Paleo | Matters

July 27, 2012


I am really looking forward to digging in and sharing my European adventure but first… a detox – Paleo style. So no, I won’t be fasting on juice or going on some sort of cayenne pepper & lemon cleanse. I’ll be eating really good food – and lots of it. But it’s still going to be challenging. 

A Little Backstory

I’ve been a designer for some pretty well-known folks in the Paleo industry for a little over a year now. It started when I designed the cookbook Well Fed for Melissa Joulwan and David Humphries. Then I went on to design a few branding assets and the book It Starts With Food for Melissa and Dallas Hartwig. In a nutshell Paleo is a diet that consists of meat, eggs, fruit, veggies and healthy fats. It excludes grains, dairy, sugar, legumes and alcohol. You can probably imagine how sheepish I was to tell these folks that I was practically a vegan when I started working with them. Anyway, in that year I’ve learned a lot about cooking (thank you to Mel for teaching me how to cook with flavor) and I’ve learned a lot about eating Paleo. I made being a vegetarian a priority and while I got what they were saying my strong attachments to my morning bowl of oatmeal and my evening glass of wine made the Paleo diet an impossibility for me.

Since reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food I’ve become passionate about what and how I eat. Local, organic, and pastured are important. But also, the kind of conversations and bonds and love that are created over a great dinner shared with friends and family is equally important. In fact, traveling makes me almost regret not eating beef, chicken and lamb because it’s impossible to fully experience the authentic traditions of the places I’m visiting.

So,  A Bit of a Disclaimer. 

Food is a tricky subject. When it comes to what we eat people can become sensitive, defensive and angry when they feel like they are being judged by what they put in their mouth. I’ve experienced it time and time again when I tell people I don’t eat meat and they start to A) make unnecessary excuses to explain why they do or B) make fun of me. Either way, oftentimes what I choose to eat or not eat brings out this insecurity in others and I hate that. There is already enough (media-induced) shame and guilt involved with food – the last thing we need is to be judging each other for what we eat. I’ve been on the flip side of that too – self-consciously explaining my reasons for not eating meat without coming off a preachy or judgmental. So the disclaimer part: what I choose to eat really has nothing to do with you and what you eat. But conversations about food are important – especially as a nation when our health is on the decline and some pretty gross practices are in place (like factory farming, GMOs and the subsidizing of corn). So I’m going to share a little bit about what I’m eating for the next 30 days and why.

The Beginning of the Detox 



Here’s a sampling of what we ate in Europe – proportionately to the size of the photo. 

While on vacation Jeremy and I ate lots of bread, cheese, butter, pastries, ice cream, cappuccinos, wine, beer, and vodka. We were relieved to find a couple of vegetarian restaurants on our last three days of vacation and basically camped out there. But otherwise, yeah. We weren’t properly fueling our bodies with the veggies, beans and whole grains we were used to. Our digestive tracts were all out of whack and I constantly felt hungover. But I think our flight home is what really did me in. As we were leaving the city to the airport (at 4AM) I bought a couple of oatmeal cookies and ate those for breakfast. Then at the airport I had a cheese sandwich and another cookie. Then on the flight out I had another cheese sandwich, 4 glasses of wine (the free alcohol was so novel that I gave in), 1 baileys on ice, some sort of cheesy penne and then tortellini – both which coated my mouth in some sort of waxy substance – along with some chocolate pudding and some sort of cake. The whole time I was eating this stuff I was starving but never found myself quite full. With each bite I started to feel more and more gross. When we finally landed I kind of felt like my bloated guts were going to pop in my body and I would die – right there in the airport.

I decided to start my detox right then. I bought a huge bottle of water, a small jug of coconut water, a banana and some raw almonds. I started making a grocery list full of veggies and eggs and fish (I’m an ovo-lacto pescatarian, if we’re getting technical about what to label me) in my head. And that’s when I started to think about doing Dallas and Melissa’s Whole30.

The Whole30

The Whole30 is basically a nutritional “reset” where for 30 days you eat only foods that will make you healthier. For me this means fish, eggs, lots of vegetables, some fruit and healthy fats like coconut oil and avocado. What it excludes: alcohol, sugar, grains and legumes. Right now I’m on Day 3. I’m doing alright with the food part of it but over the course of 3 days I’ve made lots of justifications in my head as to why it will be okay to have a glass of wine in the evening and maybe a bowl of irish oats on the weekend. Over 3 days I’ve convinced myself that I’m depriving myself of basic human pleasure and that we only live so long. But it’s just 30 days. It’s a lot easier for me to digest when I frame it as an experiment – if I can last 30 days and at the end of it feel a whole lot healthier it will be a success. I anticipate having a bowl of oats on day 31 and really being able to take note on how it makes me feel. Read more about The Whole30 here. In fact, comb the entire web site and blog and be sure to read through the comments if you really want to become informed on eating Paleo.

Now, I think it’s important to listen to your body and go with the flow but when my body has become a pusher telling me I need another pastry and some more alcohol I’d rather listen to my brain. On Day 31 I’ll listen to my body and trust what it really needs then.

The kinds of food I’ll be eating while on The Whole30 (minus most of the meat). From the Whole30 approved cookbook, Well Fed.

Note: I am not being endorsed in any way to do or write about The Whole30.

The Challenges

• Wine – I lean on my glass of wine to help me decompress from my day. It’s kind of a demarcation of when I go from working-from-home to just being home. For now I’m trying to create an evening ritual by sipping on a glass of tea instead but it’s just not the same.
• The Weekend – Every weekend I go to my mom and dad’s lakehouse and enjoy some chocolate chip cookies and cheap pineapple & jalapeño pizza out on the deck. It’s going to be hard to give this up.
• 30 Whole Days – I’m 3 days in and the whole thing is still novel. It’s easy to feel righteous after eating clean for just 3 days. When the new wears off at Day 7 or 14 will I be able to stick with it?
• Friends & Family – None of my friends or family are doing the Whole30 with me. Jeremy is eating what I cook (which is dairy, grain and sugar-free) but he’s definitely enjoying some dark chocolate in the evening and might be a little bummed that I’m not. However, I have to remember that the reason why my friends & family love me is because I’m always challenging myself and doing something a little crazy. I also have to remember that what I eat (or don’t eat) has nothing to do with the pleasure, enjoyment or even pain that they’re getting out of what they eat.
• Going Out to Eat – We really enjoy going out to eat but I don’t want to be that person at a restaurant – so I anticipate I’ll be cooking at home for the next month and not eating much when we go out to eat. But man, I love my local restaurants and will miss them for the next 30 days (plus the three weeks we’ve been gone).
• Becoming Obsessed – I think it’s a little risky, on a mental health level, to be so strict about what you eat. Also, because it’s so different from what I typically eat I have to make choices with each meal and each piece of food I encounter. That can be exhausting. But I have to remind myself that it’s only 30 days and that what I eat does not make me a good or bad person. I’m not going to judge myself harshly if I “slip”. But that said, I don’t intend on slipping.

The Benefits That I’m Looking Forward To

• Feeling & being really healthy in my body and mind
• Having more stable energy and better workouts
• Being able to really tune in and feel the impact certain foods are having on my body
• Pushing myself in the kitchen to create new and tasty meals within the Whole30 limitations

Other Ways I’m Detoxing

I’m not limiting this detox to just what I eat. I’m also going to try and find other ways to detox:
• Sleep at least 8 hours a night
• Unsubscribe to a lot of blogs in my RSS feed that I don’t actually read
• Unsubscribe to a bunch of email lists – especially the ones trying to sell me things
• Meditate daily
• To be intentional and careful with my words
• To have one window open at a time on my computer (I’m that girl with literally 30 windows and tabs open at any given time)
• Declutter my desktop (both real and on the computer)
Declutter my house

Have you ever gone on a strict detox? Do you eat Paleo? I’d love to hear your experiences. Also, I’m curious – would you guys be interested if I shared what I’m eating, along with my workouts, on Google+?

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