Paleo Week Test Summary

With Paleo Week now behind me, I wanted to take a look back and see how things ended up.  While it’s easy to draw potential false conclusions while you are doing something, I liked the idea of looking back at hard data while thinking about how the week went.  The bottom line is that the week was very successful overall.  I got all the nutrition I needed.  I felt as good as usual, although some noticed I was a bit more irritable than usual.  I had a lot of weight loss, which I wasn’t expecting or shooting for and want to try to understand better.  I learned a few new recipes and coping mechanisms for the actual diet phase later this year.  Lastly I was able to go a whole week without consuming any diet soda or artificially sweetened beverages.

First, let’s take a look at the fine details of the diet itself.  I was really concerned about two things with respect to how I was doing this diet.  The first was that the lack of food diversity without proper fortification was going to lead to some holes in nutrient consumption over that week.  While I was sure that with proper rotation of foods in the diet I could make sure I got all my vitamins and minerals, I wasn’t really stressing that as much this week.  I was trying to diversify but I just need more practice to properly pull that off.  The second thing I was concerned about was not getting enough fiber.  Yes, there are lots of vegetables and some fruits in this incarnation of this diet, however I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.  As you can see from the graphs below, however, this turned out not to be a problem:

As you can see, the diet was a little light on Calcium and just a hair under on Iron too.  However for the most part I was not only meeting but substantially exceeding the amount of nutrients it is recommended we each eat in a given day.  The fiber, like many of the other nutrients, were a full 50% higher than recommended levels.  That is really good!  For the full paleo diet experiment I’ll figure out ways to bump up the Calcium and Iron levels, but for just a week this is a pretty solid start.  The other thing that jumps out is the distribution of calories.  Almost 50% of my calories are coming from fat.  That probably has a lot to do with the consumption of avocado in a lot of meals among other things.  The amount of saturated fat is high as well.  This is one of those areas of contention with people who recommend a diet that follows “traditional” heart healthy guidelines (low fat, reduced or eliminated saturated fat) with these paleo/ancestral diet plans.  The blood work at the end of the three month cycle will do wonders for determining how my body reacts to these far greater concentrations of fats, cholesterol and saturated fats.

Within a week I wasn’t expecting tremendous changes in mood or weight, however my weight plummeted on this one week of the diet, as you can see by the above graphs.  I started the week at 179.6 pounds and I ended it at 176 pounds.  That’s a 3.2 pound weight change over just one week.  However as you can see it wasn’t gradual.  I literally woke up one morning over two pounds lighter than the morning before.  I weigh myself at the same time of day, about a half hour after waking up before I consume anything.  That way I get pretty much consistent measurements, but you can still see up to a pound swing by just changes in how your body is retaining water or how much you ate the day before.  This wasn’t a fluke however, since it kept that lower level for the entire week.  You can see it best on the “Active Weight Goal” chart.  This chart tracks how I want my weight to change over the months of July, August and September where I’m shooting to lose 1/3 of a pound for each of the months.  The fall off is dramatic, and it can’t be due to fat or muscle loss.  It has to be because of something else going on with my body composition.  What it is I do not know.

My first idea was that the weight change was due to reduced food consumption, but I had some very heavy food days and it stayed at the lower level.  The second idea was that it was due to substantially reduced sodium consumption during those days.  Yes, my sodium levels are lower but they are still in excess of 3500 mg a day (rather than about 4000 I was consuming before).  I’m eating too many carbs for it to be some sort of ketogenic effect (think Atkins sort of).  I’m thinking it may be reduced inflammation due to cutting out the dairy or grains or it is the cutting out of the diet soda.  This week I’m reintroducing all the dairy and grains but I’m going to hold off on the diet soda.  I will be curious to see how much of that comes back.  Besides that huge drop on the one day I did have a bit of weight loss over the week, but that is in line with the calorie deficit for the given days.

How I felt on this diet is a bit complicated by just stuff going on in my life which also changes how I feel.  Overall I felt as healthy on it as I did on my standard diet.  I had comparable energy levels, my body felt pretty much the same.  I was kind of hoping some of my muscle tightness and soreness that plagues me around exercise would have cleared itself up but if it did so it barely registered for me.  Perhaps a week of this wasn’t enough to start any of those processes.  I did find myself to be a bit more irritable than usual, but apparently it was to a level such that some other people noticed too.  Part of that was just annoying factors around me.  Part of that was due to all my standard daily routines getting disrupted by having to do things a lot differently.  Because of that it is hard for me to tell if the way I was eating was contributing to that at all.  I had settled into some new routines, some of which I may keep.  That will take care of that problem for a longer version of the experiment, so too will just the fact that I won’t have all higher stress weeks during a three month period of time.  If I see similar irritability problems by the second half of the actual diet experiment then I’ll know that the food plays a factor.  As of right now I wouldn’t draw that conclusion.

The biggest success of all of this though was getting off that damn Coke Zero.  That has to be the closest thing to an actual addiction that I have ever struggled with.  The thought of abstaining from alcohol for a year or so I find a bit annoying and inconvenient, but totally doable.  The same can be said for the three months I can’t eat grains, beans or dairy for Paleo or animal products for vegan.  The idea of not having my Coke Zero however was a big enough concern that I started that taper process last month.  Just keeping track of it alone I was able to drop my consumption from probably 10-12 a day down to 4-7 a day, but that still wasn’t good enough.  Being forced to skip it for the whole week was a bit challenging.  That stuff is the crutch I go to when I get stressed out.  It’s the flavor and crispness I want after I eat certain foods.  I will be honest that when I came in from my eight mile run this morning the first thing I was going to do after gulping down two tall glasses of water was to go get my usual Coke Zero chaser.  I was half way to doing it when I finally stopped myself.  I’m thinking I’m going to try yet another week of total abstinence since I got this far.  Without the motivation of adhering to a particular diet I’m not sure if i’ll be able to pull it off though.

The bottom line is that this one week experience left me with no concerns that I could pull this off for an entire three months, and maybe eat this way predominantly for the rest of my life.  The food was delicious and filling.  I wasn’t wanting for energy.  My body felt good.  Eating out is incredibly inconvenient, but even there I’ve figured out some tricks to survive that; let’s just say I’m going to be bringing coconut aminos with me to sushi restaurants a lot during the time I’m eating that way.  I even managed to survive not having my precious Coke Zero.  All around win!