I pay closer attention to what I eat than ever before; I’ve made a ton of big but gradual changes that have led to me feeling better than I ever have in my life. I also dropped bodyfat and got shredded, which was even cooler than I expected, probably because I did it in a way that was fun and not miserable. All the “gee wow” of watching my body transform with zero “I’m tired and hangry.”
Here is a breakdown of what guided the changes I’ve made, broadly what those changes are, and where I’m at now:
I’ve been on a mission to deepen my understanding of what health is for a long time, using myself as an ongoing experiment, and nutrition had been a blind-ish spot for a while. I thought mostly in terms of macro & micro nutrients. Get enough kcals for energy and get enough of the basics. But this year I had and have a lot of big plans and really needed to get myself feeling my absolute best. I dialed back strongwoman training a bit to focus on career and life stuff (of course strongwoman demanded pretty high calorie intake, which I often met in less than ideal ways- too much fried and processed food).
My former colleague Ed Williams got me thinking more about mineral needs and a higher protein diet, as well as thinking above bare minimum for nutrient needs [Ed is @EdStrengthAcademy on IG, worth a follow].
Getting the bare minimum may be all you need to function, but higher end vitamin D levels, for example, can have pretty beneficial effects.
Then I read Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth. Keith is a former vegan turned farmer eco-feminist who brought up a lot of points about agricultural sustainability, sourcing from small farms, and extensive research on higher protein and animal fat diets and how they may be more beneficial and suited to human needs then plant biased diets, and why veganism specifically is a bad approach in general from both ethical, agricultural and nutritional standpoints. Didn’t agree with all her conclusions, but very interesting read with some deep ideas.
That led me to reading about Dr. Weston A Price’s work; an early 1900s dentist who, over at least a decade of practice, noticed severe tooth health decline and more ortho issues(tooth crowding, narrower jaws, malformations) in his patients overall that seemed to line up with the industrial era’s pivot to higher processed grain consumption.
He spent some retirement years studying and living with small rural and indigenous communities, from remote Belgian dairy farms, Alaskan peoples, to African tribes like the Masai and Hadza and more, who were mostly free of things like heart disease, orthodontic related issues and other common modern ailments. All these communities ate predominantly nose-to-tail meat or raw dairy heavy diets.
So, like with most things, I wanted to see for myself and trust my body to indicate what was working, experimenting with some of the ideas that had crossed my radar.
I started by doubling animal protein, & cutting out heavy starchy carbs and grains. Through a few other reads and suggestions, I wanted to consider the role of gut bacteria, and eating from a standpoint of what was easiest to digest, how to cultivate a diverse and robust gut biome, and how grains and plants played into that.
I also read into the work of a sort of fringe nutrition voice, Aajonus Vonderplanitz, who posited that raw meat was ideal for digestion and mineral absorption. He basically ate raw meat, eggs, and fruit. Interesting fellow.
I started sourcing all animal meat/dairy/eggs from farmers markets and local butcher – pasture raised small farm/wild caught whenever possible. Not only because it’s more sustainable, but for example, eggs from pastured chickens with access to grass have tons of absorption-friendly Vitamin D.
Odd as it may sound, I started eating a lot more steak, and a decent amount of it raw, tartare style, as well as tons of eggs, oysters, and fresh fish. My veggies mostly fermented or very well cooked to reduce phytochemicals that can possibly cause gut issues and hamper absorption in some people.
The main tenets I’ve been experimenting with since early spring:
- High animal protein, mix of red meat, duck, fish, oysters, pork, organ meat (beef liver mostly – insanely nutrient dense)
-Eggs eggs eggs
- Some raw dairy (cheese, want to try raw milk but you can only buy it direct from farmers)
-Fermented veggies (kimchi, sauerkraut and others)
-Some cooked veggies, and potatoes
Heavily avoiding processed grains, industrial seed oils and soybean oil (most take out is cooked in canola/”vegetable” oil), and excessive alcohol or caffeine. I limit my caffeine intake to usually 1-2 cups, before 1 pm. Alcohol I limit to 2-3 days a week TOPS
I’ll occasionally have takeout, sushi w rice, alcohol, chips and occasional treats and such, but I’ve been feeling so good that I haven’t strayed much from this approach since I started. One big thing I noticed was less anxiety and much more consistent mental energy throughout the day.
I ended up gradually losing about 16-17 lbs (at time of writing, 147.5 lbs, I fluctuated between 163-165 consistently last winter though February. Feb was when I started making big adjustments). I was definitely eating less calories and had created a deficit, but I had high energy and was very full from my meals, so I didn’t see the need to try and stop the weight loss. My body was rolling with the new approach and I felt great – no negative impact on training/life energy.
I’m staying very flexible and sometimes branching outside my main staples, but the proof was in the pudding. I feel the best I’ve ever felt.
I try not to attribute too much importance to any one move so I can stay open to new approaches and things I may need to change (staying aware that correlation =/= causation and that the body is very complex), but the big picture – more protein, fat, and prioritizing source quality and mineral density – has been revelatory.
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STAY STRONG, Cara