DIARY: Food revelations

I don’t normally write blog posts on Monday nights anymore. We run our “Masters of Running” circuit training class from 6:30 to 8:00 and by the time I am back at the dinner table it’s usually about 9 o’clock (or later), so rest and relaxation tends to take priority.

One of those bolts from the blue

Something struck my mind today that I just felt like sharing, however. Long-term readers will remember my experiment with the so-called “Paleo Diet” back in 2008, a good while before it became the house-hold term it is today. It coincided with my best training, one of my best racing seasons and spells of overall health. I grew complacent, dropped it and ate a mixture of foods in the following years which were mainly spend on the side-lines injured.

Bye bye porridge

Aoife and I had given up bread and pasta as regular food staples for a while (Aoife never enjoyed pasta) and eventually gave up our beloved porridge (1st down), then most cheese (2 down), then muesli and then dairy products. We didn’t feel a lot of improvement straight away but this is where my revelation comes in. Coming in the door tonight I noticed one unmistakable thing: for the last 2 years I have had issues with various stomach upsets. They are all no longer present since I really tightened up on eating natural foods. Despite a festival which included quite a few late nights and that almost forgotten date with Captain Morgan, stomach and gut health is excellent*. Aoife noticed a few months ago that “my skin is clearing up noticeably”.

And I am not a fanatic – I live closer to Cordain’s own 85/15 rule – meaning small concessions are fine. If I go to a nice restaurant I might eat the home-baked piece of bread. If I’m on a holiday I might enjoy a nice dessert. When my mother-in-law serves an apple pie, I’ll take a slice. Strict adherence is only necessary if you are already ill or chronically injured or if you have issues with discipline (recovering alcoholic syndrome) or if you are training for high performance and in peak season. I believe in Mithridatism – that a little bit of poison every now and again to keep you more resistant to all life’s toxins makes you stronger. But you don’t poison a sick man (well, that’s actually done but I won’t start on that here tonight). It’s only natural to love yogurt, muesli and bread – because essentially these foods are just a variation of candy. If we treat them like that we are alright.

Hard questions asked

Natural eating is not about taking the joy out of people’s lives (85/15 rule) and I’m not really looking to convert anyone except my athletes. But the gains in health that Aoife and I have seen are just so big and the stories that mirror us so many that it’s important to address some of the potential “put-downs” that might seem to speak against a natural diet – until you dig a bit deeper than the one-liner level. Looking at myself, my fear of suffering a lifestyle disease is exactly ZERO and I haven’t visited a doctor or a physiotherapist for almost 2 years. The only intervention I needed was a prescription of antibiotics against stomach poisoning and knowing what I know today I would likely have tried another strategy before going for the antibiotics given how long it took to recover from their side-effects. This despite working the equivalent of two jobs for 2 years now. A key thing I always tell myself is that just like you cannot train your way out of a bad diet, you cannot eat yourself out of a chronic stress.

Looking back at my childhood my diet it was pretty unusual – white bread and cheese or cereal in the morning and no food between 8 and 18:30 because I would not eat any foods offered to me during school time. Dinner was hearty Danish food but we overindulged on soda-pop – I often drunk 2-3 bottles (33cl) per day. Mind you, they were Danish sodas with much lower toxicity than the average Coke!

Important questions

I have received quite a lot of questions about natural eating recently. Most of them were interesting questions and not the superficial one-liners typical of new media. It is a big problem that we have to educate ourselves through these media because to understand the debate on natural eating you need to go in depth – reading books, attend lectures, have personal discussions with people who take the topic seriously. So I’m looking forward to answering some of the more challenging

In the meantime check out my article on stress at ChampionsEverywhere which was inspired by my experiences with Tony Riddle, Bruce Lipton and Richard Flook.

* Only my health could have been better but the three bad weeks where caused by stress not poor diet. When you have too much stress it matters very little what you eat because you cannot digest or repair properly. There is a hierarchy in recovery and stress needs to be addressed before food (although feel free to do both if you can).