I want a F*^&#(@ jar of overnight oatmeal with Greek F#)$&_@! yogurt topped with God D*@)# granola that tastes like a box of mother f!*$#&(@ COOKIES!
Now that the bitch has had her say, let me rewind to my whopping 6 days as a paleolite (paleotarian? Paleoithian? Paleo-in-my-ass?). It began as a week long, just for fun experiment.I’d been doing some reading, the literature made sense and the recipes looked pretty tasty, so why not? I’m not huge on the ‘I’ll start Monday’ mentality, in fact I kind of abhor it. If I’m going to start something, I just start it, right there, at that moment. So, I started with dinner last Friday.
Diet/lifestyle experiments had brought me to pretty good places in the past - Vegetarianism opened my world to alternative protein sources and veggies galore. Veganism widened the protein-source and veggie spectrum even more, and showed me a world beyond dairy and animal products, to the amazing universe of plant nutrition and alternative cooking/baking options like flax/chia eggs, almond milk, apple sauce for oil and bananas instead of eggs. It also opened me up to things like daiya cheese and nut ‘cheezes’ and sauces. Raw foodism pushed me beyond the confines of the conventional kitchen, introduced me to dehydrating and juicing, a convenient way to prep food without the waiting while something cooked (perfect for my pressing impatience). More recently, I’d embraced gluten/wheat-free living, which I just love! Sure, it has it’s difficulties, but it’s also given me coconut flour, and I love me some coconut flour. Again, my cooking/baking horizons have been widened, my eating habits are getting even cleaner with more veggies/fruit and less of the packaged and processed junk.
At this rate, I was already 80% paleo. The only thing left was dairy, really. I didn’t really eat beans/legumes that often anyways, so that wasn’t too big of a deal to drop (even though I just bought a can of chickpeas to make CCK cookie dough dip…damn it!). I was considering an elimination diet prior to the paleo experiment to try to combat my tummy issues. I was bloated all the time like those starving African kids you see in infomercials (what I refer to as ‘African Baby Belly’) and it was getting to the point where it was interfering with my energy levels and workout/running performance. Moving isn’t exactly fun when you feel like a 1000 tonne whale. So, why not try paleo? If not for anything, then to just hit the reset button on my body, so to speak, like a cleanse or a detox from the man (processed/packaged food)!
Paleo Pros: Paleo eating, from what I experienced in 6 days, does what it claims to. In just a week, my energy levels were beginning to even out. Not to get ahead of myself, I was/am still feeling tired, but not bonked out to the same extent like I was, and there were certain times of the day where it’d hit me that I wasn’t feeling like my energy was completely zapped.
Hunger ceased to tug at my tummy strings every 2 hours. Before this experiment, I was just constantly hungry, always reaching for things to munch in between meals. The snacking was becoming kind of a problem, I mean that sht adds up. Sure it was a carrot stick here, a pinch of cereal there, a couple of berries…but calories are calories and even lettuce leaves are 20 calories per half a dozen! And I was never satisfied. The magic on a paleo diet lies in a healthy dose fat. As I upped my fat intake, I noticed I was fuller for longer, if not always. There was a day I didn’t have one hunger signal - not one! I was absolutely amazed. And perhaps it’s the fat intake that led to the improving energy levels. Even more reason not to fear the fat! I was incorporating it into practically every meal without a thought, and feeling the benefits in satiety without the bloat.
No bloating! I swear, my bloating has improved! Perhaps it’s the elimination of dairy, of which I realized I was eating an obscene amount of daily. I’m talking 2-3 servings a day, sometimes more. So the lesson here is to cut back on the dairy.
I wasn’t left feeling hungry, but if I was, I ate. Eating this way helped me let go of counting calories a bit. When I did track just to be sure, I found I was right in line with where I was supposed to be, and I did it intuitively. Tracking, though, had a negative effect because then I got caught up in it again ‘just to see/make sure’ about a meal or how things added up. But in terms of hunger signals and satiety, I found I became bit more in touch with my body’s needs.
Again, my horizons were widened. I explored meat a little more, albeit within my own restrictions - no beef, no pork (personal preference). I moved beyond the chicken breast and added in thighs (OMG SO GOOD). I even considered re-introducing pork and beef, but the thought actually makes me a little queasy. Someday, maybe, but not right now. Paleo baking was a fun kitchen experiment, although fails were common (here’s lookin’ at you, paleo cereal. Round 2 is coming, your ass is mine).
Paleo Cons: Paleo is highly restrictive. At first, I didn’t really have a problem with it or feel like I was restricting. To me, I was making a conscious health decision. Just as I’d chosen to eliminate sugar from my diet, and gluten/wheat, just as I’d chosen a low carb, high protein, moderate fat approach to clean eating, I’d chosen to take a step further into optimal health and completely remove anything that had been altered at the hands of man by going paleo. In the first few days I was in the ‘this is new and exciting and I’m trying all these recipes!’ phase, but when that initial honeymoon phase ends, you realize just how difficult this lifestyle is to maintain. I missed oats. I have so many ideas for oats! And I’ve been craving a breakfast cookie like you wouldn’t believe.
I found myself saying ‘I can’t’ when it came to food options because such-and-such isn’t paleo. It may sound insane but by my sixth day, I find my relationship with food went from slowly but surely becoming a healthy one, to being dangerous and demonizing again. It brought me to a place I don’t want to be with food, and going against my own values in not demonizing food, in enjoying food and having a healthy relationship with food. While I believe paleo can/does improve one’s relationship with food in reconnecting us to REAL FOOD, the demands of this lifestyle paired with my slight Type A, be perfect, go big or go home and not a total fail personality did not mesh.
It was also difficult to reconcile cutting out certain food groups without knowing without a doubt that I was sensitive to them in any way. If I had been tested by a doctor, told that I was lactose intolerant or something like that, then yes see you later dairy, it’s going to be hard but I literally and physically/biologically CAN NOT consume you. But if I can, why force myself to eliminate something I enjoy?
At the end of the day, a strict paleo lifestyle is one that I personally can not maintain. It made me kind of bitchy in the end with all the restriction. I found myself browsing all of my favorite healthy foodie blogs, lusting over pictures and recipes I couldn’t try. It was depressing.
The Final Verdict: Did I hate it? No. Did I enjoy it? Yes, parts of it. And it’s those parts that I’ll incorporate into my current and ever-changing healthy lifestyle. I’m still learning a lot about paleo, and have learned a bit about myself in trying paleo, things that have proven to be extremely valuable. For now, I think 80/20 Paleo is more my style.
I have an insane amount of respect for people who choose to live the paleo lifestyle 100%. You people are rock stars. No really, like superhuman amazing individuals. I think about today’s society and it’s disconnect with real food, about the countless different diets and professionals telling you what’s healthy and what’s not, about the fast food chains and restaurants, or how the grocery store is 90% NO PALEO, NO!, to stick to your guns, to honor and put your health first in such a way is truly commendable.
If there’s one thing I wish people would take away from the Paleo lifestyle, instead of scoffing at it and seeing it as the absolute motherload of cray, it’s to open their eyes to their disconnect with what real food is and what we should be putting into our bodies. This gets into a much longer post than I have time to knock out right now, about society’s disconnect with what food actually is, but in short EVERYONE should take lesson that away from Paleo.
At the end of the day, though, it’s about doing what’s good for you. And I’m sorry but for me, NO PALEO, NO! :)
Would you be willing to undergo a paleo experiment? Have you? Are you paleo? What challenges have you or do you face?