my month of paleo.
towards the end of 2012, i knew i needed some kind of reset with my eating habits. my sugar consumption had gone kind of overboard, i was slowly realizing that i’m at least mildly lactose intolerant, and while i’m not typically a new year’s resolution maker, it was just an easy marker for making a change. i have never in my life been a thin person, and i’m working on accepting the idea that i never will be, so this wasn’t overtly about weight loss. i’ve also struggled with eating disorders and eating disordered thinking for a long time, so i try to be very careful with the idea of a diet, because chances are i’ll get really obsessive and unhealthy over it (although most of this country is obsessive and unhealthy about weight in general, but my body positivity rant is for another time). mostly, i knew i wasn’t doing it right and i wanted to hit the reset button. a month is an easy goal to try to stick to.
all of this in mind, sometime in december, i decided that for the month of january i was either going to go very low carb (which i’ve done before), or i was going to go paleo. for the uninitiated, paleo eating is meant to mimic that of our hunter gatherer ancestors, and you eliminate any and all grains, dairy, legumes, refined sugar and all of it’s cousins, and really, processed food. it’s meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. basically.
so here are the things i’ve learned along the way.
1. eating well is very expensive: the bouncer and i have typically spent approximately $100/week on food for the two of us for the house, and that’s with eating lunch out several days a week at work, and ordering takeout once a week-ish. we probably spent $650-$700 this month on food which is RIDICULOUS. that said, we bought lunch at work a lot less and have barely ordered takeout or eaten out at all. i also needed a bunch of paleo “supplies” like coconut oil – which i spent $30 on for the month, but i have a pretty huge jar now which will last me a while. eating produce and meat all of the time is very pricey, and it really highlights the problems with the politics that surround food in this country. again, a rant for another time. you’re supposed to eat as cleanly as possible on paleo – go organic as much as you can, do grass fed, antibiotic free, humanely raised meats – and i couldn’t do that all the way. i got a lot of nitrate and nitrite free bacon, and i’ve made a habit of buying hormone and antibiotic free chicken, but buying that kind of meat around my area of brooklyn is CRAZY expensive and i was already going way out of budget for this experiment.
2. you actually get used to it pretty quickly: the initial transition is kind of rough, but not for very long. the first week is fine – when you cut carbs in general your hunger cycles change within a few days, or mine did anyway (and usually do). i no longer got hungry quickly and intensely – it came on really slowly and i could go a lot longer between big meals. you can blame this on blood sugar and hormones like leptin, i think. it was about week two where i really craved things, and after that it was smooth sailing. i’d adjusted to my new foods, my new style of cooking, and the process of making sure i had snacks and lunch packed every day.
3. i haven’t really lost weight: this could come in time, or it could not. i know i’m definitely less bloaty and a tiny bit smaller, but for the most part i am the same. i have, however, not been skimping on nuts or fruit, or counting calories. i hate saying this because it feels like an excuse, but i’m pretty sure i have a difficult metabolism and i hold onto fat REALLY well. also, i’m not exercising (i think that’s a project for february). i did some research and i think if i wanted to truly focus on weight loss, i would need to watch my sugar and also start working out. i’m choosing not to be too concerned about it.
4. my energy levels haven’t changed: if you follow my life at all you know i struggle with low energy fairly consistently, and this was no different. i actually felt very, very tired during the middle of the month, but i think i was not eating enough veggies/protein/complete meals and too many nuts/fruits/snacky things. i’ve evened out, but i haven’t noticed a really significant uptick in energy or mental clarity.
5. you’ve got to do it the way that works for you: while i was intrigued by the idea of the whole 30, and it was pretty close to what i actually did, i can’t say i did one because i did knowingly go out of bounds. i had sushi twice, and frequently let myself have a square or two of dark chocolate in the evenings. i ate a few pieces of cheese. i did make sure to REALLY enjoy what i ate when i went off the plan, and i made a very conscious effort to make these small indulgences not in response to emotions. the concept of emotional eating actually makes me nauseous to think/talk about because it feels so deep, private, and shameful to me. what i learned is that i do have the power to treat or soothe myself in other ways, and there are very awesome ways to have tiny indulgences that are glorious and do not feel like derailment.
6. i drank: alcohol is off limits on paleo/whole 30, i think, but i drink pretty infrequently and i wasn’t concerned about it. i had a bunch of wine when i was out for alana’s birthday and i had the very best time, and, maybe not coincidentally, also drank some when i was out with alana and bob the other night. there are times when i unintentionally go months without drinking so, i’m not concerned.
7. this is totally do-able: on february first, i had a salad for lunch. i really don’t have a strong desire to go back to processed, shitty food that isn’t really food, and i’ve developed these habits so i’m of the mind that i’m going to stick with this as a lifestyle, for the most part. the bouncer decided to give himself 1-2 “cheat” meals a week and maybe i’ll follow that path, but i really enjoy the way i’m eating, and i feel like it’s become easier to make healthy food choices. i’m posting this after a week long vacation, and even though i was not at all strict when i was away, i found myself craving the good food i’d eaten throughout january (and i have some cauliflower rice on the stove right now).
8. i do want some modifications for the long term: i am really interested in beans. and cheese. i plan on not being so strict with my consumption of whole grains (quinoa, lentils, etc.) and while i intend to be more conservative with my dairy, i am not living without cheese. have i emphasized cheese enough?
more than anything, i’m proud of myself for making a decision and following through with it. i’m great at making grand, sweeping, declarations of What I Will Now Do with regards to food, exercise, and eating and i assign a lot of rules and i make shit really hard and i always fail. i wasn’t perfect with this, but i did an amazing job and shocked myself with what i am capable of.