Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tough 2 weeks but a Victory Over Skinny Jeans!

Life gets in the way sometimes right? Well, I've yet to take my new updated photos (tomorrow AM I'll add them to this post) so it's hard for me to tell where I'm at. I still feel good which is miraculous considering how crappy I usually feel when sedentary. I hurt my hip which put me out of Crossfit for almost 2 weeks. Frustrating, but the timing couldn't have been better as I've been working a million hours a day, everyday, since that happened. Working for me (as for most people these days) entails sitting on my butt at my computer or sitting on my butt painting and drawing for hours on end. The only time I've actually gotten up to move around is to walk the dog or make it to a soccer game. Yikes. There's good news here though! Usually when I have a few weeks like this I very noticeably gain a little. A week or 2 back at the gym/normal life and it goes away, but during crazy work periods my skinny jeans certainly don't fit. This time, for the first time ever, despite my lack of moving around, I look exactly the same as I did a few weeks ago as far as I can tell. No weight gain. In fact, I tried on my super skinny jeans a few days ago...lo and behold I pulled them on with no wriggling.

Let's talk a bit more about those super skinny jeans shall we? Back in 2006 I went on a shopping spree after a long haul of a lot of extra work and, therefore, "extra" money. I was also working out like a crazy person at this point, so, I go to H&M and I buy these jeans. I could barely put them 0n in the dressing room but did that thing where you think to yourself, Oh! I'll totally fit into these if I keep working out like this! Or, they'll stretch out after wearing them a few times! Long story short, I didn't and they didn't. I would say maybe 4 months out of the year I manage to squeeze into these puppies. Usually in the spring and summer when I'm training for races and it's too hot to wear jeans anyway. Even then, it's within an inch of my life and I refuse seats at bars all across America because they are so uncomfortable to sit down in. They're like a modern day corset, seriously. At this point, I can't even believe I've kept them. I haven't subjected myself to their torture for at least a year because it's just plain ridiculous. The other day while cleaning out my closet I found those devil jeans and walked over to the trash. Before tossing them I decided to try them on one last time and you know what? Not only did I pull them on effortlessly but I could totally sit down in them almost comfortably. Comfortably enough that if I wore them out and about, I wouldn't be the awkward weirdo looming over everyone sitting down and denying offers of seats left and right.

I know almost every single lovely lady out there can relate to this story of sweet victory over the skinny jeans. It's a never ending battle and I think eating paleo is the equivalent of having the excalibur sword. (No, I've never played Dungeons and Dragons just a lot of Final Fantasy back in the day)

Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Justin Fitzpatrick

Next week I have some good stuff in store for you. Tales of physical ailments potentially caused by diet or maybe a story discouraging you to make food a reward for hard work or perhaps I'll just share some poetry. FYI, Sylvia Plath is my fave so put your super sad suicidal hats on!

Angeles National Forest '09

On a side note, I've been lamenting the lack of nature in my life since moving back to New York. I've been getting outside a lot despite the crazy weather but walking around Brooklyn, while interesting in it's own way, is by no means as inspiring and cleansing as a 4 hour hike in Angeles National Forest. Thursday night I was talking to Mike about how much I missed nature. Friday afternoon I came home from Crossfit, looked out my kitchen window (it's not something I do very often unless someone is hysterically screaming or smashing something) and in the yard behind my building there was an enormous hawk eating a rat. It was amazing and I couldn't help but feel like it was a little gift. So, thanks to that hawk for not only cheering me up but also for knocking down the rat population!

For the record, here is a good reason why you shouldn't feed or encourage squirrels in any way. Creepy right?

Friday, January 21, 2011

3 weeks and counting

It's officially been 3 weeks and I am way into this. I am enjoying cooking and food shopping and arguing with people online who say things like "if you were really eating like our ancestors, you'd be eating raw meat", or "you will die without grains!" Seriously, I am the self punishment queen of reading inane post article comments. (follow that link at your own risk, Yahoo is chalk full of hateful, ignorant commenters to get you all riled up) It is very rare that an informed, educated human being makes a comment that actually leads me question the information I've gotten and the things I believe, which is unfortunate as I am all for differing points of view. That is how you learn.

More importantly, let me get more specific with my update. I feel great. My skin looks better than it has in forever. I haven't had problems with pimples in years now, but it just looks healthier to me. My eyes look brighter as well. I would often go the entire day thinking I look kind of tired. I've been chalking that up to getting a little older but apparently not so. My tummy is flatter and when I wake up in the morning I feel like getting out of bed rather than laying around...even when it's still dark outside. I should also add that I've completely stopped using an alarm and allow myself to wake up naturally. My motivation is definitely up overall.

Pretty crazy right? I'm still puzzling over that profile shot. That's a pretty noticeable difference!

My plan for the next 3 weeks is to eliminate yogurt and honey entirely. This is going to be difficult as yogurt is my morning blanky essentially, but it's also the only thing I put honey on. That'll get rid of almost all of the sugar left in my current diet.

Not Without a Few Drawbacks

During this epic journey spanning an unfathomable amount of time-3 whole weeks, I've done a lot of thinking about the name of this particular method of eating (Paleo or Primal) and the ethical impact (well, specific to my particular set of ethics and on the whole, a lot of yours as well, I'm sure) of eating, frankly, a lot of meat. I actually wrote what amounted to a 5 page blog post about how I feel being an animal loving, environmentally conscious human on this diet. Some of it was funny, but man, it was kind of too long. I'm aware of the limits of people's online attention span and I'm pretty sure if it were someone else's blog, I would've taken one look at the length and been like, hmmmm, I think I'd rather spend that time reading Stephen King's "The Stand" thanks. I'll include passages from my ridiculous monologue here and there over the next several posts, essentially tricking you into reading the whole damn thing eventually. Very sneaky, I know.

The Word Paleo: A Bit of a Curse at Times

Regarding the name of the diet, "Paleo" (this also applies to Primal), I'd like to take a moment to say that this word, along with the quick explanation of the root theory behind this way of eating, gets this diet dragged through the mud by all kinds of people. The "authorities" on this diet, for lack of a better word, have never ever claimed that we are eating exactly like our ancestors 20 million years ago. In general, I've found that the people who are vocal proponents for paleo/primal eating are pretty damn smart. They understand that we're not literally eating like our ancestors but rather we are taking the basic principles behind their diet & lifestyle and applying them to our modern life. Not unlike Orgy bastardizing New Order's "Blue Monday" back in the late 90s, we can only do our best to interpret the past with what we have in the present. I'm assuming none of you out there took the name/quick description literally, but just in case I have an odd stranger or 2 lurking out there, please know that the paleo community is aware it's not eating like actual cavemen. We're just inspired by them.

Vegan Guilt

Much like the agnostic ex-Catholic bears the guilt of a tiny Jesus in their heart, a former vegan bears the tears of the animals they've consumed.

What? too dramatic?

I am way into this lady's illustrations: Cecilia Levy's Blog

OK fine. The bigger trick here, how does an animal and environment loving girl, who also cares significantly about her personal health, reconcile eating a paleo diet? I'm still struggling with this a bit but I'm doing what I can to make sure I am purchasing my food in the most conscientious way possible. I buy wild caught fish from sustainable stock (SUPER important!!!) when available and I just found a truly wonderful meat supplier in New York state that delivers to NYC. All of their meat is raised within 50 miles, humanely, organically and has a much much lower environmental impact than your typically raised meat products. I highly recommend checking them out and I'd like to thank one of the members of CFSBK for giving the heads up on this place-my apologies for not remembering exactly who it was. The name of the company is Fleischer's and the man behind it used to be vegan which warms my heart.
Grain Not So Fun Fact #2

What's that you say??? You want another not so fun fact on why grains are not good because the first one just didn't do it for you?? Oh, alright...but pay close attention as this one is going to be a bit more complicated than the last one.

Grains contain proteins called lectins. Lectins in some grains are more harmful than others, but they are all problematic. Lectins are not broken down in our body's normal digestive process, leaving large intact proteins in our guts. They attach to receptors (essentially by "tricking" them), are transported intact through our intestinal lining and, in doing so, cause damage to the lining. In response to the lectins escaping out of the intestines, our bodies react to them as if they are invaders and produce antibodies to attack and kill them. (high school science fun fact reminder: antibodies are specific to the invader they are fighting hence why we are given vaccines containing tiny amounts of dangerous viruses, so our bodies produce antibodies specific to that particular virus) Unfortunately, the lectins tend to look a lot like other useful proteins in our bodies that are supposed to be there, causing our bodies to essentially attack these proteins we need in addition to the lectins. End result? A variety of autoimmune disorders. Also, because of the damage to the intestinal lining, other things are able to pass through into your body leading to a variety of food allergies (again, specific antibodies are developed that attack say, for simplicities sake, nuts) and exposure to chemicals that would normally remain in your digestive system.

Alright, did you follow all that? Take a moment to thank Robb Wolf if you did because that was basically the cliff notes version of part of his book...which you should read.

This has nothing to do with anything. I'm running out "motivational kittens" that are specific to what I'm writing about, so please just enjoy these kittens in socks.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

2 Week Update!

Two weeks in and things are looking good. I know you're probably here to check out a new set of photos of me in a sports bra and short shorts but you're just going to have to wait a few more days. The plan is a weekly set of photos but I skipped last Tuesday. Why you ask? Well, mostly because I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. That may be a good look in high schools these days (I'm hoping MTV's 16 and Pregnant** will fix this problem...fingers crossed) but not for me. I seriously felt like someone had shoved a balloon into my guts. Naturally, I decided to hold off on the photos until I was more of a svelte little mink.
***You like how I dropped that in here? I just learned about this show on my flight to LA over the weekend. Flying is pretty much how I learn about most shows.

Photo cred: rwkphotos on Flickr

In the interest of full disclosure, I have eaten paleo in the past. When I was getting ready for my half ironman, I ate like this for 45 days or so, but with more cheating. I learned that when you severely limit your carb intake, your body eventually switches to fat burning mode (ketosis: there is definitely some controversy here about whether or not this is healthy for extended periods of time. I eat sweet potatoes once a week, which is an acceptable paleo practice, rather than completely carb starve my body) that is great for sustaining longer bouts exercise. Eating like this was the first time I lost weight in years. When I first started going to the gym and getting in shape I lost weight of course. Well, technically the number stayed about the same, but I was much more compact due to replacing fat with muscle. After that first year, I plateaued. No big deal. More often than not, if I'm working out regularly, I'm happy with the way I look. I got over the unrealistic (and unhealthy) wish of being super skinny years ago. So, my three issues with eating this way the first time around were:

1. The first place I lost fat, much to the disappointment of Mike, was my chest. Suddenly I really identified with the lament of the animated character in this commercial. Ahhhh genetics, the oh so inconsiderate determinate of where our body holds our fat and where it lets it go first (more on this in a future post).

2. I was totally bloated a lot of the time and did not fuss with my diet enough to fix this issue.

3. The first few weeks I was cranky, tired and constantly hungry. After 3 weeks this went away, but man, I was not fun to be around in the beginning. It was basically sugar/carb withdrawal and let me tell you, it sucks, but it's worth sticking it out. Luckily, this time I did not go through that period at all.

4. Bonus Issue! Inner former vegan sometimes looked at my plate and saw something like this:

Crocheting genius care of Croshame

This time around, so far, my only issue as mentioned earlier ,was the bloating, which seems like too mild a word to describe the distended belly I had the first 10 days. I would eat just a few bites and within 20 minutes I looked 6 months pregnant. The thing with eating this way is that you really have to pay attention and tweak what you're consuming to make it work the best for you. My way of fixing this issue was to simply take 3 fiber capsules daily. Within a few days I was fine. Isn't that fascinating? I know, I should just end this now as this post has clearly culminated.

But I'm not going to. I'm not letting you all off the hook without teaching you something interesting about why grains are bad. So pay attention!

Consuming, and especially over consuming, sugar and grains messes with your body's ability to quickly and accurately communicate to your brain that you're full. I'm simplifying this as it's complicated, but you can confidently walk away knowing that this is true. This leads to overeating in many people and eating the proper amount of food is essential to prolonging your body's ability to operate properly & efficiently. Overeating taxes your body in all kinds of ways that go even deeper than just the obvious issue of gaining weight. On the flipside (because I'm into being fair and balanced, you know, like Fox News) there are people out there who criticize following a paleo diet as they say it can lead to undereating...spell check tells me this is not a word but whatever. I can see how this might happen. I have found myself feeling the need to eat significantly less frequently in the past 2 weeks. My recommendation for those with this concern is to keep a food log for a week or 2 on a site such as Fitday. No need to obsess, but I think it's important to be honestly aware of how many calories you're consuming and if you're regularly lacking in any essential vitamins and nutrients. Actually, screw it, I recommend using Fitday for a few weeks to anyone. It's free and it's pretty interesting, just try not to get too nuts about it.

I leave you today with a word of advice (sorry Angelenos,this is more for my friends stuck in winter wonderland purgatory) bundle yourselves up and get outside regularly for a walk or a run. I've been making a big effort to get outside everyday and walk at least a mile despite the freezing temperatures and the winter blues have yet to hit. Miraculous considering my last 3 winters were spent being able to don a tank top and head out for a run mid January in LA. Motivational winter kittens!

Kitten photo genius care of David Waterman on Flickr

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Back to Business: Paleo/Primal Eating

As many of you have pointed out over the past several (yeah, officially several) months, I have not posted a new blog entry! I know I know. Not only have I been slacking on this, but I've also been slacking on my fitness as well. Post half ironman, I found myself with a serious case of laziness due to lack of a specific goal, distracted by moving back to New York City, getting reacquainted with my former home etc. etc. Also, whether it was due to overtraining, overdoing it on race day or a lack of proper recovery & stretching in my routine, I found myself with all kinds of aches and pains everywhere. I seriously felt like an old lady...only I didn't get to hang out with super cute hairy donkeys like this lady:

As of late, things have been looking up. I found my new crossfit home and in just a few weeks of training there, a lot of the pains I'd been experiencing are calming the hell down finally. Not to mention the fact that this place is chalk full of rad people and trainers, which is also a big motivator in getting my butt back in gear. Yes, even I fall off the wagon occasionally. This is what happens when we (we being ALL of us) don't set goals for ourselves and all of a sudden everything else seems more important. Working out starts to feel like a pointless time suck. So, put that in your bag and carry it to the gym or whatever.

Eating Like Our Ancestors

I'm not usually one for New Year's Resolutions of any sort. I'm especially not one for fitness New Year's resolutions. In my opinion, a healthy diet and exercise should be part of your life and not something you decide to try out starting January 1. However, starting a few days ago (yes, a few days ago like January 1st...sigh) I've committed to eating paleo for the next 60 days along with many other lovely people at Crossfit South Brooklyn.

What the Hell is Paleo?

Paleo is a way of eating that makes the inner former vegan in me cry. Basically, you subsist on meat (preferably organic, grass fed/wild caught), eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and certain oils. That's it. The idea is to cut out all grains, sugar, dairy, processed foods & alcohol (the biggest OMG for me) and to keep your carb consumption to a minimum. This is the basic premise behind the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived and ate for like a trillion years. Please don't ask me how exactly long...I don't feel like looking it up this second. Agriculture is still a fairly new change in the way we eat when you look at our timeline. There are more and more people everyday who are being diagnosed with celiacs disease (severe allergy to gluten) and autoimmune disorders that can be directly linked to grains which have a detrimental effect on our bodies when consumed.

Listen, before you get all upset at me for saying grains are not good for you, please go here and here and for the love of god please read this book, which is absolutely blowing my mind. These people will do an infinitely better job at explaining all of this than I will. I already knew and understood the general concept behind all of this business, but there's so much to it I don't even know where to begin. Ask Mike, he is totally tired of me talking about it already. Regardless, I understand the resistance. Everyone is different. Everyone's body deals with things differently. For instance, there are people who can eat an entire pizza at Carmine's & walk away perfectly fine, while I am punished with a cheese baby in my guts making me incredibly uncomfortable for 2 weeks if I even take 4 bites. Most of the time though, I thank my body's inability to easily process most dairy products, leading to the evil cheese baby, because it keeps me away from pizza (and ice cream and milk and whipped cream and etc). That stuff really does not do much good for your body. And this is what came up on the first page of Google image search for "cheese baby"...of course:


So I'm posting my Before pictures (god help me, you guys better show your appreciation for this by clicking on the links I've included up there and diligently informing yourselves as a thank you)

In other news, I appear remarkably happier than most people in before photos.

Anyhow, I'll be eating this way, with some minor cheats to keep my sanity, for the next 60 days and will be updating you on the progress via my lovely blog with pictures (!!!). Also, every update, I'll share 1 or 2 fun facts about grains and what exactly makes them less of the "building block" they are generally made out to be. So, whether or not you like it (I saw you not clicking on those links up there) you will be forced to learn something about it.

In general, the quick things to take away from this are things I've addressed in one way or another via various other entries in this blog: processed foods are bad, you should buy whole foods, organic/grass fed/wild caught as much as possible and you should inform yourself about how your body processes your food and what it needs to function most efficiently. I'll leave you with motivational photos of what I bought at Whole Foods today: