Monday, March 10, 2014

New Life as a Hunter-Gatherer

Some time around mid-January of this year my fantastic gourmet-meal-preparing spouse, Lietta, asked if I'd be willing to watch a film she had seen earlier in the day. Puttering about the house earlier I'd caught a scene or two as she had watched 'The Perfect Human Diet and found it interesting.

As a relatively recent retiree (less than three years) and medicated male in "reasonable" health so long as I stay on blood pressure and gout medications, I am willing to confess that the medication has been an absolute necessity for me. Back in the late 1990's my weight was continuing its inexorable climb toward the 300 pound plateau I had been valiantly (but unfortified by weak will power) striving to avoid - primarily by the tool of denial and postponement until tomorrow what I had no will to do today.

As life and fortune would have it, we found ourselves living temporarily in Spokane, Washington where Lietta and I had more or less single-handedly moved ourselves and household furnishings not once but three times. The third move involved two moving events actually, as we first moved furnishings from our small one- bedroom apartment to a larger rental home and then drove across state to our  home on the coast and filled a full size u-haul truck with a large number of furnishings with which to fill the rental home. With the exception help loading our piano and freezer, we packed and loaded the u-haul ourselves.

At that point in January I could tell that I had probably lost close to 20 pounds due to what felt like constant  sheer exercise.

After watching 'The Perfect Human Diet that January afternoon, I shared Lietta's enthusiasm and made the most recent of many promises I had been making to her and to myself to take seriously the idea of finding a way of preparing and consuming our food in such a way as to limit or avoid many of the detrimental consequences of my love for brownies, candy, ice-cream, pasta, sandwiches and all the other stuff guys consume that results in what I tell my kids and grandkids is not a beer-belly but a macaroni-and-cheese belly.

We embraced the Paleo Diet and tried to follow it in almost a religious way for starters just to see what would happen and how quickly. I did what I could to help cook using only the fresh vegetables and meats that we had purchased for which I already had personal recipes. I also intensified my commitment to fruit smoothies, taking on responsibility for the only other beverages beyond water, juice, coffee and tea that we would be drinking.

I make up my smoothie recipes as I go along, usually utilizing fresh or frozen fruit, coconut, almond or rice-milk, sometimes ice and perhaps a spice like cinnamon or the like. This morning's new smoothie recipe is a case in point (and Lietta has already had three cups of the stuff):

  Arthur's Rhubarb, Strawberry, Orange Smoothie
8 ounces frozen rhubarb chunks
8 ounces frozen strawberries
one peeled orange
coconut milk
two capfuls bottled lemon juice
water
Place the rhubarb chunks loosely in the bottom of a blender
Add enough coconut milk to cover the rhubarb chunks
break the orange into 8 slices and drop in.
Add lemon juice.
Let sit five minutes while the milk helps the rhubarb thaw
Turn on blender. The coconut milk should be enough to immediately blend the rhubarb and you should have a swirling pinkish mix with a funnel in the middle. Steadily drop in the strawberries (but not too quickly) one-at-a-time until the mix thickens and starts to stop swirling.
At that point add more coconut milk until the funnel reappears. (Or you could use water but I never like to include more than 1/2 cup of water in my smoothies and no ice (maybe I'll change my mind in the hot summer. We'll see.)
Once all the strawberries have been added, You have your smoothie mix which usually lasts us 2-3 days depending on how many juice glasses we drink each day.
I'm having fun. I don't think of it as a diet as much as a way of perceiving our dietary style. Grocery shopping is truly a matter of hunting and gathering and is done much more quickly and efficiently when we hunt and gather only the specific things we choose in advance to consume. In fact, I'm struck by just how much of the store grocery aisles down which we no longer hunt and gather.

The immediate effect of the change in dietary habit was a sensation I kept describing to Lietta as my feeling of being "lubricated." In 2010 I underwent knee-replacement surgery on both knees based on advanced degenerative arthritis, not to mention my long time of abusing my knees playing basketball beyond my prime, having moved household furnishings more than 20 times in the past 40  years, jogging on paved roads and sidewalks, and other sorts of things a man who thinks he is never going to die will do to himself.

When I told Lietta I felt lubricated I was talking about the spontaneous and almost instantaneous way I could stand up and start moving without hesitation. Those who knew me even 4 months ago could see me somewhat groaning and groping for balance and leverage every time I needed to stand. Within two or three weeks I was feeling "lubricated" and like all my "bearings" had been replaced.

As far as my medication, my blood pressure for the past six years has hovered between 150-160 over 100-110. On a good day it would show in the 140-90 range. As early as February 1, I was down to the mid 120's and high 70's which I am sure is what the medical pros expected if I would have lost the weight in the first place. I expect to have a complete physical exam including blood work either in March or April as a means of gauging the effect of the paleo diet and the removal of grain-based food products along with a drastic reduction in any kinds of processed foods.

Personally, I have tried for years without success to improve my overall health and weight. This particular horse seems for the moment to have gotten me where I am when nothing else worked. So far as this particular horse doesn't stumble, I'm sticking with that brung me further than I've been since I was a young man.   

Why Paleo Diet, and why for now?



Timing;
    Christmas Eve 2013 and our son-in-law, at tender age of 46 years old had a heart attack in his home, had to be resuscitated (brought back to the world of the living) by the paramedics.  Giving our family pause to reconsider life-style choices.   I know it sounds crazy that I would choose to go in an opposite direction of the collective wisdom of medical and nutritionists in food choices, but I did decide to go in that direction.  I went paleo with mine and my husband's food diet and lifestyle.  Having seen a documentary earlier that made sense to me, (The Perfect Human Diet), and having been hearing and seeing gluten-free for a while now, I decided to get into some deeper research on both - gluten free and paleo diet.

   Entering into a bit of a purist view about the matter, and being the spouse who has the food responsibilities, my husband was obliged to go along to some degree.  I didn't make demands that he adhere, and knew that I wanted to give this approach an honest trial run.  For myself, I have been struggling with some disorder in my foot and leg, ie, bone spur, plantar fasciitis, neuropathy - something that causes pain daily and interferes with my mobility in being on the foot/leg for more than a short period each day.   I continue to read up on possibilities via internet research, and it seems to be in the nature of one of those medical conditions that medical profession guesses at more than knows.  I don't want to subject my body just yet to medical guesswork (that is another story for another time).  In struggling through the pain since October when it came on strong and unrelenting, I have a keen interest in lifestyle choices that might have contributed.  I and my husband are in our 60s, me at 62 and he at 67, and we embrace that there are aging issues affecting us as well.   Along comes the paleo food regimen that makes sense to me in a way that encourages me to give it the old college try and see where it takes us.

50 lbs lighter - my
handsome skinny husband

    Well - take us it did!   My husband has dropped about 50 lbs in the few short months since January 2014 through today (March 10, 2014) and as he is fond of saying, this is the thinnest he has been, and likely has not been down to this weight in our 20 years of sharing life.  For myself, the change in weight is slower, and I do see my body redistributing itself so that the poking out belly is not poking out and there is a look to myself that is more in line with the way I used to be.  And for now that is most encouraging for me.  We didn't embrace the paleo way as a means of weight loss, no - I was looking for improvement in health issues.  The weight loss and redistribution has been a wonderful bonus and surprise to both of us.



 I have to give kudos to my husband for sharing with me a purist approach to the transformation to paleo eating.  After all the years that I thought I was preparing 'healthy food' for us in what I adopted as my personal philosophy of limiting food intake to fresh and eliminating where I could  preserved, prepared, boxed foods, I saw myself as doing us a healthy favor.  I had our food intake as weekly menu of different dishes of grains, rice, beans, lentils, pasta, and small amounts of chicken.  Sometimes pork, but primarily a reduction of meat, especially red meats in accordance with the medical/nutritional advice.  It is also fair to report that being on a strict financial budget, it worked better to reduce meats with their continuing elevated prices and stick to less expensive grains, beans, legumes, pasta.  We seemed though to be growing in weight despite the 'healthy eating'.   I'm skipping a lot of information, to get to the point of reporting that my husband was not disappointed to not only have meat back in our diet, but a generous amount of meat - daily even.

  I don't have to map out the paleo approach to eating - it has been done at length by so many others and I am so grateful to the many who have been passionate about going paleo.   It will be more suitable to put up some links to the helpful blogs, books, websites that have been a mainstay for me as I ventured into this endeavor.   And I intend to do so on the sidebars of this blog.  Wanting to share the recipes and information that so many others have generously shared  with attributes to their online presence, encouraging readers to other sites that already have jump-started, developed and are still fine-tuning the whole paleo, grain-free experience.

 It seems to me as I have spent time daily with other paleo internet sites, and books from Amazon for my Kindle on the paleo experience, it is a younger group of people who have readily adapted.  I think my husband and I may have a bit to contribute in that we are older in age, and I didn't find in my internet travels or Kindle books much that addressed the needs of people in our age group.  The other element (exercise) seems to be more in the line of cross-fit and running.  That is not a comfortable fit for us just now.  We are looking in different directions for how we can not only add but increase our exposure to exercise in alignment with our body capabilities.   And with that, I'll end this post with this easy to follow picture chart showing what foods are on and what foods are not onthe Paleo Diet.



  Happy paleoing -- Lietta