Monday, 28 February 2011

Arrival of the Dehydrator

I was very excited to see the arrival of the dehydrator today. I thought I might miss the delivery as I had to be out most of the afternoon, and was rather disappointed to come home to a missed delivery note, but the lovely man came back this evening with a huge box. I didn't realise it was going to be so large! Its 4 times bigger than I expected and takes up quite a bit of space on the kitchen worktop, but it's sitting where the now obsolete toaster used to be. I've put some thin strips of good quality sirloin in there with various seasonings, so I can see which one I prefer. It's going to take up to 6 hours, at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It's rather noisy, a little less annoying than a washing machine, so I think I'll aim to put it on when I'm not around next time.

Today I went to see my supervisor and felt light headed all afternoon, although was able to concentrate. I was just not so good at digging out vocabulary from the depths of my brain and so found it harder to explain things. I also looked at a couple of houses for next year with two potential housemates and we found an ideal house, so we're having a think about it over the next few days. When I got home I took some L-Glutamine and ate some celery and felt less light headed shortly after, so I dont know which one worked, but I'm going to make sure I keep up the L-Glutamine just in case! I stopped taking it after day 3 and started feeling more lighted headed after then, so it seems to be working (apparently it supplies or helps supply the brain with energy whilst my body is adapting to making fuel from fat and protein instead of using the easy energy from carbs).

This evening I discovered that my hard drive is about to fail, which is terrible timing given that I have a major deadline in 2 weeks time. I've backed everything up on an external hard drive and hope that the university computing people can sort it out soon. It seems I need a new hard drive. So instead of doing any work today, I've spent the time faffing with my computer, yet again. I had hoped to lock myself in my flat for the next 2 weeks to write this chapter, but I'll have to work in the noisy office with less access to food if it conks out soon. It's handy being at home for now, while I'm getting used to it, as I can cook something up whenever I like. If I'm at uni it'll mostly be cold stuff, which doesn't always work well with meat and veg. There isn't even a microwave in the entire building!

I had an Ocado shopping delivery today, and I'm finding that I'm so much more excited about a delivery now I'm primal - it's as though all food (primal) is exciting, and I'm even crazy about celery! I never expected that to happen. The excitement is also about the recipes I plan to make with the food. Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to make a coconut curry with chicken thighs. Maybe I'll wait until tomorrow as it's late now. Gosh, isn't my life exciting?!

So, I weighed in at 15 stone 10.75lbs today which is a loss of 5.75lbs in 6 days. A fast loss as expected in the first couple of weeks, hopefully more fat than water.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Meat Shop

I had a hungry day yesterday but it's been much better today, it almost feels as though my body is used to the low carb change now. I got a bit hungry when I went to the hairdressers this morning (just a trim :) ) but I ate some of the beef jerky I had taken with me. It was the first time I've eaten jerky; I've tried biltong in South Africa and didn't like it - I think it was something exotic like impala* meat, which tasted too strong for my liking. I might like it now I have more of a taste for meat. I like the jerky and plan to make some myself as it's quite expensive to buy already made. I've ordered a dehydrator, which is a machine that dries food by exposing it to low heat and circulates air to remove all the moisture in order to preserve it. Jerky is great to take with you as a snack when you're out and about, and you can make a wide variety of flavours by marinating it in stuff like coriander, salt, pepper, chilli, olive oil, etc. before dehydrating it. I bought some lean sirloin steak from the butchers today and they sliced it up thin for me ready to put in the dehydrating contraption. The butcher was a friendly guy and the meat looks great, so I plan to go back soon, although it is rather expensive. I won't tell you how much I spent on meat today. It was like going into the primal equivalent of a sweet shop so I had to restrain myself from buying one of everything. I just cooked the lamb shoulder - I slow roasted it with salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil, covered in foil, for 3 hours and it came out deliciously tender and oily. I don't think I've eaten meat so fast. I also bought some lamb mince and a ribeye steak and put them in the freezer for later next week.

Enough of the meat p0rn. I weighed in at 15 stone 12.75 today, down 1 lb! I really should measure the circumference of all my bodily parts as people on the forum say that shrinkage is a much better way to keep tabs on fat loss - some people find that they stay the same weight for a while as they are losing fat but gaining muscle. In fact, I'll do that right now...

So, the widest bit, in inches:

Hips: 48"
Waist: 38"
Belly: 47"
Chest: 41.5"/49"
Upper arm: 16.25"
Thigh: 30"

Wow, my thigh is thicker than most womens waists :-o

I'm trying to install an operating system update on my computer today, so no work done yet again, more attempting to back stuff up and rearrange the files on my computer. Must. Do. More. Work.

* It probably wasn't

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A Lot of Washing Up

This way of eating is generating an awful lot of washing up. I bet Nigella doesn't do all her own cleaning up, so I think what I need is a cleaning wench to make this new lifestyle less time consuming. Most of the day seems to have consisted of cooking, eating, cleaning up and scouring recipes - there's no time for work. I assume I'll get used to it and become faster at all these tasks, and most probably collect recipes that are quick and don't involve roasting hazelnuts for 12 minutes before assembling complicated mixes of nut dust in an ordered sequence of trays for coating meat. Simplicity is the way forward,

Today I went for a walk! Hurrah! A much needed walk at that as sitting down was starting to hurt as I've done so much of it over the day few days, not wanting to be caught away from the house without access to primal food. I took some shredded pork with me but didn't eat it until I got back, by which point I was famished and rather light headed. The walk was lovely though as it was nice to get out in the sun (good for vitamin D production) and see the outside world.

Today I have eaten: boiled eggs, avacado, prawns, sesame oil, pork, lettuce, cucumber, spring onions, more pork (with garlic, cumin, lime, salt and cooked slowly for 2 hours), celery, duck cooked with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, ginger, lime zest and pak choi.

A further source of motivation today was seeing the scales go below 16 stone to 15 stone 13.75, which is a total loss of 2.75lbs in 2 days. My scales weigh me in 1/4 lbs so I can see progress daily, and it's nice to see it go down, even if it is only by 1/4 lb - at least I know it's going in the right direction.

I have a bit of a headache again today but not as bad as yesterday. Someone on MarksDailyApple forum said that the extreme thirst is normal during transition and that it will disappear eventually. Another person suggested that this is because I am flushing out toxins (presumably from grains and all the other cr@p I ate before).

It's nice to see that I have followers, that and the comments mean a lot to me, it's great support and helps to keep me going knowing that you are interested in me :)

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Today I ate: Scrambled eggs made with butter, aubergines cooked with lard, chilli and garlic powder, broccoli soup made with carrot, chicken broth, onions, ghee and coconut milk, chicken breast coated in almond and coconut flour, roasted hazelnuts and fried in ghee, some sort of white fish coated in coconut flour and fried in coconut oil, and a salad consisting of romaine lettuce, cucumber, spring onion, olive oil and chopped primal sausages fried in lard. Sounds like quite a lot but I've been a bit hungry this evening but felt a bit sick when I tried to eat some of the leftover chicken.

I didn't feel light headed until this evening, so was able to read a couple of papers this afternoon. Although I got enough sleep last night, I had a migraine all through the night and this morning, and I felt rather tired when I woke up, so I went back to sleep to get rid of the migraine. I think it was caused by the lack of caffeine over the last 2 days and my body has just realised there's none there because I cut down relatively slowly, so it took a while to notice! However, I have also been ridiculously thirsty since yesterday and woke up with an astonishingly dry mouth, which probably didn't help with the headache. Thankfully the pain is now much reduced and merely lingering in the background, so I can get on with things. Shockingly, I spent all day in my flat and didn't even have a shower, but I mustn't let that become a habit otherwise I'll associate a primal lifestyle with slobbing around on my own in an unwashed state and it'll be hard to adjust to continuing when I return to the real world.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

First Day of the Rest of My Life

Well that went a lot better than I expected. I have mostly been able to think clearly but had a few moments of fogginess, which were quickly dispelled with food. I even got out of the house, went to the supermarket and visited friends! I took the liberty of dumping 6 carrier bags of uneatables on said friends and had a jolly good evening at the same time. I'd say my head isn't 100% clear, but way better than I expected and I even had what felt like an injection of pure energy in my brain whilst in the supermarket and I felt full of life. I'm hoping this is what I will feel like most of the time after the transition period.

Today I ate (each in some sort of a tasty recipe): 3 boiled eggs, small avacado, tobasco sauce, dash lime juice, S&P, water with squeeze of lime or lemon, mackerel (a real saviour), romaine lettuce, cucumber, spring onion, olive oil, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, prawns, Tobasco, pork belly, butter, bean sprouts, dill, parsley, chicken, red pepper.

And A LOT of water! I've been very thirsty all day, which seems to be typical of a low carb diet (sorry, Way Of Eating), probably because carbs contain a lot of water so i now have to get it from elsewhere. I had the raw red pepper at the end of the day and the taste was intense, it was though my sensitivity to flavour had gone off the scale, which was both exciting and a bit scary.

So I look forward to continuing tomorrow and hopefully getting some work done too, as I now have less than 3 weeks to write some sort of chapter on genetic regulatory networks, for a book. Oh yes, and I weighed in at 16 stone 2.5lbs this morning, and I undoubtedly won't be able to resist weighing myself tomorrow morning. And every morning. Yes, I know, i shouldn't, but it helps keep me on track if I'm constantly aware of how heavy I am...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Hideous Photos and Caffeine

I just have taken some photos of my pre-primal state and downloaded them onto my computer. I look utterly hideous and I don't know how I didn't notice this before; how did I let myself get this overweight?! I feel rather down now, but further encouraged to do something about it and I may even print out one of the photos and carry it with me, in case of rebellion. I will post some up when I no longer look like that, it's far too embarrassing to do now.

I have also decided to give up caffeine as it exacerbates insulin resistance and PCOS and I don't want to give my body any excuse to hang on the to fat. I managed to switch from 2 strong coffees per day to 2 cups of tea, and today I managed to only have one cup, with no migraines or withdrawal symptoms. I will go without caffeine as of tomorrow and hope that I don't get any withdrawal symptoms. If not, the next five days are going to be utter hell.

I had my last bar of chocolate today. Shortly after eating it my heart rate increased and I could feel it beating (not good, apparently), something I often experience after eating sugar or consuming caffeine, and increasingly so recently. It was scary and I felt unhealthy. I noticed that I could no longer find a sitting position that allowed me to cover my belly (in a subtle, draping manner), it just sticks out obtrusively, so I felt very self conscious during the stem cell lecture today and kept glancing down at the bulge. It's got to a point where being obese has become all consuming and I can't not do something about it now. I'm very grateful to James for suggesting this way of eating and look forward to seeing some changes.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

In Preparation

I have spent the last couple of weeks preparing to go primal, by reading books and forums, finding recipes, making shopping lists, buying food and clearing out the cupboards of rubbish food. It's not something you can just decide to do tomorrow without knowledge of what you are doing and why, and what problems you might face.

On reading the forums at Mark's Daily Apple I noticed that the majority of people experienced 'low carb flu' during the transition period. Symptoms include:

  • feeling foggy and light headed
  • unable to concentrate
  • trouble sleeping
  • weak
  • lethargic
  • achey muscles 
  • headache

This is because the body is used to employing easy glucose carbs and now must create glucose from fats and protein. This is a little more complex for the body to so but is entirely natural, it can just take some time for the process to get up to speed. I am fully expecting to feel like this for at least 5 days, as this is what happened when I did the Atkins diet, which is also low carb (lower carb and a lot less healthy). I have bought some potassium, magnesium and L-Glutamine supplements to ease the low carb flu symptoms during transition. The potassium and magnesium replace that which is lost in the extra water that is secreted from the body; carbs contain a lot of water and can cause bloating so quite a bit of water is lost during transition, and these good salts escape with it, resulting in a deficiency that can cause muscle cramps. The L-Glutamine can help fuel the brain while the body is adjusting to it's new fuel source.

I don't expect to be able to do any good quality work during this transition period, and plan to avoid social contact for fear of insulting or scaring someone; I become socially inept when my blood sugar is low, as my brain reserves what little fuel is left for basic functions such as moving and breathing, whilst the higher, more human functions are left somewhat wanting. I apologise in advance to anyone who may be in the receiving end of my low carb flu wrath. On the bright side, once I am through the transitionary period, I expect to feel full of energy, a bundle of joy and brimming with scientific inspiration.

Today I have emptied my cupboard of uneatables and coated my kitchen worktop with them, with the intention of organising them into bags and dumping them on my unsuspecting friends. Consequently, my cupboards were rather bare, until I went foraging at the supermarket, and a wonderful local store called International Foods. I have never been to International Foods before, but I shall certainly go there again as it sells most forms of coconut, nuts, seeds, ghee (clarified butter), nut oils and a plethora of huge bags of herbs and spices. It sells a lot more than that, but these are the foods that are hard to find elsewhere.

So the transition begins on Tuesday as I am going to a lecture on stem cells tomorrow and I would like to be able to successfully negotiate a bus journey without falling over, slapping someone or missing my stop. More importantly, I would like to be able to concentrate during the lecture because it's really interesting stuff, and network with potential future research collaborators without giving them the impression that I'm an irritable bitch from hell. Which I'm not. Mostly.

Before: Just how rubbish I feel prior to going primal

I expect that this new way of living is going to dramatically improve my health and fitness and help me lose a lot of weight, so I will outline how I feel and look now, before going primal. Perhaps one day I will pluck up the courage to upload some hideous before photos for your amusement.

I will list the negative features of my current state, in no particular order:
  • My BMI is 36.3, which makes me obese. That sucks.
  • Being obese, even walking is exhausting so I can't join my friends on hikes around the countryside - long walks hurt my hips, back, feet etc.
  • Stairs frighten me: walking up more than one flight results in the rapid thumping of my heart, making me think that a heart attack is one step away.
  • I can't bear looking at my flab in the mirror or in photos, my belly is especially cringe-worthy and it all needs to go before my self esteem is sealed in a lead-lined, air-tight case of doom and swiftly shuttled to the centre of the earth, where it is promptly and permanently destroyed in a sea of red hot liquid magma. Makes one wonder why the lead and air tight properties are required if it's going to be destroyed anyway. Perhaps it's to make darn sure that it won't escape on the way down. Anyway...
  • I have PCOS, which may be a cause of or caused by being overweight, the jury's till out on that one. PCOS means that my hormones are all over the place, they aren't balanced, they aren't normal, and they'll stay that way until I lose weight.
  • Insulin resistance is a result of both PCOS and being overweight. This has a massive effect on my life as I need to eat every couple of hours, which can get rather annoying if you're in the middle of something and you have to stop to eat to restore clear thought and a sociable mood. Insulin is required for cells in the body to take up and convert glucose into a usable source of energy, but if they are insulin resistant they allow much less insulin to enter. In response, the pancreas releases more and more insulin and eventually fails, resulting in diabetes. Insulin also promotes fat storage and prevents the release of energy from fat cells. The primal diet can help completely reverse this process by keeping insulin levels low and constant so that the cells can increase their sensitivity.
  • PCOS has a number of other rather unfortunate symptoms, such as excessive hair. Also a nightmare.
  • Pain: Being overweight puts a lot of strain on most of my body, especially my lower back and hips. I regularly have lower back pain, sore shoulders (due to poor muscle tone) and my hips become sore if I walk for an extended period of time. I also have a damaged nerve in my lower back that causes a weird combination of hypersensitivity and paralysis in a panel in my upper thigh. If I sit or stand in the same place for more than a few minutes, or walk for too long, it feels as though I'm being stabbed in the thigh with an ice cold knitting needle. I tend to jump and scream if someone pokes me anywhere on said panel. An osteopath informed me that it cannot heal until I lose my belly as it's pulling on the area around the damaged nerve.
  • Fitting in airplane seats is a challenge, especially when the person sitting next to you is also hideously overweight and needs half of your seat too.
  • Libido is an interesting one. PCOS means higher testosterone levels and hence an increased libido, but being overweight tends to stifle one's libido, so it feels as though there is a constant fight between these two factors. I can go for long periods of time with no interest in physical intimacy, and sometimes it swings the other way in an attempt to make up for lost time. I don't, however, experience the raging desperation I used to feel in my late teens to early twenties, but I get the distinct impression that if I was fit and healthy and at an ideal weight, few men would be safe. Many people on the Daily Apple Forum report that going primal has done wonders for their libido. I very much look forward to this rewarding aspect of the lifestyle.
  • Enormous calves from supporting my weight are not only unfeminine but mean that I cannot fit into many boots. I love boots, so this sucks. Going primal can also mean altering other behaviours and activities, including barefoot walking for the health of your feet, legs and hips. I'll discuss this more in a future post, but I think it's something I will try, especially as I prefer to go barefoot whenever I can anyway.
  • Anxiety - particularly when trying to get to sleep. Possibly due to high levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Sore knees and elbows if I over-exercise or strain them. Makes running impossible and interfered with badminton and swimming to the point that I stopped doing bother of them.
I hope to be able to come back to this list at some point in the future and be able to say that all of these issues have gone. 


The purpose of this blog is to document my shift to a more primal way of life.

I have been overweight most of my life and I have felt increasingly unhealthy, so I decided that I need to do something about it. I was introduced to the Primal Blueprint (UK version) (US version) (written by Mark Sisson) by a friend who is a personal trainer and nutrition adviser. When first I looked at this book on Amazon, I was struck by the consistently high customer reviews, giving me extra confidence in the recommendation. The book is well written and scientifically compelling - I'd recommend it to absolutely everyone. I've also just purchased and started reading The Paleo Solution (UK version) (US version) by Robb Wolf, whose style is that of an inquiring, skeptical scientist, and close to my heart. Another excellent resource that I have and will be using regularly during my 'journey' is Mark's Daily Apple, which is a free website with loads of information on the primal way of life and a popular forum.

In a nutshell, the observations of a combination of
modern genetic research, evolutionary biology, biochemistry and anthropology show that a primal diet (and way of life) will enable you to look, feel and perform your best. The Primal Blueprint consists of 10 laws that enable you to control how your genes express themselves in order to build the strongest, leanest, healthiest body possible. Many followers of the Blueprint have successfully reprogrammed themselves away from disease and pain towards a direction of effortless weight loss, vibrant health and boundless energy. Mark's Daily Apple forum is jam-packed with positive stories of transformation and support of the plan, acting as numerous testimonials.

Mark explains how the right high-fat diet helps you lose weight and how conventional low-fat, grain-based diets might trigger illness, disease, and lifelong weight gain. Briefly, the primal diet consists solely of meat, fish, nuts, seed, vegetables and fruit. Nothing else. "How can one possibly live like that??!!" I hear you ask. I thought the same until I saw the vast collection of delicious looking recipes on the Daily Apple, most of which are free - there are two down-loadable cookbooks, oodles of recipes on the forum and you can also buy a Blueprint cookbook. The had me from 'coconut'.

Exercise-wise, the book discusses how doing too much cardio might actually suppress the immune system and unnecessarily exhaust your body. The author promotes regular, slow movements in the form of walking, hiking, or gentle cycling, together with occasional sprinting and heavy lifting to increase your strength and physical performance. So no more hour-long sessions pounding the treadmill and abusing the cross-trainer in the gym.

If you want to know more or think it's a load of <bleep>, then please read Mark's highly rated explanations here. This website and the books explain it far better than I could ever hope to regurgitate it all on this blog.

I will regularly write about my experiences, discoveries, thoughts and problems. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.