Body Composition Update After Plant Paleo Weight Loss
Until now, it’s been about two years since I’ve posted any body composition pictures on the blog. There are a couple of main reasons for this.
1) I always feel awkward having pictures taken of myself. For nearly all of my life I’ve been overweight or obese, and most folks who have been there can probably relate to not being overly fond of cameras. Hopefully this is changing now, but it applies pretty consistently for my generation and up.
Plus, are you supposed to smile in body-comp pictures? Who knows. I think they tend to look silly either way.
2) There just hasn’t been a heck of a lot of change in my body composition since 2013. I’ve been mostly happy with where I was, hovering around a BMI of about 25, zigzagging above and below, back and forth between being technically “normal” and technically “overweight.”
The reason why I’m posting this article now is that I’ve been talking about my current dietary approach, Plant Paleo, on my podcast, Latest in Paleo. Follow that first link for details on the diet, but quickly: it’s an omnivorous diet that calls for far more plant-based food than animal-based food. I’ve started a series of articles that will explain the Paleolithic underpinnings. Here’s Part 1, if you’re interested.
Back to body composition. Here, let me explain the story in pictures starting in late 2008.
Above, the smile was genuine, but my weight was a constant source of displeasure. For one thing, I really didn’t like the way I looked in the mirror. And for another thing, my weight was affecting the quality of my life. My health was starting to suffer. Physically, I was incapable of anything that required much endurance at all.
Seeing the picture above now, I look swollen. And in fact, I was. It’s not like we carry around more fat cells when we’re overweight, they’re just fatter.
I can tell that I didn’t enjoy taking that picture, and it’s a shame, because the little girl next to me, my daughter Ayla, loved me just the same, stuffed fat cells and all. She’s 11 now and bugging me to take her skating on Friday night with her boyfriend. Ugggh. It’ll be Saturday day, thank you very much.
Still growing. In the picture above, I must weigh close to my maximum weight. I stopped weighing myself months earlier when the scale indifferently reported 245 lbs. I estimate that I hovered between there and 250 lbs before reaching the point where I decided to seriously do something about it. Maybe a tad over 250.
By the way, I’m 6 feet tall, so my BMI was between 33.2 and 33.9.
The picture above is one of my favorites. It’s not that I think I look good in it (although Amy is gorgeous as always!). I was probably around the 200-lb mark here. So, the picture was taken at a time when I had lost a considerable amount of weight, most of it at this point via counting calories and walking. There was a couple of months of jogging, too, until I injured my knee.
What I like most about the picture is that I’m being active and loving it! This was as transformative as anything else you’ll see in this article. I’m being a good example for my family, and surely the improvements I had made—during the time between this picture and the last one—meant that I would have more time with them. Also, this was around the time I started Paleo, and I felt great.
Above, just a few months later, I was at 190 lbs or so. I had done some CrossFit at a local box, and then started doing it on my own in a makeshift, hobo backyard ‘gym.’ I like this picture a lot: Vibrams, homemade plyo boxes, genuinely happy inside and out. What you see is the result of fat loss combined with building some new muscle.
I still hadn’t achieved the level of leanness that I wanted, but I knew I was on my way. I was eating low-carb Paleo, and Paleo brownies were hardly even a thing yet. As it turned out, years would pass before I would lean out much further. But I was more than OK with that, considering where I had come from. I was, however, still a little worried about regaining the weight, just like I had every other time I’d lost weight in my life.
Fast forward three years to the picture above. I was a bit leaner as you can probably tell. I was even more into walking, hiking, and also cycling at this point, and I think my body was really adapting to those activities.
Also, after 3 years of exploring so many ideas about health (and life in general) on Latest in Paleo, I had made many changes and was on the verge of making many more.
No, not just the beard! But that’s a pretty fancy beard, you have to admit. 🙂
By this time I had started eating more in line with the Perfect Health Diet. I found Paul & Shou-Ching’s work convincing with regards to starch in ancestral diets. My weight dropped from 190-195 lbs to about 180-185 lbs (likely including more water weight due to the extra carbs).
Interestingly, a trend was starting here. The more whole-food carbohydrates (including starchy rice and potatoes) that I added to my diet, the more lean I would become and the more energetic I would feel.
I don’t remember with certainty, but I bet that picture was taken after a nice long bike ride. I started riding as a result of the excess energy. Back in 2009, I had purchased a street cruiser bicycle from a department store, and I could barely make it a block. I turned around and walked it home on its maiden voyage. At the time this pictures was taken, I was going for 20-mile rides no problem, whipping them out in 90 minutes or less.
But I had also decided to make some other changes in my life. We were preparing to move from the Southwest to the Northwest, selling nearly everything we owned. Although my income was going to be reduced substantially, we were confident it would be well worth the risk—and it has been! Our lives are more simple and basic…and that’s always worked out well for us. Most importantly, I have more time to spend with my family and much more time to devote to Latest in Paleo and my health.
Ok. Fast-forward now to the present.
Below, you’ll find a series of pictures taken a few days ago. There are some details in the captions, and more rambling follows the photos.
What can I say? I have a face and body for radio, so I’ll keep my day job. I think self-depricating humor is how I deal with posting semi-clothed pictures of myself. 🙂
During the latter part of 2014, I started really increasing the amount of plant-food in my diet. I did this to increase the nutrient density and because I wanted to get more fiber, too. Dr. S. Boyd Eaton tells us that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were eating 100-150 g of fiber every day (PDF). Jeff Leach over at the Human Food Project tells us (YouTube) that the Hadza, from the age of 6 months and up, are easily eating 100 g of fiber per day, or more.
When I started adding more plant food to my diet, I simply cut back on the meat to make room. I started making plant-based entrees. Sometimes I skipped the meat altogether, or I would just add a few strips of beef, fowl, or an egg. Or as a side dish. I still consumed high-quality, grass-fed liver weekly, too. But I did cut back considerably overall.
Eating this way gave me a new appreciation for whole foods. And a new appreciation for plants, too. Funnily enough, Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Coffee got me to start thinking about added fats (you know, oil, butter, etc.) as the processed foods that they are. And I realized that just 3 to 7 tablespoons in recipes, used for frying, added to soups and salads, etc. added up to a whopping 360 to 840 calories per day from processed food.
And that’s Paleo?
So around Christmas time, I ordered some non-stick pans and a great big indoor grill. (I prefer ceramic over teflon). This enabled me to start cooking without oil. I learned how to adjust recipes and make delicious food without oil, too. The fat in my diet now comes from whole foods, just like everything else. I eat nuts and seeds just about daily, and I’ll enjoy the occasional avocado, too (because I’m picky about avocados). These are great sources of extra fat when I feel like I need/want them.
This morning I weighed in at 163 lbs (BMI: 22.1). I’m pretty sure I’d have to go all the way back to grade school to find another time in my life when I weighed 163. I feel great. My palate has fully adjusted to my truly whole-food diet, and my food is both exciting and delicious. I say ‘truly’ whole-food diet, because before it just wasn’t. Three-hundred-sixty to 840 calories a day from quickly absorbed, processed, refined fat is a whole lot but not whole food. Even olive oil. Even coconut oil.
I plan on sharing a lot more with you folks, and if I do it right, it should be interesting whether you decide to give Plant Paleo a try or not. The (minimum) 4-part series will cover a lot of information, including my take on the ancestral clues about grains, legumes and fiber. I’ll also write about the pros and cons of the diet. One of the pros, by the way, is that our grocery bill has become leaner, too. And this makes obtaining high quality, ethically raised meats far more affordable. I’ll provide some details soon.
Notes: 1) Photos have not been altered, except for cropping and resizing. 2) I absolutely do not think meat or fat is bad for you, especially in small amounts, which is why they are both in my diet. I eat less of them to make room for more plants; that’s all. But this does bring Plant Paleo in line with most of the research community. See the diet for details. 4) BMI is unimportant at the individual level; I’m just providing the information for reference. 5) Calories are not the end-all and be-all of a proper diet, but they are an important part of the picture. And finally, 6) one of my main goals is to create a diet that is in harmony with the ancestral clues and the scientific evidence, without requiring supplementation for complete nutrition—please feel free to chime in, if you see a deficiency.
Update, 15 Sep 2015: Plant Paleo Body Composition Update at 42 Years Old