52 Days of Paleo, Day 11

Today's lunch. Rice is non-Paleo, so I skipped eating that part.

Does everyone struggle to do the right thing for themselves?

This is going to be a short post and I am writing it with my tail between my legs.

You'll notice that the title of this post is 52 days of Paleo, day 11. There is no day 9 and day 10 post. This is because the last two days have been a struggle, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't have my life completely together.

Over the last 48 hours, I have been stressed, overworked, and feeling a lot of doubt about this program I put myself on. I've had severe cravings for junk food sugar and I’ve almost given in to them a number of times. It is taken tremendous will to not pull through the drive-through at a Wendy's and order my habitual number two double with a chocolate-chunk cookie.

I fought and (barely) held on (caveat - I dipped my toe outside of the Paleo pool twice in the last 72 hours when rice was added to my lunch at a fast-casual restaurant both times, but I count the fact that I limited myself and only ate a little rice as a win).

I'm smart enough to realize that emotional stress is one of my triggers for junk eating. I eat my feelings when I feel a bit overwhelmed, overworked, and pulled in too many directions. I also can get locked into an emotional mental spiral that says I'm not getting anything productive done, so I should feel guilty about not getting the important things done, and consider myself a failure. In the past, I would simply give in to the pain of these feelings and soothe myself with an ice-cream-and-candy Blast at Sonic, or a double-quarter pounder meal with two strawberry cream pies at McDonald's, or a double-Whopper with Cini-Mini bites at Burger King (anywhere I can buy a bag full of grease and fat and sugar to rot out the inside of my gut with).

My body and mind threw everything I could conjure at me to pull me off my Paleo plan. Justification. Hunger Pains. Cravings. I fought the battle against these cravings and I'm happy to report that I won. This time. So I'm back, putting myself out there, sharing the frailty of my commitment to eat clean. And if I can fight through the inevitable challenges you are going to face when you're putting yourself on a clean program, you can too.

Breakfast: Black coffee sweetened with raw honey and banana.

Lunch: Wasabi Grill; grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, a bit of brown rice (the meal came with it but avoided it to keep the meal as Paleo as possible.

Dinner: Tacos; gluten-free soft tortilla shells, ground turkey, pinto beans (these are non-Paleo I now realize, dammit!), lettuce, gluten-free taco sauce.

Snacks: Banana. Gluten free chocolate chip and raisin cookie from Coyote Oaties. A Base Culture Cashew Butter Blondie.

Exercise: None today (too many work meetings and other obligations).


52 Days of Paleo – Day 8

The Kitchen Sink Salad - everything in the fridge I can throw into a salad.

Here’s the thing about weight loss

I weighed myself today, and my body is already going through a radical change from eating Paleo for only one week.

Now, I want to preface this whole thing by saying that I did not start this journey to lose weight. Losing weight is not my primary motivation. I am on this journey to be healthy. I want to live for a long time. And mostly, I want to get fit enough to really enjoy myself when I pursue the sport of my passion; cycling.

Six months ago, I signed up for a full season of mountain-bike racing here in Arizona. That’s six races spread over four months. I haven’t raced this series in probably 15 years.

In my 30s, during peak race season, I weighed 155-pounds. In high school, I was 142 pounds my junior and senior year and didn’t gain anything until after I graduated. Neither of those numbers is reasonable for a 52-year-old man with two jobs, a family, obligations, a reasonably healthy appetite, and who needs to carry some muscle into the third season of their life.

The trap of making weight loss the primary goal when trying to correct bad nutrition habits is that you’re more likely to manipulate your nutritional intake just to produce the outcome of weight loss rather than making sure you’re fueling your body for optimal health and vitality.

I’m eating Paleo not as a weight-loss diet, but as a way to fix my nutrition. I make every meal myself, with ingredients I selected and purchased myself (whole vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, lots and lots of eggs, etc.). I am exercising regularly. I expected to see some changes in my weight, just not such a radical shift. I was surprised when I stepped on the scale this morning.

In order to prepare myself for the mountain-bike race season, I signed up for Weight Watchers. I’ve signed up for Weight Watchers in the past. It’s a great system for gaming weight loss. If you follow it carefully, it will produce the results of weight loss. But on Weight Watchers, I was so hungry so often that I gave up on it. Well, I cheated on it first. And then got frustrated with the lack of weight loss. And then gave up on it.

I race with a group of guys my own age, with similar experience. I did five of the six races over the season. I was consistent. At each race, I finished in the back 10 or 15% of the field. I wasn’t disappointed with this. It was my first year back. I’m carrying some extra weight (in cycling, an extra 15-20 pounds can put you at a disadvantage against someone equally skilled and fit who is leaner), and I did not make the decision to race months ahead to give myself time to train specifically. I knew I would not be competitive. My goal was simply to put an entire season together, make it to every race, and learn from every race to make improvements to set myself up to be competitive (goal next year is to get into the top 10 on a regular basis).

Losing weight is part of that picture. Which is why committing to Paleo in a serious way has been in the back of my mind.

My 52-day journey is eight days in. I stepped on the scale this morning with little expectation that I would see any change in my weight from last week, which was 178.8 pounds. When the number 173.8 flashed back up at me, I got off the scale, turned it off, turned it back on, and went again. Sure enough, 173.8. I had lost 5 pounds in one week by just eating clean! No dieting. No calorie-constriction. No tracking every milligram of food I took in. No over-doing the cardio trying to burn as much energy as I could every day. Just clean eating.

I expected some weight loss. I knew that once I committed to clean eating, the bunch goofy crap that was gumming up in my gut would clear out, as would some of that watery, blubber fat on the outer layer of my body. But I’ve got a lot of work to do to melt that brown, inter-organ fat tissue that I carry in my torso. But still. Losing five pounds in the first week is pretty freaking cool.

I don’t expect this weight-loss pace to continue. And I keep saying, Over and over, that weight loss is not my goal. But damn, it is nice to achieve weight loss anyway. In the back of my mind, As much as I don’t really want to look at it, I am secretly really happy that it’s away last week. I can admit that I’m vain enough to care about getting leaner, and I really want to get down to my former bike-racing weight. So I will watch this number and I will be hopeful every Saturday when I step on the scale.

Sleep quality: 100%

Weight: 173.8

Breakfast: Smoothie: Almond milk, bananas, strawberries, almond butter.

Lunch: Leftover baked spaghetti (from yesterday’s dinner).

Dinner: Kitchen sink salad; spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, mushrooms, avocado, onions, currants, pepitas, boiled egg, grilled chicken, homemade apple vinaigrette dressing.

Snacks: None.

Exercise: 109 minutes of road cycling.


52 Days of Paleo – Day 7

Baked Spaghetti - spaghetti squash, ground beef, tomato sauce, spinach, egg, spices.

What, Exactly, Can I Eat?

We went to see Avengers Endgame tonight. Man, that Thanos is a grade-A douchebag. Long movie. Nice to finally put a cap on that whole Avenger’s saga. But going to a movie raised a Paleo issue for me. I mean, what the hell can you eat at the movie theater on Paleo?

Look at that rack of candy. That’s not for me. How about that deliciously buttered popcorn? Nope. Nachos? Not yours. Pretzels? No! Hotdog? Absolutely not. Anything off the hot-food menu? Hell freaking no.

Ah, here we go. They have some roasted cashews. I’ll ignore the fact that they’re coated in caramelized sugar and pretend they are pure Paleo (and then just look them up later and feel guilty when I ‘discover’ that they’re not).

Speaking of looking closely at the ingredients, yesterday I was pulled into the rabbit hole of knowing where your food comes from. And it got me thinking about source today.

I am investing in high-quality food. I think. I’m preparing all my own food and being careful about the ingredients, but how careful am I? Can I be sure, when I shop, that I’m getting the cleanest possible ingredients?

Since I’m learning the basics of Paleo through Kenzie Swanhart’s book Paleo in 28, I did a little digging to see if she had any advice for me. Besides her pre-formatted shopping lists (which are super helpful by the way Kenzie, thank you), she had a section in the back that caught my eye, a table listing what she calls the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen.

The premise of the index is that not all produce and fruit are equally clean. We all grocery shop. If you pay attention to your food, you get that organic produce is better than non-organic produce? Organic produce meaning that the people who produce it took measures to ensure that there are no chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides used in production.

Kenzie writes about an organization called the Environmental Working Group that publishes this dirty dozen list. The dirty dozen are fruits and vegetables that, when grown using conventional, high-volume agricultural methods (fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides) hold onto some residue of the chemicals used to grow them.

Apples, bell peppers, celery, grapes, peaches, potatoes, etc. are all on the dirty dozen list. It doesn’t mean that you avoid these foods. It just means that you should stick to the organically-grown version of these foods to avoid chemical residue and pesticide contamination.

To add a layer of context, Kenzie includes a clean 15 in her book. These are fruits and vegetables that tolerate the conventional farming process, meaning they don’t carry forward the pesticides and chemicals used to optimize their growth. This list includes avocados, corn, mangoes, mushrooms, onions, pineapples, sweet potatoes, etc.

It’s kind of a relief to know that not everything I buy has to be the more expensive, fully organic version. Knowing the clean fifteen and the dirty dozen when I walk into a grocery store will keep my grocery bill down, and make sticking to the Paleo diet a lot easier.

Sleep quality: 94% Another long-ish lie in.

Breakfast: Coffee, black, sweetened with raw honey. Tropical green smoothie. Banana, mango, pineapple, spinach, coconut water. I over-made the recipe (read the ‘serves X’ information on the recipe before doubling it up thinking you’re gaming the recipe to get a little more food. I ended up with three glasses of smoothie. I had to give one away.

Lunch/Dinner (Linner?): Baked Spaghetti. Spaghetti squash, egg, ground beef, spinach, tomato sauce, basil, oregano. Took a while to make, but this is a dish that will save well and make a great dinner-with-leftovers-for-tomorrow’s-lunch dish.

Snacks: Dark chocolate squares. Honey-roasted cashews (at the movie theater).

Exercise: None today. Had every intention to ride this morning but when my friend baled (he got sick), I used that as an excuse to sleep in.


52 Days of Paleo – Day 6

Chicken Tenders and sweet potato fries; home made.

Don’t Send Me Your Awful How-Food-Is-Made videos!

I fucking love french fries. Particularly, I love french fries from McDonald’s. And Wendy’s. And even those hand-cut-right-in-front-of-the-drive-through-window fries from In N Out Burger (my third favorite).

My wife is trying to steal the love of french fries for me though.

Today, she sent me a link to a Facebook video of a guy talking about how McDonald’s french fries are produced. Specifically, how McDonald’s has perfected the art of producing consistent, beautiful, wonderful-tasting french fries. A french fry to fall in love with. A french fry to become addicted to. A french fry that is the perfect length to present in a fan if crisped, fried goodness in their perfect cardboard french containers.

The process starts with an insistence on perfect potatoes. Specifically, McDonald’s Corporation insists that all their french fries be made from a specific type of russet potato (the Russet Burbank). This breed of russet is unusually long and narrow. They also insist that these potatoes have no blemishes, so the french fries always have a clean and smooth exterior, even if they’re cut from the outer part of the potato.

To achieve this level of homogeny in potato production, the farmers who produce them use a particularly nasty herbicide to keep away the aphids that create blemishes away. The video says that the farmers who produce this potato won’t step into their fields for five full days after they spray the herbicide; that is how toxic it is. This video says that when the farmers harvest their perfect Russet Burbank potatoes and stick them in a barn, they don’t enter that barn for several days until the herbicide has completely oxygenated (dispersed). If something so nasty is required to make the potato perfect, it is unfathomable to believe that a lingering effect remains in the final, perfect french fry.

Whether or not I take the video at face value, I both love and hate that she sent it to me. And this is one of those things about Paleo that is driving me a little crazy - once you open the door to taking a very close look at the food you’re putting into your body, the worst kind of information can creep in. Truth that will keep you up at night. Truth that can turn off all food.

It’s not that I don’t want to be educated about how food is produced. I do. But only in small doses for now. I’m just now getting close to my ingredients by making my own meals. I’m just now learning about how whole foods, organically grown, are the path to robust health for me. I’m just now taking control of the food that goes into my body. Don’t open the door to this rabbit hole and shove me through. I don’t want to find out that there’s not a single thing in the world that I can safely eat. I don’t want to learn that I have to retreat to a mountain hideaway and grow all my own food to stay safe.

Selfishly, I want to leave my door open to cheat a little on the Paleo diet. If you read the original book by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. (The Paleo Diet), it is adamant that in order to correct the poor nutrition that is served up in the name of processed food in modern society, you don’t actually have to eliminate everything bad. The human body can tolerate some level of crappy food. He recommends eating clean at least 85% of your meals. That other 15% is where heaven lies for my taste buds. That 15% means I can go grab that Wendy’s number one on a weekend as a reward for so diligently eating clean all week.

If you send me videos like the one Keli sent me today, you could ruin that reward for me. I’m not willing to live a life where I get no joy that can be served up in a little red french fry couple. I want to hide behind a shield of ignorance for a little while longer so I continue to eat at a place like McDonald’s, albeit infrequently.

Rant over.

Sleep quality: 85%. 9:18 in bed. Another fun sleeping fact from the Sleep Cycle app; the average American goes to bed at 11:24 pm. I couldn’t stay up that late if you paid me. There is simply too much to do in the mornings.

Breakfast: Coffee, black, sweetened with raw honey. Banana. Hard-boiled egg. This was a miss. I woke up late and had an early call and had to grab and go.

Lunch: Panda Express bowl, vegetables and chicken only.

Dinner: Chicken tenders (in almond flour and spices) with sweet potato french fries (in olive oil, salt, and spices).

Exercise: None today (thank you very much).


52 Days of Paleo – Day 5

Today's breakfast after a 50-mile bike ride; banana and strawberry smoothie.

Is Paleo eating fixing my sleep?

I get up in the middle of the night to pee multiple times, three or four is normal. This is not a new thing; I’ve been doing it my entire adult life. It’s not a problem with my prostate (I’ve allowed a man in scrubs to insert his finger and check for me on more than one occasion - a medical professional, I feel the need to say).

I go to bed in the 9:30 range. Sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. I expect to get up in the night and pee. I prepare for it. I am as confident moving through our bedroom to the bathroom as a blind person might navigate their home; I move with eyes closed, feeling for familiar physical barriers and markers, following a known path. Before I got to bed, I make sure there is nothing on the floor in my path, that the door to the bathroom is open at the right angle, and that the toilet seat is down (I don’t want to boot up my brain to think about any of these things). When I travel, I map the room mentally in the same way before going to sleep.

The first urge usually comes around midnight. The second in the two o’clock hour. The third in the four o’clock hour. If there is a fourth awakening, it squeezes itself in there somewhere (no pun intended).

I couldn’t tell you if the urge to pee is what wakes me up, or if I just a light sleeper and whenever I come up from REM in the middle of a sleep cycle, my body has a Pavlovian response to go to the bathroom. Or maybe it’s because of my lifelong Diet Coke habit (which I am breaking at the moment, mostly successfully but my shame around soda during this Paleo test is something I’m not ready to admit to).

I know these intervals because I peek at the time whenever I get up in the night even though I am unable to remember names after I meet a new person even several times, I can lock numbers into memory from a semi-comatose state and recall them clearly in the morning (left-brain much?).

Waking up to pee several times a night is my reality, so I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) to register the time when I first got up to pee last night. 4:07 a.m. I had slept continuously from 10:15 through to 4:07. Almost six straight hours. I would have told you that this was not possible if you had asked me last week.

What is happening? Can diet affect frequency of urination?

Is the fact that I now only drink one cup of coffee and a tiny amount of Diet Coke (compared to coffee and two or three trips to the soda machine at Circle K every day) have an impact, I drink the same volume of liquid. It’s just that liquid is mostly water now. Or could it be that my constantly bloated gut causes my need to urinate? Could a wheat-and-dairy-intolerant, bloaty, gassy, allergy-triggered intestinal track squeeze up against a bladder and cause it to empty itself more frequently than if everything from sternum to naval was healthy and in its right places?

I don’t know. But if it is related to Paleo, it’s a welcome change. Better sleep means better rest. Better rest means better recovery from exercise and stress. Better recovery means a stronger Steve Medcroft. A stronger Steve Medcroft can take on bigger challenges.

Yay Paleo!

Sleep quality: 74% 6:47 sleep time. Which, interestingly, is only 15-minutes shy of the US average (7:04), but 45 minutes shy of my personal average (7:25).

Breakfast: Coffee, black, sweetened with raw honey. Smoothie; almond milk, bananas, frozen strawberries, almond butter. So good.

Lunch: A ScramBowl at the Black Bear Diner. This is a deep platter-sized bowl filled with eggs, sausage, potatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms. It’s mostly Paleo (it normally comes with cheese and gravy, which I left off). The white potatoes are not Paleo (but they didn’t have sweet potatoes).

Dinner: Cobb salad. A mixture of spinach, romaine, and iceberg lettuce, chopped onions, shredded carrots, mushrooms, avocado, boiled egg, and chicken, with a homemade vinaigrette.

Snacks: Base Culture Cashew Butter Blondie (Paleo approved cake bar).

Exercise: 50.11 mile road ride (2:53 riding time).