A few days ago I asked my readers to weigh in on what February challenge I should sponsor on this blog. Overwhelmingly, people in comments and on the Facebook page voted for an anti-inflammatory diet challenge. Those of you who wanted a debt diet, don’t worry – you’re next. Multiple bloggers, including possibly me, are planning for No Spend March.
If you do a little Googling you will find that an “anti-inflammatory diet” can mean anything from…
Dr. Weil’s Pasta and Asian Mushroom diet, which looks exactly like a mainstream healthy hippie diet “should” look (beans, tofu, hemp seeds, limited meat, etc.):
to Mark Sisson’s Primal Meat and Fat diet, which is…well…not endorsed by the American Heart Association, to say the least (they don’t usually like is when you sandwich “vegetables” between saturated fat and more saturated fat):
When you look into diet plans you learn everyone has their Golden Calf, so I’m not here to tell anyone what to eat. (No, I’m here to tell you how to grow what you eat!) Do what works for you, and if you want to follow along with a Primal meat diet or with a vegan juice cleanse, and that is what makes you feel strong and rocks your world, go for it!
I’m not a doctor or a dietician, although frankly that might be an advantage here, given how ineffective at promoting health the standard American dietary advice has been in the past few decades, but I am pretty good at looking for patterns.
Here are some common elements I see in diets which purport to reduce inflammation:
- Lots of vegetables are good
- Fatty seafood like salmon is good
- Berries are good
- Nuts are good
- Sugar is terrible
- Processed foods are terrible
- Sleep is important
- Regular exercise is important
I’ve looked at three major “diet” lifestyles that purport to follow a more traditional way of eating and claim to help people suffering from inflammation-related disorders: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which focuses on traditional methods of preparing foods, and The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. The latter two are very similar and spring from the idea that human physiology hasn’t changed much since long before the advent of agriculture, and therefore the human body is not evolved to digest grain and many common “staple” foods of civilization.
I am drawn to a more traditional eating philosophy because most “modern” American eating seems to be a thoughtless stream of convenience crap non-food which hasn’t made anyone I know healthier or stronger. All the food philosophies I looked at for purposes of an anti-inflammatory challenge are pro-meat, pro-fat (to varying degrees) and moderate to low carb. Nourishing Traditions advocates whole grains prepared in a traditional manner, like a fermented sourdough, but shuns refined and highly precessed carbs. Paleo and Primal are very similar in eschewing all grains. Paleo further advocates the elimination of dairy and legumes, while Primal suggests minimizing these foods. All three agree that sugar is pretty much the Devil.
Frankly, if I had to pick I’d rather follow a Nourishing Traditions type diet for the rest of my life than a Primal/Paleo type diet, because Nourishing Traditions allows almost all food as long as you can ferment it, and sourdough bread and cultured cheese are fantastic. On the other hand, I’ve got some motivation to go a teeny bit crazy on this anti-inflammatory thing, and I’m willing to roll the dice on the more radical grain free options of Primal and Paleo for a while.
My decision to narrow down to the three lower-carb options listed above is purely arbitrary, based on what makes sense to me. I hope you’ll join me in whatever way is right for you.
February 1st, Making The Plan:
Actions: Get a baseline health assessment on paper. Take the time to write down how you are feeling, what physical concerns you have and what new or ongoing illnesses, allergies or the like are bothering you. Record your height, weight, basic body measurements, how much you sleep most nights, what typical meals look like, how much alcohol and caffeine you drink and your exercise habits. Be honest! If you smoke or do other health impacting things, put those on your assessment too. Take a “before” picture, because there’s a chance anti-inflammation might also mean anti-baby-weight-ification (that’s my thing, yours might be different).
Diet: Assess what makes sense for you. I’m going down a Primal/Paleo route for the next 29 days. I plan to eat lots of veggies, meat, eggs, seafood and fruit with very limited quantities of dairy and legumes and no gluten. I’m going to drink lots of water and tea and stay away from caffeine (maybe one cup of coffee in the morning…), alcohol and sugar including, for now, “natural sugars” like honey, maple syrup, etc.
Exercise: Incorporate more movement into your days than you normally would. This doesn’t have to be crazy stuff. My goal is to walk / interval sprint 15-45 minutes most days, attend a functional fitness class at my gym 2 days a week and play with the kids.
Sleep: Take this seriously, it’s so important and so often neglected. I need to figure out how to restructure my day to get more sleep. I want to adjust computer time if possible to allow for one hour of screen-free time before bed. But I also need to be realistic about how much sleep I will be able to get with a still-nursing toddler.
That’s all for now: make a plan – make your plan – and set your goals for this anti-inflammation challenge. Fridays in February will be anti-inflammation update days where I hope everyone who is participating will check in. So get your plan together and get your baseline assessment done before this Friday.
As an added incentive to keep the momentum up all as we attempt this, I’m personally giving away a copy of either: Nourishing Traditions, The Paleo Solution, or The Primal Blueprint at the end of the month to one reader (winner chooses which book they want, open to U.S. residents only, sorry international friends!). To be entered, participate in the anti-inflammation challenge and comment on each of the Anti-Inflammation Friday posts (there will be four of them) letting the rest of us know how you are doing and what challenges you are encountering.
Are you in?