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It's interesting to look at your life, past to present, and think: "It has all led up to this...." And then wonder where it will lead to next.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fruit, veggies, and meat. Oh my!

I first discovered the Paleo diet a few months ago from a blog I was following. I was in no place to even consider trying it myself, so I safely tucked it in the back of my mind (also known as: forgetting it till a future date). A couple weeks ago Aaron brought it up in conversation while we were talking about nixing our recent unhealthy eating habits. By recent I mean the last four years, and by the last four years I don't mean the entire last four years, but off and on rather.

Both Aaron and I were raised by health-nuts. We ate balanced meals and hippified health snacks. (I have actually often been asked if I was raised by hippies, considering my name paired with my granola eating habits. As a teen I was always slightly embarrassed to admit my descendance came from a much less cool club: missionaries. The only real difference in our case though were bras and shampooed hair, as living in China in the '90's involved more than enough bellbottoms and unshaved pits to qualify.) This pattern continued on into college where a large salad bar was ever present and where more green on your plate didn't mean less green in the bank (at least there wasn't a direct correlation). I didn't even discover the "hot food" line until well into my sophomore year once the stress of three jobs and full time school effectively wore down my better judgement and my cultured palate had lowered its standards considerably. I knew I had hit a new low when I started to look forward to overcooked tater tots and greasy card board pizza each Friday.

Things only continued to go downhill once we started our life together outside of the college bubble. For one thing, I realized how much it stinks to not have food prepared for you each meal of the day (how I miss you, Henry). Another painful reality was how much food actually costs in the real world (oh that's why we were served prison food in college, so we could afford it--with the help of scholarships and loans anyway). Much more pasta and processed foods were added to my diet than ever before. Soon we realized that these eating habits we once saw as temporary, were actually very much our regular diet! We weren't sure how to stop, our taste buds were addicted to fake foods and poisonously sweetened drinks, and our wallets addicted to a low grocery bill.

We temporarily broke the pattern once we moved back to NC, once it hit me that I did not want to pass down our new and terrible eating habits to our kids. I became little miss home maker and made all of our food from scratch. I perfected the blend of health and budget by shopping at an overstock grocer that specialized in organic/health foods and local produce. Although in the winter when money was tight we still had periods of excessive amounts of mac n' cheese, frozen veggies, and hot dogs (sometimes making traditional hot dogs with mac and veggies on the side, other times with the hotdog cut up and mixed in the with the mac--we liked to mix things up), but did our best to eat less processed meals whenever the budget allowed. After another healthy period, Aaron's work got even busier and I returned to school, we started eating poorly again. Too often we ended up getting take out or frozen pizza, and on days I had day class I began replacing my lunch with coffee and vending machine food. Needless to say, I gained a good 10 lbs that summer.

Long story short, our diet has been a yo-yoing of healthy and unhealthy seasons. Although even our healthy periods consisted of way more bread, pasta, and rice in an effort to keep the grocery bill affordable. Despite my efforts to keep us eating mostly balance meals, we are nowhere near as healthy as we used to be. Thus our recent conversation on nixing all bad eating habits and starting a new healthier way of living. Thus our recent conversation on the paleo diet. The paleo diet (aka caveman diet) is basically an all fruit, veggie, meat, and nut diet. I won't go into much detail here because I know you're going to google it anyway. When I first looked into it I thought, Impossible! Noway we could afford this, and we'd always be hungry! Plus, could I possibly wean Aiden off PB&J and quesadillas? Naturally my first thought was to put the entire family on the same diet, because there ain't no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks I'm going to make more than one meal per meal. The more I thought about it though, the more appealing it became. Veggies.... fruit... meeeeaat.... food items just kept floating around my brain, seducing me with their healthy curves and positive side effects. I was sold.

I slightly modified the diet, because no matter how much I tried, I simply could not go 100% paleo with our food budget (I will keep trying and keep you updated though). I, myself, went almost straight paleo, except for one dinner which I used quinoa, and a lunch when I put my veggies in a wrap. For Aiden, instead of bread for his lunches I used a whole grain wrap along with the usual fruit side. We had various combinations of yogurt, nuts, fruit, boiled eggs, and raw veggies for snacks. It really was not nearly as hard as I thought. Aiden ate every meal I made, all of which included massive amounts of veggies (including kale and asparagus which he normally hates--what's going on here??). Aaron was gone most of the week and only participated in some dinners, so he didn't get the full effect, but he seems excited about bringing paleo lunches to work from now on.

So what was the "effect"? Well... nothing. By nothing, I mean: no nausea, no dizzy spells, no unexplained irritability. All the things I experience on a regular basis. I still had a few headaches, but they were so limited and minute, they were nothing a bit of caffeine didn't fix. The only thing was, I was pretty hungry in between meals, but I am even when I eat carbs so what the heck (I blame the combination of my genes and breastfeeding). To make sure that I wasn't imagining things (and because I ran out of all the good stuff), this weekend I decided to make meals including the usual processed flour/grains I normally use, like pasta and bread. Result? Well first off, Aiden would barely eat it, and he couldn't not take a nap (during the week he had no problem not napping). Secondly, I felt like CRAP! Seriously, I cannot even describe to you the magnitude of difference. I felt nauseated after every meal, I had multiple dizzy spells, and was incredibly irritable (really unpleasant to be around, just ask my family)! In other words, I felt how I normally feel, which felt so much worse after not feeling that way. To further test this diet, I will continue it this week until the weekend when I'll undoubtedly run out of veggies again. I'll let you know if my theory stands. I'm betting on it.


Noelle said...

Processed food is the enemy. :) The tasty cheap convenient enemy!

Vanessa Washburn said...

Suzanne has raved about that diet too. I am starting to get tempted to try it, but I don't think I could let all the grains go. I think I would have to modify it more, maybe one meal with grains a day. But it sounds like even a little bit of grain made a big difference to you. I look forward to hearing how the rest of the experiment goes.

Faith said...

Yes, but processed grains make me feel awful. Funny how they don't seem to effect some people at all! I am jealous. It wasn't until I felt normal good that I realized how bad I feel all the time even when I've thought I've felt good because I don't feel as bad as I have in the past! Now that I have experienced feeling good... it's not worth it to go back. Yesterday I ate bread without thinking and almost immediately felt the difference. Mostly it's breads and pastas that seem to effect me. Quinoa hasn't bothered me, and I haven't tested rice yet (I am too scared, I don't want to give it up! Except, by not testing it, I am basically giving it up... so smart, Faith). I say try it! Although I do not live in a house full of boys... or I do, but not like you. :)

Faith said...

Also, keep in mind, all those "unhealthy foods" you may have tried to avoid in the past, like potatoes and meat, are healthy fats and proteins that will keep you full despite not having the grains, you just get to eat more!

Sam said...

hmmm. I'm intrigued. Phil and I have been talking about our decline in healthy food choices of late as well. I need to research this some more, but again...I'm intrigued.