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Staying with paleo when you’re poorly

Fresh Loaf

I woke up yesterday with one of my headaches. This one was a blinder. But, it being Sunday, I tried really hard to take pain killers to dull the pain enough so that I could function. It didn’t work.

Fast-forward to Monday morning. It was worse. So I stayed in bed, gobbling down meds and dozing. The pain started to subside in late afternoon, so I got up. I was soon feeling hungry, but I was hankering so bad for some fresh bread with a thick layer of butter and a tin of Heinz minestrone soup. Just as I did back in the drinking days when I was hungover.

So I thought to myself, ‘can I justify having some gluten just because I’m poorly?’. Lorraine had just taken a fresh loaf out the break maker and the smell was wafting around the house.

I didn’t though. I stayed strong.

I’ve heard from a few paleo followers that taking wheat after a long period of abstinence can make you feel rather ill, so thinking of that was enough for me to continue to abstain. I had a plate of grilled gluten-free sausages, bacon and fried eggs instead.

But then, boy oh boy, I had the strongest urge to eat chocolate that I’ve had since going paleo. There just happened to be a packet of Double Deckers in the fridge and I got as far as taking one out and reading the ingredients label (yep, gluten) before I put it back and opted instead for a couple of squares of Lindt 85%.

So, as I sit here at 9 p.m., feeling as fragile as if I’d had a bottle of Scotch the day before, I’m quite pleased that I managed to stay faithful.

I hope to God that this headache is gone tomorrow.

I Made my Ideal Weight!

I started learning about and following the paleo diet back in March of this year. At that time I was around 82kg. Today I weighed in at under 72kg šŸ™‚

How it Was

In July of 2010 I was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, which, now that I know what I know, isn’t really surprising. I was put on metformin to manage my glucose. Not long after that I was put on statins and ACE inhibitors for cholesterol and blood-pressure respectively. I was 40.

Not long after that, I was put on anti-depressants and was seeing the community psychiatric nurse for depression and anxiety.

I would get home from a long, tiring day of sitting on my arse all day at work and fall asleep. I could hardly stay up past 9 o’clock because I was so tired.

One day at work, I was feeling extremely low around closing time, so what did I do? I headed to the pick ‘n’ mix sweets in my shop and ate more than my fill. Yep, not clever. But, according to the HbA1C long-term blood-sugar tests I was getting, everything was all right, and that was with me NOT following the recommended eating pattern for diabetics, not even a little bit.

The following day I was sick and couldn’t come in to work. I don’t know if this was just a sick bug, or whether it had anything to do with pigging out on sweets. Either way, I took it as a wake-up call and decided to do something about it.

Podcasts

I listen to a lot of tech-related podcasts, including a bunch on the 5by5.tv network. I’d heard this term ‘paleo’ bandied about a lot by 5by5 founder Dan Benjamin and knew that it had something to do with low carbs and no gluten. Dan would say that if you were going to do just one thing, cut out the gluten. So, when I decided that I wanted to change, I had an idea of where to start.

I got Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution and read my way through that whilst changing my diet. Some of the science was baffling, not because it was turgid and dense ā€” on the contrary, the book is very well written and easy to follow ā€” but because I don’t have the kind of brain that retains science very well. .

Not long after that, Steve Gibson released a two-part series on low carbs [Steve’s Low Carb Page] and set out the health benefits that he was experiencing.

So who says podcasts aren’t useful?! These may just have given me another 10 years!

Gadgets

I got myself a Fitbit Wireless Ultra and decided that I would at least start walking more. So I set my iPhone alarm to play my favourite radio station at 6:15 and I would start walking the dogs. I signed up for a premium account at Fitbit so I could monitor my blood-sugars closely.

I also got a Withings Blood Pressure cuff for my iPhone and finally a set of Aria scales. I could now monitor blood pressure, glucose and weight all within my Fitbit premium account.

The Plan

Meds

I stopped taking all my meds. Yes, all of them. Friends were telling me I was crazy. ‘You can’t do that’. Well, apparently I could. I wasn’t quite that crazy though. I did go and see my GP to get medical advice. It didn’t go down too well at first, but I explained that my sugars were within safe limits and that I was monitoring it extremely closely. So we agreed that I would go back on the ACE inhibitors because my BP was still on the high side, but that I would stay off the metformin and statins. However I welched on the agreement and didn’t go back on the ACE inhibitors either. Naughty, naughty!

Diet

I changed my diet overnight. It’s still in a state of flux as I learn more and discover the effects of different foods. The foundation of the diet is that I don’t touch grains. I toyed with dairy because I love cheese and it makes salads so much more interesting, but Robb Wolf recommends no dairy and so does Geoff Bond in Deadly Harvest (which I’m about half-way through) so I’ve got some consensus that says ‘no dairy’. All righty then. I’ll cut out the cheese. I take my coffee black anyway.

Exercise

As soon as I stopped eating grains, literally within a couple of days, the tiredness went. And with that lifted the depression. It was that immediate benefit that gave me the determination to consider this as a lifestyle change, not a diet. I was able to get up in the morning and walk the dogs. I signed up for RunKeeper and started monitoring my walks, because I’m a nerd and I stats help to keep me motivated.

Results

Well, as you’ll see from the title of this post, I hit my weight-loss target this morning. I’m down 10kg from when I started and am now within my ideal weight and BMI brackets for the first time in 20 years.

I don’t wake up with indigestion through the night any more. In fact, I no longer have to keep antacids on my nightstand. Before the change I was waking up every night and having to sit on the edge of the bed until the antacids did their thing.

The lethargy seems to have gone for good. Don’t get me wrong, I still get tired if I don’t get enough sleep, but it’s not the same sort of unmotivated lethargy that I used to feel.

I’m playing guitar again! I had pretty much stopped completely, which, as anyone who knows me will attest, is a sign that something ain’t right!

I’m back to caring about productivity again. Hence this post! That productivity and motivation is changing my life in so many ways, from cooking the family dinner at night to learning OmniFocus.

I’m able to stay up later at nights and spend time with my wife. After about two years, we’re finally on the final season of The West Wing!

I saw the GP about a month ago to get the results of my first HbA1C test since coming off the meds and going paleo. The GP was very happy with the results and said that I may just have given myself a multiyear respite from going back on the meds. Now that’s what I call a result!

Moving forward

Robb Wolf talks about the importance of sleep. So does Geoff Bond. So we’ve ordered some blackout curtains for the bedroom. I try to get to bed at 10 when I can.

I’m sure that my diet will continue to evolve as I learn more from books and from experience. For instance, I considered cutting out bacon, which I have with eggs for breakfast, but I went back onto it this week as I just can’t seem to enjoy fish for breakfast and omelettes would take too long.

Exercise? Well, I could always do more. I suppose that’s the case for a lot of people. This is one area that I really could improve on. And now that my podcast queue is reaching the realms of impossibility, I could do with more listening time. And how else would I ever get through Dance with Dragons?

Meta stuff: overwhelmed

I’m so caught up meta stuff right now. Big projects are getting finished though:

  • Shifting and converting my music from FLAC to Apple Lossless is finished, and it’s all backed up to my external drive
  • My photos are all consolidated and I’m now just waiting on SpiderOak uploading the full directory do I can start syncing
  • I’ve watched D. Sparks’ OmniFocus screencasts for the second time and am ready to start using the darned thing
  • I’ve moved the Website from SquareSpace to WordPress. I just have a few pages to move from the old old site at Celtic Guitar Talk, something I never did when moving to SquareSpace
  • I finally learned Markdown!

Smaller tasks though, there are just so many of them!

Software

It’s been a big season for upgrades:

  • Text Expander 4
  • Lightroom 4
  • Hazel 3

And for new software:

  • Reeder for iPad
  • MarsEdit
  • Launch Center Pro
  • Marked
  • Found
  • Fantastical

Life

I’m getting through the paleo stuff too. The weight is coming off, but I’m getting in danger of getting into a rut again with the same food all the time. What makes it super hard is the kids. Hamish’s diet is extremely limited, and Freya won’t eat spicy food at all.

OmniFocus

So OmniFocus is starting to seem more and more necessary for me to manage my life, but it is such an overwhelming app. I’m learning a lot from Merlin on his podcasts, and from D. Sparks too. I’m about to buy Kourosh Dini’s Creating Flow with OmniFocus book to delve a little deeper, but at some point I’m going to have to stop learning the system and actually do some stuff.

And speaking of doing stuff, I’ve had the idea of writing for the local paper on tech stuff. I want to practice writing more and, since I’m pretty up-to-date on what’s going on in the world of mobile tech and stuff, it could be a good move. But it will involve tweaking the system. NVAlt? A new iPad?