One year of Paleo (a post by my husband Dave)

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Lisa asked me to write my experience of the Paleo lifestyle a year into the process. I guess a good place to start is where I was before we started eating and living like this. Three years ago I was 38 years old. I am 6’ tall and since adolescence I have weighed between 155 and 170. I grew up with a stay at home mom who always had a jar of homemade cookies on the counter and home baked bread in the cupboard. We ate a lot of meat and potatoes, vegetables, fish and pasta. We also had our fair share of pies, puddings deserts and sweets.  Sugary cereal was my go- to snack,  but as my mom tried to conform to the heart healthy advertising of the eighties, honey comb was replaced with special K , cheerios , corn flakes and of course oat bran and oatmeal  porridges. My family got on the low fat bandwagon with every other TV advertising watcher, I still remember the sad day when we stepped back from the thick and tasty 2% fat milk to thin and watery skim milk for my nightly bowls of cereal. 

I  never questioned the advice on fat and cholesterol that seemed so ingrained in our culture. I mean it was on the cover of time magazine for gods sake, so it must be true.

As I approached my 40th birthday I continued happily munching away at my nightly bowl of (organic now) whole grain enriched ancient grain cereal, but was noticing a 10 lb. creep in weight annually. My midsection was getting that flabby spare tire look and feel, which I assumed was unavoidable in middle age as I looked at my friends and the world around me. I would just need to exercise more. I have been a carpenter with a very physical day for the last 15 years; I assumed that was all that was keeping me from the inevitable ballooning that most other guys my age seemed to be experiencing. But now as I approached 190 lbs. I felt I needed to do something to at least slow this process.

It was around this time that I began noticing strange sensations in my heart. When I would swallow my heart would skip beats, race, or beat erratically. This culminated with a trip to the emergency room one night with a full blown episode of atrial fibrillation.  A relatively harmless , but terrifying heart arrhythmia  that can  leave your heart beating at up to 200 bpm for sustained periods of time. 

My view of myself as an active healthy specimen was suddenly exploded. I had a heart condition. And so I set off, a naïve babe in the woods, into the world of cardiac medicine. I, of course, wanted to know what CAUSED this to happen, and assumed that is where the barrage of cardiac exams were taking me. It was only after a year of heart specialists’ tests, exams, scopes, ultra sounds, EKGs  and mandatory prescriptions for blood thinners,  beta blockers and anti-arrhythmics ( culminating with me lying in a cardiac ablation suite with a probe in my left atrium and a surgeon asking me if I wanted her to ablate(burn and cut ) the nerves that might be making my heart beat strangely)  that I realized the doctors did not really care why this was happening, they just needed to mask or block it. In my own line of work it seemed like going to a person’s house who says they have a leaky roof and giving them a bigger bucket and some paint for the water stains on the ceiling.

It was only when I turned to naturopathic medicine did I begin to see the enormous hole in the roof of my general health.Stress, low magnesium levels, low vitamin B levels, from our largely carb based diet (red meat was not eaten at the time, by my now cavewife), an energy deficit from trying to be everything to everyone, had all been factors in my life , anyone of which could lead to heart issues. I got off the prescription drugs and started supplementing with vitamin B and magnesium. At the same time, Lisa began the switch to low carb eating, altering her diet as she began to discover the world of Paleo and all the information debunking the high-carb-low-fat mythology that had, up until now, been our way of eating. 

Lisa is an information junkie, the more she dug for the truth about food, the more we learned as a family. We watched the documentaries, read the articles, listened to countless podcasts in the car. Today my kids can identify photos of Dr. Eades, Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, and Jimmy Moore as if they are teen pop stars. As she changed her way of eating, so did we, as a family.

I began noticing results in the first week. Getting rid of my cereal was the most unimaginable thing for me. I could not imagine life without cereal and milk. I had tried on various occasions but had been drawn back to it by what I now understand an insulin reaction.  By replacing cereal with bacon and eggs I found that the daily 10 am light-headedness and crazed yearning for a donut or sugar of any kind disappeared. In fact, my hunger became less of a panicked desperate “feed me right now” that would make me cranky and ferocious. I would be hungry at lunch but could easily postpone eating if I chose. I got rid of the tradesperson standard lunch of a sandwich and instead had lettuce with sausages, nuts and berries drizzled in our high fat homemade “green gold” dressing. Again, I did not get the 3pm mind fog and exhaustion that used to send me hunting for the left- over donuts.

The more I rid my diet of bread, cereal, grains, the better I feel. My thinking feels clearer, I have more energy, and my energy level is consistent, not like the up and down of before.

My Atrial fib seems to have gone away. I stopped taking the supplements except for magnesium because our diet is very nutrient rich and vitamin B levels are no longer an issue. Within a few months I dropped From 190 to 165, where I seem to be holding steady. I notice a change in my waist, the flab ring has dwindled and my waist dropped from 34 back to 32 where it was in my 20s. I sometimes am surprised in the mirror when I see muscle definition I didn’t know I had.

And the food? People always ask me incredulously “you don’t eat any bread?.... like none? … really?” To be perfectly honest, bread and cereal have lost their appeal. What we eat- bacon, steak, fruit, nuts, eggs, fresh vegetables - butter drizzled on everything, is just so damn flavorful and satisfying; a bowl full of processed cereal seems like eating sawdust in comparison. We used to come home to the wonders of frozen pizza and canned sauce and pasta,  now with a little planning and a crock pot we have hearty stews,  roasts,  curries , pulled pork, ribs, grilled steak and mush rooms, buttered garlic scallops.  The preparation and forethought is like a gift I give to myself. I am important enough to take the time to feed myself food that tastes good and feels good.

And it goes further. The Paleo lifestyle of being in tune with the natural interaction of our bodies with this world is something that just seems so sensible and intuitive to me. There has been nothing I have come across in the reams of information that Lisa exposes to me daily that strikes me as unreasonable. If anything, in the past year, I have seen more examples of good science and sensible thinking from the “underground” world of low carb than I have in a lifetime exposed to mainstream nutritional advice. I feel like this lifestyle is something my body has always known, and after 40 years of yelling and screaming, my mind finally gets the message.

So where has this year of Paleo living taken me?  It has taken me from lying on a gurney with catheters probing my heart, control of my health given over to doctors, drugs and technology, to a much better place where I am the master of my own health, simple satisfying foods replacing drugs and chemicals. I am feeling better than I have in years and I no longer think getting fat and old is a natural progression.

9 comments :

  1. "I have seen more examples of good science and sensible thinking from the “underground” world of low carb than I have in a lifetime exposed to mainstream nutritional advice."

    AMEN!!! WTG Lisa and Dave. Love this!!

    val:) (DeCoste)

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  2. Sweet Val, thanks for the "Amen", so glad Dave's heart worries are over (it was actually three trips to the ER) - sending you heaps of health and love,
    L

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  3. Awesome. Just awesome! I've had similar success (though I had a lot more weight to lose when I started a couple of years ago). Every day, multiple times per day, something will trigger me to just stop and look around and say to myself, "Wow. So this is what living is like? I feel great!", after 29 years (since the age of 10)of being the high-carb/insulin-desnsitized 'fog'. So grateful I found this lifestyle before it was too late for me.

    Well done to you and your family.

    mark
    www.lowcarblearning.com

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  4. Nice read cave man, you look amazing! So happy you didn't go under the knife and instead listened to your sence of what didn't feel right, not many would have had the guts to get up from the table that day. Lisa you have always been such a wealth of knowledge and insightful thinking...always...so fortunate to have you.

    T

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  5. This gives me hope! I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and it nearly fells me for hours a day. I have no insurance and low income and two kids to feed as a single mom. So I have no blood thinners or chance of ablation. I began going down the Paleo road in late August. I do still use some dairy products and due to needing to eat the food we have and ease my teens into it I am only about 85% at this point, some days up to 95%. But already my asthma seems to have disappeared, reflux much better and diabetes much better, 18 pounds lost, and I am moderately obese. But Afib is not better, though it is better since I started supplements - taurine, CoQ 10, magnesium and others. I've gone from not being able to drive at all to having a window of time every day we can run out for a while. Anyway, so helpful to read of others' experiences! So unbelievable I ever ate the junk I did and that so many eat 10-fold that and feed it to their kids w/o blinking. The more people who share, the more who will get on board and improve their health!

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    1. Jan j, sorry to hear about your a fib, I read a quote once "you never think about your heart till something happens to it, then it is all you think about." Afib is certainly unpleasant.Glad to hear you are getting some positive results from paleo though. Stick with it, I found the Afib symptoms went away gradually, it was also very much a mental thing for me, I really had to let go of trying to please everyone,stress plays such a large part of heart issues - and it was so easy to pretend I wasn't stressed.I hope things continue to improve for you.
      Dave

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  6. Awesome caveman.

    I'm nearly 70 and something similar happened to me - and looking back I should have seen it coming - if I had only known the signs.

    Not that it was my heart - but the arteries in my legs looked a bit like clogged drainpipes from what the cat scans showed. And, yeah, the medical industry is not interested in fixing the roof - they are not interested in fixing the problem but just getting you back on your feet for the moment. What caused my problem and how to fix it did not interest my specialist.

    Had a stent put in the worst area and now on regular and sustained exercise and a low carb diet. The worst and hardest thing to do was to throw out the breakfast cerial, pasta and bread.

    Thanks for the info.

    John

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  7. If we already experienced unusual signs and symptoms of having a heart problem it it better to consult with an internal medicine. In that way, they will trace your history including the genetic, lifestyle, unhealthy foods and find out what is really the cause. This is very important to avoid any complications and it will not worsen the conditions.

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    1. Hi Diarry, {this is Dave}
      I don't suggest people shun medical advice. I went through a GP , 3 internal medicine specialists, and finally a team of cardiologists that specialize in electrical issues with the heart. I learned a lot about how the heart operates and was given a complete physical history and work up of my heart to rule out the usual cardiac diseases. All I am saying is that nowhere in that process did anyone ask me what I was eating. When I brought up lack of vit B and mag deficiency, as a possible factor I remember one internist actually laughed at me. For me this experience just illuminated to me that the medical approach is only one small part of our personal health. Taking back control of how you nourish your body can do wonders.
      .

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