The other big news in my own little personal universe is that I've been trying the Primal/Paleo diet for the past few months and I thought I'd write something about how that's working out for me.
I started-out in March on the wrong side of 95 kg (210 lb), wondering what extra cardio and training I needed to do to lose weight and get a bit more muscle definition. Bear in mind I'm already training up to 4 times per week at the moment between Aiki Jujitsu and Brazilian Jujitsu.
I then discovered Mark Sisson's website http://marksdailyapple.com
and his book The Primal Blueprint (along with various cookbooks, and a fitness training handbook). Sisson's view is similar to the Paleo diet, with allowances for modern conveniences. His focus is on how a standard diet heavy in carbs and sugars makes us insulin resistant, which in turn means we only ever burn carbs instead of burning fat, and the resultant clockwork sugar crashes force us to eat more carbs every few hours. Some people are genetically lucky, they can ride the insulin rollercoaster and do enough exercise to work it back-off again. The rest of us just get fatter year on year, or we get miserable on low fat diets and hours of cardio.
The primal solution is to cut way down on carbs, but to keep saturated fats high in the diet. The idea is to reprogram (arguably: deprogram) the body to preferentially burn fat instead of sugar, the way our ancestors presumably did. I'm not sure where he gets the numbers from, but Sisson says the average life expectancy of Palaeolithic humans was around 30-35 years old, which dropped sharply to 18 years after the adoption of agriculture about 8000 years ago, and only recovered back to the 30s in the late 19th century with the advent of public sanitation, vaccination, and other medical advances. I suspect the truth isn't only diet, but also the fact that agriculture forced us to start settling-down and gathering into larger groups, which made disease more important. But the general idea is that our evolutionary lag-time is about 50k years, so we simply haven't yet evolved far enough yet in the past 8k years to efficiently use the grains, cereals and sugars we fill our diets with. Primal (and more extremely, Paleo) attempts to return us to a more palaeolithic diet consisting mainly of fruits, vegetables, and animals.
One important consideration for me is that I can't be on a diet that often leaves me hungry. I can't stand that, the cravings get too much. Another consideration is that I have to be able to go off-program once in a while and not feel guilty about it. The reality is that we do live in this world of wheat and sugar, and some things are just not worth fighting over. The Primal diet offers both these things, and so I'm very happy with it, even if from time to time Muriel gets exasperated trying to work-out how to prepare a meal for me when the kids are still eating lots of rice and pasta.
The results are quite impressive. Since March I have dropped to about 88 kg (194 lb) and I'm still heading southwards on the scale. My goal weight would be around 80kg I suppose, accounting for lost fat and gained muscle. I calculate that my body fat at the moment is roughly 18% (down from about 22%-ish when I started). If I can get that down into the 10% range I'll be a very happy bunny. Clothes are fitting me better, I had to punch a new hole in my favourite belt (that's 2-3 holes tighter than I used to be), I just discovered yesterday that a nearly-new pair of jeans I was going to give-away because it's too small actually fits me again, and in the martial arts classes I feel much more flexible and comfortable in my body.
Basically, this thing is turning into a success on all fronts, and I'm planning on sticking with it for the long term.