  The 32-inch pants shown above were (not that long ago) pretty tight.  In fact, I actually had my gut hanging over - known as "Dunlop's Disease" - where one's gut "done lops" over one's trousers.

One thing that I am very glad that I did (actually Grace and I did this together and I recommend it to anyone wanting to "go primal") was to read Mark Sisson's book The Primal Blueprint.  The book is a kind-of owner's manual for the body - not for the whole body, but rather for the metabolism system.  He explains concisely the way insulin works and why the SAD (Standard American Diet) leads directly to what we are seeing these days: obesity, diabetes, increased allergies, and a frustrated backlash that goes too far the other way: people burning out due to "extreme cardio" regimens.  And, he points out a better way by means of his "blueprint."

Sisson's argument - though based on a mythological view of the origins of man - is that the SAD is a train-wreck right down to the cellular level, that our modern western diet - based heavily on grains and starchy carbs - runs contrary to our genetic programming.  He argues (correctly, I believe) that federal dietary guidelines are based more on the exigencies of lobbyists and corporate interests than sound science and principles of good health.

His "Primal Blueprint" is a way of once more aligning our lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep patterns, etc.) with the way we were designed instead of the demands we put on ourselves in our frenetic modern life heavily influenced by Big Pharma and Big Media.  He compares two fictional families: one ancient and one modern, and shows why the current paradigm of eating a high-carb, low-fat diet, and being concerned with things like cholesterol, leads us to the lifestyle of being unhealthy and overweight and trying to recover our health with over-exercise and prescription drugs - which actually make the problem worse.

I have found his maxim that 80% of the key to health involves food rather than exercise, to be born out by experience.  And this is not a "diet."  If I really want a hot fudge sundae or a piece of pizza, I will have one.  But what I have found is, knowing the "cost" in terms of insulin production and fat storage (as opposed to metabolism), and knowing how good it feels to be in better shape - I simply find myself wanting such things less and less.  There are so many healthy and tasty alternatives (meat, oils and fats, nuts, fruits, seeds, and vegetables), why should anyone eat "junk"?  Living primally is not a list of rules and regulations, but rather a way of getting to know how your body metabolizes foods and how eating and exercise affect you - and making decisions based on this realistic paradigm.

Personally, I really love having more energy, carrying about 30 pounds less of strain on my joints, and knowing that I am rebuilding healthier tissue from the cell level up.  I get a lot more excited about that than eating a piece of cake or having a bowl of pasta or a plate of fries - though if I want to, I have the liberty to do so.  It is not the job of government to tell me how to eat, nor can government be trusted to protect my interests.  I think this is partially why the primal lifestyle is popular among more libertarian-minded people: it is taking personal responsibility for our health by making better choices and relying on ourselves instead of Big Government and Big Business.  Ultimately, what you eat and how you move your body is up to you.

When you "go primal" you see results fast, and you don't have to count calories.  The Primal Blueprint does provide links to a couple of websites that help calculate grams of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins based on what you are eating, and this can really help to identify areas that need to change in one's food intake on an average day.  But once the overall diet has been analyzed, there is really no reason to keep journals and look things up online.

Also, the book is practical and is a quick (and entertaining yet informative) read.  As for me, I can't argue with the results!  If you are thinking of trying this, there is a 21-day experiment that you can take for a spin, and then decide how to live the rest of your life based on your how body reacts - not on what laws and rules and guidelines lobbyists have convinced Wa$hington to pass, telling us what we should and should not be doing.

The choice is yours!

Update - Update (update):  I'm back in 28-inch pants!


Joe Greene said...

Thanks for the update. I continue to experience similar results. I also haven't put much effort into planned exercise but find that I move more just because I have so much energy. Instead of coming home from work and sitting on the couch in the evening, I go out and cut firewood or something similar.

David Garner said...

I have already told Pastor Weedon this, but you and he have inspired my wife and I to give the 30 day challenge a whirl. We'll be a week in as of tomorrow. I'm down over 4 pounds and it will probably be closer to 5 or 6 by Saturday morning when we weigh in. I started at 193.2 pounds. I'm below 180 now and dropping. I'm pretty impressed with the initial results.

What I like about the lifestyle is that, unlike Atkins, it stresses non-processed foods and cleaner eating. Most people I knew who tried Atkins were basically eating garbage all the time, only not sugary garbage. The primal lifestyle seems geared more toward real food -- grass fead meat, aged cheeses, and lots and lots of plants. It's true that they don't worry as much about saturated fat or cholesterol, but it's also true that well known heart healthy foods like avecado, fish (and fish oil), and nuts are included. So you can maintain this diet and still eat good, quality food.

What concerns me, especially since we are Orthodox Christians, is how to maintain it during the ascetical fasts. Pastor Weedon gave us some good suggestions, and I intend to talk to my priest. But that's the one red flag I see.

By the way, the exercise plan is pretty reasonable. It's not easy at all, but it's a very efficient way to obtain and maintain good base fitness. It packs a lot of solid muscle groups into 4 core movements, and then adds lots of walking and some sprints. I'll probably still run shorter distances like 5K races and such, but I don't anticipate I'll be doing any more long distance running.

At any rate, sorry to ramble. I just wanted to drop you a line to thank you for blogging about this and to encourage you to continue down the path. I'm impressed so far by what we've read and observed. I'm extremely impressed with your results in only 3 short months.

David Garner said...

Er, below 190 and dropping. Wishful thinking on my part.

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Dear Joe:

It's amazing isn't it? I wish I knew about this 20 years ago!

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Dear David:

Ramble away! Thanks for writing and for reporting your progress. And your typo, I suspect, will become reality before you know it. I remember dropping below 170, and then below 160, and then (amazingly) below 150 - all within weeks, not years. It is encouraging.

I hope you are able to make this work with the dietary restrictions of Orthodoxy - and if you are able to have success, you might want to write to Mark's Daily Apple with suggestions to help other Orthodox Christians.

Good luck and God's blessings!

William Weedon said...

Outstanding, Larry! Yup, it's definitely 80% diet. And I couldn't agree more with just not WANTING the foods that you know aren't good for you. Last night the Asburrys and Weedons sat down to a virtual primal feast: we had fresh salad with two kinds of home-made dressing; a beef stir-fry over cauliflower rice; fresh berries and cantaloup; a fabulous peach "cake" (made with almond flour, 10 eggs, and a pound of butter, with chunks of peaches); and we enjoyed some Pinot Noir and some BBC's (Bailey, Kahlua, banana, with some coconut milk and lots of ice). Twas totally awesomeness.

Joe Greene said...

It is amazing. I'm down over 30 pounds in less than 5 months and down 40 pounds from my heaviest ever.

jeff-mn said...

I just MIGHT have to give this diet a chance. Lose some weight and then go on a healthy diet instead.

Frances said...

David Garner, your concern regarding fasting may be addressed on Mark Sisson's website: He's the author of the book Fr. Hollywood mentioned and recently had several posts about the benefits of intermittent fasting. ( just type intermittent fasting in the search bar and it'll pull up multiple posts) Hope it's helpful!

David Garner said...

Frances, thank you. Unfortunately, intermittent fasting is not a problem. It is ascetical fasting that concerns me.

The Eastern fasts are pretty strict, including no meat (including fish, but not including shellfish), dairy, wine or oil. As one might imagine, two staples of the longer ascetical fasts (Nativity and Lent) are bread and beans. Neither of which are primal. So my concern is how to maintain a 40-50 day ascetical fast while still eating primal, avoiding grains and legumes, and still getting a balanced diet. I'm positive it can be done, but it will require quite a bit of forethought.

Weslie O said...

I'm curious about the monetary cost comparison to the SAD. Even if my wife and I don't eat pizza and ice cream all of the time, we do enjoy her homemade bread (Finnish rye ain't that bad!). I wonder how much more, if any, a "primal" food budget is?

Rev. Larry Beane said...

Dear Weslie O.:

Consulting with the family treasurer, in our case, food costs have gone down. We are not buying prepackaged junk any more, and we are eating more at home. In fairness, we are not buying grass-fed beef (though we do try to do the best we can in our milk and egg buying). We have laid out some plans to transition slowly to upgrade our quality of meat.

But even that being said, if you don't buy popcorn and candy at the movies, avoid treats and goodies and breakfast cereals, and drink more water (we don't keep soft drinks in the house any more) - you'll likely see a lot of savings that can be used to buy higher quality produce and meat.

That's an anecdotal (rather than scientific) response. But that's the best I can do! You might do a search on Mark's Daily Apple for discussions of cost for more accurate info.

Good luck!

David Garner said...

I concur with that -- fruits, vegetables, nuts and quality meats and fishes cost more. No doubt about it. But I think overall we save money not buying the prepackaged garbage food that we used to stuff ourselves on.

I spent $5.40 for lunch today to get some lean chicken and fish, fresh sauteed green beans and steamed broccoli. That was eating out. We don't eat as much meat anymore (and more the the point, we don't waste as much meat anymore) as in the past. Because rather than making a pot of chili or a bunch of taco meat or a pot of chicken and rice, half of which gets thrown out, we literally make enough meat for the meal and then the rest is vegetables and occasionally fruit or dairy. And grilled chicken, rather than going in the fridge to spoil slowly, becomes tomorrow's salad topping, etc.