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From Half-Assed to Full-On

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  • From Half-Assed to Full-On

    Let's start with the pictures shall we?

    This was last year at the beach. Vegetarian diet, lots of chronic cardio, thought I was in pretty damn good shape compared to my fat colleagues at work:

    This is me half-assing the primal blueprint, following the basics of the diet but still drinking beer sometimes, taking milk in coffee, chewing lots of gum, snacking on cheese, eating sweets on social occasions, and sometimes smoking cigars.

    I have been half-assing the primal blueprint for about a year. I make primal chili... and then put cheese and crackers in it. I eat a healthy primal breakfast... and then put lots of milk in my coffee and have a clif bar for a snack 2 hours later. I work out the primal way... and then have a beer afterward to reward myself.

    The results of half-assing it were still pretty good. I lost weight. I wear smaller, better-fitting pants. I have more strength. I generally sleep better and have better digestion. I actually went to the beach with friends this summer and felt OK taking my shirt off. However I can do better. I looked through the "before and after" thread and also the "post a triumph" thread and was floored. Makes me realize that I've come far but I've also only just begun.

    Here are my goals for now:

    Short term goals:
    • Eliminate chewing gum - doesn't sound like much but this is almost 10g a day of carbs I don't need
    • Eliminate milk/cream from coffee - also doesn't sound like much but the sugars really add up. Also it's hard to find good milk at the store, a lot of it has palm oil since they extract the milkfat for cheese.
    • Make a more primal exercise routine - I still do a lot of running, and when I go to the gym it's still isolation exercises like dumbbell shrugs. I plan to transition to more full-body exercises. I've started pull-ups and dips as part of the routine in the past few weeks and that's gone well.
    • Only green tea in the afternoon - no coffee or cocoa
    • Maintain a healthier non-food environment - A few days ago I went through my bathroom and pitched the abrasive highly flavored toothpaste, the extremely drying mass-produced soap, the deodorant that was giving me a rash, and the store-brand shaving cream full of chemicals. I don't really know how much that stuff matters but it's all part of treating my body well.
    • Don't drink whiskey for a month (see below)
    • No cigars. I brought back some Montecristos from a duty free shop last winter. During a pretty tough time I was smoking a full cigar every few days. I think I last had one 3 weeks ago or so. I've never been a smoker and I don't want to start now. I consider this an easier one since no one I know smokes anyway.

    Medium term goals:
    • Increase my bench. I am a seemingly healthy man in the prime of my life. I have never been able to bench 100lbs. That seems wrong. I would like to get to 150.
    • Give up beer. Ugh this is a tough one, both socially and because I actually really like dark heavy beers like porter. I also have friends who homebrew so there is kind of an obligation to try the new batch every time you visit.
    • Join some sort of primal group or gym or organization.
    • Eliminate unhealthy home chemicals. We still use Fantastik, Windex, Drano and all that crap.
    • Get rid of the "non-primal but seemingly healthy" stuff - I still eat lots of lentil soup and hummus

    Long term goals:
    • Eliminate cheese and yogurt. Mmmm this is going to be tough.
    • Take up boxing. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of options nearby right now so this is on the shelf.
    • Lose the baby fat. I don't know what else to call it, but I'm a man in my 30s and I still have chub around my hips and belly.
    • Grow a lot of my own food. I used to do this 5 years ago, I had a big garden with eggplants, tomatoes, herbs, hot peppers, strawberries etc. Now I have less space so it will need to be container gardening and lugging all the soil and water up to a top-floor porch. For this to be realistic I need to either move to a bigger place, or seriously re-allocate my non-work time. Probably not going to happen for a little while.

    Full Disclosure: things I'm not sure I want to eliminate
    • Coffee. This is the big one. I could go without a lot of things but coffee... I have been really ridiculously addicted in the past - multiple 12 cup pots every morning - and I've consciously cut down to a more reasonable level of 3-4 cups a day. But cutting to zero, I'm honestly not sure if I want to. However I know that I substitute coffee for real food, which isn't a good pattern at all.
    • Running shoes. I live in a very cold climate and stuff like five-fingers doesn't seem very viable in snowy weather. I'd love to be proven wrong on this, does anyone have experience exercising in snow with minimalist shoes?
    • Wine. Actually I'm sure I don't want to give it up.
    • Whiskey. Hmmm this one is a little tougher. My fiancee and I keep whiskey around the house and drink it regularly, everyone always seems shocked because whiskey is "the hard stuff" and we don't seem like that kind of person etc. I can honestly say we have NEVER been drunk on the stuff, I can't remember ever having more than 2 in an evening. It's just a ritual for unwinding after work: two ice cubes, two fingers of whiskey, sip, ahhhhh. I never have cocktails with it or even soda, it's just for sipping. Also to me whiskey has this feeling of intimacy, like when you're really going to talk about the deep stuff with friends or family you pour a whiskey. However I hate the idea that I need liquor to unwind after work, it strikes me as a bit of weakness rather than a pleasure.

    The rest of the backstory...

    I have always been quite weak physically. I thought weights were for meatheads and steroid users and running was for me. I still enjoy a nice evening run at sunset but I can see that the right kind of lifting will change my physique more than 1000 miles of running ever will.

    I used to be a vegetarian so the primal blueprint took some serious getting used to. I didn't really mind the diet or the taste, it was just unusual to go grocery shopping and think completely differently about what was good, bad, healthy, etc.

    The other stumbling block for me: my in-laws who live in the neighborhood are sort of the Korgs. They are the version where they believe they are health-conscious. This weekend I went over there for dinner and the meal was fantastic: barbecued beef skewers, fresh corn on the cob, salad, steamed green beans. Then came the real meal. Not one but two giant sugary cakes, and everyone has a slice of both with chocolate chip ice cream on top. Yikes. This is the pattern, a pretty healthy base that's then finished with a sugar-bomb second meal.

    What I find challenging is that several of my in-laws work in medicine, and therefore feel they know a lot about health. Don't salt your food, coffee is bad, don't eat pork or bacon (it's too fatty), don't eat almonds, don't eat mint (I can't even remember the rationale behind this one, since when is mint bad?), and so on.

    It's the mentality that always turned me off from trying to eat healthy: cut, deny, trim, limit everything. The results are predictable, they are all overweight, some of them dangerously so. They get fed up with "being healthy" and splurge on alcohol and sweets. They all have long car commutes, don't really exercise, watch a lot of TV and don't leave the house much. So I'm contending with some negative influences.

    My fiancee is so-so on primal: she doesn't actively participate but generally likes the meals I make. Her taste is kind of meat-and-potatoes, so meals like pork with brussels sprouts or baked salmon with bacon sauce and salad go over fine. I pack the lunches for work and have gradually been transitioning her to a primal diet - the last sticking point is the bread for sandwiches. Today was almonds, a boiled egg sandwich, a pear, a carrot and a square of chocolate. May not sound great to the hardcore out there, but we've come a long way from leftover macaroni-and-cheese with a muffin. When I was a vegetarian she went along with that, and when I switched to primal eating she was OK with that too (although she still loves breakfast cereal).

    I've learned a ton from this site, I have no primal people in my life so this is where I get it all. Let's do it!
    My journal:

  • #2
    Wow, you've really got things planned out and that is awesome! Congrats on making the commitment to go full-on! You can do it!!!
    And please share you recipe for BACON SAUCE! A sauce with bacon, what could be better!
    Grok on!


    • #3
      Three days in from starting my 30 day primal challenge... better but still not great.

      The good:
      • no clif bars
      • no whiskey
      • no coffee in the afternoon/evening
      • good amounts of sleep
      • no gum (!)

      The bad:
      • A couple of drinks out, wine and a Caesar - not sure if Caesars are common everywhere or only in Canada? It's essentially a bloody mary with clam juice mixed in with the tomato. My favorite bars makes it with fresh seaweed too, yum.
      • A meal at a Chinese restaurant with friends. We avoided noodles and rice but still it was breaded chicken, sugary sauces, canola oil, etc
      • Not enough moving around generally, I am a computer jockey

      I'm finding that without 5+ cups of coffee a day I am starving. Makes you realize there was probably a very direct substitution of coffee for food.

      Overall I'm finding this easier than I thought. Had some eggs and a piece of fruit for breakfast, now lunch will be a big bowl of chili. Defrosted some salmon this morning for dinner that I'll cook up with some kale.

      Here's to great things!
      My journal:


      • #4
        Thanks for your reply!

        The bacon sauce recipe... it's a bacon-tomato gravy with onions. Probably my all-time favorite primal recipe.

        Health-Bent | Blackened Salmon with Tomato Gravy

        We make this whenever we have company over and everyone loves it. Even a very picky teenage sort-of relative (I am not technically related to him but he's part of the family) scarfed it down.
        My journal:


        • #5
          also as much as I have loved this experiment and change, I feel like there are some pretty noticeable downsides.

          1. The expense. I don't mean the money spent on food per se but I feel like it's taking me a lot more time and energy to maintain a good eating routine.

          2. The alienation. The people I know aren't primal. A lot of the "fun" activities involve cake or alcohol (or both). I disklike the idea of being a killjoy or coming off as someone who's judgmental about everything. I have always liked my fun and I have to admit I'm having a little bit of hard time adjusting to being Mr. Green Tea and Virtuous Bedtime.

          3. It's actually taking its toll on my career in a weird way. I don't really want to mention the details of where I work or what I do but given my new views on nutrition, medication etc I'm finding it harder to keep in line with everyone else. My primal-ness is showing a bit I think although I never mention it openly.

          All that said I still love it and I can't go back. But it has not been sunshine and rainbows by any stretch.
          My journal:


          • #6
            Let's talk exercise.

            Here's my current routine, I would love any critique as I don't really know what I'm doing...
            • carry two 16kg (~35lb) kettleballs; generally I make three circuits around the gym. I would like a bit more weight but 16kg is the largest size where they have a pair
            • dips. Usually I just do 3x 10 with no weights. I've started adding a ten-pound weight to a belt.
            • pull ups. I do them from a standing position, 3x 10. Last night I tried it from a hanging position and could only do 3x 5, but I liked the feeling
            • Bench. 3x 7 of 90lbs.
            • Medicine ball. I throw a 7kg ball straight up over my head and catch it, sort of like a volleyball set. 3x 15. Again I'd like a little more weight but 7kg is the heaviest medicine ball they have at the gym.

            I repeat that whole routine either 2 or 3 times depending on energy, time available etc. Sometimes I add in one or two other things, like another medicine ball exercise.

            Last night I added squats for the first time. Took it real easy. 3x 10 with 70 lbs. It was fine, I'm sure I could do plenty more, just didn't want to hurt myself the first time out with it.

            (Note: I'm in canada, metric and imperial are all mixed up together. Half the stuff at the gym in is Kg and the other half in Lbs)

            I used to do deadlifts and stopped, I'm not sure why but I should probably start again.

            I used to do a lot more isolation exercises: bicep curls, shrugs, sit-ups, etc. Trying to cut those out and focus more on full-body stuff.

            From what I'm reading I guess it would be better to aim for more weight even if it means fewer reps?

            Good healthy dinner last night, buttered salmon with green beans. Also ate some baked yams. Had some wine because some of the neighborhood in-laws dropped by and to be honest I reflexively reach for a bottle of something when that happens... but at least instead of the 2nd glass I had some tea instead.

            Breakfast was just coffee with a banana covered in almond butter. I'm hungry now again so I'm going to snack on some boiled eggs. Lunch will probably be leftover salmon, dinner garlic shrimp with greens.

            I am having a hard time separating the effects of the primal diet from cutting down coffee a lot. I'm hungry a lot and I'm not sure if it's just because of the caffeine withdrawal or because of changes to diet and exercise generally. Oh well the results are pretty good so far, I feel fine. It's cold here (8c/45f) and I feel like my circulation is a lot better than last year when my fingers were instantly freezing as soon as it dropped below 10 degrees.

            Now about weight...

            I weighed 152lbs/69kg this morning. I am not really concerned about how much I weigh, I just want to be healthy. However we have a scale in the bathroom and I check it from time to time.

            I have always thought that if I put on muscle I would need to weigh 170lb+ to look muscular... well although I think boxing is pretty ridiculous, I have started watching it a bit and I'm quite inspired by the physiques of guys my size. All of these fighters are about my height (maybe a little shorter) and in the 147-154 weight range (welterweight/junior middleweight to those who know weight classes).

            So I'm convinced that getting stronger doesn't have to mean putting 20+ lbs on my frame, it's a matter of losing fat and redistributing the weight a bit. I think I can be at ~150 and still be a lot stronger. Part of this concern is just practical - I dumped a lot of big pairs of pants and I don't want to have to re-buy bigger sizes again if I bulk up.

            Any help appreciated, thanks for reading.
            My journal:


            • #7
              I'm actually pretty surprised with how well this is going... I am drinking less coffee and feeling pretty good. The main negative side effect is that I'm just plain starving. I had to get out of bed at midnight last night to eat more, I couldn't sleep I was so hungry. I'm hungry about every two hours, in spite of what is a pretty robust diet. As you can probably tell from the pictures I'm quite weak, especially in the upper body, so maybe this is just my body demanding some catch-up fuel as I put it through the paces.

              Physically I don't really see any change after 4 days, the improvements are there though... just calmer, thirsty less often, able to sit through a movie in a theatre without fidgeting all the way through.

              Oh and no gum so far! I honestly thought that would be the hardest part, it was an automatic post-meal ritual for me.

              I've been eating less fruit but still some, I have a banana with breakfast and usually some raisins in the afternoon. I guess that's not truly hardcore but a man has to live...

              Good luck everyone on their 30 day challenges.
              My journal:


              • #8
                My understanding of the primal diet is that you shouldn't be hungry at all. Why don't you just eat when you are hungry? Why are you limiting your calorie/kj intake? I lost about 5 pounds doing paleo earlier this year and I never felt hungry the whole time. Eat some food!!!
                Quit being paranoid, Brianna! Everyone is way too wrapped up in their own problems to be hating on you.


                • #9
                  Yes, that's my understanding too... don't worry I am eating plenty, the meals I have are almost always on the large side. But the fact that I'm really trimming back coffee means all those places where I usually have a coffee to fill the gap I realize I actually need food.

                  Doing well still. Today was the neighborhood block party, which means a) lots of unhealthy food and b) a beer tent. But it was all pretty uneventful. Had lunch at home (leftover fish curry with greens and eggplant) and pieced together a good dinner from the potluck: pulled pork with cabbage, chicken kebabs, carrot salad and fresh tomatoes. Way to go neighbors. I did see two massively fat women trying to induce young children to eat cookies because they were "healthy cookies, with oats!"

                  I had a glass of wine and about 2 inches of beer in a cup but that's all. I don't really expect perfection over the course of this so I'm not too upset, but there's still room for improvement. Given the temptation that was there and the overall level of drinking, I'm pleased with how it turned out.

                  The real room is obviously in exercise, I didn't do any today because of volunteering all day at the street festival or yesterday because of the film festival in town (out to after midnight). So I need to get right tomorrow.

                  Feeling good, sleeping well, pretty sure I can keep this up for a while!
                  My journal:


                  • #10
                    I kinda take back what I said before, because Primal/Paleo is not an excuse to eat any food you want. You seem to have a good grasp of that idea! Well done at the block party, you held up really well! Coffee... yea, you could try drinking some black tea which usually has about 1/2 the caffeine of coffee, or green tea that has no caffeine as a replacement. I know a couple of people who have had a lot of success replacing coffee with green tea. Benefits are that it has antioxidants and can calm you down as well. It fills you up with water so holds off hunger for a while just like coffee, unless you used to drink massive lattes.. yumm lattes
                    Quit being paranoid, Brianna! Everyone is way too wrapped up in their own problems to be hating on you.


                    • #11
                      Another primal day...

                      I slept late after the party and skipped breakfast. This is unheard of for me, I think I've skipped breakfast < 5 times in my life but I stuffed myself last night and just didn't feel hungry.

                      I got some groceries and made chicken soup and pork chili to get ready for the week. Other than that it will probably be eggs, frozen wild salmon, and some fruit and nuts.

                      The report after a week:
                      • Gum: don't really miss it.
                      • Cream/milk in the coffee: not that big a deal, I mostly drink coffee for the stimulation and warmth
                      • Cheese: I still reach for it in the fridge but I haven't had any yet. I love a square of hard cheese, still crave it
                      • Sleep: good
                      • Exercise: needs improvement, I'll go this evening but twice a week is not where I want to be
                      • Beer: only the tiniest amount, and there's no beer in the house. I bought some sparkling water for a "placebo" when I want something cold and bubbly
                      • Energy bars: as long as I have SOMETHING for a snack after exercise I'm ok. It can be fruit, trail mix, whatever, energy bars was just convenience really. Got a bunch sitting in the cupboard, might just give them to an upcoming food drive
                      • Sneaky carbs (beans, lentil soup, hummus, fresh fruit): I'm still having a fair bit of this, I ate a lot of really ripe grapes today and put beans in the chili (I have to keep the peace on the home front) but I've been limiting it to one big serving of fruit in the morning and beans only in meat stews and chili

                      Overall feeling very good. Weight hasn't really changed but I think my body looks a bit leaner.

                      A lot of people complain about the expense of the primal diet. I actually find it cheaper. My grocery bill was close to 50% comprised of wine, whiskey, beer, cheese, energy bars, fresh fruit, baking supplies (sugar, flour, brown sugar, vanilla, etc) and good bread.

                      Replace all that with cabbage, greens, pork shoulder, frozen whitefish, canned tuna, eggplants and I'm actually saving money. But I'm struggling with the time required to make everything from scratch. I'm trying to put things in the freezer but I find myself eating through it so fast - a dozen eggs in 4 days, pounds of chili in less than a week. Probably a good thing but I'm having trouble keeping up the pace.

                      Time to go stir the chili, thanks for reading.
                      My journal:


                      • #12
                        Had to laugh at the weight lifting part. I've been lifting wrights for a few months and my husband was worried i would look like a 300 lb soviet powerlifter....he thinks weights are for meatheads also. Then I started showing him pics of girls who lift heavy and have fantastic bodies. Good luck on your journey! You came into it with some vices! Cindy (one week in and loving it)


                        • #13
                          Thanks for your reply... yes I definitely have vices, which reminds me: NO WHISKEY for the week. That's one I feel good about. In addition to easily cutting 700-1000 calories out of my diet, I didn't like the idea of booze as a weakness. While I never drank to excess, I drank almost every day. Good to know that you can just quit that if you want.

                          Going for some evening exercise, should be fun. I would post pictures but I can't really say there's been any profound change in a week, I just feel better but I don't think I look any different.
                          My journal:


                          • #14
                            Congrats on your progress! I definitely know what you mean about the drawbacks to paleo. I've felt better for the most part, but definitely feel like before many of my social events revolved around enjoying food with friends and feel like I deprive myself a little bit on that part, and also get a lot of rolled eyes when I refuse cake or pasta. I used to have the hunger thing too, and have only solved it by super upping my protein intake, maybe a thought?


                            • #15
                              You mentioned not really knowing what you are doing in the weight room, so I will suggest a book: Starting Strength, by Mark Rippetoe. Even if you don't want to follow his programming exactly, he goes into exacting detail on how to perform all the basic barbell lifts correctly and safely. He is very clear and explains everything from multiple angles, so you'll get it.

                              And in general, if you are interested in getting stronger as easily/quickly as possible, you'll want to do a linear progression of full-body compound movements. The ones to start with are the squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, power clean (if you have the facilities and can learn the movement properly), and pullup/chinup. The book explains in detail, but the basic idea is you start with a weight you can handle easily for 5 reps, then every workout you add 5 pounds (or whatever it is for that exercise), which constantly forces your muscles to adapt to something slightly heavier each time. Good luck!
                              Today I will: Eat food, not poison. Plan for success, not settle for failure. Live my real life, not a virtual one. Move and grow, not sit and die.

                              My Primal Journal