Read this first: I believe the reason to pursue health and fitness is to enhance your overall quality of life. As my strength, mobility, agility, endurance, balance, etc. increases, so does my overall ability to do things. I can run, swim, bike, rock climb, hike mountains, etc. all better than before. And, my metabolism gets a boost. I sleep better. I eat better (and more). I have more energy. I look better. I feel better. My confidence goes up. My brain is more alert and I think better. My body feels great, and the extra endorphins make me happier. I smile more. And the list goes on.
But, and this is important, I don’t workout because society or other people tell me I should. I believe fear, guilt, and shame, in the long run are unhelpful motivators. I workout because I like the results. I workout because my life gets better. I workout for me, not for someone else. I workout because I want to.
I think the same approach should be taken to trying out a new diet. Whatever it is that you’re trying out, it needs to be sustainable. And it needs to make your overall quality of life go up. If that isn’t happening, I would say, drop the diet. Find something that’s sustainable and makes you happy.
This stuff matters. I’ve been on diets before that ultimately weren’t sustainable for me (even if my body was slightly fitter). Some diets make me hungry pretty much all of the time, and when I’m hungry, I get angry (truly HANGRY). Some diets drastically cut into my social life. You mean I can’t eat anything on the menu or have a beer with my buddies at the bar? I guess I won’t go out then. Or cut into my already limited flexibility. Sorry, I have to leave and eat now, it’s been exactly three hours since my last meal. Or my sleep is interrupted three times a night because I drank three gallons of water during the day. If the cost of “being healthy” is a decrease in your over quality of life, maybe it’s time to consider something else.
How to approach the Paleo diet (or any diet for that matter): Let’s go back to sustainability and quality of life. If you go cold turkey from your normal eating habits into the Paleo diet, I’m guessing that will be a drastic shock. Especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. Choking down a can of tuna and some microwaved broccoli (though technically “Paleo”) will not only taste disgusting, but will ultimately be unsustainable (perhaps after the first meal!) . It will also suck all the fun out of eating. My recommendation is to ease into the Paleo diet. Find a few meals that you do like (eggs with ginger, chile, lime, and a side of roasted butternut squash, or some bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, etc. with sweet potato mash) and replace one of your meals with that. Then, see how you feel. The more you incorporate Paleo foods into your diet, you might be surprised how well you start to feel.
What is Paleo in a nutshell: The Paleolithic Model for Nutrition (Paleo Diet) is the idea that we should eat what our ancestors (the “caveman”) ate for over 140,000 years, and not what has been introduced into our diet through the agricultural revolution in the past 10,000 yrs. Essentially that means no grains, no dairy, no heavily processed foods, etc.
Here is what crossfit.com has to say about it.
(Taken directly from: http://www.crossfit.com/cf-info/start-diet.html)
The CrossFit dietary prescription is as follows:
Protein should be lean and varied and account for about 30% of your total caloric load.
- Carbohydrates should be predominantly low-glycemic and account for about 40% of your total caloric load.
- Fat should be predominantly monounsaturated and account for about 30% of your total caloric load.
- Calories should be set at between .7 and 1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass depending on your activity level. The .7 figure is for moderate daily workout loads and the 1.0 figure is for the hardcore athlete.
What Should I Eat?
In plain language, base your diet on garden vegetables, especially greens, lean meats, nuts and seeds, little starch, and no sugar. That’s about as simple as we can get. Many have observed that keeping your grocery cart to the perimeter of the grocery store while avoiding the aisles is a great way to protect your health. Food is perishable. The stuff with long shelf life is all suspect. If you follow these simple guidelines you will benefit from nearly all that can be achieved through nutrition.
The Caveman or Paleolithic Model for Nutrition
Modern diets are ill suited for our genetic composition. Evolution has not kept pace with advances in agriculture and food processing resulting in a plague of health problems for modern man. Coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and psychological dysfunction have all been scientifically linked to a diet too high in refined or processed carbohydrate. Search “Google” for Paleolithic nutrition, or diet. The return is extensive, compelling, and fascinating. The Caveman model is perfectly consistent with the CrossFit prescription.
What Foods Should I Avoid?
Excessive consumption of high-glycemic carbohydrates is the primary culprit in nutritionally caused health problems. High glycemic carbohydrates are those that raise blood sugar too rapidly. They include rice, bread, candy, potato, sweets, sodas, and most processed carbohydrates. Processing can include bleaching, baking, grinding, and refining. Processing of carbohydrates greatly increases their glycemic index, a measure of their propensity to elevate blood sugar.
What is the Problem with High-Glycemic Carbohydrates?
The problem with high-glycemic carbohydrates is that they give an inordinate insulin response. Insulin is an essential hormone for life, yet acute, chronic elevation of insulin leads to hyperinsulinism, which has been positively linked to obesity, elevated cholesterol levels, blood pressure, mood dysfunction and a Pandora’s box of disease and disability. Research “hyperinsulinism” on the Internet. There’s a gold mine of information pertinent to your health available there. The CrossFit prescription is a low-glycemic diet and consequently severely blunts the insulin response.
Caloric Restriction and Longevity
Current research strongly supports the link between caloric restriction and an increased life expectancy. The incidence of cancers and heart disease sharply decline with a diet that is carefully limited in controlling caloric intake. “Caloric Restriction” is another fruitful area for Internet search. The CrossFit prescription is consistent with this research.
The CrossFit prescription allows a reduced caloric intake and yet still provides ample nutrition for rigorous activity.
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