I can hardly believe it has been one full year since I took the Paleo plunge. Some days it feels like I have been eating this way my whole life, and other days it seems like just a few weeks ago I was researching and preparing myself for this change. One thing I know for sure is that I will continue to research, refine, and practice the art of clean eating. I will continue to eat foods that are 1) real, 2) found in nature, 3) hormonally intelligent (as in don't alter my hormones so I store excess fat) 4) rich in anti-oxidents and minerals, and 5) TASTY!
Did I get surprising results? Absolutely. I found that nearly everything positive I read about this diet was true to me. Allergies I once suffered from disappeared. Cravings went away. Blood sugar stabilized. Fat loss. Improved performance. Nice skin. Other benefits that I'm sure I've named but can't think of right now...
Did I get all the results I was hoping for? No. I know what I'm about to type is silly, but when has that ever stopped me before? Honestly, I thought that in a year, I would be totally fixed. As in at a healthy weight for me. I realize how ridiculous that is because there is no way I can fix years of abuse in one year. I realize how ridiculous that is because I wasn't 100% this entire year. In fact, I bet if I totalled it up, there are a good 5 months out of the year where I was not exactly close to sticking to the Paleo principals. That's a long time! This thinking is also indiciative of old ways, fat person ways- wanting a quick fix, thinking that results are only measured by the scale, making excuses.
I must remind myself that evolution is natural and slow. As long as I continue to make tweeks and try new things, the experiments that work will stick, and the ones that don't will be naturally selected away. I must remind myself that I am 20+ pounds lighter then I was one year ago, and so much stronger. I have figured out something that works for me, and as long as I actually do it, I will continue to make progress.
As I approached this anniversary, much like a New Year's Resolution, I thought about things I want to test out, things I might want to adjust going forward into year 2 of Paleo. On the most basic level, I want to keep refining, keep bettering, keep trying to achieve the cleanest eating possible. I have spoken with numerous Paleo veterans, whose advice always seems to echo the same thoughts- it takes time, keep at it. That is what I intend to do.
I don't know if this has ever happened to anyone else out there, but it happens to me a lot. I will hear something somewhere. I will understand it, but I won't necessarily act on it or remember it for weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years later. I used to have these moments frequently at my old job, where my boss would come into the office, stand by my desk, spew a bunch of tasks for five minutes and then run out the door before I could clarify/ask questions. Sometimes it would take me the rest of the day just to make my way through all the things said to me in that time and get them done, sometimes I would remember something the next day, and be like, "oh, yeah." On one hand I was amazed at my brain for being capable of remembering such jibber jabber, and on the other hand I was annoyed that my boss couldn't just make it easy on me and send me a detailed e-mail.
ANYWAY...a bit of nutrition information I picked up somewhere along the way came back to me last week. The issue of recovery. Post workout recovery, that is. I remember at one of the nutrition seminars I attended, the speaker was singing the praises of recovery, and how necessary it is. How you need to immediately provide your worked muscles with fuel, or you will risk losing a large amount of the effort you put forth to inflammation, hindering your ability to progress further. Essentially, if you are not getting protein and carbs to your muscles 20-45 minutes after a workout, you are spinning your wheels. I thought about my current pattern. I workout at 4 or 5 pm. I usually hang out at the gym a little while after my workout cooling off/socializing. I get home around 6pm, then make dinner, usually eating anywhere from 1 to 2 hours after a workout. This does not fit into the ideal recovery model!
So, I did some more reading, and found that during the recovery time is when a body that is intolerant of carbohydrates actually needs more carbohydrates. In my twisted head, this means if there is any a time to give myself the green light to eat something I shouldn't, its during recovery. Before you get all excited about this...let me explain. I don't mean that I will be gorging myself on pizza and cookies post workout all in the name of recovery. What you need to remember is something as seemingly healthy as fruit is something that I must limit due to its affect on my body, just like wheat, nuts, and dairy. So, if I limit my consumption of these items that typically need to be avoided to post workout recovery times, its a win-win! I will feel like I'm giving myself a "cheat", and my muscles get what they need to recover/replenish. I can even extend this window to eat things like 1/2 a banana with almond butter, 1/2 apple with almond butter, 1/2 bagel with deli meat, larabar, greek yogurt and strawberries...the list goes on. The major rule for recovery foods is that they should be made up of carbohydrates and protein (some suggest a 4:1 ratio). Too much fat and it slows the absorbition of needed stuff. Too much sugar is never a good thing. So, again, this is not the time to be gorging on gross stuff, but a time to allow things that are off limits to me a chance to find their way back into my diet (and ideally calm the beast within).
Along the same lines, I notice (and this was also pointed out to me) that I do well for stretches of time, and then go crazy. Although I was against the idea for a long time, trying to convince myself that I need to be all or nothing, I think I need to allow myself cheat meals during the week. I'm going to start out with allowing 2 cheat meals/ week. Up to 2 times in a week I can have my burger on a bun, or eat at a Thai restaurant, or have a few drinks. Assuming I average 21 meals a week, 19/21 clean meals is 90%- good enough for me! I bet my pattern currently is something more like 28 clean meals, and then 5 cheats in a row (before I can reel myself in) coming in at 82%- B-? Not acceptable. Sometimes the best ideas are counter intuitive...like giving employees more days off in a year will make them MORE productive, giving myself cheats will make my overall performance better! Thank you to those that have suggested this to me...back to that whole I hear stuff but don't do it/really hear it until weeks/months later? Ha.
I'm going to leave it at that for now- two major things to focus on over the next few weeks- recovery and 2 cheat meals/week. I will re-evaluate these items in a month or so, and see how they are working out for me. Things I'm interested in seeing are 1) Do I feel like I'm letting myself "live" a little? 2) Is the scale moving downward? 3) Is my endurance/lifts improving? 4) Soreness? Does it go away quicker? 5) Can I get right back to Paleo after a cheat meal? 6) Do I cheat less overall? 7) With the periodic cheats, do I still have that awesome feeling I get with strict Paleo?
I know I will find a balance that works for me, I just have to keep testing new things and paying attention to the results.