A Cavegirl Conversion

Paleo leftovers
OK. Let me just put this out there. I've never dieted in my life. I've never denied myself anything. My philosophy on food and life in general is never say never. I won't say "I will never eat that or never eat this, or never do that or this." In my experience, every time I've said 'never" I set myself up for failure. I'm drawn to breaking rules or going against the grain even if it's my own rules or against my own grain. Honestly, its fun to be naughty, and the more boundaries I have the more likely I'm going to sneak across them into the dark side. Yeah. I'll admit it. I'm attracted to a little bit of the bad. But, aren't we all? That doesn't mean I give myself full reign to misbehave. I have standards and I hold myself totally accountable for all my actions. But, moderation has always played an important role, and denying myself anything is just asking for trouble.

That being said, I spent the last 30 days being a cavegirl. I had boundaries. I had rules. I misbehaved. Yes. I'll admit it. I was bad. But, for the most part, I stuck to the central premise of the diet and did reasonably well, in my opinion.

I won't go into detail about what Paleo is all about. You can research that on your own here. What I will tell you is the basics. In a nutshell (pun intended), the Paleo Diet restricts certain food items including grains, dairy, beans/legumes, potatoes, sugar and processed foods. Allowed on the diet are meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, tree nuts, vegetables, roots, fruit, berries, mushrooms, etc. I wasn't super sold on the diet to begin with so my "buy in" from the beginning was less than optimal. I felt I was pretty healthy already and had no solid reason to alter my diet so considerably. That was until I read Robb Wolf's book, The Paleo Solution. I was hard-pressed to counter argue with his theories about how our bodies process carbs and fats. The dude went into some serious medical DETAIL! I was willing to experiment just to see how I felt. Everyone said I would feel great after 30 days. 

The Good: So I pretty much stuck to the no grains, no dairy, no processed foods, no legumes part of this diet. I was 97% diet compliant. Giving up dairy was hard as I was an avid milk drinker before beginning this diet. Eventually, I found almond milk which has become an acceptable substitute with twice the amount of calcium. Bonus. The other love I had to deny on this diet was beer. I enjoy beer. Real beer. The IPAs, the pilsners, the ales, the stouts. I love it all. This has been hard to avoid, but I have not drank one real grain beer throughout my experiment.  As I'm writing this, I'm close to 40 days in and still haven't cracked open a beer. (Sigh). It's all good, though. 

The Bad: Let's just set this straight. Alcohol is not allowed on the Paleo diet. (Hmmm. I'm seeing my weaknesses come out of the woodwork here). This is somewhat controversial as some would argue that paleo man could have easily had access to fermented fruits and such, even cannabis. (I seriously doubt those paleos could make as mean a "brownie" as I can). While no brownies were made or consumed during this diet experiment (sugar is VERY limited on a paleo diet and... well, I don't cook with "the herb" much these days), I'll admit a fair share of alcohol WAS. Seriously, though. I've said this before. A little happy hour every now and then keeps this mama happy and sane. Afterall, we're aiming for less stress, right? I probably consumed about 8 drinks over my 30 day trial period, including wine and trying a gluten/grain free beer. For the record, the gluten free beer isn't really worth it. Yes. I was a little naughty. 

The Evil: Here's where I expose my truly unruly behavior. My husband and I had one date night for Valentine's Day that included eating out at a real restaurant (which we RARELY do) and I consumed a half a basket of tortilla chips and some tasty fish tacos with corn tortillas during the first week of our diet. The meal was rounded out with a superb margarita on the rocks. Divine. I will also honestly admit to dropping a few chocolate chips in my mouth later that evening. Damn. I just don't know how that happened. I also still drank a cup of black coffee in the mornings hoping it was paleo, but never really knowing for sure and not caring to research it. Oh well.

So my cheats exposed here's what I noticed: 

The first week was the hardest. I felt weakish and hungry all of the time. I was ramping up my learning curve on what is and is not paleo. Apparently there's a lot of variations of the diet's do's and don'ts and I wasn't sure which tact to take. We took old recipes and paleo-ized them which wasn't hard to do and still yummy and familiar. 

The second week was still hard. Lunch was a struggle. No sandwiches, no hummus, no quinoa. I learned how to make paleo mayo and cook chicken ahead of time for chicken or tuna salads. I like variety and change and I hate leftovers, so I had to quickly adjust so I wouldn't skip this meal. Leftovers just became a necessary evil for me. 

The third week was paleo mojo. Found a handful of paleo websites and recipe ideas. I experimented with making my first paleo "bread" with almond meal, almond butter, eggs, zucchini and carrots. It tasted like bread and satisfied my baking urges. I also experimented with making paleo "cookies." I was adjusting to life without my old food staples and finally finding some acceptable replacements. Found a bunless burger idea that included fresh guacamole, carmelized onions, peppers, and mushrooms on top. SO TASTY I will NEVER eat a hamburger with a bun again! Did I just say never? Oh shit. 

The fourth week was habit. I finally stopped accidentally grabbing for the regular milk (we still give milk and grains to the kids, but have reduced the amounts considerably). My mindset has finally changed. I've gotten really good at improvising recipes and "paleoizing" our old favorites.

How did I feel after 30 days of paleo? I will be completely honest here. Not that much different. This could be because I was already a healthy eater to begin with, but more likely its because I misbehaved and missed out on the "full effects" of what the diet can do.

I lost 6 pounds. For some people this would be a pro, and most women will probably call me a bitch when I say this, but, I am not happy with this result. In fact, losing 6 pounds makes me look emaciated and a bit anorexic. However, after doing my BMI calculation I am still within the "normal" range for my height so medically this is acceptable to me. I still want those pounds back.

I lost my mind. Literally. I forgot EVERYTHING. I missed three important meetings within the first three weeks of the diet and I found it hard to concentrate. I blame it on the Paleo. My husband and I called it "Paleo Brain." I probably shouldn't be so hard on the diet here though. I've had the whole biopsy distractions to contend with lately as well which could be the cause of all my brain fails.

My menstrual cycle was tolerable and almost unnoticeable. The cramping from my menstrual cycle was greatly reduced and my bloating was gone. I didn't take pain meds to cope. I didn't need to. This was huge!

I found some absolutely divine recipes. I'm a big fan of trying new recipes and new foods, especially exotic fruits and vegetables. I discovered "riced" cauliflower as a substitute for quinoa and learned to make pancakes out of applesauce and almond butter. We've even joined a CSA to support our veggie habit and our local organic farms. This is also a huge step in the right direction.

I have healthy bloodwork. I had to do bloodwork (for other reasons) towards the last few days of my paleo experiment. This was an opportunity for me to compare my pre-paleo health to my post-paleo health. The last bloodwork I had done was in 2006. I had all healthy levels back then and wasn't sure what to expect this time around. My bloodwork revealed mostly similar levels with the exception of my cholesterol. I was pleasantly surprised to see the numbers drop. Granted they aren't at the "ancestral levels" Robb Wolf would like to see, the numbers for my total cholesterol and my LDL lowered by 8 and 12 points respectively. I wonder if they will continue to lower the longer I'm on the diet?

So... will I continue eating Paleo? You bet. Maybe not in the strictest sense, you know... the whole naughty thing, but I will continue to leave out the dairy, grains, potatoes, peanuts and legumes for the most part, although I would love a bowl of chili and a good beer once in a blue moon. I will still have my cocktails on occasion and my coffee in the morning. And dessert every now and then! My girlfriends would be very disappointed to hear that my dessert night parties are cancelled due to paleo. How could I let them down? I can't.

So I'm off to surgery this morning where I have a date with radiology at 9:30am. Then I'm off to a little pre-op happy hour around noon, followed by strange men fondling my breasts at 1pm. Under different circumstances this could be considered good times!
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  1. Totally agree with your Paleo Brain comment. If I don't bring fruit to work, I get a blood sugar crash unlike any other. I become a full-fledged dipstick.

    You already seemed like you had a clean diet, so I'm not surprised you didn't feel much different. I feel a lot cleaner because I pigged out on a bunch of crap all the time.

    Way to stick to it. If nothing else, I think paleo just gets you to look at food in a different way. It's not that you shouldn't eat certain foods. It's that there are more health options out there, and you should choose those first.

    It works for me, but not for everyone. Thanks for trying!

  2. Very interesting! Good to know about the paleo brain and to read Christians comment about it as well.
    Good luck today :)

  3. I've been pretty much paleo for the past year and love it.

    I found strange men fondling my breast last year totally not fun. I just don't know what's wrong with those guys. ;-)

  4. Very interesting information. You have me considering it. I just don't know if I could give up dairy.

  5. I've been sticking (mostly) to a raw vegan diet now since last fall.
    If I go by what I have learned, and I know diet is a fuzzy topic, I'd say your paleo brain is the result of a high fat diet.
    I live on fruit and never experience a crash because my daily calorie intake from fats are less than 10%.

  6. Nick, that's some interesting info. I think a diet tweak here and there is in order. Honestly, I've probably sliced my protein intake in half since giving up the milk so I'm trying to increase my protein for now. We'll see what happens with that. Its amazing how many different ways of eating there are. I'm telling you, though, I'm not a huge fan of "diets." I really want my beer!

  7. Yeah, I'm not much of a "dieter" either... I crave my burgers and fries now and again... Oh, and a bucket of ice cream for dessert.

    The thing I found though with the raw vegan diet is how amazing I feel. And that makes it worth it for me. Most of the time at least!

    The thing about protein is that if you eat raw veggies and fruit (no dehydrated nuts etc.), then your protein intake averages roughly 6-8% of daily calorie intake.... This is the same percentage as found in breast milk which is obviously you primary (only) source of nutrition during the time in your life where your growth will peak. An Olympic bodybuilder will not be able to increase body mass at the same rate as an infant.

    Enough of my preaching :) although I'm not exactly what you could call a diet-Nazi, I am amazed at the results when I stick to the ideal that seemingly works for me.


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