Long time, No post

Hello long lost friends!

Life has swept me up and carried me away the past few months.  Family events, school, and now work have all combined to keep me away from blogging.  However, you will be happy to know that I’ve stayed Paleo in the midst of everything!

It has been over four months since I began the Paleo diet to find a way to manage my Fibromyalgia.  The first couple of months were a real struggle.  I threatened to pull my hair out, and my family was not too happy with me or the diet.  However, by month three things started to click.  I stay within the 80-95% range of the Whole 30 plan.  Restaurant food is the biggest reason that I break any rules.  I’m still learning about all the crazy stuff they put in food at restaurants. I went to Chuy’s (Mexican restaurant) the other day and learned that they put gluten in the spice packet they use on their fajita meat. What on earth???

Anyways, so far there are several awesome results of sticking to this diet:

  • I can eat any paleo-approved vegetable out there with almost zero side effects.  Occasionally, too much cabbage will upset my stomach, or other things like that. However, it’s nothing compared to what I experienced before.  The rest of my family is also doing better with vegetables.
  • I rarely crave the unhealthy junk food I used to eat, and I really enjoy the various flavors of real, whole food.  My taste buds have adapted nicely to this way of life.  I feel so much more satisfied at the end of a meal, and I don’t feel the need to eat all day like I used to. I’ve also noticed an increase in my energy levels.
  • I’ve lost about 12 pounds and I’m still losing! I didn’t set out to lose weight and I’ve been more sedentary than I’ve ever been in my entire life in these past few months, yet the weight just keeps coming off.  The rest of my family is losing weight as well. We all needed to.  This is such a relief, because I don’t have the ability to exercise right now.  Before going paleo, I was gaining weight rapidly and had no idea what to do about it.

All of these reasons have convinced me to stay paleo as a way of life, at least for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, though, there has been no improvement in my pain levels.  The diet has made no difference in this area.  The next step, perhaps at the end of the summer, is to look at autoimmune versions of paleo, or other diets designed specifically for people with chronic pain.

I feel that going paleo was completely worth it, and there may yet be some improvement.  We will see, I suppose.

 

Discouragement, Honestly… and always some hope

Ok, so I knew this was going to be hard.

I was wrong. It’s been even harder than I thought.

I knew it would be a huge adjustment to cook basically every meal. (My life before now was an embarrassingly haphazard combination of cereal, canned soups, random fruits and meats, breads, crackers, and drive-through meals.) I knew I would have to learn some more advanced cooking skills.  (I’ve never enjoyed cooking, so I’ve always left the complicated stuff to the professionals.) I also knew I would need to plan and prepare more than I ever have before.

What I didn’t understand was the big picture of putting this all together.

This is not a part-of-my-life change. This is an all-of-my-life change. (This is where all of you say, “Well duh! We already knew that!”) I guess I knew that in theory too. Now I am experiencing it!

Just in case you were wondering, let me describe for you what I and one other family member have been doing the last three weeks:

  • Looking at endless paleo recipes on pinterest and other websites.  Printing and organizing them into a binder, then making a meal chart for the week.  Then, taking all those recipes and writing out every ingredient I need to buy. With the quantities (which I forgot several times, so I had to go back through and find the ingredients again). Then, trying to organize that massive list into something that I can actually use in the grocery store.
  • Visiting three different stores, reading labels and perusing produce carefully and cautiously. Checking my list three and four times. I’m not joking– each two-three hour trip left me feeling slightly dizzy with a massive headache afterwards.
  • Learning all about vegetables that I’ve never eaten before.  For example, I had no idea how to pick a spaghetti squash or a butternut squash. I didn’t even know what they looked like! There are tons of types of sweet potatoes out there. Which ones will my family eat?  Why does this store have only two types of lettuce, and this store has five? Which ones do we like?
  • Reading America’s Test Kitchen’s reviews on all kinds of fancy kitchen equipment that I now need and trying to find the best prices for those items, either online or in stores. I don’t have the luxury to just buy things without paying attention to the price.

At the end of round one or two of this, I realized that making basically 21 recipes every week was just not going to cut it.  (A more astute person would’ve figured that out right away, I’m sure.) The most logical thing was to try the “weekly cook-up method” in the “Well Fed” cookbook by Melissa Joulwan. However, I always make things harder than they are and even this has not been easy. It still requires going to at least two stores.  I have been comparing prices online for some items, like coconut aminos and almond flour, with prices in stores. I’m keeping track of prices in three different stores plus online for eight or more items, and my head hurts.

For the weekly cook-up, you need to have a day for shopping and a part of a day set aside for prep.  However, with my Fibro, I don’t have enough energy to get everything done in two days.  The method starts to fall apart in some ways if you don’t have everything there and ready.  It’s also very experimental.  It’s quick and easy (after the shopping and prep work) and requires you to be willing to try a lot of different mixtures of spices, meats, and vegetables.  My family is still getting used to this idea. Honestly, I’m still getting used to the idea.

Surprisingly, in the three weeks that I’ve been at least 60% paleo, I haven’t missed bread or other grains really. I haven’t had any bread in at least three weeks, maybe longer.  I’ve had rice only a handful of times.   I’m truly and thoroughly convinced that gluten and grains have done me much more harm than good.  I’m happy to leave them behind. I’ve learned that I can feel satisfied and full without them.

What I’m really missing is the convenience.

The convenience of grabbing whatever and eating it.  With Fibro, I already feel exhausted most of the time.  Planning and preparing meals is just one more burden.  The shopping, at least right now, is the biggest burden. My grocery bill has tripled, which is causing some sticker shock.

However, my whole family is determined that this is still what we need to do.  We’re surprisingly and stubbornly positive about the whole thing. We are praying hard and doing our best to love one another and ourselves through this process.

The planning will get easier. We’re already learning how to eyeball the amount of vegetables we need per week (it’s astronomical!!!), and I know how to pick a spaghetti squash now. I know where to buy coconut milk and I will remember to stock up so I don’t have to go back more than once a month.

Finally, we aren’t as hungry as we used to be.  Eventually, I know that all this good food will give me more energy. Eventually, I’m praying that the pain will be more manageable.  Even if eating paleo doesn’t change my pain levels, I know I will still be healthier and happier.  And so will my family, which is even more important.

Follow up on the plan: Solving Paleo Puzzles

Previously, I posted my plans (here) to go 60-70% paleo by the end of last week.  Well, I think it’s safe to say that I achieved that. YAY!  Part of the reason I haven’t posted in awhile was that I was too busy cooking. 🙂

The good: I found some things that I really enjoy eating, including kale and bacon, breakfast sausages, green fajita chicken, and more. I also found everything I needed for a week’s worth of paleo cooking in just two grocery stores.

The bad: Not everyone in my family enjoys the same things I do. Likewise, I don’t enjoy some of their favorites.  This is going to be a hard adjustment for all of us. The flavors, textures, and organization of meals is radically different. My family is used to the evening meal including a meat, vegetable, and a starch with something sweet to finish it off (fruit or a dessert). Putting a satisfying meal together is probably the hardest part right now.

The ugly: I and one other family member in particular are teaming up to plan and cook all the meals.  By the end of the week, we were both overwhelmed at the amount of time we had spent in the kitchen.  We started the week by eating maybe 80-90% paleo everyday. By the weekend, we were lucky to eat 50% paleo. We are determined to get organized and come up with a plan to prep most of the food in one day, and then we won’t be so overwhelmed all week long.  It’s a learning process!

This past Saturday, I took a younger family member to the local Museum of Natural Science.  In the section on paleontology (think dinosaur bones), there was a board with pictures of men digging up and examining fossils. The title of the board was “Solving Paleo Puzzles.”  I laughed and took a pic to send to my family.  We all feel like we’re working as hard as those guys out in the field to solve a different kind of paleo puzzle. 🙂  However, I think we are as determined as any scientist!

Hunting and Gathering

At some point, you have to stop researching and start eating.  Well, I’ve reached that point.  I know enough to begin experimenting. But first? A trip to the grocery store. Let the games begin!

The modern hunter-gatherer, such as myself, does not go out to the woods of course.  Instead, I go to the urban jungle and enter the chaos of Trader Joe’s. On a Sunday. *Shudder.* What was I thinking??

Previously, my awesome friend who is already on the paleo diet had taken me one calm weekday evening to a Trader Joe’s near her and introduced me to some of the basic necessities of the diet, including almond meal, cashew flour, coconut oil, 100% pure almond butter (great substitute for peanut butter), ghee, and other great items that are hard to find at your average grocery store.  If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, you should check it out! My friend says they are often cheaper than your bigger health food stores. You can’t get everything there, but you can get almost everything.  You have to be careful.  I bought several packages of dried fruit with the TJ brand name, thinking they would be safe. However, when I got home I realized the second ingredient list in all of them was sugar!  Trader Joe’s is not Paleo Joe’s.  Something I will keep in mind from now on.

Items from Trader Joe's

Here are some resources that I am referencing when I make my paleo gathering list:

The crazy strict lists.  (Think of them like the pirate code in Pirates of the Caribbean.  “They’re more like guidelines.”)

  • Unique Whole30 lists designed for specific issues: Autoimmune, IBS, and Low Histamine
  •  The basic Whole30 list.
  • The Well Fed Cookbook author’s list.  She gives great advice on guessing how much meat you will need per person, etc.

Here’s the Plan, Stan!

Or Dan, or Melissa, or whatever your name is…

I am breaking all of the rules!  Everything I’ve read about paleo recommends you immediately clear out your pantry and your fridge, and go shopping for all paleo-approved ingredients.

Just like that. Overnight.

Well, that’s great.  However, I’m neither rich enough to just throw away food that I’ve paid for, nor am I wasteful enough.  Plus, every one talks about the “paleo flu.”  This is the withdrawal phase that most people experience for a week up to several weeks after drastically changing their diet.  (Whole30 even outlines all 30 days of withdrawal here! Yikes!) Going cold turkey isn’t bad, but it isn’t for me.  I’m sorry, but my Fibro causes my body to hurt like I have the flu all the time anyways.  Let’s not add anything to that, ok?  This diet is supposed to help me feel better, not worse.

So, I’m gradually switching over to a paleo diet. Every day for the last week, I’ve tried to make at least one meal paleo, maybe two.  I’ve also changed my snacking. No more crackers or candy.  Now, it’s blueberries, oranges, olives, dates, and other healthy items.  I even ate a salad two days in a row! I hate salad!

Someone in my family was unfortunate enough to get the real flu last week, so some of our plans have been curtailed. However, by the end of next week I’m hoping to be 60-70% paleo.  Drinks, snacks, meals, etc.

I haven’t noticed any changes in energy levels yet, but that’s to be expected. Here’s to the plan!  As they say on Meet the Robinsons, “KEEP MOVING FORWARD!”

Paleo Anonymous… Breakfast Failure

Hi, my name is Cave Girl.

Hi Cave Girl.

It has been 0 days since I last ate grains.

Shocks and gasps all over the room.

Yes, I had toast for breakfast.

Breakfast is a really hard meal! I’m used to eating cereal, toast, or oatmeal with some fruit for breakfast.  I’ve discovered I can’t tolerate eggs very well.  Who doesn’t love bacon?  However, you can’t have that every morning.  Some people like the author of the Well Fed Cookbook recommend that you give up the idea of breakfast and just treat as a regular meal. No special foods, just another dinner or lunch.  Have chicken and veggies for breakfast. You get the idea.  Is it merely psychological, or is my stomach protesting because it’s not made to eat a heavy meal in the morning?

I and a friend attempted this recipe for Sweet Potato Hash for breakfast, with some substitutions required by the limited supplies in our pantry. (I’ve also put this in the recipe section.) Here’s a picture of what it looked like when we were done:

Image

We tried to pretend for awhile that we liked it.  But… we never ate the leftovers. Try this at your own peril!

Paleo is a Class Society

Is it just me, or does anyone else sense that there are “levels” of paleo? I’m guessing the Whole30 is about as high society as it gets, although at least those lovely folks only expect you to manage that for 30 days. After that, there are some who bake and cook with natural sweeteners and flour made with nuts.  Finally, there are people who *horror* eat white potatoes.

I also read something somewhere about people who only eat raw meat and raw vegetables.  They probably consider themselves at the top of the paleo class structure, and I’m perfectly fine with letting them think that. Aren’t you?  Let’s leave those poor people alone.

I’ve always been a middle class girl, and I am perfectly satisfied with staying there. The goal, at least right now, is to cut out those foods that cause inflammation.  Eventually, I would like to try the Whole30 but it’s going to take awhile before my body can handle that.

Whole lot of trouble!

I’ve been checking out the Whole30’s eight steps to becoming paleo.  It’s pretty intense!  They don’t allow any sweeteners, even natural ones like honey. No white potatoes, and worst of all- NO PALEO BAKED GOODS! Aahhh!  I understand their reasoning for this rule. They want people to break bad habits of eating sweets and unhealthy junk foods.

I guess I would be willing to give up everything but meat, veggies, and fruit for 30 days. The problem is that I can’t eat most veggies, even cooked.  It’s part of my IBS symptoms. I love veggies, but they really hate me. I may not be able to manage the Whole30 version of the paleo diet. I like having the info as a baseline, though, and keeping as close to that line as I can.

Where Do I Start?

I’m not gonna lie, the amount of info out there about Paleo is absolutely overwhelming!  Not everyone follows the same rules. I even read one short book that said, “Just think about what a caveman would eat.”  I have no idea what cave men ate!  I’ve been on a farm maybe three times in my life.  I’m a city girl whose idea of meat comes in a package, and vegetables are those things you buy and bag by weight.

All that being said, I’m also really grateful for all the info out there.  It’s nice to be able to read other people’s blogs, or get free kindle books on Amazon.com all about paleo. They have a ton!  Honestly, pinterest is a lifesaver.

I’ve been perusing this awesome blog, Cave Girl in the City.  This blog is not the first to mention something called the Whole30 or the Whole9.  What is that? Well, I’m learning that it’s basically a synonym for Paleo.  These guys at Whole30 have packaged it into a trend.  Their website is pretty cool.  The first eight steps are here.  I’m working through these right now.  Hopefully, this will help me to decide how I’m going to go about this whole Paleo thing.

Why Paleo?

Why not?

Do I agree with the theories behind the diet? Let’s just say I’m skeptical. Incredibly. Skeptical.  Even if I wasn’t, my friend who majored in anthropology would be happy to be skeptical for me.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • The Paleo diet is incredibly limiting.  Which means I can rule out a bunch of foods at once. As I slowly add them back into my diet (after 3 months without any of them), I will have a better chance of figuring out what, if any, foods or types of foods have an adverse affect on me.
  • Most of the foods on the off-limits list are known to cause digestion problems: gluten, legumes, refined sugar, dairy, etc.  All of these have been proven to cause problems in some people.  Like many people with Fibromyalgia, I have symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’m also Lactose Intolerant.  Solving digestive problems seems like a great place to start.
  • I’ve run into too many people who have improved their health by changing their diet.  I’ve heard so many stories about how limiting intake of gluten or processed sugars have reduced people’s pain and increased their energy.  I had one friend who even reduced his symptoms of dyslexia by getting off sugar!! I’ve always been a skeptic of holistic methods.  I’ve run into enough quacks who have “the cure” for my Fibro to become a cynic.  However, I can’t argue with people I know, love, and trust who have seen real improvements in their life.  All of the foods they’ve mentioned taking out of their diets are foods that aren’t allowed in the Paleo plan.