new things!

While I was off work recovering from surgery, I spent a great deal of time watching movies.  One movie that I watched during this time caused me to radically re-evaluate conventional nutritional wisdom and the way I was eating.

I watched “Fat Head” after seeing a discussion about the movie online.  I thought it would be interesting to see a response to “Supersize Me”, a documentary that I thought was sensationalistic and over-simplified.  “Fat Head” was witty, engaging and thought-provoking.  After watching, I immediately texted my husband that he needed to watch this too.

Thanks to the resources put together by Tom Naughton on the website for “Fat Head” I was able to find a plethora of articles, studies and reports about saturated fat, cholesterol, fructose, etc.  These were all topics that I had been curious about and meaning to learn more about.

All of this information, combined with a read through of The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain and various first-hand experiences I had already seen finally convinced me that it was time to give a Paleo-style diet a shot.

In short, the Paleo style of eating eliminates all grains (wheat, oats, rice, etc.), legumes, sugars, dairy and starchy vegetables from your diet.  There are actually varied approaches around the Paleo/Primal community with respect to including limited types and quantities of sugars, dairy and starchy vegetables, but the elimination of grains and legumes seems to be consistent.

I was already limiting the grains that I was eating.  I discovered a number of months ago that my eczema was made significantly worse when I was eating lots of wheat products.  At the worst point of my eating, I was eating massive quantities of those foods and thus had continuous bad eczema flare ups. Before going Paleo, I was eating only sprouted whole grain bread (which has a lower gluten content than bread made with flour) and limiting the consumption of pasta to maybe once or twice per week.  I wasn’t limiting rice and rice products, as those seemed to have no ill effects on my skin.

I didn’t want to delay starting this new way of eating, but I also don’t want to waste a bunch of the food that I had just stocked my fridge with.  So my version of Paleo thus far has included Greek yogurt and some cheese.  I figured that I would finish up the supplies of what I had in the fridge and then not restock down the line.  I have also not given up coffee.  Coffee, even though it is brewed from a legume, seems to be accepted as a part of many Paleo diets, provided it’s consumed in moderation and is having no other detrimental health effects.

The immediate difference that I noticed in the first few days of eating Paleo was my appetite.  For as long as I can remember, I have been a hungry, hungry hippo in the mid-afternoon.  I could seriously eat everything in sight and still feel like I needed more.  This feeling was gone in the first few days of Paleo.  Since I wasn’t loading up on carbs during breakfast, but rather eating satisfying protein and fat, my body wasn’t crashing from the carb and sugar induced insulin spike.  At the same time, I observed that I need to ensure that I consume a quantity of fat early in the day as well as limit carbs and sugar, otherwise that same afternoon hunger reared its ugly head.

Connected to the lack of afternoon hunger was a maintained energy level throughout the day.  I’m sure we’ve all experienced that 3 o’clock wall, where your energy dips and you need some sort of boost to carry you through the rest of your day.  Rather than having a peak of energy in the morning and a crash in the afternoon, my energy level has been more or less consistent throughout my entire day.

I also know that my body has changed pretty rapidly over the past couple of weeks.  Between August 20 and September 1, my measurements changed pretty dramatically for that period of time.  I lost 1″ from each of the following measurements: hips, waist, chest, thigh and bicep.

I’ve had some mental hang-ups along the way that I’m still working through.  One of the biggest criticisms of the Paleo-style diet is that it’s “just another fad diet”.  This style of eating absolutely fits into my philosophy and approach of making a “lifestyle change” that I can live with for the rest of my life.  This is not Atkins or South Beach or The Zone.  This is a way of eating focused on health and overall well-being, not weight loss…though weight loss can certainly be a benefit of the diet applied appropriately.

Thus far I haven’t missed anything that I can’t eat at all.  It helps that I had already worked through the major carb addition I had over a year ago.  Actually, earlier this week I was missing the texture of crispy/crunchy like you would get from a potato chip (not that I ate many potato chips recently….)  Luckily, pork rinds are 100% Paleo, super crispy and actually quite delicious.  Crisis averted! ;)

Last night we were even at a concert in the park and I was surrounded by all kinds of tempting foods: popcorn, fresh potato chips, elephant ears, mini-doughnuts, chocolate, fresh lemonade, hot dogs, etc.  Only this time they weren’t even tempting, not even when the guy beside me was practically waving his elephant ear in my face.  I was totally satisfied by my packed snack of dried apple rings with no added sugar and mixed nuts and didn’t even consider a trip to the concession stands.

Overall, I just feel amazing eating this way.  It’s tough to describe all the small details, but my entire body feels good, my head feels clear and alert, and I feel strong and energetic.  After just 2 weeks, my husband and I were both feeling so good we decided to fully buy in.  We did a major cleaning of our pantry and cupboards to get all of the non-Paleo foods out.  We had lots of unopened packages and containers, so those won’t go to waste because they can be donated to the food bank.

I’m excited about food and cooking again!  I’m challenging myself with new vegetables and dishes, finding alternatives to old stand-by recipes or products, and discovering that there are a whole lot of delicious foods I’ve been ignoring.  Like pork rinds!  I’ve been reading books and blogs, and listening to podcasts in an attempt to take in as much information as I can.

The increased energy and motivation I have has been amazing.  We’re getting so many projects done around the house.  I just can’t bring myself to sit around on the couch all day and not move.  I need to be up, walking, doing, accomplishing things.  I love this new feeling.

Will I continue to eat this way?  Absolutely, perhaps with some tweaks in the future as I find what works best for me.  Will I always eat this way?  Only time can tell.  For now, I’m feeling great about this decision.

Lots of links!

Robb Wolf

Everyday Paleo

Paleo Diet Infographic

Paleo Plan recipes

Hunt Gather Love

Paleo Hacks

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