Suck it, n=1
Sometimes I feel like the blasted n=1 equation that I’m supposed to embrace as a paleo devotee is really an abbreviation for a snarky Neener, neener! from the universe.
What is n=1?
In scientific research, the variable n represents the size of the sample, that is, the number of people involved in a study. So the equation n=1 means it’s an experiment of one. Like me. Or you. Robb Wolf’s blog has a pretty great article that explains the ins-and outs of self-experimentation. If you want to improve a paleo experience that’s already working, or you want to tinker with your paleo framework because it’s not working the way you want it to, that piece offers solid advice for how to do that. (Mark Sisson also has a nice post on self experimentation.)
Want to see what an n=1 experiment looks like in real life? Holly over at Holly Would If She Could is really good at them. And that’s no small feat because to have a successful n=1 experiment, you must control the variables… which in real peoples’ language means “no cheating.”
Holly recently did her first Whole30 after being paleo for two years and enjoyed some pretty surprising results, and now she’s tackling The Great Skin Care Experiment to see if that helps with skin issues that have been annoying her for a while.When she talked about her experiences in Estes Park last weekend, she inspired me.
Confession time: I haven’t been all-in with my “get myself healthy and fit” program. I’ve been 90% compliant with the Whole30 guidelines, but I really wonder what would happen for my poor, beleaguered body if I truly cared for it with clean food for 30 (or 60) days.
This is how it usually goes: I eat 100% Whole30 for two weeks, then just when I start feeling really good, I decide I should celebrate by eating buttered popcorn at the movies, or a fancy dinner with a few glasses of champagne. Neither of those things is a deal-breaker for a body that’s working properly, but given that I’m
just getting over still in the middle of living with a big thyroid experiment and adrenal burnout, I think it might not be a bad idea to be squeaky clean for a while to really give my body a chance to stabilize.
Plus, I recently had a little consult with the fabulous Amy Kubal, who suggested I might want try the autoimmune protocol for 30 days, just to see if that helps get some movement in the fat loss department. So…
My current n=1 adventure
I’m going all-in. For real. I’m starting with 30 days — and I might stretch it to 60 — of 100% compliance with Whole30 guidelines and the autoimmune protocol, which means no nuts, no eggs (and consequently, no homemade mayo), and no nightshades, which includes eggplant, peppers, paprika (sob!), and chili powder. I’m not going to lie, friends, the idea of giving up mayo for a month nearly sent me over the edge. Then I had to get real with myself.
I “can’t” give up mayo for a month.
Of course I can. And it’s not even that hard. Tuna with scallions, garlic, a dash of vinegar, a pinch of dry mustard, and plenty of extra-virgin olive oil is delicious.
Plus, I really hate when a sentence that begins “I can’t…” comes out of my mouth. That is so lame. No matter what it’s in reference to… of course I can. Of course you can. Of course we all can.
I had a chat with a friend on the running trail this morning, and I told her that I was going to kick in my stubbornness and discipline for the next 30-60 days. She got a wary look on her face and asked me, “Does it feel like strictness or does it feel like self care?” I didn’t even hesitate: it feels like self care.
And that’s when I knew that even though I might hit a few rough patches over the next month — No Chocolate Chili! No mayo! No Merguez Meatballs! Minimal eating out because who knows what spices and sneaky eggs might end up in my restaurant food?! — this n=1 experiment is another link in the chain of learning the best way to take care of myself. And while it might be uncomfortable and inconvenient at times, it will not be awful. It will not break me. It’s not even really that hard, in the grand scheme of life. It just means a few different habits — and perhaps, I’ll make some wonderful new food discoveries as I concoct recipes without eggs, nuts, and nightshades.
Now, friends, join me in fervently hoping that the autoimmune experiment proves I have no issues with eggs or nightshades, because there will be whining like no one has ever heard if homemade mayo and paprika are out of my life for good.
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