"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Reflections on the Last Four Semesters/My Paleo Journey

Classes ended this week, which means I'm now halfway done with college. As I reflect over the last two years, I realized that I've made a lot of life changes that have left me happier and healthier than I've ever been before.

Paleo and my health/nutrition passion changed my life. I'm physically much healthier than I was fifteen months ago, but my whole outlook on life has changed as well-- I'm much more positive, I worry less, and I enjoy things a lot more now in general. I feel like a completely different person.

I started college 50 pounds and 5 sizes bigger than I am now. Like any new college student, I went crazy on carb-loaded, sugary foods-- cereal and pizza were eaten at any time of the day, Wawa milkshakes and Insomnia Cookies were the best 2am snacks, and Ritz crackers and Nutella were my favorite food groups. I rarely, if ever, got enough sleep-- I was constantly exhausted, stressed out, and suffering from colds and mood swings. I was sedentary, putting on the Freshman Fifteen, and not really caring about what I ate in the least bit. I can always just go low carb one day and I'll be fine. No problem, I told myself. I've done it a million times before. So the semester ended and I went from eating a ton at school to eating a ton over the holidays.

By January, my jeans barely fit and I felt sluggish all the time. I was getting a bit more sleep than the previous semester, but I was still almost always exhausted, sick, and moody. I remember my last night on the SAD: January 31, 2010. I'd eaten a bowl of Fruity Pebbles for dinner (I'm shuddering at that thought right now), but was still ravenously hungry... so I went to Wawa and ate a hoagie as well. What the hell was wrong with me? Disgusting! That's when I made up my mind: tomorrow would be the first day of the rest of my life. Of course, I'd told myself this a million times before, always with the same result: I'd eat low-carb for a month or so, lose some weight, then go right back to the SAD and be even heavier than before. But, as I've mentioned in some of my previous posts, February 1, 2010, actually was "the first day of the rest of my life."

I always talk about how awesome Paleo is (because it is!) and how fantastic I feel, but it hasn't always been so easy: that first semester of healthy eating was really, really freaking difficult. Eating low carb (which somewhere along the line turned into the Caveman Diet) in an SAD world was extremely isolating. "No, I don't want to order pizza. No, I can't go out for fro-yo. No, I don't want to make pasta and popcorn. Yes, all I'm eating for dinner is salad and a piece of chicken. No, I'm not crazy-- I swear."
I developed major food and social anxiety-- it was easier for me to not go out at all than to have to deal with food-related situations (which, at college, is almost all of them). This was before I discovered the Paleo/Primal community, so I felt really isolated, anxious, and alone-- and that carried through the summer, where I had to deal with my friends from home telling me to "just eat a sandwich" or that "a little ice cream won't kill you." God, that was difficult. I didn't want to go out, I didn't want to see anyone... and I didn't want to talk about it because I was so afraid of being lectured again or having people think I was even crazier than they did already. So I spent my first six months eating like a cavewoman feeling totally out of my mind and living as a hermit as much as possible. I was still coping with my big lifestyle change and I was still trying to grow into my new body-- I still saw myself 50 pounds ago and would wake up every morning amazed at the size of my new jeans.

End of the Fall, 2009 semester vs. End of Spring, 2010 semester

About a week before the fall semester started, it was like a switch flipped in my mind-- the anxiety went away and I no longer saw that former fat girl in the mirror. I realized recently that it was because I was no longer speaking to some of the people who caused a lot of my anxiety and brought a ton of petty drama and negative energy into my life (mostly because Penn starts later than most schools, so no one was around much that late in the summer)-- I could just focus on me without hearing the constant lectures and unnecessary BS. I cut my hair short for the first time in years; I went shopping for some new clothes in bright colors (after years of only wearing black because I wanted to look thinner). I wanted to put my SAD life and my former negativity behind me for good-- almost seven months after February 1, I knew this wasn't just a temporary thing. I was ready to start my third semester healthy, happy, and feeling a hell of a lot better. Would social events still be an issue? Would people still think I'm insane? Absolutely. But after spending months adjusting to this lifestyle, I knew I was really healthy... so to hell with people's opinions! People thought Socrates and Columbus were insane too-- it's only a matter of time before CW, SAD-followers come around to Paleo and realize that we're right.

My passion for nutrition, which had slowly started over the summer, became full-blown in the fall. Not only was I feeling great and being more social, but I was becoming more informed about nutrition-- I spent my free time reading up on health/nutrition online, subscribing to newsletters, and spending my Fall Break reading Michael Pollan. I was getting a lot of sleep, staying active by taking the stairs up to my 13th-floor dorm room multiple times a day, and keeping the anxiety-causing people away. I just felt like a better person. It's amazing how much things change when negative energy is removed! (I met up with a friend over Christmas break that I hadn't seen in a long time, and she said something along the lines of "You're not as negative and cynical anymore! You seem so happy!") So I spent the semester kicking ass grade-wise, feeling happier and healthier than ever before, and falling more and more in love with health, wellness, and nutrition. (I even went Primal vegetarian for awhile after reading a ton of "vegetarianism is so healthy!" books/articles... except it just made me feel sick. Bleh.)

I also rediscovered a lot of my former passions and developed new ones. A question on PaleoHacks yesterday made me think about this, because once I really transitioned to the Paleo/healthy lifestyle, my "spare-time was totally reinvented." I've been playing a ton of piano and writing a lot of poetry these last two semesters-- I hadn't done much of either my first year of college. I developed a love of cooking, and I am so excited to cook a lot at home this summer. I also enjoy the outdoors more-- for example, I spent all of today outside in the sun, playing kickball and frisbee with my friends (something I'm pretty sure I never would've done last year). I now love taking walks, going for runs, reading in the sun, being outside. I truly believe that Paleo is the "spice of life" and is just another reason to adopt this lifestyle.

January, 2011. Semester 4 of college and still eating as far away from the SAD as possible! For almost a year, I hadn't counted carbs or calories and I was eating so much without ever putting on weight. This lifestyle was awesome! But I was still Primal vegetarian (as in... take the Primal rules and just substitute meat for tofu) and suffering from IBS-like symptoms. My dad sent me Cordain's The Paleo Diet via Nook and, well, the rest is history. I discovered the Paleo/Primal/Caveman community and realized that there are other people out there who are just as passionate about this lifestyle as I am. A ton of networking, books, and blogs later, I've never been happier. This has been such a phenomenal, Paleo/health-filled semester, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.

So why am I talking about this now, over a year after my Healthy Living journey began? Because I want to thank all of my readers and the Paleo/Primal community for making this semester my best one so far. I also want everyone-- especially those new to or thinking about making the change to Paleo/Primal-- to know you are not alone. There are people out there-- on the internet, in your own community, staring at you from bookshelves, going on TV and radio shows-- that are just as health-conscious as you are. Nothing has made me happier than finding the Paleo community this semester, and I wish I had become a part of it when I first embarked on my Paleo journey.
Can the transition to Paleo be difficult? Will your friends, family, and peers think you've gone crazy? Of course. Making a major life change is never easy! But this is a life change that is for the better. Once you get through the transition period, I guarantee that you will look and feel-- both physically and mentally-- better, and this will be a permanent thing. Don't give up, and don't feel like you're going through this alone, because you're not. Sign up for blog updates, join a Paleo meet-up group in your area, try to get someone to transition with you, read Everyday Paleo, check out PaleoHacks, subscribe to the new Paleo Magazine, hold a Paleo potluck meal with your friends and family, get rid of anyone or anything that causes negative energy or weighs you down more than the SAD. Don't listen to Conventional Wisdom and don't let your SAD friends bully you back into eating whole grains and processed crap. Stay strong, and don't give up-- you can do this! Thousands of people all over the world have transitioned to Paleo and changed their lives for the better, so reach out and don't go through this alone! The Paleo community is always looking for new enthusiasts, so come join us!

Quote of the Day:
"Happiness lies, first of all, in health." -George William Curtis

Kind of sums it up:

(This post is participating in the Primal Den Blog Carnival.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Philly Paleo Adventure

The weather's been gorgeous here in Philly these last few days-- it's been in the 80s, sunny, and just-all around beautiful. After spending the last few weeks cooped up in my dorm, writing term papers and studying, I decided to be outside, school-free, all Sunday. After going for a run around campus, I had the idea to scout out Sarah Fragoso's new book, Everyday Paleo, at the Barnes & Noble in Center City, then stop at Trader Joe's for, well, whatever Paleo things I could find. Books and Paleo and a nice dose of Vitamin D all in one day? Perfect!

Twenty-one blocks and a lot of sun later, I arrived at the Rittenhouse Square Barnes & Noble and went right to the health/nutrition/diet section and, sure enough, saw three copies of Fragoso's book. Score! I also saw The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet Cookbook, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The New Evolution Diet, and The Paleo Solution. Words cannot describe how happy seeing all of those books on one shelf made me! The Primal Blueprint, however, was MIA. Huh.

But wait! As I perused the "Special Diets"* shelf in the cookbooks section, you know what jumped out at me? All three of Mark Sisson's books!! That's right: The Primal Blueprint, The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, and Primal Blueprint: Quick & Easy Meals were all on the shelf! Jackpot! So I grabbed Quick & Easy Meals, ridiculously excited that this B&N carried it considering it just came out. Such an epic, epic win... especially since the semester's winding down and I'll have more time to cook quick and easy meals!*
*Note: "Special diet" to describe Paleo/Primal is a total understatement. Maybe I should petition B&N to create an "Extra-special, Completely Sensible/Awesome, Eat-like-nature-intended Diet/Lifestyle" shelf. It'd be great!
*Note 2: My mission this summer is to do a heck of a lot of cooking. I now own quite a few Paleo/Primal cookbooks, so I'm warning you all now: MANY recipe/food porn posts will be forthcoming!

After buying Everyday Paleo and Quick & Easy Meals (and loving gift cards, coupons, and the member discount so I paid about the same price I would've online!), I headed over a few blocks to Trader Joe's. I've never been to Trader Joe's before, so I was really excited to see that much (reasonably priced!) food all in one place. It's kind of funny, actually, because Michael Pollan's "only shop the peripheries of the supermarket" rule wasn't really applicable-- I found most of my stuff in the center aisles! While I wanted to go crazy on nuts, seeds, and dark chocolate (even though I keep telling myself I really need to stop eating that stuff...), I found two things that were even better: unsweetened cocoa powder* and almond butter with flaxseeds. Total cost? Like, $7! A tiny thing of almond butter (loaded with crap ingredients) is somewhere around $12 at the FreshGrocer (where unsweetened cocoa powder is non-existent) here in University City, so this made me super happy.
*Note: I now have a new way to drink my coffee: coconut oil, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Best combination ever.

I stopped for Indian food on my walk back to campus, and I had to insist about a million times that yes, I was sure I didn't want rice and naan, and yes, it is possible to eat Indian without them. I'm pretty sure they thought I was insane... (But it's okay: I've gotten so used to people thinking I'm crazy at restaurants by now!)

So that was my Philly Paleo adventure. I'm planning on cooking and reading Everyday Paleo soon, so I'll definitely be posting food and a book review soon. But right now, I'm going to watch The Food Network's Meat and Potatoes and drool over the copious amounts of meat...

Check these out:
-PaleolithicDiet.com. It'll be launching soon, so sign up!
-Primal Toad's Smoothie eBook. For only $5, this is an awesome deal!
-Have you subscribed to Paleo Magazine yet? The first issue will be out in a few weeks!

Quote of the Day:
-"It is not a 'fad' diet or the latest trend in Hollywood. It's how our bodies are meant to be fueled." -Everyday Paleo


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Whole30: Finished!

Yesterday marked Day 30 of the Whole30 Paleo Challenge, and I realized that this last month has been the only time in the last 14 and a half months of Paleo/Primal eating that I've been as close to 100%-Paleo you can be in the modern world. On my most-Paleo days prior to Whole30, I still put half-and-half or cream in my coffee... and dairy is not part of the Paleo lifestyle.

So what's changed over the last 30 days?
-I now drink my coffee black (sometimes with cinnamon and coconut oil too). I can't imagine using any type of creamer again... mostly because I realized that it makes me nauseous if I combine it with coffee.
-I stopped snacking. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) Strict Paleo makes me less hungry, or 2) I only snacked because I had Paleo/Primal snack foods (nuts, seeds, fruits, and dark chocolate) in my kitchen. I realized I cannot keep non-meal foods around because I will eat them.
-I started cooking my eggs in coconut oil (instead of butter) and adding coconut flakes to my omelets. For someone who hasn't tried this, it may seem a little odd to pair coconut and eggs, but it's delicious!
-I lost that little bit of weight I put on from too many nuts, fruits, and dark chocolate. That's certainly nice, and there was no additional weight loss... which is totally fine and no surprise, considering I hadn't really changed much about my eating habits. I think this is the weight/size my body is supposed to be.
-I've had more energy and have been sleeping better too.

It was also really interesting to keep a food journal to see exactly what I was eating every day. Spinach, tomatoes, eggs, broccoli, mushrooms, chicken, beef, and bacon dominated, coconut and olive oils were used quite frequently, and I tried raw fish (salmon) for the first time.

This really wasn't too difficult, considering all I had to do was cut out that little bit of dairy and stop eating dark chocolate and nuts. Cheese will probably come back occasionally, and maybe I'll sprinkle nuts on my salad or crush them to make flour, but there's no way I can buy/snack on them anymore. And as much as I love dark chocolate, I can't have it in my lifestyle-- as a former carb-addict, it's just way too easy to go overboard with it.

I'm glad I did this challenge, though. While it wasn't a life-changing experience (considering I've been eating Paleo/Primal for over a year), it eliminated my snacking habits and made me realize that I need to continue to avoid dark chocolate, not keep Paleo snacks around, and only eat nuts and fruits occasionally and in very small quantities to avoid excess consumption and weight gain.

Quote of the Day:
"Forget about what you used to do. This is the moment you've been waiting for." -Jack LaLanne

This is just amusing:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Steak Game: Support Paleo!

Over the last few months, there have been many Facebooks events during which attendees change their profile pictures and statuses to something in order to raise awareness for a cause. For example, people changed their profile pictures to cartoon characters for child abuse awareness, and girls posed their bra colors as their statuses for breast cancer awareness. These events went viral-- people all over the internet updated their avatars, statuses, profile pictures, tumblrs, twitters, and blogs as means of support. Some of these even attracted media attention!

The Paleo Community faces a lot of discrimination from the followers of Conventional Wisdom-- we're wrong for not eating grains, we're cruel for eating animals, and the scientific proof that the Paleo lifestyle works is thrown out as another "fad diet." People think we're just "those crazy cavemen" who enjoy depriving themselves of fake, sugary crap. Yeah, well, "those crazy cavemen" have also reversed their diseases and changed their lives for the much, much healthier.

The Paleo Community also stands together. Since I've started networking with its members, I've found the most supportive and welcoming people who just want to spread their messages of healthy, disease-free living. Nothing has made me happier than finding this group of people that are as passionate about health and evolutionary nutrition as I am.

The Paleo enthusiasts on Facebook have thus started up the Great Steak Game as a way to show support for the Paleo/Primal movement.... and meat-eating in general. How does one play this game? Easy!

Step 1: Change your profile picture to the steak in the picture in honor of your love of steak, especially if you're Paleo/Primal.

Step 2: Change your status to how you eat your steak, and finish it with where/when/what you do when you eat it. Examples below:

1. I eat it RAW
2. I eat it PINK
3. I eat it BLOODY
4. I eat it WELL DONE

1. On the table
2. On the grill
3. With veggies on the side
4. And invite my friends to join

So an example would be, "I eat it medium and wrapped in bacon!"

Within the first few hours, our Great Steak Game spread all over Facebook, Twitter, and other Paleo blogs. Check out this screen-cap of Paleo members' profile pictures!

So what if you don't have a Facebook or other social networking site? That's okay. Just go cook and eat some steak and talk to your friends about this lifestyle.... or just about your love of steak/meat in general.

While this may or may not get big enough to attract media attention, it's at least a start. With best-selling books, Nightline segments, and countless Paleo-lifestyle blogs, it's just a matter of time before Paleo overtakes the SAD and eliminates all of the Neolithic diseases and health problems!

Quote of the Day:
"My favorite animal is steak." -Fran Lebowitz


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Paleo: An Immune System of Steel

Oh, college-- a place where stressed out and sleep-deprived students live in close quarters, share everything, and classify Ramen noodles and Nutella as their own food groups. College is also a place where everyone seems to be sick-- colds, strep, mono, and the flu are always "going around" and never seem to go away.

Funny. I seem to be the only one pretty much immune to these sicknesses.

No, really. People are always asking me how I manage to be the only healthy one in a sea of colds, coughs, and fevers. And the answer, always, is a simple one: I don't eat crap.

During my SAD years, I suffered through a lot of colds. My immune system, which had been running on bread, cereal, and bad carbs galore, wasn't that strong-- sure, I never really got anything worse than colds, but sometimes they would last for weeks! Vegetables and fruits were rarely eaten; meat was always accompanied by a ton of starch. Even during my various attempts at Atkins, my body was fueled partially by chemical-laced food products... so I still got sick.

Since I've turned to the Paleo lifestyle, my immune system has become like a fortress-- not even all of the germs going around campus can attack it. In the last fourteen months, I've had one cold (which was during my brief Paleo-ish vegetarianism experiment... cut out meat, and get sick, perhaps?) that only lasted for a few days. That's it! Before Paleo, I probably had six to ten colds per year, each lasting for quite awhile. Eat well, be well. Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food!

Of course, Paleo doesn't ward off sickness 100%. However, eating in this manner will strengthen your immune system to the point where if you do happen to catch a rare cold, it will be a lot less severe than you're used to. Your body will be getting all of the antioxidants and nutrients it needs to run smoothly and, in turn, keep you healthy. The cavemen weren't sickly like today's SADers!!

It's clearly not the dorms, late nights, or stress making everyone around here sick. It's the Ramen and Nutella.

Quote of the Day:
"The palaeo diet can be great. If we were still eating that diet, I'm certain we wouldn't be getting as ill." -Ray Mears


How I stay healthy: