Rather than set a defined limit of one month for my Paleolithic food and exercise plan, I’m going to update every Wednesday night in perpetuity. Paleo is a lifestyle, not an Oprah diet.
Here are the metrics I’ll be using to gauge my progress:
1) Weight: I’m currently 230lbs, which is pretty heavy except that I’m 6’3 and pretty dense. I would like to eventually get down to 200lbs though for a few reasons. Superficially, I’m getting a bit soft around the waist. No one would call me chubby, but my 6-pack is no longer The Situation it once was.
I also want to lose some muscle weight and develop a leaner look. Partially for aesthetic reasons, but also because I think it’s healthier for the long term. Smaller people live longer, and lower-calorie diets slow the aging process. I gotta be forever young.
2) Push-up/Pull-up Ability: One workout a week, I do a superset of five sets of push-ups and pull-ups to failure with no rest. I chose those exercises because they’re simple, primal, body-weight movements. After years of working out with weights, I was surprised at how hard it was – I could only do 35/20 of each, and I was failing hard after 4/2 for my last set. Before I tried it, I would have guessed I could rack up 80/30 at least.
3) Max Lifts: One workout a week, I’m going to max out on a bench press, dead-lift and bent over row (No squats, rugby knees). I’m going to wait until I get down to 210lbs before I start going all out on these though, and use the time until then to work on my form.
4) Cardio capacity: I’m going to set up and run a beep test at some point, and track my score every week. I never do any dedicated “cardio” work (it’s boring and unhealthy) although between resistance training, hot-room yoga, multiple sports teams and vigorous sex, I get the heart pounding pretty often.
5) Energy Levels: I’m a pretty energetic guy, but I want to spend my entire life alternating between bouncing-of-the-walls hyper, laser-focused on projects that require my concentration, and passed out in deep, satisfying sleep. On my health tracking sheet, I enter a number from 1-10 for every day of the week. So far, every day has been a 7-10, but I want to reach a point where I have to add numbers to the scale.
The first thing everyone should do when they’re trying to modify their habits is to create a system to track their progress. At the beginning of this experiement, I created an Excel sheet that tracks everything I eat, my workouts, sleep quality, caffeine intake, energy levels, and how much sex I have.
Tracking my meals isn’t hard because I only eat 1-2 meals per day, and I have the same big-ass salad almost every weekday for lunch. I also include a daily “Paleo score” which is a qualitative assessment of how well I adhered to Paleolithic eating principles. Some example days:
Sunday – One meal, a 6-egg omelette loaded with butter, cheese, mushrooms and peppers and an entire package of bacon, all covered in meaty, buttery chilli: Paleo Score – 10 (See? Paleo is awesome!)
Tuesday – Big-ass salad, fatty curry with shrimp, vegetables and no rice. Two glasses of wine and a bowl of berries and dark chocolate before bed: Paleo Score – 10
Friday – Big-ass salad, Plate of processed pub wings, BBQ sauce, 8-10 beers and 2 shots of whiskey: Paleo Score – 6
Saturday – Dinner at a vegetarian restaurant, some awful concoction of rice, veggies and blocks of soy protein. Couldn’t even finish it, and felt like complete shit afterwards. Lesson learned, don’t be friends with vegetarians or at the very least make an excuse to skip their birthday dinners: Paleo Score – 1
Keeping a chart does a few things. It forces me to be honest with myself about what my habits actually are. Without the chart and the commitment to write down everything that I eat, it’s easy to forget about the occasional non-paleo snack.
Tracking progress also makes it easy to find cause-and-effect relationships. For example, when I eat dark chocolate and berries right before bed, I tend to wake up feeling tired. Fortunately, since I love my late-night berries and chocolate, I can fix it with a tiny amount of glucose, even just a small sip of orange juice. But there are a ton of other potential linkages between my eating, exercise and lifestyle habits that I want to explore.
This week will be a tough one, since I’m on the road from tonight until Sunday. But tune in next week for an update of my five metrics and whatever else I feel like writing about.