Thursday, April 8, 2010

"Paleo? Like Paleolithic?"

If you've gone Paleo (which sounds incredibly trendy, akin to 'he's gone vegan' or 'she's gone emo'), then you've probably been met with this reaction when first sharing with your family and friends your new "crazy" diet. When you try to explain primal eating to someone who knows nothing about it, to say it's a challenge is a drastic understatement. Let me give you my canned 1 minute summary I give to friends and family when encouraged to eat grains/dairy:

I read this book over my Spring Break that completely changed the way I view food/nutrition. The book was written by Loren Cordain, a CSU (go Rams!) professor with a P.h.D. in Health and in interest in Anthropology. The premise of the book centers around the fact that our bodies are still designed to eat the food our Paleolithic ancestors ate for 2 million years. Since the advent of agriculture some 10,000 years ago, a slew of diseases began to develop that were previously unknown (diabetes, cancers, autoimmune diseases, obesity, even acne, and cavities in teeth). There is much research evidence to suggest that the onset of grains, dairy, and starches are contributing to these diseases. Basically the book says you can eat as much lean protein as you want, as many fruits & veggies as you want, and a limited amount of seeds/nuts. You limit your sodium and sugar intake as well. Theoretically, you are supposed to become leaner and healthier in a couple of weeks and you don't have to count calories.

So here I am, $100 worth of produce bought, an incredibly nerdy book about nutrition checked out from the library, and a head spinning with nutritional jargon (being a Literature major in college, most of this means little to me). I am one week into my Paleo experiment (I began on April 1st, a very UN-foolish declaration I gave my husband- still not joking about it, honey). I have noticed a couple of things:

1. I caved in one night and went out for a hamburger with family. The next morning I had the hardest time waking up and getting out of bed. I don't know what's to blame for this (perhaps the carbs or the fat or both), but I definitely can tell the association between my diet and energy.
2. In relationship to number one, I've had TONS of energy. I was seriously addicted to caffeine (usually a cup of coffee in the morning and a diet soda in the afternoon- everyday. religiously.). I have not had to drink caffeine at all. The few times I have had coffee were more for pleasure than necessity (you have to either drink the coffee black or with a splash of almond milk in lieu of cream. You could also probably use Stevia or Splenda depending upon how much of a purist you are). I am a beginning runner and I was able to run 4 miles (without walking at all) for the first time ever on Sunday (after only 3 days Paleo). Go me. :)
3. To really put myself out there, I've had much more...ah...movement in my digestive track. I would usually do the number 2 thing once MAYBE twice a week. In the week since I've started eating Paleolithically: every damn day. I guess this is a good thing, although I don't feel too ladylike. Coco Chanel once said "A woman should always be two things: classy and fabulous". Can I speak of the fabulous bowels movements I've been having?
4. I eat less. When I want a snack, it's usually fruit, beef/buffalo jerky, or seeds (sunflower). I've definitely been consuming less calories. Lean protein has a higher satiety level than carbs or sugars and fills you up faster and for longer. Hence, less caloric intake (that's right, hence).
5. It isn't always easy. I feel very motivated because I have been having negative health issues for quite some time, but my husband (who is self-proclaimed "doing just fine with grains and dairy") finds it a challenge to stay true. He often comes home having "slipped" and eaten a cookie with lunch.
6. It's more expensive, but you get more QUANTITY and QUALITY than you do with grains and dairy. I spent $100 on produce (and Paleo related items like Canola Oil), but I have six bags of groceries. I've eaten more fruits and vegetables in the past week than I think I have in the entire last month combined. For example, yesterday alone I ate: avocado, kale, blueberries, peach, pineapple, lettuce, apple, blackberries, red peppers, green peppers, onion, swiss chard, mango, and grapes.
7. The dishes are endless. Gone are the days where I microwave the breakfast burrito wrapped in the papertowel. Now, I have to wash and cut up vegetables & fruit and cook meat. It's okay though, the energy I have makes up for the extra dishes to wash.
8. I'm having a difficult time not preaching primal eating. I try to convince everyone I know to try it or to agree with me. I feel self-righteous. I can't stop reading about it on blogs, websites, and books. I feel enlivened everytime I see a new Paleo take on an old classic recipe.
9. Despite using little to no salt and cutting out sugars, things are starting to taste better. My tastebuds feel like they are starting to wake up. I crave things I never did before- like water and walnuts. :)
10. Guilt. The first 2 nights I tried primal eating I would dream of carbohydrates. I would find my dream self in an Italian restaurant craving the breadsticks and pasta. I would watch television and think with every commercial "I can't eat that anymore" over and over again. The obsession with "can't eat" is gone and I can truly say that I am starting to actually enjoy eating the fruits and vegetables. I was a notoriously picky eater as a child (sorry, Mom) and I am discovering a world that I didn't know existed suddenly. I am an explorer in a new land. Really, who thought cherry tomatoes would be so good? Who could have imagined that cucumber would taste fresh? I feel guilty when I cheat and don't eat Paleo now.

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