Friday, October 29, 2010

Jiggle jiggle!

Greetings primal peeps! A spot of meta-blogging: In less than a week, my Year 12s sit their final exam, and there will be a whoosh of released anxiety and spare time flooding my way! I can't wait! I haven't been able to spend nearly as much time as I'd like on this blog since I've been getting home quite late most nights and wanting to crash, or I've been out, savouring the gorgeous sunshine as much as possible before finally capitulating to the army of mosquitoes and hiding indoors... and then crashing. So much crashing. One particularly memorable crash occurred in the hammock very recently - the hoards of twilight bugs very thoroughly savaged the top of my right foot before I finally came to once more. Thankfully, the book I had been reading was flopped across my face, so I was protected from facial swelling and subsequent blotchy goodness.

Anyway, I have been thinking about how my blog fits into the paleo blogosphere of late. I have been somewhat disheartened by the wrenching turn some blogs have made from being personal journals with scientific curiosities being discussed, to blatant agenda-pushers in the guise of pursuing further scientific knowledge. Some have always been unashamedly biased - I read Charles Washington's ZIOH blog with the expectation of one-eyed discussion of current findings/reports - but some are masked, giving the illusion of scientific objectivity whilst conveniently ignoring other possible understandings or research. Bleh. So even though I would love to include documentation of the interesting things I read about health and nutrition, and my own opinion on scientific research, I would hate to annoy readers the way other blogs do me. Thus, I will continue to share my online findings via Google reader (check the right-hand navigation bar for current shares and how to subscribe), and update my Show Me The Science page as necessity dictates.

In the meantime, I am going to continue my blog in the opposite direction - it will continue to be a personal documentation of my journey, my culinary experimentation, and other such things. So nothing will change, except perhaps the frequency of posts now that things are winding down and days are getting longer and hotter! End of meta-blogging.

With the sun peeping out for increasingly long periods during the day, I have been getting as much sun as I can, and building up a nice tan (read: blood serum D level). I'm still supplementing D on the days when I remember to supplement, and am also taking fish oil, Mark Sisson's multi (til I run out), potassium & iodine, magnesium, and a pro-biotic (since it's in the fridge anyway..). I am taking care to cover my bases there since I've been playing around with fasting quite a bit of late, and am also pushing for fat loss and muscle gain.

Fat loss: I began documenting my weight at the start of the month, after a few weeks of experimenting with alternating between high carb / low carb / zero carb / fasting. Interestingly, I didn't find much of a change in energy level during the experimental phases - no boosts after a dinner of sweet potato or a snack of fruit, no drops during 24 hour fasts... I also noted that my weight was rock steady throughout, even though I was eating now lower than my BMR required, and sometimes significantly more. This suggested to me that perhaps my physiology had finally achieved homeostasis post-hormonal imbalance & carb resistance acclimatisation (translation - my body was back to normal after DepTran screwed up my hormones and (maybe) long-term low-carbing left my body unable to deal with the intake of more than a few carbs). Before, I was highly affected whenever I would vary my food and activity choices, and my weight fluctuated wildly. It's significant to note that the weight where my body decided it was happy to stay was two kilograms more than my pre-primal weight. According to modern theory, this can be attributed to caloric restriction - although I often ate quite a bit of food, especially when I followed a meat-only diet, I suspect that overall I was eating a lot less than I did in the past. Metabolic studies would expect that any diet is going to have the long-term result of increased belly fat, so it looks like my results fit this description even if other factors drove the gain. For this reason, I'm trying to be very careful about monitoring my eating patterns.

Although I am not following a particular regime, here's a loose description of what I am doing to encourage fat loss without the rebound effect described above:

I am fasting quite regularly - at the moment, this is more a time conservation activity, since if I don't have to organise breakfast, let alone lunch, I can just get about my business. I usually have something to eat once I arrive home, and have a big dinner. Whilst the beau was overseas, this was wonderfully freeing - I would eat what I wanted, when I wanted it, rather than have to worry about making sure he ate his dinner early enough. I recently read about Martin Berkhan's 'Leangains Diet', which supports my typical work-day fasting habit.

To avoid my body adjusting to a caloric intake standard or building upon my carb resistance, I include some sweet potato or fruit at least once a week - usually on the weekend. I ensure my caloric intake varies every few days, whilst making sure my overall average is at or slightly below my BMR.

Most days I eat just meat and vegetables, favouring my preferred preparation method: heat a big pan, put fat in pan, put meat in pan, fill rest of pan with veggies, serve when everything is cooked to taste, and sprinkle with iodised salt! Even though this is leaving me with fewer and fewer opportunities to construct exciting new recipes, it's making me really happy! All I use is a knife, a chopping board, and my gigantic cast-iron frying pan, so washing up is a breeze (and I don't even bother to wash up unless I've used raw meat).

I'm eating a LOT of vegetables - most days I easily clear the 500g mark, and sometimes I hit a full kilo of veg if I've eaten two or more meals! The incredible (to me) aspect is that even with all that plant matter, I still rarely clear more than 30g net carb per day! When I think of how timid I was back in the low-carb days pre-primal, serving myself only one floret of broccoli, and running away from carrots, I want to slap myself! I love veggies, and now that my system seems to be healed, I don't notice any digestive issues whatsoever - no bloat, no farting (not even after I eat cauliflower and broccoli!), and no sluggishness. I don't regret my meat-only days - they would not have adversely affected my carb resistance any more than my more varied 20g carb days did - but it's still good to discover that I can incorporate vegetables into my diet without sacrifices the digestive benefits of being carnivorous. Whether the few sugars from plant foods are speeding up my eventual aging or not, there's no way to tell, but I still know that I'm better off than the average SAD person, and have a slightly better chance of finding suitable foods at functions and outings. I also note that consuming slightly less meat per days could have an impact on sustainability, but given the fact that I eat more veggies by weight than I would be eating meat, I'm not sure which way that impact leans. I also know I'm not saving any moolah in the process, since I buy organic veggies 80% of the time (I relax when it comes to low-pesticide varieties of veg that are grown locally and sold in supermarkets or conventional groceries). The veggies are still primarily a tasty way to transport added fats, but the volume also helps to fill me up.

As noted, I add in some fruits and maybe sweet potato and other starchier roots weekly, and if I'm feeling particularly underfed I'll enjoy some nuts. I still have a bit of a problem with nuts being hyperphagic for me - I actually noted a flash of desperate 'eat more nuts!' desire after finishing a bite of walnut last night! Not good... Plus, my gut doesn't deal with nut binges very well, so if I can't happily control my portions, it's better if I avoid them. Once I post this, I'll be heading to the kitchen to use up the current nut stash in a batch of Nola, using the subsequent leftover egg-yolks as an addition to dinner.

Since the start of October, I have lost 4kg, with my scales reporting a decrease in fat percentage. The figure on the scales does tend to bounce around, but I monitor my flab by feel - I've already been through once phase of jiggliness/shedding, and am onto phase two. Unfortunately, tomorrow is a friend's Halloween party, and I was planning to go as a gothic bellydancer with exposed midriff, but right now my gut is as wobbly as a skinny-fat person's cellulite-stricken thighs! The blubber sits away from my muscle - my stomach undulations give the impression of foam floating atop the ocean - not sexy! But anything could happen in the next 24 hours - I will be avoiding bloat, drinking lots of water, and crossing my fingers... And speaking of belly dancing:

Muscle Gain: Belly dancing is re-shaping my body dynamically! The current teacher taking my group whilst the usual teacher (and half the class) is in Egypt is an expert in upper body work and floor work, and even though we've only had two classes with her I'm seeing an improvement in my arm tone and shoulder flexibility. Belly dancing in general is whipping my abdominal muscles into shape, with my obliques refining particularly noticeably. My love handles are still present, yet my overall silhouette has become more slender in this area, meaning I can get away with wearing my airy-fairy summer dresses without worrying around hiding the bulge with stockings or granny panties! My thighs are getting stronger, but hopefully not bulkier - it's impossible to tell whilst I'm burning fat simultaneously. I'm not sure whether my 4kg weight loss has been impacted by muscle gain at the same time, but I would tend to guess not. I'm not seeking a gain in muscle bulk but muscle tone, and I think I'm well on my way! I don't really practice in between my weekly lessons, but with some more time available to me in future I might start up some sessions. In the meantime, my hula hoop still gets a spin every now and again, especially when the beau is around to be mesmerised... :)

As you can see, the proportions of my health efforts are heavily biased towards diet, of course, but with my new gym membership and hot weather coming up, I intend to be more active in my free time, given that I'll be spending more and more of my working hours stuck at my desk. Here's hoping I can get back some swimsuit confidence before the beach weather really hits!

Finally, for your viewing pleasure, a few samples of my dining habits from the past fortnight:

Porterhouse steak, drenched in garlic butter, with a side of sliced veg

Chicken Caesar salad

Bad photo of an amazing squid & veg sauté

Roo burgers, with asparagus and button squash

At the Valedictory dinner for the graduating class: salmon steak and steamed veg (the salad was dressed). Had to fight to get my needs met, but in the end I was very pleased!

Rare roo steak with sautéed veg

Chicken drumsticks with sautéed veg

Jonathan's classic Italian sausages and sautéed veg

How to eat well at a shopping mall: pork roast and veg from Rhumba's at Westfield Doncaster

Bacon & veg sauté to go under some grilled chicken (two serves here - this is my big cast iron pan!)

The finished product!

PS - You may have noticed some Amazon & Google advertising on my site or in my posts. This is a test to see whether this kind of monetising generates enough income to buy my own domain name. I'm going to try it for a couple of months to see what the interest is. Don't go out of your way to click on ads, of course, but if there's something you're genuinely interested in, then hey, that's a few cents towards my domain. I want a true impression of likely activity in future.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Catching Up

My seniors are wrapping up their year of classes this week, leaving me with marking and one-on-one sessions with stressed 17 & 18 year olds preparing for the exams that they think determine the rest of their lives...

Thus, I'm worn out at the end of every day, so my evenings (save for Monday's belly dancing class) are usually filled with relaxation activities: reading books, getting massages (once), hanging out in the hammock (often, now that the weather is getting nicer), and watching light entertainment programs.

But, amidst all the stress-dodging and rest-seeking, I've also been eating really well. I'm sticking to meat and vegetables, with lots of animal fat and coconut oil, and I'm even seeing some progress via the scales. I am enjoying solid energy levels, and have added a new fun activity to my day - hula hooping! I've only done it a couple of times, to minimise boredom, and I can spin the hoop almost 100 times around my waist! I bought a weighted, large hoop, with red and silver holographic stripes, and I feel like a circus princess!

Here are a few of the delicious meals I've been enjoying, for your viewing pleasure:

Haloumi Salad
Surf and Turf
Cauliflower Pizza
Spit Roast Lamb
Sashimi Salad
Sashimi and Bacon Saute
And then there was the 900g grass-fed rib-eye steak we found at St. Jude's Cellars in Fitzroy, easily devoured by the beau and I after a long day of walking in the sunshine, book hunting, and carrying around a brand-new, weighted hula hoop!

Huge Rib-Eye Steak
Steak go bye-bye :)

No More Rib-Eye Steak
GGP go bye-bye!

How to Ruin Free-Range Chicken

I wasn't interested in participating in Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint Challenges this year, but when he announced his Fast Food Nation challenge, it piqued a memory...

Driving around my neighbourhood, I saw a sign for Red Rooster (sort of like KFC, but they do fish and chips and things as well), advertising a new 'Simply Free Range' chicken source/menu. So, when I read about the contest, I thought I'd go check it out... You know, in the name of primal research.

Driving thru', I was disappointed to see that the free-range chicken options were limited to a wrap (with or without cheese and bacon), a burger (with or without cheese and bacon), and a salad. I was hoping to get a whole free-range chicken, being the most primal option, but no dice. Next best thing - salad. Oh, you're out of veggies? Great...

So I went for the wrap with cheese and bacon, figuring I could unwrap it and enjoy the meat and veg.

Mmm, a few pieces of lettuce, some green goo which was supposedly avocado, a slimy sweet sauce (not mentioned on the menu, else I would have asked for it to be excluded), a shred of bacon, and a couple of pieces of chicken. The items were stuck together with a gluey substance which apparently was cheese... And all this set me back the tidy sum of $7.50.

Expensive, and yuck. I could have bought a whole free range chicken for not much more than that price, and then I wouldn't have been restricted to just the practically fat-free breast meat either! Or I could buy a kilogram of bacon for $8...

So, in many ways it's good that Red Rooster is supporting free-range chicken farms, but the current options are by no means primal-friendly. Baby steps, I guess...