Monday, September 07, 2009

The View From The Cave

The Revelation

 

About two months ago, I heard a low murmur run through my gym about a diet challenge. Friends were talking about trying to eat like cave men and women for 30 days. Quickly, I decided that I would not participate. I figured my diet was near perfect anyway. I was eating in the zone, consuming all natural, organic foods, I ingested a good portion of grains and soy products and I barely ate red meat. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration I had an exemplary diet. I laughed and shrugged them off.

 

As the challenge approached though, I was caving. By the time my pals were about to start eating in the Garden of Eden (i.e. consuming only fruits and vegetables, meat, fowl and fish, and nuts and seeds), I had read a couple of books on the subject (Dr. Gundry's Diet Evolution by: Steven R. Gundry and Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain) and browsed some interesting websites (http://www.byersgetsdiesel.com/, http://www.earth360.com/diet_paleodiet_balzer.html , http://www.marksdailyapple.com/, http://robbwolf.com/).

 

Upon review of these books, websites, and consideration of many other scholarly opinions, I came to the conclusion that the food I had been so confidently consuming would eventually end my life prematurely.  Besides, hunting mastodons and out-sprinting saber-toothed tigers sounded fun. I needed to join my ancestors and fellow crossfitters in the cave.

 

Those Who Came Before Us

 

Before I begin to tell you about my month eating a Paleolithic (aka Paleo) style diet, let me first explain the reasoning behind this idea. Our Paleolithic ancestors (from millions of years ago) ate whole, natural foods and animals. Modern diseases like cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and all other inflammatory ailments were non-existent. Those at the base of our family tree got all of the vitamins and nourishment they needed from these unrefined forms of food. Cave men and women did not eat things like grains (sorghum), beans (including peanuts), and potatoes because they didn't know how to cook them; in their raw state these foods were poisonous.

 

Then, 10,000 year ago at the advent of the Neolithic Age, people figured out how to cook these foods; caloric intake doubled and the glycemic load (sugar levels) of their diets sky-rocketed. They discovered that cooking these once poisonous foods removed most of the toxins, but what they weren't aware of was the fact that the alteration of other characteristics, including the degradation of nutrients and enhancement of sugar, was also a side effect of heating these foods. Regardless, the people of the caves loved these foods because they could store them in their raw state for long periods of time and cook them when needed; those foods also provided quick energy when ingested. Our species was hooked.

 

Jump to modern day. Today, grains and refined sugars make up a large portion of our diet. These grains and sugars stimulate insulin production in our bodies and we crave more. We eat more. Excess sugar in our bodies stimulates cell growth. We eat more. Our joints become inflamed. We eat more. We develop bad inflammatory diseases. Drug companies profit from all of the ailments caused by our superfluous sugar consumption. They advertise drugs to help us feel better. We take them with our morning bagel and sugary coffee. We continue to eat more.

 

We are eating ourselves to an early grave.

 

The Experiment

 

I decided I would stop ruining my life with food. I would join my gym friends and eat Paleo for 30 days. My body would be a test tube. I would not stray. I would swing from vine to vine and spear some fish. To my surprise, quickly my world was rocked.

 

It started after only a week or so when I noticed that I didn't feel full, tired, or sluggish after meals. Then, during the second week of my clean-eating experiment, one of my friends complimented on my glowing skin and vibrant teeth. As time went on, it became obvious that I had gotten stronger (I was doing strict negative pull-ups weighted!) and faster (my 1000-meter row time went from 4:00 minutes to 3:46). Eventually I realized that I hadn't had a headache for 16 days. Excitement was setting in; I was very enthusiastic about Paleo. Then I noticed my eyesight had been blurry for a week.

 

The day before I started eating Paleo I went to my yearly check-up at the eye doctor. He measured my eyes, looked around my ocular cavity and determined that my prescription was basically the same as the previous year. That was good news since my eyes had gotten about .25 worse every year since I was twelve years old. Thus, it came as a shock when, only three weeks later, double vision consumed me. I changed my contacts thinking they were merely dirty. After I had gone through three new pairs in just a few days, I called the eye doctor. We made an appointment for another check-up the next week.

 

I stumbled into the eye doctor's office a few days later (almost 20 days into my Paleo challenge). Describing the symptoms to my doctor, I also threw in the fact that I had removed all refined foods, sugars, salts, etc. from my diet. Time went by as the doctor experimented with different lenses and looked into my eyes.

 

Suddenly, the doctor blurted out,

"Your eyesight has improved .25 in each eye…this is amazing."

He told me that the inflammation in my eyes, which had been getting progressively worse for 18 years, had actually reversed. In three short weeks my vision had improved. The doctor speculated that it was due to my diet.

 

Saved

 

Now, here I sit today, finished with my Paleo challenge.

Besides my vision improving, here is what else has happened in 30 days:

 

I have lost 7 pounds (I wasn't big to start with; from 128 to 121).

My body fat percentage has gone down 5% (18 to 13).

My back squat went up 20 pounds (115-135).

I snatched and squatted weight overhead for the first time (53#).

I can discuss the glycemic index of most foods.

My kipping pull-up total went from 13-20.

I dropped 7 seconds on my 800 meter run (2:46-2:39).

I know the difference between the Paleolithic Era and the Neolithic Age.

My body temperature has gone down a degree (97.5 degrees Fahrenheit).

I have fallen in love with raw, unsalted, crunchy almond butter.

 

Although my body still craves sugar, and grains (I had been eating those foods for 30 years!), I will now only stray occasionally. I like my new way of life and will continue to eat cleanly until I die a death not related to what I put into my mouth. The view from the cave is good.



11 Comments:

At 8:21 PM , Blogger Haley Ballast said...

wow, and i mean WOW. i am so intrigued! question - do you season or prepare your food at all?

 
At 9:50 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Hi Hailey!
Yes, I cook (if that is what you mean by prepare). In fact, I cook all of my meals myself and I have been getting a lot better :). As far as seasoning goes, I don't use salt or anything refined (like dressings and sauces). I DO use all spices that do not have salt added like cumin, corriander, tumeric, red pepper, cayenne, etc. I also use rosemary a lot for my meats...I cook most things in olive oil with garlic and onions.

 
At 10:11 PM , Blogger Haley Ballast said...

Gotcha. Sounds tasty... this has got me thinking! We (like everyone else) eat way too many processed foods. I might check out one of those books/websites you mentioned. I'll let you know if I try anything! :)

 
At 3:50 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Yeah, ask me any questions you want to...I can also e-mail you some yummy recipes. Sorry I spelled your name wrong! I had just written to Hailey Moilanen :)

 
At 9:21 PM , Blogger Jared Meyer said...

Jaala - great blog. Thank you for writing it. Gil Hertshten shared it with me. While I'm not surprised at all by your fantastic experience and results, I've got to ask, how do you explain the fact that humans currently live longer than cave people did? - Jared, recent semi-veg gone vegan.

 
At 3:45 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Hi Jared,
Cool that Gil introduced you to my blog :). A lot of people ask this same question...There are many reasons including...environmental factors (they lived in the elements, outside, and in caves and fought for their food and lives with others and wild animals. When is the last time you had to kill a bear or run away from a lion?). Other factors include modern medicine. We have a lot more drugs to keep us alive and technologies, etc. (which isn't necessarily a good thing...I'd rather die from natural causes then live like a vegetable). So I would say those two are the major factors. Look at the things we die of today...heart disuse, diabetes, cancer, etc...I think I would rather die by way of mountain lion and having lived a healthy non-inflammatory life than sloxly die of cancer.

 
At 3:47 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

I found two spelling errors...oops
I meant "heart disease" and later I meant "slowly die of cancer"

 
At 3:48 PM , Blogger Jared Meyer said...

Great responses. I agree. The inoculations provided as children, combined with the development of the human body, plus the relatively stress-free and protected lives we live today... great stuff, great point. I'm reading THE CHINA STUDY now. Amazing book! Check it out on Amazon if you haven't already read about it.

 
At 6:55 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Heck yeah! Already read it. I was actually vegan for much of my teens/twenties and started eating more meat recently. I think that book is groundbreaking and everyone that eats meat should read it...on the other hand though, I still think that consuming meat products that are relatively clean (steroid, hormone free and grass fed) is good for people.

 
At 7:05 PM , Blogger Jaala Thibault said...

Oh, and the reason why I think clean meats and fish are good for people is that these meats contain good fat in the form of omega 3's. The hormone-pumped, corn fed beef that much of the world now eats is chock full of omega 6's which contribute to inflammatory diseases. This fact is not addressed by Dr. Campbell in the China Study.

 
At 8:15 AM , Blogger Piyush said...

I'm Speechless Jaala, nice story.
Keep up the good work.

 

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