"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Carpe Diem!

With 2011 coming to a close, so many people are making 2012 New Year's resolutions. According to this source (and many others), two of the most popular resolutions are "lose weight" and "get fit," which are both certainly fantastic goals. However, many people who make resolutions may start a new diet and/or exercise plan on January 1st, but they don't change their mindsets as well and will give up after just a few weeks (or, perhaps, only a few days). To make a resolution (health-related or not) work, you must change your entire way of thinking-- don't think of it as a "diet" or a "resolution," but think of it as a total lifestyle change. Don't just eat healthy; live healthy.

I've written about the etymology of diet before: it comes from a Greek word meaning "lifestyle." Yet every January 1st of high school, I'd go on a diet (always low carb) and break my resolution within days or weeks; I'm sure many of you out there can relate. I was only thinking about food-- they were always "I'm going to lose weight by dieting" resolutions rather than "I'm going to change my lifestyle and become healthy" ones. While diet did originally mean "lifestyle," it now has that negative connotation of being a temporary thing, and we thus find it socially acceptable to break our diet-related (or other) resolutions. "No one keeps their New Year's resolutions anyway, so now I don't feel bad for breaking mine too! Let me eat that ice cream!"

The Paleo/Primal/real food lifestyle didn't begin for me on a January 1st-- it actually began on a February 1st (2010), and it's now been almost two years! What turned a diet into a lifestyle was my way of thinking-- I actually told myself on January 31, "Tomorrow is going to be the first day of the rest of my life." I did not tell myself, "Tomorrow I'm going to start dieting again," or "Be prepared to stop eating crap starting tomorrow," or "Brace yourself for the carb withdrawal headaches." I had told myself those things so many times before, but they never stuck-- it was only with a different way of approaching a new eating plan that February 1st, 2010, was, in fact, the first day of the rest of my life.
Not only did I change my eating habits, but I also started moving more (goodbye, elevator!), sleeping more (I seriously think I get more sleep than 95% of college students), ending toxic relationships, and educating myself about evolutionary nutrition. After losing weight, clearing up my acne, never getting sick, and feeling all-around better, I knew that this was definitely a permanent lifestyle change!

So if you're going to start something new this January 1st, don't approach it as a temporary resolution. Think about changing your whole lifestyle , even if your resolution (or goal/plan) isn't health-related-- because what's the point of a resolution if you don't make it stick? And actually, why not start your lifestyle change right now? Why wait until the New Year? Why not better your life beginning at this very moment? The "I'll start tomorrow" mindset won't cut it anymore-- because tomorrow, you'll say "I'll start tomorrow" as well. Seize the day!

I recommend reading Frank Forencich's Change Your Body, Change the World, which discusses how we have become disconnected from the world and how we can have much more fulfilling lives by reconnecting with our environment and becoming healthy through evolutionary wisdom. I also recommend checking out this post from Three New Leaves (one of my favorite blogs), "24 Things I've Learned in 24 Years," which has some amazing and inspiring tips, realizations, and comments about life in general that are really worth reading and remembering. Both the book and the post echo living life to its fullest... and how can that happen with the "I'll start on New Year's" mentality?

I think it's great if you're making a New Year's resolution, and I wish you the best of luck in your quest for a better year; however, start your resolution right now and make it a permanent lifestyle change. You deserve the best life possible, so begin today!

Quote of the Day:
"If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds' worth of distance run, then yours is the Earth and everything that's in it." -Rudyard Kipling, 'If'

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Paleo Semester Completed!

My fourth semester of eating Paleo/Primal at college is almost over, and I attribute a lot of my successes to this lifestyle. It has helped me stay healthy, manage stress better, sleep more, and remain focused on tasks without having sugar spikes and crashes. This post is going to be a bit of a wrap-up of the last few months, but I also want to give a huge thank you to all of my readers and the Paleo/Primal community for being so awesome!

Here are some things I've learned/realized this semester:

1. Many non-Paleo/Primal people are going to think you're insane or just plain weird for avoiding grains, legumes, sugar, processed food, [dairy], etc., and will probably make obnoxious comments to you. However, people can also be super understanding and accommodating.
Most new people I meet think I'm out of my mind when I turn down desserts, pizza, or rice with my Indian food. I've heard comments like, "Wow, I could never do that! That must be so hard/boring!" and "No bread?? How can you not eat bread??" and "Oh, come on, just have a bite!" I don't make comments about other people's food choices, so why should they question mine? However, my friends are absolutely fantastic-- if we go out to eat, they'll make sure I can eat something on the menu, and my roommates will make sure not to use non-Paleo ingredients if we're cooking in our room. My GA (like an RA, but a grad student) has also been great-- when he realized I don't eat grains, gluten, or anything processed, he started bringing fruit to floor events so I can eat something too! So for every obnoxious person, there's an equally wonderful and supportive person!

2. The Paleo/Primal community is awesome... and members actually exist in real life!
As I mentioned a few months ago, I had the amazing opportunity of attending a Paleo nutrition seminar with Diane from Balanced Bites (where I met Kristin from FastPaleo and Stacy from Paleo Parents as well!). It was my first time meeting people who also follow this lifestyle, and it was such an incredible experience to bond with others that share my interest in evolutionary nutrition. Paleo/Primal people do, in fact, exist outside of the internet, and I look forward to meeting many more of you!

3. It has been a Paleo/Primal/evolutionary nutrition-literature-filled semester!
In the last few months, many books and cookbooks have been released that are relevant to this lifestyle. Here's a list, and I highly recommend checking them all out!
-Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (Wheat Belly Blog)
-Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield (Paleo Comfort Foods Blog)
-Make It Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason (The Food Lovers Primal Palate)
-The Paleo Answer by Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet)

4. Being Paleo/Primal boosts the immune system and helps you stay healthy (when everyone else around you is sick).
Thanks to this lifestyle, I have an immune system of steel. When it seemed like everyone around me was sick, I remained healthy! Yes, it's cold and flu season, but eating and sleeping well will keep sickness away due to a strengthened immune system. Staying healthy has also allowed me to be more productive in my studies-- my work never suffered from feeling sick, and I never had to miss class or rehearsal due to sickness either. Eat well, sleep well, stay well!

5. Paleo has helped me stay focused.
Because my blood sugar stays relatively stable due to evolutionary nutrition, I never get "food comas" or become ravenously hungry just a few hours after eating due to sugar spikes/crashes. Thus my studies were never interrupted due to a need for a post-lunch nap or snacking throughout the day/night-- I was able to stay focused on work or studying without making those mid-afternoon junk food runs or the midnight trips to Wawa.

6. Paleo has helped me manage stress.
Penn was recently named the #4 Most Stressful College, but there has never been a point during this semester (or any semester since going Paleo, for that matter) when I felt completely stressed out or overwhelmed. There were certainly plenty of times when I thought the amount of work was going to make me go insane, but I found myself pretty calm about everything. This lifestyle has helped me manage stress better, since my mind and body are working together thanks to proper nutrition and sleep. Those ginormous term papers and scary finals really don't stress me out anymore, whereas my first semester of college (which was pre-Paleo) had me stressing out about every little assignment or exam.

7. Churrascarias = Paleo/Primal heaven.
I had my first experience at a churrascaria this past Friday, when I went to the Fogo de Chao here in Philly. A churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse in which so many different types of meat are brought to your table and cut up right there-- you control the amount of meat you eat during your meal due to a nifty little red and green card that signifies when you want the meat to start or stop coming. Fogo de Chao also had the greatest salad bar I've ever seen (and this is apparently quite common of churrascarias)... so coupled with the unlimited meat, it's Paleo/Primal heaven.

I've had such a great semester at Penn, and I look forward to sharing my Paleo/Primal experiences while studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh next semester!

Quote of the Day:
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver." -Gandhi

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Psych Class and Bogus Science

I once again apologize for not updating much these last few months. This semester has been a lot more hectic than I had anticipated, but it'll be over in two weeks! I'll hopefully update much more frequently over my holiday break.

I'm currently taking Intro to Psychology to fulfill one of my gen-ed requirements, and the class has been okay up until now-- some of the topics I found really interesting (evolutionary psych!), and others I just kind of suffered through (I'm not a science person, so the neuropsychology stuff wasn't exactly my cup of tea). But in all of the topics covered thus far, the information was scientifically proven-- we know, for example, which parts of the brain control which processes. So even though if I didn't understand everything perfectly, there was at least scientifically proven research to back up this information, and I can accept that it's all true.

So why am I talking about my psych class? For the past two lectures, my professor has been talking about food. The second he announced the topic, I said to myself, "Uh oh, get ready for a ton of Conventional Wisdom crap." And I was, unfortunately, correct. He lectured about the calories in/calories out theory (which is false-- watch this link from Fat Head and pick up Good Calories, Bad Calories and/or Why We Get Fat), that fat is unhealthy (also false-- click here, here, here, and watch this clip from Fat Head), that the BMI system is a good indicator of a person's health (also false-- click, and remember that BMI doesn't take into account muscle), and that the obesity crisis wouldn't exist if everyone ate the equivalent of three apples less per week (um...... WHAT!?!??!?!?). Needless to way, it was a very frustrating few days in psych. Where was any of the science behind this!?!? How can someone actually spread that information without having the facts?

What really baffled me was that my professor also acknowledged that people have no training health and nutrition, yet lectured about this topic and made no sense at all. Well, yeah, of course people don't have training-- the movie Food Matters said that only 6% of doctors have nutritional training, so why would anyone else be informed when they can just get information from the equally uninformed (i.e. the other 94%)? It's so sad that people are clueless about health and nutrition; instead, they rely on Conventional Wisdom, uninformed doctors, and Dr. Oz, and don't have the science to back up their choices. (It also doesn't help that the government is spewing crap to us too-- tomato paste on pizza can now count as a serving of vegetables!) I really don't blame my professor for lecturing Conventional Wisdom BS-- it's probably what was fed to him and no one ever pointed out the flawed science. (I raised my hand to comment on the things he was saying, but the class is in a huge lecture hall and he never saw me. Ugh!!)

The information about evolutionary nutrition is out there and makes sense! Humans aren't adapted to eat grains, legumes, chemical-heavy food products, or low-fat anything. We didn't evolve to count calories or carbs or have other people tell us that we need to be a certain weight for our height in order to be considered healthy. And we certainly didn't evolve to take meds for things that can be cured by simply eating the way our ancestors did. Read any of the literature available-- Loren Cordain, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, Nora Gedgaudas, Weston Price, Gary Taubes, and a host of brilliant Paleo/Primal/ancestral bloggers (Chris Kresser, Jack Kruse, Stephan Guyanet, Denise Minger, and Chris Masterjohn, just to name a few) all can back up claims about this lifestyle with real science. Although all of their views may differ slightly, the basics are still there: eat the food that we were evolved to eat, and check out the science to prove it.

Here's Mark Sisson's new food pyramid, as one example of what real food is:

But would people knowing the science really change anything? Sadly, I doubt it-- people know junk food is bad for them, yet still eat it anyway. However, it would still be a huge step in the right direction if A) doctors were trained in evolutionary nutrition, B) the government got rid of the ridiculous food plate and actually learned evolutionary nutrition as well, and C) some type of Paleo/Primal/ancestral literature became required reading in schools/health classes. While people would probably still make poor dietary choices, at least they'd know which foods are actually good (read: NOT LOW FAT) so they can make educated decisions if/when they decide to embark on a journey to better health.

Quote of the Day:
"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it." -The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama