Monday, July 16, 2012

The end of the Paleo-rific era

If you missed the first half of my Paleo diet study experiment, check this out first! 

The last two days of my Paleo experiment certainly didn't go as planned.  On Friday, the 29th day, a huge, crazy storm swept through my area and blew out power in over 80,000 homes, ours included.  So, appropriately, my caveman study ended without electricity.  In fact, we didn't get our electricity back until 3 days later.  We are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, so we were able to cook some things, but we were very limited with our options.  I made the best choices I could those final days, but ultimately on the last day, I ate whatever was easiest.  This included a few "off-paleo" healthy things, like quinoa pasta, and a few not healthy under most circumstances things like pizza and bread sticks.  Sure, I could have picked the meat off, or just made a salad, but there were other more important things to focus on, and frankly I didn't think one day would make a major difference in the grand scheme of the entire study.

But, here's the interesting part.  Prior to doing the Paleo study, I ate a pretty clean diet. Sure, I ate a lot of baked goods and super heavy, creamy, cheesy things, but I made them all from scratch. I used organic unbleached flours, organic cane sugar, organic creams, I avoided gluten where possible, never drank sodas, rarely ate fast food, etc, etc, so while the calorie load wasn't ideal, I certainly could have eaten way worse than I did.  Ironically though, on weekends when we would have our one meal out at a restaurant (or carry out pizza, as usually was the case), I *always* got an upset stomach. Every. Single. Time.  It was like clockwork. I just assumed this was because of my clean eating during the week.  Maybe the grease overload, or the preservatives in the foods didn't agree with my normal way of eating.

Here's where it gets weird.  On Paleo, I ate even cleaner!  And I ate this way for 29 whole days!  You'd think that eating that pizza would have made me completely keel over in pain. But I felt nothing!  For the first time in forever I had no tummy issues after eating out.  I honestly have no idea what that means. My only thought is that perhaps my gut healed and now I can tolerate other things better?  Your guess is as good as mine, but it is definitely fascinating to me.

As for the basics, I lost 10 pounds during the 30 days. I attribute this to a few things.  First, I was carrying enough extra weight that any dramatic change in eating would have triggered this weight loss, and by cutting out the grains/dairy/sugar, I cut out a huge chunk of what I used to eat.  So, I don't necessarily give credit to the Paleo diet specifically, but the Paleo diet is a very clean way of eating. And, I didn't cheat, which of course would help make any diet a success.

Keeping in mind that weight loss should not be the only factor to determine a successful diet plan, I kept track of other factors as well. I knew I wanted to monitor pH levels, as mine have been in the basement for quite a long time, and I want to see it up in the lovely green shades of alkalinity.   My urine pH level did not really budge at all while on Paleo. It would go from 5.0 to 5.5 mostly, which is very acidic. Maybe it got to 6.0 two or three times, but would be back down to 5.5 the next morning. (for reference, early morning urine pH should be 7.2 or higher) By day 28 I had lost hope of any lasting alkalinity occurring, however, it may just take longer than 30 days to reflect that kind of change. I also know that for some people, a paleo diet has actually improved their pH levels, so this is just my experience only, and may not be true for all.

According to my home scale, my body fat percentage went up quite a bit in the initial days of the diet. I am not even remotely going to consider listing my actual numbers, but it went up a whole percentage in the first 4 days, then very slowly went back down to where it started by day 30. In other words, I never lost any body fat on this diet, if my scale is accurate.

My energy level was ok.  I cannot say that I ever felt unbelievably good. Most of my notes have "super tired today" on them. There were two times during the entire 30 days where I actually wanted to exercise.  And, most notably, when I did a lower body workout using weights, I was very sore for two days, and so tired that I had to go to bed at 8:00 one night.  It was like my body shut down to recover.  I have never had that happen before. And yes, I was getting plenty of protein.

This is where the TMI comes in, so skip this paragraph if you don't want to know about my bodily functions, mmmmkay?  I will spare you all the gory details, but during these 30 days I have had more "number 2" issues than any other time in my life.  From too often/runny and burning to not enough/hard and painful.  Most days were somewhat normal, but the abnormal days made this experiment less than fun. I tried to adjust my fiber intake to fix things, but other than that I couldn't see why I was having so many difficulties.

Other things that I noticed while on the Paleo diet:
After about day 4, I never had much of an appetite. Some days I had to force myself to eat.

My hair seemed to be falling out much more than normal.

I really didn't crave anything. I never missed grains even once, which was interesting to me.  I did miss dairy on occasion, but dealt with that by making alternatives like cashew sour cream or banana "ice cream". On the 25th day of the study, I did have some unbelievable cravings and fatigue.  I went to bed early and woke up the next day feeling refreshed. I had gotten up to pee 4 times during the night, and was down 1.5 pounds that morning. It may have been some kind of detox, but the energy I felt that day was short lived. I was back to feeling pretty tired the rest of the study.

Overall, I am not against recommending the Paleo diet to a client, necessarily.  While I certainly don't feel it is for me, and that it's probably too strict and difficult to sustain for most people, it could be beneficial for certain people who are very intolerant to grains.  The best part of Paleo, versus the old-school high protein diets, is the emphasis on veggies and extremely high quality meat choices. If you're thinking about going Paleo, do your research and save your pennies. It could very well be worth it to you!

I am in the middle of the Raw diet portion of the study, and I can say's quite a different experience!  I can't wait to share that part of it soon!   Stay tuned...


  1. I loved reading this; you gave a very fair and balanced (and personalized! That's most important of all) review of your Paleo stint. Looking forward to reading how your raw diet goes. Good luck!

  2. Thank you so much, Amber! It has definitely been interesting. I can't wait to see how Raw ends. I think everyone should do a diet study on themselves! ;)

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