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The Blog of Photographer Steven Gray

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Paleo no more! (Pt. II)

Quick follow-up to last week's catharsis. First, a clarification:

Lest there by any misunderstandings, my feelings about what is healthy and what is unhealthy remain unchanged.  What has changed is my approach to life and my relationships with other people.

I would like to share a quote from C. S. Lewis.  It comes from Mere Christianity, a book which I think everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, should read before trying to express an opinion on Christianity with anything like authority.  I have Mere Christianity on my iPhone as an audiobook, and I listened to it last week while driving to Daphne, Alabama to pick up a BOSU ball that I bought for a record-setting low price on Craigslist.  After spending last year frivolously haranguing people for consuming everything from gluten to seed oils, this passage came like a punch to the face when I heard it over the speaker:

One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

As previously stated, I lost track of my original goal, which was to lose weight, and wasted seven months being a pedant and a food nazi.  In my defense, my experience and research allowed me to help several friends lose a dramatic amount of weight in a short amount of time, but I have come to the conclusion that I could have helped many more people if I had been less vindictive and more relaxed in my approach.  I denied indulgences to myself, and in the spirit of misery loving company, I wanted everyone else to do the same thing.

Which brings me to the fun part...

I want to burn through the last bit of body fat that is hiding my abs.  As such, I'm giving the Slow-Carb Diet (SCD) a try.  Followed to the letter, it is billed as a sure-fire method to reach sub-12% bodyfat.  Based on my prior experience and a year of personal study on the subject, the science looks sound.  Nothing else has worked so far in my goal to eliminate stubborn fat, so I have nothing to lose by giving it a shot.  In addition to a specific exercise protocol (in my case, kettlebell swings and a couple of unique core exercises), the SCD eliminates dairy, sugar, starch and fruit from daily intake for six days.  The seventh day, however, is a dedicated cheat day, also known as "reverse Lent."  Anything goes.  The purposes behind devoting 12-24 hours to eating any and all "forbidden foods" are both biological and psychological:

  • Physically, "planned overfeeding" spikes the metabolism and actually results in a net fat loss over the following 48 hours.  Doing this once every five to seven days after strictly adhering to the rules of the diet is important to keep the metabolism from falling into a rhythm and downshifting.
  • Psychologically, it is healthy to take a day to enjoy all your favorite foods.  The routine of "just a little bit" of fruit/sugar and dairy every day over the course of a week, always left me with the nagging fear that my sugar and starch consumption was growing insidiously each week, and I find that my mind is much more at ease on the new schedule.

My first cheat day was truly a personal coup.  For the past year, I was so caught up in the fantasy of living a "perfectly healthy" lifestyle that I neglected to enjoy some of the foods that make life...well, fun.  The prescribed system of reserving any and all treats (even fruit) for consumption only once a week makes them even more special.  After eating a steady diet of vegetables, lentils and animal protein for six days, the shock and awe of tasting something sweet really blew me away.

Unlike most people, my cheat days do not and will not include wheat products like pizza, pasta or pastries.  Gluten gives me cramps, and I've learned a little too much about the other properties of wheat for me to ever incorporate it back into my lifestyle.  However, I made up for this by having some ice cream quite a bit of ice cream.  I used Sunday as my day to sample some green tea ice cream at a local sushi restaurant after lunch, and at the end of the day, I made myself an enormous sundae.

Do you want to know how long it's been since I made or ate a sundae?

A year.

I used to be "the sundae guy" at my house, dipping up masterpieces every Friday night.  Then I became "the health guy" and stopped.  For my return to form, I made sure my first sundae was a good one: dipping up vanilla ice cream onto a bed of shredded coconut and covering it with chocolate chips, Heath bar crumbles and chocolate sauce.  After not tasting such a concoction for a year, the experience was transcendent.

For yuks and giggles, I logged everything I ate on my cheat day, and if you want to see proof that I still no how to have a good time, you can see the full set here.

If all you want are the visual CliffsNotes, enjoy these "best of" photos:

SCD Cheat Day - Volcano Roll

SCD Cheat Day - Sashimi Platter

SCD Cheat Day - Green Tea Ice Cream

SCD Cheat Day - Strawberries and White Cheddar

SCD Cheat Day - Ice Cream Sunday

As either Mark Twain or Oscar Wilde (I can't find a consensus on the source) famously said:

Everything in moderation, including moderation.

I understand that now.  For whatever it's worth, I can do full compliance with a whole foods, paleolithic diet.  But without a "day of rest" here and there, my social life and quality of life in general go down the drain.

Sunday was fun.  But, as prescribed, I turned a one-eighty on Monday morning and went back to my regularly-scheduled diet of meat, eggs, lentils and vegetables.  This "clean" diet, which leaves my blood sugar comfortably level, will continue unbroken until next Sunday, at which time I will partake once more in the fun stuff.  Ben and Jerry's, anyone?