The Paleo diet, er … couisine for better health

My Life as a Hunter-Gatherer … or, on pterodactyl steaks and coconut milk.

Some time around mid-January of last year my fantastic gourmet-meal-preparing spouse, Lietta, asked if I’d be willing to watch a film she had seen earlier in the day. Puttering about the house earlier I’d caught a scene or two as she had watched The Perfect Human Diet and found it interesting.As a relatively recent retiree (less than three years) and medicated male in “reasonable” health so long as I stay on blood pressure and gout medications, I am willing to confess that the medication has been an absolute necessity for me. Back in the late 1990’s my weight was continuing its inexorable climb toward the 300 pound plateau I had been valiantly (but unfortified by weak will power) striving to avoid – primarily by the tool of denial and postponement until tomorrow what I had no will to do today.

As life and fortune would have it, we found ourselves living temporarily in Spokane, Washington where Lietta and I had more or less single-handedly moved ourselves and household furnishings not once but three times. The third move involved two moving events actually, as we first moved furnishings from our small one- bedroom apartment to a larger rental home and then drove across state to our  home on the coast and filled a full size u-haul truck with a large number of furnishings with which to fill the rental home. With the exception help loading our piano and freezer, we packed and loaded the u-haul ourselves.

At that point in January I could tell that I had probably lost close to 20 pounds due to what felt like constant  sheer exercise.

After watching The Perfect Human Diet that January afternoon, I shared Lietta’s enthusiasm and made the most recent of many promises I had been making to her and to myself to take seriously the idea of finding a way of preparing and consuming our food in such a way as to limit or avoid many of the detrimental consequences of my love for brownies, candy, ice-cream, pasta, sandwiches and all the other stuff guys consume that results in what I tell my kids and grandkids is not a beer-belly but a macaroni-and-cheese belly.

We embraced the Paleo Diet and tried to follow it in almost a religious way for starters just to see what would happen and how quickly. I did what I could to help cook using only the fresh vegetables and meats that we had purchased for which I already had personal recipes. I also intensified my commitment to fruit smoothies, taking on responsibility for the only other beverages beyond water, juice, coffee and tea that we would be drinking.

I make up my smoothie recipes as I go along, usually utilizing fresh or frozen fruit, coconut, almond or rice-milk, sometimes ice and perhaps a spice like cinnamon or the like. This morning’s new smoothie recipe is a case in point (and Lietta has already had three cups of the stuff):

  Arthur’s Rhubarb, Strawberry, Orange Smoothie

8 ounces frozen rhubarb chunks

8 ounces frozen strawberries

one peeled orange

coconut milk

two capfuls bottled lemon juice


Place the rhubarb chunks loosely in the bottom of a blender

Add enough coconut milk to cover the rhubarb chunks

break the orange into 8 slices and drop in.

Add lemon juice.

Let sit five minutes while the milk helps the rhubarb thaw

Turn on blender. The coconut milk should be enough to immediately blend the rhubarb and you should have a swirling pinkish mix with a funnel in the middle. Steadily drop in the strawberries (but not too quickly) one-at-a-time until the mix thickens and starts to stop swirling.

At that point add more coconut milk until the funnel reappears. (Or you could use water but I never like to include more than 1/2 cup of water in my smoothies and no ice (maybe I’ll change my mind in the hot summer. We’ll see.)

Once all the strawberries have been added, You have your smoothie mix which usually lasts us 2-3 days depending on how many juice glasses we drink each day.

I’m having fun. I don’t think of it as a diet as much as a way of perceiving our dietary style. Grocery shopping is truly a matter of hunting and gathering and is done much more quickly and efficiently when we hunt and gather only the specific things we choose in advance to consume. In fact, I’m struck by just how much of the store grocery aisles down which we no longer hunt and gather.

The immediate effect of the change in dietary habit was a sensation I kept describing to Lietta as my feeling of being “lubricated.” In 2010 I underwent knee-replacement surgery on both knees based on advanced degenerative arthritis, not to mention my long time of abusing my knees playing basketball beyond my prime, having moved household furnishings more than 20 times in the past 40  years, jogging on paved roads and sidewalks, and other sorts of things a man who thinks he is never going to die will do to himself.

When I told Lietta I felt lubricated I was talking about the spontaneous and almost instantaneous way I could stand up and start moving without hesitation. Those who knew me even 4 months ago could see me somewhat groaning and groping for balance and leverage every time I needed to stand. Within two or three weeks I was feeling “lubricated” and like all my “bearings” had been replaced.

As far as my medication, my blood pressure for the past six years has hovered between 150-160 over 100-110. On a good day it would show in the 140-90 range. As early as February 1, I was down to the mid 120’s and high 70’s which I am sure is what the medical pros expected if I would have lost the weight in the first place. I expect to have a complete physical exam including blood work either in March or April as a means of gauging the effect of the paleo diet and the removal of grain-based food products along with a drastic reduction in any kinds of processed foods.

Personally, I have tried for years without success to improve my overall health and weight. This particular horse seems for the moment to have gotten me where I am when nothing else worked. So far as this particular horse doesn’t stumble, I’m sticking with that brung me further than I’ve been since I was a young man.

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