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How I’m Becoming a Viking, Pt.2: Eating Stuff

February 18, 2010

(Want to read Part 1?  Right here.)

I’m currently living in a country whose term for ‘vegetable’ is grønnsaker, literally translated as ‘green things’.  I think I called vegetables ‘green things’ when I was a little kid.  In Norwegian class, when being taught the difference between frokost (breakfast), lunsj (guess), middag (dinner), and kvelds (late-night snack) the generally accepted meal staples are as follows: brød, brød, poteter, og så mer brød.  Bread, bread, potatoes, then some more bread.  I’m now in the process of wrenching myself out of a starch induced coma.

In the beginning:

I’ve always been passionate about food – good food.  I watched with rapt attention as Jamie Oliver led a crusade on unhealthy school lunches in Britain.  Since university, I’ve also been a little experimental with how I eat.  OK, first was the frosh/soph “eat everything, I’m hungry and have a meal card” phase.  Turns out near-daily pizza and rootbeer fixes do not flatter the figure.  Going to Ivey, that changed.  The beginning of last year I started something called the Warrior Diet.  Now, I hate the word ‘diet’.  That’s ‘die’ with a ‘t’ at the end.  But philosophies for healthy eating habits – that I can do.

The premise?  First, eat only whole foods (stop eating junk and processed food).  Second, change when you eat them; light snacking on raw nuts and fruit in the day, one massive meal in the night.  And it worked.  I was leaner, able to withstand my rugby-era workouts, had ridiculous willpower for food, and really started to appreciate my food.  And no, skipping breakfast and eating small amounts of food in the daytime didn’t erode at my mental faculties.  In fact, my grades from the second semester when I went Warrior pulled my cumulative average up by 2% (on a normal distribution, thank you very much).  I wasn’t dying from hunger.  Hell, I wasn’t hungry.  I was just able to kick the sugar addiction that has left much of what we call the developed world morbidly obese.

But going whole consecutive days without food is stressful, still.  And did it hamper my metabolism?  That I cannot say for sure, but I certainly wasn’t melting fat.  The end of that year saw me return to regular meals whenever I felt like eating.

What I’m doing now:

Coming back to the present day, my stay in Norway has been fueled by brød, brød, poteter, og så mer brød.  Norway is expensive, bread and potatoes are cheap, what can I say.  But despite following the the Stronglift 5×5 for the last month (see my last post here),  the gut fat stayed the same or exacerbated.  And I was cranky when not eating.  I’m never cranky.  Time to change.

As I mentioned in my last Viking post, during the winter break I had been inspired by the movie Food Inc. to re-examine what it meant to be and eat healthy.  My search started at the Warrior Diet, moved to intermittent fasting (which will be covered in another post), then ended at what is being called the Paleo, or Primal, Diet.  Another meal fad?  Nope.  Another life philosophy.  It keeps the same feel as the Warrior Diet – eat whole foods, stop putting processed food – and therefore chemicals – into your system.  And the twist: don’t eat grains, starches, and (for some people) dairy.  Eat lots of veggies, pack on the animal protein, and don’t be afraid of eating fats.  It’s called the Paleo Diet because it’s supposed to be what our ancestors ate millions of years ago.

Radical?  Maybe not.  Disregard the BS “reach back to your roots, become a caveman because they were awesome, trust your instincts, what would Grok do?” party line.  And no, I don’t think that whenever a caveman got a little peckish he killed a wild boar, deep fried its fat, and enjoyed a bag of pork rinds (that’s not for all Paleo dieters, just some of them.  That and Atkins diet worshippers).  Let’s try some reasoning.

The foods on the Paleo Diet’s ‘no’ list are all inedible without processing or cooking.  Try eating a stalk of wheat sometime.  As for potatoes, those were once poisonous, though that’s been bred out of them – still on the ‘no’ list. Dairy is only recommended for those who know for a fact they aren’t lactose intolerant; you could be without even knowing it.

To put it into perspective, picture it like this:

All industrially-farmed beef is corn-fed.  Corn makes them bigger quicker, and marble nicely (that’s where the flavour is).  But cows didn’t evolve eating corn – they ate grass.  If you feed a cow corn without pumping it full of chemicals and hormones, its digestive system will inflame and kill the cow.  Not so with grass.

Can this not be the same for humans?

Genetically, we are unchanged from our paleolithic ancestors.  Turns out a few enzymes in grains have been proven to cause inflammation and other chronic problems.  That fact is coupled with how eating starches spikes blood sugar levels through the roof (explains sugar crashes and crappy moods between meals).  It also spikes high insulin levels, which if prolonged can cause insulin insensitivity – you stop being able to process glucose in an efficient manner, and your body starts turning those cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and spaghetti dinners to fat.

If this is truly the answer to health, I’m going to find out.  I’ll crash-test it for everyone out there.  Not enough research has been done on the subject, and I must say that many of the Paleo websites out there can appear to be penned by stark raving lunatics without a) some sort of formal background in nutrition, and b) proper citing of accredited scientific research.  I apologize for that concerning this post, too, but I really don’t have the time to do extra research overtop of school.

I’m also in a slight moral dilemma, because the fact is that switching to a vegetarian diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 90%.  But find me a healthy looking vegetarian, and maybe I will think about it – not pale, no gut, and able to handle his/herself in a fight if need be.

Interested in what I’m doing?  Check out these links as a starting point:

  • Primal Wisdom:  The blog of a MENSA-qualified nutritionist and master in Oriental Medicine.  It adds a little weight to his arguments.
  • Mark’s Daily Apple:  One of the granddaddys of the Primal community, but unfortunately can be a little commercialized.  Still a must read full of insightful articles.
  • PaNu:  A doc’s blog about going paleo.  Try clicking the “Getting Started” tab at the top if you really want to know the whole scoop.
  • Paleo Diet:  The last post from a diary blog of a how a guy beat type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  Try that for motivation.

Look to the right-hand column of this blog for a growing list of blogs that I think are must reads, including non-fitness related stuff.  Balance, right?

Vi sees.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Erica permalink
    April 9, 2010 5:26 pm

    lol I actually do know a healthy looking vegetarian, although he really doesn’t look it.


  1. How I’m Becoming a Viking, Pt.1: Lifting Stuff « Amongst Giants

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