What to expect… when you go paleo!

One year ago I made the decision to change my life forever. I had done some homework on the paleo lifestyle, and all of a sudden it made complete sense to live like this. Unlike many others I went cold turkey. I threw out all grains, sugars, dairy etc, and I pulled my family with me. My husband followed my lead happily, my children with some hesitation. Today, he’s about 90% paleo, the kids between 70 and 80%.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 12 months… and what I think you can expect as well.

1) If you choose to go cold turkey, expect to feel less than stellar in the first couple of weeks. In my case, the low carb flu gave me severe headaches, I was moody and confused, and I wanted my sugar and bread back. Granted, I’m also a sugar addict if you’ve ever seen one. DO NOT GIVE UP! It goes away, and when it’s over you will feel absolutely wonderful, full of energy and power.

2) You’ll poop differently. This is nothing to worry about. When you eat lots of meat and vegetables, your stool will look a greenish brown (or a brownish green?) and you’ll find it much easier to go.

3) You may experience quick weight loss in the first few weeks, which will slow down eventually. You’ll flush out a ton of toxins, get rid of the inflammation, and BYE BYE, wheat belly!

4) You’ll get the look. People WILL look at you funny. And some will tell you you’re doing it all wrong. After all, we’re told by the government that lots of whole grains are the way to go. Do your homework, so you have a comeback for the know-it-alls… Grow a thick skin. Avoid discussions with people who want to convert you. You won’t convert them, they won’t convert you. It’s useless to get stuck in that conversation.

5) You will spend a good amount of time in your kitchen. After a year this is still true for me. I spend a good half hour preparing breakfast in the morning. It used to be bread, nutella, pb&j… Now it’s eggs, bacon, fruit salad, paleo pancakes… My greatest piece of advice if you’re in a rush a lot. On a day when you actually do have time, cook larger amounts of these foods. I generally have a few containers of burgers, boiled eggs, cooked chicken, and cut up fruit sitting in my fridge. Makes for quick and easy lunches or snacks. Also, now is the time to plan your shopping trips for several days. Make a plan for what you’re going to eat during the week, then go shopping once… not 15 times. 🙂

6) Do you have kids? They will likely not jump up and down excitedly as you make these changes in your and their lives. Their entire lives they’ve heard, grains are great. Plus pasta is delicious. And candy… yum! They’re going to be skeptical. Be proud of them for it. It’s a character trait that they will benefit from when they grow up. For now, be patient. I cook all paleo meals, and my children eat them. BUT, I also have some non-paleo granola at home. And I still do buy some sugary treats now and then. When my husband and I have a date night, I let them eat pasta. But I also consistently keep the conversation going. I tell them about articles I’ve read, new things I’ve learned. After one year, they try to eat a lot more paleo than at the beginning. It’s a process… and I’m perfectly happy with them being paleo the majority of the time.

7) Restaurants! After a few months you’ll have learned where you can go and what places to avoid completely. My advice: check their website before you leave the house. If they don’t have a menu posted, call them. Ask them if they have a gluten free menu. If you cannot check the website or call beforehand, let the server know that you have a severe gluten intolerance, so you NEED TO KNOW what’s in your food. I actually asked for an ingredients list on several occasions. These days a lot of restaurants are used to people with food issues. They keep a thick book of their menu items with the ingredients. Soon enough, you’ll know exactly what you can and cannot eat. When it comes to salads, I generally ask the server for oil and vinegar.

8) You’ll probably become a little bit obsessed with food. 🙂 I spent countless hours researching not only what foods I can eat and what I should avoid, but also where my food should come from. I order ground beef in bulk, make sure I never run out of coconut milk, and smoked salmon is my new best friend.

9) You’ll probably also become a little obsessed with every piece of information you can get your hands on. Have fun with that. 🙂

10) You will feel better than you have in a long time. I know I do. I sleep better, I’m regular, I’m at my ideal weight. I am physically and emotionally in great shape. I’m a much happier person than I’ve ever been. Surrounding myself with like-minded people online and in the real world has made a huge difference. I wouldn’t want to have done it all alone. But with the support of friends it’s very doable.

Questions? Leave a comment. 🙂

The Carb Flu

The following is a blog post I wrote on my old blog, and I think it is worth posting it here as well.

Carb Flu

I’m reading a book called Run Like A Mother, written by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell. I bought the book in April when I picked up my packet for the Race for the Roses Half Marathon. I shook hands with Sarah, who lives right here in Portland. She is as tall as I am, which I loved of course.

The book is a pretty good read, although I’ll say that there is not a whole lot of new information for me. It’s more entertaining than educational if you will. However, when they get to talking about nutrition, I couldn’t help being a little turned off. I believe it is Sarah who wrote about doing a 14 day trial of the South Beach Diet. She is a carb junkie, loves all bagels, pasta, and other grains, and was hesitant about trying low carbing. But well, as a contributor for Runner’s World Magazine, she agreed to experiment with the South Beach Diet.

Obviously it could only go wrong. She felt miserable for the entire 14 days, but instead of going a little deeper, she quickly dismissed the low carb diet as no good and happily went back to her old ways of eating lots and lots of carbs. I don’t claim to hold the truth for everyone and everything. But I was turned off by how quickly she was to argue that runners should not eat a low carb diet. Why?

1.) The South Beach Diet is not the way to go. Yeah, sorry, that’s my opinion, and I’m sticking with it. With this diet you still rely too heavily on grains. Those need to go. Period!

2.) Fourteen days are not enough! She quit right at the point when her body was getting used to this different kind of fuel. I’m arguing that, being a carb junkie, she should have stuck with it for at least 30 days.

3.) A little more research into the subject of low carbing would have led her to the paleo/primal way of life, and with that to forums where nutrition for runners is discussed in great detail.

Her experience could have been an entirely different one had she known about the carb flu, adjusted her running accordingly, and stuck it out for at least one month. I remember all too well, how miserable I felt for a couple of weeks. Getting the sugar and grains out of my body completely took some time. But once I got past it, I felt better than ever before. Before long runs I do eat more carbs to keep my body fueled, but I do not need pasta or bagels in order to run better.

As a matter of fact, I ran a much better Half Marathon this year than I did last year, when I still ate according to conventional wisdom. Last year I ran an average 12minute/mile. This morning, during my Team in Training run of 9 miles, I ran an average of 9.5minute/mile. Granted I’m working out differently, but honestly, I think that eating like this has made a huge difference in my overall performance. (It’s made me about 30lbs lighter, too!)

Read all about the carb flu at Mark’s Daily Apple.

BTW: Current weight: 154lbs. At a height of almost 6feet this is better than I ever expected!!

Sick cavegirl…

It appears I have the flu (or whatever it is that a lot of people casually refer to as the flu even if it isn’t). I am tired, have a headache, upset stomach, low grade fever, a swollen lymph node in my armpit, and cooking eggs for breakfast felt like a workout at the gym. I ended up breathing like a horse, broke out in a sweat, and had to find a seat. And that’s where I still am now.

I spent the entire day yesterday in bed, with the exception of frequent bathroom breaks.

And yet, with everything that’s wrong, I can’t help but look on the bright side of it all. Unlike years ago during sickness, I am eating several servings of protein with a small salad or an apple with almond butter. Surprisingly, my upset stomach doesn’t revolt against the food that enters my body. Quite the opposite: shortly after eating, I feel a burst of energy, that allows me to take care of basic needs, as my family is out and about, giving me time and space to heal.

Today, I still have a fever, but I don’t feel as weak and miserable as I know I would have, if I still ate a Standard American Diet (SAD). I’m letting the fever run its course instead of interfering with ibuprofen or some other painkiller. I realize it may be a luxury to just sit and wait it out. So I do consider myself lucky. I am optimistic, that within a couple of days, I will be my good old self yet again.

And so it begins… once again…

December 2010. I’m on the right.

It was in January of 2011, when my good friend, Barb and I went for a run together. I mentioned casually that I was considering go low carb for a while, because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I’d run endless miles without much success in the weight loss department. I’d been sticking to a “healthy” diet (haven’t we all heard that before!), and my weight wouldn’t budge. Well, actually… it did go up every now and then, and especially around the holidays. Can you spell “Sugar Coma”?

Back to my early morning run with Barb. She listened to my little rant, and then recommended I should give the paleo diet a try. It’s not like I hadn’t heard of the paleo diet before. A mere three months before, my best friend “Shady Lady” (that’s her blogging name) told me she’d like to try the paleo lifestyle. I looked at her like she’d gone insane and told her that was just crazy. And because she didn’t have any support, she quit after a few weeks. Well, on that cold January day, this paleo “thing” sounded a lot more reasonable. It made sense!

I went home, got on the computer, and googled. And I went to Mark Sisson’s website, where I didn’t just find valuable information on eating like a caveman, but I also read hundreds of success stories. Wow! This paleo lifestyle might not be a bad idea after all, I said to myself, and started that day.

July 2011

Don’t get me wrong… the first 14 days were hell. I suffered through the carb flu, wanted sugar, wanted bread, struggled with headaches and occasionally told people that I’d go and “get my car from the phone”, all while looking frantically for my keys that I was actually holding in my hands. But day 15 came around, and suddenly I felt like a new person. My energy came back, and not just that… I felt great! Three months later I ran a half marathon 15 minutes faster than the one I’d done a year before. And another month later, I ran another half, yet another 15 minutes faster.

Yup, I had a very excited husband, when I looked like this.

I lost 30lbs! I could sleep! I was finally regular! And what’s even more wonderful than anything else: I did not crave sugar at all. It was great.

And then, the holidays came around, and with it several parties, wine, sugary treats (sugary German treats in particular), and I thought, what’s wrong with cheating a little for just a month. I cheated. Almost every day. I even started eating certain gluten products again. And of course, give a sugar addict some sugar, and she’ll want more of it. By New Year’s Eve, this cavegirl was starting to gain weight, experienced weird hip pains, and craved sugar every day.

Time to go back to the roots once more! I started the new year with a 30 day challenge. No sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no processed foods, certainly no gluten. I’m back. I’m on Day 6 today, and if it wasn’t for the flu (the actual flu, not the carb flu), I know I’d feel fantastic. Welcome to my blog. I hope you’ll join me on my journey. Have a happy day! For more posts from me on my old blog, go to Such Lovely Freckles