Wednesday, March 26, 2014

WIAW #5: About that Paleo Diet...

It's already Wednesday, which means it's time to connect with others happy to share what they are eating at What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) with Jenn at Peas and Crayons.  Instead of the usual parade of food photos, I thought it would be fun to mix it up this week and share with you my current journey transitioning to a Paleo diet/lifestyle.

I've been alluding to my Paleo diet here and there in my blog over the last six weeks, and I'd like to talk about it in greater detail, i.e. why I did it (primary reason wasn't about losing weight) and if it "worked" for me (it did!).  About two months ago I stumbled on this thing called Whole30.  Have you heard of it?  

Well, I had never heard about Whole30, and it's been around since 2009!  I'm sure part of the reason I'd never heard of it is I am NOT a diet person.  I don't believe in diets because I've seen friends try diets and cleanses only to end up back where they started.  But then I started hearing about the Whole30 and people swearing that it did work.  Suddenly, I was curious.

Researching Whole30 kicked off a whole exploration of diets and nutrition and I ended up reading a whole load of books.  If you're interested in what I've read (and plan to read), I'm keeping a list of all the books I've been reading here.  After reading a few of these books, I decided to give the Paleo diet for four weeks.  If nothing changed after a month, what did I have to lose?  I could just go back to the way I was eating before...

What does eating Paleo mean?  Short for "paleolithic", the Paleo diet is based on the observation that for a majority of the 10,000 years humans have been on this earth, we have eaten grains and dairy for a very brief percentage of those 10,000 years, and our bodies have not yet adapted.  Hence, the paleo diet excludes grain, dairy, legumes, refined or hydrogenated oils, and refined sugar (natural sugar, like fruit and honey is ok).  In doing research on what constituted Paleo I did find a few disagreements on some of the rules, so I decided that for my four week experiment, I would follow these rules:
- No grain
- No refined sugars (honey is allowed!)
- No dairy
- No legumes

What I Ate for Four Weeks
This was the big change: re-evaluating every meal, every snack, every habit I had around food.  Breakfast was probably the meal that changed the most.  I went from my usual options of steel cut oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt and fruit to eating eggs.  Every.  Single.  Morning.  But I did find a happy place, and I was not unhappy with my food choices.  If you are interested in what I ate, you can browse here.

What I Learned From Four Weeks of Paleo
The first week wasn't easy.  The first day or two was fine, but then I started experiencing brain fog, due to not eating any carbohydrates from things like pasta, rice, crackers, etc.  On the positive side, eating Paleo forced me to figure out what vegetables and fruits I could eat that were carb "heavy" (sweet potatoes are awesome!).  By the fifth day the brain fog was too intense.  I knew if I stuck to no carbs, the fog would pass, but after researching the reason for the brain fog (ketosis), I decided I needed some grain, so I allowed myself a quarter cup to a half a cup of brown rice every other day.

I finally figured out what ketosis was.  I'd heard people say they were in ketosis but I didn't know exactly what that meant.  By trying to eliminate all the grain from my diet, I got to experience the whole thing (brain fog!), and had to read more about the science about it, being the nerd I am.  In doing this research, I decided this was not the route I wanted to go, as my husband and I are trying to get pregnant with #2.

I was surprised that I lost weight.  I didn't go into this Paleo experiment to lose weight; I was pretty happy with my weight.  But I was curious about Gary Taubes' thesis in Why We Get Fat (basically that refined carbs cause weight gain) and I knew that eating Paleo would help me eliminate refined carbs.  During the four week trial, I weighed myself every 3-4 days, and I found that I lost about a pound a week.

I had to search hard (and ahead of time) for good Paleo recipes.  I'm glad I read up on Whole30 and Paleo recipes two weeks before I decided to try transitioning to Paleo or I would have been at a loss as to what to eat for my meals.  Instagram was a great source of inspiration for meals the first week or two.  I searched the following hashtags: #paleo #whole30 #whole30 challenge.  After the second week, I had an idea of what to eat, and was on a roll.

I ate non-traditional foods for breakfast.  It never occurred to me that most of the foods we think of as "breakfast" on an American diet contain some kind of grain refined carb.  I had to stop eating cereal, toast, pancakes, waffles... all foods I never really loved to begin with.  My go to breakfast was anything with eggs, but mostly omelettes, scrambles, and frittatas.  The best outcome?  I didn't need a mid-morning snack anymore.  I could make it to lunch with being hungry.

Once I started losing weight (mostly fat), I wanted to know more about nutrition.  That's what led me to reading all these books.  With each week, I couldn't believe eliminating refined carbohydrates was causing me to lose so much weight and I had to know why.

I'm learning to love veggies.  At each meal, I try to aim for half my plate to be veggies.  It's really hard to hit that goal three meals a day!  But my husband is on board and we are trying new veggies and also looking for new veggie recipes all the time.  When I go to the grocery store these days, I spend 80% of my time in the produce section and the other 20% of my time elsewhere.

Now that the Four Weeks Are Up, What Next?
I'm going to continue with the Paleo diet!  It's been six weeks now, and I've lost six pounds and I don't need to lose any more weight; now I just want to maintain my weight.
  • I'm experimenting with what to allow back into my diet.  So far I've incorporated back limited amounts of sugar and dairy, but I am planning on another effort to cut back on dairy (hello almond milk!).
  • I want to figure out how strictly I want to follow the Paleo diet.  Some books recommend the 80/20 rule, but I think I'd like to try and get to 90/10...which works out to one meal a week where I don't eat entirely Paleo.
  • I'm continuing my nutrition reading!

Have you tried the Whole30 or the Paleo diet?  Do you have friends or family that have?  


  1. Listening to your own body - that's good...

    I find, personally, that I avoid both the problems I have with refined grains and the brain fog by eating unrefined grains and beans - truly complex carbohydrates. Brown rice and steel cut oats are my big ones. I can even eat whole wheat bread - though I have friends for whom the brown rice works but the brown bread does not.

    I know this doesn't fit the Paleo theory - but it fits my body. Your body may vary - but I thought I'd toss the idea out there...

    1. Anne, thanks for the help. I do eat brown rice occasionally to help with the brain fog. And you're right, that doesn't fit the Paleo theory, but I agree, it works for me and my body, so that's what I'm sticking to! :-)

  2. I can't say enough good things about the Whole 30 & the Paleo Lifestyle. I don't really believe in diets, mainly lifestyle changes, that's why I always refer to it as the Paleo lifestyle. I don't think it was ever really meant as a "diet" or weight-loss plan anyway, but more of just a natural, closer to nature way to eat. I think that is pretty awesome that you lost weight on it though, WTG!! I lost weight during my Whole 30, but have since put weight back on, which is why I'm trying the ketosis option for now. So glad that you've discovered paleo & are having such great results!! :)

    1. I agree with you, I should just call it the Paleo lifestyle and omit the word 'diet'. It is a way of eating, and I really hope I can stick with it for the long run. I'm working on getting my husband on the Paleo bandwagon, which is definitely making it easier. Good luck with your ketosis/ketogenic eating!

  3. I love this post! My hubby would be pretty upset if I made all our meals paleo, especially after I have eliminated snack-y foods like chips. If I get rid of pasta and rice, too... he'd be a bit unhappy with me. However, I do like quite like paleo meals/lifestyle myself, but the past few weeks we've been eating a lot breads/bad carbs and I can definitely feel the extra weight coming on as tends to be the case :/ Anyway, I just want to say thanks because this post has definitely made me put more thought into next week's meal plan, and to add some more paleo friendly meals :) Maybe just keep a few dinners non paleo to keep the hubs happy? Hm...

    I also really agree with what you wrote about breakfast - we eat yogurt with granola, oats, or pancakes a lot. The pancakes are actually pretty easy to make paleo alternatives for, but the other two, obviously not, which would be the hardest meal for me to change.

    And one last thought, you wrote that American traditional breakfasts tend to include refined carbs - so are Dutch breakfasts and lunches! They pretty much eat bread for both meals with a slice of salami or cheese! It actually seems like refined carbs are pretty standard breakfasts in a lot of cultures/countries.

    1. I'm glad this post may have influenced you to try and cut out as many bad carbs as possible. I agree with you that it isn't necessary to go 100% paleo, but wherever you can cut out unrefined carbs, a little bit here and there adds up!

    2. Definitely! I can certainly go without all of that bread. We live walking distance away from a bakery and whenever we buy fresh bread, hubs, the Toddler and I can pretty much eat the entire loaf! I mean it's tasty, but that's really not good. I'll have to put a stop to that. I'm also pleased to say though that I cut out the bad carbs for breakfast today and swapped sandwiches or oats for a paleo friendly omelette :)

      I'm going to be posting my meal plan for the week today, and if you don't mind, I'd love to give you a shout out for the inspiration.

    3. Yuliya, of course! So happy I could inspire someone else!


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