52 Days of Paleo – Day 0

My last non-Paleo meal for the next 52 days - Habit Burger, double with cheese and fries.

I feel like crap. My gut is bloated and puffy. My joints ache. I sleep restlessly. I get lethargic in the middle of the afternoon. And I know that all of this is avoidable if I just ate better. But I love the taste of fast food. I crave all things sweet and cakey. I drink soda by the liter. And it 52 years old, these things are all catching up with me.

In contradiction to that, I also exercise frequently. I train on and race mountain bikes. I (less frequently) get into a pretty good gym routine. And I feel that I am healthy and fit for my age.

So how do these two contradictions balance against each other? If I exercise a lot, can I just burn off the junk food?

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Crappy gasoline can gum up even the most finely-tuned engine.

When I’m not eating well, my blood pressure is higher than normal, I have allergy-like symptoms almost constantly, and I am prone to sinus infections. I get fatigued during the day, and can rarely stay focused and alert into the evening. I sleep fitfully at best. I also suffer more when I exercise; coming off a workout on the bike sore and tired and needing days to recover.

When I eat cleanly, most of the symptoms go away in two weeks or so. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve gone on a roll of decent and clean eating for a month or so, and gone from riding my bike in a group just hanging on to the back and suffering like a dog, to riding at the front and winning sprints against my faster, fitter friends. I remember riding on a group ride after six weeks on a clean-eating plan and feeling so good that I kept going after everyone else went home. I rode over 100 miles that day, A distance I would normally have to train for months to achieve. And I felt great the next day.

When I look back at those times when I have these rapid improvements through clean eating, the Paleo diet is the structured food plan that always works for me.

The concept behind Paleo is to stick to whole, natural foods. The idea is that the human gut biome, the human digestive system, is not yet evolutionarily adapted to modern food processing. Paleo strips your diet back to things that could’ve existed 10,000 years ago when the human being was fully developed, but it not industrialized food production. Paleo removes all grains, legumes, dairy, and processed foods from your diet. You eat lean meats, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats.

the Paleo diet is the structured food plan that always works for me.

So I am fed up with myself. I need to make a drastic change. And I don’t want to just dip my toe back in, ear we’ll for a few days, tell myself that I’m feeling better, that I’ll be fine if I just have a one or two crappy meals, and be right back where I started. I want to see if I can actually stick to a Paleo diet. So I’ve set out a challenge for myself.

52 days of Paleo. Starting tomorrow. And every day, I will write about the experience and share it so that I have the specter of public shame over my head if I fall off the plan.

Today is day zero. I allowed myself to eat as crappy as I want. I went to town on McDonald’s for breakfast, sub sandwiches for lunch, and a double cheeseburger with fries for dinner. We’re going to also stop by a Sonic on the way home for milkshakes. I’m sure I’ll go to bed moaning about how awful I feel. But it’s all in the name of science. I need a baseline. I need a place to start so I have the comparison every day of how I’m feeling compared to how I feel today.

We’re at a Barnes & Noble picking up books. I say we, because Keli, my wife, is going to put her self on a similar plan. Although she’s vegan, so she’s looking for a vegan-based version of the Paleo diet. Together, we’re going to grocery shop, prepare meals for ourselves, hopefully, prop each other up when we lose motivation or get tempted to stray from the plan.

I picked Paleo in 28 by Kenzie Swanheart of I’ve been skimming through the prologue while Keli browses the shelves. It seems like it’s just what I need; a primer to remind me of the rules of Paleo and a 28-day meal plan covering everything I need for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I’m excited to get started. What I hope to gain is to quickly correct the malady’s plaguing my body right now, get my energy back, empower my cycling so I can be strong and fast. To that end, I’m going to look for a physical challenge I can tackle on day 52 of the plan, a test to see if the investment in time and commitment were worth it.

I commit every day to track my general physical state, list what I ate, what exercise (if any) I completed, how I slept the night before, and any challenges of successes of note from the day. I also pledge to track my weight and blood pressure weekly. And finally, I pledge to post my progress publicly to prevent me from backing out for fear of public embarrassment.

Check in tomorrow and see if I make it through day one.

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