One of the real joys of the education that I'm getting through The Institute for Integrative Nutrition is that I get a health coach of my own!
About two weeks ago we were having a conversation that went like this...
Me: Oh my god... I really want to talk today about my diet, because no matter what I do, it's pretty hard to lose the weight and my body just doesn't feel satisfied."
Kathi: Well, let's talk about that... What are you eating?"
Me: Well, I try to stay vegetarian and vegan but I feel so guilty because I literally will binge on meat. If I make garlic and onion burgers for my kid and there are any left I'll have eaten them all in a rush of guilty pleasure by the next afternoon."
Kathi: Well, why don't you eat meat?
Me: (((((( Silence))))))
So we kept talking, or rather I kept talking and she kept listening. I went on and on...about how I love meat but not the process, about how I really hate grains, beans and rice and eat them (especially wheat) only because I think that they're good for me even though they hurt my stomach. I abhor pasta. I hate milk...but love raw milk cheese. About how I would happily live on Asparagus wrapped with prosciutto forever and that I will never ever be able to be a real vegan because I cannot, will not ever give up bacon. Sugar isn't really an issue for me fortunately! By now..I know that my vegan friends are really getting upset. Please don't hate me.
I was practically in tears when she said..."Are you listening to yourself?" Your body knows exactly what it wants to eat and it wants to eat meat. have you ever considered going on the Paleo diet? Well, those were words that sent shivers up my spine and I told her so. Then she told me some interesting things. The Paleo diet is a no grain, no gluten, no white carb (think rice and potatoes and bleached flour) and generally no dairy diet. Nothing that our Paleolithic ancestors didn't eat. There can be some modifications depending on the individual, but the basic rules are really simple. Eat clean, eat organic, eat sustainable, use grass fed butter (my friend Matt is reading the word butter and weeping with joy!) and generally avoid alcohol , a little tougher because I love a good vodka, tonic and lime in the summer months. In short, it's the Hunter/Gatherers diet...and that's how I love to eat. I'm constantly grazing through my garden eating my vegetables and herbs right off of the plants. I got off of the phone grateful and thinking that she might be on to something.
So I got off of the phone and started buying cookbooks....My body started to literally shiver with pleasure as I read them. I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so I went downstairs and made a egg fried in brown butter, with fresh chives, avocado and salsa. For lunch I had a piece of grilled tuna with a salad and for dinner I had a wonderfully rare piece of steak topped with garlic , raw milk blue cheese and raw sweet corn (a no-no on some lists but forget it!) and tomatoes with fresh basil and arugula. This eating gobs of meat went on for the last two weeks. I am in heaven although what I've noticed is that although I am eating more meat, chicken fish etc, that I've slowed down on the portions and it's all coming into healthy balance. I still love my raw and vegan food and raw diet principles are very close to Paleo, some Raw foodists eat raw meat and I definitely love sashimi. I still eat lots of raw/ vegan/vegetarian stuff daily! Occasionally I shove a couple of spoonfuls of mashed potato down my throat without any grave consequences. However, the one night that I ate flatbread and some mushroom beignets? I wanted to die, my stomach hurt so much so I haven't touched it since. I know from my vegan days that I can make a perfectly delightful cream sauce using chestnut flour...oh damn:) No wheat needed!
What's gone? About 4 and a half pounds of fat that melted off and my persistent brain fog. Removing gluten from my diet has put my sex drive into overdrive, a wonderful side effect! My aches and pains are going away and I'm sleeping really well, having endured insomnia for about a year. I think (or it would be more appropriate to say "I feel" , that removing gluten has helped to balance my hormones (I'm definitely menopausal) and allowing myself to eat meat that I know has been sustainably raised is another thing that balancing me. It's accurate to say that I'm not full Paleo, but definitely modified, maybe closer to what they call Primal. I'm eating raw milk cheese which is such a luxury and wonderful Icelandic yogurt topped with fruit, nuts and buckwheat. It's amazing to not have every bite I take be an emotional, moral battle. I've learned that I have to eat carbs in the form of sweet potato, buckwheat, banana or quinoa on the days that I work out so that I don't hit the ground , and that I still love my vegan food although I've given up all of the faux meat and cheese products (a processed gluten/rice filled nightmare) and tofu/soy which messes with my thyroid anyhow although I was using it because I thought that I "had" to. Jim's given up gluten as well and is noticeably less tired and foggy...both of us are not nearly as irritable as we used to be. 50 year old hormones need balance...Two weeks without gluten and we're chasing each other around like teenagers....
The other thing? It's easy to stay on this because I'm not eating what I don't like instead of eating what I don't like and feeling so unsatisfied and icky and fat all of the time. It just goes to show you that what works for one isn't necessarily right for another. I'm losing weight slowly and easily, but I feel leaner, my muscles feel closer to my bones. No one was more surprised than I was to find this working well. My biggest challenge is to keep snacks with me so I don't head straight to what I'm used to, but there are some amazing raw food bars out there that are gluten free, sugar free and filled with fruits, vegetables and nuts. That's all I need!
I know that my conversation with my coach was one of the most important lessons that I will have all year during the course of my training. When I went vegan...well you know the drill. Everyone should be vegan...vegetarian..raw...paleo...whatever. Perish the dogma! That's why there are a million diet books out there and for a short amount of time each one works. What I'm discovering is that there is a certain type of food that YOUR body likes to eat and that you shouldn't/ needn't fight it. As long as I feel healthy, look great and stay disease free I'm not going to fight it. I keep my choices as healthy for the environment as possible and I'm not changing my standards for how I think that animals should be raised, if anything they've gotten stricter. I can taste factory raised meat or farmed fish as soon as it passes through my lips and I won't eat it. When you allow yourself to eat animals who have been raised in terrible conditions the old saying that you are what you eat quickly becomes very true. How's that for dogma (just in case you were missing it!)?
If you want to know more about the Paleo diet there are some amazing blogs out there which will give you a good start. My personal favorite? Make it Paleo!
And for the record...I apologize completely to anyone who I gave a lot of shit to during my dogmatic, militant vegan phase. I really do:)