Shhhh...the Liver is Sleeping
I recently referred to vegetables as “meat’s make up”. In this dish the vegetables were meat’s alibi.
I first tried this technique with eggs, but it tasted so bad that I did not even take a picture.
This actually came out tasting good enough that I would make it again and will try to perfect it with the 5lbs of chicken livers currently residing in my freezer. That or I’ll try to make liverwurst. I don’t know, it depends on how bored I get in the next few weeks.
Anyways, I went through a full spaghetti squash using this recipe. Each serving required half of a spaghetti squash turned into noodles like I normally do (bake in the oven for an hour on 400 degrees and than run a fork through it). I added a couple heads of broccoli, a lot of garlic, some tomato paste, and fried it all on a really high heat in coconut oil for about five minutes.
This actually tasted pretty good. It tasted like the fried pasta that my mom and grandparents would sometimes make as a kid, but with a subtle coconut flavor. The liver was tasteless, which was the idea.
The Other Half of the Squash
Encouraged by my first attempt, the second one was bad. Not as bad as eating it straight, but disappointing in the fact that I could not improve upon my past performance.
The problem was that I left the pieces of liver too big and I got a few overwhelming bites.
So, liver is one of those things that continues to confound me. If for no other reason than I can’t find a good starting point. Every recipe that I find focuses on hiding the taste of the liver. Seriously, there is nothing that is designed to highlight the positive characteristics of the liver except for things like terrine or tartar.
Without knowing what taste I’m really going for I have no choice to blindly follow recipes.
The major problem with the liver is the dryness. Which is why hiding it in small quantities has worked well. I am sure there is a way around this. There just has to be.
Looks and Smells Can be Deceiving
I need to take a class on how to cook offal or it needs to come up on Top Chef more often. Maybe this is just one of those Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs types of deals.
Who knows. It just does not make any sense to me why the most nutritious organ in an animal can taste so, so bad. Hopefully, there’s some great culinary master who is reading this and crying over my butchery of a good ingredient and my hamburger helper class of creativity in fixing it.
Liver certainly falls on the bottom part of my love-hate line for food.
I never ate liver as a kid because it tastes bad and my mom loves me. While I could write an entire separate blog site on ridiculous childhood stories, she certainly never forced something that tastes like liver down my gullet.
The first time I know that I ever ate liver was while I was visiting one of my buddies in France. He was doing a semester exchange there and a group of us went out to a restaurant in the St. Michael district. The menu had an English translation that read “lever salad”. I had no idea what lever was (assumed it was a fancy vegetable), my buddy did not know what the word was on the French side because that just said “salad”. It was liver and I didn’t tip, but that was for a different reason.
I found this recipe online after using the optimal recipe searching technique of typing in “best ‘x’ recipe ever”. Not my own technique, so thank my old neighbors.
The recipe I saw called for baking the liver for forty-five minutes in a 350 degree oven. To prepare, you beat two eggs and roll the livers in coconut flakes and spices. This would have tasted amazing with any muscle meat, but not so much with liver.
The taste of the dish was good, but the consistency was dry and crumbly. I was able to eat a good amount of it plain, but it as far as enjoying it goes its was more like the sense of enjoyment you get from making progress on a term paper than food.
This lead to a few attempts to save the dish…
While I do not want to make it seem like this was JB’s biggest issue this week, it certainly was the most amusing to me. One could make a very strong argument for the fact that we are both adults based upon life experience, responsibilities, age, and other markers of age and maturity. An equally strong argument against us being adults could be made based on the amount of time we spent talking about his floaters this week.
This was not JB’s biggest concern. Not by a long shot. I do get a decent amount of poop related questions from time to time. So its probably about time to lay it all out in the open and talk about digestion while transitioning to Paleo.
About three days into it I got a question texted to me asking basically: why are all of my craps really oily and floating?
There are a few reasons for this:
- A different consistency of diet will lead to a different consistency of stool
- His digestive lining is beginning to heal itself
- The population of his digestive bacteria is beginning to shift
- There is more fat in his system and fat is lighter than water
- Years of poor dietary choices make it hard for him to digest these fats
Your poop is what you eat. Genius, I know.
When your diet shifts than your digestive end product will shift too. For almost everyone going Paleo, this is a rather dramatic dietary shift. I think that everyone has probably experienced something similar on a vacation, a field problem, camping trip, or some other life experience. Hell, almost everyone has experienced the dreaded “beer shits” after a really rough night of drinking.
So before I go any further down this rabbit hole, it should be no surprise that there is a dramatic change in the consistency or regularity of your bowel movements when you start Paleo.
Another common problem along this line is people feeling stopped up or like a broken faucet when they start Paleo. In either scenario, people will come to me asking about fiber. They immediately want to start taking a fiber supplement or throw in the towel.
In either case, fiber is not the answer. Fiber does play a role (link to earlier post), but its not really the issue here. The issue is the permeability of your intestines, or (in plain English) keeping your poop in its proper place.
There are a lot of other factors that can play into this (too much protein, too little fat, etc), but for most people just starting out the issue will be a change to your regularity based on changes to your digestive tract.
Most of the cells in your body are not human cells. They are bacteria that exist in a symbiotic relationship with you to help you digest foods. In fact, we could not live without these bacteria and they’re by-products.
The fact that you’ve been eating a certain way (high carb/sugar) for so long means that the ones that primarily feed off of these chemicals will be the prevalent ones in your gut and that the ones that digest fats will be out numbered.
You can think of your digestive tract like a nature preserve that has Pandas and Koalas. If you plant mostly bamboo than you’ll get more Pandas and if you plant more eucalyptus than you’ll get more Koalas.
This lead to JB’s question about going through a cleanse or taking a prebiotic. A cleanse would really just exacerbate the problems. It would simply maintain the bacterial status quo, catabloize more muscle, and do nothing to help the root cause of the problem. All the while increasing the amount of dietary suffering you are already experiencing.
I think a prebiotic would be appropriate here if this is a lingering issue. He’s only a week into it, so there is just a lot that is new and changing about the digestive process. If this was an issue that lasts a few months into the diet than there is some ground to freak out on. I’ll come back to a recommendation later because there is one product that should solve both issues.
The floaters are due to either a large fiber content and/or the fact that there is a lot of fat in your stool. This is generally a sign that the fat is undigested and that you are not absorbing most of the nutrients that you should be (read: bad sign).
The last point is that your dietary history has poisoned your body with protease inhibitors that prevent the absorption of nutrients. Your body has also spent a good amount of time time producing antibodies and white blood cells to fight the grain proteins (like gluten). These defenses often attack your own organs causing autoimmune diseases like celiac and Hashimoto Thyroiditis.
So what’s the solution?
First off is time. Eventually time will allow the body to heal and normalize itself. This will be a by-product of all of the other benefits of going Paleo, but it will be a relief for all involved.
The only product that I would recommend is the Now Foods Super Enzyme. It is a probiotic that also contains Ox Bile Salts to help emulsify (digest) fats. These can also be used as a diagnostic for how poor your digestion is.
So the last post ended on a pretty sour note. I am sort of used to it because everyone I talk into going Paleo has a pretty rough start. Unfortunately for me, these are usually people who know how to get into contact with me like my Mother and my roommate.
I usually do not include the “Paleo Flu” in my elevator pitch. Probably a bit of a shady salesmen move on my part, but I know that once people can get over that initial agony they will reap all of the benefits.
JB was pretty mad about the cravings and especially his times getting worse. I tried to mollify his concerns as best I could, often failing. I do talk often and frequently about going Paleo and about how it is not easy. Maybe I’d save myself a lot of angry friends if I lead with it instead of hiding it like a footnote on a car commercial.
One of the points of profiling JB is to show that the transition to Paleo is not sunshine and bacon. I’ve gotten pretty good at wooing people in with promises of endless feasts of ribs, jerky, and fruit. I am less good at dealing with people who are holding on by a thread.
I guess its been so long since I went Paleo that I forget or really never even had that rough transition experience.
When you start Paleo you go through a pretty sever physical and physiological withdrawal. This sucks.
There’s no way around it. When gyms do the month of eating strict Paleo no one ever calls it a Paleo vacation. Its called a challenge, lock down, gulag, or I hate you Matt. There is a reason for this, because it is hard.
You go through what is the dietary equivalent of puberty during this Paleo transition.
This is something that’s difficult physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Its even harder when you have no real motivation behind it.
Pretty much everyone agrees that this would be a lot easier to do to people at Ranger School or in prison. I agree.
I started Paleo as I was deploying to Iraq. Truth be told, I was going to start it a few weeks before, but my boss at the time told me something wise and profound: “you’re not going to have anything good to eat in country, so you may as well try to eat healthy.”
Its really easy for me to be compliant because I have sort of shut myself into a Paleo bubble. I do almost all of my own cooking and when I do go out its mostly with people from the gym or family and friends who are either Paleo themselves or just used to me at this point.
This means that I probably unreasonable expectation for people, especially people who start in America.
The point here is that I relish in being a jerk, I actually feel pretty badly when people are struggling with this stuff. I hate seeing someone feel bad or get decreased performance. Its why I wouldn’t let anyone start Paleo while they are within a two or three months of a major competition. It’s simply too close to go through that kind of mental anguish and stymied training.
If you are doing a Paleo challenge than you have to expect a rough transition and believe that it is worth it in the end. The change is not overnight. 30 days was not chosen arbitrarily, it takes time for your body to adjust, heal, and change.
This goes back to one of the first questions that people asked JB: “why are you dieting.”
If you are not fat, already performing at a pretty high level, and not sick than it will be nearly impossible to stick purely to the diet.
This does not mean to give up or to do anything other than the best you can, but maybe a slower transition than the one that I recommend to most people is in order.
While most people either want or need results as fast as possible, for some people the sacrifice is just too great to go whole hog all at once. I hate admitting to being wrong, but in some cases my approach is probably too hard or unsustainable.
For me, I was fortunate enough to choose a time where I was preoccupied with things like deploying, being in Iraq, and work to notice. Granted the dining facility in Arifjan had more ice cream than Baskin Robbins headquarters. There was ample opportunity to eat whatever I wanted, but I had enough intrinsic motivation and enough distraction that it never really became an issue.
I guess that is the positive side of doing poorly, you have plenty of motivation to get good. I really do not have any ‘been there done that’ to give to someone who is surrounded by good food that they love and crushing me in the gym.
Maybe I should save all of my draconian rebukes for the people teetering on the edge of diabetes and let people who are doing well figure it out slowly and for themselves.
At the end of the transition everything will get better. You will (to steal a phrase from Robb Wolf) look, feel, and perform better. Your amount of buy in will have to depend on your situation. A 30 day transition will prove the point enough that when you need something to put you over the edge, you know what the answer will be. Until that point, stay as clean as you can.
Like JB says: Not everyone makes every choice based solely on health. Certainly neither of us did when we decided to go to war, jump out of airplanes, or eat a piece of chocolate cake.
Bottom line is, your diet is just the same as the work you put in at the gym. If you want to see results you need to put in the work and its going to be hard.
JB’s Comments (Editor’s Note: while this is not an official chapter in JB’s saga, it was basically directed at him)
You’re right, this did turn out apologetic, but honestly the most reasonable
thing you’ve written. I really like how you acknowledge the counter
arguments in this. It actually makes your argument more persuasive. I am
extremely turned off by the “fire and brimstone” of accusing me of killing
myself with my food. Even if it is true, it’s better to encourage rather
than criticize. You don’t have to sell paleo like a used car… you just
have to get people to make better choices. I haven’t had a soda or any
alcoholic beverage in over a week, that alone is probably worthwhile.
JB did not have fun this week. Going through the first week of a transition to Paleo is not easy. Its probably only a hair less painful that sitting in a corner in a pool of your own sweat because you’re breaking a heroin addiction. JB spent the week battling the Seven Dwarves of Withdrawal and relied on another dwarf (your’s truly) as a life coach.
A lot of this blog post is transcribed and edited text and phone conversations I had with JB while he was suffering the effects of the Paleo flu.
The quote that best sums up this entire week comes from a text JB sent me while I was driving to Atlanta: “Let me break this down for you as simply as I can because I don’t think you’re getting it on your own.. I know nothing about fitness, nutrition, etc. And although my times are pretty decent, they are based on talent alone. I was born on third base, but I act like I just hit a triple.”
This was pretty much true. I made a lot of assumptions that things were common knowledge or that he had access and knowledge of how to Google. We did not do a food log this week, but I pretty much had a play by play of what he ate.
Picking up where we left off, our hero had survived the first trial. After coming off the emotional high of horse racing, JB had to write his battle analysis paper. One of the dumbest and most pointless exercises of all of the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course.
After eating a small, womanly meal of turkey and some berries. He texted me complaining of hunger. I was not too surprised by this, so I recommended he eat some smoked salmon that I had gave him after the steeple chase.
He was concerned.
JB: “Ok, I am eating the smoked salmon..when am I going to die”
Me: “Never. You are now a Highlander of salmon”
JB: “I am going to die of salmon”
JB: “All I want is ice cream and warm delights and then go into a coma”
(editor’s note: language cleaned up, but he really wanted some warm delights)
Me: “Take a nap or beat off. Do something so you stop obsessing like a Cathy cartoon”
JB: “Writing my battle analysis. And wanting cake, ice cream, and soda”
Me: “Being a bitch, write your paper and eat salmon”
JB had about a once daily craving that ended with texting me and usually (read: always) anger. I wasn’t really surprised by any of this. HIs sugar consumption had dropped by at least 100g in the course of about a day. This is a major dietary change that would flatten anyone.
There’s really nothing that you can do for someone going through withdrawal. Being nice to JB wasn’t really going to help him. The sugar withdrawal usually lasts under a week before it starts getting easier.
Based on the quantity and fierceness of the texts, I think that its actually starting to get better. Although he will not admit it, the conversion between sugar and fat burning is beginning to happen.
Earlier in the week, conversations like this were commonplace:
JB: “I am going to throw all your paleo food at homeless people. I am going to eat stuff until you tell me I can’t and than say I didn’t know. I want to de-rust my insides with zaxby’s sauce.”
Me: string of profanities and insults
JB: “So why can’t I have ice cream and cakesters…why do we have to take everything away all at once?”
Me: “Pull the band aid otherwise you’ll slow bleed for like a year”
JB: “That analogy means nothing to me”
Me: “You need to break a physiological addiction to sugar. Whether it be cakester, coke, or whiskey. All sugar is chemically addicting. Break the cycle otherwise you’ll never get out of the withdrawal phase you’re experiencing now and you’ll have miserable weeks instead of days.”
JB: “Not if I give up”
Me: “Yes, because I’ll hit you in the balls with a golf club”
After a few days of idle threats things started to reach a stable level of griping.
Eventually conversations became more like the Great Buffalo Chicken Debate:
JB: “Can I eat buffalo chicken from the PX”
Me: “Not the best, but I’ll let it slide for your sanity”
JB: “I am channeling all of my hatred of this diet towards you”
Me: “I accept that”
JB: “I can also lift your one rep max 5 times”
Me: “Yea but I am a rope skipping beast” (editor’s note: true story)
A day later I texted him the following shopping list. I don’t think he ever went grocery shopping this week, but it’s the same I’d recommend to anyone in his predicament.
-two dozen eggs
-8lbs of whatever meat you want
-4 ripe avocados
-2 heads of broccoli
-4 potatoes (don’t care what kind)
-At least 2 other vegetables you like
-Any fruit and berries you want (when you’re addiction demons arise)
This was easily the worst week that he’ll probably experience. I say probably just because even though the sugar addiction usually wanes with time you never know what will set off a craving earthquake leading to a JB destroying cakester tsunami.
For whatever reason, it seems that the more stress there is in life the worse the cravings get. Maybe its the sugar’s way of taking advantage of you when you’re at your worst. Cakester is definitely lurking around the corner like Chaz Reingold crashing a funeral.
The whole premise of this blog post was that JB was the guy with the most sugar addiction and the least amount of dietary discipline. So going into it, we knew it was going to be pretty rough on him…and it was.
Was JB’s compliance perfect? No, but there was no cheat and he stuck as best as humanly possible to the letter of the law.
Is anyone’s compliance perfect? Yea, if they live in the middle of Borneo and hunt all of their own food.
There really is nothing more that JB could have done. He felt all of the negative effects that one could suffer during this transition. He was crushed by a Metcon, he experienced terrible cravings, he felt sick, felt lethargic, and had to battle against near constant hunger pangs.
He made it through it. Everything will turn around soon (hopefully). There is not too much that you can do for someone in the transition. Its really too early to start tweaking things for him, but I’m expecting a pretty significant change this next week.
There are a number of inaccuracies in this article. First of all, I cursed a
heck of a lot more in those text messages. Second, I don’t think you truly
got to the heart of what I was complaining about with the poor metcon times.
I have done some of these workouts faster while still drunk. I am feeling
crappier on the paleo flu than I do with a hangover. Finally, You didn’t
even mention the fact that my body is fighting this every step of the way. I
am literally crapping out all the fats and oil I am eating. What’s that
I’m not sure how you are misunderstanding the word addicted. It’s not me trying to be cute, coy, or melodramatic. This isn’t the “I’m addicted to Jersey Shore” kind of addiction. Nor is it the “once you pop the fun don’t stop” eat a full can of Pringles addicted.
It’s the full on, physiological and psychological addiction that you’re more likely to find in a crack head addiction. This is not Woddy Harleson in Zombieland Twinkie addiction, its the zombies in Zombieland eating human brain addiction. You’re need for sugar is more crack to Tyrone Biggums on the Chappelle Show. It’s banging seven gram rocks is to Charlie Sheen.
You’re metcon times are worse than they would be while still drunk because frankly, you have more experience functioning while drunk and still drunk than you do without sugar. This is actually more of a commentary on your sugar addiction than your boozing.
Right now your brain and body are literally in the Betty Ford clinic shivering in the corner because you are not giving it your fix. You are going through a withdrawal. One that is messing with your brain and your body. I tell the story about the rats addicted to Heroin and the rats addicted to sugar a lot. http://www.grist.org/article/scientists-claim-junk-food-is-as-addictive-as-heroin or http://articles.nydailynews.com/2008-12-12/entertainment/17912875_1_sugar-dopamine-sweet-addiction. There are literally dozens of studies that say the same thing.
Your conscious and subconscious brain has become reliant upon these substances for everything fuel to opiate release. You will not and cannot function normally until you break this addiction.
Further, once you get into a state of metabolic stress, your brain freaks out even more. Think of it like this. If you lost your keys you’d get a little nervous and agitated. If you lost your keys and you’re late for your flight you’d be more so. If you lost your keys, were late for your flight, and were fleeing the country than you would really be freaking out.
This is why you’re metabolic training will especially suffer during this time period while your maximal efforts will be less effected. Good news is the more you push it, the faster change will occur. The bad news is you will have to endure some shitty work outs.
Metcon is metabolic conditioning. Right now you are training the very foundation of your metabolic pathways in order to increase your performance.
Its amazing that this blog has yet to feature a poop article, but it will be soon.
JB’s final word:
I am not Charlie Sheen or Tyrone Biggums or any other addict. I have gone without sugar, without food even, quite a few times in my life and you know that better than most. In the end, if I consciously choose to go back to not worrying about what I eat, that doesn’t mean I have to have sugar, it means I choose to have it. While it may make no sense to you, plenty of people choose to do things which aren’t 100% in line with a health goal: people smoke, drink, use prescription, non-prescription, and illegal/illicit drugs, skydive, get shot at, and I even saw a video about a guy who lives with bears. Bottom line is, with all my kicking and screaming, I have followed this diet, I have just yet to see a benefit for all this “paleo flu” garbage. You say it’s coming, and I am keeping an open mind. I am also not happy about not knowing this was coming, so in the future you might want to brace people for the possible short-term negatives. Or maybe that’s the whole point of this article……