OA Contributor Beth Buczynski is going paleo for 30 days! This is the second installment in a short blog series that will chronicle the challenges and benefits of clean eating according to the paleo diet. Previous paleo posts linked at the bottom of this article.
Well ladies and gents, the first week of paleo eating is in the bag, and I'm not dead yet! In fact, the last seven days of sticking to a squeaky-clean paleo diet haven't been as tedious as I thought they would.
Once you start to "get" the basic formula of a healthy paleo diet--good fat + good protein + copious amounts of vegetables--it's easy to just start plugging in the variables that happen to be on hand at the time. Whether it's grassfed burgers or shrimp, or asparagus or sweet potatoes, it's fairly easy to make sure you're covering all the bases in each meal.
This is not to say I've become an over-night paleo expert, however. Over the past week, I've Googled "Is ____ paleo?" more times than I care to admit. But that's par for the course with an eating style that's so dramatically different than what we're told is healthy. It's such a popular question, there are flow charts and posters designed to provide a quick answer. I'm beginning to develop a sense of understanding where most things fall on the paleo-or-not spectrum. But that's not all I've learned...
Hello Taste Buds!
I recently read a report about a Germany study that found obese kids have less sensitive taste buds than their normal weight peers, and may therefore eat more food to get the same flavor sensation. Now, I'm not an obese kid, but I have noticed that since I've been eating paleo, my tastebuds seem to be working better than usual. Dishes on which I would have dumped salt, pepper, or hot sauce (yes, sometimes before even tasting) now seem perfectly fine to me. I ordered a Vanilla Blonde Roast at Starbucks thinking I was getting black coffee. Well, there's about four pumps of vanilla syrup in it. I took one sip and almost vomited. Any other day I would have added creamer and inhaled. I'm thinking my taste buds would probably be big help in limiting salt and sugar...if I wasn't always blasting them with salt and sugar.
Bloated Bellies Hate Paleo
After just a week of paleo eating, my low belly pooch is almost entirely gone. I haven't measured myself, but I know because I can now use the smallest notch on my belt without holding my breath. Must be nearly 2 inches in a week. That's because it wasn't fat, but the result of negative reactions to the food I was eating, aka dairy, grain, sugar, and salt. When the body doesn't like these things, it can lead to water or stool retention (yuck!), which sits in your gut, fermenting, and becoming bloat. For the past week, I've completely eliminated alcohol, dairy, and grain, and sugar/salt for the most part. And in turn, my body has eliminated my bloated gut. Maybe it's trying to tell me something. I feel trim and even stronger somehow. Not a bad way to kick off a new diet.
Chocolate Is Your Friend
Here's the thing, paleo or not, it's a good idea to limit the sugar in your life. Sugar can come in many different forms, the white granulated, the raw brown, honey, agave, stevia, and yes, even fruit. Regardless of what type of sugar you swear by, it does a very similar thing when it enters your body. Here's how Diane Sanfillipo explains it on BalancedBites: Eat something sweet (regardless of calories) > Insulin is released > Body stores nutrients. Now, if you're trying to lose weight, you don't want your body storing anything, so it makes sense to limit if not eliminate sugar. Personally, I want my body to get to work on the fat it's been storing like a busy little beaver, not riding the sugar train to lazy town.
I assumed that fruit was the exception to this rule, so I bought some dried fruit to have on hand just in case the cravings for vanilla iced coffee had me climbing the walls (they did). But a paleo friend informed me that even fruit would interrupt my ketosis (a state where you're body is burning fat for fuel instead of sugar). Boo. However, he then informed me that high cacao dark chocolate (we're talking 70% or above) has relatively little sugar in comparison to fruit and when eaten in small quantities can cure the cravings without wrecking up your fat burning party. This is a huge win. I purchase one bar, and on nights when I just can't stand it, I slowly eat a single square. It's glorious.
Lest you believe that I can just go paleo and never deviate, I'm here to admit there have been slip-ups. The weekend after I started paleo, there was a Pink Floyd tribute band playing at Red Rocks. With lasers. So yes, I had a few drinks in the parking lot. I also had a (as in singular) chicken wing at the bar along with a swig of beer while watching pre-season football. No fries though! There have also been a few times when I've had a second hleping of a particluarly delicious paleo meal when I didn't need to. Moderation in everything. Even paleo.
So, How About Those Goals?
Weight: Lost 4 pounds!!!
Gut: Bowels are moving with more regularity. Back to a first thing in the morning event. No more visibly undigested food! Size, shape, and color are still unsatisfactory.
Skin: No major breakouts, and I have been noticing less dry, bumpy skin on the back of my arms. Could also be my awesome new brown sugar scrub, however.
Bonus: If you'd like to see what I'm eating on a daily basis, feel free to follow me on Instagram!!
Image: Beth Buczynski