A friend of mine is thinking about trying the paleo diet and asked my thoughts on it. I thought I’d just post it here, so I don’t have to re-write this the next time someone asks me. I am, unequivocally, not an expert on anything. This is just my experience with this way of feeding.
Hot Swede and I did a Whole30 before Thanksgiving. Whole30 is a “jump in the deep end” of paleo- no dairy, no legumes, no sugars (honey, agave, excessive fruit sugars included,) no alcohol. It is intense, if you are starting from a SAD (standard American diet,) but it is the best way to see if paleo is worth the sacrifices. I recommend checking out the Whole30 community and joining if you are new to paleo. They offer a lot of support. We didn’t join, but I’d read the entire program and had already been eating low grain and generally low carb for a couple years.
When I was being really strict with it, I felt much much better. My energy was even throughout the day. I was less stressed out; I got upset with the kids less and better kept my cool when the stuff hit the fan. My loathsome baby belly hung out much less and I managed to drop 4 lbs of (probably water) weight. That is huge for me as my body is bound and determined to never drop below 135. Hot Swede also felt better and dropped quite a bit of weight, but he missed his booze and Doritos greatly.
Some things to consider:
4-5 days into Whole30, Hot Swede developed a horrible headache, a foggy mind, and was irritable for about 3 days. Absolutely no fun at all. This is very normal. It’s a shock to the system to remove all the easy carbs and sugar. He got over it and had no other ill effects.
If you don’t cook much, get ready. Go get an apron and a good knife, because you are going to do A LOT of cooking. I have Melissa Joulwan’s cookbook, Well Fed and recommend it for anyone new to paleo. It is a no nonsense, let’s make this as easy as possible, kind of guide to paleo cooking. She has lots of ideas for getting unfussy, easily assembled paleo meals into your mouth. ($10 on Kindle.) Her mayonnaise alone is worth the price of admission and makes going cavewoman so much easier (because we all know that Neolithic people loved mayo on their mammoth.)
Bills, bills, bills:
You are going to eat a lot of meat and a lot of veg. If you’ve been filling up with cheap stuff like pasta, bread, rice, your grocery bill is going up. As is prudent, get grass-fed and pastured animals, if not those- get organic, if not those- buy lean cuts and drain away the fat. Here in Minnesota, Target carries Thousand Hills grass-fed beef products. Check out co-ops nearby for other tasty local animals. Costco has organic, but not pastured, ground beef and chickens at a nice price point. Costco is also brilliant for almond butter, olive and coconut oil. Amazon is where I’m getting unsweetened coconut shreds, since my local grocery stopped carrying it.
Keep in mind, as you gape at the price of meat, that your liquor bills are now $0 and your eating-out budget, I’m afraid, is near the same. Speaking of…
Eating Out and the Social Pariah:
Eating out paleo is hard. The prohibition on most common vegetable oils rules out the majority of salad dressings. The avoidance of gluten nixes any thickened sauce. Abstinance from sugar and cheese rules out pretty much everything else. If you are eating out with friends, check out the menu ahead of time and have a plan, and eat a hardboiled egg beforehand, so you are not tempted by the bread basket.
I HATE picky eaters. And eating paleo makes you a picky eater. I will confess that when in social situations, I eat whatever is served. The last thing I want is for my totally elective eating preferences to become the subject of conversation or an excuse for avoiding the hosts’ cheese plate (Besides, there’s feta on it.) However, when I partake of a decent helping of wheat based items and vegetable oils, I pay for it the next day. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Paleo snacking before a gathering is a good strategy to avoid going too far into the birthday cake.
I rarely even want to go out to eat at a restaurant anymore. It simply isn’t worth the expense and trouble that I will cause the waiter.
Give it a Go:
I love eating paleo. I feel amazing when I’m eating this way, but it can take a few weeks to notice positive changes in your body and mind. But what do you really have to lose? Bread (but you get coconut,) peanut butter (this is hard, but you can keep bacon, BACON!) eating out (but that’s expensive anyway.) And you can keep your coffee, enjoy occasional dark chocolate and maybe even a drink or two. Maybe.
I’d love to know your experiences.