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!