Monday, November 10, 2014

paleo FAQ: 2+ months in

I decided to 'go paleo' on August 30, sort of as an experiment.  I figured that I would stick with the guidelines for a month and then reassess.  As it turns out, I found that I much prefer eating this way.  It's now been a little over 2 months -- so I'm still definitely learning a lot! -- but I thought I'd share a bit about my experiences so far.

In FAQ format.  These are mostly questions people have asked me at work/in real life, not things that anyone wrote in on the blog.  And a few I made up.  That's allowed, right?



Lamb meatballs with cauliflower "rice" pilaf


WHY?  
The main reason I decided to try it was because honestly I was tired of feeling hungry all the time.  It's not that I felt hungry because I was on a super low-cal/restrictive regimen; it's just that after eating what felt like a satisfying meal at the time, I would be ravenous (sometimes shaky and irritable) 2-3 hours later.  I would arrive home from work at around 6 and feel absolutely drained in the hours leading up to dinner at 8 despite multiple snacks.  This led to a pattern of too many snacks/not enough real meals, and then to me beating myself up for not eating 'right'.  Something was definitely off.

I also felt tired in general, though I am not sure whether this was related to baby sleep issues/breastfeeding/etc.  I had read many anecdotal reports of better energy from paleo eaters and figured I had nothing to lose by seeing if it worked for me.

Finally, I had a few pounds of baby weight that were hanging around and I wanted to see if a dietary shakeup would help.

So what benefits have you experienced?
Energy:  I definitely have more steady and even energy throughout the day.  AND I feel better when I wake up.  I'm not entirely sure, but I actually think I feel better on slightly less sleep -- closer to 7 hours than 7.5-8.  HOWEVER, this may be because I finally recovered from post-baby sleep debt.

More satisfied throughout the day:  I do not feel nearly as desperate to snack as I used to, though often I still eat something between meals.

I feel like I am eating good, high-quality food.  I always got an ill-defined icky feeling after eating processed carby foods -- a feeling that may have been in part psychological, but was there nonetheless.

Random questionable benefit:  I have always been a super-over-reactor to mosquito bites and this seems improved on paleo.  Not sure if it's a legit correlation but perhaps.



Ginger lime shrimp + roasted butternut squash

Any downsides?  
I'd say the only major downside is that in group eating situations, it's easy to feel self-conscious about not eating whatever everyone else is having.  Restaurants are also challenging but I either a) go APAP (as-paleo-as-possible) without worrying about perfection (i.e., the right oils or presence of soy-based additives) or b) make a conscious exception and enjoy it.

Have you lost weight?  
I think I lost about 3-4 lb total, and it was all within the first month of paleo eating.  I'm not continuing to drop weight and I haven't really been trying to.  I'm ~2-3 lb above my pre-pregnancy weight at this point, so most of my pre-Cameron clothes now fit.  Either the last little bit will come off (perhaps after weaning?) or it won't.  I'm okay with whatever at this point.

What do you eat for breakfast?
If I am running, I will eat 1/2 banana + a spoonful of sunflower butter pre-run (with coffee).  Then I'll have eggs (2, cooked like an omelet with some butter) and fruit afterwards.

If I'm not running, I'll typically have 2 eggs + fruit + some kind of fat (avocado, a few nuts, etc).  Sometimes I'll have some turkey sausage instead of the eggs.

I have always taken my coffee black so that part hasn't been an issue.

What do you snack on?
Nuts.  Too many nuts, probably!  Also Larabars sometimes, 88% dark chocolate squares.  Olives.  Fruit.  Beef jerky once in a while.

Are you "strict"?  When do you "cheat"?
Yes and no.  When eating food from home, I pretty much stick to the paleo basics of meat/fish/veg/fruit/nuts/seeds/oils.   PLUS dark chocolate and wine :)

I eat out typically 3-4 meals/week -- one work lunch, plus 2-3 meals out over the weekend.  At those times, I usually just try to go APAP (see above).  I've had ~4 times so far over the past couple of months where we were at events or great restaurants with special food, and on those times I've just decided to ignore the paleo 'rules' and just enjoy.  I also did not stick to paleo during much of our vacation (and the mosquito bites itched like crazy.  Just saying.)  No regrets!

Do you miss non-paleo foods? 
Surprisingly . . . no, not really!  I'm actually really surprised about this.  I think it helps that I have the idea firmly in my head that if I REALLY want something and it feels like the right time (pizza at a favorite place, ice cream on vacation, a special dinner out, etc), I'm going to have it.  Nothing feels truly or permanently off limits.

It also helps that paleo meals -- to me-- are delicious.

Do your family members (Annabel, Josh, and Cameron) also eat paleo?
No -- I do not want to impose any restrictions on others.  However, I will say that because of what I make for myself, Josh and Annabel are probably eating more eggs and meat than they were previously, and fewer grain products.  But definitely still some!

For dinner, our meals will often be paleo with a potato or veg starch (butternut squash) OR there will be rice/pasta/etc for Josh and Annabel to have with whatever I am having.

How has your running/exercise tolerance been impacted?
Hard to say.  Initially I was definitely significantly slower on runs.  Now, I think I'm close to where I was beforehand, but I still haven't gotten anywhere near my definition of 'fast' (FOR ME) yet.  After Annabel I remember it didn't happen until I was completely finished with breastfeeding so maybe it will take some time with this round as well.

That about sums it up.  If you have more questions -- or want to provide ideas, tips or your experiences with eating paleo -- please comment.