The Paleo Diet, By David Csonka: Part Two
This is a guest post by David Csonka, part of a multi-post segment about the Paleo Diet and David’s experiences with adopting a more natural lifestyle and diet.
Last time we talked about the basic premise behind the Paleo diet: that humans have historically eaten foods like meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts as opposed to the plethora of processed grains, sugars, and starches that dominate the modern diet. Today, I’m going to discuss the best ways to implement the Paleo diet into your life and share some of my personal results and experiences.
First, Consult Your Doctor Or Nutritionist
If you have tried other diets in the past, you may be quite familiar with the usual line about consulting your doctor before making any significant changes. It has become so ingrained with anything vaguely related to health that I think most people just dismiss it as a standard legal disclaimer. However, I don’t think most people realize the far reaching effect the food they eat has on their health. Over time, minor deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals could lead to serious medical conditions. So, please check with your doctor and make sure that any preexisting conditions won’t be significantly impacted by a diet change.
As well, it is essential that you ensure your vitamin intake is sufficient. While a diet of meat and vegetables is sure to provide you with just about every vitamin you need, picky eating or food allergies may cause you to avoid foods that contain essential nutrients. If you aren’t confident in your ability to identify and account for all of the necessary vitamins in your food, I recommend you seek the guidance of a nutrition expert to ensure your success. When I had some blood work done, I found out that my vitamin D levels were far below the optimal level for good health. I attributed this to giving up vitamin D fortified milk, and being glued to a computer indoors for most of the day. I now take a supplement and try to get outside as often as I can to catch some rays. This leads me to my next point-
Set Your Benchmarks
After talking with your doctor about the Paleo diet, I recommend that you ask for a series of routine blood tests and a physical exam to record your starting point and identify your current nutritional needs. A standard physical will give you a mark with which to compare your progress over time. Blood pressure, weight, and general health are all things which may be positively impacted by implementing the Paleo diet. Scheduling a follow-up examination in three to six months will give your doctor a chance to monitor your progress and for you to get some hard data on your results. I have a physical coming up in a few months and I can’t wait! I know that I have been becoming healthier and I’m excited to see it confirmed by my doctor.
Additionally, a blood test that measures vitamin D levels, measured LDL cholesterol (this is normally just calculated, not measured!), and fasting blood sugar are useful for monitoring more serious health effects. For many people, vitamin D is obtained from milk, so if you remove dairy you will need to ensure that you get enough sunshine. By removing processed grains, starches, and sugars from your diet, it is likely that your cholesterol profile will change, so having a benchmark for your LDL and triglyceride levels will be useful. Finally, your blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity will be dramatically effected by a diet devoid of refined sugars.
- talk to your doctor about the diet
- schedule a physical as soon as possible
- consider having a follow-up in 3 to 6 months
- request some blood tests to check important health factors
How To Start
There are a couple of ways to start out when implementing these dietary changes. You can either go all in and remove all of the major problem foods right away, or you can do a more gradual change with one food group at a time. I feel that the best method for people who are skeptical of the benefits of the Paleo diet is to try the super strict “all in” version for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. If you attempt a gradual change, it’s possible that you may not recognize any significant changes that are occurring with your health. On the other hand, if you suddenly remove all manner of nutrient poor foods which have been causing large amounts of chronic inflammation, it’s likely that you will soon experience a positive change in mood, energy levels, and/or sleep. You might even lose a little bit of weight! My mother was initially skeptical of the Paleo diet, but I urged her to at least try giving up bread for a few weeks. After unexpectedly losing three pounds the first week, she jumped all the way on board.
It’s OK To Experiment
It’s not just OK, I feel that it is essential to experiment. By “experiment” I mean being observant and mindful while trying out or removing different foods. If you try a new recipe and you feel indigestion or irregular, write this down in a journal so you can see if it happens again with similar foods. If you feel a sudden change in the negative direction, or your bowel movements aren’t normal, consider removing a potential culprit from your diet for a few weeks and monitor any changes. This type of observation and tinkering is basically the scientific method which scientists use to discover new things about the world. We’ll use it to discover the best foods to put in our bodies.
When I first started out with the Paleo diet, I was having a hard time keeping my food choices interesting while limiting the time needed to prepare food. For a while I was buying some prepackaged sausages for breakfast (not a great choice) thinking, “hey, at least it is meat, and not pancakes”. After a week of eating tons of these sausages every day I started to notice some abnormal issues with my bowel movements (never ignore these signs). I stopped eating them for a few weeks and the problem went away.
- try going strict for a few weeks to better observe any changes
- consider writing in a meal journal to keep yourself honest
- experiment by removing foods to determine any causes for irregular digestion
How Do You Feel
With blood tests and examinations, there are plenty of ways to quantify and share the changes that occur as a result of your new diet. However, some of the effects are more subjective (though equally significant). I can’t remember the last time I had a headache. I don’t feel gross after eating a big meal anymore. I don’t get hungry all the time for no good reason. I feel more excited to cook and buy quality food from the grocery store because I know how important it is for my well-being. I’m happier, healthier, and I just plain feel great. And, I honestly think you have a good chance of feeling those same things if you give the Paleo diet a try.
Next time, I plan to talk more in-depth about some of the potential health changes you could experience with the Paleo diet, and how it could benefit people who live with thyroid conditions.
David Csonka writes about natural health and fitness at his blog, Naturally Engineered. Subscribe here to follow all of his latest posts on attaining optimal health. Or follow him on Twitter at @thrivenaturally to join in on the conversation!
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