Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 365

A year ago tomorrow I began my experiment with eating according to Paleo parameters. And what a year it has turned out to be--certainly among the most full, most challenging, most stress-filled of my life thus far. But also among the most wonderful.

There have been more-compliant periods and less-compliant ones. Even some long stretches of almost entirely non-compliant eating choices. All of them have taught me that I feel noticeably better when I'm adhering to Paleo principles. But, no matter what I am eating, Christ must be my mainstay.

Days and weeks and months ahead promise to continue to surprise and challenge me. Not a thing will surprise my Savior. His grace is sufficient.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Here I Am

Wow. Almost three months since my last post! Life has been very full, and sometimes perplexing.

Not long after the end of my Whole30, while I was still eating mostly compliantly, I developed digestive symptoms that surprised me. I will spare you the full details. Let's just say I was on the fast track. I struggled for days, then weeks, trying to figure out what I was eating that was making my system so unhappy. My symptoms were severe enough that my energy was getting low--some days I felt wrung out. And sometimes I was even hesitant to leave the house. I cut things out, added things in, but nothing seemed to help. It was very discouraging to be dealing with these issues when I was trying so hard to eat well.

I even resorted to eating regular bread, cheese, and other off-plan foods to see if something would change my gut reaction. Sometimes I would get some relief in that area, but the rest of my body (other than my tongue) did not like that one bit! I was getting achier, more fatigued, and just feeling low-grade crummy.
Through all of this I continued to read voraciously (online and also in print--It Starts With Food, by the creators of the Whole30 program is packed with helpful information and answered many questions for me). I researched the GAPS protocol and gave that some serious consideration. That protocol is specifically designed to enable the gut to heal, and clearly my gut was not in a healthy place! But GAPS is pretty hard-core, so I view it as something I will reconsider as a "last resort" if need be. I saw that even Paleo authors acknowledge that gut health is of primary importance, and I began to understand that, in some cases, the gut may go through a time of being worse before it gets better. When one significantly changes one's diet, the microorganisms that live inside of one must re-balance. Only one way to find out if mine is one of those cases...

So I started another Whole30 on July 1. It turned out to really be a Whole21, because we ended up taking an impromptu trip to the beach for a few days, but it was still super helpful in getting my eating back on track. I also noticed digestive symptom improvements. I am still trying to isolate just what foods are irritating to my gut. I suspect raw vegetables are a bit much for me right now, but particularly tomatoes (one of the Nightshades I had initially left out of my first Whole30). This is something of a bummer, since it is summer, and salads are yummy, and I love garden-fresh tomatoes. But there is still plenty of other yumminess that doesn't give me tummy troubles!

It is all still in-process: figuring out what works for me as an individual. There truly is no "one size fits all" way of eating and there are more things yet to try (such as the autoimmune protocol, which is similar to the beginning of my first Whole30, but stricter). I still have absolutely no desire to go back to my former way of eating--I've dabbled, and it is so, SO, SO not worth it for me.

I am very thankful for the abundance I have been given: abundant information, abundant food (and abundant variety of food), abundant support from family and friends.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Works? What Challenges?

I am taking this post to reflect on the things that have worked for me as I have pursued Paleo eating. And I will also describe some of the challenges I have found. This is very individual, of course. Each person will find his or her own triumphs and trials.

What Works:
  • Sharp knives! There is a lot of vegetable-cutting to be done, so high-quality sharp knives make life easier.
  • Coconut This has become the cream in my coffee, the liquid in my greens, the oil in my pan, the soy substitute in my Asian dishes, the flour in my pancakes, the whipped cream *and* the crunchy topping on my dessert... An incredible array of things is made from this homely drupe: milk (I use the full-fat canned version) from which cream may be separated (for coffee, or whipped for dessert), oil, aminos (which taste just like soy sauce), flour, shreds, flakes, and even a "nectar" for sweetening.
  • Avocado I love this fruit now more than ever before! I have eaten it for any meal of the day, or just as a snack. Mashed and made into a dip or a mayonnaise stand-in. Sliced as a side dish. Chopped in a salad. Even just eaten with a spoon, right out of its handy peel-bowl. It goes with everything, sweet or savory. And it is full of fabulous fat.
  • Eggs Once I challenged them on day 21 and detected no obvious adverse reaction I began eating them almost every day. I hard cook a dozen at a time in the oven and keep them on hand for quick eating. My guys really love this.
  • Homemade Mayonnaise Using pasteurized eggs I have made this with both lemon juice and with Bubbies pickle juice. Both ways taste great. The immersion blender makes incredibly quick work of this task. This is the only way other than mail-order to get mayo without any unhealthy oils in it. I use it for tuna salad, on hard cooked eggs, or for dipping cold leftover veggies or meats.
  • Creative eating Keeping myself open to eating things in unusual combinations, or at unconventional times of day. Many people are fond of eating breakfast for dinner, but I have grown to enjoy eating dinner leftovers for breakfast. Some of my most delicious lunches have resulted from just grabbing things out of the fridge and putting them together as some kind of salad.
  • Enjoying foods for what they ARE The coconut aminos I mentioned above do taste just like soy sauce to me, but that is the exception, not the rule. Coconut cream does not taste like dairy milk cream, but it is delicious to me in its own right. I love spaghetti squash, as squash. I do not expect it to taste (or feel) like pasta.
  • Never eating food I don't like Not that every bite has to taste amazing, but I'm not going to subject myself to choking something down because it is touted as being good for me. No way. Knowing that I am going to enjoy every food I put in my mouth is a great encouragement to stay on plan.
Challenges: (with growth areas)
  • Eating out  My husband and I love to eat out, but we have found it surprisingly difficult to find menu items that are Paleo-compliant. It doesn't seem as if finding meat/chicken/fish and vegetables would be so difficult, but there are very few entrees on the menus at our favorite eateries that don't contain grains, dairy, or legumes in some form. Even things described as "grilled" have arrived at our table having obviously been lightly breaded and pan-fried. (We are learning to make fewer assumptions and ask for exactly what we need.)
  • Unsweetened beverages This has been particularly tough for my husband, who loves juice and sweetened tea, but I, too have struggled to stay hydrated. (Citrus slices added to water help, and Good Earth Organic Original herbal tea has a [hopefully]natural sweetness and is good hot or cold.)
  • Planning I am still struggling to plan effectively in order to keep adequate food in the house, and decently-constructed meals coming out of the kitchen every day. With eating out being a challenge, planning is all the more imperative! (I am getting better as time goes on.)
  • Refrigerator space Uncooked vegetables are bulky! Each of the three of us should ideally be eating about 8 cups of vegetables a day. So the fridge can get pretty crowded. (I try to make an additional produce run midway through the week.)
  • Out-of-stock staples Especially eggs. Since I use unconventional eggs (from pasture-roaming hens, as well as pasteurized eggs), they are sometimes unavailable. This has happened with other items, as well. (Sometimes I locate an alternate source. But also I am learning patience and trust and thankfulness for the abundance that I do have.)
Two-Sided Coins:
  • An abundance of online information Lots of helpful things, but it can certainly become overwhelming.
  • Clean kitchen Such an important part of being able to cook efficiently, but it takes a considerable amount of time every day! 
I always imagine the Paleo pros effortlessly serving up perfect meals to their adoring family and friends while snapping magazine-quality photos of each step of the process. That sure isn't what my kitchen is like (or is ever likely to become). I am okay with that. It is great to be having new kitchen adventures, and discovering yummy new recipes, all while feeling noticeably better.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I Did It...sort of...

Wow! I began my 30-day Paleo adventure April 1, and I can hardly believe it is already complete. I began with an even more restricted eating plan (no eggs, nuts, or Nightshades) because I wanted to try to determine if any of those foods is an issue for me. I challenged eggs after the third week and was relieved to not have any apparent adverse reactions to their reintroduction. Several days after that I challenged Nightshades, and I detected no reaction to the ones I've tried thus far. Two huge gastronomic sighs of relief! I have not yet reintroduced nuts because I had several exposures to those during my 30 days, so I need to give my system a bit longer to reset before I challenge those.

I cannot claim to have truly completed a Whole30 program, though. On day 27 I went off the reservation. Due entirely to my own lack of planning and execution, I found myself out of the house that morning with few prospects for Paleo-compliant eats until early evening. So I made the decision to eat fast "food" for breakfast. Not just eggs. And not just a little bit. No, I ate two egg-ham-and-"cheese" muffins. A definite learning experience. The first thing I noticed was, "Hey, these don't even taste like anything!!" I had never noticed that pre-Paleo. The second thing I noticed was that they sat in my stomach like a lump of playdough. It was as if my stomach was asking, "What in the world am I supposed to do with THIS?!" The third thing I noticed was that the lump of playdough was still there six hours later! Yuck. When I got home that evening I peeled a mango and devoured it like an iguana. Within minutes my stomach felt better. And then I got right back on the Paleo wagon and stayed there!

Results? Well, after blank-ty years of eating a pretty typical SAD (Standard American Diet) I was not expecting any astounding changes in the span of 30 days, but here is what I've noticed for myself:
  • noticeably less daytime fatigue (which is a huge deal for me)
  • ZERO cravings during the whole 30 days (this *was* actually astounding)
  • much quicker recovery time after physically demanding activities (another huge deal for me)
  • drastic reduction in cycle-related pain
Those are all subjective "results," of course. Since I forgot to weigh and measure myself prior to starting the adventure, I cannot give completely objective results. But I did compare my current measurements to some I made about a year ago before and after I completed a "detox" diet. Last year I lost 6.5 lbs, and 3/4 of an inch each off of both my waist and hips in three weeks. I know I put some of that back on, subsequently. After finishing the 30 days of April this year, I found that my current weight is 4 lbs lower than last year's "after" reading. My waist is 2.5 inches smaller now than it was after last year's diet. My hips, however, are about the same (or maybe 1/2 inch bigger) as they were after my "detox." Which explains why my pants fit about the same, but cut into me less when I'm seated. My conclusion (for whatever it is worth) is that I have lost a considerable amount of the dreaded "belly fat" that television ads and programs are always going on about. And I never counted a calorie, or a gram, nor did I perform one single crunch (not that there is anything wrong with that).

I was not on a diet this April. I had no intention of losing weight or inches. I just ate Paleo. Yes, there were times that I was hungry, because I hadn't yet figured out how to keep enough of the right foods available for eating. Mainly I ate as much Paleo food as I wanted, whenever I wanted. And I never once ate anything that didn't taste good. Except the aforeconfessed drive-through thingies.

What now? I have absolutely no desire to go back to my former way of eating. It is wonderful to be noticing positive physical changes, but honestly I want to stick with Paleo because I LOVE the food! I am planning to challenge the eliminated foods (dairy, grains, and legumes) to see how my body responds to them. That way I can be an "informed indulger" at social occasions and whatnot. But I feel like I have a whole lot more deliciousness to explore in Paleo-Land! I even bought Nom Nom Paleo's iPad app and have started trying more new things.

So the adventure continues!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cave is a Verb

Or: If You Are What You Eat, Then I Am a Nut!

Last night I violated my Paleo-minus parameters and ate some walnuts. Do I feel guilty, discouraged, or even disappointed? Nope. It was late, I was so hungry I knew I would not be able to sleep, and there was nothing else quick to eat (aside from fruit [of which I had already eaten too much yesterday], and I know sometimes a high-carb snack can be disruptive to sleep). So I chose a protein-and-fat-rich snack that is Paleo-regular compliant.

It is definitely challenging to stick to the elimination of eggs, nuts, and Nightshades. But especially the eggs and nuts, because they are both great quick-and-easy protein sources. Last night was the first time I have deliberately eaten one of those foods in almost three weeks, but there have been a couple of times that I have unintentionally eaten Nightshade spices or nuts. No eggs whatsoever, though. So by the end of tomorrow I will have gone three full weeks without eggs in any form, and I am thinking to myself that maybe three weeks is going to be enough for me... Just for the eggs. We'll see.

Yummy improv discoveries in the past week plus include:
  • throwing together leftover carrots and green beans with leftover nitrate-free bacon
  • semi-supremed oranges topped with coconut flakes and coconut cream
  • tuna-avocado salad (mashed avocado in place of mayo) lettuce wraps
Melissa Joulwan's book, Well Fed continues to prove invaluable to me for inspiration, and for specific recipes. She describes her method of doing a weekly "cook up" to pre-prep proteins and some veggies, and then on any given evening one simply decides what flavor profile to pursue and then combines protein, veggies, and seasonings on-the-spot to create a fast and delicious meal (she calls them hot plates). My tongue is totally crushing on her Caramelized Coconut Chips (which are almost as fast to make as microwave popcorn!), and her Ras el Hanout spice blend is SO amazing--even without the cayenne (a Nightshade spice)--that it has helped me not to miss Indian and Mexican flavor profiles so much.

My "new vegetable of the week" was bok choy. Shockingly quickly I had a tasty Chinese-inspired "hot plate"combo of grass-fed ground beef, onions, garlic, ginger, coconut aminos (tastes just like soy sauce), and bok choy. It was so good I did it again the following night with broccoli florets! My guys and I loved it.

I still have not gotten into a rhythm of planning, shopping, prepping, and executing. But, then again, I cannot say that I was so great with that before this little adventure began... I just kind of go into a grocery store two or more times per week gathering whatever vegetables look fresh (and trying to challenge myself to try new ones), and trying to stay stocked on protein foods.  

Despite last night's spelunking, I am having a great time trying so many new things!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Eating Rainbow

Yesterday was Easter. My sister came over and together we created an Easter Feast that actually included all of the colors of the rainbow. ROYGBIV. Red were the tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and raspberries. Orange was the butternut squash. Yellow was the lemon zest. Green were the asparagus, avocado, lettuce, and celery. Blue were the blueberries. Indigo were the blackberries (or so we decided). We were stuck for our final color until she proclaimed that the "red" onion she was mincing was, in truth, Violet! We chopped til we dropped, then enjoyed that yummy, yummy rainbow...

Yesterday also began my second week eating strict Paleo-minus. The first week was surprising in a number of ways:
  1. I had NO cravings. There was not a single moment when I was battling the urge to go off plan. Sure, there were times that something "off the menu" sounded or looked good, and there were times when my lazy self would have been happy to grab something easy, but I seriously was not even tempted. I was astounded by this, because I have gone off of sugar before, and it was very difficult.
  2. I ate really delicious food every day. Even when I was ravenous and in a hurry (thank you, Emergency Guacamole and Sublime Sweet Potato!).
  3. I tried lots of new recipes (including two to serve to guests--usually a "don't"). The ones listed above I made up on the spot, but I also made Breakfast Hash, Impromptu Green Salad with Tuna (another "on the spot" creation), two versions of Collard Greens with Coconut Milk, and from Melissa Joulwan, Ras el Hanout spice blend (which I used in beef and greens dishes), Whipped Coconut Cream, and yesterday's Deconstucted Gyro Salad.
  4. I faithfully made a lot of veggies. I am a slacker, so I'm always surprised when I manage to do something that actually takes effort. Collards, salads, butternut squash, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes (lots of sweet potatoes), etc.
  5. I learned to like coconut cream in my coffee as a substitute for cow's milk cream. Even though it is far more expensive and is a bit of a hassle to prep.
Last week I was on "Spring Break" from one of my main occupations. This week my challenge is to continue to eat Paleo-minus in the midst of my normal routine. One challenge I foresee is that I will have to fit breakfast into my morning schedule. Previously I was either skipping breakfast or eating something grabby and sweet (like a Lara bar or yogurt with a banana). I have found that, on Paleo-minus, skipping breakfast is a bad idea because it throws my eating times and amounts off for the rest of the day, and it is difficult to eat enough for that day. And eating anything sweet first thing goes completely against the Paleo grain. Without eggs or nuts my breakfast options are dinner leftovers, or cooking meat.

Well. I just have to "Make it work," as Tim Gunn would say. :)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Love and Other Food

April 1 was a very big day. My younger daughter became engaged to a fine young man who is beyond anyone she had ever dreamed of meeting.

And a family friend stepped out of his comfort zone and into my volunteer position to enable me to be part of the surprise party at the proposal.

All of this on Palm Sunday. The day we celebrate the Bridegroom's triumphal entry into Jerusalem days before He gave Himself as a living sacrifice on the cross for His Bride.

A day full of true soul food.

My first day of intentionally feeding my body according to Paleo (minus eggs, Nightshades, and nuts) guidelines.

The engaged couple invited us to celebrate their happy day with them at a local restaurant, so I have already had practice with dining out "on plan." But it was not the food that filled me.

Later that day we drove past an old graveyard with headstones at various angles from all of the years gone by. I thought of all of those lives, and the days they may have had in which their hearts were filled with joy. And all of the others who shared the joy with them. Sorrow is always waiting to come and try to negate the joy. Like weeds in a garden.

But sorrow does not win. With the curse of weeds comes the promise of redemption ( Through the Bridegroom our sorrows are now rendered temporary, though we may feel them deeply for a time, and our joys are transformed into glimpses of the unfathomable and everlasting delight that awaits His Bride.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31) Remembering that even the most delicious food we eat in this life is merely a foretaste of the feast to come (