Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Real Food Tour of France and Spain

I recently had the pleasure of driving through France and Spain on holiday with Mum and Dad. My parents are just as obsessed with food as I am, so it quickly turned into eight days of driving, eating, drinking and sleeping - with a strong emphasis on eating! 

Starting from Paris we meandered our way down to Burgandy, staying at a friend of a friend's Chateaux/winery where our gracious hosts cooked us an incredible, locally influenced four-course meal - matched with the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay of our lives.

We then switched direction and made our way west across France to Bordeaux, stopping in many small villages along the way. After visiting the Bordeaux wine country we crossed the border into Spain and spent a couple of days in San Sebastian and the surprisingly charming Bilbao, where I left my parents to fly back to New York. 

It became immediately apparent that the French love and respect for food at least rivals - and possibly even surpasses - that of the Italians (my heritage). We were utterly impressed and amazed at the quality of the local fare and the exquisiteness (and affordability) of the restaurant cuisine, even in the smallest of small towns. 

Needless to say we stuffed ourselves like hedonists at an Ancient Roman banquet. And damn was it good! I totally broke Paleo once or twice.

This is a pictorial post of some of the food highlights of the trip. But before sharing those let me first ruminate on a few observations about the French approach to food. 

Firstly, you may think that French food is at odds with the Paleo diet. You would be wrong. Yes they love their bread, cheese and heavy sauces. But for the most part the focus is on real foods - fresh, local (dare I say organic) meat, vegetables, fruit and artisanal produce of the highest quality. 

In France they are not afraid of fat - particularly saturated fat. They consume prodigious amounts of butter, cream, liver pâté, duck, fatty cuts of meat... and wine. Aside from some toast or a croissant in the morning they didn't seem to eat too many "healthy whole grains", especially at night. 

Overall the emphasis was on simple ingredients, prepared at home: slow food. I scarcely saw any obesity, take away joints or fast food trash in the small villages of regional France. 

For me there is no "French Paradox". They eat real, whole, unprocessed food - typically high fat, lowish carb, moderate protein... and not too much. Of course they aren't fat!

If anything French food is far more congruent with basic Paleo principals than the average fare in America or Australia - where refined carbs, sugar, processed meat and other convenience foods overshadow real produce - especially in regional centers or lower socio-economic areas where low income equates to poor diet and poor health.  

The only paradox that I could surmise is that the French seem to lack the neurotic obsession with diet and exercise that has overcome America in the last few decades - the very period over which obesity and diabetes have gripped the nation. And this relaxed attitude towards exercise and wholesome approach to food seems to serve the French very well indeed. 

Herein lies the real paradox or irony: skinny French men and women who shun the gym and eat foie-gras, double brie and drink wine every day while their fat American counterparts eat no-fat yoghurt, drink Diet Coke and hit spin class four times a week only to suffer far higher rates heart disease and diabetes. Clearly we've got it wrong on this side of the Atlantic! 

So let's take some inspiration from the French and the Spanish and see what delicious fare we needn't be missing out on! Dare I say it again? Eat more fat! 

Buon appetite.

Strawberries at a street stall in Bordeaux

A 1kg (2.2lb) T-bone steak at a famous restaurant in the old town of San Sebastian

A cheese stall in Sarlat-la-Caneda market

Grilled duck breast, carrot Purée and herbed potatoes and onion

Heirloom tomatoes at the local farmers' market in Sarlat-la-Caneda

Grilled local white fish with ratatouille and fresh salsa

Roast green peppers with olive oil and sea salt (served with the steak above)

Our Chateaux DeMessey host Marc carves a guinea fowl raised by their neighboring farm

A fresh soft-boiled egg laid by our hosts' own free-roaming chickens that very morning

Buying an assortment of artisan pork salami (made with nuts, figs, duck) - 4 for €9 

Local Poultry - duck, guinea fowl, chicken, pigeon

All the foie-grois you could ever want...

At least two days supply of dark chocolate...

Mum trying the local honey... raw of course!

Spanish dry-cured 'Jamon' ham

Appetizers in a Bilbao restaurant - grilled king prawns / grilled vegetable salad

Local slow-cooked roast suckling pig with herbed potatoes

I hope you enjoyed my real food tour of French and Spain. Please subscribe by email to receive these posts straight in your inbox... Au revoir!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In this Ask The Paleo Model post I answer the questions of my mate Ross in Australia and Will in London, both of whom are relatively new to Paleo.

Ross, 30 - Melbourne

Hey man, how's everything in the US? I was reading your blog the other day and am pretty interested in bulletproof coffee. Do you know if I can get all the ingredients in Melbourne? Or are they hard to source?

The Paleo Model

Hey mate. Yes all good in the US and A! How's Melbs?

Dave Asprey, owner of Bulletproof Coffee may vehemently disagree with me but I reckon you can use any high quality coffee for bulletproof. Dave's trademark low-toxin specialty Bulletproof Coffee may give you slightly better results but it is very expensive and I like to try different coffees and buy small batches regularly so I don't use his brand. 

However I would agree with Asprey that the quality of the coffee is paramount. I'd recommend buying the best single origin coffee beans you can afford - preferably organic but not necessarily. Generally speaking, coffee from higher mountainous regions that use use non-chemical processing (with water) is the best. Roasting does not kill the mycotoxins (mould) in the coffee so freshness and also time at sea (distance travelled) affects the toxin level. 

If possible buy small amounts of coffee frequently and grind it yourself, or use it very soon after grinding. 

To make your coffee bulletproof you just add grass-fed butter and MCT oil. I think the Woolworths' home brand
butter is grass-fed so that's the cheapest. Make sure you buy UNSALTED! 

The MCT is going to be the hardest thing to find in Australia. I'd Google it. 1Lt should last you a couple of months and shouldn't cost more than $25. I personally use Now Foods MCT oil which I buy online for about $13 a liter, shipped to my New York apartment.

I use a plunger (French Press) for the coffee. About three heaped teaspoons of fairly coarsely ground coffee is my sweet spot. Add about 20g of butter (1/10th of a 200g stick) and start with one teaspoon of MCT, then titrate up slowly over two weeks up to about 4 teaspoons or 1-1.5 tablespoons of MCT. Decant your hot coffee into a blender or beaker, add the butter and MCT and then blend well for about 10-15 seconds. I use a stick blender. 

I recommend having bulletproof coffee in the morning as a breakfast substitute. I think it's good to take two days off a week from BPC and eat breakfast instead if you feel like it. 

Make sure you go easy on the MCT oil to begin with. You'll know pretty darn quickly if you've overdone it as you'll be running for the bathroom immediately. The MCT induced diarrhea, if you get it, usually sorts itself out after a couple of weeks. It's a fantastic laxative though if you overdose! 

Thanks for your question and I hope you enjoy your turbocharged mornings. Here's a full post on Bulletproof Coffee if you're interested:

William, 31 - London

Hey mate, I know it's been a really long time. I follow you on Instagram (and read a couple of blogs from Facebook) and the lifestyle you maintain is pretty impressive.

I've just made the move to London for a couple of years and lost 6kgs in 6 weeks (now 80kgs), just exercising. 

Chewing your ear off about Paleo would be great, but next best thing would be to know: can I go Paleo and cheat a little bit? A beer here, a burger there... or is it 100% or nothing?

Either way, really impressed with how you go about your lifestyle mate. I hope it doesn't sound weird to say it's a little inspiring.

All the best, Will.

The Paleo Model

Hey mate, 

Great to hear from you and thanks so much for your positive feedback. Sounds like you're enjoying London? I had to battle pretty hard in London not to turn into a fat, pasty blob! But rest assured - it is totally possible - especially with a great gym membership, some healthy shopping at Waitrose and quarterly vitamin-D getaways to Ibiza, the Greek Islands or Portugal!

That's fantastic that you've lost some weight. Exercise is a great way to lose weight initially but once you plateau you really have to keep bumping up the volume and/or intensity to maintain the weight loss, which can make exercise an unsustainable path to weight-loss in my opinion. That's why I preach that nutrition is key! 

As I keep saying Paleo is a lifestyle not really a diet, which means it's something you chip away at as a basic mantra but you definitely don't have to be 100% all the time. Life is for living!

I think the biggest thing to be strict on is gluten though if you really want to see the best improvement. I'd definitely try at least 30 days strict as your first buy-in with zero gluten (including beer) and zero dairy if you want to see what it actually feels like to be 100% Paleo. After the initial 30 day buy-in then I think having a beer once in a while is ok if you don't react badly to it.

I had a couple of Guinnesses the other night, for example, when I was in London visiting mates. I've probably only had about for Guinnesses in the last 18 months, it's not a regular thing.

"Non Paleo" foods you can be more lax on are non-gluten grains like corn, rice and oats, sugar and dairy... but don't let them become staples. Some yoghurt here or there or corn chips once in a while shouldn't throw you off track if you're good most of the time. 

The 30 day buy-in is the ideal way to get started on Paleo but if that is completely impossible then you can gently wade into the Paleo lifestyle step by step. Even if it takes a year until you are at the point where you don't miss lattes, sandwiches and beer then it is totally worth it. 

And trust me, once you experience how good it feels to have boundless energy, stable body composition and no bloating or puffiness; and how shit you feel after eating a bunch of gluten then you'll find it even easier to permanently avoid those junky foods. 

Once Paleo do you have to be 100% strict, 100% of the time? Hell no! While I don't believe in a "cheat day" I think it's absolutely fine to eat a "non Paleo" meal once in a while. 

Dare I say that Paleo + beer is still a lot better than no Paleo + beer. 

Eventually I guess you have to find what works for you. Hopefully it is 90% Paleo or better. 

Now, I personally think wheat (and for the most part beer) are worth completely avoiding - although Corona for example has zero gluten so that's probably not too bad in the scheme of things if you're going to drink beer.

So if you're Paleo most of the time and avoiding things like wheat, industrial seed oils and most grains then I don't think you need to stress about having ice cream once in a while or a burger on a gluten-free bun or even a gluten-free pizza. I also go through phases of eating a fair amount of cheese, typically from goat or sheep milk.

Funnily I'm actually writing this from Bordeaux in France so I've definitely been more like 80/20 in the last few days on holiday. I even had some bread today which I haven't had for over a year. 

Anyway, glad you're giving Paleo a crack and let me know if you have any other questions. 

I think staying off the beer is a massive challenge in London but would definitely help the cause if you're trying to get lean. Maybe white wine, rose, vodka-soda or tequila would be the way forward... 

Here's a post on what to drink and why:



OK, that's the best lifestyle advice I've ever received in under 10mins!

I suppose the biggest thing to overcome is moving away from the 'staples' and wheat/beer, as you say, given the lifestyle in London. 

Thanks again, mate. Really appreciate the thoughts. Good to know it's something the layman can also achieve.

All the best. Will.

The Paleo Model

It's easily done mate. Just lay off the wheat (sandwiches, pasta, beer, kebabs, pizza) and instead go for salads, meat and veg, wine and spirits, kebab plate (no bread). Even bangers [sausages] and mash or curry and rice or sushi is better than pasta or bread when you're out. 

And when you're at home eat more veggies, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, fruit and lay off the cereals, sugar and grains. Easy! It's worth it.

Keep an eye out for the next Ask The Paleo Model installment to learn how my friend followed some simple advice to lose 8kg for his wedding in just 10 weeks. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interview for Sous Style

Last week I did a really fun interview for Sous Style - a New York based lifestyle blog. They followed me around for a few hours on a fairly typical day - working out at the track, riding my beloved fixie, grocery shopping, and cooking them a tasty Paleo salad. In the interview I talk about modeling and Paleo and reveal some pretty funny anecdotes. Please check it out via the link below and share with your mates!

Still new to Paleo and trying to work out some substitutes for your favorite staple foods? Well here is a list of eight Paleo substitutes I frequently use. Some are fairly straight forward and obvious while others are a little more quirky. I'll give some basic 'how to' but for more detailed recipe just go ahead and Google them. 

1. Instead of white rice... try cauliflower rice

If you are going strict Paleo, if you want to restrict carbohydrates or lose weight then you may want to avoid white rice. Cauliflower rice is delicious, easy to make and more nutritious than white rice while being less energy dense and very low carbohydrate and high in soluble fibre.

  • Dice half a head of raw cauliflower in the food processor or as finely as possible with a knife. 
  • Place cauliflower in a big pot with about 1cm (1/2") of (boiling) water
  • Add sea salt and a couple of spoons of coconut cream (optional).
  • Bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes depending on how 'al dente' you want it to be. 
  • Drain the excess water then add seasoning to taste and maybe some grass-fed butter or olive oil to make it extra awesome.
2. Instead of cooking with canola/sunflower/other vegetable oil... use coconut oil

Refined vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, canola, corn, cottonseed and soybean oil are unhealthy and should be avoided as much as humanly possible. They are very high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 (linoleic acid) and have basically zero nutrition. 

Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is amazing stuff and should be consumed liberally but only when raw. Even though coconut oil and olive oil have a similar smoke point the fact that coconut oil is a saturated fat suggests that it is safer to cook with than the largely monounsaturated fats in olive oil, which tend to denature at temperature and are more prone to oxidation. 

Thus, use coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter) for cooking.

3. Instead of wheat flour... use dried shredded coconut

Wheat = gluten = bad news. Stay clear! You have been warned.

The Paleo diet is so effective because it eschews modern, processed foods. While you can technically make delicious "Paleo" desserts and baked goods using nut flours, dried fruit and honey I really don't think it is a good idea to be regularly eating muffins, cakes, brownies and chocolate mousse just because they are made from "Paleo" ingredients. 

Almonds are very high in omega-6, fat and energy. So if you eat a cake with two cups of almond flour just think about how extreme this is. Imagine if you had to collect that many almonds yourself!

don't often eat things that require a flour substitute, however I do use dried shredded coconut in my banana coconut pancakes and they are amazing. I also occasionally make carrot muffins using only carrots, eggs, coconut oil, shredded coconut, baking soda, walnuts and a tiny bit of honey if other people will also be eating them. 

4. Instead of toast... try a sweet potato rosti

Image courtesy of www.supideasypaleo.com 

If you really miss your toast and want some carbs with your bacon and eggs once in a while then try making a sweet potato rosti. Sweet potatoes are more nutrient dense than white potatoes and have a lower glycemic load. 

Side note: White potatoes are "not Paleo" because they are a nightshade and therefore contain some potentially harmful anti-nutrients (particularly in the skin). Also the carbohydrate in white potato is readily converted to glucose causing blood sugar control issues in some people. 

  • Peel a big sweet potato and then grate it into a bowl 
  • Add sea salt and pepper and toss
  • Heat coconut oil or butter/ghee in a frying pan
  • Take a big handful of the sweet potato and form it into a rough ball shape
  • Flatten this out into a patty and cook through, flipping once or twice. This should take about 10 minutes depending on the thickness.
5. Instead of ice cream... try coconut cream with berries

If you can find a nice, thick, delicious coconut cream (thickness and taste varies significantly between brands) then when it is cooled it makes a terrific substitute for cream. 

For a nice dessert add some berries and/or chopped banana to a couple of spoons of chilled coconut cream - and maybe even a little honey if you are desperate for sweetness. I personally don't use honey but I add some nuts, shredded coconut and occasionally shaved dark chocolate. This is my go-to dessert and it's bloody incredible! It all hinges on the quality of the coconut cream though. 

6. Instead of energy drinks... try Bulletproof Coffee

You couldn't get much further from Paleo than Red Bull, Monster or 5-Hour ENERGY. These drinks are simply awful concoctions of sugar and chemicals.

If you really need a Paleo power boost - especially in the morning - then you can't go past Bulletproof Coffee. Check out my post on it for more details but basically it is brewed black coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. It is Paleo crack... In a good way!

7. Instead of pasta... try steamed vegetables

This may seem boring but it sure beats the post-meal crashes, bloating and moodiness I used to get after eating pasta. 

Next time you cook up a Paleo bolognese sauce with beautiful grass-fed beef (and bacon) try steaming some broccoli and cauliflower and using that as a pasta substitute. I also really like to use Brussels sprouts. Make sure you add some olive oil or butter to the steamed veggies to maximize nutrient-absorption... and taste. 

8. Instead of sweet snacks... eat 85% cacao dark chocolate

If you haven't noticed I have an (un)healthy addiction to dark chocolate. The stuff is amazing. 85% cacao dark chocolate is rich in polyphenols, magnesium and healthy fats. The mouthfeel is pure decadence and once you get used to the intensity of near pure cocoa it is the perfect balance of bitter and sweet. 

Whenever you have cravings try eating about 15-30g of the stuff and you should be good to go. Try not to eat as much dark chocolate as I do though or you may have to check yourself in to CA (Chocoholics Anonymous).  

Food is like sex - it is enjoyable for reasons that transcend its practical function. So indulge guilt-free in good quality, healthy and enjoyable foods - preferably shared with friends and family - and you'll be better off for it!

PS - Please subscribe by email to receive these posts straight in your inbox. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Being of a Paleo persuasion, there are many foods I completely avoid that other diets insist are healthy. "High protein tofu," "healthy whole grains," "heart healthy vegetable oils" or "all natural agave nectar" are all foods I steer clear of.

But fear not, my vegan and vegetarian brethren. I have no beef with you! This post is about solidarity. Let's focus on the things that all diets worth their weight in sea salt can agree on. Here are six tenets that all good diets share:

Monday, March 24, 2014

When in Jamaica... Drink rum!

I write these blog posts for several reasons. Firstly I enjoy writing. I didn’t really appreciate it while I was studying Media and Communications at Melbourne Uni, nor did I enjoy Creative Writing classes. But now that it’s a hobby and no one is forcing me to do it, I love it! 

Secondly, I am absolutely passionate about nutrition. I find it fascinating. I think the word ‘passion’ is thrown around too much these days. It is an idealistic term. It’s like the concept of “love”. Yes you can be “in love” but it’s a bit of a vague notion - an internal reflection. In the movies characters romantically fall crazy, madly, deeply in love, but for most people it’s actually more of a slow burn - a journey. And then one day you’re like, ‘hmm… I think I’m in love”.

Well that is pretty much how it worked for me and my “love/passion” for nutrition. It’s been a thing in my life for a while. I grew up with a Mum who was borderline neurotically obsessed with holistic medicine (in a good way!). Our pantry always smelled like a health food shop and our fridge could wipe the smile off a child’s face in a microsecond upon opening… “Would you like some psyllium husks with your rice milk, Timmy?” 

Miraculously even this borderline-hippy upbringing, years of being called ‘soy boy’ at school and having to smuggle my own yeast-free rye soda bread to Cadet camp didn’t permanently turn me off healthy eating. After a few years of sausage-roll-and-chocolate-milk rebellion in my early teens I was back on the bandwagon, and this time with my own motivations! The rest is history. 

One recent evening I found myself listening to five hours straight of fairly heavy (dull) science on podcasts about autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity and I’m like, shit, it’s 2am and I should probably go to sleep but this is too damned entertaining! That’s pretty much when I realized that it was ok to officially label this as a 'passion'.

Now the third reason why I write these posts is because I love educating people. I’ve always been a bit of a know-it-all and have a knack for remembering all kinds of odd facts and stats. So it’s pretty easy and fun for me to relate all that I’ve learned over the years to a captive audience... Suckers!

The problem with forming an identity as 'The Paleo Model' is that people tend to think I’m some kind of superhuman diet freak, with a magical cape of self-discipline and an iron will. HA! 

Those of you who know me personally will attest to the fact that I am no saint. Yes I’m fairly disciplined and generally look pretty reasonable with my shirt off but I certainly have my vices. 

Often these days when people catch me eating rice, drinking a beer or sleeping in til midday after a late night they’re like, “WTF. I didn’t know you drank beer/ate rice/partied until 3am!” Well in defense to that, I don’t really have any defense. The truth is I do my fair share of unhealthy shit and I’m totally fine with it. Why? Because perfection is completely overrated. 

What’s your goal? Let me guess. You want to be healthy, happy, and preferably look good naked. Well trying to be perfect 100 percent of the time and then beating yourself up whenever you waver - which you will, often - is definitely not going to help you achieve those goals. 

Perfection is NOT the aim. Improvement is. 

I worked incredibly hard for years and years at my physique. I went through periods of straight up masochism - six or seven days a week in the gym for an an hour and a half a day, smashing through ridiculous workouts like the imbecilic Aries ram that I am! In hindsight the kind of training I was doing, paired with a fairly hectic travel, work and party lifestyle was quite stupid, completely unsustainable and probably bad for my health. 

I’m a lot smarter these days. I’m happy to trade off one or two percent more body fat to avoid getting colds every few months. I'm happy to be good at many different forms of movement than great at just one. I’m happy to have some corn chips and a couple of Coronas at a birthday party at a great Mexican restaurant. And trust me, I’ve done my fair share of crazy, unhealthy binge drinking and partying over the years. But I don’t regret that for a second. 

I honestly live what I preach for the most part. My diet is clean and my workout routine is well balanced and consistent. I make smart choices the majority of the time and practice willpower when I need to. 

Having said that, I still have room for improvement. We all do. My sleep could be better and I could lay off the caffeine and alcohol a bit more. But as I keep saying, having a few vices is what makes us human. And there's no reason why you can't be healthy, happy, look good naked and have some fun once in a while. 

As the psychiatrist explains to Bill Murray’s nervous character in ‘What About Bob?’ it’s all about baby steps - "setting small, reasonable goals one at a time. One tiny step at a time.”

This is such an apt analogy. 

If you want to try Paleo but you are daunted by the seemingly momentous dietary changes it would entail just think 'baby steps'. Maybe give up sugar in your coffee at first. Then switch to black coffee. Then give up wheat. Then ditch the cereal in the mornings and switch to eggs for breakfast. Eat less packaged food and more veggies. Trade in your weekend beer for a weekend vodka/soda. 

Focus on the small improvements. There is no need to be perfect, just try to improve. Before you know it you’ll be full blown Paleo and feeling a million bucks. Hell, Paleo may even become a passion! 

"Form a habit. Forge a lifestyle."

David Sciola.

PS - If you liked this post please take a second to share it on Facebook or Twitter. I take note of the popularity of these posts and it helps me decide what to write about in the future. Suggestions welcome. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Guest post on MindBodyGreen

I was totally pumped to get published on the massive health website MindBodyGreen this past weekend. It was so exciting to see my Twitter blow-up and to reach such a large audience and I can't wait to write another article for them. You can see the article here: