Paleo Summer ~ An experiment in wellness, and I totally don't want a brownie

I’m so hesitant to post this, because of what always happens when I announce a New Chapter in Health and Fitness. Or, for that matter, any new chapters that involve deeply ingrained habits.

Experts say that telling people about your goal makes it 273.9% more likely you will achieve said goal in record time. But I am the exception to the rule. I prefer to tend my little garden of goals in secret, harvesting them at their peak to be displayed for an appreciative audience. Telling people about the crummy little patch of goal seedlings when there’s nothing to see only invites Helpful Questions. “Did you finish the children’s handmade Christmas stockings this year?” (No.) “How’s that wedding album scrapbook coming along?” (None of your business.) “Are you still doing Weight Watchers?” (BEGONE AND NEVER SPEAK TO ME AGAIN.)

But I’ve already told Twitter, as well as my mother, so the accountability is already there, looming.

So. This will be a Paleo summer for me. Paleo/Primal, whatever. Still figuring out the difference, but – low-carb, abundant vegetables, lotsa meat, no grains.

And we shall see.

I did a “trial run” last week while we were at the beach. I figured that if I could hardwire my brain to equate Paleo eating with the restful breezes of the Gulf coast, it might help when my willpower is weak. Of course, this probably would only work if I were not both brainwasher and brainwashee, but – you see what I’m saying.

And I felt pretty good. I think I’m already noticing an improvement in my headaches, which would be terrific since they’re mainly triggered by heat and sun – namely, Texas (particularly in the summertime). I didn’t feel THAT many insane cravings, and I successfully survived a chocolate emergency by having a banana with some peanut butter (yes, I know that peanuts aren’t Paleo, but whatevs.) And I totally don’t care right now that there’s a Tupperware container of brownies on top of our fridge, leftover from the kids’ choir picnic. I am the picture of detachment.

Why We Get Fat

I just noticed the typography fattening. Clever.

I read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It while at the beach – more self-brainwashing – and it made sense. Lots of science. I have noticed, and I don’t think this is just psychosomatic, that I do feel satiated with a meal of meat and vegetables in a way that I don’t when I’m eating something like pasta.

But more than that, I think an approach to eating that is “you can eat all you want of these things, but none of those things” is going to be easier for me to stick with, initially, than, “everything in moderation, and seven brownies could be considered moderation if you average the median brownie consumption adjusted for inflation squared, because you did drink a lot of water today.”

So. There you have it. Don’t ask me about this in a week, because I will probably be coming down from a sugar high the likes of which the world has never witnessed, and it will get REAL up in this comment box.

Oh, and how ridiculous is this, but – I think I am going to track my own behavior with a marble jar, because that is the mental age of my willpower. Preschool. Something like one marble for exercise, two for successfully staying paleo that day, five for not eating a brownie even though it is dressed in its finest dancing suit and serenading me from atop the fridge.

I’ve found some recipes that look good in Sarah Fragoso’s Everyday Paleo cookbook, and I’m following a few blogs that post great recipes. Marla Sarris is an all-around cool person who posts some fun, simple primal recipes, and my Internet friend and food blogger Nancy has stepped up to be a cheerleader and creative recipe provider as well.

Last – I know a huge, huge factor in Why This We Got Fat is my terrible sleeping habits, which is why I am not going to stay up working but rather am going to bed at a reasonable hour which is actually…right now.

And, seriously, I could use quite a lot of encouragement, so chalk any grumbling up to ketosis.

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  1. says

    I’m glad to hear that you have taken the paleo plunge and that the early results are promising. Eating paleo dramatically improved my migraines.

    Thanks for the shout-out; I am happy to lead cheers! And provide any recipe help. I hasten to note that my blog – linked in your post – isn’t exactly Paleo; I am finishing up participation in a 4 year baking project. Somewhere midway through the project I started to eat grain free (sometimes stricter than other times) but I didn’t want to change the blog (I give away most of the baked goods). Unfortunately, the next thing I’m posting on the food blog is … brownies! But I’m including a gluten-free version. I do have lots of ideas and recipes for grain-free, higher protein eating, though. BTW, a square of 85% (or higher) dark chocolate is considered acceptable by most paleo/primal types. I find Green & Black’s to be the smoothest-tasting, but a friend swears by Lindt.

  2. says

    That’s interesting about how meat and vegetables fill you up without carbs – last week I packed a lunch without a carb component, just meat and veggies. A couple hours later, I was dying. I felt like I hadnt eaten lunch at all.

    • PegB says

      GeekLady: As one who has been eating Paleo for over one year, I have to point out that you can’t jump from eating a ‘regular’ diet full of grains, sugars, etc. to eating one Paleo meal and expect your body to be happy. It does take time on Paleo consistently for your system to adjust to getting energy from fats rather than carbs and adjusting to new chemistry (ketosis), blood sugar levels, etc. I encourage you not to make judgement on the Paleo diet based on one meal or even one week of meals. It took me three weeks of very strict Peleo eating to adjust. I felt hungry all the time (so I ate a lot of veggies to stave it off), but later I realized I was able to eat far less food and feel very satiated with proteins and veggies, a little fruit and nuts and seeds. I got off grains and sugars. I lost 15 lbs. in two months. Now it’s a way of life. It takes time, but it gets easier, and becomes a way of life. Just thought I would share.

  3. Sarah in MI says

    What do you (or others) do about the kids? Are you cooking separate meals, or are they eating what you eat (and, if so, how do you afford that!)?

    • says

      Honestly, I am not even fooling with trying to get my kids on board right now. I don’t really want them to know that Mommy doesn’t like her appearance so I try to phrase choices in terms of “I want to eat healthy,” etc. Right now, dealing with the fallout from their whining about changing their eating habits would be very stressful and probably make me want to throw in the towel. So I’ll fix them eggs in the morning and serve healthy dinners with potatoes or rice, probably – maybe even pasta on occasion – and just make sure there’s enough on the table for me to eat “my way.”

      And I know what you mean about the budget issue! One thing that helps me, individually, is that I really like eggs. I have a feeling we are still going to include legumes if this does become a family way of life because they are a great budget-stretcher. For me as an individual I figure it’s really going to even out in the wash if I do continue to not snack as often or in as great a quantity.

      • Bearing says

        I always thought that the single easiest way to let others eat extra carbs was just to put bread and butter on the table.

        • says

          Too true. I guess I meant I didn’t want to deal with them whining “why can’t we ever have PPPAAAASSSSTAAAAA?” Yet. Once I myself have made some progress I will probably try to slowly implement changes in their diet, too. I wouldn’t say they eat an unhealthy diet by normal-person standards – they just aren’t low-carb by any means.

      • PegB says

        I have one kid still at home, and he is 15. I quit buying the pasta and noodles, but kept rice in the house, so he can have the extra carbs but without wheat or gluten (he loves rice). We do ‘cheat’ once in a while and go to a restaurant where he can get pasta or a pizza as a treat, but in general, he has willingly moved away from the carb-heavy diet he used to eat just by watching how my hub and I changed our eating habits, and he has not complained. He understands and accepts the choices we make.

        • says

          Peg, thanks for stopping by! I’d love to see a similar long-term change in my family’s eating habits. For right now, I’m just working on me. Years as a vegetarian got me accustomed to eating something different from the other people at the table so this isn’t too hard (and a lot of times, I can just not eat whatever the starch is at a meal and feel just as satisfied.) My husband is not unsupportive but he also isn’t interested in trying this himself right now, so I try to accomplish a happy medium.

  4. says

    Good for you! WTG being all bold and up front about it! I love Paleo, and though I mention it from time to time on my blog, I haven’t made the Big Commitment in public. Consequently, I cheat all the time. 😉 I look forward to hearing more about your success.

  5. says

    I forgot to mention that we’ve had great success with Everyday Paleo. The kids love pretty much everything I’ve made out of that one. And Making It Paleo has an brownie recipe. That may be worth the price of the book alone.

  6. says

    Oh, I love the Everyday Paleo book. My girlfriend has been borrowing it and realized on my behalf why I love it so much: it calls for simple, everyday foods (duh, I suppose, considering the title). A lot of paleo books call for brain and tongue and exotic freshwater fish that you catch yourself. You know, and whatnot.

    However, since being pregnant I’m all “what about the folic acid? THE FOLIC ACID!” And have been eating more fortified grains. But I am not really happy about that. Here’s where I say that I’m going Paleo, too. (Again.) I like the 80/20 rule so, there’s that. I had good results doing 80/20 but only AFTER I’d done it 100% for at least a month, KWIM? Also, I eat peanut butter, potatoes, and sometimes beans. So, I’m not real a purist… just an 80/20ist. Don’t mess with my 20%, yo.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your Paleo summer.

  7. says

    Good for you! I also found (find?) that writing regularly about any attempt to change habits helps me stay on track. Which is why 2008 is The Year My Blog Turned Into A Weight Loss Blog, something I’m not always proud of, but hey, it worked. Sometimes I think I should keep it that way.

    All this is to say: Write more about it. Besides, I’d love to hear your take on the ups and downs of going paleo.

    Low(er) carb is definitely one of my strategies, but I am a little saner if I can eat normal-looking meals, just with the proportions skewed away from noodles and more towards veggies and fats.

    Oh, and remember to follow the strategies in WWGF to head off ketosis symptoms: Get enough salt (bouillon is suggested, I seem to remember) and keep the amount of fat high — a lot of people make the mistake of replacing all the carbs with protein, and that is hard to tolerate.

    • says

      Thanks! Yes, you were definitely an inspiration in my decision to Go Public. Heh. I think I’ll probably end up doing something like 85/15 Paleoish, but I am trying to really “detox” right now and avoid all grains, potatoes, and legumes except maybe once a week. But if I can eat more avocado in exchange for no bread on my burger, this seems like trading up to me. It is hard to reprogram yourself to say “fat is not bad.”

  8. says

    Go for it! I started on this in January, and have steadily lost weight and have almost never been hungry between meals. I am now at -32 pounds. After the first 3 days or so, there are absolutely no cravings.

  9. says

    I’m really fascinated by the Paleo idea but can’t quite bring myself to take the plunge. Still, I am no in the season of keeping carbs low because my first trimester body starts to get violently ill when I eat too many carbs. (Do you think my uterus read a Paleo book or two?) But the biggest problem is my fall back recipes when I’m tired and can’t give much mental energy to cooking are all saucy meat and veggies served over pasta or rice and I just can’t convince myself that they taste fine without the pasta or rice. So I think to go Paleo I’d have to change the whole way I cook. And that is just too big a mountain to climb. But I’m with bearing, I think you should write more, more, more about your Paleo experiment so I can get good ideas from you.

  10. says

    Be encouraged!

    It’s a little intimidating putting it out there. I’ve said very little about our second go around of potty training for the very same reason.

    Last fall I lost fifteen pounds for no apparent reason. Though the tests were inconclusive, I’m convinced my thyroid was out of whack. And I knew if I could lose for no reason, I could gain it all back just as fast. And that’s where I am now. Grrrr!


  11. says

    I really like going grain-free. My husband and I felt so much better when we were eating like that, and our kids had remarkably stabler moods. Unfortunately it’s really expensive so we’re not doing it right now, but we do still try to stick with more meats and vegetables overall.

    I really like Wellness Mama for grain-free recipes. Deliciously Organic has some good ones too, and I made some yummy Dutch Babies with coconut flour and arrowroot powder the other morning. I was skeptical, but they were pretty good and the kids gobbled them up. Here’s the link if you want it. (I have no idea if this is strictly paleo; we just went grain and sugar free)

  12. says

    Best of luck to you! I have been trying to go Paleo for a bit now, with a half-hearted commitment. There are just a few carbs I’m sad to leave behind.

    I agree with @MelanieB that my fall back recipes are always rice/pasta/potato dishes. That’s what I grew up with.

    I really like what Jennifer Fulwiler says about modifying what we eat so we can better serve our families and God. I get too focused on what the scale says or how I perceive myself, etc.

    A book I’ve found helpful is Saving Dinner the Low Carb Way. She uses “real” food as well–no hunting and pecking for random ingredients. Also, at the end of every recipe, she includes serving ideas for those family members that don’t want to go low- carb.

    I’ll have to check out Every Day Paleo as well!

    Peace to you!

  13. scotch meg says

    Go for it, Dorian! This diet isn’t my cup of tea, but if it works for you, then all to the good. Let us know how you’re coping with kids not liking the diet or with not eating what they’re eating… and a happy, healthy, weight-losing summer to you.

  14. says

    I actually looked into Paleo when you mentioned it on Twitter. I’m…adjusting…transitioning…faking…my way to doing it right now. It just so happens that the big Paleo switch is starting at the same time as my very first college class. Seriously can’t hold those two things in my head at the same time. Consequently, every day after class I’ve been buying a brownie. A brownie! The brownies must have some sort of rebellion going on. I’m so glad you posted about this, as it makes me feel not so alone in the whole thing. I have a daughter who’s vegetarian, so the carbs and grains aren’t going anywhere, I’ll just have to eat around them. I’m with the above commentor who said she feels hungry an hour later. I don’t know what that means or what to do about it. I’ve had Paleo meals, but not an entire day that was completely Paleo, so I have a long way to go. Maybe I’ll post about it too. I could use a few cheerleaders of my own.

  15. says

    I’ve found that a bed of sauteed/wilted spinach (or other greens) makes a easy and tasty base for those saucy dinners. I even order that way in restaurants. If I have a little more steam I’ll saute shredded (on mandolin if you have one) zucchini with some onion, garlic, and oregano, and it’s a delicious base for pasta sauces. Also if you follow the Perfect Health Diet, white rice and potatoes are apparently acceptable (I haven’t fully investigated it yet).

    These various diets all believe that gluten is pretty much the worst thing, and the most important to avoid. And sugar too, unfortunately. But, when I do use sugar it’s often “Evaporated Palm Sugar” which has a lower glycemic load than sugar but is granulated so it is an easy substitution. I find it at Whole Foods, but it’s on Amazon also. It’s not inexpensive, but then again, I’m trying *not* to use it anyway! And eggs are your friend – they are the cheapest form of pastured protein.

  16. says

    WOW – thanks, everyone, for the comments! I woke up this morning to a full Inbox of support. I really, really appreciate it!

    So, I guess I’ll do some follow-up posts, based on how this grand experiment goes. :)

  17. says

    Hey Dorian! Yeah – a Paleo Summer! For a carb-loving, not-so-Paleo-girlio like me, it was a tough switch – BUT a great one! I started my Paleo-style eating less than a month ago on May 13th and have lost 7 pounds so far. I guess cutting out that half of box of cereal before bed really helped me out. (hee hee) I had a pretty rough headache the first two days because of the sugar detox, I think. I really do love sugar…sigh. But, sugar does NOT love me. I would eat lots of carby stuff and then be craving more only one or two short hours later. I felt like I was literally eating all day long – a granola bar here, a few pretzels there, a handful of random crackers, some bread, etc.

    I really am more satiated when I focus on protein and veggies and then grab fruit for a carb source. My sister-in-law has been a great source of info. and told me about for recipes and for Paleo info. Please keep me posted and if you need a pep talk – just call or e-mail! I’m still learning, too. Here’s to Paleo me and Paleo you!!

    Oh – an important fact is that I haven’t even added exercise back in. It was too much for me to focus on this new eating style AND exercise. Baby steps – baby steps! I plan to add that in soon and hope to see even more positive results in the way I feel. I already tried to eat like a rock star and exercise and not ONE pound budged. I took out exercise for awhile and focused on the input part and THAT has made all the difference for me! Now…to focus on an earlier bedtime so that I’m sleeping and not looking for FOOOOOOD!

  18. says

    Good for you, Dorian. I’ve been gluten-free for ten years, after figuring out I had celiac disease. For the past six years, my husband and kids have been gluten-free, too. I’d like to go paleo, or at least cut back on the grains (we eat lots of rice: brown rice pasta, gf bagels, brown rice tortillas) and ramp up on the veg., but life, money and various sensitivities/tastes (this one doesn’t like coconut; this one feels crappy after eating almonds, I have a problem with eggs) get in the way. I’m hoping that baby steps will get us there, and I’m prepared to take our time.

    Check out Elena’s Pantry from some good paleo recipes (and a gf cupcake cookbook):

    As for goal setting and shouting about it: I tend to be like you. I keep my big mouth shut, and if I have some results to share I will; thank you very much. : )

    Good luck with your paleo summer and keep us posted.

    • says

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who plays her goals close to the vest…a metaphor that probably makes no sense, but you know what I mean.

  19. says

    Check out the Whole 30 page and commit to 30 days. Just do it. It takes a lot of planning and commitment, but after the first 2 weeks you will feel amazing! I did the Whole 30 detox twice (and got pregnant during the second round – be aware that going Paleo does enhance your fertility if you’re NFP.) For the most part, my kids learned to “eat Paleo” without complaining. They still had sandwiches in their lunch box. As for the peanut butter – try Almond Butter, but check the ingredients! Some have added sugar. As for giving up rice – try steamed cauliflower that’s gone through the food processor a spin or two until it’s coarse like rice. It’s surprisingly easy to modify recipes to be Paleo. Eating out can be tricky – fast food isnt’ necessarily Paleo friendly – but there are a few places.

    Be sure to post updates. Keep a journal so you can compare how amazing you feel without the carbs and the sugar.

    • says

      THE LORD LED YOU HERE, Shelly, because I just had a very traumatic encounter with a cockroach and my brownie craving has hit the stratosphere. I am on day 3 of 30. Must. Be. Strong. I did pick up Almond butter at Whole Foods yesterday. I already had a jar in the pantry but then I noticed it expired in…2010. Which I guess was the last time I tried to switch from peanut butter, or something.

      I saw a Shrimp and “Grits” recipe that used cauliflower instead of grits, but…I dunno. I think I might just hold out and splurge on actual grits when the time comes for shrimp-grits splurging.

  20. says

    I’ve been paleo for awhile. Had some grains over the past couple days. My face has broken out in pepperoni-pizzaesque zits, AND my mild rosacea is flaring like a… um…. like a flare.

    Back to clean living as soon as I recover from the Birthday of the Broken Wrist Debacle.