Category Archives: Diet

If you don’t eat bread and pasta, what do you eat?

I’ve lost count of the people that have asked my how I lost so much weight, in fact it got so much that t I made a standard email that I send out to people with the general guidelines and pointers to further reading. Like most Paleo folks the strongest reaction I get is when you tell people that you don’t eat bread or, even worse than that, no grains at all; people just can’t get their heads around that at all and really do ask “What do you eat then?”.

In an attempt to answer that question I will post a week of everything I scoff. This will be a long post as I’ll put photos of as much as I can…

Sunday 20th January

9:30 four espresso’s – that’s Delhaize Columbian Fairtrade beans – less than half the price of Illy and tasting almost as good 4500iu Vitamin D

Espresso

11:30 Bacon & Eggs with some HP Sauce (yes I know this really isn’t Paleo, but it’s a tiny amount I eat once per week) Vitamins (krill oil, iodine, copper, vitamin c, vitamin B complex, vitamin K2)

Bacon&Eggs

 

12:00 – 14:45 Three more espresso’s – now I do the weekly cook-up…

Interesting Weight Gain (and Loss)

While not exactly horrified I was somewhat disappointed that I put on 2 – 3 kgs over the holiday period:

Daves Weight20012013

Zooming in on the details for the last month:

Daves Weight20012013Zoom

What caused this? Good question, but as you can see the trend was already positive again and then the last day has seen a dramatic drop of 1.5 kgs, well that’s because I had flu (or something else with very similar symptoms), so I expect to regain at least a kilo over the next couple of days. Nevertheless I had stymied the gain and started to lose again, how?

First of all I had been drinking a lot of booze over the Christmas period, I think every day since mid December until the end of the first week of January I was drinking every day and on many occasions to excess. Mostly beer, but also wine and then in some cases whisky. In fact I got to the point where I questioned whether I was an alcoholic or not and took the decision to just stop alcohol altogether. Never say never of course, but a sustained period without booze will do me no harm at all and I have a colleague at work who’s doing the same, so we can motivate each other a bit. Two weeks and counting now and despite craving a beer on many occasions I’m holding out!

I also suspect that I just ate way too much – several family lunches and a dinner party with friends. Too many roast potatoes. On top of that Charlotte’s been making some gluten free bread and I had been scoffing way too much of that too. Finally of course, being home meant a lot less daily walking, so this no doubt factored into the equation.

The good news is that I knew it was transitory. By going back to basics and I was sure I could reverse the situation and, sure enough, that is exactly what has happened – the bout of flu only accelerated it dramatically in the last day…

Charlotte’s been Paleo now for six months or so and in many ways her transformation has been more dramatic given a) that she was already quite skinny and b) she doesn’t do any conscious exercise at all, just walking the dogs twice per day. This is all a consequence of stopping the grains and sugar, but interesting to see that she also had a little plateau over Christmas:

CharlottesWeight20012013Coming next: “If you don’t eat bread and pasta, what do you eat?”

 

Stalled weight loss?

Weight loss was my primary driver when I started the Atkins Diet, but after moving beyond that to a Paleo approach it took on a secondary importance behind other health improvements. Nevertheless it’s still on my agenda and one of the key indicators of forward progress or at least up to the point where I hit my target of 82.5 kilos.

With all this in mind I’ve been a bit concerned that things seemed to have ground to a halt in the last couple of weeks, with the weight pinging up and down between 84 and 85 kilos, seemingly dependant on either hydration levels or the last time I’ve had a crap:

In fact this last point has been quite a problem the last week as I’ve been quite bunged-up which I’ve been trying to understand. Firstly I don’t think I’ve been eating enough veggies, so my general fibre levels are too low. Second reason can be magnesium deficiency, so I’ve started supplementing this and as of Thursday I’ve been taking 900mg per day – and voilà, this seems to have done the trick as the gates have been open over the weekend and I’m feeling a lot better and have lost that pesky kilo again.

Other factor playing here must be increased muscle mass counteracting the fat decrease. I’m absolutely certain that the fat is still dropping off as my trousers are getting looser almost daily – the jeans I bought a month or so ago that were a bit tight in the store now need the belt to keep them up (for once the “I’m losing weight so I’ll buy them slightly small” seems to have worked! I’m also doing body-weight exercises a couple of times per week as well as sprinting from time to time and the extra muscle on my shoulders, biceps and pectorals is quite marked.

I’m also suspecting though that I’ve been eating too much carbohydrate. Eating some white rice or boiled potato is part of my daily food plan as recommended by the Perfect Health Diet that I’m broadly following. However, I suspect that the 400 – 600 calories recommended I think it could be more like 800 – 1000. So I’ll keep an eye on that and up my veggies.

All this being said, I physically feel very good right now – mentally less so though, I’m certainly not getting enough sleep (average 6 and a half hours per night), and work has been quite demanding in recent weeks. Fair to say in fact that I have been totally exhausted from time to time. I’m not going to show any pictures, but I’m looking a lot better without my clothes on too – body fat is dramatically less, even if the reading on the scales doesn’t show much change.

I’ve just finished reading It Starts With Food – this book began a bit slow and dumbed-down in my opinion, but improved dramatically as I went through it; an a quite staggering 241/252 5-star reviews on Amazon. Now I’ve started on Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint and that’ll be me through the backbone of the Paleo literature. I’ll be making a comparative book review once I’m done.

And for the food I’m eating? Well I’ve dropped the smoothies for breakfast and am now eating pretty much the same as I would for lunch or dinner. It’s a bit weird at first, but you get used to it. Here’s a selection of recent meals:

So here’s something I concocted for Charlotte. Chicken, onions, mushrooms, garlic, coriander, coconut oil. What makes this a little different is the spices that I put on the chicken: ground coffee beans, cocoa powder, garlic and onion powder, vanilla, cloves, ginger, four-spices, salt and pepper. Tastes pretty good I think.

A nice steak is my usual treat on fasting days (so Monday and Tuesday). The cut I’ve found I like the most is called “pelé royale” in French. I’ve no idea what it’s called in English, but the meat has quite a coarse grain.

This was this morning’s breakfast: rice (with extra virgin coconut oil, red palm oil, tamari soy sauce), spinach (mixed into the rice), scrambled eggs, wild-caught smoked salmon (yes it really is very red in colour and quite tough compared to aquaculture reared fish) and some smoked tilapa that they had reduced in the supermarket, so I bought it to try and it was really quite pleasant (and not at all expensive).

Yesterday’s breakfast – more of that salmon and rice, this time with some leftover cabbage, avocado and a drizzle of avocado oil.

Friday’s breakfast: rice (the usual), scrambled eggs and cabbage with avocado oil. This was a bit insipid if I’m honest, but nutritionally it hit the spot.

Catch-Up

Two weeks since the last post – been extremely busy both at home and work… So, my gout eased-off after a few days on the medication, unfortunately after that I got a cold. The main symptoms only lasted three days, but I’ve been blowing out loads of green snot for the last ten days…

In all other respects things are fine. I’ve been eating some really great food, as much as I can of course and still losing weight, or more precisely body fat.

When I first started following the Perfect Health Diet I gained 1.5 kilos – this has since been lost and I’m consistently losing about a kilo per week. I’m still fasting on Mondays and Tuesdays, but the weight loss seems to spread through-out the week. Nevertheless once I get to my target weight of 82 kilos I’ll change from the 5/2 fast to a 16/8 daily routine, i.e. eating only in an 8 hour feeding window each day. Why is this so good? Well they say that autophagy - the body’s cell repair mechanism – begins after 12 hours of fasting, so doing a 16 hour daily fast means you’ll take benefits of the process every day. The goal here isn’t weight-loss, but health.

I also bought myself a FitBit – this clever little device tracks activity and sleep patterns. The real benefit is that it encourages you to move more and in my case to get to bed a bit earlier. Most people think that exercise helps weight-loss by helping create a calorie deficit, personally I think it’s more beneficial as it decreases liver glycogen stores encouraging the use of body fat as the primary energy source.

I’m exercising a couple of times per week: interval hill sprints one day, body-weight exercises another (pull-ups, push-ups, planks and squats). Been quite active moving around furniture too (thanks to my dear wife) and I’ve stopped taking the car to work, so I’m walking a lot more too and of course I never take the elevator if there are stairs available. The FitBit reveals just how sedentary we are sitting at work all day, I alleviate this by using toilets on other floors in the building, getting a walk and some stairs every hour or so.

Food-wise I’ve been making some stews in the slow-cooker. I tried a lamb ragout, but the bones in the meat went too crumbly, like chalk, and were not at all nice. Instead I’m now making with steak and I put in some beef marrow bones too. Along with the coconut oil this makes for an incredibly delicious and nutritious meal which I eat along with some smashed vegetables and potato. It’s cheap too, total cost is about €15 and I get four meals out of it.

Paleo stew with marrow bone, mashed potatoes and veggies

Marrow bones – pre-cooked in the oven prior to dropping in the stew

Pushing the omega 3′s

Most of us Westerners have poor levels of omega-3 in our diets, with the bulk of our fats coming in the form of harmful omega-6′s – these have been demonstrated to promote cancer, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s. There are two major sources of omega-6 fat, vegetable oils (except palm, coconut, olive, avocado, walnut and butter) being one and the other being grain-fed meats . Conversely, ruminant animals – cows and sheep – that are fed on grass, i.e. what they are supposed to eat, have a much higher omega-3:6 ratio and are much better for you. The same goes for farmed versus wild-caught fish, the omega-3:6 ratios are way higher as well as a whole host of other micronutrients.

Of course rearing animals the natural way is expensive. You need more land and more time, grass-fed cows take longer to mature and the meat is less fatty also, so they weigh less and thus don’t bring as much revenue – well perhaps not strictly true, as pasture-fed meat will tend to be sold for a higher price to specialist markets. I buy my meat from a local butcher – their animals graze in the fields and you can see with in the fat on the beef, which is firstly much lower than grain-fed, but also with more of a yellow tinge as opposed to white.

Grain-fed left, pature-fed right – photo courtesy of http://habee.hubpages.com

Brains are also a great source of omega-3′s, but most of us baulk at the idea of eating them, despite them being highly prized by our ancestors. Of course the mad-cow epidemic in the UK didn’t give them a good press either and cow brain, along with spinal chord, eyes and a few other items are forbidden for use in the human food chain in the UK (that doesn’t stop a nice bit of anus in your  burger or sausage of course…)

Here’s an interesting meal that I ate yesterday:

Some interesting things here… Firstly there’s some wild-caught, Pacific, smoked sockeye salmon. I get this from Sequoia and amazingly it’s just €7 for a pack of 200g – that’s almost half the price of the bio smoked salmon in Delhaize which is from aqua-culture, so inferior anyway. The taste and texture is totally different from the farmed varieties – it’s much firmer, almost chewy in fact, less fatty and much deeper red in colour.

The meat is a mixture of brain and tongue in gelatin. Sounds a nit yukky, but tastes great and of course is packed with DHA, zinc and B vitamins. There’s the ever ubiquitous salad with avocado and 5ml each of avocado, olive and linseed (flax) oil.

The, what’s that, rice? How come, where’s my low-carb stance gone? In fact I’ve been reading a new book recently – The Perfect Health Diet – and the authors, Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet, make a very compelling case to consume 400 calories per day of what they term “safe starches” (glutinous white rice, sweet potatoes, potatoes, taro etc.), so I’m trying this out to see how it goes. Their basic theory is that the brain and nervous system need a certain level of glucose (or ketones) to function – between 400 and 600 calories. Now this can be manufactured in the liver on a low carb diet, but they posit that this puts unnecessary stress on the liver and it better to take this level of carbs to make this up and spread throughout the day from the right sources it shouldn’t mess with the blood sugar too much and cause too much insulin secretion.

Another suggestion from the Jaminet’s is to eat 30g of coconut oil per day for the short-chain fats – this causes generation of ketones on the liver which leads to fat-burning and general good health.

And on a similar vein, here’s today’s breakfast: tongue and brains again, three scrambled eggs (omega-3 enriched), fresh strawberries & blueberries, and 30g of golden linseeds soaked overnight in water with a dash of lime juice.

And I’ve a bag of beef bones to boil up for the marrow too. Not something I’ve ever eaten before, but incredible nutritious and apparently very tasty too.

My fourth intermittent fast tomorrow, I look forward to these now!

More Food

For breakfast I tried something a little different with my smoothie as I’ve been wanting to get myself off soy milk for some time now. Despite having grown to like it very much  it’s stuffed full of lectins which is quite toxic to humans and also contains quite high levels of oestrogen, despite what the soy producers would like to you believe… (just Google and you’ll find a wealth of info, here’s one link in case you’re too lazy to do that) Now I think my man-boobs are quite big enough, thank you very much, so time for change. I had tried some various alternatives in coconut and almond milk, both pre-packaged like the soy, pasteurised and unfortunately with added sugar; regardless of that the taste of both made me want to vomit. My friend and work colleague, Ramona, has recently bought a Vitamix blender and she made her own almond mil, so I though I’d try too.

I soaked 50g of almonds overnight in 300ml of water, then threw this in the blender this morning with a handful of frozen forest fruits, handful of fresh blueberries, 35g of pure whey protein, 10g each of olive, avocado and linseed oil. Pulsed for 30 seconds, then on full blend for about 2 minutes. Now my blender isn’t as good as a Vitamix and it’s not a crappy one neither, but the whole thing was still a bit gritty with nit bit. Regardless of that it was way better than using the bought stuff with an overriding sensation like marzipan – if anything a little too strong, perhaps 30g of almonds would be enough in future.

Sorry to say that I didn’t take a photo, will make the same tomorrow and take a picture.

For lunch I cobbled together the left-overs from some nice steak I had for dinner yesterday: fired up some onions in olive oil, added some chopped mushrooms, once cooked added the steak diced, stir for a few minutes, added three teaspoons of tomato puree concentrate and some dried basil.

Vegetables are even easier: half a leek, half a courgette, handful of cauliflower. I boil/steam the cauliflower and leek first, then add the courgette after about 4 minutes just for two minutes more, that was the courgette doesn’t disintegrate into poo-slime. Drain the water into a glass to drink later add some good oils and a pinch of salt & pepper (normally I’d use a bit of soy sauce, but I noticed all my soy sauces have flour in then, so they’re going in the bin and I need to get some more. Note that soy sauce doesn’t have the same lectin issue as soy milk as it’s fermented and the fermenting process removes most of the lectins). Smash the veggies with a potato masher.

I put the rocquette on top as an afterthought so that anyone seeing it would think I was a chef, or posh…

For dessert it’s a couple of organic plums and an organic nectarine, which are in season right now. Note that most of the food I buy is organic. I know there’s a raging debate about whether it’s really that much better in nutrients or not. Personally I prefer to err on the side of caution, but it goes deeper than that. Organically farmed food is kinder for the environment and more importantly for me the standards of animal husbandry are much higher. So regardless of the debate I’ll keep buying it. It’s not even that much more expensive, I buy all our meat for instance from a small organic, Marché Vert, shop here in Uccle and it’s cheaper than the meat in the Delhaize supermarket next door (and far, far superior). Their bio (as organic is called in French) cucumbers are less than half the price of the ones in the supermarket too. It pays to shop around a little.

Now this isn’t organic, but it is fresh – a trio of lettuces sold live with roots and soil, 59 cents  twice the quantity of pre-packaged, a quarter of the price and fresher. Bargain!!

And yes, it’s all paleo (more on that soon)

Update 29th August: here’s a photo of that smoothie I promised

Intermittent Fasting Week 2

After last week’s first fasting effort, it was time to go for it again. Experience is a wonderful ally so I adapted a little to try and mitigate the negatives, mostly feeling so tired in the evenings. The logical solution of course was to shift the single daily meal from breakfast to the evening, that also opened the door for a better quality meal with the time-constraints of getting to work removed, here’s what I ate the two days:

Monday: Fried (olive oil) chicken breast (rubbed with garlic and onion powder, cinnamon & four-spice), half a cauliflower – drizzled with olive oil and linseed oil, home-made salsa & guacamole

Tuesday: Two beef and one chicken brochette – which I couldn’t finish, plus the other half of the cauliflower with the salsa and guacamole

With some linseeds and psyllium husks during the day to try and keep the intestines moving along… I chose cauliflower for many reasons: it’s low in calories so you can eat a lot and fill yourself up, it’s highly nutritious being packed with vitamins and minerals, we had a spare one in the fridge and I just love it; just be sure not to overcook or it turns to a farty mush, I find 6 – 7 minutes is enough. I don’t have a steamer so I cook with a small amount of water which I pour into a cup before serving and dink afterwards with a drop of olive oil, salt and pepper – it’s a delicious drink and ensures you get all the of vitamins.

What can I say, this fast was night and day different from the first time! Whether this was due to being able to anticipate the situation, the change of meal timing or the change of meal composition I don’t know, but I felt great for the two days. I was actually quite reluctant to eat and suffered no loss of energy at all – it was really liberating. And you wouldn’t believe the time you save when you don’t have to prepare or eat food!!

It’s a positive response on the scale too, with 1 kg lost on Tuesday morning compared to the week before (which was already 1 kg less than the previous week). Bear in mind that I’m eating as much as I can every meal during the week, I’m not craving for anything, I’m rarely hungry, I’ve energy enough for some short but intense workouts (more on that another time), so I believe I losing fat and gaining muscle as we go along.

Only downside is that I didn’t take a decent crap for three days (despite the countermeasures), but that’s back to normal again today. Here’s the weight progress:

Maybe I’m weird, but I’m looking forward to next week’s fast already :)

Eating Out on Paleo

It’s hard, but not impossible to eat paleo when you’re at a restaurant. We were in Domburg, Holland, for the day and I still managed to get some highly nutritious, healthy foods. Firstly for lunch, some fish with some veggies. This also came with fries and some kind of sauce. Normally these sauces are made with flour, so I asked them to provide it separately and I requested that the fries were replaced with an extra serving of vegetables. I’m not convinced they did give the extra veggies, but it was sufficient as it was and kept me going until dinner.

Then for dinner we ate at our favourite restaurant in the town: De Bommelje, good food, very friendly staff and all organic too! And they do bring extra vegetables too when requested as well as some very good olive oil to drench over the veggies.

I pigged-out with a started of smoked salmon with mango & salad, a main of lamb with rosemary and two extra vegetable portions and two bowls of fruit for dessert. A lot of food I guess, but it had been a very active day with the kids, so I was pretty hungry.

Apparently it’s: gemarineerd in Zeeuws gerookte thee, gerookt zeezout, mango met rode pepers en krokante peterseliewortel

And the main: Proeverijtje van lam met geroosterde zoete aardappel, groene groenten en rozemarijnjus

So it is possible to eat well while you’re out and about:

  • Keep it simple: steak; fish, veggies, salad
  • Avoid overly prepared dishes as they can hide all sorts of ingredients
  • Ask for sauces to be given separately and salads to be undressed
  • Request extra veggies or salad

and despite this huge feast I found myself 87.9 kgs this morning :)

What’s for Dinner?

Well I was home a little late from work and I wanted to do some exercise before I ate – so time was a but limited. Nevertheless I managed to throw this together:

  • 6 organic chicken wings – these are delicious beyond belief and I eat pretty much everything except the bones and gristle. They’re so easy to cook that even an idiot like me can do it: coat in olive oil, salt, pepper and dried basil, put in a tray in the middle of the oven 185°C for 1 hour, turning after 30 minutes. The skin’s cripsy and the meat soft, bloody super-yum! And not expensive either – around €3 for the packet from Delhaize – bio too!! No excuses…
  • Then there’s a salad of course. I love salads and I ate them pretty much daily even when I wasn’t doing this low carb thing. This one isn’t especially fancy though, but it is BIG and it does contain a whole avocado. I feel salads without avocado are like sex with a condom – it’s nice, you want it, but it could be much, much better. For the rest it’s LOTS of leaves and roquette, bean sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, red pepper, olive oil – balsamic – salt & pepper
  • Then there’s dessert – that’s a handful of blueberries, almonds and pistachios, with a very few salted peanuts as a treat – didn’t really enjoy those, they tasted synthetic, will avoid in future
  • And last, but perhaps not least, I had a spoon of high EPA/DHA fish-oil that I bought on the way home – I’ll write about the importance of that another time

30 minutes before the meal I had 6 teaspoons of psyllium husk in water with a little lime juice. This stuff keep things moving along nicely inside, will also cover that at some point.

Now to bed…

 

 

Lunchtime at the Office

OK, we laugh and joke here about the poor quality of the food at the European Commission employee restaurants, but to be honest we are far luckier than many office workers who’s only choice in their bought lunch is the filling of the sandwich. So whereas most of the meals offered here are not really suitable – potatoes, rice, breadcrumb coatings, sauces made with wheat etc. it is possible to construct something that fits both a low-carb and paleo diet.

More often than not I tend to head to the grill where they have steaks, chicken and fish, if it’s doesn’t look too toxic then I go for the fish every time. OK, I have to admit that two years ago I had incredibly bad food poisoning from EC restaurant fish, I was bed/toilet-ridden for two days and couldn’t keep food in my system properly for nearly two months, but on the positive side I did lose 6 kgs :-)

Here’s today’s “best effort” – even with a bit of photo enhancement it still looks rather unappealing:

So that side-plate is roasted aubergines, mushrooms and courgettes with olive oil and balsamic. In fact I had to leave the courgettes as they were coated with some kind of slime that I couldn’t identify a) I think it was sugar and wheat based, b) it was totally disgusting!

The main dish is colin fish – also amusingly called “pollock” in the UK. It’s high in vitamin B12 & selenium as well as providing all essential amino acids and a decent amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. The rest was haricot beans, mixed veg and mixed salad.

Not the highest quality food by a long way, but way better than the average get to eat, so I’m pretty satisfied with that.

What does always make me laugh though, every day, is the look on the face of the restaurant staff when I don’t have any rice, potatoes or fries with it. They clearly think I’m insane, mind you, who’s to say they’re wrong?