Flavio Rodriguez, of Evolve, has tried a new diet and tells us of the benefits.
The thought of a diet has never been over enthusing to me, so when I decided that it was time to regain my peak level of performance as a personal trainer and swim coach, I embarked upon a diet search. I was fed up with the conventional low carb diets and juice crazes you hear about, so I decided to go more in depth into the human body and the study of nutrition. The paleo diet caught my attention so I looked further into it.
What is the paleo concept all about?
The idea arises from the “paleo lifestyle,” in which one is supposed to live and eat like our primitive ancestors. So let’s begin by thinking about how our ancestral friends would spend their day. In a nutshell they had a much more active, stress free and social lifestyle in comparison to the modern day human, apart from the obvious risks they would be faced with when living in the wild. Nowadays, for the majority, it is quite the opposite. Our day begins as we are unnaturally woken by a sudden alarm ringing, which already releases stress hormones to the brain. We then go to our stressful jobs, find little time to socialise with family or friends and don’t get anywhere near the amount of sleep needed for our body to fully recover. We are chronically stressed but back then it was a different story. They would wake up when their bodies had fully recharged themselves and with the help of natural sunlight. There were no time restraints, you’d eat when hungry, sleep when tired and be a lot less sedentary than today’s modern day man or woman.
Ok, so I’ll move more. What about the food part?
So let’s think about meal time in ancestral days. No TV advertisements inducing cravings for sugar, fatty foods and processed meat, our ancestors were able to leave the home with an urge to satisfy a more natural desire for food. Basically they’d eat anything they had access to, such as nuts, berries, meats and fish. That’s right, no dessert or sugary drink to accompany! Not a lot of choice is it? People ate like this for around 2.5 million years. It was only until the introduction of agriculture and the industrial revolution when we had a lot more choice in food sources. Our bodies have gradually had to learn how to process these new foods including dairy products and, of course, processed foods. Due to this, it is believed our bodies perhaps aren’t made for eating this stuff and that’s why problems like chronic inflammation, obesity, cancers, diabetes and heart disease have become serious issues in modern day society.
Caveman versus city slicker
On our primates’ menu were plants, vegetation and hunted animal meat. Those foods were by no means just served up to them on a platter. They would have been active hunting or gathering before they ate. In those days they were constantly on the move and heart rates were raised – our equivalent of exercise. Obviously, the hunting part is not relevant anymore, so just regular exercise at home or the gym until the weather cools will suffice. The majority of today’s society does not exert itself in the slightest when driving to the supermarket. As we arrive we are faced with thousands of food options, of which around 80% are doing us harm. People back then were not faced with modern day marketing and advertising that get us hooked on unhealthy products. Anything they ate was 100% natural, organic, GMO-free produce, free from any pesticides or additives.
Where and how do I shop?
Making the right choices and not falling for marketing schemes can be daunting at times. My advice is to always eat things that come in their natural wrapper and whatever the earth has naturally provided for us. That way you can be sure of its integrity. Just remember when stocking up for a paleo diet to avoid dairy, grains, processed foods, legumes, non-soft refreshments and starches, leaving a choice of natural foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, seafood, nuts, seeds and healthy fats. If the product comes in packaging with a bunch of ingredients that are hard to pronounce, chances are it is full of additives, preservatives and hidden names for sugar that will do your body harm.
Why I chose paleo over so many other diets
I have never been a great believer in dieting. To me it implies a short term fix and eventually temptation gets the better of you and you’re back to square one. I believe in lifestyle change, gradually adjusting things in your life to an extent where it becomes habit. You become more active and eat healthier because it is part of your life and not seen as a chore with a time frame. You enjoy it and see the benefits every day. However, of the millions of diets out there, if I were to choose one, paleo is the one that sticks out. It steers you away from highly processed, fatty, sugary foods that I personally believe are the cause of the worldwide obesity epidemic. Make small, gradual changes in your life in order to start eating healthier and being more active. An abrupt change is not likely to stick. Start small… for example, have one sugar in your tea or coffee instead of two. The following week have one less slice of toast in the morning and go from there. Note everything you’re changing so that in six months’ time you can look back and see how you used to eat in comparison to today. Trust me, you will FEEL the difference.
My month of paleo
A month has passed since I started eating like a caveman and I already feel more energetic, stronger and have seen positive changes in my body shape. The first noticeable difference is that I feel more awake throughout the day. This is due to me cutting down on foods that spike my blood sugar levels and then give me that sluggish, drained feeling afterwards. (Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin which controls the glucose (sugar) in your body from when you ate. Replacing refined carbs, sodas, starchy foods with more proteins, rich foods, healthy fats and eating more complex carbohydrates and vegetables will give you a slower release of energy throughout the day, and I certainly felt that). Another difference I have noticed is that I feel a lot less bloated, which I believe is due to the reduction in dairy products. Before I was drinking a lot of milk, which we are led to believe is vital for healthy teeth and bones, although it raises the question again... should we be drinking this stuff? Is it made for our bodies to process or should we leave it for the baby calves? There are many non-dairy calcium rich foods out there like kale, almonds, oranges and sesame seeds to name just a few. Try replacing dairy with these calcium rich foods and see how you feel.
My conclusion of paleo
Taking it back to basics with the paleo diet has taught me many things. It has made me more conscious about everything I’m putting into my body. I will certainly try to stick as close to it as possible, although I do believe that we have become so used to eating in a certain way, with so much variety, that it is difficult to cut out all the bad stuff in one go. Take gradual steps towards a healthier lifestyle and it will be easier and more achievable than a sudden change. Keep everything in moderation and remember to move, walk, run, jump, or whatever. Your body is a tool for many things… use it.
Flavio Rodriguez is a UK Certified personal trainer and works for Evolve – Mind, Body, Soul – a fitness and wellness company. It offers fitness classes, personal training, nutritional advice and more in Doha. Visit www.evolvemindbodysoul.com.