Friday, June 22, 2012

There is a fork in the road and I chose Paleo

I know what you're thinking...Another fitness blog about someone trying to get healthy...Well Yeah! As many people have done in their lives is struggle with weight and being fit. I started as a fat kid in my junior high days. I was one of the largest kids in my class. I was around 250 pounds by the 8th grade. This is great for football but not great for self esteem, and general health. This continued through my life until I hit rock bottom when I was 24 years old. I moved from my hometown of Lubbock, TX to Austin, TX in 2007 and wanted to begin a new life. The changes in my life were for the better, but I didn't realize it yet. Once away from my hometown I fell into this dark hole of chicken wings and crown royal, and ended up over 300 pounds. One day when I was walking up the stairs I noticed I could barely do this. Being an athlete all my life in football, powerlifting and other things this was my absolute lowest point. I decided to buck up and get with it.

After trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my diet, I started out with a low fat, chicken and rice, diet while cutting the sugar and everything I could think of. My base diet was Egg whites for breakfast, 2 chicken breasts with plain rice, and for dinner I would eat....More chicken breasts. This lasted about 5 days. I was hungry all of the time, I felt weak, and I couldn't stomach eating another plain chicken breast. Meanwhile my father was going through a lot of the same thing, except he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and the same list of crap that a lot of Americans have today. This scared the crap out of me. My mother had been diagnosed before this and my father as well. I felt doomed and wanted to give up. My thinking was, "if I am going to die, at least I'll die happy eating what I want." Well that thinking quickly changed for me...

I woke up one morning with a pounding headache almost like a hangover, but it wasn't exactly like a hangover. I noticed I felt more blah than usual and I couldn't breathe and I couldn't shake it. This lasted for 3 days. This ended up with a doctor appointment. I went and saw my local traditional doctor and I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Really high blood pressure. They wanted me on blood pressure medicine immediately. This was a scary moment in my life. I was 24 years old and I was on blood pressure medicine? Although now, I would NEVER advocate taking any sort of pharmaceutical drugs unless absolutely necessary, this was the best thing to happen to me.

After this happened to me, my dad was on something called the Atkins diet. He was enjoying the food he was eating, he wasn't hungry at all, and he was losing weight, but being the argumentative punk that I am, I immediately found a website that would refute all of the evidence that he had read in Dr. Atkins' book. I argued how it would cause heart disease and make his condition earlier (the same stuff I hear today). He kept with the diet and I kept eating chicken wings and Crown Royal. He was down about 20 pounds at this point and I was still over 300, eating blood pressure medicine twice a day. I finally looked into this diet and they talked to me about it. I could eat all of what I wanted, as long as it was meat fat and a minimal amount of vegetables....Wait..Really? I could really eat that way and lose weight? Well there is one catch that I read about. (Oh of course...the catch!) The catch was the first two weeks you would feel bad and you would have to cut out carbohydrates including bread, pastas, and sugar. Man, that sounds awful I didn't want to do this, but I had to do something, so I gave it a shot.

I did a  lot of research. I probably read everything I could. I went to blogs, forums and other sites on the internet to find what it was I wanted to do. I ended up going on a cyclical ketogenic diet. The basis of this was for people who wanted to lift weights and needed a carbohydrate re-feed period to supply muscle glycogen and all of that other mumbo jumbo. I had a plan and once I had something to follow, I did it to the best of my ability. Now I won't go into my everyday meal plans or anything and I'll pretty much skip ahead, but after 3 months I had lost 30 pounds. Yep 30 pounds by eating bacon, eggs, brisket, sausage, chicken etc. You can name any meat and I ate it. I was off of the blood pressure medicine, I had TONS of energy, and I felt human again...except one thing.... I had sort of depression feel to it. I would become moody and it would come in spurts. I researched on it and found that if you are in ketosis for too long it can mess with some people's moods. Well DAMNIT, I figured everything out and it still doesn't work. There has got to be a way to do this, right?

After reading about different variations of the Ketogenic diet, I ended up settling on a cyclical ketogenic diet. This is where you have a major carb intake every couple of weeks to replace muscle glycogen and other sciencey mumbo jumbo. The problem with this was, I would lose 4-5 pounds during the week and seem to gain it all back during these crazy carb days. I ended up tweaking it to where it would work for me. I did a cheat meal once every 2 weeks. This allowed me to lose weight and get some of the carbs back. The thing with this plan was, I would feel awful after the carb intake, and I would have to go through the keto flu (symptoms to get into ketosis...yeah google it) over and over. This got old in a hurry but I stuck with it. 3 months more go by and I dropped 30 more pounds. I was now down to 250, felt great, looked great, but would still go through mood swings especially with this cyclical diet. Well my life really changed after that..

With new found confidence, I was able to meet a woman, a special one. So special that I am now married and have a child with her. I am so thankful to have her and I am not sure that I would have had the confidence to meet her and have the first date with her had I not lost the weight. However, with new responsibilities and a family I fell into the american diet plan. When too tired to cook order pizza, pickup tacos or anything else quick and easy and with a kiddo, this was all of the time.  With this diet, anyone, including myself would put on weight, and put on weight I did. I ate this way for 6 months and put on 45 pounds in a hurry. It seemed like it came overnight the way that Tim Allen got it in the Santa Claus movie.
I finally said enough is a enough, and had to do something again. January 5th of this year, I would go back on the low carb diet and this time I am sticking to it.

January 5th came and I was ready to go. Lots of cheeses, meats and cream sauces. I found my old recipes that I enjoyed and started on that. Like the previous time, I got mood swings but was losing weight, and at this point that is all I cared about. My wife was enjoying the food though, which is a plus. She was very supportive of this. I then started listening to health podcasts to gear up with knowledge and keep on a diet. I listened to Livin la vida low carb podcast hosted by Jimmy Moore. He had a guest on that show by the name of Sean Croxton. He was talking about his mantra in dieting with JERFin. Just Eat Real Food. You mean to tell me if I just ate real food, I could be healthy, lose weight and feel good at the same time? This intrigued me to the point of buying books, doing some research and jumping into it from the low carb Atkins type of diet.

Thus began the Paleo movement. I was pretty strict with it and ate a lower carb diet but I felt great! I didn't work out all that much because of the whole family and work thing, but I was consistently losing. In the book that I have, by Mark Sisson, it states that the sweet spot of weight loss is to keep your carbs between 50-100. This sounds amazing because I had stayed under 20 for the Atkins diet. There is one catch...DAMN THAT CATCH AGAIN! Your carb sources are to come from fruits and veggies. Ok that is doable. I have stayed on this type of lifestyle since February, and with very little time for activity I was able to drop 40 pounds. A lot slower than the Atkins approach , but steady and healthy none the less. So here I am today, sticking with a paleo lifestyle. I have been a little loose with it, indulging in gluten free treats and even some pizza every now and then, but for the most part I am sticking to it. The last time I weighed myself I was 255 and have normal emotions. So there you have it, this is how I began my journey to being healthy, but this is only the beginning, I will look for things to take me even further and maybe to once reach that physique where I am not afraid to take off my shirt.

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