Read on to find out how he turned things around…
I live in Caracas, Venezuela. 45 years young. I come from a mixed Italian/Venezuelan family so I like Italian and Caribbean food.
I work in the family business that my father founded more than 50 years ago. We manufacture, amongst other products, steel toe caps for safety shoes. I am the president of the company.
I am married to Gabriella since 2004 and we have two beautiful kids (Stefano Jr – 7 yo, and Alessandro – 5 yo).
I don’t really have hobbies since I have practiced sports almost half of my life. Swimming from 5 to 12, fencing from 12 to 17, soccer from 15 to 21, then, my first big mistake, I stopped because I got so involved in my postgraduate studies (Applied Sciences, and MBA) and my job.
I love music, especially jazz, R&B and soul. I like female singers. I also like cooking, and I consider myself a good cook. I read a lot about cooking, and write my own recipes, which I share with my family and friends mainly during weekends and holidays.
I also do a lot of tech, lifestyle, fashion and politics reading. I keep myself updated.
Three years ago I started to learn and practice Bugei (Japanese Art of War), a form of study of traditional martial and spiritual Japanese disciplines.
As I said before, I practiced sports at a competitive level since I was 5 years old. First, swimming which I left at 12 years old to start practicing fencing which I did until I was 17. Then I got into college where I played soccer until I graduated in Electrical Engineering. Then I went to the US to study Applied Sciences at Harvard University and immersed myself in my studies. I believed I had no time for anything else.
When I got back to Venezuela, I studied for my MBA and at the same time I was working in the family business and teaching (Programming, Communications and Project Management) at Universidad Metropolitana. I graduated from the MBA as the #1 student in 1999.
During that time I started to gain weight. I went from 78kg (172 lbs) to 103 kg (227 lbs) in 2013. I liked to hang out with my friends in nice restaurants as a way to have fun.
I tried several diets but my lifestyle did not help. I should say, I lost every healthy habit. Ahhh…and I forgot, I used to smoke – a pack of cigarettes a day.
Then, in December 2007, I went on vacation with my family in Barcelona (Spain). I got a cold and a very strong and unstoppable cough. I decided to quit smoking. Since that December I gained 1 kg (2.2 lbs) a month.
What was the “clincher” that persuaded you to jump on the paleo bandwagon?
One day I went to the doctor to have all my blood tests done. I was very worried because my triglycerides level was at 600mg/dL. So my doctor told me to repeat the lipid tests again. The triglycerides level was at 800mg/dL this time.
I was in shock, and so was my doctor. He told me: “You have to diet and workout right now,” and he prescribed me Lipitor 40 mg and sent me to a nutritionist. The nutritionist gave me a “balanced diet”, where I had to weigh food and take care of portions. I was so frustrated. I stayed on it for no more than 10 days.
Then I tried an endocrinologist, who told me that I had to have Lipitor and metformin and pioglitazone for life. Then I was more frustrated. So I went back to my doctor who shook me…He said: “Do you want to see your kids growing up? Then, DO SOMETHING!!!” That was it…
How did you approach going paleo – gradually or dive right in? / How did you find the transition?
I started to diet by myself, researching, counting calories in food, and studying how my body reacts to each food. I realized that my body “does not metabolize” carbs. Every time I had carbs (even in small quantities) I stopped my progress in weight loss or gained weight. So, I eliminated almost every form of carbs in my diet. Coming from an half Italian family, that was very tough.
So, in some way I was getting into paleo without knowing it. In the meantime, I was walking/jogging 5.5 km (3.42 miles) a day.
Ahhh!!! But I did not take any medicine like Lipitor, metformin or anything else.
After 6 months I had lost approximately 10 kg (22 lbs) but then I noticed I was not only losing weight but losing muscle mass too. At that moment I researched how to gain muscle mass while dieting. I had several resources, like Jerome Fitness, Brian Di Santo, and many others, but I discovered Doug McGuff M.D. and his book Body by Science. I learned about creating muscle mass with High Intensity Strength Training.
One day I found a Doug McGuff video (on Youtube) at the 21st Convention, talking about the chemistry of the High Intensity Strength Training protocol. In this video he said something like: “ I am going to explain to you why Mark Sisson is right…”
After that I googled Mark Sisson, and found the whole paleo/ancestral community on the internet. I realized that I was dieting, somehow, in a paleo way. So, at that time I just needed to study a little bit more about paleo eating and living.
I did some easy changes in food and workout to get fully into paleo.
How paleo are you? (80/20, 90/10, autoimmune, etc.)
I believe I am 90/10.
What improvements have you noticed in your health?
I waited one whole year to repeat my blood tests. I found after that paleo year all my values went to acceptable levels. Cholesterol = 205mg/dL and triglycerides = 130mg/dL. But the main improvement was that I had lost 23 kg and I felt more energetic and capable of doing things, like sprinting, jogging, jumping, carrying, etc, without getting tired. Now I play soccer or Frisbee with my kids and I am unstoppable.
And, well…I don’t want to be presumptuous…you’ll have to ask my wife about other improvements. 😉
Tell us about “A Day In The Life Of Stefano” – a typical day especially from an eating and exercise standpoint.
- Monday: Bugei
- Tuesday morning: Push-ups / Tuesday afternoon: Isometrics (Planks + Abs), and 5 km walk.
- Wednesday: High Intensity Strength Training and Bugei
- Thursday morning: Push-ups / Thursday afternoon: Isometrics (Planks + Abs), and 5 km walk.
- Friday: Rest
- Saturday: Bugei
- Sunday: Isometrics (Planks + Abs), and 5 km walk or Sprints (6 x 500mts).
- Breakfast (6.30 am): Coffee and almond milk with chia seeds + eggs and bacon or ham over cassava + 1 banana or green apple.
- Lunch (12.00 m): Any meat (poultry, beef, fish, lamb, etc) + veggies (a lot of them) + 1 banana or 1 green apple or 1 peach
- Snack (between 4 and 5 pm): Handful of almonds or 5 dates or 1 cup strawberries
- Dinner (always before 7.30 pm): Any meat (less than at lunch) + veggies (a lot of them)
- All day: water, green tea, lemongrass tea, citronella tea…A LOT!!!
What helped you when you were struggling?
There are days when I feel I need sweets or I am very hungry. The first thing I do is drink two glasses of wáter and wait 5 minutes. Sometimes it goes away but some others I am still hungry. Then I eat some tuna, almonds or a salad, and a piece of dark (more than 70% cacao) chocolate.
What do you think are three critical factors to being successful with paleo?
The key factor is knowing your body and how it reacts to food, how adapted you are to non-paleo food and knowing how primal you are. Those are the three most important factors: Knowing yourself, your adaptation (or not) and how primal you are.
What do you say to people who ask you about paleo?
People ask me different things about paleo: how many times a day I eat; they ask me about working out; how many kilo’s I’ve lost, etc. I tell them that it takes time but after some weeks you understand your body and so many things about life. I have found myself. I understand now how my body works. That being paleo is great and easy. That the immune system will change in your favor. That you will lose weight in an easy way. It is not a diet…it is a way of life.
What has been the reaction to your paleo success from those around you?
Some people do not even recognize me. Within my family (Italian) they can not believe I have tried pasta just three times in twoand-a-half years. Some others believe that I am crazy and that living paleo is complicated. But my best satisfaction is that friends and relatives around me are turning to paleo. My wife, close friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. I even have a mailing list with tips for those that want to be paleo.
How has your life changed now? (More activity, promotion at work, stronger relationship, etc.) What activities do you do now that you didn’t do before?
It has changed in different ways. I am very, very active. I workout almost every day, and I feel like I want to move all day. I can’t stand doing nothing. I am always in motion.
Before paleo, I used to take my car to the supermarket two blocks away from home. Now I walk to it.
As I said above, I practice Bugei, and I will soon be teaching it after I pass my exam for Shidoin. I also play much more with my sons. They like to play soccer, so we practice almost every weekend. And I believe that every one in my family is happier because how I feel and look today.
What books/blogs/support groups did you use to help you?
YOUR BLOG IS GREAT!!!!. I read Mark Sisson books (The Primal Blueprint is a must) and his Marks Daily Apple blog. Because I like to cook I look for paleo recipes in several sites or blogs on the Internet, but I have found Primal Cravings (Brandon and Megan Keatley) a wonderful source. And then, you can take a look at all the “follows” from my account on Twitter @cachacascan.
Have you experienced anything negative as a result of your changes? (Earlier success stories mentioned having to lose certain “friends”, others have said there are restaurants they now avoid because they can’t eat their former favorites.) How have you dealt with those negatives?
A friend of mine told me once that I am in a kind of a cult. Jajajaja!!!
Some times it is difficult to go to restaurants because you can’t eat 100% paleo. Try to go to a Japanese sushi bar and don’t have soy sauce. Or try going to an Italian restaurant and not having pasta. At the beginning it was very hard. Now I don’t consider it a big deal…I just try to eat the closest to a paleo way. If I have or want to try any non-paleo food I do it in very small quantities. I don’t have that desire that I had before for non-paleo food.
What three practical tips would you offer our readers based on your experience? (Refusing bread being brought to the table when dining out, packing all lunches yourself, asking other family members not to bring home cookies, that kind of thing.)
Ohhh no!!! I believe in my way. I don’t know about others. I don’t want to invade other people’s life as I don’t want anyone to invade mine. I simply don’t have the bread while my kids love it with butter, I drink water while my wife or friends drink wine…my rules are just mine.
Sometimes I have a gin and tonic (my favorite) at home with my wife or out with friends.
The same my doctor told me. If you have small kids, wife, loved ones…and you want to be with them … do you love yourself? DO SOMETHING. Paleo works for me. I invite you to try it.
I love how Stefano has worked out his own blueprint. Being unable to metabolize carbohydrates was essential for him.
And for you? Was there an “aha” moment in his story for you? Tell us!
What were your takeaways from Stefano’s story? What did you learn? Please let us know in the comments – you will gain far more from his success story if you do. 🙂
Thank you Stefano!