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Monday, June 18, 2012

A Paleo Experiment: Is it everything they say?!

By Christy Smith
** If you’re just now joining me, here is a brief primer of the diet research study I’m doing for fun. (Yeah, I don’t get out much): I am a blood type A+, my friend Addie is a blood type O+.  In order to test the blood type diet theory, as well as to experiment with two of the most popular diets currently being touted today, Paleo and Vegan, we embarked on a two month diet trial.  Both of us will follow the Paleo diet for 30 days, and then we will both follow a Raw vegan diet for 30 days. During this time we will track our progress in weight, energy, and health changes as well as monitor our pH levels to see how each diet affects us individually.  According to the Blood Type Diet (Dr. D’adamo), I should do great on the Raw vegan diet, and Addie should do best on the Paleo diet.  Stay tuned.

So, here I am at day 15 of the Paleo portion of my crazytown experiment.  I honestly don’t know how I got here.  Three hours after I started this portion of the study, I was over it. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and how to get myself out of it. But, I stuck it out. I mean, it was just DAY ONE. Surely, I was strong enough to get through one day.  But then, day two came and I felt the same. I started to daydream about running away to a foreign country. Maybe no one would notice!  Or, maybe I could fake an allergy to cavemen. No, these weren’t rational thoughts, but I was desperate.

As I scrambled my pastured eggs and fried up my grass fed bacon, I plotted more ways to get out of this unbelievably horrible….wait.  Did I just say that I’m *allowed*, no ENCOURAGED, to eat eggs and bacon?  BACON?!  And, I’m complaining because..??? Well, let’s not look at those details just yet. Let’s focus on what I couldn’t have, because that’s ultimately what was irritating me the most.  Here is a list of the NO’s on the Paleo diet:

NO sweeteners of any kind (except stevia)(which is gross)
NO dairy
NO grains
NO beans or other legumes (this includes peanuts/peanut butter, people!  PEANUT BUTTER!)
NO white potatoes
NO corn or corn products
NO corn oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil
NO alcohol

Maybe at first glance you think, “Eh, what’s the big deal? It’s a short list.”  And that’s true.  The NO list for Paleo is much shorter than the YES list. However, we as a society have come to rely on the NO list.  Think about your last meal.  Was it Mexican Food? Grains, corn, dairy.  Was it Indian?  Grains, dairy. Was it Italian? Grains, dairy.  Was it Chinese? Japanese?  Grains, grains, grains.  Was it good?  Probably had grains, corn, dairy AND sugar in it!

I love to cook. I am a master at opening up my cabinet/refrigerator/freezer and “winging” a perfectly healthy and tasty meal any night of the week.  But, all of my staples were taken away from me and I had to sort of learn how to cook all over again.  In the fantastic documentary FRESH, there is a quote that pretty much sums this up: “Americans fear only one thing: Inconvenience.” And I was pretty inconvenienced. I had to second guess every. single. ingredient. I would grab cayenne pepper and stop and ask myself, “Wait, did the cavemen eat cayenne pepper?”  Thank GOD for Google!  So, on and on it went for about a week until I finally got into my groove back.

The cost of a Paleo diet is also high if you follow the protocol that I am following, which is protein at every meal, about the size of your palm, all from grass fed/grass finished or pastured animals. Eating a high quality meat is a key factor in Paleo, and one that I am 100% behind. Don’t eat cheap meat. You get what you pay for. I am also finding out that most people who say that they are Paleo are really just a modified version of Paleo.  So, if you’re contemplating following a Paleo diet and are worried about the cost, don’t be.  You can simply eat less meat, or skip meat once in a while; it’s up to you and your wallet to decide that one. 

After researching “paleo” recipes on the internet in an effort to get a pizza fix, I quickly realized that most of these recipes call for some kind of sweetener and dairy.  Many so called Paleo recipes were not really Paleo at all!  They were just grain free, which apparently is the primary concern for cavemen wannabes. So, again, if you’re considering this way of eating, you may not have to suffer as I am, since it seems you can have dairy and maple syrup/honey from time to time without being considered rogue. Believe me, it makes all the difference in the world. But, if you have it in you, I highly recommended doing a strict Paleo diet for a few weeks, if not 30 days, just to check in with your body and see how it does without the dairy and sugars. 

Well, so back to my main point…after I realized that I was grumpy about a diet that allowed me to eat eggs and bacon, it kind of helped me get through day 2.  I started to focus on what I COULD have (always a good idea), and I started to get the hang of the ins and outs of the diet. Of course I was having major withdrawal symptoms from my daily consumption of caffeine, organic cane sugar in my tea, dairy, and grains.  These symptoms were clouding my thoughts and draining my energy, so I pretty much just slept through days 3 and 4.  I had zero energy!  None.  I also was hungry constantly. My pH levels were in the toilet. Literally.  Did I mention that I was grumpy?

But thankfully day 5 brought a much brighter, and lighter, me.  I had dropped 5 pounds by then, and was starting to get my energy back. It was still not enough energy to exercise though, which was bumming me out, but at least I wasn’t sleepy anymore. However, over the last few days I’ve had a lot more energy and even managed to catch a class at my favorite yoga place, Pranayoga. I can’t even say how much I needed that, both mentally and physically.  I knew I wanted to incorporate yoga during this diet study as a way to help cleanse my body but also to gain some mental focus. My muscles were sore the next day, and were a gentle reminder that I need to use them more! 

I can’t say that the Paleo diet is the one for me, or not, just yet. But, I have become much more conscious of what I eat, and it is helping me as a nutritionist to understand what my clients might go through, as well as what aspects I want to continue to focus on after the diet is over. I think anyone who struggles with food or their weight needs to get themselves into a 30 day diet challenge just to put a perspective on how food works with their body.  

I came into nutrition school feeling as though there was only one way for people to eat and I was determined to be that person who finally discovered the secret. But, now, after tons of reading, research, and personal experience, I realize that each person has a diet that is right for them. Almost like a fingerprint, we are each unique in our nutritional needs as well.  I hope to be able to educate people to learn to listen to their inner nutritionist so that they can intuitively understand the right foods to eat.  Eating healthy shouldn’t be such a challenge.  I mean, if a caveman could do it…

If you’d like to follow my daily meals and other fun informative nutrition tips, please like my page on Facebook!

About the Author:

Bio: Christy Smith, a Fort Wayne native, is a Certified Nutrition Therapist in pursuit of her Master Nutrition Degree through the Nutrition Therapy Institute out of Denver. Her passion for cooking, food, and health have combined into a new venture, Whole to Healthy Nutrition Services. She is excited to share her no-nonsense approach to healing with whole foods.