What the hell is Paleostasis
I have always had a very bipolar & manic personality, manic of course based on the word mania as in “Hulkamania,” excessive excitement/craze. Naturally I’m not psychotic, I don’t actually have bipolar disorder or any real manias; I just find these words help me describe myself. Is it good that I describe myself using real disorders? Don’t answer that. In any case, I’m typically very hot or cold on something, right off the bat I love it or I hate it, I don’t often suffer through getting the hang of something or learning to love it. The chief exception to this rule in recent memory is probably beer – I hated my first beer, I still don’t love it, but I’m getting there, well I was before grains became satan incarnate. In any case, I’m getting to the point I promise, Paleo was something I took to right away and took to strongly, just like intermittent fasting, just like Crossfit, just like Olympic lifting, just like a lot of things. There’s a pattern here. The problem with being manic, is that there tends to be little moderation, what about the word “craze” screams moderation? Jack shit. They don’t go well together. I read a lot about Paleo lifestyle and Crossfit and it’s all about finding health and balance. Being a biology nerd as well, I thought of homeostasis, that body’s constant attempt to keep everything within normal parameters, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, everything. The two concepts seem to pair nicely – so I coined the term “Paleostasis.”
That’s great but why do I care?
At one time or another, everyone slips, everyone. There’s a time when that birthday cake looks so damn good, or that 5lbs of pecans you bought at Costco just screams at you. I will always have a weak spot for trail mix, it’s one of my only constant cravings. Granted, trail mix is Paleo, but 16oz binges are not. Nothing about binging send the message I have a healthy relationship with food and my body. That’s why we eat Paleo right? Health, mental and physical, to have control, steady blood sugar, even energy, and a solid basis for performance based eating. I have never worked out so much so as to justify needing 16 oz. of nuts, but I have definitely eaten that many on more than one occasion. So this post is for everyone whose trying to find the middle again.
I think more people fall into this category than into mine. Paleo is often approached as a lifestyle choice from a perspective of wanting to weigh less, look better, and go on a diet. I emphasize Paleo as a lifestyle to everyone that asks, but that doesn’t stop people – there are hundreds of internet threads about “I just started Paleo and I’m not losing weight,” or “I just started Paleo, when am I in Ketosis.” Obviously these irk me a little, but that’s for another post. If you’re coming from a traditional nutrition background, the amount of fat in Paleo is disturbing and often leads to under consumption, you’re still eating chicken breasts and broccoli but the grains that kept you full are gone and there’s not enough fats to replace them. Here’s how I conquered my fear of fats.
- Eggs – most people don’t have strong aversions to egg, it fits in many meals and can be prepared a multitude of ways, and many were raised eating eggs, it’s easy.
- Fattier cuts – fat is tasty, I don’t think anyone would protest if you swapped a flank steak for a ribeye, I wouldn’t – as long as it’s grass fed. Beef isn’t alone in this column though, chicken breasts are great in a pinch but thighs and tastier and the extra dose of fat is a great way to fight under-consumption.
- Coconut Products – This one can be a stretch for some, I’m not sure I’m still totally committed to coconut in my diet, I use coconut milk often but the rest is still a mystery (what is coconut cream extract?) Most people wouldn’t consider coconut as a fat choice, but it’s a great one. Invest in some coconut milk to start, use it soups, make a curry recipe, slow cook something in it. Those fats will sneak in
- Nuts – I didn’t put this one in first because nuts are a slippery slope, so slippery that I’m giving up on them, at least for November. If you can easily handle a closed handful and not go back for more, or if you have some sneaky system worked out that rations appropriately, by all means, they’re great and you need those calories. If you don’t…avoid like the plague until you find what works for you.
I’ll admit – this one is tricky for me because I struggled with it, and the line is fine. If I was less active, a little older, or had more free time I would be far worse off as I have more room to make mistakes. Coming from a background of overweight and inactive I am all too familiar with over-consumption, for a long time it was just called “dinner.” As I stated in the under-consumption category, the tendency when starting a weight-loss/health fueled journey is to under-consume, this was me, for about a year I ate far too little. Salad’s, fruit, tuna, chicken, broccoli, whole grains. I lost weight, which was my goal, I felt good about that part, but where did it leave me? Was I healthier? No, I wasn’t, but I didn’t see that until years later. I’ve since conquered my fear of food, I started eating for health and performance and improved significantly in the last 2 years. So how do you go from under to normal without hitting over. Here’s what helped me.
- Throw out the formula’s – This was huge for me, the internet said I should eat 2300 calories a day, so I had to measure, and record, and calculate – and I didn’t feel any healthier, and I didn’t look any healthier. Your body isn’t a math equation, these are just guidelines that fit the curve, sure it’s a good place to start, especially if you know nothing and are eating 6000 calories a day, but if you’ve gotten to this point – you need to start learning from your body, increase slowly, keep a record, not just your scale numbers but how you feel, health, satisfaction, mood, energy – learn what it takes to optimize for you.
- Make Mistakes – you’re going to eat too much, it happens, there’s no need to feel shame, or guilt, those negative feels will often set you back further than the over-eating. When trying to assess fueling, you’re likely to overdo it once or twice; big picture people, yesterday’s binge is not what will determine you a month from now. What you learn from it will though.
- Lift Heavy and Fuel Up – makes all the diference, if you give yourself a reason to eat, then you have earned it, there’s nothing to feel bad about, no excuse to under eat. Would you feel bad about putting gas in your car before a road trip? No? Then why would you feel bad about eating a solid egg, bacon, avocado breakfast? You shouldn’t.
- Experiment – try different styles, small meals all day, big meals twice a day, alternate day fasting, 3 squares, snacks, no-snacks, there are countless iterations and literature to back up several of them. For me the magic came in the form of Intermittent Fasting, when you only have 2 meals and 8 hours get a day worth of calories, it’s a) hard to over indulge (not impossible as I’ll discuss in a minute) b) easy to be satisfied c) guilt-free, because you earned it
On the other side of the coin from under, is over. Yay kindergarten! For me this is a delicate and, at times, tenuous balance – caveman brains want to consume, because our next meal could be 24 hours or more away! It won’t be though, at most it will be 16 hours away and I know that. Back to the big picture, what do these extra 10 oz. of nuts get me? What will they cost me? Put them down. Sounds easy enough right? Then why can’t I buy trail mix anymore?? The transition from under-consumption and measuring calories, grams of food and the like was Intermittent Fasting, specifically Leangains but then Paleo happened. On training days, Leangains prescribes lowered fats and higher carbs, so I was full far before the calories got out of hand, grains take up a lot of space, even if they wreck you. When I switched to Paleo that room opened up, instead of filling them with more veggies like a responsible caveman – guess what? Here comes the trail-mix. Days off from training are basically CKD days, veggies, meat and fats – that was easy enough, especially when my off day was once a week. I’m still working on this, quite actively, I’m right in the midst of a Paleo “reboot” but here’s what I’ve learned so far.
- Cut the Crap – If you don’t have a healthy relationship with something and you can recognize it, break up with it. Maybe not permanently, because that’s not healthy either, but it will give you a chance to reset your habits and force you to acknowledge that nuts aren’t the keystone to your success, you won’t unravel. Just like the 21-day detox, I would say take at least 3 weeks off, and when you’re done, assess slowly, don’t binge and call it a success.
- Remove Temptation – this sounds a lot like Cut The Crap, it’s close but not quite. If you know you have a trigger food, or a weak point, but don’t feel the need to cut it out entirely, or its something like…meat – then have the forethought to limit access. Most Paleo lovers like myself cook above 90% of our own food, so at the store, leave it on the shelf!
- Know your Triggers – sounds simple enough, but most people don’t realize when they’re over-eating, for me it used to be post-workout, I would just gorge, now I know to be more careful. Instead it’s when I’m off work and not busy, get involved in something, a hobby, a book, a walk; don’t sit and be bored and eat. Even if its something unavoidable, like social situations, that can’t be avoided, be mindful, don’t be distracted by the trigger.
- Experiment – I said this before, but it still holds. If something isn’t working and you’re out of options, try something new. I’m not to this point yet, though I’m considering giving up the intermittent fasting if I can’t mend my relationship with food. Don’t be afraid to shake the etch-a-sketch