So I followed conventional wisdom and cleaned out all of the fat out of my diet, loaded up on the rice, oats, wheat, energy bars, and all sorts of pre-packaged goods of professed superiority. This was in 2007. I got a gym membership and everyone said cardio, cardio, cardio. So that's what I did. I worked up to running up to 4 miles each trip to the gym followed by an hour of basketball. I always felt totally drained, but figured " no pain no gain". I lost 25lbs that year then plateaued @ 165.
I slowed down on my workouts because I was not seeing any benefit on the scale and was always hungry, tired, irritable, and just plain un-happy. I thought that I would be happy when I finally met my goal weight and could " relax " and just cruise and enjoy my new body but I quickly noticed the pounds coming right back when I stopped. Wow, I thought to my self. I need to workout like this all my life. I was devastated with this reality.
I lapsed into a cycle of eating healthy conventionally, then eating total crap. Working out every day for months to not working out for months. I rode this coaster until last year when a friend introduced me to P90X. I read their nutrition guide from cover to cover several times and thought this is the answer... food.
I meticulously followed the suggested diet, calories, and exercise regimen for the full 90 day program. I lost 6 pounds for all my efforts. Sure I gained muscle, but I already had a muscular physique. I had no interest in putting on muscle, but I knew I needed to lose the fat to un-cover the muscle already there.
I decided to take two weeks off to heal and then start the 90 day torture all over again. I made it halfway through and just stopped. I found myself totally out of energy and sleeping at any free moment I had. I did not want to go anywhere, do anything, or even be social. I was completely broken down after 4.5 months of bashing my body every day.
I gave up again, or as I know now, my body made the decision for me. Thanks body, you always know what's best! After holding steady for a few months and letting my body heal my energy levels perked up and I wanted to workout again so I started circuit training , I found this more enjoyable than P90X immediately.
When my weight loss started in the opposite direction I started to do sprints on a spin bike. 30 sec all out, 90 sec recovery, 8 sets. Very intense indeed. I coupled this with a modified circuit training workout. 40 sec max reps with free weights of various full body exercises, 20 sec recovery, 5 sets. Repeat 4 times. I went from 164 to 160 after two weeks. Not bad I thought 2-lbs a week , but how long can I keep this up? I was sprinting 3 times a week and strength training 2 days a week, and boy was I ever tired.
While researching nutrition I stumbled upon the Paleo diet. The scale had not moved in months and I was working hard, very hard. I tossed all carbs out of my diet. Brown rice, oatmeal pancakes, whole wheat bread, peanut butter, etc. At this point I was about 165 lbs , 6 days into my new life and I lost around 10 lbs. This 41 year old man almost cried on the scale that day, tears of joy, new understanding, but mostly due to knowing I can do this until I die and it just feels so right.
I eat until I am full now, I hardly every really feel 'hungry' unless I am coming off a 24 hour fast and even then its not all that bad. Being free of the constant battles with hunger has got to be one of the best parts of this lifestyle. I can go anywhere and do just about anything and not at all worry about being hungry. I no longer eat breakfast, no need to. I am not hungry until 12-1pm anyway.
I am just getting intimate with my body and its reactions to foods but so far its been nothing but positive. I can certainly feel the difference after eating 'questionable' foods, and I make note to avoid those foods. I reccomend you do the same.
I used to need almost 9 hours of sleep. Now I am waking up very sharp and alert after 6-7 hours. Time to find a new hobby for the wee hours of the morning!
My tinnitus (ringing of the ears, thanks loud speakers of the 80's concerts!) has almost completely subsided. My ankles always popped and cracked, that has gotten noticeably better. My sore lower back ..... I am kinda just popping out of bed now and starting my day without that nuisance.
The best part of all: I feel connected again, connected to the world, the people around me, myself. My confidence meter is maxed out, I am extremely focused and patient. ( I had no patience at all on the standard American diet). My concentration level is way superior. Feels like being a kid all over again.
Currently my weight is at 146 and decreasing at about 1-2 pounds per month. I have a solid 4 pack ab section now, the last 2 abs are still covered by "stubborn fat." I'm guessing about 10-15 pounds worth holding in my lower back / mid-section and just below the skin surface, they say this is the hardest to lose and I must concur.
I admit I have eaten, candy bars, elephant ears, pizza, ice cream, and other forbidden foods during this journey. I only eat these foods on workout days, and treat my self in moderation. I might lose weight faster by avoiding them, but I am in the best shape of my life, have more energy than most teenagers, and am steadily losing fat / gaining muscle. I know from experience if I don't treat myself, I usually end up on a junk food binge.
My workouts are no longer a chore, and I actually feel good and have superior energy after. I look forward to my workout days now and love to ride my mountain bike in the evenings to relax. While peacefully riding I see countless people dutifully running, pounding the pavement with red faces of total exhaustion and a waxed over look in their eyes. I feel sorry for them as I contemplate my dinner meal..... grass fed hamburgers? Or that awesome grass fed ribeye with brocolli? Decisions, decisions....
The first 2 weeks were the most challenging. I had mild headaches and days of superior energy, followed by days of lethargy.
What advice (if any) would you give to someone interested in trying a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet? Were there any obstacles that you overcame that could help future dieters?
Go cold turkey and just stop eating carbs except for nutrient dense veggies and stay away from starches/tubers. Allow a solid 3 week carb detox before making any decisions about the diet. Revel in the fact that the fatty foods we love, hamburgers, steaks, braised chicken legs, bacon, etc can be eaten regularly.
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