This is the first thing I did on my road to super fitness.
Lost 10 pounds in five weeks. Super-charged my energy and health. Didn’t count a single calorie. And developed a new delicious way of eating that feels as if it will stabilize my weight for life.
When my nutritionist/personal trainer Kirsten Bedard suggested doing a version of the paleo diet, I may have grunted, intentionally disparaging our ancestral heritage. No grains? No dairy? Are you kidding me? As a menopausal marathoner, I figured those two major food groups were exactly what I needed. Plus, I had just finished writing a book about sustainable, local and organic foods, and now I was supposed to go pre-agriculture?
“Just try it for two weeks,” she said.
I tried to get my family doctor to say going paleo was crazy. He didn’t. Nor did a sports physiologist and a sports medicine doctor I consulted. “It’s the way we were meant to eat,” was their common response.
That was four months ago.
Except for one or two meals a week – I’m not a fanatic — I have eliminated virtually all processed food, sugar and grains from my diet, and my only dairy is a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and two tablespoons of cottage cheese over a breakfast bowl of fruit. My meals consist of all the veggies I can eat (though not much corn or white potatoes); fruit; protein in the form of meat, fish and eggs; and good fats such as avocado, olive oil, flax and nuts (though not peanuts). My carbs come from vegetables and fruit, which pack a lot more nutritional punch per calorie than high-glycemic grains and rice. And with my menopausal metabolism slowing down yet heavy marathon training to fuel, I need excellent calories not junk calories.
Kirsten warned me that I might feel a bit wonky in the second week as my brain grew accustomed to its new chemistry. I felt fantastic, like I was super charging my system on micronutrients and vitamins. Before paleo, I had crashing fatigue nearly every afternoon, yes, about an hour after eating a sandwich. Now my moods and energy stay high – and steady – throughout the day. And the deep muscle soreness I experienced after a hard long run has abated. Next day, I am sufficiently recovered — and keen even — to do a major strength-training session for my legs and some kick-ass core work. Paleo experts say the diet aids in muscle building – perhaps my stunning new glutes can be Exhibit A and B in that case.
I did learn (by getting very light headed) that supplemental glycogen loading is required to fuel hard workouts longer than an hour. Kirsten recommends a “timed release” of carbs by taking a power bar or gel before and fueling with gels or sports drinks during the workout. As I’m not a fan of processed food, I’m still experimenting with alternatives – two majool dates stuffed with almond butter sustains a hard 90-minute interval training session.
I’ll talk about the science and application of paleo a lot more in my book, as well as my most excellent paleo stools. But for now, no more disparaging comments about Neanderthals. Call me Cavemam and I’ll take it as a compliment.