For the past three weeks, I’ve embarked on what I like to call a wee little “food challenge.” (I loathe the word “diet” more than I loathe “Glee” and wet blankets.) Since April 16, I’ve been rocking the Paleo lifestyle pretty hardcore – aka the “Caveman Diet.” (Egads! That word is a sneaky little bugger.) According to this…uh…eating regimen, there are many foods you must forego. It’s a frightening litany of beloved delicacies that are now 100% no-go’s: all dairy products, legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, etc), all grains/glutens, salt, refined sugar, processed oils, and more must be avoided in order to truly transform into a caveman a la the Geico commercials.
In other words, you can only eat grain-fed lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and your own arm.
Weeks ago, I became obsessed with laboriously scanning all of our condiment bottles. “There’s high fructose corn syrup in EVERYTHING!” I would scream from the kitchen on a nightly basis. However, I guess since I continued eating like crap, I couldn’t really complain too much that my fucking delicious bottle of spicy, salty Frank’s Thick Red Hot was going to inevitably create an imbalance in my fructose and my glucose levels. “These chips have so many hydrogenated oils!” I would exclaim in between shovel-fulls of sodium I crammed into my flapper. It was kind of like the food equivalent of backseat driving. “Man, no one should ever eat this!” Chomp, chomp.
I continued learning about nasty corn syrups, bad oils, and genetically modified foods. I took out various books from the library to learn more about a healthy omega-3/omega-6 balance, and proper nutrition, which both lead to healthy digestion and better metabolism. So I decided to take the plunge. But even though I studied up, it was still a shock to jump into the deep end without a life vest. In fact, I felt like I jumped in wearing winter clothes and snow pants (which oddly enough, I’ve done before!).
I neglected to fully think this through. At the end of one particular Sunday Funday, I decided to sober up, close up the bag of popcorn I was inhaling, and go all Stone Age come morning. I dig the fact that Paleo eating allows only for all natural, fresh ingredients, either straight from the ground or freshly killed. Given my absolute love for all things animal (and fish), finding solid sources of protein hasn’t been a problem. And vegetables – bring on the greenery! Green is good! Hooray for radical changes…mostly!
I’ve now converted to almond milk and almond butter. I’ve cut way back on coffee and booze, and while sugar has flown the coup, I replaced it with honey wherever applicable. I must admit – I feel pretty good! My energy is up, my mind is clear – there really is power in cutting out processed and refined foods.
Let’s face it – Americans eat like shit. The level of processed junk we willingly consume on a daily basis can’t be good for our bodies. It’s all chemical-induced, genetically modified, and unnatural…and I feel insanely better and stronger without it.
The problem? How many times can I sauté garlic and onion smothered in olive oil? Meat is delicious, but also pretty expensive since I’m consuming it in such insane quantities. Whole Foods is raping my paychecks. Organic fruits and veggies don’t grow on trees you know! Oh, wait…
The best part of this fiasco is that I really don’t feel like I’m on a d-word. I’m quite content actually. I love the foods I’m eating and discovering, and frankly, I’m enjoying the challenge. (Plus, I’m down 11 pounds – bonus!) But after a full day’s work, an hour or more at the gym, add a little apartment clean-up and dish washing, and how much time is left to slice, dice, cook and grill? My free time is non-existent, my money is disappearing, and my social life kind of took off with my free time. How do people actually sustain this!?
I’m eventually going to have to start eating normally again, but being Paleo for a few short weeks has given me an irrational fear of regular foods. Whole wheat isn’t really that much better for me? Peanuts will mess with my digestion? Dairy will slowly kill me!? I can’t unlearn the stuff that now lingers in my head like a one night stand who can’t figure out she’s overstayed her welcome, but what else am I supposed to do? How do you Paleo and Vegans peeps do it? (No, seriously. Comments and suggestions are welcome!)
I guess it all comes down to this: We’re only gonna die from all our arrogance, that’s why we might as well take our time. No, wait. That’s a completely unrelated Sublime quote. How about: We’re all gonna die, so let’s get high. Nope. Iggy Pop. What I mean is – life’s short. And we all know what Ferris Bueller said about that. Being disciplined can sometimes be super awesome, but life is to be enjoyed. I guess you just have to find that striking balance between being healthy/maintaining a certain set of principles, and loving your life and living it to the fullest.
I enjoy eating veggies and hummus as my crunchy go-to snack. I love my egg white scrambles, sans cheese, plus an overload of organic tomatoes, mushrooms and green peppers. But, I also love kegs of delicious craft beer and hoovering crumbled cheese out of the container with my hands. The paradox here leaves me facing a massive amount of strife and confusion. Oh, this life of mine.