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About what I've been eating

Back in January, I began looking into my food choices. Which I had always considered fairly good, but then I made the mistake of taking some jerk's advice and actually writing down what I was eating, and I discovered that my diet consisted of good food bookended by total crap. So it would go like this: HEALTHY BREAKFAST then cookies HEALTHY LUNCH maybe more cookies or chocolate or hell why not both HEALTHY SNACK which I should probably add chocolate to HEALTHY DINNER with some wine, duh, then dessert than maybe more dessert before going to bed because let's not deprive ourselves.

I began looking into said diet because I suspected I could feel better, and also I had one of those scary doctor's appointment moments, wherein they weigh you as an afterthought and you look at the scale and you're all WHAT THE NO THAT CANNOT BE PLEASE GOD HELP.

I was already thinking about the connection between food and emotional health, anyway, because I could certainly tell that eating too much sugar had a negative effect on my mood (and yet I couldn't stop, dear God no). I had read  "The Mood Cure"  some years back, and the author made a pretty interesting case about sugar being bad and fat not being as bad as everyone said it was, but there was all this talk about supplements and then I got sleepy or something shiny distracted me for a few years.

But anyway, there I was, feeling kind of gross from my post-Christmas cookie binge, not to mention my post-cookie-binge flu, so I began to do some research about diet and its effects on mood. By "some research" I mean a ridiculous amount of reading. I read books and then I read the studies cited in the bibliographies of those books and then I read more books that those scientists wrote and then and so on. (I highly recommend Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories"  and "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" Oh! And Robb Wolff's "The Paleo Solution.")

I was convinced that I should try out the paleo/primal diet, which essentially recommends cutting out grains and sugars, and focusing on meat, fish, and vegetables. Oh, and not avoiding saturated fats because the whole idea that saturated fats are the devil is simply untrue. If you're interested in the full scoop, you can go here.  (A strict Paleo diet, I should note, also eschews dairy, but I wasn't quite ready for that in the beginning.)

Now, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know, because I keep telling you, that I'm a sugar addict. I like sugar. A lot. But I bought a shit-ton of vegetables and meats, I depleted our supply of Christmas cookies via my mouth, and I told myself that I would try this out for one week. Just one week! And then I could have a cheat day, and then I would tough it out for another week. And so on.

But a week passed, and I realized I didn't feel like cheating. So I continued for another week. And then a month. And then another month. I actually liked eating like this, it turned out. And I didn't see any reason to stop.

Now, I wasn't Super-Paleo, which means VERY LITTLE FRUIT and NO DAIRY, and for all I know ONLY ORGAN MEATS THAT HAVE BEEN FRESHLY TORN FROM THE ABDOMINAL CAVITY, GRAARGH. But I had definitely renounced all grains, and I realized that they held no real allure for me. I didn't even want pasta. And I used to eat pasta every other day. I liked pasta, my friends.

But I felt good. I noticed that my skin improved, and my energy levels were much higher. I also, incidentally, lost a few pounds. But while I was never tempted by grains (this was reinforced for me when I had a few bites of birthday cake at one point and felt like I was being punched in the gut for the next several hours), I had definitely cheated. With chocolate. And ice cream. And yogurt slathered in maple syrup. For instance.

Then I read about this Whole30 program, which was right in line with what I've been trying to do. And because I was already 80% of the way there, I thought, what the hell. 30 days isn't all that long. 30 days of absolutely no dairy (not even milk in coffee). No sugar at all. Not even artificial sugars. Not even sugar-free gum. Oh, and no alcohol. COULD I DO IT?

I am here to tell you that I COULD, and I DID. And I had no problem with it. I felt great. I lost more weight (about 15 pounds in all). And it was during this Whole 30 Program that I managed to get off of some of the meds I had been struggling with. It was kind of fantastic.

(My only problem was what happened when, once I was done with the 30 day program, I tried out some of the foods I had renounced. Because I never intended to shun them forever and ever, amen. I still wanted to live a little. (Except I'm done with grains. Especially wheat. I don't know whether I have an intolerance, or what, but my body has sent me a clear message that wheat is not my friend.) Anyway, here's what happened in my head, every time I tried one of the foods I had been pining for, however mildly, during those 30 days:

1. Well, this isn't as good as I remember it being.
2. I should eat it anyway. Because I CAN.
3. Aaaand now I feel horrific. I am a goddamn genius.

This has so far been my experience with frozen yogurt, regular yogurt (I really like(d) yogurt), several desserts, alcohol in all its myriad forms, and cheese in all its many wondrous incarnations, including -cake. Oh, cheese! I always loved cheese. It now is just disgusting to me. I'm not trying to be smug or self-righteous when I tell you this. I am mourning the loss of cheese. It's like seeing an old boyfriend you once were desperately in love with and now all you can think of is how he smells like something that's been in the fridge too long.)

So that's the deal, and I highly recommend checking it out, if you're at all interested. But I'm not saying you're an idiot if you don't, you understand. I hesitated to even bring up this topic, because I didn't want anyone to think I was judging their food choices. I realize this is intensely personal, what you put in your face-hole. I'm not saying that you should all eat like this. I'm only telling you what works for me. I like eating this way. I feel good. And who knows? Maybe it would work for you as well.

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Reader Comments (71)

Nice work!

As someone who feels spacey 75% of the time and has always been riddled with anxiety attacks, I've tried altering what I put in my pie-hole, also. First, I decided that trying to bake my way through the Martha Stewart Cookie book a la Julie & Julia was probably not my finest idea. As a vegetarian, I tried to go vegan for a week in february (ONE WEEK!) and I felt like a crackhead detoxing. It was terrible! I *did* feel a small break in the brain fog, but my belly was a wreck, so I caved. Kudos to you for sticking with it and feeling good!

Maybe once I can put down these stupid rainbow cookies from Russo's my mind will become clear enough to remember where I parked the car when I drove it last.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

I always think the same thing when I read posts like this: I could never do that!

Of course, I also know that I *could* if I wanted to do it. I do wonder what life would be like without cheese, chocolate, and bread but I'm not quite brave enough to try. I don't have many health issues, besides needing to work out more and eat more vegetables. But it's nice to know that a Paleo type diet is working really well for many people!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

The more protein you eat, the less you crave sugar. My sister only eats salmon, trout, fruit, sweet potatoes and vegetables. She never eats sweets, maybe some dark chocolate once in a great while.She bounces off the wall with energy. I find her annoying and stay hidden in my sugar cave. Not counting calories.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy

I have researched these same things for a while now and I have been wanting to try something along these lines but I have a HUGE problem.. besides being a sugar addict (for real!) and a carb head...

I really don't like veggies. I just can't find a way to cook them that tastes good. It doesn't help that I am allergic to tomatoes so red sauce and tomato based foods are out, but I just don't like the taste or texture of other veggies, except the carby ones! I'm doomed! :-(

I am, however, going to check out the Whole30 website and see if there is something there I can try. The sugar thing is out of control.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlitan

congrats on finding a walkable path. i find doing an augmented version of the diet that Dominique Browning wrote of her book Slow Love, very doable for me. small cans of V8, baked (w/ olive oil) small chicken breasts, boiled eggs, bagged spinach and a box of Multi-grain Cheerios keeps me happy and thin-ish and not feeling like shit. i am trying to reduce coffee by consuming more peppermint tea and also suspect i'd feel better, overall, but cutting booze back to just a beer on sunday night for HBO viewing.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlori

I've been off of all grains, starches, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol for two months, and I feel tons better. I also avoid really sweet fruits - specifically, anything dried, dates, grapes, and bananas.

However, I'm finding I rely a lot on dairy to feel not hungry. What do you use for snacks? I'd like to cut back on my dairy intake, which increased when I cut out sugar and grains, but I'm worried I'll get super hungry during the day without my cottage cheese! I would love to hear what other people snack on!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarrielee

Charlitan - Indian food!! It's mostly vegetables, most Indian dishes that have meat are basically a vege dish with meat stuck in it. You can cook your own with Patak's sauces and pastes, they're very high quality for not too much price.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEllere

I went vegan some months back and it's been pretty good, though I do go "off the reservation" from time to time. And generally feel like crap when I do. (That hot fudge sundae the other day was not worth it. No no no.) Though I can't quite bring myself to give up sugar, I have tried to go without coffee a few times. Strangely, even though I only drink about a cup a day--two at most--I've found that I am much more anxious on the mornings when I do have a cup. What I miss is the sense of making myself a special indulgence--that cup of coffee--not the beverage itself. And what I can't figure out, for myself, is whether the foods are affecting my moods, or whether it's the act of caving in to the craving, so to speak, that makes me depressed or anxious or feeling out of control. (Gretchen Rubin makes some astute observation about the danger of giving yourself "treats" when you're down.)

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterReid

Hey there Alice - good for you! I'm glad that the Paleo way of eating (hate to call it a 'diet') has worked so well for you. I started eating Paleo a couple months into my pregnancy, and at 37 weeks pregnant now I have only gained 15 pounds. Compared to 33 pounds last time around with daughter #1, I'm a believer. Not only that, but my complexion is clearer than its ever been and I have ENERGY! SO MUCH ENERGY DESPITE THE BOWLING BALL IN MY SHIRT! So yeah, it's all good. Have you bought the Everyday Paleo cookbook yet? Check it out, if you haven't - it's full of great stuff.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaley

But wait! Did you go back to putting milk in your coffee?

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn

carrielee - You need protein to feel full, but it doesn't have to be meat. Beans, chick peas, nuts and seeds (quinoa is a seed, very healthy, great in a salad) will fill you up. Hummus is a great filling snack, use cut veges to dip into it with. Or celery smeared with almond butter.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEllere

Carrielee, I find that now that I eat like this, especially if I get enough fat with each meal, I rarely snack. But when I do, I eat avocado or guacamole and peppers or carrots, or nuts. I do eat berries, as well.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Carolyn: yes! Don't tell the Paleo people! That's the only way I can deal with milk, though. And I can't put much of it in. Bleah.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

I love this post, I've toyed with the "veggies and protein only" diet for a while, and it always makes me feel SO much better, but I always have a hard time saying no to cheese and chocolate. I know if I could do it for a few weeks those cravings would be gone, but....I can't. I guess I just keep trying.

Thank you so much for sharing this!


July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterheidikins

Quinoa is a seed? Not a grain? Huh. Who knew?

I like Mark Bittman's idea of "Vegan before 6." Not enough to actually try it, but maybe someday...

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErika

I'm a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and I used to (in college) eat a LOT of cheese, but I've just accidentally got out of the habit over the past several years. I consider myself cheese-apathetic. I can't really taste it in a sandwich, say, and it's not really all that appealing. My friends all worship cheese as the Food God, so they just don't understand how I can be so 'meh' about the stuff. Glad to know somebody else has had a similar experience!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

How difficult is it to stick to this when you are out with friends? Are people always bugging you to have "a little" of something? Because even if I'm not hungry at a party (because I pre-ate) people expect you to eat!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCincy

Cincy, it depends. I try not to point out what I'm eating or not eating, and usually I can find something. There's always salad, and usually some kind of meat. The only time I'm really in trouble is if it's only pizza or pasta being served. And in that case I eat ahead of time.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

You got off Prozac with this diet?!? Wowza....

I just can't help but wonder....
who would I be without the cheese and the sugar and chocolate cake with pizza for dessert???


Now I have much to think about....thanks wise Alice o'mine. =)

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSummer

I've actually been following some paleo diet bloggers for awhile, and know in my heart of hearts that it's a fantastic direction to go. My "issue" is with the kitchen, food prep, etc. I am horrible at meal planning, keeping track of food, etc. I'd be peachy if I had a personal chef. I love the research, don't at all mind mining for menu ideas, but completely bomb with follow through. To the point that - even though I kind of hate myself for it - I don't even try anymore. (Hubby is a great cook. When he wants to be.)

I am SO happy for you that you've made this leap and that it has been great. I know it's a good thing. Maybe somehow someday I can muster whatever it is I need to muster to accomplish the same! Cheers to real food!

Also, curious: are you feeding Henry the same way? Maybe that's a crazy question considering his past pickiness, but I've wondered how my own kids would take to it...

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhi kooky

Summer: I'm still on Prozac! Just got off the Remeron, the Klonopin, and the sleep meds. (Sigh.)

hi kooky: I actually find it pretty simple, although I do like to cook. (Sometimes. Not when it's this hot.) If you do a little research you'll find a ton of easy recipes. (Everyday Paleo is a great new cookbook.) And nooo, I don't ask Henry to eat this way. He's way, wa-haaay too picky. Scott really only joins me for Paleo food at dinner. And he's actually lost weight just changing that one meal, so that should tell you something...

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Thanks for the cookbook recommendation. I'm taking heart and heading over to check it out.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhi kooky

Love this line: "I am mourning the loss of cheese. It's like seeing an old boyfriend you once were desperately in love with and now all you can think of is how he smells like something that's been in the fridge too long." Perfect!

My husband has been adhered to the Paleo diet for a couple of years and whenever he "strays" with say, a bun for the burger, or a few beers, or chips and salsa... he feels it immediately - mostly in the for of his allergies acting up. I haven't been disciplined enough to stick to it (I like milk in my coffee.. and cheese...) but after reading your post I am beyond inspired. THANK YOU!

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephanieM

Delurking to totally agree with you! (And join you in mourning strong feelings for cheese. I imagine this is what men of a certain age feel like just before deciding to try the little blue pills.) I've not done the Whole 30 program, but have been working with an alternative medicine MD, and the diet is much the same. Never before has something so annoying made me feel (and look) better! It's a mothereffer at the beginning, but my depression and anxiety is not something I deal with on a daily basis anymore. And that has never happened with any meds or exercise or diet combo.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlongjenna

I'm so happy for you. I have a feeling this would be a good thing for me too, and now you've put the wormy thing in my ear. Like Khan did to Chekov. But instead of screaming and writhing in pain, I'd feel and look better and maybe get off the frigging Ambien. Eventually, eventually, I'll do the right thing. Thanks for sounding like a sane, reasonable person and sharing your story. I relate to you more than, say, Suzanne Somers. So lasagna's a no, then?

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterK A B L O O E Y

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