It’s hard to believe but I’ve now been at this primal diet thing for a whole year with great successes to show for it. The last time I went on a diet, it lasted about this long before I started backsliding pretty hard and then I ended up fat again. However, rather than “dieting”, I’ve done what most “experts” (whomever they are) would term a “lifestyle change” because diets have negative psychological connotation and typically denote impending failure. I’ve definitely changed my outlook on food — and the world at large — and this time, it seems like it will be harder to go back to the standard American diet. Not just because it’s filled with 90% crap, but because the foods simply taste awful to the palate. I can’t remember the last time I lusted over a bowl of pasta because of its intense flavor the same way I do over a steak that’s simply seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

I’ve got a lot more to write about this entire transformation, something I’ve actually been writing here and there for months, but I’m going to be making it an entire “year in” series based on my experiences of fundamentally changing almost every aspect of my current lifestyle. What started as merely a desire to eat healthier has spilled over into everything else I do and flipped everything upside. I’m very eager to get this series written up. As Mark Sisson advocates, a primal diet leads to a more primal life.

So I jumped the “conventional” wisdom train last year and shucked out literally all the dietary information I’d ever read or learned and went straight up Paleo and then into a primal diet. In exactly three months, I had lost 17lbs, and 90% of it was diet. Sure, I was logging some running miles every week but not nearly enough to burn up the magical 3500cals needed to drop one pound of fat, but there I was, 17lbs lighter — that’s a lie, it was actually more but I didn’t start really tracking my weight for a few months. I felt, and still feel, great, I looked better, and I was certainly eating better.

Yeah, I love to eat pizza or a bowl of pasta but I’ve never had any pasta that tastes as good as a steak. I absolutely love some good oatmeal but it doesn’t compare to bacon and never will. I won’t lie, I still eat pizza and drink beer but a lot less regularly these days and now, I really enjoy it when I have it…especially the beer. But I’ll be honest, stripping my diet down to just the basics of meats, veggies and fruits, and some nuts here and there was hard. It took a few months of talks and dropping hints to my girlfriend before I put the plan into action. I plumbed blogs, articles, and books just to get information. I sucked up blog articles on what to eat or not eat faster than a Hoover. I understood most of it, I didn’t get all the chemical science behind it (I’m also not reading blog posts the length of novellas to do so), but I didn’t need to, I understood the anthropological science behind it. I knew that out of all the primitive cultures I’ve studied, all of them were extremely fit and healthy until maize and corn consumption effectively replaced other foods (warning: I’ve only deeply studied indigenous American tribes, not their more agrarian European counterparts).

But still, there were things I didn’t get because it felt like there was kind of feeling that knowing what was good and what wasn’t was only for the upper echelon of the Paleo blogosphere. Were things like green beans and turnip greens OK to eat or did I need to start eating more kale and broccoli? I saw a heavy emphasis on eating vegetables, especially green ones, but I could never figure out if my weekly staple veggies — the beans and greens — were OK. So I read some more, understood a little more, but still had a boatload of questions. Now I wish I had just waited a few months. Why?

Because Richard Nikoley has now written literally the easiest book on Paleo dieting I’ve ever read. His 111 page ebook was more informative than everything else I’d read thus far because he cut through all the bullshit, the big words, most of the science, and fluff. He distilled the entire Paleo movement and ideals down to literally half of what his peers are able to do to say the same thing. I’m not dissing other writers, their books and blog posts are absolutely wonderful but for someone just starting out in the Paleo way of eating, they need the basics, they just need to get started in the right direction and Richard does this perfectly. He provides the perfect kickstart to get you going on your journey while setting you up to keep asking questions that require the more in-depth books from Sisson, Wolf, or Jaminet.

Hell, it’s cheap as dirt too. His book is a whole $4 with lifetime updates to the text and they give you 4 different digital copies for that price. From now on, when anyone asks me about this “crazy” diet I’m on, Nikoley is where I’m pointing them.

(disclosure: Richard did not pay me to write this and frankly, he’s not even going to notice I wrote it either. I just really like his book.)

Since I have started my new diet lifestyle change a little over a month ago, I have kept a running log of the metrics I feel are most appropriate for not only measuring change and progress, but ones that also correlate to overall health and well-being and weight loss. Things such as:

    Weight (everyday)
    Food intake (almost every meal)
    Calorie intake (as often as possible)
    Water consumption
    Body measurements (waist, hips, both thighs) (every morning after weighing)
    Cholesterol (LDL, HDL, total, free)
    Testosterone levels (total, free)

And now I’ve added one more thing: body fat percentage and body composition (fat vs. lean mass). I did all of this by hopping inside a BodPod which just looks like a spaceship capsule. I do not pretend to understand how it works entirely besides creating a pressure differential and then doing some other crazy stuff and spitting out my measurements, good or bad. It provides a lot of good data: fat mass, lean mass, weight, estimated RMR, estimated TEE, and estimated caloric intake based on RMR and activity level. Well, here are my test results.

My BodPod results

My BodPod results

So here we see my weight (205.2lbs, which was actually 3lbs heavier than my own scale at home weighed an hour after I took the test), my fat mass of 23.1%, and lean body mass of 76.9%. Except for the weight, which I knew was incorrect, these numbers are slightly higher than I expected them to be. I only predicted I would be in the 18%-20% body fat range but being 3.1% higher than that was not much of a surprise. The weight was surprising since I had weighed 201.5lbs about six hours before and I knew it was not correct because after I got home from the testing center, I weighed myself at 202.5lbs. I did this by taking a 3lb bag of sugar and weighed it on both my food scale (which read 3lb 5oz) and my personal scale (which read 3.5lbs on the nose). Despite this weight discrepancy, my results are just about right — changing the weight would only make a 1% difference or so. So what does this mean for my weight loss now? Am I disappointed in my results despite having lost 17lbs in total? All good questions.

Am I disappointed in the results? No, and why would I be?! I have dropped 17lbs in total since I switched to a primal/paleo diet and I have dropped nearly nine inches in size over the areas I measure (waist, hips, thighs). This includes a three inch reduction in my waist and a one inch reduction in my hips. My thigh measurements are bouncing around the same numbers everyday because I have had fairly large thighs since working out in high school, I simply never lost the bulk but now it is more fat than muscle! Now that I have these results of fat vs. lean mass, what does that mean for my weight loss plan going forward? Well, that is pretty simple. Since I now know my lean body mass, I can calculate how much protein I should be consuming per day to support and stimulate muscle growth and repair. This is one of the most important factors of my current plan because this diet has allowed me to recover more quickly after my running sessions with little to no pain the next day if I have a high protein meal the night of my run. So now I can take my total protein intake and optimize it for consumption over the day, with a focus on adding more to my lunch and bulking it up on dinners after I exercise. Being able to correctly and accurately evaluate my protein needs will then further allow me to optimize my dietary planning overall. I can now say, with more precision, that I need to eat X amount of meat per day and make sure to eat Y amount of vegetables; I like to try and keep a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of vegetables to meats each day. Some days I hit those ratios, some days I do not and trust me, when I do not, I know it the next day.

I will go back in a few months to get another measurement, probably around September or October. This will be perfect since I am getting another blood panel conducted in the next two to four weeks to make sure my other metrics (cholesterol, testosterone, etc) are still within healthy limits and are helping me stay healthy and not putting me further at risk. I hope that, by then, I will reduce my love handles to simply ‘like’ handles or something silly like that but we will see then.

Disclosure: I was not paid by nor contacted by COSMED USA/BodPod to write anything about their product, I have absolutely no connection to them. I used it because it is more accurate than fat calipers and is the standard body measurement tool for the NFL. If football teams trust it, I figure I can as well.

I pulled another barefoot session on Thursday and this time was different: it was raining. I did start the run wearing my trusty Merrell Trail Gloves but I dunked one in a puddle and my foot sloshed around in it for about 15 feet before I yanked them off. The wet and warm, yet oddly cool, sidewalk felt great, I love the ground sensation I get running with naked feet. However, just like last time, at the end of the run there happened to be a small complication:

Another awesome blister

Another awesome blister

Yep, another blister. Is this normal for barefoot running? But this one is different, I did not know I even had one until three hours after I got home and began stretching. Then I noticed something else, the blisters on both feet had already busted. Great! Now I can hobble again, I thought but this was awesome because there was no pain and no sensitive skin. I guess that is what happens when you run in the rain. I am surprised the dead skin did not just fall off during the run, although I am sure to have noticed my feet suddenly tender in the same spots as my last blisters.

Is this how we toughen our feet during barefoot running? By simply running the skin off? I have no idea and I have no other local barefooters to ask. I do have to say though, my feet feel FANTASTIC after this run. There has been literally no pain other than a tightness while I was doing foot stretches late Thursday night. My calves hurt more than my feet do after hitting the pavement 3,200 times. This gives me a lot of confidence that my new training — all barefoot, all the time (weather/terrain permitting) — is going to be fun. And not fun in a sarcastic manner, I am enjoying running, both alone and with my running partner. I am enjoying it far more than the countless hours a week I used to spend in the gym lifting weights and obsessing over measurements. I used to measure everything compulsively when I was weight lifting: reps, weights, how many variations of an exercise I could do, bicep size, muscle striations, body fat percentages, body weight and the list goes on. Now all I worry about is how my legs and feet feel, the rest takes care of itself.

On the point of taking care of itself, in short, I have now cut down nine pounds of weight in one calendar month on my new diet and I feel great. I will be writing another post on that soon enough but I cannot stop thinking about how much this new Paleo diet is helping my physiology and my mentality. No longer is “eating right” a laborious, mind-numbing and painful experience. It is downright simple and easy. Aside from having to super customize some orders for food at restaurants and spending a little more time in the grocery store, my eating habits are on cruise control. I do not think about portions (sorta), I do not think about calories, I do not think about much of anything except how excellent food tastes or how full I am getting. These days, eating means turning off my brain and turning on my taste buds and nothing else. It’s an awesome feeling.

Now, I am off to go read a bunch of running and diet-related RSS feeds and go to bed.