Last week, I started on the Paleo diet. I know many people will be offended by my use of the word diet there, as it is considered a Way of Eating by Paleo devotees, but to my mind, it is a diet.
Paleo is the latest of any of the food and dieting trends. I started noticing the hash tag being used on Pinterest about 18 months ago. The idea is very simple: you eat like a caveman. Meat, eggs, fish, vegetables and fruit. No wheat, dairy, grains or processed food.
I can’t count the number of times, especially since having Ben, that I’ve thought, I must lose a few pounds. Not much, I grant you, but I am completely in that trap of thinking my life would be better if I were 5 or 10 pounds lighter. If only I didn’t have a bit of a tummy. If only I were one size smaller. I’m embarrassed by this kind of thinking. It’s a cliche, that 30-something year old women must be obsessing about their weight. And yet here I am, in the same evening pinning a recipe for a calorie-laden cheesecake and one for ‘the best way to lose weight.’
So I decided to try Paleo. This was also because I really wanted to kind of ‘reset’ my system – I am far too dependent on sugar and caffeine, and I wanted to break out of that. I also liked the ‘real foods’ element of it.
Anyway, my attempts at dieting often follow the same cycle, and I think I have learned a bit over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d outline these.
- The first three days were pretty hard. I had to be organised, and take lunches into work with me. By 4pm on day 1, I had a caffeine-withdrawal headache, and was really hungry. My boiled-egg breakfast and ham-salad lunch wasn’t enough.
- Cutting carbs and grains at dinner time was mostly easy – I had planned eating things like pork chops with a spicy sauce and vegetables. I could easily do some rice for Tim. Unusually, I didn’t crave sweet things in the evening.
- By Day 4, I felt quite stable, and as I was at home, I could eat a bit more. But I really wanted a cup of coffee. I didn’t have a headache, I just wanted a hot drink more than anything.
- On Day 5, Tim and I went out for a special lunch. I allowed myself to eat bread, cheese and a small piece of rocky road. I enjoyed every mouthful, although I was really conscious of the sugar rush.
- I relaxed a bit over the weekend – a bit of bread with dinner on Saturday, and a bit of pavlova – but I didn’t go crazy.
- At the end of the first week, I had lost two pounds. It seemed like an awful lot of self-denial for 2 pounds.
- I started this week with good intentions, but have cheated a little bit – I’m back on the occasional decaff coffee. I don’t think that’s too bad.
- I went a bit overboard this afternoon. It was raining, and I was tired and cold. Ben was asleep. I ate some custard, a pancake and then some chocolate. This is typical, and it’s at this point that I think, what’s the point? I’ll give up.
See, I can see that I’m trying to excuse myself for what, in my head, I consider ‘bad’ eating. But this is part of the issue. If you completely exclude food groups, you then consider some foods bad. And I know that I view my eating in terms of days – if I eat something bad, I may as well have written off the whole day.
The other issue is that, at my lightest, I still had a bit of a tummy. I still wasn’t happy with my figure. I was always cold. So the issue isn’t to do with the number on the scales.
When I went back to work (albeit part time) with a toddler, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit much exercise in. I consciously gave up my gym membership – not only was it a luxury, but I wouldn’t find the time to fit it in. To be honest, I don’t know if I’m that much less fit. I went for an impulsive run a few weeks ago, and felt good after 3km.
However, I can’t deny that I felt less bloated, and I am glad I’ve given up the caffeine again. Even Ben’s current 5am starts haven’t driven me back to that. I also want to remember the enjoyment I got out of the lunch – too often, food is a means to an end, and I want to enjoy it as much as I can.
So I want to eat by the following principles:
- Base most of my food intake around fish, meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables.
- No food is ‘off-limits’ or ‘bad.’
- Treats should be occasional (i.e. weekly, not daily).
- Treats should be special, or you won’t enjoy them.
- Enjoy every bite.