Reporting Frank Vascellaro
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When it comes to diets, it seems there’s always a new fad or trendy way to lose weight.
I started a new a diet a little over a month ago. It’s popular, but it’s not a fad. In fact, its ancient.
The Paleo diet is based upon on how our ancestors ate back in the stone age. I turned back the clock 10,000 years, and here’s what happened to me.
I put on some pounds over the summer and during the Minnesota State Fair. Then I went to T.J. McNiff at the Firm to do something about it. He weighed me, measured me and challenged me to come into the cave.
“Because you’re basically eating like a caveman,” he said about the diet. “It’s all meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.”
McNiff uses the Paleo Diet himself, and you really do eat like a caveman, focusing on the foods we could have hunted and gathered thousands of years ago.
“The caveman didn’t have a liquor store,” I joked. “No,” said T.J. “Nor did he have pasta.”
I also went to my doctor for baseline blood pressure and blood work, and his advice.
“If you can adhere to it and get the exercise in addition, you’ll be successful,” said Dr. Ron Kaufffman of Metropolitan Internists. “If you cheat or eat more fatty foods or fried foods or processed foods, then you’re going to regain the weight.”
He said this diet has actually been around since the mid-1980s, and in general, it’s a healthy way of eating. You don’t need to count calories, but if you follow It correctly, about 55 percent of your calories will come from lean protein, with the remainder from vegetables, fruit and good fats.
“The Mediterranean Diet is probably the ideal diet,” he said. “The longest living people in the world abide by that diet, and it’s not so different from the Paleo Diet.”
So, I started working out with McNiff and after months away from the gym, it was a struggle. Between the gym and home, I’d work out five days a week for an hour, usually four days lifting weights and one day of cardio.
And I’d do a whole week’s cooking on Sundays. Planning the meals is crucial. My grocery bill went up, but I rarely bought lunch or dinner at a restaurant, and I’ll admit, the grilling really did keep me in the caveman mood.
It’s also hard to feel hungry on this diet, eating five times a day, every two or three hours. But is it healthy? We took my food log to a registered dietitian.
“It’s a lot of food,” said Heidi Schmidt of HealthPartners. “But it’s also dense calories, and it’s very satisfying, so calorie-wise he probably isn’t eating that much.”
In general, she said it’s a healthy combination of food, but wonders whether I’d be able to do it long-term. Still, she likes the simplicity of the caveman concept.
“People have a lot of nutrition messages coming at them from all angles,” she said. “So if you find a way of eating that’s easy for you to understand and healthy, I think the packaging is fine.”
My workouts got better by the week, and so did my energy, but what did my most important critic think? Amelia noticed that my face got thinner, and my jeans were looser. In fact, I think I convinced her to step into the cave.
“Just watching you eat,” she said. “I actually think I want to try the diet.”
After five weeks, I went for the weigh-in. I dropped 17 pounds and my measurements were really exciting. I was down 2.5 inches around my hips, up 1.5 inches (meaning more muscle) in my chest and down five full inches around my waist.
I was excited, but it turns out my results weren’t unusual at all.
“I think it’s pretty standard,” said Kali Ofstehage of The Firm. “We’ve had a bunch of the trainers do it here and they’ve been right around the same.”
I also had a few changes in my blood work. My blood pressure stayed the same. It was very good to begin with. The doctor checked it again Friday.
However, my total cholesterol actually went up 24 points, which is something the dietitian predicted after seeing my food log. I was eating too many eggs. Our paleolithic ancestors would find them occasionally, and the book said you can have one every few days. I misunderstood that and was eating three every day, or 21 eggs a week. I went out and got egg-whites only this weekend.