Updated: Mar 17
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
Our Paleo clock started ticking 1/1/2016.
I was 57 years old, my wife Kathy was 61. This month I turn 63. She's 66. That's a long time to "stick to a diet," but of course it's not just an eating plan. It quickly became a way of life and we are living proof of how sustainable it can be.
We have lost weight, gained great energy, think more clearly, look and feel younger than our years--and that is just for starters. See our Resources page, or maybe this post, for more info on Paleo/Ancestral specifics. Whole 30 was our gateway.
HARD TO COMPLY? NOT.
Most Paleo, Keto or Ancestral authors try to hold you to at least 80% compliance with fundamentals (no grain, no sugar, no seed oil or processed food, low carb, etc.) Since 2016 I have effortlessly achieved 97%+. That +/- 3% represents some slip ups (forgot there was bread in french onion soup once or twice) and the occasional bite of dessert or high cocoa-count chocolate. Some conventional cheeses or processed meats. A few handfuls of Paleo-friendly chips each year (a departure for me even though the ingredients are technically ok.) I consider white wine outside the pale, and have maybe a couple glasses a year. I don't count red wine as a mistake (moderate red wine or pure agave tequila are usually deemed Paleo-friendly.) I'm still working up to the tequila.
A big reason for my high compliance percentage is five solid years of reading and research. I now know for a FACT that standard Western diet norms are guaranteed (by design? Think about it...) to erode health over the average lifetime, drag down life quality and divert income and assets to the medical community--all while enriching the processed food industry. We simply will not play that game, and have cut ourselves out of their herd.
I also continue to enjoy robust health, as well as the energy and libido of men half my age--so why change a winning game? Sure, life is not perfect: I've lost some hair...my joints sometimes complain (more on that below)...and yes, honestly, despite losing at least 40 lbs...I could stand to lose a little more. But hey, since having a mild case of COVID (I think) in February 2020 I have not been sick ONCE since then.
Kathy stays at 90% compliance or better due to SIBO health problems that cropped up a couple years back. (Future post on this, it is sugar related.) She is actually following an AIP Paleo program, stricter in some ways than mine. The consequences, for her, of "non-compliance" are pretty unpleasant, especially if sweets are involved. She still sneaks in the occasional slice of bread or pasta dish, without too many issues...and she is built like a movie star so I am happy to play along.
EATING WHAT THESE DAYS?
We have settled into a very low-carb, keto-ish version of Paleo/Primal. My basic meal plan hasn't varied much since published in the Health Tax post (scroll to bottom in that article.)
FRUIT: I no longer eat fruit consistently, unless it pops up when dining with friends. I have no problem with fruit, but my goal is super low carb and I got out of the habit of eating it. I went through a blueberry/blackberry-only phase, but in tweaking things I finally removed them from the regular menu. If we buy these as treats or to serve guests, we go strictly organic.
Kathy still eats an organic apple or two every week. She had to abandon bananas due to the high carb content.
VEGETABLES: I still roast, steam, or air-fry (avocado oil only) a selection of mostly organic squash, peppers, green beans, carrots and beets each week. I removed cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower last year to go low-FODMAP in support of Kathy's AIP, and to simplify storage/prep. Crucifers have a galaxy of nutrients, yes--but we have noted no fall off in health, vitality, hair/nail/skin quality after dumping them. We try to stay organic, and wash the hell out of any conventional items we wind up with.
I also prep or buy a supply of organic salad greens for the week. My lunch 5-6 days weekly is a Mark Sisson-style "big ass salad."
Remember the carnivore (or "lion") diet? One claim of adherents is that there is no minimum requirement for healthy living for dietary fiber, phytonutrients, or micronutrients often associated with vegetables. Please visit Mikhaila Peterson's website for more on this. Kathy and I are used to eating vegetables and enjoy them--but could possibly do without them. So far negotiations are at a standstill.
Microbiome-friendly raw sauerkraut and fresh raw pickles remain on the menu.
STARCH: I now limit this to a small organic sweet potato on weight lifting days, post-workout. I alternate between purple and orange varieties. Kathy occasionally preps russets reds for special dishes, and I will eat these when presented, usually on workout days when carb-debt spikes. Kathy likes plain corn tortillas or paleo-friendly chips and crackers, or the occasional gluten free conventional cracker. I will only join in if we are eating the SIETE-brand Paleo-friendly chips, but this is only once or twice monthly for me at most. Winter and summer squash in season also contribute small amounts of starch--although we have eaten fewer and fewer of these over the years.
LEGUMES: Besides green beans (technically "not Paleo" but well tolerated by both of us) we don't consume these. I recently got lost when sent to the store to buy dried beans for a craft project.
GRAINS AND GRAIN-BASED "PRODUCTS": Anathema. See starches above, Kathy sometimes nibbles on seed-based or gluten free crackers. These often sit in the freezer for months. We buy conventional bread for guests, then give (or throw) it away. Kathy occasionally bakes "safe" bread (no grains or sugars) which is surprisingly tasty, but this becomes what Whole 30 calls "food without brakes" pretty quickly. Too easy to overeat!
SUGAR: Anathema maxima. We have pure maple syrup and sometimes molasses in the house, used only a few times a year. Kathy indulges in a scant teaspoon of organic sugar in her morning coffee. I don't indulge, beyond a bite or two--in five years I may have ingested 16-20 oz sugar (outside of fruit/veg), if that.
There is an obscene amount of research, easily accessible, that incontrovertibly demonstrates how bad sugar is to consume in any quantity. Don't load up on this crap. Your body will thank you and you will spend less on medical bills. And don't forget that almost every carb food breaks down into sugar in your bloodstream. Bread, pasta, etc.
DAIRY: This is my main departure from "true Paleo." I eat a few (4-6) ounces of raw or organic cheese each week, to bolster my fat intake and because it doesn't appear to bother me. Heavy cream is a staple, especially as part of my pre-workout cocktail, which is also sometimes a breakfast substitute. We don't use milk or half-and-half any longer, due to their high carb content. Kathy limits all dairy due to her AIP needs, but small cream portions don't 't seem to bother her. We frequently serve hard or semi-soft cheese to guests.
EGGS: We tolerate these well and don't shy away from them. We do go out of our way to use pastured/range free/organic only. Eating out, I am happy to settle for conventional eggs--breakfast is my favorite meal in restaurants. A big plate of eggs, bacon or sausage (or steak), and hash browns, is a treat, especially while traveling.
MEAT: You bet. No real limitations here besides trying to stay grass-fed or at least organic-fed or pastured. Over the years, due to expense, we have integrated more conventional meat (heritage or organic-fed pork, especially, is just too expensive, even if you can find it.) When we can, we buy in bulk from a local grass-fed ranch (Bar 10) or for specialty items (liver is hard to get sometimes) we order online from Farm Foods. Each week we usually have a few of the following: beef burgers, chuck roast or tri tip, chicken, wild caught tuna or salmon, pork chops or country ribs. Kathy makes an INCREDIBLE spaghetti sauce with grass-fed ground beef and conventional sausage (served over spaghetti squash or zoodles.)
PROCESSED MEAT: We don't eat a ton of this, but aren't afraid of it. For years we would buy a couple packs of Paleo-friendly bacon each month (no added nitrites, no sugar "Whole 30" compliant etc.) but Kathy likes the classic Niman Ranch version so we occasionally eat this, negligible sugar content-be-damned. We recently discovered the convenience of sliced lunch meat and often stock ham or oven roasted chicken & turkey from the deli counter. This is definitely a compromise, but harmful effects can be kept at a minimum using organic-fed or grass-fed selections. When entertaining (once a month max) I have no problem serving or nibbling on high-quality charcuterie.
NUTS & SEEDS: We have settled in on soaking and dehydrating raw, organic almonds (snacks) and pumpkin seeds (mostly on salads.) We might prep and toast pecans also over the holidays. We tried macadamias for years but can't get the flavor right without roasting (and thereby compromising their nutrients.) We dress all with Himalayan pink salt and avocado oil. Kathy also uses unsweetened cashew or almond milk in coffee.
OILS & FATS: We use full-fat grass fed butter, EV olive oil and avocado oil for cooking. That's it. Sometimes we splurge on organic oils but sometimes not. We keep organic coconut oil and MCT oil in the house but I just consume these, they don't go into food prep.
BEVERAGES: Water, sparkling water (unsweetened, we drink a lot of La Croix or its Kirkland knock-offs from Costco,) and wine as below. Coffee and sometimes tea. We haven't touched soda since before 1/1/16. We might have a small amount of orange juice in mimosas 2-3 times a year -or tomato juice in Bloody Mary-s.
ALCOHOL: As a couple, left to our own devices, we drink maybe 2 bottles of red wine each week. We prefer malbecs, pinots, cotes du Rhone, garnacha, and various blends. (Unpaid plug: if you can find pre-2017 Pasanau Ceps Nous, this is a butt-kicking flavorful Spanish selection.) We ran into a wall with Cabernets and avoid them when possible. When entertaining, that weekly bottle count might spike just a bit. I will drink several glasses during our Sunday "food fest" (meal prep for the week)--things just seem to flow more smoothly!
I used to love beer and some spirits, but the carb content is just too high. A few times a year I accept a snort of whiskey (a favorite in pre-Stone Age times) from my sons, usually around the holidays or while camping--but then wash it down with more wine. In hot weather we will sometimes add chardonnay or pinot gris, often with sparkling water. With friends, maybe once a year, we enjoy Bloody Mary-s with all kinds of Paleo-friendly garnishes.
SUPPLEMENTS: I usually take 5-6mg creatine 5 times weekly, to support workouts. For the last few months I have taken saw palmetto, stinging nettle and pygeum bark to manage a persistent prostate problem (which predates our Paleo years) and periodically rears its ugly head. These supplements are EXTREMELY effective if taken consistently over time. Don't let a conventional health provider tell you different. More about this in a future post.
TOBACCO: Health experts of every stripe discourage this, including all Paleo and Ancestral pundits. This is really good advice. Nevertheless, in a spirit of full disclosure, I reveal here for the first time ever (I think?) that I enjoy the occasional premium cigar--weather permitting, The average is 2 per month over a full year. I have never been a cigarette smoker, and Kathy has never smoked anything. Ever. Really.
RECREATIONAL DRUGS: see Alcohol, above.
I have operated on 50-100 grams of carbs, mostly from vegetables (or wine!) per day--for 5 YEARS now, and know they are not essential. Carbs are not "brain food" or necessary for healthy living (as many conventional "dietitians" will insist.) Today at age 63, I could run rings around my slumped, pasty-faced, bloated, fatigued, always-starving-and-sick 40 year old self, addicted to a standard Western high-carb low-fat diet. Fat is my primary energy source. Even my pre-workout drink/meal is mostly just fat (more below.)
Sure if you are the Fittest Person on Earth you need to eat more carbs than most of us. (Mat Fraser, my Crossfit idol, ate tons of white rice while he was competing.) I am not training at that level (are you?) and the sweet potatoes are working for me.
A main goal of Paleo / Keto and even Primal is to be "fat adapted." Life is so much easier when this happens. Energy is consistent and PREDICTABLE--you know what and when to eat to keep it up. The energy, I mean.
WORKOUTS (AND ISSUES)
The Paleo or "Ancestral" lifestyle is modeled after extremely active hunter-gatherer societies. Ideally, we don't just change what we eat, we also seek to stay on our feet, stay moving, and challenge our bodies.
Many reliable studies show that maintaining muscle mass, and staying active, protect against the encroaching vicissitudes of age. Not being terribly into vicissitudes, I spend several hours weekly lifting weights (60-90 minutes, 4 x weekly) and walking, including up steep hills near my home (30-40 minutes on gym days, 60-90 minutes otherwise.) I try to take one day off every 7 or so. I am now so accustomed to exercise that I become disoriented and cranky if I can't get a workout in.
And yes, I do all this while working a full time job and running two businesses (all, luckily, from home.) If a lazy bastard like me can do this--so can YOU.
CARDIO: For years I walked wearing a weighted vest (still have it) but developed knee issues and have shelved it for the time being. Sometimes knee pain crops up for no apparent reason and so I throttle back--which usually means staying off hills or limiting longer walks to an hour. You can't really go wrong just walking. I experimented with HIIT sprints per Mark Sisson's books but honestly got too dizzy and finally gave em up.
The knee problems may also have been related to gym movements. I went through a squat-machine phase, a weighted-lunge phase, then most recently got into bosu-ball air squats (flat side up.) I liked the balance-building aspect too, and worked up to five sets of 15...but something went wrong and bursitis-like knee symptoms arose. I will be trying to work these back in gradually. In combo with the uphill/weighted walking this may have simply overburdened the old knees.
I love swimming, and we have access to a pool...but the effort to combat chlorine-related itching afterwards became too intensive. I don't have time to condition 100% of my exposed skin every day.
I will use treadmills and stationary cycles if needed, but find these boring. I dislike being rooted in front of mind-conditioners (sorry, I mean TV-s.) My current gym has a great indoor track for supe- high/low temperature days, but walking outside in the sun is my goal.
RESISTANCE TRAINING: I usually try to do too much on the weight floor, and am now forced by joint issues to concentrate more on maintenance than on building much new mass. Going too heavy for a couple years has caused some arthritis, primarily in my left shoulder. An orthopedic surgeon advised limiting overhead movements and going lighter...so I've abandoned military and incline presses (substituted decline movements) and try to work in the 10-15 rep range until a weight is really comfortable. I am very careful about increasing resistance in chest/shoulder work, and do so now only about 2-3 times yearly. I also have had to slip from 5 to 4 sets for most movements. I felt really bad about dropping the classic "5 x 5" approach but need to keep my arms from falling off.
I still work back, arms and calves in the 6-10 rep range, up to the 4 sets. I also incorporate several rotator-cuff specific movements (lighter weight/higher reps), and one pure balance movement.
And, while I admire the heck out of Crossfit and functional exercise, low back issues prevent me from most aggressive or sustained Olympic-style movements. I am gradually building up to "toes-to-bar" but that will take time.
PRE WORKOUT "BEVERAGE:" Fat, more fat, some protein. I melt 3-4 tbsp Coconut oil, pour in 2-3 tbsp MCT oil, heat this up with coffee (or cashew milk if pm) and heavy cream (2-3 oz at least), and dump in a large scoop of collagen peptides. I zap it all into submission with a cappuccino frother, and sip gradually while I drive over to the gym or trailhead. On really hot days I will just eat a couple of tablespoons of coconut butter along with the same volume of coconut oil. Either way, my energy stays up for HOURS no matter how long or heavy I go.
AGAINST THE GRAIN
(Sorry, I couldn't resist.) According to various mainstream health metrics Kathy and I should either be dead or vegetating in a nursing home. Instead we are thriving happily--by doing and eating pretty much the OPPOSITE of what we are all told is healthy. If something were going to crop up, it's had ample time. I'm not worried.
Please comb back through the site and visit the Resources page for more specifics.
Have a great year!
And don't forget...
DAVID WHITESIDE IS NOT A DOCTOR and does not give medical advice or treatment. He offers research, information and personal experience only. Nothing you read on this website or blog should be construed as medical advice or as intended to supersede information you get from your medical professional. Following the advice given here or on any recommended resource site does not create a doctor-patient relationship or create liability for David or anyone else. David is not liable for any loss or complication you experience from following any diet or taking any action. You should check with your properly accredited medical professional if you think you are injured or ill.