Eating

I mentioned about a week and a half ago, that my wife has me lined up with all kinds of supplements with the idea that she’ll keep me alive for as long as possible. I don’t always buy her conclusions about what these things will do for me, but after looking into them myself, I figure they couldn’t hurt.

Woman eating mediterranean food
Photo credit: Mediterraneandietforall.com

But my wife is also something of a “foodie”. She worked as a chef in a professional kitchen for many years and she’s really quite expert at putting together some spectacular meals. My wife’s and daughter’s idea of a good time is to sit huddled over their iPads scouring the web for new recipes. If my LSW (Long Suffering Wife) has me go to the local public library to pick up a book she has on reserve, you can bet it has something to do with health and food.

Some of the library books she’s had me bring home and read are Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD and The New Arthritis Cure and Stop Alzheimer’s Now, both by Bruce Fife.

I wasn’t particularly convinced that changing my diet and consuming coconut oil every day would protect my brain but again, nothing I read in those books seemed like it could particularly hurt me, especially after I did a little poking around on the web.

But my son David, who after becoming disabled during his service in the Marine Corps, picked up quite a bit of weight. Before that, he was like me when I was a young man, tall and thin and able to eat just about anything without gaining an ounce. My Dad is still like that to this day and he’s 83 years old. Unfortunately, my Mom “watered down” my genes so at age 60, it’s harder for me to lose body fat than my Dad (or when I was younger).

Exercise wasn’t helping get David’s weight down but when he changed his diet (not easy to accomplish since he was the only one in his household doing so), combined with his workout routine, he started losing weight…a lot of it.

Since then, he’s like a yo-yo, up and down the scale for a variety of reasons, but when he’s able to stick to his diet, he can consistently drop pounds.

That diet is a lot like the foods recommended in the Perlmutter and Fife books. You’ve probably heard of it. In the popular media, it’s called The Paleo Diet. It consists mainly of lean meats, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, and yes, even oils such as coconut oil (click that link to get more details).

Over the years, my wife has reduced most of the processed foods we have in the house and I can’t even remember the last time I was at a fast food restaurant. I don’t consume soft drinks anymore, diet or full sugar. If I want a burger, I grill it myself.

Has this helped me lose body fat? Hard to say. I’m currently at a plateau but that could be because I’m not rabidly dedicated to sticking to the diet. I don’t like counting calories or measuring how much protein vs. carbs I’m eating. But I have changed the basic substance of what I eat.

Here’s a typical weekday. Don’t expect exact measurements.

Breakfast

drinking proteinI go to the gym without eating anything. I only drink one cup of black coffee and one glass of tap water. There’s some debate on this, but I believe in the benefits of fasted weight training. Fortunately I wake up around 4 a.m. and am at the gym by five. I get home around six that that’s when I have breakfast.

35 mg (1 scoop) of Combat Protein Powder in water.

I’m not saying you have to use this brand. It’s what my wife picked up at CostCo. But after weight training, you’ve got a narrow window of time in which to consume some fast digesting protein so that the muscles you just tore down can absorb the protein and start being built up again, hopefully a little larger and stronger than before.

I know I should also eat some carbs to replace what I burned off at the gym, but I’m usually in a time crunch to get ready for work. The other important component to breakfast is plenty of water. I get some of that in my protein shake, but I also down at least another glass, usually when taking my dietary supplements.

The protein powder contains, besides protein, what are called BCAAs or Branched-chain Amino Acids. You can read all about BCAAs at the link I just provided, but basically they’re supposed to help stimulate protein synthesis in the body, contributing to building muscle mass.

Glutamine is another amino acid which, when combined with BCAAs, is supposed to “help keep skeletal muscle and plasma glutamine elevated and decrease BCAA oxidation and therefore muscle catabolism.

Again, you can click the links to read more about all this, I just want to give you a basic rundown on what I consume on an average weekday.

Between Breakfast and Lunch

I tend to graze throughout the day rather than eat breakfast and then wait for lunch to roll around.

coffee
Photo credit: foxnews.com

I probably drink way too much coffee at work, but I try to also drink about the same amount of water.

As I’m working in the mid-morning, I’ll munch on a carrot, some celery, a banana, maybe an apple.

The problem is, where I work, there are all kinds of snacks lying around. Beef jerky is one of my downfalls, not that it’s bad since it’s a low-fat protein source, but I’m sure it contains tons of salt.

The jars of almonds and cashews are also a problem, not because they aren’t good in moderation, but because I have difficulty “moderating”.

Every other Thursday, someone brings in bagels and cream cheese. I’m not passing that up (on the alternate Thursday, it’s donuts, which I couldn’t care less about).

About an hour before lunch, I have my second protein shake of the day.

Lunch

For lunch, I try to eat about 8 oz or so of a protein, such as chicken or fish. Depends on what we have handy in the fridge or pantry when I’m making my lunch in the morning. I may also have another piece of fruit or vegetable with lunch.

Between Lunch and Dinner

I take a large salad to work that I can munch on as I’m working. It can be a mixed salad, but sometimes I’ll have kale or spinach. Just stuff I can pour in a bowl and toss in my mouth as I’m working, the way another person might snack on chips.

I also continue to eat whatever fruits or vegetables I have left in my lunch sack (it’s a big sack). Too much coffee is probably what fuels my appetite and “inspires” me to go off plan and eat another work-provided snack.

As you can see, if I stick to the plan, I’m eating more or less what is recommended for a paleo diet. Lots of fruits and veggies, some meats and fish, and some nuts.

Dinner

Somehow, no matter how I plan or time my eating, I feel like I’m starving by the time I get home, which is around 5 p.m. My wife and daughter like to eat around 7 p.m. but I need to eat right when I get home. Sometimes, I wait, holding myself over with a salad, and then eat what they’ve prepared with them (it’s not uncommon for them to cook three or four meals at a time and then we all feed off of them for the rest of the week).

Often as not though, I’ll make myself something, either from left overs in the fridge or just a quick meal.

In the latter case, I often make a three-egg omelet, usually with something like onions, peppers, garlic, and yes, cheese. I also sometimes just bake some salmon and either have a salad with it or baked slices of russet or sweet potato.

And yes, I’m just as likely to put catsup on those potatoes.

Evening Snack

snacking
Photo credit: Runnersworld.com

Sometimes after dinner, that’s it. I won’t eat again until after my workout the next morning. Other times, I get kind of “peckish” after a few hours and go foraging, which my wife discourages.

I like greek yogurt which is a good source of protein and fat, but I’m also not above just grabbing whatever’s handy, whether it’s “paleo” or not, and chomping that down.

I’m sure you can see my point about my attitude toward food.

Oh, I commonly wind down the evening with a cup or two of chamomile tea.

Results

One result is that I’m plateaued as far as my weight loss and the reason should be apparent to you. If I were more disciplined in my eating habits, I’d probably start losing more body fat.

But there have been other results as well. Over the years, I’ve been plagued with gum infections and have lost some bone material that anchors my teeth to the rest of me. I have to floss and use a water pick regularly to hold the pockets that have developed in my gums at bay. But on the first dental cleaning after I fundamentally changed my diet, not doing anything different as far as my daily dental hygiene was concerned (and even having gotten a little lazy about it), my dentist said there’d been great improvement in reducing the depth of my pockets.

Seems like a strange coincidence but I’m willing to believe that diet can affect more than just how much you weigh. Gut bacteria can be both bad and good and you need more of the good kind. Gut bacteria affects the presence (or absence) of other “critters” that live inside you, including in your mouth.

Speaking of which, I’ve also had chronic gut pain which finally went away after I changed my diet. Those books my wife had me read all said that the secret to overall health is gut health. You can tell more or less how the rest of your body is going to go by how your digestive system is doing.

I know it’s tough to believe, but it’s hard for me to say what else could have made these changes. But just cutting out most processed foods and, in general, eating a (mostly) paleo diet seems to have done me some good, in spite of the fact that many see such a diet as a “fad”.

And So On

I still drink beer and wine, not tons, but I don’t cut myself off completely either.

pizza
Photo credit: Grand Forks Gourmet

I still have “fun foods”, occasionally eat popcorn while watching a movie, have pizza (my wife makes it from scratch however and the pepperoni is turkey, not pork).

The missus likes mediterranean cooking, and there are a lot of salad options available that go well beyond the usual lettuce and tomato variety. Some of them are exotic but simple to make at the same time. Some of the foods she makes however, take multiple different types of “tools” and hours to prepare (since I’m not cooking, I get dishwashing detail, which also seems to take hours).

The foods I’ve mentioned are only for the sake of example. I have a lot of variety in what I eat so don’t think I’m stuck to just a few foods when I stick to a healthy kind.

I’ve got arthritis in my spine, but I barely notice it. Like I said, my dental and gut health are a lot better than they were. My hands still get dry and torn up because of the cold weather, but coconut oil seems to help (I know I don’t eat/drink/cook with as much as those books recommend).

The two things you should take away from all this is that living on processed foods will seriously contribute to the deterioration of your health, especially as you get older, and eating more whole foods can improve gut health which contributes to your overall health.

You don’t have to go all organic (which is expensive), become a vegetarian or vegan or any of that, but the more control you take of what you eat, the more control you have over your health and quality of life.

Like the saying goes, you are what you eat.

There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.

Bernard Meltzer

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