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Episode #81: Salt, Shakeology, yeast infections, & calorie counting
Don't forget to pre-order your copy of the amazing new book Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining by Hayley Mason & Bill Staley (The Food Lovers) – releasing everywhere on April 30th!
1. Salt on a Paleo diet? [9:30] 2. Yeast infections [18:18] 3. Pre-workout nutrition for early morning workouts / fat for fuel? [26:04] 4. Paleo = weight gain?? [31:04] 5. Counting calories on Paleo [31:47] 6. How does Shakeology shake up? [49:30]
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FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:
Welcome to the Balanced Bites Podcast with Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe. Diane is a certified nutrition consultant and The New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo. Liz is a nutritional therapy practitioner and the author of Modern Cave Girl. Together, Diane and Liz answer your questions, interview leading health and wellness experts, and share their take on modern paleo living with their signature friendly and balanced approach. Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only and are not to be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Liz Wolfe: Hey everyone, Liz and Diane here. Totally getting used to this new no-intro situation, but it's alleviated a lot of pressure to come up with new and exciting ways to verbalize the same things. So welcome! Welcome to Episode 81 of the Balanced Bites Podcast! I have to remember they've already gotten like 46.1 seconds of introduction.
Diane Sanfilippo: Well, when you said, “no-intro situation,” I'm thinking about the no-poo situation, and I'm thinking was there some other way to say no-intro? Anyway.
Liz Wolfe: This multi-intro, this shift-of-intro situation. I don't know. All of a sudden we're, like, professional and I'm feeling really uncomfortable with it!
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: It's making me no-poo.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: Ha-ha, stress and poop. Ugh.
Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway.
Liz Wolfe: Shot that all to hell.
Diane Sanfilippo: Where are you now? I haven't seen you in forever. I feel like I don't even know that you exist anymore.
Liz Wolfe: I know. I'm off the map. I missed out on PaleoFX.
Diane Sanfilippo: Boo.
Liz Wolfe: Boo. I know. I got a little bit of a rundown on it from my friend Julie over at PaleOMG and totally jealous of everybody having a good time, eating good food. Last year was really fun. Last year was fun, too, because I brought the CaveHusband who nobody believed existed until, I think, March 17, 2012.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I mean.
Liz Wolfe: He's so cute.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: He's the cutest. So where I am is in the Midwest. I'm in God's Country. And I dropped a little hint of what's to come with my blog and my life and all that good stuff in my blog post today, just embedded in a little blog post about the Primal Life Kit, the latest bundle, which is super awesome. But it's in there. We are starting a whole new life, CaveHusband and I. We're turning our homesteading genes on.
Diane Sanfilippo: Are there epigenetic triggers for that?
Liz Wolfe: [Laughs] There are epigenetic triggers for homesteading. It looks like we have a little 15-acre plot on lockdown.
Diane Sanfilippo: Whoa.
Liz Wolfe: And we're currently browsing goats and chickens.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don't even know how to respond to this.
Liz Wolfe: You know what? When the zombie apocalypse happens, I'm going to have fresh eggs and…
Diane Sanfilippo: At least you know how to cook eggs.
Liz Wolfe: Debatable.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: Debatable.
Diane Sanfilippo: But I'm thinking about you cooking all of these other animals, and I'm like: What is she going to do with these? Well, I guess you'll have plenty of cookbooks to look through.
Liz Wolfe: Yes. Holy hell, do I have plenty of cookbooks to look through.
Diane Sanfilippo: Did you get your copy of Gather?
Liz Wolfe: I haven't gotten it yet.
Diane Sanfilippo: Ahhh!
Liz Wolfe: Because we have all of our mail forwarded right now from East Coast to Midwest.
Diane Sanfilippo: Well, they're not going to forward that. They're going to be like: We're keeping this one!
Liz Wolfe: I know. I'm so scared somebody's going to take it.
Diane Sanfilippo: They are.
Liz Wolfe: I've heard it's unbelievably gorgeous. I was in Pittsburgh for a day, the day before their book came. I could've seen it, but I just missed it.
Diane Sanfilippo: I can't see the kitchen right now in my house, but I had my parents take it with them this evening to just kind of come back and give me a little feedback on what they were excited about in looking at it because I've seen the book for the last several months on Bill Staley's computer screen, and it was really cool to see it kind of come to life and hold it, you know the same way when Practical Paleo come to life, and it was just like, you know… it's like a baby. I mean you work on it for months and months and months, and then this thing is born and then you're showing everyone, and it's just really exciting. So I was pretty thrilled to see it and also super geeked out on the fact that I think my hands are in, like, 10 pictures in the book, and I was like: That's me! Those are my hands! And then I'm actually in two or three of the pictures, and I was like: I'm so famous! I'm in this amazing book!
Liz Wolfe: Yeah, that's why you're famous.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs] I know, somebody else said that. I'm like: Yeah, but this book is not just another paleo cookbook. And I feel like the bar keeps getting raised when some of these new books come out. I mean, you and I know that Hayley and Bill are just… If nothing else, they're artists.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah.
Diane Sanfilippo: So other than being amazing, kind, generous people who cook delicious food, that artistic talent that comes through in this book… The paleo books that are out there… Just the bar keeps raising. I've seen some other ones. I met Danielle Walker, whose book, Against All Grain, is coming out. She's a super lovely woman. I just really enjoyed hanging out with her and meeting her, and I've seen previews of her book, and again, stunning photography, really great work. So it's really cool to see just some new stuff coming out, and I think people are going to be pretty floored when they get Gather in their hands because it's just not like anything you've ever seen before. And they've done a really amazing job by creating and recreating just some favorites, and I know that people have seen a lot of that stuff before with things like spaghetti and meatballs and what not, but they've really taken a lot of the holiday favorites and gatherings favorites and just different events that people get together for and made them into this sort of paleo lifestyle book. It's not about being perfect, squeaky-clean paleo. It's about having your family and friends over and creating a meal that they don’t realize anything's missing because it's not, it tastes amazing, and they're like: Wow, this is paleo? This is what you eat all the time? And maybe we don't all cook such amazing things every night. Maybe it's ground beef and lettuce most nights.
Liz Wolfe: Um-hum.
Diane Sanfilippo: But you know what? A few more steps and a little forethought and planning that's laid out in the book, and it's just… I don't know. It's just amazing, and I was also lucky enough to eat at least three of the menus in the book with Bill and Hayley and helped out cooking them. The Chinese food, it's called Takeout Fake-Out, and just a really fun time, and I'm just honored that I was able to help them out at least a little bit. Yeah, that's really it. I'm just psyched for people to see it. I've seen some people posting notes on their fan page about the Easter menu that they sent out as a free PDF that people previewed if they preordered the book, and the response that they've gotten to that has just been amazing. So now that we have a 5-minute commercial for this book, I'm serious that people are just… You'll get it and you'll see what I mean. It's just not like anything else you've seen. I mean, I know people said that about Practical Paleo when it came out, but my book is like textbook nerdiness and theirs is like…
Liz Wolfe: Glorious!
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, Williams-Sonoma-level, beautiful…
Liz Wolfe: It's like the ballroom scene in Beauty and the Beast where it's just, like, sweeping across this golden… whatever.
Diane Sanfilippo: It really is! It's almost like you look at it and you can't even believe that they actually did all of that and shot all the pictures and went into all those places, and it's just stunning, so anyway.
Liz Wolfe: Literally, that was a 5-minute, little drop-in ad for Gather.
Diane Sanfilippo: I'll send them a bill.
Liz Wolfe: Yes.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: And I have to say if we're going to ride this pregnancy analogy out, if you guys are comparing debuting your books to having a baby, then I have been pregnant for 2-1/2 years. I'm the elephant and you guys are… I don't know, weevils. You're just reproducing en masse, just coming out with these amazing things, and I'm like: Please, get out of me.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: Please, God! So those of you who have preordered my book, you'll get it one day. Don't you worry.
Diane Sanfilippo: Eventually.
Liz Wolfe: One day you'll get it. If I have to release it one word at a time, you'll get it. If anybody has any tips for overcoming fear and intense perfectionism manifested in procrastination, please let me know.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, my tip is a hard deadline that you can't move. No joke. That is my advice.
Liz Wolfe: I probably need that. I probably need to get some bamboo shoots under my fingernails or something.
Diane Sanfilippo: It's the only reason Practical Paleo got finished. I'm a terrible procrastinator, and as much as I hate deadlines, if I don't have them, then there's a million other things I can be working on every single day.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah. What is that principle that work expands to fill the time allowed?
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs] I don't know because obviously I live to it, so it's not like I'm aware of it and can avoid it.
Liz Wolfe: Lord, help me.
Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway.
Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites Podcast!
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs] Now you can start listening if you're interested in the questions!
Liz Wolfe: Yes, 10 minutes and 46-point-something seconds later. So I guess we can get to the questions. This one is actually a three-parter. Why don't I go ahead and break it up, and we'll do three Q's, three A's.
1. Salt on a Paleo diet?
All right, first question. I'm going to take this one. This is from Megan: “Hi ladies! I have three questions for you. Side note: They’re all long and totally unrelated to each other.” [Laughs] That's OK. “First, Loren Cordain feels very strongly about not adding any extra sodium chloride to one’s diet, but no one else in Paleo-land seems to talk about it at all. Dr. Cordain’s was the first book I read when I originally went paleo, but making salt-free recipes resulted in BORING FOOD. I’m much happier with the Practical Paleo recipes, but I’m concerned that I may be missing something important. Can you explain whether or not you agree with his position on table salt, and why?”
I have a few words on this one, and actually this is a good chunk of what my book is for, basically taking all of these myths, even old paleo myths and kind of busting them a little bit, tackling the heart disease thing, of course, the animal protein stuff, the China Study stuff, but also things like sunshine, salt, that type of stuff, things that we still have a little bit of lingering confusion over.
Now, I also want to point out this is why books are really, really hard, because the original Paleo Diet book is at least a decade old. I don't know what's going on with the new version of the book or whether his recommendations have stayed the same with regards to salt, especially table salt, i.e. refined salt, versus sea salt, which I'll talk about in a second. That may have changed, I have no idea, but the thing about books is that you put them out there and I think I heard Robb Wolf say at some point it's like peeing in a pool: You put it out there, and you really can't get it back. Whereas, with something like an ebook, you can actually make updates and make sure every single person that ever bought your book gets those updates. Unfortunately that's really not the case here, so folks are still picking up these older books with these kind of dated concepts, these concepts that kind of grew out of ulterior motive maybe from the publisher, from maybe trying to pay a little bit of lip service to conventional wisdom, maybe even just trying to replicate what we assumed was maybe a truth in ancestral diets when really it's not necessarily the truth or not necessary in the modern diet. There are a lot of foods that are perfectly healthy that maybe we couldn't sit there and say: Yeah, cavemen salted their food or the paleo diet included a salt shaker on whatever clubs of meat the cavemen were dragging around, that type of thing.
Anyway, I'm getting way, way far afield of the question at this point, but what I want to say is that, number one, there's a huge difference between refined salt, which is sodium chloride, and sea salt. Sea salt is also replete with other minerals that are really healthy, minerals like magnesium and trace minerals as well that are really important, honestly, and commonly deficient just because our soils are so nutrient poor, mineral poor. So I really like sea salt for that reason.
I also think it's really important to remember that a lot of the conventional wisdom is based on drawing dietary connections were connections do not exist. So if you're looking at a lot of the “research” – and this is coming from my master's in public health studies, a lot of this research that we're looking at – you're seeing an input and an outcome in the same environment. So you're seeing people that eat a certain type of food, and you're seeing an outcome of, say, hypertension. And when we look at the food these people are eating, we're seeing, OK, they're eating high-salt food. But what is that high-salt food coming packaged with? Usually what we're actually looking at is people eating a really intake of processed foods that are also high in salt. What else is coming packaged with those processed foods? Refined carbohydrate, trans fats, simple sugars, that type of thing. So that can kind of manipulate what you're actually looking at, the story that's being told. And what we actually see when we kind of get to the nitty-gritty of the literature is a much stronger connection between chronically elevated insulin, chronically high blood sugar levels, and hypertension and stroke, that type of thing.
So I don't know, I feel like a lot of people in Paleo-land actually talk about this. I know I wrote about it a couple years back. Diane, I think you've written about it. We're huge advocates of unrefined sea salt. So I think if you dig around a little bit, you'll find a lot of this stuff. SaltInstitute.org is a good resource for some truths about salt. Yeah, that's pretty much what I have to say about that. Diane, what do you have to say?
Diane Sanfilippo: Well, just a couple of things. I do think Loren Cordain may have changed his stance on salt. I'm not sure in The Paleo Answer if he updated it, but I'm pretty sure in The Paleo Diet for Athletes he will tell people that they should be getting the electrolytes, the sodium chloride, probably some other stuff, too, magnesium, anything else that also is coming in that whole, unrefined salt like you mentioned. I mean, literally a few pinches of sea salt in a big jug of water is actually going to help people out probably even more so than some electrolyte drinks. Yeah, so that's typically what we tell people who are athletes and the type of working out and exercise that we do now. If people aren't salting their food, they may find that they're getting muscle cramps or they're just fatigued or they're dehydrated, and so I think it's important from that point of view.
My culinary point of view is that it's not worth cooking without salt. You salt your food, you salt it in layers while you're cooking, and it doesn't mean that it comes out salty, but salt naturally enhances the flavor of food. It doesn't change it, it just enhances it, and I think it is pretty important that we are paying attention to what kind of salt we're using. I don't think we should freak out if we use table salt once in a blue moon at a restaurant. I don't think we should freak out if we're using iodized salt once in a blue moon, again, at a restaurant. What I keep in my own house is I use Redmond Real Salt. That's the salt I use probably almost close to 100% of the time. I have some other sea salts that I use as well, and that's really just the route that I go. I know I've heard Robb Wolf kind of talking about the iodine issue here and there, that people started using iodized salt to get more iodine into their diet. But what you can use instead of that because it's iodized salt but it's white table salt, it's refined salt that then has had iodine added to it and not all of the other minerals as well, I would recommend doing something more like kelp or dulse flakes, which you can find in a little shaker, and sometimes they're mixed with salt or they're actually just the kelp or the dulse flakes, and those are rich in iodine. You can just sprinkle those on your food if you want that iodine content. But yeah, I never cook without salt. It does not compute in my brain.
Liz Wolfe: Does not compute.
Diane Sanfilippo: No, it does not compute.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah, I would have to agree. Pretty much everything I make is absolutely unpalatable until I put some salt on it. It's terrible. Let's see. What else does she have here? Yeah, let's move on to the next one.
2. Yeast infections
“Second, my health has uniformly improved since going paleo two months ago – lots of little niggly symptoms like breakouts, heart palpitations, and stuffy noses have disappeared completely. The one thing that doesn’t seem to be improving is my yeast infections. I get one about every month or two. I can sometimes trace it back to a bacterial exposure (during sexual activity, for example), but not always. I treat them pretty successfully with vaginal probiotic suppositories or Monistat for the external ones, but I feel like paleo nutrition ought to have decreased the frequency of my candidiasis breakouts. Is there something in a paleo diet that could be exacerbating the yeast balance, or some other change you’d suggest?” And I'm going to scroll down here to what she's eating. Gluten-free for four months, mostly paleo for two months, one month of do-it-yourself menu followed by The 21-Day Sugar Detox followed by squeaky-clean paleo menu. CrossFit three to four times per week, yoga one to two times per week, moderate running and swimming. Sleep 6 to 7 hours per night. Supplements: fish oil capsules (not fermented), one women's multivitamin, one Jarrow probiotic capsule two times per day. Just started eating gelatin yesterday. Wine one to two glasses per week total, small amount of feta or blue cheese about once per week, might sure a dairy-based dessert like panna cotta.
OK, so just being kind of far… I'm going to sound like such a jerk and people aren't going to want to listen to me anymore, but I honestly don't think for most people who have done the “squeaky-clean paleo” thing, which half the time means… I don't know. We've been conditioned to feel like squeaky-clean paleo is like chicken breast, broccoli, and coconut oil, and so for some folks – and I'm not saying that this is the case for Megan at all, but I'm saying that for some people when they go squeaky-clean paleo, they're actually restricting nutrients more so than anything. Now, if she's doing this with, Diane, your recommendations from The 21-Day Sugar Detox, you and I are on the same page about seeking nutrients and actually really trying to make the diet replete with nutrients when you're doing “squeaky-clean paleo,” but for a lot of folks, I think that's something to think about. We'll kind of swing wildly in the opposite direction and maybe start missing out on a few things, especially if maybe Megan was restricting salt or really restricting certain things that aren't “paleo,” like Cordain-esque paleo, and maybe missing out on some other things. But that's not necessarily the case here.
One thing I might suggest trying, and who knows if this is going to tick off any OB-type professionals, but I think it might be worth trying MCT or even a little coconut oil suppository. That seems to be really, really helpful for some folks. Now, it does kind of depend on the source of what you're dealing with here, and I would actually try switching up your probiotic, maybe doing some soil-based organisms.
I don't have a whole lot of great advice for this just because sometimes it takes a little bit more time. It may just take a little bit more. You could look for a holistic or a naturopathic practitioner who can help you with a yeast-clearing diet, help you implement that stuff a little bit more, but my answer would be, no, I can't really think of a whole lot of “paleo foods” that might be really causing this type of problem. Some holistic treatments like a garlic suppository or an acidophilus suppository might actually be helpful, but I definitely wouldn't do that just because “Liz said so.” I would Google around on that first. Definitely do not do any kind of douching. Don't use any conventional tampons or anything like that, anything that might irritate the area. I don't know. That's really all I've got. The whole yeast thing can be really, really complex, so honestly it's something to look for a holistic practitioner if it gets to that point where you're really just not having any success. Diane, do you have any thoughts on that?
Diane Sanfilippo: Just a couple more things. I don't know if she really was super complete in her meal plan kind of detailing, but if she's sensitive to things like yeast in her diet, then fermented foods could be problematic for her if she's eating them. I don't really know. She didn't really say. Vinegars can sometimes be problematic. I would definitely get the sweet things out completely, and if she's getting these pretty regularly… I mean, I would give it time. She said once every month or two. I would give yourself a few months without any sugar, and I might even consider the Body Ecology Diet. Donna Gates has that program, and you can kind of Google and find out information on that. It might be some way to kind of just cross that over with what you're doing with paleo and essentially just exclude a few more things and then working on that bacterial balance a little bit more. I think working with a practitioner is definitely a good idea.
I don't know. The only other thing I kind of can think of is just if your immune system is kind of low, then these exposures that you're getting that then result in the infection will be more prominent, so look at whatever else you're doing for your immune system, and if you're training too much for you… You know, this idea of overtraining is really kind of intangible. Some people can train very regularly and that's not too much for them, and some people, it's too much for them and will suppress the immune system, which again, if you're just getting exposed to these bacteria and then you're getting the infection pretty regularly, that could be a sign of a suppressed immune system. So I would just consider that.
Liz Wolfe: You know what's crazy is I have started to get a little bit obsessed with walking after reading a ton of Katy Says. She was at PaleoFX. She's awesome. What's her name?
Diane Sanfilippo: I don't know.
Liz Wolfe: AlignedAndWell.com/KatySays. She's awesome, and she's really, really into walking. Katy Bowman. She's a biomechanist. And I have found that walking just half an hour or 45 minutes a day if you can is incredibly effective just in stimulating circulation. It's really invigorating, and everything seems to work a little bit better. So I've started to tell people to go take a walk and report back, and I would be really curious to see if this is kind of able to stimulate whatever needs to be stimulated down there. I've got somebody else kind of on this little protocol, and it's actually working pretty well. So if Megan does try that, just try a good walk maybe in place of her workouts if she does feel like she has to taper down a little bit on the harder exercise. Just try that and report back. It might be fun.
OK, so we've got a third one here, and this one is actually for Diane. Third one from Megan. Oh, no. I just closed out of my Google account. OK, got it back.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: Train wreck. OK, last one, for Diane.
3. Pre-workout nutrition for early morning workouts / fat for fuel?
“You suggest in Practical Paleo that eating before working out leads the body to use the energy present in the food rather than stored fat to get you through the workout. But does this same rule apply to fat- and protein-based pre-workout meals? I work out at 6 a.m. and feel a little icky if I don’t eat at least a little something when I wake up. I don’t actually need the food energy to get me through the workout; eating is just part of the ritual of waking up for me. So if I eat an egg with avocado, or make Coco-Nutty Grain-Free Porridge (OMG BEST THING EVER!!), will my body be using that fat and protein immediately as an energy source, or will it be dipping into stored fat?”
Diane Sanfilippo: Two things here: Number one, she just kind of answered her own question that she doesn't really need the food for the energy. She just does it for the habit. So if you're just doing it for the habit, I would recommend you just do some lemon water or something that's fairly noncaloric. I think if you're working out at 6 a.m., chances are you're not awake more than an hour before that, so I don't recommend eating within an hour of your workout. In general, that's what I say. If you are at 5 p.m., you've been awake all day using energy, and you're going to work out at 6, and you're like: Shoot. My blood sugar is low. For whatever reason, I didn't time my meals right all day. And you need to have a little snack to get you through the workout, then you do it. But for all intents and purposes, eating protein will actually raise your blood sugar. Protein does illicit an insulin response. So it really depends on her goals, how critical this is.
The reason I say not to put food in right before you work out is if you are waking up early in the morning, when you wake up you're fat adapted. You're in a ketogenic state. You are burning fat for fuel as soon as you wake up, and as soon as you put something in – and this is kind of the side note – anything you put in other than fat will start to stimulate insulin and start to get your body shifted over to burning something other than fat. So even putting in some protein can probably do this. Now, I'm not a biochemist. I don't have a million mechanistic bits of information about this, but what I know is the way that insulin works, and so if you feel like you need something, it would have to be pure fat, so maybe it's a tablespoon of coconut oil. And one way to eat that without it seeming weird completely… I mean, some people might be able to handle it completely liquid or semisolid. You can actually put little chunks of it in the fridge. If you want to refrigerate a little tablespoon ball of coconut oil and let it solidify and then kind of bite on that, that would probably be OK, if you really wanted to keep that habit going. But the reality check here is, yeah, it's sort of a last-in, first-out kind of deal. So if you just put something into your body, you process it, it hits your bloodstream, your body is going to look for whatever nutrients are most readily available, what's most readily available in your bloodstream. After that, it's in your liver and your muscles, so it's that glycogen storage.
And it's really a better idea to just eat something right after you work out, and I pretty much tell anybody who's working out before 7 or 8 a.m. that it should be a fasted training session, and that's unless you don't have good blood sugar regulation yet. If this is all new to you and you are like: I am starving. I'm not going to make it through. My body does not know how to use fat for fuel very efficiently yet, and the coach is going to freak out because I'm going to pass out. OK, that's not the person I'm saying shouldn't have any kind of snack. But the person who's waking up and… You may wake up a little bit hungry, but you'll find that as soon as you start working out, you switch from that rest-and-digest mode to fight-or-flight mode, and the appetite is suppressed. That's normal, that's what should happen, and then about 20 to 30 minutes after your workout when you start calming down is when your appetite kicks in again. If your appetite doesn't kick in again around 30 minutes to 60 minutes after you workout at most, take a couple bites of food. That's when you need to maybe help it along, and you probably need to sit down and chill out for a while before you do that. That's kind of the basics on that.
Liz Wolfe: Incidentally, that same refrigerated coconut oil strategy is a fabulous way to make coconut oil suppositories. Don't ask me how I know that.
Diane Sanfilippo: I just threw up a little.
Liz Wolfe: [Laughs] You're welcome, everyone. God, I hope my grandma's not listening.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
4. Paleo = weight gain??
Liz Wolfe: OK. The next question is from Michelle. “What the Heck! Why am I gaining weight on paleo?!?! After years of a crap diet, skipping meals, and what I now know are unhealthy eating patterns, I started eating paleo in September of 2012. It took a few months to transition fully, but I now eat 95% paleo. I have also GAINED 15 pounds, when I need to lose around 30. I am trying to heal a leaky gut after years of low-calorie diets and low-fat, reduced-calorie foods, but the gaining weight makes me want to revert to old habits of meal skipping and calorie counting. I do have a cheat meal occasionally, like a cupcake on my birthday, or maybe some organic corn chips with salsa, but my boyfriend does this as well, and he has LOST weight since we have begun eating paleo. What gives?” This reminds me of that commercial for Sensa or something, where the woman watches her boyfriend drink and she… never mind. “Sleep is 8 hours a night. I recently joined the YMCA behind my house, but I am trying to stick with only yoga and walking to keep cortisol levels down. Supplements are 0.125 mcg Synthroid, 80 mcg potassium, 650 mg ferrous sulfate (iron), and magnesium if I want any hope of going to the bathroom on a regular basis. I recently began taking marshmallow root and drinking peppermint tea in hopes of helping my gut heal. Thai food three times a month, tortilla chips two times a month, and dairy two times a month are on average the cheats.”
Diane Sanfilippo: OK, well, I have a few thoughts here. We've definitely heard this happening pretty regularly, but I wouldn't say it's super, super common. But something that could be going on… Well, the first thing that I get the sense of for her is that she's been on a lot of different weird reduced-calorie, restrictive diets. Your body could just be recovering from deep nutritional deficits, and I'm talking micronutrients because macronutrients, our body kind of recycles and resets a little bit more easily on whether we're taking in enough proteins, carbs, or fat. It's very well adapted to burning fat for fuel in the absence of carbohydrates and burning carbohydrates in the absence of more fat, but we can't really adapt quickly and efficiently to a lack of micronutrients or vitamins and minerals. So what you're getting with reduced-calorie, low-calorie foods or low-fat foods are foods that are usually pretty depleted of nutrients. So you're getting the calories, maybe you even have 1500 calories a day, but those calories are not nutrient-dense calories.
So you have to think about your body as this… I know JJ Virgin likes to think of it as a chemistry lab, and I like to think of it as a little bit of a bank account when it comes to micronutrients, not necessarily macronutrients in the way people think “calories in, calories out,” but I do think about micronutrients as this bank account that unfortunately most of the things we do in everyday life – and this is something that I know Mira and Jayson Calton talk about a lot in Naked Calories – most of our everyday life activities are nutrient depleters. So just exercising is deeply nutrient depleting. That's not a bad thing, but it means that the foods we eat need to be rich in things like vitamin C and B vitamins. Eating sugar is depleting minerals and B vitamins. So all of these things are depleting to us, and unless we're also getting in tons of nutrient-dense foods, we're basically putting all of these micronutrient sort of mini bank accounts into a deficit.
And so what happens when you start eating food that's really nutrient dense? Your body is actually going to keep what it's taking in, and you might gain some weight. And what I really like for people to think of with this is that it's holding onto what it needs to hold onto versus not letting go of what it doesn't want to let go of. And I know that sounds a little convoluted, but when we've got people who are weight loss resistant, and that's really kind of the term, there can be a lot of reasons for it, and one of the reasons can be your body's not ready to let go of the weight. And in this case, she's gaining weight. Maybe your body was looking so hard for these micronutrients that it's asking you to take in more. Maybe you're eating more calories than you think you're eating.
I have a couple more ideas here. One is that while you're eating these better foods, your gut could be healing. You may actually just be absorbing a lot more than you were before. And so again, it's putting more nutrients and more calories into your body. You may have eaten the same amount of calories before, but perhaps you weren't able to digest and absorb as many of them, so maybe that's giving you that extra weight.
Overeating – and I know there are going to be some people out there who are like: That's crazy. It's impossible to overeat on paleo. I call BS because I can overeat pretty much anything if it's made well and tastes pretty good. It's really easy to overeat when you switch from a low-fat, low-calorie diet to one where somebody says: Eat as much as you want of these healthy foods. And I know that a lot of people think that it's not that possible, and I know I'll hear a lot of men talk about how it's really hard to overeat protein. That may be true to some degree, but I think in our regular lives, the way that we cook food, I don't think it's hard to overeat, and I don't think it's hard to put in a lot more calories than you need. And so this is one the times where I don't really like people weighing and measuring to make themselves neurotic, but if you have no idea that you're eating 4000 calories a day just because you're throwing an extra tablespoon or two of fat onto everything that may have already had a lot of fat in it, or you're eating 4 extra ounces of protein at every single meal just because it's there – And I don't want people not eating. If you're hungry, if your body's telling you to eat, you probably need those nutrients, but the flip side of that is if you're getting more macronutrients than you need. That calories-in, calories-out at some point does matter. I'm sure people who have listened to this podcast since the beginning have heard me say all of this stuff before, but at some point, if you are eating an extra thousand calories a day, for example, and for anyone who's like: How is that even possible? I can easily slam down an extra thousand calories in a day without even blinking an eye, so I don't really think it's that hard for some people. If you're doing that, it's really easy to gain weight. So that's the other thing that I would consider. If you've never evaluated what you're taking in, look at it. Enter it into a FitDay calculator. Measure how much protein you're taking in. Out of a 1-pound pack of ground beef, are you eating a quarter of it? A third? A half? The whole thing? Take inventory. Just see what it is that's going in, just for that level of awareness. It doesn't mean you need to do it every single day, but just take a typical day and see what it is, and if it's not 3000 or 4000 calories, then maybe it's not that you're overeating. Maybe it's one of these other things.
My last point – and this one may be sort of the biggest and most important, but I did save it for last because I'm just not sure here. Again, this is not medical advice, and I'm not telling you to do with your medications or your supplements, for that matter. I don't want to be diagnostic here, but your thyroid medication may be too low. It may not be properly balanced for you. If you switch from non-paleo foods to paleo foods, sometimes you regain some thyroid function. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you're just going through different stages in your life. Now, the beautiful thing about our thyroid gland when it works properly without exogenous hormones, something like Synthroid, which you have to take if you're not making thyroid hormone, but our thyroid is self-regulating, and if we don't take medication and we don’t have a thyroid condition, it will sort of work harder or work a little bit less hard if it needs to, and it will self-regulate and self-adapt, and a lot of that's based on stress. So if you're very, very stressed, if you're in a situation where you're adding more stress to your life, maybe you're working out more, maybe it's just trying to stick with yoga and keep cortisol levels down. Maybe your cortisol levels are really high right now. Maybe your thyroid is actually under a little bit more stress. So this is where I've gone through all these other possibilities. Maybe you just need to go back in to your doctor, get your thyroid levels tested again, or see if they can adjust this dose. I wouldn't do it just on your own, but let your doctor know how you're feeling and what you're dealing with. Really unexpected weight gain like that is a classic sign of hypothyroidism, and if you already know that you have hypothyroidism, it could just be that your meds are not enough for you right now. And understand that thyroid medication doses often need to be adjusted every six months or so as your lifestyle changes, and what you need in terms of that thyroid may need to change. That's really what I have for you.
5. Counting calories on Paleo
Liz Wolfe: That is a really good… I mean, we may not even need to go all that in depth on the next question from Jodi, which is really simple. “In order to lose weight on the paleo diet, do I need to be counting calories?” I think you really hit on a ton of important points there.
Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, same information.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah, although I do want to say… It's interesting. This community, five or six years ago this is not how it was. It was more kind of paleo was what the performance athletes were doing, it's what the CrossFitters were doing, and it was what people looking to lose fat and “lean out” would do. And now we have this kind of really cool flow among the paleo performance-type people, the CrossFit people, and the traditional foods people, the Nourishing Traditions-types who are really less concerned with body composition and more concerned with living a full and enjoyable life, getting all of those nutrients in, less worried about what they look like or how many dimples are on their right thigh, that type of thing. And I want to say I'm one of those people. I don't care as much anymore about how lean I am. I feel that when I feel healthy, and at this point, I do have a lot of really unavoidable stress that I'm trying to manage and really kind of being overcome by that stress and not doing so well with it, so I know that needs to change, so that can kind of mess with how I feel and even a little bit the weight I carry and where I carry it, but I know how to look at the health picture first, and I know that when I'm healthy I am physically as I am supposed to be.
So I don't know. Last year at PaleoFX, I think I was talking to a couple people about it, and I've talked to our friend Laura from Ancestralize Me about this, too, what a healthy woman really looks like. And I talk about it in my book as well. And the reality is for a lot of women that lean ideal, that ridiculous – earmuffs, if your kids are listening right now – that bullshit Fitspiration ideal of a woman with an eight-pack and ridiculously cut shoulders. And here's another thing, OK, here's a little rant, too. And I'm about to write a blog post about, but I guarantee I'm going to say it and then it's never going to happen, but you have people that write about: I love my butt. I love my thighs. They let me squat things. I love, you know, whatever. But what they're actually talking about is their big, sexy, lean, muscular CrossFit thighs. And to me, those chicks are still really lean, and that's great and they're healthy, but for me, I've got some dimples on my butt. I've got some dimples on my thighs. I'm OK with that. I really am at this point. Sometimes I get a little bit down on myself, but usually that's when I'm actually not feeling as healthy as I could possibly be. But honestly I really think that there is a space that does not necessarily – You know, there's a whole spectrum of what healthy actually looks like. Some women are really lean and really healthy, and some women are really not lean and really healthy. And my big butt is not necessarily a big butt because I can squat a lot of things. It's not necessarily a big butt because it's all muscle right there. I actually have a pretty nice layer that you can… whatever.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs] NOT bounce a quarter off?
Liz Wolfe: Exactly. You couldn't bounce a dollar off of it. I'm just saying.
Diane Sanfilippo: I think her question was pretty straightforward and just: Do I need to be counting calories? Blah, blah, blah. I think that just cutting to the chase of answering that question, it's not important. Do I have to be counting calories? You don't have to be counting calories. You don't have to be counting calories to lose weight any day, but at some point if you're, like I mentioned in the previous answer, if you're just free eating “paleo foods” and you have no idea what that adds up to and you never used to eat avocado and all of a sudden you're eating two avocados a day on top of everything else, that may not be a problem for you, but if you end up gaining weight, just pay attention to it, gaining weight that you didn't want to gain. That's something that you just might need to be aware of.
When I was looking to lose weight a couple years ago eating paleo, I didn't lose weight just switching to a paleo diet. I really didn't have weight to lose, it was just aesthetic, and anyone who has come to the seminars has seen my one-year sort of transformation that I had, and most of it didn't happen over the whole year. It was mostly over three or four months of a very-low-carb diet and very specific type of training. I just lifted weights a few days a week that were heavy, and that was really it. And I didn't have energy to do any kind of metabolic conditioning, and I got really lean, but it's not something I can sustain. And if I want to eat the things that I want to eat and not really think about it too much and not get too neurotic about it, a little bit more weight comes back on. And we're talking probably 5 pounds. This is not any sort of like: Wow, she's really gained weight. It's just stuff that probably only I notice, or slightly less definition somewhere, and not the biggest deal in the world, and actually I'm a lot more functional with that weight on than I am with it off, which is counterintuitive to a lot of people, but being able to move in the gym, which for me, like you just said, maybe when you're not feeling as good about yourself, you kind of get down on your weight. You know, when I know that I can get in the gym and move quickly and lift heavy things and do all of that, those couple of dimples on my thighs? I'm like: Whatever. I'll put my shorts on. If it's hot outside, I'm putting my shorts on, and I'm going to do a bunch of work and whatever. It also comes with age. The older you get, the less you care about every dimple that's showing there, because you're like: You know what? I'm a healthy person, and if a healthy person's going to have dimples, then I'm flipping off the world, like forget all of you because what am I going to do about it? You can't do anything about it unless you're cutting yourself up and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
So anyway, long story short, that's really it. I also have some things to say about the whole body image thing, and I'm sorry that you weren't at PaleoFX because on the women's health panel we did get to talk a lot about this stuff. It was really great. I think they probably will have recordings of the talks, and it was myself, Nora Gedgaudas, Sarah Fragoso, Beverly Meyer, and Stefani Ruper on the panel, and I think people really, really enjoyed it. And yeah, I also have a blog post a-brewing on this stuff.
Liz Wolfe: PS, when all of the grocery stores go under, my body is going to eat this ass, and anybody who has a little bit less, I'm not sharing.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: It is ancestrally appropriate to have a little bit of extra even if it's not socially accepted right now.
Diane Sanfilippo: A little bit of junk in the trunk?
Liz Wolfe: Junk in the trunk.
Diane Sanfilippo: I don't know. I mean, I think most of the time, too, especially women, we get so caught up in it. And certainly there are some men who are maybe attracted to the more lean, fit, strong-looking women, and fine. Let them have it. But you know what? There's someone for everyone, and if somebody doesn't like you because you weigh 5 or 10 pounds more, then that's their problem, and not to mention the fact that – I mean, this is a woman asking the question, but as women, if there was a guy that weighed 10 pounds more or 15 pounds more than maybe you think even ideally he should weigh, does that make you think any less of him? Not generally. Usually it's a confidence thing more than anything else that makes somebody attractive to somebody else. I mean, we went off on a huge tangent here. We have no idea of the context of this question.
Liz Wolfe: Yeah, Jodi's sitting there like: Uhhh? [Laughs]
Diane Sanfilippo: I just wanted to know if I need to count calories! She's like: I don't even have a fat butt, so I don't know what you guys are talking about!
Liz Wolfe: [Laughs]
Diane Sanfilippo: Anyway.
Liz Wolfe: Sorry, Jodi. All right, I think we have time for one more.
6. How does Shakeology shake up?
This one is from Rachel. “How does Shakeology shake up?” I think maybe, how does Shakeology stack up? We'll see. “I’m just wondering what your take on Shakeology is and if you feel it's safe for paleo diets? I understand whole food is better than any form of shake, but I just started ordering the vegan form of Shakeology and would like to continue using it along with trying to eat as close to paleo as possible. I’m just beginning to understand more about the paleo way of eating, and there are times that some of the info gets to be a lot, so any insight from you would be helpful and greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!”
I don't have a whole lot to say on this one. I know – shocker. I looked up Shakeology, and it is as expected, brown rice protein, pea protein, pea fiber, all that type of stuff, which I personally, as many people may know, I do advocate transitioning toward a diet rich in properly raised, sustainably sourced animal proteins, but I do want to say there are some interesting things in here. There's some MSM, which is basically a sulfur compound. There's some Himalayan salt, some enzymes, some green tea, some rosehips. I mean, that's cool. I don't think this is the worst thing you could possibly be taking in as you transition and as you continue to learn more. There are worse things out there. It's not stacked protein, hydrolyzed soy. So that's kind of my take on this. What do you think?
Diane Sanfilippo: Ugh. This is not because I'm any kind of perfectionist. I mean, my diet's not perfect. I just kind of roll my eyes at this stuff.
Liz Wolfe: It's not cheap. This stuff is not cheap.
Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, I just think it's missing the point. Shakes like this are missing the point. People are trying to get all this stuff in. What's kind of funny is that a lot of the little extras that get added, this stuff is in whole, real foods. If you just eat real foods, you're getting all the stuff that they're like: We're adding acai! We're adding this! We're adding that! Just eat some citrus or have some… I can't even think straight because I'm so irritated by the whole thing!
Liz Wolfe: [Laughs]
Diane Sanfilippo: I seriously can't. But I think there's a lot of stuff in here. There's a lot of possibly very allergenic, irritating ingredients in here, and I've seen this happen a lot where someone's like: Yeah, I started taking this shake and felt really good for, like, two days, and now I'm having this really weird reaction. And I'm like: Well, there are 3000 ingredients in there. I have no idea what you're reacting to. You just added 3000 things to your diet. It's not like all of a sudden I started eating blueberries and I never ate blueberries before. And it's like: Wow, maybe you can pin something on that. I'm using something pretty innocuous there because I don't generally think people react to blueberries, though it's possible.
Anyway, I just think that these shakes tend to try to become this sort of super-food supplement, and if anyone saw my recent blog post. It was probably just a couple of weeks ago. It was entitled “4 Super-foods the media tells you are unhealthy.” This is the stuff that's super-food. This is where you're getting nutrient density. This is where you're getting sort of that powerful punch of what your body really needs. We're talking about eggs and specifically the yolks. We're talking about liver from pasture-raised animals, beef from grass-fed cows rich in omega-3 and CLA, and lard, which is rich in vitamin D. So foods like that are really super-foods, and we're led to believe they're unhealthy and then we're given this shake and we're given brown rice protein. What? Pea protein? These are isolated proteins from plant foods, this just completely inferior nutrition. The third ingredient is coconut flour nectar; that's the sweetener. Sprouted chia.
Liz Wolfe: But it sounds so pretty. Coconut flour nectar.
Diane Sanfilippo: It's just a bunch of… This is where we're talking airy-fairy. This is airy-fairy nutrition to me. It's a lot of isolated parts of plant foods and trying to concentrate it into something that's going to deliver powerful nutrition. But eat a couple ounces of liver, and you're going to be way better off, and it's a whole food, and you're not spending a million dollars on it, and you're not kidding yourself with a shake that probably tastes pretty sweet, and people just want their shakes. People want a milkshake. That's my soapbox rant, and I'm just all fired up now and it's 9:00 at night. Shakeology, I'm just so irritated by it because I'm just over it and… whatever. If you want to make yourself a shake and you want to put in, like, an egg yolk and some coconut and some whole ingredients that you put in from your kitchen and some berries and whatever, rock on. But this stuff, this is coming from some kind of weird factory, who knows where it is. A bunch of ingredients, you don't know the quality of the stuff.
Liz Wolfe: It's manufactured in a plant that also processes soy, egg, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat (gluten) ingredients.
Diane Sanfilippo: I'm just not keen on it. I'm sorry if you bought a bunch of it. I would return it if you can and move on to eating real food. I'm not that nice. You're the nice one.
Liz Wolfe: No, you're not that nice. I am the nice one. But you're honest, and this is a good point. Like, where I would be inclined to say this isn't the worst thing you could possibly eat, how is that a plus? How is that a check in the plus column? It's really not.
Diane Sanfilippo: No, you were trying to be nice about because it's not the worst thing. Muscle Milk is worse than this. But are we going for not eating or drinking the worst thing, or are we trying to get something that's closer and closer to something more ideal? And I’m not saying perfectionism, but I'm certainly not somebody who thinks that… You know, this is the multivitamin equivalent of a milkshake. People are just trying to cover their bases, and I get it, I get the heart of that and the intention is good. I just think it's a bunch of garbage. I mean, I wouldn't drink this. If you were like: Here, it's free. I wouldn't drink it if it were free.
Liz Wolfe: Like those girls at PaleoFX last year who were selling shots of vegan power drinks and ordered pizza for lunch.
Diane Sanfilippo: Ugh. This year there was fish oil in the bag, in the little goodie bag, and I was like: I don't want that. I just took it out. Just because something's free doesn't mean I'm going to take it and eat it. There was whey protein in there from Stronger Faster Healthier, which I think is pretty good. I think they use grass-fed whey, and if you're really thin and very athletic and need more calories, something's that 100% grass-fed whey could be an OK source. It's one ingredient. Actually theirs may have been flavored, but I think you can get a single-ingredient one. Again, if you're reacting to something that you're eating, then you know what it is. If you put in something like this with… OK, it's not 3000 ingredients, but it probably is at least a hundred ingredients. It's just that I've seen so many people who react to so many different things that… I'm just weary. I give it a no. If this were Shark Tank, I'm not investing.
Liz Wolfe: I don't know what that means!
Diane Sanfilippo: I'm more relevant culturally for once!
Liz Wolfe: I don't even know what that means.
Diane Sanfilippo: Pop culture, not culture. It's ridiculousness.
Liz Wolfe: If it's not Andy Griffith, really then I don't get it. But just in the interest of not sending Rachel screaming in the opposite direction, like, I get it. When you're first starting out with this stuff, it really can be overwhelming, and you're on the Internet all day long at work. I probably owe at least one of my previous employers a lot of salary paid because I spent a lot of time on the Internet worrying about this stuff, and really it's just real food, and please be assured that appropriately raised meats, different types of veggies, fruits, these core paleo foods, they do have – especially liver – they do have a lot of these things in them already. And in these real foods, they don't have to be isolated for the sake of getting you these different components to try and somehow patch together what actually is present in real, whole food.
Now, like I said, it's not the worst thing, and she's working on it, but like Diane said, if you want to make a shake, throw in some coconut milk, maybe some green tea or maybe some kombucha, maybe a little probiotic powder, a whole lemon, and you can even get some Reishi mushroom. If you want to have some crazy immune boosters like the mushroom and the colostrum or whatever the heck you want to put in there, do it, but make it yourself, using whole ingredients. And quite honestly, without all the coconut flour nectar, it's probably not going to taste that good, so like you said, it's probably not worth it. But Rachel, you're not going to melt. Your face isn't going to melt if you can't return the shakes.
Diane Sanfilippo: [Laughs]
Liz Wolfe: Good enough?
Diane Sanfilippo: Good.
Liz Wolfe: OK, we are at just about an hour, so we'll close it down with that. That's it. A super saucy episode of the Balanced Bites Podcast. We'll be back next week with more questions. Until then, you can find Diane at BalancedBites.com, and you can find me, Liz, at CaveGirlEats.com. Thanks for listening, everyone! We'll see you next week.
Diane & Liz
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