Blog Archives

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.

Primal Case-Studies: An update from Phil

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will recall I interviewed Phil back in November.

Phil switched to a low-carb life-style  September last year in an effort to manage his diabetes. His early results were spectacular. He lost 14 lbs / 7kg in 3 weeks, and he cut his use of insulin to a third of what it was previously.

Phil has agreed to update us on his progress periodically. Here is the latest instalment.

What has happened since we last spoke in November?

My weight has stabilised at 85Kg. I probably could lose a few more Kg, but everyone I meet notices the loss of weight.

My ill fitting clothes were getting embarrassing, so I have had to buy a new suit, and lots of new clothes.

And I feel fantastic. None of the drowsiness that I used to have almost every day. Generally I am full of energy.

What challenges have you come up against in maintaining your new life-style?

Every time I find myself in a different place or situation, finding something suitable to eat can be a challenge. I used to be very flexible and would eat whatever was available. But now it is the opposite. But then, when I do find something, I almost always feel really happy with what I have eaten and rarely regret not having what I would have eaten. If that makes sense.

How do people react to the changes you have made?

Everyone seems to be very respectful of it. Last week we went to dinner with friends and they went to so much effort to make the meal suitable for me. I was moved that people react so well.

What have you learned over the past two months that have caused you to make further changes to your life-style?

I have learnt that this way of eating can be really enjoyable. And the benefits are clear. I have done lots of reading, which led me to stop taking the Statins that my doctor had recommended.

What are the health questions that pre-occupy you at the moment?

The main thing that I haven’t sorted out yet is my exercise. I love doing exercise, in particular running and playing football. But I was finding it hard to manage the sugar levels. Then I got an Achilles problem that was not going away. I am seeing a specialist about it and he recommended a change in exercise routine.

What changes to your health do you hope to see in the coming months?

Once my Achilles is sorted I am looking forward to starting a new regime of exercise. I hope to get back to my old fitness levels and lose a few more Kg.

Weight Loss Success Stories

Other people’s successes inspire me whatever goal I am pursuing, and weight loss is no different. I particularly like stories about people who have both lost weight and transformed their health in the process.

Here is a selection of weight loss stories I really like. Not everything these guys advocate would work for me, but the success they have had is irrefutable and amazing. We can all learn from their journeys.

Read how Greg got rid of hypertension, pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome and 75lbs in 6 Months.

Kristy Griner tells us how she conquered depression, lost 120lbs and discovered the joys of being a strong and healthy Mum.

I wonder how you must feel when like this guy you have lost more than half your total body weight going from 538lbs to 268lbs.

The Unconquerable Dave has become a bit of a celebrity on Mark Sisson’s website. No surprise, his transformation is amazing and he is quite a character too.

Jay Meyers lost 80lbs along with his dandruff problem by eating primal. It’s hard to believe his before and after pictures are of the same person.

Tell me about the success stories that have inspired you by leaving me a comment below.

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 Case-Studies: Richard’s story about regaining vitality and health

Richard is a friend and colleague of mine who switched to the Primal life-style a couple of months ago. The difference this has made to his life has made him almost as obsessed with nutrition and health as I am!

What was your health situation before you decided to change your diet and life-style?

Not too bad, other than an operation in December to remove a benign tumour. I am an active sportsman (cricket, football, squash), and regularly cycled, ran and swam to keep up my level of aerobic fitness for my triathlon hobby. I wasn’t too happy with my diet, and indeed, other aspects of my life in terms of energy levels and weight. I felt that if I didn’t do the exercise I was doing, I would suffer even further from a predilection to put on weight.

What caused you to suddenly make changes in your life?

I think that the seed of change was blowing around my person for a while given the above answer, waiting for a way in. I didn’t know what that change would be, but I knew I had an opening to investigate and explore a change. I guess, ultimately, that age and weight were key factors and feeling that both were catching up with me. It was dawning on me that I needed to do something if I was to continue with the active sports that I am involved in – but the catalyst for change was without doubt the initial discussion I had with you, Peter, and hearing how you had made these changes and how you had made them.

What changes did you make in your life and what pace and order did you make them in?

Well, due to my personality, which is somewhat addictive, I listened and chatted more to you, did an evening’s worth of scouring the net, explained and shared what I could with my wife. I asked if she would be comfortable with such a sudden change and helping me cater for it (which I think is a very important factor if you are married and/or with children). So with that, some initial (and probably clumsy) planning around meals and what I should and shouldn’t be eating, I pretty much jumped straight in. I think that the first change was ruling out all cereals/grains/pastas/milk immediately and vastly reducing my sugar intake, which did lead to me thinking “OK, it’s dead easy knowing what not to eat…..but what does that mean in terms of meal planning?”. So, the second change was around starting to plan better, which was helped as I began to understand more about my body and the dramatic change that I was putting it through. I’m into my third month now, and now the primal lifestyle basics are things that are normal part of my everyday life, so I’m starting to plan my next steps, which will include an alteration to my exercise regime mainly, but also gaining more specific knowledge in terms of what I’m eating and what it’s doing in more depth.

What changes have you seen to your quality of life so far and what difference has it made to you?

Lots!! The most noticeable change has been to my weight. When I started living this way 10 weeks ago, I weighed 101.5KG, as I type this, I’m now 91.5KG – and I’ve not starved myself (far from it), I haven’t counted a single calorie, I haven’t sweated buckets in a gym or endured 3 hour runs, in fact, all I’ve done is made the changes I mention above. The difference this has made (apart from being delighted to find those clothes fitting that I kept in the slim hope I’d be able to wear them again) is that being lighter has increased my self-esteem and improved my own body image, which I think are not to be underestimated psychologically. This is to add to the obvious physical benefits that being thinner makes to you. Another change has been a real improvement in my sleep routine. For years I struggled to get to sleep at night, often lying awake for ages fighting a losing battle. Now, however, my average sleep duration has increased to what for me is an amazing 7.25hrs, and the quality of my sleep seems to have improved as well. I think that other changes are knock-on effects from a severe reduction in my nocturnal restlessness as well as benefits from how I’m now treating my body, such as having more energy, less of a tendency to be so stressed (this hasn’t gone completely, although I’m hopeful that it will continue to improve), and generally being a happier and more content person.

What have you learned about diet and health you did not know before?

More than I can reasonably write here I think! Given that I was starting with my bar pretty low in this area, I could argue that every piece of information in this area counted as something I’d learned. If I can distil this into a more succinct answer, I will. Learning that it’s all about controlling insulin secretion at its heart was eye-opening, as well as understanding how the ‘staple’ foods that I’d been relying on all my life do, in fact, encourage the secretion of insulin and how we should rely on the reserves that our bodies will build up naturally to do the buying and selling in our bodies if we follow the lessons of our forefathers (Grok and his mates) and eat primally. Understanding our DNA set-up (well, at a basic level) and how we can, in fact, programme our genes by understanding what happens when we eat what we eat, drink what we drink and exercise how we exercise. Becoming educated, again at a basic level, on exactly what the things on the side of packets mean, and I’m just starting to learn much more about why conventional wisdom around diet and lifestyle doesn’t, in fact, do ‘what it says on the tin’……

What challenges did you have in putting your new life-style into practice?

Aside from the challenge of learning to put together a completely different eating strategy, I did find it a challenge to not ‘snack’ – having been a great snacker before, although not always a snacker of what modern advisors may consider unhealthy (oat bars, cereal bars and suchlike, as well as chocolate, crisps, biscuits). Other challenges were around introducing, or in some cases a re-introduction, to foods that I hadn’t eaten, although as often happens, challenges (or fears) turn into unexpected pleasures. So an awful many foods that I refused to eat for years, I now enjoy hugely and in abundance and I find myself wondering why I was so stubborn before! (Liver, most root vegetables, biltong, greek yoghurt & venison are some of the main ones I refer to here). Another challenge was having to start cooking more than I/we did before, but we quickly realised that this isn’t actually a chore at all, and exploring more ways of preparing and cooking primal foods is one of the pleasures of the diet. Lastly, and this shouldn’t be underestimated I think in an honest assessment of changes, I think if this is approached properly, then not only eating according to the primal way but also obtaining organic, free range, freshly grown and preservative-free foods is important, and it tool us a while to get into a routine of how we do this, because it did mean a big change to the way we procured foods before.

What changes do you expect to see in the future if you continue following your program?

Hmmm…..good question. I think that changes that I will experience moving forwards will be less obvious and much more around the changes in the medium/longer term in how my body will benefit from how I’m now treating it. I think that I will see some further weight loss, although nowhere near at the rate I have been experiencing. I think once I change my exercise regime, I may see a slight change in body shape, perhaps. I wonder also whether I may feel less ‘old’ and more youthful as well…..

What challenges do you think you will have going forward in sticking to the program?

Honestly, I don’t think I will experience any challenges in sticking to it. I’m very contented and extremely happy having this way of living and eating and certainly don’t feel I’m missing out on anything (and when you’ve brewed that wheat-free ale Peter, that will be that sorted too :-)) I believe I will continue to learn more and indeed how to become an advocate of the programme. I believe in it, I ask questions when I don’t understand something, and I challenge things that I don’t think I follow, but it’s improved how I think and how I feel so much, that any thought of abandoning it are far away right now.

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.

Must-Hear Interview: Sean Croxton interviews Robb Wolf

There are a lot of high quality Ancestral Health podcasts out there, and they can be a great way to get a good broad understanding of nutrition and health. But the amount of Podcasts available can be overwhelming. To help you with this, I have started this series of Blog posts to guide you to the best Ancestral Health interviews on the internet.

For information on how to download and listen to Podcasts check out this article.

Robb Wolf

In this episode of the Underground Wellness podcast Sean Croxton interviews Robb Wolf who is one of leaders of the Paleo movement. Robb Wolf talks about his book The Paleo Solution and explains some of the fundamentals of the Paleo life-style and how to put it into practice.

Must-See Video: Dr. Terry Wahls reverses effects of Multiple Sclerosis

This TED video went viral in the Ancestral Health community immediately after it was released late 2011. In it, Dr. Terry Wahls recounts the remarkable story of how she reversed the effects of her Multiple Sclerosis through a Paleo diet adapted specifically to address her condition. She started regaining her mobility within weeks of changing her diet.

Aside from this remarkable transformation, one of the things that really inspired me on this video is Dr. Wahls’ shift from a supplements focused approach to an exploration of real food as medicine. Here is how she describes it:

“Then it occurred to me that I should get my long list of nutrients from food. That if I did this I would probably get hundreds, maybe thousands, of other compounds that science had yet to name and identify, but that would be helpful to my brain and my mitochondria. But I didn’t know where they were in the food supply. And neither did the medical texts nor the food science with whom I consulted……….but it turned out the internet did.”

Jimmy Moore’s interview of Dr. Terry Wahls in January is one of the best he has had recently. Here is a link.

You can also learn more about Terry Wahls on her website: http://terrywahls.com

Finally, Dr. Terry Wahls appears to have done an admirable job as a parent despite the challenge of her MS. Here her son is making a powerful address to the Iowa House of Representatives:

Primal Beginner’s Q&A: What to eat for breakfast

Question:

Hi Peter, I spent last evening scouring your blog and planning to start things off, and, duly inspired,started this morning by cutting out milk from drinks, and have had none of the other non paleo items, which has been great much to my surprise considering how much I usually eat in the dairy/pasta/bread/grain family. I did, however, find myself scratching my head somewhat at breakfast time, wondering what the breadth of choice is in this area…..so, my question is – what sorts of things do you have for breakfast? I went for a couple of eggs in the end, but shouldn’t think it’s wise to plump for that each day. I did look up a couple of websites, and whilst they had sample eating plans, they were rather more exotic that my lifestyle affords me to be….I thought of mushrooms, obviously cold meats (which is a continental thing isn’t it?). I don’t fancy veg for breakfast really….so, I wondered what sorts of breakfasts you usually have???

Look forward to your thoughts….

Richard

Answer:

Firstly, congratulations on getting started, Richard.

Most mornings I have 2-3 rashers of bacon along with 4 eggs either scrambled in butter or fried sunny side up in coconut oil. Some mornings I supplement this with a bowl of full fat greek yoghurt. Other mornings, I will have a salad of whatever vegetables we have in the fridge. I dress my salad in olive oil, lemon juice and I season it with a little salt. I particularly like salads that include some avocado. I also sometimes have spinach or mushrooms.

I consider eggs one of the best wholefoods around, and I eat in the region of 25-30 a week. I used to eat more when I was really focused on weight loss.

Some people are concerned about the high cholesterol in egg yolks, but studies have shown dietary cholesterol does not increase your blood cholesterol materially. Here is one such study: link

If your doctor insists eggs raise your risk of heart disease, then I would say it’s time to look for another doctor. It’s a good indication that he or she does not bother to follow developments in medical research, and personally I would not want to discuss my health with a doctor who is intellectually lazy. But each to his own, off course. You can also refer your doctor to this blog post if the topic of cholesterol comes up: link

If you can afford it, I would go for the best quality produce. This means organic free range eggs and nitrate free bacon. But, on balance, it is more important to eliminate the grains and sugar from your diet than worry about every breakfast ingredient being organic.

Paleo/Primal dieters, who are more purist than I, consider bacon a processed food and will either not eat it at all, or try not to eat it every day. To get around this I hear a lot of primal dieters say they make extra dinner in the evening, and have the leftovers for breakfast the following morning. I sometimes do this also. I personally think it is ok to eat bacon regularly, though, and I never seem to tire of it. It feels like a treat every time I have it!

For anyone who is about to start a paleo inspired diet, I strongly recommend taking a blood test early on, and to repeat it after 4-6 weeks. After this inital period, I would test every 3-6 months. You are about to make some dramatic changes to your diet, and blood tests will help spot if your physiology responds adversely in any way. I predict your health markers will improve along with your body composition, but every person is different. In the beginning there is also the possibility that you get one or two things wrong and don’t make the progress you expected. A blood test will give you clues about what to change to get back on track.

You should also bear in mind that I am not medically qualified. I am just some guy who had some success loosing weight. You should not take my advice (nor anybody else’s for that matter) without testing independently that your body is responding well to your new diet.

I am about to have a new blood test, Here are the health markers I plan to request. The last four on this list are not generally included in a standard blood test and some may be unfamiliar to some doctors:

  • HDL cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • Triglycerites (low is best)
  • Fasting serum insulin
  • Blood glucose
  • High sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • HbA1c
  • Omega-6/Omega-3 blood assay
  • Vitamin D3

It is also worth exploring the materials I provide links to in my blog posts. Aside from changing your diet, the best thing you can do for your health is to be curious about how your body works and what is good for it. I would also invest a little money and little time reading a book by one of the leading lights in the ancestral health movement. Here is a list of my current Top 3 books on ancestral health: link

If you want more inspiration for Paleo/Primal breakfast dishes, here is a cookbook we use a lot in my family:

“Primal Blueprint Quick and Easy Meals” by Mark Sisson

Hope that helps. Good luck and keep the questions coming!

Peter

Must-read article: High cholesterol and heart disease – myth or truth?

Many people believe dietary fat increases cholesterol and that this leads to heart disease. In the medical establishment this is known as the Lipid Hypothesis. A growing number of research scientists now believe this hypothesis is oversimplified and mostly wrong. Despite this, most doctors still advocate a low-fat diet rich in wholegrain along with a preference for vegetable oils over animal fats.

Chris Masterjohn has made a name for himself on the blogosphere by addressing common misconceptions about cholesterol.  In this article he analyses the available literature on the topic, and gives his view on what the real truth is.

“High cholesterol and heart disease – myth or truth”

Ask your doctor to read this if he or she has concerns about the fat content of a Primal diet.

Here is also a brief video primer:

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