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Happy New Year! I am Back!

Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.

Dorothy Thompson

Happy New Year to everyone. You will notice it’s been a while since my last post on this blog. One of my resolutions for the new year is to share more about my personal journey into ancestral health as it happens. My family and I are still living the life-style and still reaping the benefits.

In case you wondered, I have maintained my weight loss, indeed many people comment that I have leaned out further recently. This makes it 18 months I have maintained normal weight. By summer it will be two years, which will be a major milestone achievement. Most studies show that the vast majority of slimmers are back to their old weight or heavier two years after achieving their target weight. Here is a nice article by Ned Kock on this topic with a few links to some of those studies:

All Diets Succeed At First, And Eventually Fail – Ned Kock

My current area of interest is how I reestablish what I call metabolic resilience. What I mean by this is that my metabolism is back to a state where maintaining my weight does not require me to carefully manage the macronutrients my diet. Don’t get me wrong, I consider my diet both healthful and enjoyable, and easy to maintain for the long term. But I would also term it a therapeutic diet. I believe my low-carb diet allows me to maintain a healthy body composition by working around my insulin sensitivity. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say my diet works around my glucose intolerance. In any case, my low-carb diet does not directly address my metabolic weaknesses. At least not to the degree that I would like. It would be good to know that my weight is not going to suffer, if I find myself in a situation where I have to rely on less than ideal food choices for more than a few days.

Jimmy Moore’s example has caused me to reflect a great deal on this (check out his Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb website). Jimmy achieved an incredible weight loss of 180 Lbs back in 2004. The experience made him a passionate advocate for low-carb living, and he is one of the most energetic and prolific activists in the ancestral community today. Despite maintaining a low-carb diet, Jimmy started putting the weight back on. Then last year to address this he started his now famous nutritional ketosis experiment, which has been very successful for him. He discusses this in this episode of his podcast.

Jimmy often describes himself as metabolically deranged to a point where he cannot tolerate any starch and very few carbs of any kind. Whilst I am very happy for him that he is getting back to normal weight through nutritional ketosis, I feel it would help Jimmy and many others if someone came up with a way to measure and track the relative metabolic resilience of an individual.

I don’t believe permanent ketosis is a natural state for the human body. I do believe it’s effective and healthy for some of us to stay in ketosis to maintain normal weight. But wouldn’t it be better if we recovered the ability to switch our metabolism between states without consequences for our weight?

So this is what I am exploring right now. Soon you will see posts here about exercise protocols as well as diet and supplementation strategies for metabolic conditioning. I will also explore how you can measure and track your metabolic resilience starting with insulin sensitivity.

That’s it for now. Why don’t you share with me and other readers what you are focusing on in 2013? Please leave a comment.

So, why should you listen to me?

“Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are,
and doing things as the ought to be done.”

Josh Billings

Since you are investing time exploring the materials on this blog, chances are you are looking for an new approach to weight loss. You are looking for something that has a better chance of succeeding than the diets you have tried in the past.

If you want weight loss information that goes against the grain, you have come to the right place. But your health is a serious matter, so please take a moment to ask yourself why you should listen to me. After all, I am not a health professional. I am just some guy who had some success loosing weight. I didn’t take a degree in this stuff. I just experimented on myself, and the experiment happened to work.

I am going to make a bold and opinionated statement here. Most mainstream health professionals don’t really know how people get fat. And they know less about how to loose weight sustainably. Some think they do, but their hypothesis is wrong. They believe it’s all about energy balance and eating fewer calories than you burn. They completely ignore how hormones act on nutrients and how this influences an individual’s propensity to accumulate fat. Consequently, most of them offer advice that is ineffective, and sometimes even counter productive, for the majority of overweight people. And in the case of doctors, the advice is typically based on material they have spent no more than 2 weeks studying at medical school.

Have you tried more than once to loose weigh the mainstream way? Did it work? Did the weight pile back on? Are people blaming your weak character for your weight problem? Are you beating yourself up about it?

Why on earth would you want more of that?

I got tired of being down on myself. I made a choice to question everything I had been told about how to eat. I learned that government guideline and mainstream medical advice is not really based in any science. So, I looked for people who offered something different and who did have some science to back up their advice. This led me to the Ancestral Health community and a return to normal weight and dramatically improved health.

I would like you to take the same joyous journey, but I am not saying you should necessarily listen to me or emulate what I did. I just think you should take your own health seriously. Give yourself some credit and stop listening to advice that hasn’t worked for you. Explore alternatives and always educate yourself before you take anybody’s advice. Do your own research and apply a healthy dose of critical thinking to the information you find. Then take action and conduct your own self-experiment by applying what you have learned. If you keep an open mind and trust your ability to distinguish good information from bad, you will succeed.

Here is a video lecture from another contrarian who encourages you to think for yourself. Tom Naughton is not a doctor nor a scientist. He is a journalist and a former comedian. In other words, a sane voice worth listening to in a world that has gone mad.

Must-See Video: Andreas Eenfeldt interviews Loren Cordain

On this blog you will find a number of videos by Andreas Eenfeldt (aka the Diet Doctor). His collection of video interviews is a great resource. Andreas has interviewed most of the leading lights in the Ancestral Health movement. Check out his YouTube channel here.

This week Andreas released a video interview with Dr. Loren Cordain who many consider the founder of the Paleo movement.

This interview covers the following topics:

  • What the Paleo diet is and who can benefit from it
  • The consequences of ignoring evolutionary biology in our diet
  • Why saturated fat is healthy when part of a low-carb diet
  • Why Dr. Cordain believes a vegan diet is unhealthy
  • Why Dr. Cordain advises caution against milk products (but is OK with butter)
  • How leaky gut, chronic inflammation and a range of auto-immune diseases appears to be linked

Enjoy!

My personal trainer at PaleoFX 2012

So, I have a bit of a guilty conscience. I have not posted any material to this blog for a while, and I have not done any exercise for nearly a week.

Work has been taking my attention, so there hasn’t been much time for play. In a week’s time I should be in the clear.

In the meantime, my personal trainer Darryl Edwards appeared as speaker at the PaleoFX 2012 conference in Austin, TX. He also did some Primal Play classes at the conference. I really like this video he posted of it on YouTube.

I am a fan of Darryl’s methods, and I really hope his appearance at PaleoFX helps raise his profile. Check out the testimonial I wrote about my experience with his Play Camp classes here.

How the Paleo/Primal diet works

 

One of the things my blog has been missing, is a dissertation of how the Paleo/Primal diet actually works. I have been wanting to post an article on this, because understanding the science made a big difference to me. I would like to think it could also make a difference to others.

The problem is the science is not easy to explain. To be honest I have been putting off writing an article about it because I knew it would be time consuming and challenging.

So, I was very pleased to find this video with Dr. Doug McGuff where he goes through the biochemistry of human metabolism to explains obesity, diabetics and why eating Paleo/Primal works for optimal health.

I have read a lot of material on how Paleo nutrition works, but this is by far the clearest explanation I have come across.

The whole video is 1 hour and 38 minutes long, but I have embedded it so it only plays the part where Dr. McGuff explains current understanding of metabolism. If you want to understand the science of Primal eating, these 36 minute are going to be worth your while.

Enjoy!!

Primal Beginners’ Q&A: How much fruit on a Primal diet?

Question:

Hi Peter – Came across this interview with Michael Arnstein, a dedicated frutarian marathon runner, who is a running mate of my friend Ben Ko. From an ancestral health perspective this kind of diet not only doesn’t make any sense: it shouldn’t be possible at all. Yet, Michael is proof that this diet not only works for him – but his athletic performance is the best it has ever been (he’s in his mid-thirties). I’d be curious about your response – I am a huge fruit fan, and I notice that you don’t eat much fruit at all. So Michael’s diet would be a different as it is possible to be from yours – yet it works for him. – Martin

Answer:

On first sight Michael Arnstein’s diet does seem to go against ancestral diet principles. He suggests 80% of daily calories should come from carbohydrate, leaving just 10% for fat and protein respectively. Furthermore, most of the carbs come in the form of fruit, which means Mr. Arnstein ingests a lot of sucrose and fructose daily. The typical Paleo or Primal dieter would have concerns about all those things.

But there is another way to look at it. You could argue Fructarians eat a part-Paleo diet. Mr. Arnstein’s diet basically consists of raw vegetables and fruit, and Paleo advocates would approve of the following characteristics of these foods:

  • If you set aside the sugar content of fruit, Fructarian foods are anti-inflamatory and dense in nutrients.
  • A Fructarian regime eliminates pro-inflamatory grains and seed oils.
  • Eating raw fruits and vegetables means you avoid all processed foods and dairy.

So, at a stretch, you could view the Fructarian diet as a raw food variant of the Paleo diet without the meat, fish and eggs. In fact, it seems to me the Fructarian and Paleo diets have more in common with each other, than either have with the typical Western diet.

The ancestral health community would say a diet without meat, fish and eggs would not be optimal for your health. I tend to agree, but I also think it is a personal choice. The key principle here is to eat natural nutrient dense foods, and avoid toxic and processed foods. Beyond that I think it’s about eating a diet that makes you feel and perform well. I would also take the guess work out of it by having blood tests regularly to make sure you are staying healthy.

I do think these things have to be viewed in the context of what I believe to be widespread metabolic damage in the western population. It is clear that most overweight people suffer from poor blood glucose control, and, for a growing number, this eventually turns into type-2 diabetes. So, I personally think a low-carb approach is the best remedy we currently have for returning overweight people to normal weight.

Going low carb does not necessarily mean you have to eliminate fruit from your diet. But the problem is fruits have widely differing sugar content. To illustrate this, here are two examples coutesey of SugarStacks.com:

Particularly for someone who has just started a weight loss program, fruit can be a bit of a minefield. I made the choice not to eat fruit at all when I first started loosing weight. I now eat a little, but I tend to stick to berries, which have a lower sugar content than other fruits.

If you really enjoy fruit, I see no reason why you couldn’t incorporate it in your diet in a way that allows you to still achieve your health goals. I would suggest you initially track the fruit you eat and see how it affects you. If you find your weight is sensitive to fruit, then you may have to track your consumption permanently to manage your intake. Alternatively, you could have periodic “fruit frenzies” where you eat as much fruit as you like on a nominated day per week or every fortnight. You will find there are a lot of diets out there, including some Primal and Paleo diets, that advocate “off days” or “cheat days”. A regular off day makes it psychologically easier to stay the course if you find your diet restrictive. It also seems consistent with the Paleo/Primal principle of eating like our hunter gatherer ancestors.

I believe we all need a healthy dose of curiosity, critical thinking and independent thought to manage our health. Particularly since government guidelines and prevailing wisdom has led us down a path of widespread obesity, diabetes and chronic disease. So, it would be inconsistent and disingenuous of me to insist everyone eats as I eat. Instead, I advocate you eat real food from natural sources and otherwise do what works for you.

Disclaimer

This blog reflects my personal opinions and experiences. None of the material I make available should be construed as medical advice, nor should it replace proper medical consultation. If this blog inspires you to start your own weight loss program, I encourage you to consult a medical professional. If you, your friends or your doctors wish to question or challenges any information on this blog, I welcome your feedback.

An overview of ancestral health communities

“The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Albert Einstein

When you read about ancestral health you come across a variety of terms that describe different sections of our community. Some of the more common are Paleo, Primal and Low-Carb. You may also have encountered the term LCHF. I often get asked what these labels cover, and what the differences are between them. It’s not entirely clear cut, but here is how I define them.

The Paleo Diet is based on the hypothesis that humans are genetically adapted to eat like our pre-historic ancestors. Paleo followers believe modern western diseases and obesity are due to changes in our diet that arrived with agriculture and industrialisation.

The Paleo Diet consists of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables. It suggests avoiding grains, legumes, most tubers, dairy, sugar and processed foods. Paleo dieters also prefers grass fed beef, wild game, organic poultry and wild fish over intensively farmed equivalents.

If you follow a Paleo diet, your carbohydrate intake will tend to be lower than on a typical western diet. But Paleo is less specific about the amount of carbohydrate you should eat than Primal, Low-Carb and LCHF. There are also researchers in the movement who argue for “safe starches”. One example is Staffan Lindenburgh who points to the Kitavans of Papa New Guinea as an example of aboriginal people who subsist on a high starch diet without incurring the degenerative diseases that are so common in the west.

In summary, Paleo is mostly about eating unprocessed and nutritionally dense foods to emulate the diet of our hunter gatherer ancestors.

The Primal diet is also inspired by our pre-historic ancestors. The selection of foods allowed on the Primal diet is much the same as Paleo. However, Primal allows high-fat dairy such as butter, cream, full-fat yoghurt and cheese. Some also argue a small amount of white rice is OK on a Primal diet.

Primal seems to me to be more prescriptive about your carbohydrate intake than Paleo. Primal diet books tend to give specific direction about the amount of carbohydrate you should consume to create optimal conditions for fat loss.

The most prolific advocate of Primal is Mark Sisson who runs a website called Mark’s Daily Apple.

The Low-Carb label is very broad. It covers over a number of diets that prescribe carbohydrate restriction for weight loss. Many followers started their Low-Carb journeys with the Atkins Diet, but there are many other Low-Carb diets such as the South Beach Diet and the Dukan diet.

Although it doesn’t apply to all Low-Carbers, in general this community is more relaxed about processed foods and Omega-6 rich oils than the Paleo and Primal communities. Low-Carbers tend to focus more specifically on the macronutrient balance in their diet. Some emphasise high protein, others emphasise high fat. What they have in common is the restriction of carbohydrate to trigger ketosis, which is when your body burns fat for fuel.

I think most people consider Atkins the founding father of Low-Carb weight loss. The research has since been moved forward by scientists such as Dr. Stephen Phinner and Dr. Jeff S. Volek.

You could argue that LCHF is the Scandinavian sub-section of the Low-Carb community. The LCHF label stands for Low-Carb-High-Fat. The term originated in Sweden where low-carb approaches to health appear to be moving into the mainstream.

I have seen LCHF defined as Paleo with high-fat dairy. By this definition you could argue it is similar to Primal. However, LCHF appears to be a little more relaxed about whether their food is organic and unprocessed, so to my mind their approach is closer to Low-Carb. But, as with all these definitions, we are splitting hairs.

High-profile LCHF people include Dr. Annika Dahlqvist and Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt in Sweden as well as Dr. Sofie Hexberg in Norway.

I like the term Ancestral Health because it is broad and inclusive. To me it covers all the four communities I describe here, along with some others (GAPS dieters and Western A. Price followers are notable examples). Inevitably when you try to define these movements, you emphasise the differences, which, to a degree, masks the obvious commonalities. At the same time, there are plenty of people in the Ancestral Health movements who don’t fit neatly into any one of these buckets.

I have learned a great deal from leaders and enthusiasts across the Paleo, Primal, Low-Carb, LCHF, GAPS and Western A. Price communities. We don’t all agree on everything, off course, but we do share some key characteristics. We are all sceptical about the low-fat grain-based diet dogma that dominates the mainstream. What drives us is the belief there is a better and more natural way of achieving wellness and vitality.

Further materials:

Diana Hsieh has published the best summary of the Paleo protocol I have seen online on her blog. It includes links to articles and materials that explains the rationale for each element of the diet. Click here.

Thought leaders in the Paleo movement include Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf and Art deVany. Here are som YouTube videos:

Mark Sisson more than anyone is responsible for popularising Primal living. Here is a YouTube lecture with him:

For visuals summarising of the Primal life-style click here.

I have posted this video with Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt recently, but it is so good it is worth sharing again:

Primal Boot Camp

“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
Lance Armstrong

It’s Monday and I am walking like an old man. My gait is stiff, uncertain and slow. Colleagues in the office offer comments of sympathy and concern. They wonder why I am nearly always limping on a Monday. Sometime on Tuesdays too. They don’t know I spend Saturdays crawling around on all fours in an attempt to get fit.

Primal Boot Camp is unlike any other fitness class I have taken. Crab walking across a wobbly bridge in a playground is not exactly what I expected when I signed up. But it is great fun. Our trainer, Darryl Edwards, is very inventive. He runs a class that is physically challenging, and far from boring.

I have attended the class once a week for two months now, and I have seen progress in all areas of my fitness. Strength, stamina, agility, flexibility and balance are all improved. So I have decided I want more of it. I will be starting personal sessions with Darryl soon. My wife and I have also decided to have regular family session with him. We tried one before Christmas and our 7-year old son loved it!

If you happen to live in or around West London and you are interested in giving Primal Boot Camp a go, check out Darryl’s website and blog. The class is very affordable and open to people of all ages and abilities.

The Guardian newspaper recently pronounced this kind of class the latest trend in fitness. Hopefully, this is a sign that primal living is becoming more mainstream. I for one prefer this kind of outdoor exercise to stuffy indoor gym sessions.  Even on cold rainy winter days.

Must-See Video: Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt lecture at Ancestral Health Symposium 2011

This just became my new favourite YouTube video!!

Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt shares the horrifying statistics for obesity in the western world as well as the latest scientific evidence on the causes. He then goes through the extraordinary story of Dr. Annika Dahlqkvist’s fight with Swedish medical authorities to get low-carb nutrition recognised as a legitimate approach to addressing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Dahlqkvist won the case, and as a result, low-carb living is becoming mainstream in Sweden.

This video is well worth 55 minutes of anyone’s time, in my humble view!

Must-See Video: Loren Cordain Lecture

Loren Cordain is one of the scientists who provided the foundations of the Paleo movement through his research. In this lecture, he goes through the scientific principles and hypotheses behind Paleo nutrition.

I personally have a hard time with Dr. Cordain’s assertion that  you should limit saturated fats in your diet, and I am more relaxed about dairy than he is. But overall I find his research insightful  and fascinating.

 Disclaimer

This blog reflects my personal opinions and experiences. None of the material I make available should be construed as medical advice, nor should it replace proper medical consultation. If this blog inspires you to start your own weight loss program, I encourage you to consult a medical professional. If you, your friends or your doctors wish to question or challenges any information on this blog, I welcome your feedback. Please leave a comment by the relevant blog article.

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