There are very few things in life that play out in black and white. There is a hell of a lot of grey and it happens to be one of my favorite colors. Gun-metal to be exact, which leans towards my fave of all time, black. But I digress.
I talk a lot about Paleo on my blog and in life because that is my chosen ‘ideal’ diet (remember, diet as a noun not a verb) but it doesn’t mean it’s the only way. For me, the ancestral aspect of food consumption v. modern disease makes too much sense to ignore it. Does that mean I never eat sugar or grain? No. And in fact, I had some pita chips with humus just yesterday – not paleo, for the record. But I do my best and follow the standard at about 80/20, most of the time. My body has found its most comfortable stature while my energy and mood are determined by my adherence to clean eating. I know when I’ve been entirely too flexible with my diet because I’m sad and anxious. I’m not going to blame it on depression or anxiety anymore because it is directly related to the food I eat. I’ve experimented too much with it to say otherwise.
Real life dictates that we follow the ebb and flow of certain situations. Even Mark Sisson says “Don’t be weird.” And to be honest, the great American culture sets us up for failure when it comes to a focus on nutrition, REAL nutrition. A new ‘food’ is created every hour in this country. Of those foods, 100% of them are NOT nutritional, and yet super delicious. It’s difficult to avoid grain and I think it takes a certain kind of mind to really commit, full-on-dedicated to a clean diet. A diet that consists only of protein and plants. Not a better mind or a worse mind, but perhaps an insane one. It’s hard work. It’s a constant mental battle. Some folks can turn it on and off at will, while others struggle and cave throughout their life when it comes to nutrition.
Then of course, there’s the problem of really understanding ‘nutrition’. For whatever reason, people feel the need to justify their choices to me (which is UNNECESSARY and I hope I never have to justify my own in return). I promise I am not judging you or your family. I am merely living my own life the way I choose yet people tend to share ‘but we usually eat pretty healthy” with me. I have a hard time, but have learned to, bite my tongue about the real havoc grains plays on the body. Grains are really a source of malnutrition, so even though you choose whole grains because we’re taught they are the healthier alternative, you’re not on the path of health if that’s the bulk of your diet. Try cutting grains for a month, better yet, 3 months or entirely, but for the occasional indulgence, and tell me you don’t swell up like a pregnant woman in the heat of the summer and wake up with the hangover of a rock star. And please, don’t let those whole grain fishies trick your sensibilities when it comes to your children. If ‘treats’ and sugary drinks work their way into your diet every day it’s a hinderance. I LOVE a treat, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a ‘treat’ if it’s a daily occurence and don’t get me re-started on the snack situation in this country.
Back to my point: All or nothing? Absolutely not. I will say, however, there is NO EASY SOLUTION. There is no miracle diet that will shed your 10, 30 or 80 lbs of extra weight. None. It takes time and steady, constant work. 2lbs a week is a very reasonable amount of weight to lose on a steady basis. If you have a goal, make it a reasonable one. Google images of “Paleo Before and After” and you’ll see tons of examples of those taking 2 months, 6 months, 12, 18, 24 months to reach their goals! What are you waiting for? As time passes, that’s time that you could have already lost 2 or 12 or 46 lbs and gained tons of energy and enjoyment in life. Your physical appearance is 90% diet. Some say 80%, either way food is HUGE when it comes to fitness and working out only gets you so far. But it gets you no where and leaves you tired and hungry as long as your eating the same foods.
You’re smart enough to realize that it’s already summer, there is no way you’ll be bikini ready by July if you have 20lbs to lose. I don’t care if you’re doing Weight Watchers, the Lemonade Detox, Nutri System, Raw Foods or any other fancy way of shedding pounds. Not to mention that as soon as you hit goal, you go back to your historic eating habits and slowly put the weight back on. Diet is the way a person eats. CHOOSE a different pattern if your current pattern has resulted in illness or weight gain. Understand you could be a thin person but very uncomfortable due to the foods you choose. Diet dictates health.
Life is a journey. A marathon and not a sprint. Start today with every choice. Space your indulgences out more and more each time. Do you indulge everyday? Have a brownie at the picnic this afternoon, then wait till Tuesday to indulge in a chocolate sundae. Wait again till friday for pizza or a sub while maintaining a majority protein/plant diet otherwise. Schedule your cheats/treats/indulgences so your brain doesn’t freak out on you and cause your hands to shovel every piece of junk in the house into your mouth tonight when no one is looking. We’ve all been there. Huge pasta fan? Make it your sunday special. Something to look forward to. Life is an experiment, what do you have to lose? A few pounds? The taste for it? Amazing what happens when you give your body a rest from all the junk.
With all that said, I strive towards a diet of plants and protein everyday. I’m not perfect and I will indulge in grains and sugars at times. It’s almost easier to adhere to a clean diet when folks are watching, so I talk about it a lot. As a result, I have been constantly flattered by friends going out of their way to accommodate ‘my way of life’ which in turn becomes part of theirs. Just last weekend, a friend included a crustless quiche in her quiche buffet at an after-parade brunch – SO THOUGHTFUL. The array of dishes brought to my own backyard bash was OUT of this world with variety, color and taste. I really can’t describe how awesome it was to see the food tables filled with salads, casseroles, dips, sides and platters full of plants and protein. And I swear I didn’t suggest a thing! The food went fast with plate after plate of raves and positive reviews from guests.
IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING. So don’t use a cookie as an excuse to throw your hard work out the window, even if it’s only been a day or a month. That’s a day or a month closer to a new life – one where you feel alive, aware, awake because of the fuel you are allowing your body to absorb and run on. It is a new way of thinking. A constant path towards better choices, subtle choices that include less grain and more protein and healthy fats.
Here are a few anecdotes shared with me recently that may inspire you. Please share your own in the comments or on our Facebook page:
- I read your blog and it makes me think more about my own choices. I will never ‘go Paleo’ but I have cut things out and am down 15 lbs. The best part is that my energy is steady. I don’t crash like I used to.
- Since starting my journey into Paleo (about 3ish months now?) I have lost 30 pounds! Got back into my pre-baby clothes, gained a ton of energy and so much more. I am in love with my new way of life. I am learning that it goes beyond food too. I now take daily walks in the sun with the little man, strive to be on the iPad less, and I have cut my workouts in half by doing more HIIT instead of hours on the treadmill.
- I have cut sodas and iced tea out of my drink selection, and now snack on veggies or leftover dinner meat instead. It didn’t happen over night, but I’m in a size pant I haven’t seen since high school.
- After a year of trying my hardest to cut grain, with the occasional pasta splurge, I have lost almost an entire person 89lbs! It’s been really tough and really exciting. People ask what my magic pill was and I tell them I just eat clean and take an occasional walk. Now it’s time to get into working out and shed another 30lbs.
- I tried the HCG diet because my doctor told me I was obese and said I would be a good candidate. I felt like I was being tortured. It set me up for failure by not allowing me proper nutrition and food. I gained 10lbs after I stopped HCG just from the backlash. Once I was able to think again, I realized it was just about the food I ate and I found a few paleo resources, including your easy to read blog, and decided to give myself a long time to lose. I’m down 20 lbs over 3 months. Not a lot compared to what I have to lose, but it’s a start and I’m learning the healthy way.
This term is also a slogan of a fast food chain near my home. I cringe every day as I drive by the gigantic sign. The processed, breaded and sugary foods they promote are actually the exact opposite of ‘good mood food’. I challenge you to prove me wrong after turning your diet towards a clean menu. I’ve already told you why I’m committed to Paleo, now let me tell you why the food you choose will help you regain control of your mood.
Medical doctors are not necessarily educated on nutrition, and I’m not sure why, as the food we eat affects our bodies entirely. From weight and disease to behavior and mood, we are able to manipulate so many variables by the food choices we make, not to mention the medications we are prescribed. It’s amazing how the positive effects of natural foods follow right in line with the paleo way of eating. (Are you really surprised?)
Depression seems to be a huge trend among the folks I know and I know it’s not just me. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration say 17 million adults experienced a major depressive episode within the last 5 years. Whether it’s seasonal or a lifelong battle, it’s a weight I hate to hear anyone is carrying. Just yesterday, a woman confided she was hospitalized last year because of a severe depressive episode. BREAK MY HEART. She was morbidly obese, pre-diabetic, and riddled with arthritis. All things which clean eating can effect a positive way.
If you’ve read my ‘Committed’ blog then you know I’ve dealt with mental illness for a long time. I am currently experiencing the longest span of clear-headedness that I can remember, with the most control and awareness over my moods that I’ve ever had. It does not come easy, of course, nothing does. I work hard at this. When I become lax in clean eating, which has happened, I immediately see signs of returned illness in the ways of unexplained sadness, lethargy, ease of aggravation and a slew of other unwanted characteristics.
The best “Good Mood Food” I can suggest:
Protein: Proteins rich in amino acids and tyrosine can help boost energy and clear your foggy head, allowing you to concentrate and perform better. Tyrosine helps in the production of dopamine, a mood enhancing neurotransmitter often lacking in folks with depression. Although research is lacking on increasing your tyrosine intake to battle depression, it seems to make sense, no? Protein also fuels your body for longer periods than empty carbs or foods heavy in sugar. There is no spike, either positive or negative, in blood sugar levels when you focus on protein and plants in your diet, also allowing for a stable mood. Foods rich in tyrosine include: poultry, fish, almonds, bananas.
Carbs: Carbs are not all created equal. What I call ‘green carbs’ include fruits and vegetables. Starchy, grain-heavy carbs are where you get your belly fat, weight gain and unstable mood. Fill your body with fresh or frozen produce to allow yourself a healthy and necessary intake of carbohydrates. Choose sweet potatoes or yams over white pots for that heavier/filling feeling a lot of people miss. (The fresher you eat, the less you will miss feeling weighed down and full of stuff.) It may take some adjustments in both desire and habit, but a clean diet is worth it. TRUST ME! Once you detox from sugars and grain, your body will react positively to the increased nutrition it will begin to receive. Mood will be effected immediately. Watch out for those nasty habits, though, take a bite of that sticky bun at the next brunch or office share and your body will crave it all over again. Just say NO (as often as you can).
Vitamin B: Vitamin Bs do not stay in your body, so your daily food intake is imperative to maintaining a healthy level of B. A deficiency in B will bring on fatigue, mania and depression. HELLO! The Top 10 foods heavy in Vitamin B include seafood, beef and eggs. I keep a liquid form of Vitamin B Complex on my bedside table and a pill form on the vitamin shelf. I take then when I feel yucky, bummed or aggravated. I will try to take some in the future when I am overwhelmed by my own energy. It will be interesting to see if that could help the ‘mania’ I experience sometimes, and help to regain control in calming down. Life is an experiment.
Water: Chronic dehydration is more common than you may assume. Coffee and teas, along with many other water based options, act as a diuretic and wash out through urination, instead of being absorbed by the very thing that needs it most, your body. You MUST drink water or you’ll experience things like heartburn, reflux, joint pain or exacerbated arthritis, asthma, constipation and of course DEPRESSION. Any of this sound familiar to you? It all comes back to the production of amino acids needed to produce serotonin in the brain, which take a lot of water to move through the body. Do you drink enough water? 8 glasses minimum. Drink more. I may have to write more about this…
SO MANY simple choices affect our quality of life. Choose wisely. And when you choose poorly, make a better choice next time. No one is perfect, including myself. I don’t waste time beating myself up over poor choices, I just decide to choose to do better. This is ALL about you. You are not failing as long as you are still living. My wish is that you, the collective people of the world, choose to live as healthy, informed, and completely as possible.
It’s a good time.
So you’ve decided to eat Paleo, CONGRATS. How are you feeling? You have now entered the detox phase. Yes friends, you are detoxing from your grain and sugar addictions and it can get rough at times. That’s not a guarantee, however, just a warning.
I started eating Paleo and I felt like a wild horse. Energy was shooting from my fingertips! My eyes seemed to be open wider, the world seemed brighter and happier. Birds chirped everywhere I went, I swear, until I hit a wall around week 3. I began to feel sluggish, withdrawn and underwhelmed. An over-all ‘ick’ is how I would describe it. I was disappointed to hear this was part of the detoxing period of Paleo. I wasn’t even hungry enough to eat all the delicious food I just bought. The good news is: it doesn’t last forever. The even better news is: it usually passes within a few days.
Detoxification begins almost immediately, as your liver and other organs finally have a chance to breathe again. They are not actively being bombarded with toxins found in grain, legumes and processed foods. Although we’ve been eating these foods our entire lives, it does not mean our bodies enjoy them. Especially dairy, which is more toxic to some people than others. Of course you’d never know this without first eliminating it from your diet for several weeks then thoughtfully re-introducing it. This is a good way to learn how your body truly handles the milk of another species.
During the dreaded detox period you may experience irritability, increased or loss of appetite (eat when hungry, don’t when not – pig out Paleo), headaches, nausea, dizziness, brain fog or flu-like symptoms. You may even break-out before your skin clears up. I did, it was horrible. Diarrhea (I said it) before your bowels regulate. Sinus pressure before you never get sick again! Okay, that was a bit of a reach, but I haven’t been sick in 12 months.
Everyone is different therefore everyone’s detox period varies from the length of time to the symptoms you experience. Some people don’t experience any symptoms. The day I went Paleo was the last time I had a headache that was unrelated to clenching my teeth during a workout. I was getting headaches twice daily at that point, migraines monthly or more often. 12 months and nothing. AMAZING. This type of change may not happen overnight for everyone. You may need a few weeks or months before major changes are noticed. My Reverend was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, after 10 months Paleo, he received word that his blood work came back in the normal range. Imagine the well oiled machine you’ll be rolling around in if you keep it up indefinitely.
Push through and your results will reward you a thousand times over. It’s your choice.
Without getting too scientific on anyone, I would like to post about grains and why I do not include them in my diet. They are EVERYWHERE, even in cleaning products (what?!), and make up the majority of the American diet. Whole grain or otherwise, a grain is a grain. The links below will shed additional light on why grains should not take on such a substantial role in our eating habits. I will share some thoughts in laymen’s terms on each link. Hope it helps.
Why avoid grains? This is a short article, with just a little science, that explains what is actually in grain. All the good things in grain are nearly cancelled out because of the anti-nutrients that are also in grain. The anti-nutrients essentially block the absorption of the good-nutrients creating a LACK of nutrients altogether and even begin to block the body’s absorption of good fats, vitamins and minerals from other sources.
One word: DIABETES Another short read explaining how the massive consumption of carbohydrates recommended by our government is killing us. Modern disease is related to chronic inflammation which is related to anti-nutrients found in grain and other foods like legumes, some nuts and berries, even eggs but you’d have to eat a massive amount to experience an effect. Type II Diabetes is directly related to the consumption of grain and here is how: carbs turn to sugar, the body makes insulin to keep blood sugar at a nice calm level, too many carbs = too much sugar, insulin is in overload, inflammation begins, cells become resistant (DIABETES) and the pancreas goes into overdrive. Now you’re prescribed medication so you won’t die. OR, you could cut grain from your diet.
Auto Immune Diseases and Rheumatoid Arthritis This is a testimonial, and there are many more, from the website of one of my favorite Paleo leaders, Robb Wolf. This is also a disease my family is predisposed to and a major factor (aside from vanity) that led me on the path of Paleo. RA is said to come from an overactive immune response to infections caused by viruses and bacteria which then cause the disease to fight healthy tissue. When removing grain from the diet, adding omega-3 and probiotics (mmm, sauerkraut), the body’s gut will become healthy again. If the gut is sick or ‘dirty’, you will experience negative health effects throughout your body, most of which you would never even think to relate to an unhealthy gut. Eating Paleo is not a cure for RA, but it could help stop it’s progression, relieve symptoms and pain by helping inflammation subside and make for a healthier body to fight off the disease.
Grass-fed, why? This is my science heavy article. In a nutshell: Did you know corn is a grain? They feed it to our cows, pigs, chickens, none of which eat grain in the wild, all of which need antibiotics to stay healthy and alive in many cases. (Not to mention the growth hormones we use to take a calf to the size of a 5-year-old steer by the time they’re 18 months old.) They even feed corn to our farmed fish now – FISH DON’T EAT CORN – buy wild caught, or heck, go catch it yourself.