Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Lifestyle Change

For about two weeks now, I have been eating a paleo style diet (which I am calling "neo-paleo" to myself).  I test drove paleo a bit over the holidays because my parents and my sister and her husband are all doing it.  There are a lot of versions of paleo, but my current version has eliminated the following:
  • All grains
  • All dairy except butter
  • All legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, etc.)
  • Yeast [because of evidence I've seen outside the paleo diet that wheat, dairy, legumes, and yeast all are high in lectins, which makes for unhappy guts; these are all foods that I reacted strongly to back in my elimination diet days and lectins seem a likely culprit]
  • Seed oils
  • Potatoes (I could eat these in small quantities but I haven't been doing so; I'd just as soon eat a different vegetable when I'm at home - but they could be a lifesaver in a restaurant/etc. environment)
I think that's everything I've eliminated right now.  I've purchased some books that I'm reading through, but I decided to go ahead, get started with something, and see how it goes rather than spend a ton of time planning the details - I can tinker with my plan as I learn more and as I see how I react to what I'm doing.

On the advice of Mark Sisson's website, I'm also counting carbohydrates for weight loss; I'm trying to stay at or below around 100-110 g per day.  I'll probably target a bit lower later on but this seems a very doable number for me right now.  (And can I just say that counting carbs is way better than counting calories?  If I hit my carb limit but am hungry before bed, it's not game over [or a break down in my diet plan] like it was when I hit my calorie limit - I can still have a snack; knowing that this is true relieves the anxiety I have when placing limits on my food intake.)

So, how is it going?

The most notable change is that my blood sugar levels are amazingly stable.  I haven't had a blood sugar crash at all, and I have not had that experience (very common before) of being lightheaded and having trouble getting upstairs in the morning after not eating overnight.  I think I am finally experiencing what constitutes normal hunger rather than the desperate dizzy, weak feeling that I always had before; I'm now like, Oh, so that's why normal people can get hungry and not freak out about it - if you're hungry and don't eat right away, you just get hungrier rather than feeling like passing out.

My digestive system is much, much happier, and I no longer worry so much that getting hungry will trigger painful stomach cramps, etc.

Most bizarre is that I have not been craving my normal grain-intensive things like oatmeal, cake, cookies, pancakes, pizza, etc., or other sweets like ice cream.  I mean, I still recognize that those are tasty foods but I do not feel any particular motivation toward them.  I had heard from several people that the paleo diet reduces or eliminates cravings, but I did not believe it at all.  It's still early days, of course, but I would have expected these first two weeks to be the worst with cravings.  I haven't even made paleo-style desserts yet (like these fabulous cookies that my sister made over the holidays), though I do eat a small amount of dark chocolate most days.  It seems that this style of eating has really reduced my preoccupation with eating overall, which is awesome.

I've lost about 5 pounds so far.  This may not seem like much, but it constitutes the very first evidence in about 2 years that it is even possible for my weight to go down at all.

I also feel like I have had less achiness in my joints - diminished, but not eliminated.  But that's kind of hard to tell because this achiness ebbs and flows.

I have not experienced some of the benefits that other people have talked about: I haven't had more energy in general (though the lack of blood sugar swings is good); my allergy symptoms (stuffiness, runny nose, sore throat, sinus headaches, fevers, etc.) have not improved; and I seem to feel sick/puny about as often as ever.  But we'll see how things go in the coming weeks.

An unexpected side benefit is that with my current schedule (i.e., doing what I want when I want), it's actually easier to plan and prepare meals on this diet than any kind of "generally healthy/eating in moderation" diet that does not place limits on categories of food.  I'm mostly just buying and cooking whatever meat, vegetables, etc., look appealing in the store rather than working from recipes that have more strict ingredient requirements.  I'm not sure if I'll get tired of these kinds of meals soon (though fortunately I do not need a lot of variety in my diet to be satisfied), and I do have a paleo cookbook on hand for when I want to get fancier with it.


Tam said...

This sounds super awesome. From what I know of your digestive situation, paleo sounds just about perfect for you.

I enjoyed the different experience of hunger as well, when I was doing paleo. Not having blood sugar crashes is huge. It makes hunger more like sleepiness - something that increases over time (not necessarily linearly) until you take care of it, but isn't really distressing until it reaches an advanced state.

I do find I'm surprised that you are able to survive without oatmeal and muffins and all of your usual staple foods. It sounds like you're also cooking in my preferred style (which I don't have the time to follow these days).

5 pounds on a person your size actually does sound like a lot.

What do you eat for snacks?

Sally said...

Well, to be fair, some of the 5 pounds is getting rid of weight gained over the non-paleo portion of the holidays :)

For snacks I have been eating nuts (or nut butter), eggs, ham from the deli, guacamole, veg of various kinds with butter &/or olive oil -- I'm in a luxurious situation of having access to my own kitchen all the time, so I can make a plate of roasted veg for a snack if I want to.

In addition to the meat + veg type meals, I also like making soups and stews for super-easy warm-up and go meals.