Category Archives: 30 day paleo challenge

Paleo Day 9

Its been 9 days since I started the “strict” Paleo diet. Here’s what I learned so far:
1. Staying away from grains is not that hard. I just need to plan my meals/restaurant choices. If worst comes to worst there is always salad at most restaurants.
2. Staying away from cheese 100% is a completely different story. Most of the salads at work have some feta or other cheese on them. I had a little emotional issue on monday and felt like I “deserved” some expensive French cheese…I ate it with apples, improvement right? I am going to work harder on this part of it this week.
3. I am not seeing any “miraculous” results yet. My Raynaud’s is bad and my joints are a little achy. Maybe if I try harder on the cheese thing I might see a little improvement.
4. I have been doing great on the supplements. All it takes is a little planning to make sure I have the supplements I need. I don’t even notice the fish oil burps anymore!
5. My performance at Crossfit has really declined. This is the most frustrating part. Robb Wolf says that it should take 3 weeks to fully adapt. Right now I am about 1.5 weeks in…I guess I have another 1.5 weeks to really see improvement. It is frustrating now because I am exhausted during the workouts and am not used to it. Its really been a struggle.
6. I think I need to eat more protein. It is so easy for me to eat veggies and fruit. For the next week I am going to try to get rid of some of the fruit and increase the protein. I am going to get some recipes that include more protein so that I will get motivated to eat more.
7. I have lost about 2-3 lbs..weight kinda fluctuates. I think that is pretty good for me in 9 days.
8. My occasional digestive issues are gone. I do love that about eating more fiber.
9. I really don’t feel hungry. I don’t really want to munch at night. I feel satisfied after my meals.

I think I am going to continue what I have been doing with a few tweaks. There are always things one could do better and be stricter about. Hopefully in another week or so I will start seeing the results I am looking for…weight loss, less joint pain, improvement in Crossfit…for now I will just have to wait it out.

Autoimmune Disease Rant

I’m sorry, I try to be positive. I try to look for solutions instead of focusing on problems, but today I feel like just ranting a little…for one day. So, here goes…

As many readers know, I have an autoimmune condition that has not been given an official diagnosis. Currently they call it “mixed” or “undifferentiated” autoimmune disease. Basically, we are waiting for more symptoms, so that we can give it an “official” name. Lupus? Scleroderma? Who knows? “We” (doctors) are just waiting to see where else in your body this is going to pop up so we can put a label on it. After a bout with pleurisy about 2 years ago, I finally agreed to take the medication Plaquenil. Its an anti-malaria medication that is shown to decrease inflammation levels. The problem is that after the doctor tried to convince me the medication was “mild”, he then said, ”oh and you need a yearly eye exam to make sure you don’t go blind from it”. Really? So the side effect is blindness? Great. I was desperate at the time, so I took it. I have been on it for about 2 years now.

A little over a month ago, I stopped taking it.  I decided to do trial run to see if I could stay off the medication. I have been pretty good with my exercise, Paleo diet, stress management, etc so I felt like maybe I didn’t need it anymore. It takes about 6-8 weeks to get out of your system, so I have been feeling the same for the last few weeks. Until maybe the last 3-4 days. Today its my knee that is aching. Last night it was the bottom of my feet. Over the weekend it was my wrists. I am afraid that my illness is going to come back full-blown. I am afraid I am going to have to get back on my medications. Or medications that are worse than the Plaquenil.  I am afraid that this knee pain is going to go back to how it used to be where I didnt even want to stand-up to walk my patients to the door. I am afraid my lungs or kidneys will spontaneously fail. I want off the meds, but I am so afraid right now.

I went to see an alternative doctor yesterday that put me on an even sticter diet plan. No granis, no dairy, no alcohol. I already knew that that is what I needed to do. The problem is that I think 100% compliance is unrealistic. For example, I was not pefect with my diet over the weekend, I ate Mexican food on saturday and some crackers and cheese at an Oscar party on sunday. BUT, that is not even two full meals of cheating. All my other meals were Paleo meals.   I feel that is as compliant as I am going to get.  Sometimes I want some spaghetti or Mexican food. I can’t live on 100% paleo all the time, I have a real social life. I can’t constantly live in this place of deprivation, eating salads and meat only. Never enjoying a glass of wine, cheesecake, or a delicious Italian dinner. Feeling guilty over too much fruit. I desperately want to get better, but I desperately want a balance. I want to eat a good diet, be at a healthy weight, feel good about my health and my life, and enjoy foods that I like from time to time and not be so afraid. I don’t know where that balance is….

My boyfriend says, that if I really feel that way, I should get back on the medications. That way I don’t have to be 100% compliant all the time (although I probably still will eat mostly Paleo, just because its better for me) AND I won’t have any pain. I just don’t know if I want to take that risk of getting back on the meds. I also can’t live with this diet forever, always trying to be more and more compliant, and never feeling good enough.

So, thats my rant for today. I am tired of thinking about it all the time. I am tired of reading the blogs, feeling my diet doesn’t add up, feeling that my results are not good enough or dramatic enough. My body is struggling with inflammation. I don’t know definitively why. Some say diet, environmental toxins, genetics, stress. I think its all of those factors. Just a big combination of things making my body freak out and attack itself. The solution as I see it today are 2 things: take the meds that could have side effects; or follow a diet that makes me feel sad and deprived that I will never be able to be 100% compliant with.  What would you choose?

Roasted Veggies and Fish

Roasted Root Vegetable Medley

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Chop carrots, radishes, turnips, potatoes, kohlrabi, and beets. Add 1 whole head of garlic (do not chop). Mix all with olive oil, rosemary sprigs, salt/pepper to taste.
  • Place in oven, uncovered for 40-45 minutes until veggies are soft and start to brown. Serve hot!

Simple Fish

  • Mix 1/4 diced onion, 1-2 Tbsp garlic, 4 Tbsp chopped cilantro, juice from 2 lemons, 1 Tbsp olive oil, salt/pepper to taste.
  • Place White Roughy fillets in pan. Add the sauce over the fillets.
  • Place in oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Paleo and Cholesterol

The first time I ever heard about the Paleo diet was at my Crossfit gym a little over a year ago. We were going to do a 30-day “Paleo” challenge (which I think I actually ended up winning). Anyway, when my coach presented the information about the diet to me, my first reaction (out loud) was “This is totally going to raise our cholesterol”. My coach simply responded “No it won’t” and moved on from my commentary, probably knowing I was not informed of the details and benefits of the Paleo diet. Hey, I learned in school as a Registered Dietitian that a high fat/high saturated fat diet raises cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, etc. I learned it is a great idea to eat low fat foods to reduce calories and lose weight. I told my patients over and over, NO BACON! NO SAUSAGE! NO FAT! Switch to Smart Balance or olive oil! Avoid butter! Eat fat free dairy (btw fat free cheese is nasty and I could never tell anyone to eat it, but I digress…)

So, I started the Paleo challenge….and a year later I would still consider myself Paleo-ish. I have decided not to stress myself out about it, but I would say that 80% of my meals are Paleo. I eat cheese (so I guess, Primal? Who cares?), sometimes enjoy a Starbucks soy latte, and like to have milk in my tea on the weekends. I also don’t stress out if I eat some pizza with my boyfriend sometimes or if I have a freshly baked cookie at work (the smell makes them hard to resist!). I would say 100% of breakfasts and lunches are Paleo (pretty easy during the week) and most of my weeknight dinners. I will admit my compliance is not incredibly high, but I am working on a happy medium.  I also converted one of my coworkers to Paleo (the others are vegetarians- not going to happen) and that makes it easy to have a support person. Even the server at the cafeteria knows my diet and gives me the evil eye when I start eying the ravioli or rice.

After a year on Paleo (with varying degrees of compliance) here are my cholesterol results (I have genetically high cholesterol btw):

My results (after 1 year) My coworker’s results (after 2 months)
Before After Before After
Cholesterol 218 186 249 229
LDL 136 109 164 139
HDL 54 57 59 79
Triglycerides 142 101 79 55

Basically, as you can see, my numbers went from borderline high, to pretty normal. I realize I can still work on the triglycerides a  little bit (there are definitely places I can reduce fruit, added sugar, or wine), but overall my numbers are pretty good. My coworker didn’t have as much time as me for her before/after results, but there was a significant drop in her LDL and an increase in her HDL (even though she stopped exercising due to an injury during that time). These numbers decreased even though neither one of us lost any weight during the time we have been on Paleo, so the numbers cannot be attributed to a significant weight loss. I have always been pretty active with either Crossfit or boot camp, even at the time these numbers were measured.

What scares me is, that about a year ago I would have told everyone that a diet which included eggs and bacon DAILY would raise your cholesterol. Clearly that is not true for reasons I have discussed in other posts. So what do I do with this information? Do I go back to work and continue teaching a low fat, low cholesterol diet because that is what is required of my job? How do I even convince people that everything we were taught is pretty much completely wrong? How do you work within a society that does not believe that this is possible due to years of misinformation? I haven’t really figured out how to reconcile all of this with my actual job, since there is an expectation for me to provide a certain type of information. In the meantime, I have decided to speak really loudly in the cafeteria of the hospital where I work while serving myself bacon and eggs…..”hey do you know lowered my cholesterol by almost 40 points by eating this way???”….and I just pray that maybe the doctors are listening

Doctors and Diet

I went to see my rheumatologist about 2 weeks ago and had an interesting experience. I have seen him about every 4 months or so for the last 2 years since being diagnosed with “Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease”. We have an interesting relationship. At times  he doesn’t understand where I am coming from at all. When I was first diagnosed, I asked him what sort of diet/lifestyle changes I should look into and his answer was basically that those factors wouldn’t really help much (at this time he was trying to convince me I needed to be on meds and I was refusing). Its kinda odd considering he and I are about the same age and I would think that we would get along better, both being kinda young. I can’t bash the guy too much, he is thorough, tries to connect with me by asking about recent trips or my personal life. He’s a nice guy, you can just tell he has read too many books and hasn’t had much life experience.

Anyway, he was reviewing my records and for the last 2 years my labs have been pretty good. He said, wow you are healthy! Yeah, I eat pretty well, try to manage my stress, sleep ok, and exercise. Then he got to my cholesterol and congratulated me on the 40 point drop. I said, “yeah, I did the opposite of everything I was ever taught in school. I ate more fat, more bacon, more eggs, more meat. I eliminated most refined carbs from my diet.”

His response? “Thats not possible, maybe you just have a different metabolism”.

So, I responded, “Have you read the book Good Calories, Bad calories?” Of course he hadn’t.

I briefly explained the premise of the book, the lipid hypothesis, and told him that most things we have come to believe about nutrition are not true. He gave me a weird look and moved on. Totally not open to the discussion at all and probably thinking I am a nut job.

Ok, so I know its hard for some guy who spent 100 years in medical school to understand what a crazy RD is telling him. But, buddy the proof is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. So quit being so close-minded, quit believing 100% of what you read in books, and understand that popular beliefs are not always true. Books are not always right. Research results are not always correcltly interpreted.  Open your mind 10%. I am a dietitian. I have training in nutrition. I wouldn’t follow a fad diet just because I felt like it. I am still learning…but the thing is at least I am willing to experiment wtih it! Anyone have a similar experience?

28 Day Cleanse

After spending the last few months eating pretty much whatever and not really being focused on exercise at all, I decided to do a 28 day cleanse that just happens to coincide with a 30 day Paleo challenge at my Crossfit gym. I really need a kick in the pants to get things back on track. The cleanse will basically consist of some supplements, 2 shakes a day, and a Paleo meal. No dairy, grains, alcohol, or caffeine. I will also aim to Crossfit at least 3x per week and do something on my own (swim/run) 2x per week.  A coworker of mine signed up also, so we will be doing it together.

I am really going to take this one seriously for the next 28 days, starting this coming Thursday (June 2). At the gym, the challenge involves a point system (how well you stick with the program). The most points you get for the day is 4 points (+1 if you Crossfit, and + 1 if you sleep 8 hours). I am going to aim for no less than 3 points on any given day of the program.  I see a few days coming up that may pose some challenges, but I am going to try to come up with a plan to handle that situation BEFORE it starts so I can stick with the cleanse. I am also going to blog as often as I can to hopefully get through some of the emotional tough stuff over the next 28 days.

Wish me luck! Here’s to a new and healthier me for this summer!