“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones
is the way you use them.” – Proverb
Tying shoelaces is a trivial task for most people. But when I was at my heaviest it was a daily challenge and a constant reminder of my generous girth and poor health.
Kneeling down or bending down to reach my feet was very uncomfortable. So, to put on my shoes, I would sit myself down in an armchair. As I reached down for my feet my gut would press up against my diaphragm, which severely restricted my breathing. This meant I had to hold my breath as I was tying my laces. After finishing the first lace, I would sit back, take a little break, and snap a gulp of air before diving down for the next shoe.
When both shoes were tied, the next challenge was to get out of the chair. To do this I would rock my bottom to the edge of the seat and then push myself up out of the chair whilst making various strained noises. All this made me toy with the idea of wearing slip-on loafers. Thankfully, I managed to lose weight before this became more than a fanciful idea.
Nowadays, things are very different. I stand when I put on my shoes. I simply balance on one leg, lift up the other and slip on the shoes without making any strange noises or feeling any discomfort. To tie my shoelaces I kneel or bend down without thinking about it. It takes a fraction of the time it used to, and I view it as a daily opportunity to take satisfaction in the changes I have made to my life.
My weight loss has taught me that small things make a big difference. That’s why I advocate writing down the niggles and discomforts that are part of overweight life when you first embark on an effort to regain your health. Here is a list of things to think about to get you started:
- When you get home from work, do you change into comfortable clothes like sweat pants with an elasticated waist?
- Do you sit down or stand up when you put on socks?
- Do you hide behind other people when someone is taking a group photo?
- Do you have any aches or soreness that won’t go away?
- Are there times of the day when your energy level crashes?
- How do you feel after you have walked up more than two flights of stairs?
After you are back to normal weight, it is easy to forget how your body used to get in the way, and it is worth reminding yourself frequently. Take pride in all your little victories and resolve to make them permanent. Once you have escaped the limiting impairments of obesity, you won’t want to go back.
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.
If you have tried low-fat approaches to fat loss, it may surprise you how I lost weight. I consumed plenty of saturated fat and I didn’t count calories or even track the macro nutrients I consumed.
And it is important to emphasise that I have not only lost weight. All my health markers improved, including my blood cholesterol, which goes counter to what many health professionals would have predicted.
I know this may sound too good to be true. Especially, if you have tried a multitude of diets that promised so much but ended in failure. Can it really be that easy?
I will let you judge whether this approach is easy or hard. It depends on your personal circumstances, I suppose.
Here is my 7-step eating plan:
- My diet consists of meat, fish, poultry, eggs and vegetables.
- I mainly eat things that are prepared from scratch (mostly by my very supportive wife) and we try to use ingredients that are local and/or organic.
- I avoid all grains, tubers and legumes. This means cutting out bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, beans and lentils.
- I also avoid drinks that contain calories. I do not drink fruit juices, milk or sodas, nor do I take any sugar or other sweetener in hot drinks. I do make one small exception to this rule. I enjoy the odd alcoholic drink once or twice a week. I tend to mostly drink red wine.
- I restrict the amount of carbohydrate in my diet. This happens more or less by itself if you follow points 1 to 3 above. The only additional measures I take is to avoid sugar and I also eat very little fruit. Periodically, I spot check my carbohydrates, so I know my daily consumption is between 30g and 60g per day.
- I make sure I get plenty of fats from meats and wild fish. I supplement this with coconut oil and butter for cooking. I use olive oil for salad dressings. I avoid all other vegetable and nut oils.
- I eat when I am hungry and I eat as much as I need to be full.
Those of you who have studied low-carb and/or paleolithic nutrition will recognise this diet. There is nothing particularly original in what I practice. Researchers and thought leaders like Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Art Devany and others all recommend diets that are similar to this with minor variations. There is plenty of information available on this and I recommend you study the writings of these men.
You will also notice that there is no mention of exercise in my plan. I do exercise, but the truth is exercise is not strictly necessary to loose weight. I will discuss this further in future articles.
I would also like to make an obvious but important point here. Loosing weight is not just about what you eat. If your head is not in the right place, it is very hard to change a life-time of unhealthy habits. Watch this blog for future articles about how I stayed the course by changing the way I think about diet and life-style.
Here are some links to on-line resources that explain the basics of paleo/primal diet and exercise principles.