Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Heat is On, Part Two

Oh Books. How do I love thee! Let me count the ways.
I can get a little long-winded, so I decided to make this a two-parter. If you want to read the first bit, you can check it out here!

Eat less and exercise more seems like a no-brainer. However, it definitely doesn't work for everyone.  It may address the extra weight, but not the cause of it. I mean, let's face it, if that's all it took, there would be no fat people. Because we all know, eating right and exercising is what you are supposed to do. It sounds so sensible. It rolls so easily off the tongue. I've done it, time and time again, and well- here I am.

The first thing that piqued my interest: someone on the MDA boards asserted that women tend to lose more weight with Paleo (no grains, no sugar, no dairy) than following a more Primal diet (no grains, no sugar.) What I have noticed as the main difference between the two- Paleo seems more permissive of natural sugars, like raw honey, and high-sugar fruits. In the past, they also encouraged trimming fat from meat- more due to concerns over Omega 3/Omega 6 ratios present in feedlot meats than fat content, but still- lower in fat, so definitely something to consider. And the dairy advocated by Primal enthusiasts is ideally full-fat- and raw. Also, fat is much-lauded on the Primal boards at MDA, as being "limitless".

So perhaps the additional fat present in primal eating- while great for some people- is sabotaging me, and other people (primarily women) in the same boat? If you eat a lot of fatty meat and full-fat raw dairy- that's a considerable dietary difference. As an example- there were periods of years (Formative years, of course) when I tried to keep my calories below 1200, and my fat intake below 10 grams a day. While it worked initially, I eventually couldn't sustain it. As soon as I deviated, BAM! I would gain. If your body has been subjected to long periods of low-fat dieting, it would make sense that your body would get really good at hanging onto the fat calories it could get, because you need fat to survive and be healthy!

As I did more reading, I ran across a few theories that would explain this. One I have mentioned before: "The Schwarzbein Principle"which is huge, as it is written by an actual endocrinologist- as opposed to some schmoe selling supplements on the internet. ;)  Her approach is to figure out if you have insulin resistance, hormonal imbalance, and/or burned out adrenals. General approach to "fixing" metabolism- eat balanced meals, eat starchy veg instead of grains, and slowly heal your metabolism. It seems common-sense, however, she cautions that it can take years.

I just ran across a similar approach, on a blog called 180DegreeHealth. Matt Stone is the blogger, and seems- well, a little crazy. I don't like the fact that a lot of anti-Paleo peeps have flocked there- they do quite a bit of bashing, which is pointless and annoying. Matt takes a few pot-shots of his own- I think it mainly targets the super-low-carb crew (I don't know, because I refuse to read the book.) The super-low carb advocates are on pretty much every Paleo/Primal nutrition board, and they do deserve to get called out, but I feel like attacking the whole movement is just sensationalism.

But he does have a free e-book (which I wish I could find to link, but it may have disappeared), and some of the stuff I read in there made sense. It advocates that you plan a month where you eat a lot more than usual. He refers to it as a "spa month" (which really, who can't get behind that? You may gain weight initially, but supposedly afterwards, sensible eating will take the weight back off again- and then some.  You eat a lot, you keep it balanced(sound familiar?), do short bursts of high-intensity exercise, sleep as much as possible, and take your temperature every morning. If your morning temps are low, it's an indicator that your metabolism isn't functioning optimally.

Sounds...well, if you're me, it sounds terrifying. But it's so crazy, it just might work! And I have to say, the temperature thing is where my ears perked up.

Back in the Dark Ages- maybe 9 years ago- I was still a newlywed. My husband had recently come back from a 6 month deployment to Q'atar- married a year, but together only half that time. We wanted to start a family. As I was still in my 20's, there wasn't a lot of concern at first, when it didn't happen. I ended up (what else?) buying a book: it turned out to be a pretty pivotal book actually, called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility".

Every woman should have or read (or both) this book, and I wish I had read it as a teen, but that's a whole different post. The movie you saw in the sixth (or fourth, or fifth) grade doesn't even begin to cover it. One major thing I took away from it: your temperatures should reflect where you were in your cycle every month, so you could determine when you ovulated and have a higher chance of getting pregnant.

So I bought a basal thermometer, printed out the graphing worksheets, and started charting.

By Day 3, I knew I needed to find another chart, because the temps I was getting were incredibly low- so low, they weren't even on the worksheets I had printed out- not even close. 94.9, 95.2- I got really excited when I got up to 96 degrees. I finally asked my doctor about it, and they were dismissive. I just ran a little low. No big deal. I couldn't find any chart on the internet that reflected my crazy temps. So I made a chart in Excel. I know, right? Sad. I should have Photoshopped some icicles on that bad boy.

Things continued on that way- with me having a core temp similar to the average iguana- until I changed my eating habits. I started charting again a few months into Primal, and was startled to see that my temperatures were higher. They're still not "perfect", but they are at least on the chart, within reason.

So- the reality that a dietary change can increase morning temps was already planted in my brain. And while I am happy with the knowledge that my health and metabolism are better than they were, it seems like I can make progress, as opposed to just treading water.  It's pretty encouraging!

A friend of mine posted on my Lady Grok FB Page, to share another resource- there's a test that you can do, which can supposedly check you to see if your culprit is fat, carbs, or both. In my case, it's likely both (Since I have tried everything else).

I guess the conclusion here is that there's no "one size fits all" approach to the journey that we are on. It's just a little easier to have a map, and not be afraid to experiment! We'll see how it goes!

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