Get back to basics with paleo



For the Crossfit among us, you know what that means. For the rest, we’re talking the paleo diet — short for the paleolithic diet, as in the caveman diet, Stone Age diet, or hunter-gatherer diet. I don’t do well on diets because I never stick to them, so I think of it as the paleo lifestyle.

This is not some cult, but more what our mothers always told us as kids: eat your veggies, stay away from sweets, and get out of the house and do something.

The “do something” for me was to join a Crossfit gym downtown and meet Todd Ovall, who taught me to live a healthier life. After almost two years this isn’t a fad for me, more like an addiction. Todd says I’m addicted to iron, as in front squats, power cleans, and dead lifts.

What I’m actually getting better at is pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and the 500-meter row, which I can bang out in 1 minute, 47 seconds. My high school gym teacher would be amazed. I was an asthmatic kid and couldn’t run 100 yards without wheezing. I ran 3,300 meters a week ago in 400-meter stints doing as many pull-ups as possible in between runs.

But back to what I eat, which is what the paleo diet or any diet is about. I thought when I joined the Crossfit gym on Summit Street the hard part would be weight lifting. That’s hard, but changing what I eat was so much harder. Todd harped on protein with each meal, eliminating sugar and gluten from our diets, and eating our veggies.

I dove into exercise, but didn’t take a serious look at what I was eating. That changed slowly, but has now stuck. I try to start the day with protein, usually a baked egg/bacon/cheese casserole I make on the weekend and eat mornings throughout the week.

Lunch is salad and meat, usually chicken; dinner is meat or fish with vegetables, and maybe a potato or rice. We’re supposed to keep starch down to once a day. Healthy snacks are what keep me away from the bad stuff. I keep a jar of almonds on my desk, plus carrots, oranges, and apples.

I know there are natural sugars in fruit, but the sugars that are my downfall are sitting around the office most days. I’m blessed — or cursed — with working with some great bakers, including Blade Food Editor Dan Neman. Dan and my office mates love to bring into the office brownies, cookies, pies, and all manner of sugar formed into tempting treats.

For me it’s simple. If I eat one, I eat at least three or four more. So the smart thing to do is not to eat the first one. I’m not always smart. And my guilty pleasure when I’m stressed is three chili dogs, hold the onions, at the Coney Island across from The Blade. Plus, I couldn’t survive without coffee, lots of it.

Let’s get real, if cavemen had access to coney dogs, brownies, and coffee they’d chow down. Who knows what that would have done to human evolution.

If you think Crossfit is only for young, in-shape people you’re wrong. I just turned 57 and have never been in better shape. After I wrote about my first year at Crossfit last year, Doug and Susan Doherty joined the gym, along with Skip Gaynor and Judy Stone — all 60 and above.

“I knew we would die if we didn’t do something,” said Susan, 62. Doug, 73, who was 226 pounds when he began eating paleo, lost 33 pounds in the first six months and has kept it off. His doctor told him his last blood test was so good he could stop taking statins to lower cholesterol.

Susan, who lost 30 pounds, credits the paleo diet. “We cut out bread and grains and try to eat grass-fed beef,” she said. “We eat a lot of lean meat and salads, and more vegetables. I don’t feel deprived in any way. You feel sated without feeling stuffed.”

Skip, 60, is pragmatic about what he’s gotten out of his new morning routine. “Stamina and strength, and it makes it a whole lot easier to do your daily activities. Plus, within two to three weeks we were standing straighter.”

The paleo lifestyle helped me go from 180 pounds when I joined the gym in March, 2010, to 165 pounds. And I’ve kept the weight off.

Diet and exercise go together. I’ve found if I don’t eat paleo, I don’t do as well at the gym. I don’t have as much power, endurance, or stamina. It’s pretty basic; if you eat better you feel better, and for me push-ups, pull-ups, and front squats are much better.

Contact Dave Murray at: or 419-724-6069.