If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (you don’t? click on the links to the right to rectify that oversight ), you may have seen a few recent updates that included the hashtag #paleo or #paleo diet.
Now I’m not usually a ‘follow a diet’ kind of person. I eat healthily (most of the time) and know which foods are best for fuelling MY body. But after hearing all the hype about the paleo diet, I became curious and decided to give it a try.
The basics? Focus on lean protein (grass fed beef, free range poultry, eggs and wild fish are best), lots of vegetables, some fruit, and a moderate amount of healthy fats (including nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil); all the foods that our paloelithic ancestors would have had at their disposal. Avoid grains, dairy and refined sugars (including alcohol); none of which are thought to have been readily available prior to animal domestication and farming.
Really not a whole lot different from the way I typically eat. The only things I gave up were oatmeal (number one on my ‘desert island foods‘ list), Greek yogurt, ancient grains bread and brown rice.
My reasons for trying the paleo diet?
- I’d noticed that I’d been eating starchy carbs and sugary treats more often than normal; both of which give me that ‘3 months pregnant’ look (and I’m definitely NOT pregnant…)
- I was tired of feeling hungry all the time (increasing fat and protein and decreasing grains and sugars is supposed to help keep you feeling full longer)
- I recently read William Davis’ book, Wheat Belly, and am alarmed at how different ‘modern’ wheat is from it’s ancestral form and how negatively it affects many people’s blood sugar levels (I worry about blood sugar regulation; there is a history of diabetes in my family)
- I kept hearing about all the amazing changes other people experienced after they switched to a paleo diet; who doesn’t want to feel more energetic? have shinier hair and clearer skin? boost their libido?
What did I eat?
Breakfast was usually eggs and veggies. Somedays I had what I refer to as ‘fake cereal’; hemp hearts, fruit, nuts, coconut flakes and almond milk. Almost like granola, but not quite. I also experimented with ‘grain-free’ oatmeal. Cooked quinoa flakes are almost as good as the real thing. And pumpkin pancakes rock (although I think I tend to over-do it with the maple syrup, undermining the even-blood sugar goal of the paleo diet).
Lunch was always fresh veggies, fruit and lean protein. Some days I added leftover sweet potato or quinoa to the mix.
Dinner resembled lunch. Veggies, lean protein, some fat (in the form of avocado, olive oil and nuts) and some evenings, more sweet potato or quinoa.
I snacked on single serving tuna fish, hard boiled eggs, dried or fresh fruit, sliced veggies and my home-made nuts and seeds mix.
After 21 days of relatively strict adherence (I kept the non-fat milk in my morning latte), here’s what I noticed:
- an almost complete loss of belly bloat within 4 days. I didn’t lose any weight (nor was I trying to), but I no longer looked pregnant. On the two occasions I indulged in wheat (whole grain tortillas on mexican food night and some super fresh, Italian cheese bread with another dinner, mmm…I can still smell it!) I experienced indigestion and bloating within the hour
- reduced cravings for sugary treats by the end of the first week (I have eaten only 1 handful of chocolate chips in three weeks)
- no desire at all for alcohol (thank goodness hubby is off wine these days too; alcohol is really a social thing for me)
- occasional feelings of dizziness or vertigo. This was not at all related to needing to eat, as it was as likely to happen before a meal as after. Nor time-of-the month hormonal changes.
- increased mid-morning hunger. Regardless of how big my breakfast was, I kept finding myself famished by snack time
- decreased mid-afternoon hunger, resulting in less snacking before dinner time (hooray!)
- general crabbiness and irritability for the first week to 10 days. I really wanted to blame it on PMS and my kids’ behaviour, but honestly, neither of those things had anything to do with it.
- I liked how (almost) following the paleo diet kept me from eating pre-packaged foods. It’s amazing how much of what we eat has wheat or some other grain in it
- I was thrilled to see my ‘wheat belly’ disappear
- I loved eating more fat than I usually do!
- I disliked the dizzy spells and low energy during my morning workouts
- My family didn’t appreciate ‘grumpy mommy’
- I loved not feeling like I ‘needed’ something sweet with my coffee
In general, the paleo diet seems to work well for me. It’s certainly sustainable, but with a few minor tweaks. Over the next week or so I’ll be slowly adding oats (and Holy Crap cereal!) back to my morning meal. I’m hoping that the added energy and satiety they give me will not lead to belly bloat and carbohydrate cravings.
I’m also willing to break with the paleo diet to enjoy the occasional piece of chocolate cake and glass of wine; goodness knows I could have used one last week with all the back to school and activities chaos around my house!
P.S. I didn’t notice any change in my hair, skin or libido. I’ll keep you posted!
Have you tried the paleo diet?
I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences with it (and reasons for following it)!