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?