Tag Archives: Exercise

Top 3 weight management strategies on the Autoimmune Protocol

JFC Petra WW and AIP1This is the 4th in a series of posts about Women, Weight and the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).

Find the first on Joanna Frankham’s blog.

This post focuses on the top-three strategies for weight management identified through research that Joanna and I conducted with 20 long-term AIPers, 90% of whom indicated that weight management still causes them stress.

Our Method

Through a confidential survey, one question we asked respondents was about weight management strategies that worked for them while on the AIP. The question wasn’t multiple choice: people had to come up with their own ideas.

11 of the 20 women who participated in the survey had not yet identified things that worked. Nine of the 20 women had. From these responses, three strategies emerged. Continue reading

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8 Areas for Health (Pick 1! Part 2)

Pick One4In part 1 of this post I suggested that you don’t need to do everything at once.

Start with one thing!

I also covered four areas to focus on for health.

Here are four more:

5. Connectedness (to nature)

We get issued our genes at conception, and there’s not much we can do about that. But our environments alter the way our genes express themselves.

If our environment supports our well-being, that encourages our genes to switch to the ‘health promoting’ position.

So, one way to keep your genes working for you is to attend to the health of your environment.

There are lots of ways to create healthy environment. One powerful strategy is to connect with the healthiest environment there is: nature.

The natural world is where humans evolved, and research now proves that ‘nature-deficit disorder’ negatively impacts our health (and gene expression) in all kinds of ways. Continue reading

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Stress Management

Stress ManagementThese days, the only thing I track is my stress.

That’s because stress is the #1 leverage point for my health.

I know that if my stress is in line, I’m exercising appropriately. Eating well. Sleeping enough. Connecting with my kids and Matthew. Getting enough time to myself. Keeping up with my day job (but not letting it rule my life). Moving forward with my core personal projects.

If any one of these elements of my life is being neglected, my stress spikes. Continue reading

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The Microbiome: the Protocol

My favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie, Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott, Mark Sisson

Some of my favorite Healers & Optimizers, from the top, left to right: Angie Alt, Chris Kresser, Sarah Ballantyne, my husband Matthew~, Eileen Laird, Terry Wahls, Dave Asprey, Mickey Trescott & Mark Sisson

Health and disease begin in the gut. Hippocrates said it and these people agree:

So, I mapped the systems that are impacted by intestinal microflora in the Origin of Illness.

Then I used that map to determine what parts of the system are actionable, to create a list of things we can do to support microbiome health.

Thereby creating a microbiome protocol~.

In this post, let’s look at what some of my favorite healers and optimizers have to say about each of the elements in this protocol:

Actionable Microbiome 3

We’ll find out what they think, classic web-log style~.

In part one we’ll cover stress management, diet, sleep and physical activity. In part 2 we’ll review caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment and gut health therapies.

Stress Management

Sarah Ballantyne, the Paleo Mom, explains how stress undermines health & how it can lead to hormone imbalance. She also writes about her personal battles with stress.

Mark Sisson, originator of the The Primal Blueprint, offers the definitive guide to stress, cortisol and the adrenals and covers how stress can make you fat.

Eileen Laird, of Phoenix Helix, interviews Datis Kharrazian in this podcast, in which Dr Kharrazian refers to stress as “the single most impactful factor on the expression of autoimmune disease”.

Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, shares 6 ways to hack stress  and covers meditation for stress relief and anxiety.

Mark Sisson also offers 15 stress hacks and 10 forgotten stress relief tips.

Susan Vennerholm, of Backcountry Paleo, considers restorative yoga and  how optimism helps manage stress in her guest posts on the Autoimmune Paleo blog.

Diet

An anti-inflammatory & nutrient-dense diet is the core of all the healing and optimizing protocols, including:

As well as customized variations, such as a low-FODMAP AIP.

All of these protocols are based on the same science and are fundamentally aligned. They are all gut-healing, anti-inflammatory, ancestral eating systems.

This is a big subject, but in short, healing protocols (like the AIP & Wahls) tend to be be more restrictive than the optimization protocols (like Primal & Bulletproof), but then they are elimination diets, with the assumption that some off-limits foods may be reintroduced in time. Whereas, though both Primal & Bulletproof make allowances for more dietary flexibility, optimizers recommend this pattern of eating as a lifelong commitment to peak performance.

So, it’s kind of like this:

Healing & Optimizing Protocols

Sleep

Chris Kresser considers sleep to be one of the 9 steps to perfect health.

Sarah Ballantyne writes about sleep requirements & sleep debt and the link between sleep & weight.

Eileen Laird considers skipping sleep as a cause of an autoimmune flare. Mickey Trescott has explored why sleep is important for people with autoimmune disease. Joanna Frankham describes her difficulty with sleep and what she’s doing about it.

Mark’s Daily Apple has over a dozen posts on sleep. Here’s one: How to Manufacture the Best Night’s Sleep in Your Life.

High Leverage Physical Activity

High leverage means you get maximum benefit for your effort.

In the case of exercise, it’s actually really easy (and pretty common) to be low-leverage: to put out a lot of energy in for a negligible (or even negative) result.

Chris Kresser explains this in his post Why You may Need to Exercise Less, and suggests that instead we move like our ancestors. He also advocates High Intensity Strength Training.

Exercising inappropriately can be problematic for people with an unbalanced microbiome. Sarah Ballantyne addresses this in two podcasts: Exercise Performance & Gut Health & The Too Much of Exercise. On her blog she also stresses the importance of exercise, explores the benefits of gentle movement, and tells us why she likes yoga.

Dr Terry Wahls explains how exercise to promotes brain health.

Susan Vennerholm, guest blogging again at Autoimmune Paleo, also cautions against over-exercise as a person with an autoimmune condition, and writes about cardio, high intensity interval training and resistance workouts.

Mark Sisson wins first prize for the highest number of exercise-related posts. His primal movement recommendations are summarized here. He has also written about  why exercise feels like a drag; why it’s the best medicine; the relationship between exercise and inflammation; and managing mitochondria through exercise. He also makes the case against cardio.

 Next up we’ll learn what these biohackers have to say about caffeine, chemicals, mindful drug use, environment, and gut health therapies~.

Find part 2 here.

Healing Optimization

 

 

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Biohacking update: 40 days on the Wahlspaleo+

Bison heart

Quick summary

  • Loving it? Yes;
  • Hungry? No;
  • Reduced stamina for high-intensity exercise? Currently hacking that.

For a review on what’s legal on the Wahls Paleo Plus see this post.

Energy

For the first month on the WahlsPaleo+ my energy for daily life seemed lower & my stamina for exercise was definitely reduced.

So I decided to experiment with scaling back my exercise. I walked most days. Did a couple of easier hot yoga classes. A couple of run-walks.

Just to see.Chard 2

I thought, maybe my usual regime is just a counterbalance to a higher carb diet, and a more gentle approach will be amply sufficient for me when I’m eating mostly green leafy things.

But I missed the intensity.

I’m a super intense person. And somewhat-intense physical exercise seems to be cathartically necessary for me. A way to transmogrify some of that intensity.

After a month of daily walks, I was slumping on my ball-chair at work. Losing my core strength. My stress levels were higher. I was fidgety & discontented. That was enough data for me.

On day 31 I decided I’d resume my usual pattern of exercise & if I didn’t have my usual stamina, I’d just modify.

At the same time I added Upgraded MCT oil into my diet, and almost immediately my energy was back up.

I’m LOVING the MCT oil.

I’m having it in coffee & I’ve been quite the green tea purist for a bunch of months now. But it’s just really good in coffee, it almost seems to want to be in coffee & also seems to mitigate the negative effects that coffee has on me (including a spike & crash in energy).

As far as my energy for daily life goes, so far it’s increased significantly since the MCT: 2 tablespoons a day.

Another hack I’m going to try to increase my endurance is adding higher-carb vegetables twice a week after I exercise. So far I’ve excluded all high-carb vegetables (roots & squashes), but they are legal on the WahlsPaleo+ twice a week (as long as you can maintain ketosis) and I want to see if I can use them to leverage my stamina further.

An offal update

In April, I  made a Paleo New Year resolution to eat organ meats. So far I’ve had bison liver, chicken liver and bison heart, and it’s not even mid-May.

I’m feeling pretty proud.

That’s me & Frida & a bison heart at the top of this post. Ventricles, aortas & all.

I made cinnamon beef stew with that bison heart & some lamb (minus the carrots). It was completely yummy, but I admit I did do my best to unremember the aortas while I was eating it.

A sad story about cashews

Unlike the AIP, the WahlsPaleo + does allow small amounts of soaked nuts & seeds.

I included a quarter of a cup of my beloved cashews (soaked & dehydrated: I bought them that way) a few times during the first month. I wasn’t sure how they were affecting me, so on day 30, I thought I’d test them. I ate 2 cups of soaked & dehydrated organic cashews (& nothing else) for supper.

Would they kick me out of ketosis? Would I have any adverse reactions?

The answer was Yes.

I was in an absolutely foul mood the next day and a pretty bad mood for 3 days after that. My energy levels also tanked.

Conversationally, I told my vegetarian teenager what a bad mood I was in and she said smugly, maybe it’s your diet.

Because (according to her) that’s what I always say to her.

She is a little bit right. But I still think I do admirable job about keeping my mouth shut about her abominable vegetarian food choices most of the time.

In any case, she was a little surprised when I agreed with her. It was my diet that was making me so cranky.

Sad as it is, I think I’m removing cashews entirely.

 Coconut oil nauseacoconut oil

65% of daily calories come from coconut oil on the WahlsPaleo+.

Though Dr Wahls doesn’t mention ‘Upgraded MCT Oil’ in her book, I’m now an MCT- devotee, so I’m including it my coconut oil quota.

But adjusting to that much coconut oil can take a while.

I did experience coconut-oil induced nausea at first, and woke up in the middle of the night with wicked stomach cramps a few times in the first couple of weeks when I consumed a lot of coconut oil before bed.

But I’m adapted & no longer have any trouble.

Two more month 2 adjustments:

Oil pulling

If you’ve never tried oil pulling, you should.

At least once.

It’s an old Ayurvedic trick.

It’s weird & wonderful & makes me feel good. I used to do it, but fell out of the habit. Now I’m back at it.

Just pop a big spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and let it melt. First thing in the morning is best. Swish the melted oil around your mouth for 20 minutes (set a timer).

Then spit it out. Don’t spit it in the sink because it’ll harden up as it cools.

I rinse my mouth with salt water after.

Warm lemon water

This is another habit that fell by the wayside that I’ve reinstituted in month 2 on the WahlsPaleo+. Just because it makes me feel good.

That’s my criteria.

Squeeze a lemon into a mug. Fill the mug halfway with cold water, then top with boiling water.

Drink it up.

 

 

 

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10 tips for (AIP) workday survival

  1. vegBring a vast container of crudités (with olives) for desk-side snacking;
  2. Drink herbal tea throughout the day. It’s hydrating, reassuring & (once you get into it) fun;
  3. Do food prep on the weekend;
  4. Invest in food storage containers;
  5. Wash your containers at work (I let mine air dry in a cloth grocery bag by my desk). Dirty food containers at the end of an exhausting day (or even worse, at the beginning of one) can completely throw you off your groove;
  6. Plan leftovers for workday lunches;AIP food kit
  7. Have an emergency supply of food. My paleo standbys were nuts or jerky. Neither of those are AIP-legal, so now I have the ingredients for salmon nori wraps in my desk drawer. Just in case I have to work late or I’m remiss about packing or planning. I’ve been starting with a greenish avocado, which I eat & replace every few days. Ripe avocados don’t travel well anyway & this way I get to eat perfectly ripe avos at work a couple times a week;
  8. If you are making salad for supper, it’s easy to make one for work at the same time. Or prep 2 salads, for lunch & supper, in the morning. Home-salad needs dressing, but work-salad is different. I find it doesn’t mind just a cut lemon squeezed on top;Pulled pork & mushrooms & zucchinni
  9. Use a slow cooker to ensure your food is waiting for you, before work & after. My favorite slow cooker recipe currently is Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pig. Because it takes 2 minutes to prep, it’s divine, & even cold from the fridge it feels intentional. Not like leftovers at all. If you put it on at 3pm on Sunday afternoon you can have a glorious hot breakfast like this one on Monday morning, & bring delicious pulled pork for lunch on Tuesday;
  10. Remind yourself you are worth it. Worth the consideration & devotion;

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Top 3 tips for Paleo Newbs

Top 3 tips

I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have told me they are going paleo after reading my blog.

When I started, I thought that if it made a difference to one person I’d be thrilled.

I had lunch with a friend who was on Paleo day 11. She’d already lost 8 pounds but what she was really hoping for was the lifting of her ‘brain fog’. That takes time.

She asked me for my Top 3 Tips for people just starting out on the paleo path.

The first 2 were easy:

  1. Don’t stress about exercise. Learning to locate & prepare paleo food while dealing with withdrawal from sugars & starches is enough. If trying to fit in exercise is stressing you out, concentrate on paleo-purity until your energy levels soar and all you want to do is move.
  2. Plan & be prepared. Plan your meals, your food shopping & your food prep time. I always plan my meals 1-2 weeks in advance. I also keep bison jerky in my purse. Made from genuine Vancouver Island bison raised by genuine Vancouver Island Hell’s Angels. I rarely need it, but I always have it. Just knowing it’s there is enables me to do my thing out in the world without worrying about where I’ll find food I can eat.

It took me a minute to think of #3, but it might be the most difficult and the most important:

  1. Be gentle and loving with yourself. I know that sounds like an inane new-age cliché. But if you’ve been self-medicating with starches & sugars for years, (like I did for decades) going paleo is going to be an intensive whole-self healing process. Fatuous new-age clichés notwithstanding, the ONLY way to do that kind of healing work is to find self-love. Grrrr. That’s still my response some days: I don’t want to do self-love & healing today, I just want self-loathing & a brioche. And, irritatingly, it’s days like that when you need to be especially gentle and loving with yourself.

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Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 2)

PaleoNerd

I was at my yoga studio getting something sorted with my membership last week when one of the owners came up to welcome me and to ask how I was liking the studio so far.

To which I responded, I have been coming here for 3 years.

She was mortified. I know she prides herself on knowing the yogis who flock to her studio, but she didn’t even recognize me.

I’m a full-blown introvert who can pass for socially normal, but I prefer to remain unseen. Being more visible since I’ve been paleo has been tricky for me.

But in all honesty, it wasn’t just my stealth maneuvers that were at work with the studio owner. Though I’ve observed her hundreds of times as I’ve slipped through the studio, I don’t haunt her classes. Not because she’s not a great teacher, but because she once played Bob Marley for an entire 75 minutes, and I’ve been wary ever since. But that’s an aside.

For introverts who have not perfected the art of furtiveness, venturing into any social setting, including most fitness situations, is so stressful that they just don’t.

I started thinking about nerdiness and fitness when I read that introverts are less likely to exercise in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. Think about nerds. Renowned for their physical prowess? Not so much. Why is that?

My guess is it starts early.

Flashback to 1978

I didn’t hate gym class until grade 3 when we started to play team sports. I found baseball and soccer so traumatic that I would do almost anything to get out of gym. They were stressful not only because I’m an introvert whose brain partially shuts down if I’m forced onto a team, but also because I didn’t know the rules, and couldn’t seem to learn them what with my brain:

a)    mostly shut down;

b)    otherwise absorbed with devising strategies to avoid gym.

I had concluded, at age seven, that I wasn’t good at sports, and as everyone else concurred I started directing all my nerdy powers into avoiding physical activity.

But when I think back, I loved moving my body.

I went to a two-room school. It had been a one-room school only a year or two before, but the population increased when a bunch of hippies bought up all the cheap land thereabouts. With them came packs of feral hippie children, of which I was one. A portable was added beside the original schoolhouse to house us, and as the years went on and more hippie kids were generated, more portables arrived.

But in the seventies it was still a two-room school, and in the absence of adventure playgrounds, all the kids still played rip-roaring games together at recess. I loved these games, especially Horses.

The rules of Horses were simple: the girls were horses and the boys were horse catchers. When a horse got caught she was put in the corral until recess was over or she managed to escape. I only got caught once (& it was terrifying) but that was not because I was a fast runner. It was because I was a nerd. I would run around being a horse deep in the woods all by myself where the boys would almost never find me. That’s the kind of game an introvert likes. Solitary while still vaguely connected.

I still love moving my body. And I still abhor team sports. Running & yoga work for me. Even though yoga classes are full of people, I can ignore them. It is perfectly acceptable to practice mat-by-mat without any social interaction at all.

I’m still happy to be vaguely connected, but unseen.

Which is why I wasn’t offended that the studio owner didn’t recognize me. I was more like Yes! My invisibility spell has been working! But that is difficult to explain to an extrovert, who assumes that we all aspire to be noticed.

So I’m calling all Paleo Nerds! Let’s not unite, but stay separate and vaguely connected! We don’t have to reflexively avoid exercise because we avoid people!

It’s a rallying cry!

See Paleo Nerd Fitness (Part 1) for a geeky fitness graph.

 

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Health 9; Problems 0;

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Health issues that have resolved since being paleo: 9
Health issues that remain: 0

I know some people are dealing with much more serious health stuff, but I felt like my body was disintegrating. And I was only 41. How was I going to make it to 50?

My 9 pre-paleo health issues:

  1. Chronic neck pain that no amount of chiro, massage or acupuncture could assuage;
  2. Carpal tunnel that required a wrist brace with steel supports so I could sleep;
  3. Plantar fasciitis that necessitated orthotic arch supports for my shoes, making it difficult to walk any distances. I even had to stop wearing flip flops, which was actually (I know this sounds overwrought) heart-breaking;
  4. Obesity;
  5. Depression;
  6. Anxiety. And it’s good buddy Ativan;
  7. Periods so heavy we could have made a slasher movie;
  8. One wiry black hair that grew out my chin. I joked that it was my beard (but only to Matthew, because I was actually quite self-conscious about it);
  9. Insomnia. I took increasingly large doses of ‘sleep vitamins’ every night for years;

Wow. Writing that list I’ve just been struck by how much less work my daily life is now that I’m no longer managing a dilapidated body. And how much money I’m not spending on supplements, drugs and therapies. And people critique paleo for being time consuming and expensive!

Actually, being unhealthy is time-consuming and expensive.

My health changes didn’t happen immediately, but they’re old news now and I’m not yet 43, so in retrospect it was pretty rapid.

After a while I realized that I’d been peering at my chin for weeks, tweezers in hand, ready to pluck my lone black chin hair, but it just wasn’t growing back.

Over time I noticed my neck, wrist and foot pain was gone. So I got rid of my wrist brace and orthotic shoe inserts. I wore flip flops all summer this year and I’m still wearing them (sometimes) in November, here on Vancouver Island. I’m euphoric about that.

Some issues healed gradually and others transformed overnight. After 7 months of paleo life I was at work one morning when I noticed an odd feeling. And it wasn’t the familiar pre-paleo mid-morning feeling: I need coffee and a muffin stat! so I don’t perish right here on my keyboard. It was an absence of fuzziness or a lack of greyness, sort of like I’d misplaced an itchy sweater I had become accustomed to wearing. It was an unsettling sensation until I realized that what I was experiencing was well-being. For the first time since I was ten (31 long years) I didn’t feel depressed.

That’s when I understood that pre-paleo my depression had become so much a part of me that it didn’t even register unless it got severe enough that I had to hide in my bed. If I could force myself out of bed and keeping rolling the gigantic boulder that was my life uphill, no matter how slowly or ineffectively, then my awareness of my depression faded. That was my normal. Over the next few weeks I rummaged around in the cupboards of my psyche looking for my misplaced depression but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I think it’s just gone.

And I haven’t taken anything to help me sleep since July.

And my Ativan has fallen into disuse at the back of my underwear drawer.

But it does take time. 30 days isn’t enough. The more complex and severe your health problems, the more time they might take to heal or abate.

I’m not suggesting paleo is a cure-all. Many of my health issues resolved because I lost weight. But I lost that weight, and have maintained my new weight, by being paleo. It’s a stormy Saturday morning in November and I’m about to go out for a 10k run in the rain and there is nothing I would rather do. That’s an indicator of wellness I just never experienced before.

So I’m feeling pretty fantastic. Better all the time, actually. 17 months into this paleo experiment I’m feeling finer than I ever have before.

Suprahuman.

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A paleo week

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Here’s my real-life paleo week in summary, from Thanksgiving Monday until Sunday evening.

Caveat: A week in my life pre-paleo was nothing like this.

Paleo week kilometers: 63. That breaks down to:

  • 11.5km walking;
  • 8.5km mushroom foraging; &
  • 43km trail running, which coincidentally is about the length of a marathon…  and that is amusing because marathoners usually finish in under 5 hours and I rocked one in just 7 days!;

I log my physical activities on mapmyrun.com, but had to guess for the mushroom hunting expedition as we were off-trail most of the time.

Though a week in my pre-paleo life wasn’t anything like this with regard to activity and food, some things remain the same. I still have a career, I’m still married to the sexiest man on the planet, and I still have a couple of fascinating, miscreant teenagers. But eighteen months ago, my weekly km log was more in the 0.00 range and I didn’t own a pair of running shoes. I went to yoga because it was the form exercise I hated the least, but the time I spent dreading yoga compared to the time I spent in class ran about 12:1.

Here’s my paleo week foodstuffs:

  Breakfast I rarely plan a lunch-type meal. Sometimes I want one and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I eat leftovers or veg or nuts or salad. Sometimes I eat nothing. Supper
Monday Coho salmon, yam oven fries, avocado Turkey, roast parsnips & onions, green salad, blackberries & coconut cream
Tuesday Scrambled eggs, kabocha squash, avocado Turkey soup with leeks, cauli-rice pilaf
Wednesday Bacon, yam oven fries, cooked kale Leftover turkey soup with leeks, chanterelles with garlic
Thursday Ham, spaghetti squash with paleo pad thai sauce & cashews Steak, tabbouleh salad (made with leftover cauli-rice pilaf)
Friday Chanterelle & kale omelettes, yam & carrot oven fries ‘Zucchini yacht’ stuffed with ground bison, green salad
Saturday Ahi tuna steaks, sautéed apples with walnuts & bacon Beef & mushroom slow cooker stew, sliced cucumber & green olives
Sunday Coconut pancakes with blackberries & maple syrup Fry-up of ground chicken, savoy cabbage & chard

Food notes:

  • I stowed turkey soup, chanterelles in turkey stock, and beef stew in the freezer for a rainy day.
  • I put my higher carb foods into breakfast this week as I was running most mornings before I ate.
  • Yams were 45 cents a pound for thanksgiving and they looked dandy! Even though I normally lurk the organic section in the supermarket, when conventional yams are looking that pretty & are that cheap… we eat yam-fries!
  • In some ways this is a typical week but in other ways it’s just a randomized snapshot. For example, last week I ate a lot of sauerkraut at breakfast, but this week not once.

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