When I see patients in the office we often start discussing “healthy eating,” as if we both are on the same page! However, I follow-up my question by asking “What exactly do you believe is healthy?” The majority of the time, the conversation feels like we are speaking two different languages.
The truth of the matter is, everyone’s definition of “healthy eating” is different!!
Now, what exactly is “healthy eating” or “eating clean?” How can this be accomplished?
Although eating healthy comes in all shapes and sizes, I personally follow a “Personal Paleo Code” as described by Chris Kresser. This isn’t necessarily the only “eating healthy” lifestyle change that exists, but I do believe that a “Personal Paleo Code” is a good basis for people to start on. I have seen excellent results from friends and patients that adhere to the principles.
I believe that “eating healthy” starts on the premise of removing processed foods, sugar, and grains from someone’s lifestyle.
The biggest issue I find when I discuss lifestyle modification is the last part of this lifestyle change – the grains. People look at me dead in the face and say, “Why can’t I have grains?” Well, the short story is that bread, pasta, and any other grain-laden product is easily converted into sugar. Once this process happens (the Krebs Cycle, etc.), the laws of adiposity take hold. Insulin is released from the pancreas to regulate blood sugar. Once insulin is released, sugar is broken down into immediate energy where needed by the body, and into fat stores for the excess. People look at me and say, “Sugar makes us fat?” The simple answer is yes. Insulin is a “fat storage hormone” If our bodies can’t immediately use the energy from food (which is usually the case), we store the sugar as fat. This is the fat most commonly seen stored in our abdomen.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of coming home to Florida, and witnessing my family try and transition to a “healthy eating” lifestyle. I have seen some of the common pitfalls and that I will discuss a few of them in depth.
Juices (yes, even “Naked” smoothies) are a huge pitfall. The best way to tell if the juice is real juice is if you juice it yourself, or you look at the nutritional label to see how much dietary fiber is in the beverage. Most juices will have no dietary fiber – this means the beverage is simply pure sugar water. Avoid all juices unless you can reliably say that they have dietary fiber in them. In theory, fiber slows the digestion of the sugar in the intestinal tract so as to not inundate the pancreas with a huge amount of sugar for processing. Drinking beverages like the ones I described above are the same as, or even slightly worse than drinking a Coca-Cola or Pepsi.
Processed foods are generally laden with ADDED SUGAR. Check out my previous blog for these pitfalls. Take the time to look at the nutritional label, and if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, you probably shouldn’t eat that item. Companies like to break up the amount of sugar in the ingredients label by using sugar synonyms such as but not limited to:
Brown Rice Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cane Sugar, Coconut Sugar (just because it is from a coconut doesn’t make the sugar any better for you), Brown Rice Syrup, Sucrose, etc. This concept is discussed extensively in Robert Lustig’s book “Fat Chance”. My summary of his analysis of all the “Diets” of the 21st century breaks down to this:
All successful lifestyle modifications/diets have one thing in common, they eliminate SUGARS and PROCESSED FOODS from them!!
In general, labels with a laundry list of ingredients are usually processed and composed of unhealthy ingredients. The closer from the earth the item is, the better it is for you.
Since I will be publishing this just before we all gobble down a few pounds of Thanksgiving Turkey here is my method to having a healthy, fun, and fulfilling Holiday!
Number one priority: TURKEY (Probably a pound or two for myself… lol)
Number two priority: Veggies
Number three priority: Everything else
Fill up on meat and veggies before you get into the sugar laden sweets!!
Finally, just because the box says “low fat”, “low sugar”, or “low carb” doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for you. Always read the nutritional labels on the boxes!! “Low fat” typically = loaded with sugar!! “Low carb” or “Low sugar” may mean that the food is packed with fat. Fats can be good or bad (I will discuss this in a future blog), but sugar is responsible for the epidemic of obesity.
As they say, “Eat to live, but don’t live to eat!!”
For the next 30 days, you will be embarking on a journey that will leave you, and your body thanking yourself for changing your lifestyle for the rest your life. My focus in writing this is for the CrossFit Aspire and DT1 members who are on the verge of making serious lifestyle change. This is meant to be a guide of what is and what is not Paleo. This will not be all-inclusive, and if questions arise feel free to contact me.
Now, what exactly is Paleo? My favorite description that I have come across thus far:
“Paleo is the blueprint for healthy living and is still rooted in the food: Choose sustainable, nutrient dense foods, locally sourced when possible and good for you above all else; eliminate inflammatory foods, avoiding unnatural, heavily processed foods and administering a turn of the back to sugar, gluten, and grains.”
Starchy vegetables (ie: yams, sweet potatoes, Yucca, tapioca, etc.)
Non-starchy vegetables (anything green or colored in produce section)
Traditional fats (coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, Kerry gold butter (for our challenge it is ok), duck fat, lard, etc.)
Sea salt and spices.
Grains (including: “wheat, rice, cereal, oats, pseudograins, and nongluten grains like sorghum, teff, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, spelt, rye, barley, couscous, malt, graham flour, and so on. No bread, pasta, cereal, or PIZZA. And for now, don’t go shopping for gluten-free substitutes.”
Legumes (black beans, etc.)
Processed foods (almost everything in a box or a can!)
Sugar and all sweeteners in all forms
Any kind of soda
Any kind of fruit juice (unless you juice it yourself)
What’s the easiest way to be successful in this challenge? My best advice is to completely rid your homes of non-paleo items. Can’t be tempted if it isn’t there – Out of sight, out of mind!! I will be posting 4 different Paleo-friendly recipes that I regularly enjoy!! Check back next week!
Great Paleo resources:
He has shopping lists available if you sign up for his free registration.
If anyone has any questions about any foods or beverages feel free to email me!! Good luck!
Ok, I have to admit, for the past few weeks I have been on vacation and… over these past few weeks I have become enamored with FIFA World Cup Futbol!! Specifically, I was excited by the performance of team USA – especially their goalkeeper Tim Howard!! He put on the best performance in the World Cup by a goalkeeper, with 16 saves, since FIFA began to keep track!! Since his top-notch performance he became a focus of US news media, covering everything from his tattoos to his recent change in food consumption. What intrigues me is how he made a decision a year ago to convert himself to a PALEO lifestyle and how this lifestyle modification not only made him a better athlete, but also changed his life! I too believe in a PALEO lifestyle and I have adopted it as my own, the exception of mine is that I follow “my own personal Paleo Code”.
Like Tim, I firmly believe that we as individuals need to make a decision on what exactly we want in life from our bodies. He is a lot more blunt about it (“Do you prefer sweets and crappy food, or do you prefer to have a nice body?”),but I believe we both agree that we as a nation need to take responsibility for our health and wellness. Once we have made the decision to take responsibility for our health, then and only then can we start to make lasting changes in our lives!
So when I was asked numerous times while catching up with old friends, “Ron, you have always been in excellent shape, but what have you changed since you left?” I was flattered, as this comment totally caught me off guard. After a little introspection, I realized I had really began to focus on the food I was putting into my body.
This answer would spawn an instant conversation about exactly what foods I was eating and what else I had done. I believe that we as humans are all similar to Formula One Race cars. I would ask most of my friends, “What do formula one race cars run on?” They would tell me racing fuel (100 octane). I would then follow up this question with another: “What if I put regular unleaded (87 octane) into a formula racer?” We know that the race car would still run on the less expensive fuel, but would start to have various issues and/or break down completely. Try and apply this concept to your body. If you are fueling your body with less than optimal fuel, we will see similar results as the race car – your body will be running in a much less efficient manner, which can lead to chronic diseases over time.
This epiphany and transformation came after I read the book, “Your Personal Paleo Code” by Chris Kresser. After I tell my friends about this book they always ask me, “What exactly is a paleo code?” I found myself referring them to his website and book, which I find to be excellent resources for anyone who is looking to make real changes in their lives. However, most of the time my friends want to hear exactly what I am eating on a daily basis. So I break it down for them like this:
I eat a portion of meat or fish (protein) with every meal. I would suggest, especially for females, to eat most of your protein in the morning. Protein is very satiating and also has the ability to stabilize a person’s blood glucose throughout the day. I start my typical morning of with bacon, eggs, and an avocado. I will usually cook these in butter or ghee to get some healthy fats in my breakfast.
I try to switch out the pasta (grain) on my plate for a delicious vegetable (sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, etc.) or fruit in addition to the other vegetable or fruit on my plate. Craic, a crossfit gym that I went to in Boston has a patent on the term “no bread”. This is what I would say to most people to understand exactly what I allow myself to consume on a day to day basis.
The biggest complaint I will get from my friends is that they don’t want to be the only person in their group of friends that makes culinary demands when going out to dinner. I tell these friends that as long as we can abide by an 85/15 principle (85 percent of the time we adhere to “paleo code” principles and 15 percent of the time we cheat a little) that our bodies will be able to tolerate this. A good way to do this is by eating from scratch and staying away from added sugars and artificial sweeteners (diet sodas, etc) whenever possible. Going out and having fun with friends is an extremely important part of being happy in life and we must be able to enjoy some of the finer things (often times less health conscious things) when we desire to in order to stay happy. So I say eat, drink, and be merry, but when able do it on a “personal paleo code”!!