Blog Archives

Must-See Video: The Function of Insulin Explained

Because one of its role in body fat storage, insulin often gets a bad rap in the ancestral health community.

Managing insulin secretion through diet is a good strategy for losing weight, but it is also important to understand that insulin performs vital functions in your body and is essential for your body to survive at all.

This short video from Kahn’s Academy is a good beginner’s guide to the function of insulin in fuelling your cells with glucose.

For an explanation of what happens to the glucose after it has entered your cells, see this video lecture by Doug McGuff, M.D.

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 tying my shoes became a daily joy

“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.

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.

My before and after photos

Convention says a weight loss blogger must have a before and after picture!

I have struggled a bit with this one. I discovered I had very few pictures of myself when I was at my heaviest. You just don’t want to appear in photos when you are unhappy with your appearance.

Anyway, I finally found a close-up picture of myself from before I started loosing weight. So here is my before and after photo:

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.

I will never stop “dieting” – It feels too good!

“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

Muhammed Ali

General wisdom says dieting is something you do temporarily with a specific goal in mind. Most people think weight loss involves lots of sacrifice, and no one in their right mind would deny themselves the good things in life indefinitely. The goal is to get back to “normal” as soon as possible. Otherwise, why would it be worth dieting?

This is how I used to think about weight loss. In fact, last year my New Year’s resolution was to be back to normal weight by end of 2011. I fully intended to then stop dieting. But things have changed. I no longer view the food I eat as a weight loss regime and I don’t want things to go back to the old “normal”.

I admit my daily diet is restrictive in some key areas. But I enjoy the food I eat and I love what it’s doing to me. I can’t remember feeling this good since I was a teenager.

Aside from weight loss, lot’s of other things have changed in my life since switching to a primal life-style. Overall, I have gone from a person who was chronically fatigued to someone who is full of energy.

  • I used to hate physical activity, but I now find myself exercising with great enthusiasm. I can’t bear to be sedentary. I have to move, otherwise I get jittery.
  • My mental stamina is better than I thought possible at my age. I no longer have the volatile ups and downs I used to have. My energy level stays high throughout the day.
  • I wake up refreshed in the morning, and I rarely need an alarm clock to get me out of bed. I sleep better because I no longer snore, and I no longer get up 3-4 times a night to go to the bathroom.
  • Somehow, I am less stressed and less anxious than previously. I don’t quite know how to describe or explain this. But somehow I have acquired a quiet confidence and it’s making a real difference to my daily life.

The way I look at it now, my new waistline is the least of my achievements. It’s no exaggeration to say I have gained a whole new life. That’s why I will never stop “dieting”. It just makes me feel too good!

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!

Successful weight loss – it’s the thought that counts

“You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act. It’s a habit”

Aristotle

Weight loss is not just about what you eat. The way you think about food, exercise and why you want to loose weight is at least as important.

To turn my health around, I realised I had to address my mindset and consciously change the myriad of little decisions I make every day about what I eat and drink.  Your health is a reflection of your habits, and these in turn are a reflection of your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and emotions.

So, how do you change all this?

Everyone is different, and my example does not apply to everyone. But here is what I did:

I FIRST ADDRESSED MY SELF-MOTIVATION. I started by confronting my personal inertia and developed a technique to keep myself motivated and honest. This technique helped me make a subtle but profound shift in my thinking. It became more about the differences weight loss would make to me rather than the weight loss itself.

I RESOLVED TO DO MY OWN RESEARCH. The diet and exercise regimes I have tried in the past did not work very well and made me miserable and vulnerable to colds and flu. I told myself this time would be different, and I began to question everything I had been told about healthy living. This led me to explore the writings and research by serious minded people who offer an alternative viewpoint on human health. Many of these take an evolutionary perspective on health, which means they look at the life-style and diet of hunter gatherers for clues to how we should live and eat today.

I MADE EXERCISE PLAYFUL AND SOCIAL. Instead of being a means to an end or a chore, I turned exercise on its head. Exercise became something I would be able to do and enjoy as a result of loosing weight. I also chose to do social activities over solitary ones. I play a lot of basketball and tennis now. My level of proficiency in both games is no more than mediocre, but I enjoy the camaraderie and I have fun.

I will explore each of these three topics in more depth in separate articles. The main point I want to make is that to a degree you think yourself thin. You need to get your head right if you want to loose weight.

Often the epiphany that makes people change their life-style is some kind of dramatic or threatening event. It could be that a person close to you got seriously sick or even died. Sometimes it’s a medical test that says you are sicker and in more trouble than you thought. I hope that neither is the case for you, but in some ways these dramatic events make it easier to change your mindset. If you don’t have any of these things driving you, in some ways you it’ harder to get and maintain your motivation.

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