One Year Later

Wow, it has been a REALLY long time since I have posted! I must apologize to my two loyal readers out there, and say that the only excuse that I have is that I have been extremely busy trying to start my own business. Now don’t go getting all excited – the business is related to education, not nutrition. I have been having a ball putting it together, but I have been busier than I have ever been in my entire life.

In passing earlier this week I realized that it has now been a year since I switched to the Paleo lifestyle, so I figured that I’d take a break from my hectic schedule to post a reflection piece about the past year. I mean, I have learned so much about ¬†myself in this past year. I have dealt with a lot of stress, a lot of highs, and a lot of lows, and my lifestyle change stayed intact through it all. I have lived the benefits of added energy, great sleep, and a genuine feeling that I can accomplish anything because I have done this. My focus is such that I can’t physically keep up with all of the ideas that my brain has thought up related to my new business, and I can tell when I have eaten something that I shouldn’t have because that focus disappears entirely. I have learned to plan ahead with my meals, and I have learned more about cooking and spices than I ever thought I would. I have tried new foods and made up recipes on the fly. I have learned about my body and what foods affect my moods, my wellness, and my sanity. I have learned what it takes to keep myself in my own optimal zone. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of cooking, but it is well worth it in order to feel healthy and have the focus and energy that I need to do my job.

One thing that I recognized early about this lifestyle change was how much I actually enjoy it. I never thought that it was possible to enjoy a “diet” (as my friends still call it). I never really feel like I am dieting at all because the food is so good and I feel awesome. I am never hungry throughout the day. I have never been able to say that about any other diet that I have tried.

Throughout this year I have tried (without being too forceful about it) to convince others that my lifestyle choice is healthier and well worth the effort of cutting out breads, pastas, and grains, but when people hear you tell them what they are giving up, they go into preservation mode and violently hold on to these things with every last ounce of their being. I have heard it all when it comes to why people won’t give up these items, and I have tried to refute them all. I have tried to help friends with diabetes understand exactly what is killing them and why. It seems as though no one wants to hear it. But then I remember that in the end, the only person that I can really affect change in is myself because that is the only person that I have control of. Everyone around me has seen the changes in me in the past year, but if they refuse to see what is right in front of them, then I can’t help them. I can only go on doing what has benefited me so greatly. Which I plan on doing.

A lot of people ask me how much weight I have lost in the past year, and I can honestly say that I don’t know. I know that I lost 50 pounds, but after I became comfortable with myself I stopped measuring any of that. I am glad that I lost the weight and I feel better because of it, but I am not stuck on the scale or even on my measurements. I haven’t pulled a measuring tape out in at least six months, and I stepped on the scale for the last time a few months ago. Those numbers seem so meaningless compared to the general feeling of wellness that I have, and that feeling is much more important to me than what a scale says. I have recently (within the last four or five months) tried to start exercising, but even that is more about feeling healthy and fit rather than about the scale and measurements. My job and the business are both high stress right now, and anything I can do to temper that stress and enhance my focus is a good thing.

What I wish people would carry away from my experience is that it really isn’t that hard to achieve a general feeling of wellness. Yes, it takes work. No, it isn’t always easy. When someone suggests that you should go out to eat and you know that there isn’t much of a chance that there will be items on the menu that you should eat, or you know that food additives affect certain aspects of your wellness, it is really hard to say no (especially if you are tired and really don’t want to cook). For me, the key has been remembering how I felt after the last time I ate those foods. Maintaining my focus and feeling of general wellness has been the biggest motivator throughout this process, because I get so much more accomplished when my focus and wellness are intact. And whether I hurt someone’s feelings or not, I have learned that it is better to say no in order to keep myself feeling well and focused than to say yes and kick myself for eating something that results in two weeks of feeling tired and unfocused. When you are doing something that is important to you, you don’t have two weeks to waste simply because of convenience or a moment of weakness.

I guess what I am trying to say is, it has been a great year, and I am looking forward to several more!

A Frustrated Rant

I am frustrated this morning. Mad, really.

Let me back up and give you some context. Hopefully you will then understand my frustration and be mad with me.

Last weekend my fiance, his mom, and I went to Sam’s Club to shop for groceries for a few weeks. We bought a lot of meat because there are a lot of people in this house, so we go through meat rather quickly. Especially now that half of us in the house can really only eat meat and veggies. None of us had been to Sam’s in quite a while, so we spent three hours going through the majority of the store, trying to figure out what we could save money on if it were purchased there rather than somewhere else. When we went through the freezer section, we saw some bags of frozen Tyson chicken that looked pretty convenient. The price didn’t seem too bad, either. The chicken has been so convenient that the bag is already empty. I had my first piece of it last night. I only ate one piece that my sister-in-law had grilled, with some zucchini and onions that I sauteed. And after I ate dinner I promptly passed out for four hours. When I woke up, I felt groggy and unfocused, and I had a hard time going back to sleep.

There is only one substance on the face of the planet that does that to me. This substance is found in pizza and pancakes, and this effect of those food products was one of the main reasons why I wanted to stop eating them.

I looked at the bag to try to figure out the mystery of my sudden need for sleep. The results are somewhat inconclusive, but the bag states that the chicken is flavored with chicken broth. The bag also does not say what the ingredients of the chicken broth are.

I have no proof that the chicken is what caused me to need sleep like nobody’s business. But I do know by the nature and quality of the sleep, the kind of dreams that I had, and the way that I felt when I woke up that there was something wrong with something that I ate. This is where a lot of people around me think that I am crazy and pick on me mercilessly, but when you cut so much crap out of your diet, you are much more aware and sensitive to the effects of that crap when it manages to sneak it’s way back in. All I have to go on in this case is a bag of frozen chicken, because it is the only food aspect of my entire day that I did not have complete control over.

While it is sad that I can’t even trust a bag of frozen chicken when it comes to this diet, I also should have known better. I was looking for convenience; what I found instead was that there is a price for convenience. No one said that this diet is convenient; I work hard every weekend to make sure that I have smart choices throughout the week, as well as variety in those choices. I cook everything. I make sure that everything I eat is as natural as I can afford for it to be. But we have come to a place in society where everyone places convenience over their health, which is what leads companies to put out products that are unhealthy and are ultimately killing us. What makes it extremely sad to me is that I look at a label of frozen chicken, assume by the label that it is fine, but ultimately pay a price for eating it. That price was time away from my kids and household responsibilities because I was so zonked out that I couldn’t even try to get out of bed when my daughter came in to tell me that she needed a fork, which she needed because dishes needed to be washed and I couldn’t do it – because I was so zonked. And it is too early to tell, but I am sure that I will spend the weekend feeling sub-par as well, until whatever nasty culprit that I consumed makes its way through my system.

But in the end, I learned a valuable lesson: convenience is not worth the price you pay. Next time, I will be sticking to the same old chicken that I always cook and has proven to not knock me out like a prize-fighter would.

My Cheating Heart

Okay, I have a confession to make. Last week was a rough week. I have had SO many wonderful things happening that I had to cut some things loose, which broke my heart (although this week I have found out that I didn’t really cut them loose at all). By the end of the week I was ready for a stress-free weekend – meaning no work, no school, no extra-curricular planning for the teacher trainings that I am going to do… and no stressing out over the diet. I pretty much ate whatever I wanted except for the bread, rice, pasta, or potatoes. And I loved every bite of it.

This week has been rough, of course, as my body tries to rid itself of all of the sugar that I inevitably ate over the weekend. I’m sure there was other stuff in all of that food that I ate, too, but I do have to say that I needed that plunge. I was happy that I was able to keep my self-control enough to not be tempted by the bread and things like that – especially since the biscuits and gravy seemed to be calling my name at Golden Corral on Sunday morning.

As I reflect on the weekend and how proud of myself I am, as well as taking mental notes on the hell my body is going through right now as it recovers, I am getting a little worried about the annual vacation that my fiance and I take each May. I’m not incredibly worried about anything except the very first meal that we are going to have, which will be at a little seafood joint in Wilmington. If I remember correctly, they don’t have a lot of broiled or grilled anything on their menu. Last year I caved so bad at the same restaurant – the first meal of the vacation. But last year in May I wasn’t on the Paleo diet, I didn’t have the conviction behind me because I hadn’t been able to observe how my body handles some foods. I was on a regular low-carb diet then, still eating dairy and probably a lot of other things that I have found since then do my body incredible damage. My self-control was lower than it is now because I was eating things that was causing my body to crave other things. That isn’t happening since I have found out what my body can handle and what it can’t.

Usually I don’t let it stress me so much, but sometimes I go into the annual vacation thinking, “It is vacation! Eat what you want and then come back and get over it!” However, I know how hard it is to start over on this diet. I know that once you eat the carby food, you crave more and it could snowball – especially since I have been so addicted to carbs my whole life. I know how hard it is to start over, and I know how rough that two week period where your body heals and gets rid of the crap is (I’m going through it again right now!). I don’t think I could allow myself to go into this vacation and eat whatever I want, especially since I have made such great progress.

I guess part of my problem is that I know that it is going to be hard to plan for everything, but at the same time I know how great my self-control and motivation has been. I know that I will probably be fine, but I want to be able to enjoy myself and have my fiance enjoy himself while we are on the vacation. I know that enjoying myself doesn’t have as much to do with the food, and that I can get through the vacation on the 80%-20% rule – although I’m really not sure what the 80%-20% rule is. Maybe it is exactly how I ate over this past weekend. If it is, I think that I will probably be fine.

Spices

This past week was my first week implementing a Paleo lifestyle. Because of the way I started (completely on the fly, without much information) I actually did my grocery shopping without knowing much about what I was doing. I knew enough that I didn’t completely blow my money on tons of processed food that I wouldn’t be able to eat, but I didn’t realize how important spices would be.

I have to say thanks to all of the bloggers out there who tell us all of their experiences and try to keep us on track. I read a comment yesterday on a blog (I always forget which one – I need to start writing that down) that said that the spices that we put in our food determine the type of dish we are eating. This is especially true when eating Paleo. There are no tortillas, cheese, or sour cream on the table to help you figure out that you are eating Mexican food. No noodles, pasta, and cheesy dishes to clue you in to Italian. When eating Paleo, the distinction is made by the spices that you use.

After I read that, I started thinking about it. There is so much that the Agricultural Revolution changed. When we read about the history of the world we generally hear that the Europeans traded in spices, and when they explored new worlds, they brought new spices and traded spices with those of the new worlds. Spices were coveted back in those days and used for trade. I remember thinking as I read that when I was a kid that perhaps spices were used as a sort of currency, but I could never figure out why they would use spices in that way. Now I know.

If I didn’t have several different spices in my cabinet I would be basically eating the same dish over and over again. It wouldn’t really matter what I paired together; it would all basically taste the same because there would be nothing to give the meals any distinction. Because of this, spices have become more valuable to me as a tool to add different flavors to my food. As I continue to experiment with different foods on my Paleo journey, I will also be experimenting with different spices to flavor those foods.

I have long contemplated starting an herb garden so that I can flavor my food naturally, but before I started this journey there very little point and it wasn’t a priority. Now, as I find myself ¬†experimenting with new recipes, natural foods, and spices, I am finding the addition of an herb garden almost a necessity. It will definitely save money on all of those spices!