|Fitbomb is right, so why is it still so hard?|
I will start with the disclaimers:
1. To be completely upfront, I come from a background of horribly distorted eating patterns that started in high school. I won't detail all of what I did to myself, but I will say that while I am certainly no expert in healthy eating, I have made tremendous progress. That being said, the transition was not easy or fast, so if you are reading this and thinking there is no way you can change, stop listening to that voice. It has taken a long time for me to feel comfortable writing this post. Everyone has their issues, but you only need to work on your own.
2. I have the great fortune of having direct access to healthy, paleo 'experts,' such as The Lazy Caveman, Nom Nom Paleo and FitBomb. Additionally, my CrossFit coach, Trish, is both knowledgeable and encouraging when it comes to healthy eating. Finally, I have a husband that wants to be healthy and for me to eat healthy. We have not always seen eye to eye on nutritional issues, but we are always working to get better at supporting each other.
3. I am not 100% Paleo or even close. I view it as a goal and a process. I don't beat myself up when I fall short and choose to eat M&Ms, but rather try and refocus on the goal.
I think that suffices for disclaimers. Kinda sounds like one of those pharmaceutical drug ads where you'll be free from depression, but will have dry mouth, diarrhea, IBS, trouble focusing and an inability to operate machinery. Drink some water and you'll be fine here.
When I first learned about Paleo, the idea of eating that way made me want to give up living. Seriously. I lived for carbs, and I mean the worst kind. Shredded wheat with a banana for breakfast, bread and yogurt for lunch (and we are talking whole loaf of bread here), and rice or pasta for dinner. Or when no one was looking, cereal all day long. Suddenly I was supposed to give that all up and eat meat and vegetables??? Shoot me in the face. For a long time I lived in the land of denial: that any of the studies were authentic, that somehow my body was different than others, so perhaps I didn't have all the issues with inflammation that other people did. And fortunately for me, I was running a lot of miles per week, so I never put on much excess weight. Yet any time I took a week or two off from running, I would no longer fit in my clothes. Depressing to say the least. I operated in a state of fear that I would always need to run to stay the shape I was. It felt daunting. I loved running, but there were times I would like to take a day off without fearing what I would look like. And of course, that did not bode well for wanting to try a new way of eating, especially one that indicated that eating a lot of fat was not only good but necessary.
In short, it took me years to make the transition. I started with a single meal: dinner. Because Tim wanted meat and vegetables only for his meals, I had to cook that for dinner. I would often make the kids their 'normal' food and then make non-grain meals for us. I noticed these meals made me feel healthier, but I also had cravings every night for sugary treats. As I introduced paleo meals for lunch, I experienced these sweet cravings all day long. I would buy 'snack foods' (aka cookies) and tell myself I could have a few during the day in the hopes these would curb my cravings. Unfortunately, that opened the door to eating handfulls of these every day. When I realized how little I knew about instituting Paleo into my life, I finally approached The Lazy Caveman. I had often used my running as an excuse to eat more, but I decided this was just an excuse. I knew I would get some right answers from TLC. Sure enough, he gave me an eating plan designed for my activity level, which is sometimes higher than the average person. It has been almost a year since I started that program and while I still far short much of the time, I know what to aim for and I am working on my weaknesses.
- The total elimination of starchy carbs, such as bread and cereal. When I do choose to eat a non-paleo food now, I will not go for breads or cereals because I know how they make me feel and they can be a slippery slope toward over-consumption.
- Eating protein and vegetables for breakfast. For the longest time, the thought of doing this seemed just plain wrong, like un-American. When I finally decided to make the leap, I realized how much better I feel throughout the day. If I were ever to be faced with only a bowl of cereal or pastry in the morning, I would probably choose to fast.
- I have given up frozen yogurt. Yes, I mentioned M&Ms above, so it's not like I always make the best decisions, but giving up frozen yogurt was HUGE. There was a time I would eat some every single night, sometimes an entire pint. Now, I will not even stop at the local fro yo shops because I recognize how fast my insulin spikes and what little they offer in terms of nutrition (like nothing.)
As for the kids, they are sometimes paleo kids and sometimes not. It's not the greatest excuse, but having three young kids and trying to get them all to eat their food in a reasonable time can be a huge challenge. They eat oatmeal every morning, unless we have extra time, in which case I (or Tim) will do eggs. For lunches I have found that bento type lunch boxes are fantastic for putting meats/vegetables/fruits in lunches. For the most part, my kids don't object to healthy foods, though each of them have very particular tastes of what they will/will not eat. The biggest challenge for my kids eating paleo, honestly, is their mother's time management and ability to withstand their whining.
Resources: I received several Paleo cookbooks for Christmas last year and have been trying recipes as much as I can. Some turn out great and have become staples. Others not so much. One carrot recipe has my husband speaking of my culinary talents to others, so I save that for special occasions. Paleo Comfort Foods (Mayfield) has been my favorite so far. Also on my shelf are Make it Paleo (Staley/Mason), Everyday Paleo (Fragoso), and Well Fed (Joulwan). It goes without saying that Nom Nom Paleo is one of the best resources for everything paleo. I sous vide all our meat now and she is the pro on this, so her site is my constant companion.
Finally, as it applies to my running/CrossFit, eating enough to stay fueled and recover from workouts is certainly a challenge. Most weeks I run 5-6 times and CrossFit 2-3. That means some double days. When I neglect good fueling, it shows quickly. For this reason, I have been paying particular attention to recovery (fueling immediately after workout). I use Gener8 Vitargo following workouts when I know I won't get good food for at least an hour. This has made a big difference. I am also trying to experiment with fats in my diet to try and increase my fat intake without overdoing the almonds (which I love). Most paleo resources will indicate sweet potatoes are acceptable but still starchy. I tend to eat a lot of them and while I know they help keep me fueled for my current activity level, I will need to decrease my intake if/when I decease that activity.
This is all a process and I still have a lot to learn. I am happy to share what I have learned with others that think the idea of going paleo is overwhelming. It is. But it doesn't have to be. There's no rule that says once you decide to go paleo you have 30 days or you are kicked off the island. Start with one meal. Experiment with different foods. When I do make a meal that my kids won't eat, then they don't eat. I don't cave and make something else. Tomorrow they might get something tastier, but tonight the meal is what I cooked.
As my grandmother used to say:
You have two choices for dinner: Take it or Leave it.