What better way to start off a series of diets that discourage the consumption of gluten and grains than by making pasta! It actually wasn’t my intention to do it on this sort of schedule. I had been planning on trying to make pasta for several years now, but in the past year I’ve just been getting more and more stoked about the idea. This led to a nice manual pasta maker and some other utensils showing up on my Amazon wish list. Thankfully I actually got these things for Christmas. The timing could be better of course, but I was determined to actually try my hand at making pasta before these items would be verboten for half a year. The results, in the end anyway, turned out amazing!
The new year is almost upon us, and with that the beginning of the diet experiment. I’ll be covering my standard monthly review of December, but needless to say I didn’t clean up my diet the way I had hoped I would before beginning the experiment. Since the first diet phase is the elimination diet, not one of the eating styles I’m experimenting with, that’s not as important. I still wish I could have done better than I did. I’m looking forward to beginning this new phase, but getting exercise incorporated back into my lifestyle, since it has been completely absent since completing my first marathon at the beginning of the month.
I was happy to get tools and some topic-appropriate cookbooks for Christmas from my family. The whole wand blender thing wasn’t going to cut it, but one of those turbo blenders should do the trick. Likewise I’m going to have some time limits that will come up frequently, so having a legitimate and fully featured crock pot (versus the $10 one that has “on” and “off” settings that’s in the closet) is also going to come in handy. With that are some good books for recipes for these new devices, as well as other handy books like one on gluten free cooking. Again, I look forward to breaking these bad boys in!
My fascinating with food extends far beyond fitness and exercise. The topics I love range from just the latest cooking techniques to historical recipes. I think a lot of that comes from my family having a rich cooking tradition, especially since both my parents have great cooking instincts. There is also the essence of preservation of the foods from my childhood. As we eat them less and less and as the people that make them pass on they have a real danger of becoming things which will be lost to time. My mom’s side of the family went through the process of documenting a lot of the family recipes into a nicely bound cook book. I wish I could say I’ve made more progress cooking my way through it, but I have tried several and they generally turn out much like I remembered them (even if sometimes I have to try it a few times). Unfortunately not everyone has the same access to graphic design and digital publishing resources that we do. Thankfully I ran across a site that does that and more, The Family Cookbook Project.
I genuinely appreciate the efforts that people put out in the world to try to help people eat better and live a healthier life. In my brief period of blogging I’ve already had some cases of things I’ve written been taken in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. I therefore don’t want to be hypercritical in one of those “There’s Someone Wrong On the Internet!” kind of ways. That being said, I’ve been driven crazy trying to find sources to lay out a legitimate Mediterranean diet. I’ve managed to cobble together a bunch of recipes and ideas from a few books but I still get a little tweaked when I see yet another article on a “Mediterranean Diet” which is really just telling people to go eat big bowls of pasta and pizza—oh I’m sorry, flat bread. This Huffington Post article by Debbie Gisonni is the latest one to have me shaking my head.
Mindlessly clicking through link after link of holiday food recipes and posts, looking over my own backlog of things to try and simultaneously noticing that my own experiment begins in a little more than two weeks I found myself with what I remembered to be the typically claustrophobic experience of dieting. Now I remember why in the long run it never worked for me, and why it probably never worked for anyone else either.
History is replete with examples of food science industry giving us “better than nature” products for us to eat. I’m sure I could scour Google for a long list or the definitive very first one, but the ones that pop up in my head almost immediately are Crisco and margarine. These wonder foods to replace old fashioned bacon, lard and tallow were going to revolutionize the food world for the better. While it certainly made products with unimaginable shelf lives and reduced the cost of production, it also introduced our society to the incredibly unhealthy world of transfats. Now there is a “better than egg” egg product that is popping up in the news. Should we embrace it with the same fervor we did Crisco and margarine, or learn the lessons from the past and look at it with some caution?
Anyone that reads the past posts knows that the one thing I struggled with the most in getting ready for this experiment was getting over my diet soda obsession: Coke and Sprite Zero to be exact. Going from 8-12 cans of that stuff a day (yes, a day) to none ever just seemed so daunting. Fortunately in August I was tripped over the solution in the form of my week long trials for each of the diets. I have been happy to report that from August 18th until last week I didn’t have a single diet soda of any kind. Last week that record came to an end, but at least I have some lessons learned out of that too.
As time marches towards the beginning of the diet experiment, there are a few more recipes and eating styles I need to experiment with. Since the first phase is the JJ Virgin elimination diet plan (to see if I have any food sensitivities) I wanted to make sure that I had what was going to prove to be the most controversial part of that down: the morning shake. Most of the Virgin Diet meal plans are simply making whole food meals that eliminate the seven most common system irritants: soy, corn, gluten, dairy, artificial sweeteners, eggs and peanuts. However making your own health shake is a big part of the morning suggestions. I therefore tried it for the first time this morning. I think with some modifications I may be able to actually like it rather than just tolerate it.
Although I just did my “November” measurements back on the 10th, I wanted to get into the beginning of the month tempo to make sure I’m getting literally monthly updates on my body measurements. Because of that I wasn’t expecting too much change in my stats being as there was only two and a half weeks between them. Surprisingly there were some relatively large changes in my body measurements and composition, especially with such little time elapsing.
A few notable things happened over the course of those three weeks. One important thing is that I cleaned up my diet a little bit. That means that I was eating a lot cleaner and more whole foods, but was still indulging from things several times a week. I was far from perfect, but I wasn’t a junk food junkie. Between those dates I also stopped ramping up my distances for my marathon training and was deep into my “taper” period. That means the distance I was running each week was dropping from a peak of 28 miles in a week down to just 6 (the week I did the measurement). Lastly, starting in late September I started taking some herbal supplements to help augment testosterone production since my testosterone levels had dropped between my second and third quarter blood tests. This common problem with endurance training is something I wanted to mitigate, but once I was no longer building up mileage I figured I no longer needed to be taking these supplements. Therefore a few days after my longest long run (20 miles) I stopped taking them. Any one of those things could have caused the changes I’m seeing, but the results are what they are.
As noted in other areas, my weight actually dropped considerably, but it happened over such a short period of time that most of it must be water weight. That is born out by the measurements as well. While all my torso measurements went down by a quarter inch or more, my skin fold measurement came out just slightly less than in the previous measurement. That put my percent body fat down from 17% to 16.5%. That drop is pretty consistent with the drop measured on my scale (which using bioelectric impedance to measure body fat). Unfortunately other “good” measurements seemed to have dropped well. My arms either stayed the same or dropped an eight of an inch (both in forearm and bicep area). My upper legs shrank almost half an inch while my calves stayed the same.
With my marathon training done until next summer I’m going to keep a good running base of 8-12 miles a week. This will give me a lot of time to crank up strength training to see what I can do about my overall body composition and strength (especially upper body). I’m not sure how much of that I will get to crank up with my post-marathon recovery taking a week or so and the holidays taking its toll from a time and nutrition perspective. I can’t wait to see though, since that’s the last set before I head into the experiment.
November is now in the record books and even with a huge Thanksgiving feast and some travel it still went quite well in terms of my overall health. After two months of eating mostly crap I decided I needed to start dialing in my nutritional practices. I had no choice but to power through my marathon distance training, but I didn’t end up incorporating as much cross training as often as I would have liked. While the experiment is set to begin in earnest in about a month, I didn’t have much I needed to get done for that but time is quickly going a way for when I can dabble with the first phase recipes.
After all of the gorging in September and October I felt that a good part of my training problems were really due to poor diet. Yes, I was technically getting all the micronutrients I was supposed to be getting but I was getting a lot of gunk with it too. I didn’t totally clean up my diet, after all there was plenty of Thanksgiving and practice cooking (and eating) for Thanksgiving, but compared to the previous months I ate much cleaner. The only two nutrients I was even somewhat deficient on were Vitamin E and calcium. Both of these were just slightly below the recommended levels (96% and 92% respectively). I’m not buying the levels on the calcium however because I often fail to record the mineral water I’m drinking and each serving of mineral water (Pellegrino and Perrier anyway) has 4% of your daily value of calcium. I’m a bit high on my fat and saturated fat (about 140%), which I wouldn’t care as much about if I was eating all good fats but I know a bunch of that came from ice cream and cheesecake. A lot of my calories were coming from food that is now home made rather than store bought, things like home made health bars and yogurt. Lastly, with the exception of Thanksgiving weekend, I didn’t have any huge gorge fest weekends.
All that said I had a hard time keeping to my original calorie budget plan. Training for the marathon is believed to be a way to stay lean. I think it has the opposite effect. I often found myself famished. That didn’t happen as much on the day of my long trainings, which were hard to me to eat healthily up to the level I burned that day. It was more the out days. Even up to three or four days later I would be craving carb rich food (both healthy and unhealthy) and really felt like I needed to give my body what it needed. In the beginning I did that the easy way out, by having another slice of cheesecake or scoop of ice cream. However after I had my little talk with myself about straightening up my nutrition I was doing that with apples, carrots, plain yogurt and berries.
My weight kept going up and up until mid month when it suddenly plummeted. I’m not sure what exactly was going on but I have two theories, both of them dealing with excessive water retention. The first theory was that my body was more inflamed as I kept on increasing the training mileage. As a result of that inflammation it was taking on more and more water weight, distributing it pretty evenly. My second theory was that it was due to some supplements I had started to take in September. These supplements are supposed to help boost testosterone production. No, I’m not looking to a “natural” steroid replacement or anything like that. What I was trying to do was up regulate my testosterone production while I was increasing my mileage. Between my various blood tests I had a pretty good drop between the second and third quarter results. Knowing that endurance training can create that effect I figured I would try to give my body some tools to fight that. I stopped the supplements right about the time I also stopped the mileage build up. I therefore can’t tell which of the two caused it. I could possibly due an experiment to find out, but I mostly don’t care at this point.
The overall summary for November was one where I got kept my marathon training in check but I didn’t get my cross training ramped up like I had hoped. I was able to get my nutritional profile better but still not great. Lastly, I believe I’m on target to begin the experiment in the beginning of January 2014. Overall, I’d say that’s a pretty good month.