Home > Food, Health, Learning, Personal > Nourished, strong and Paleo

Nourished, strong and Paleo

Talking food is tricky. We are not only sustained by our food, but emotionally impacted by our relationships with it.

I have been vegetarian. I have briefly gone Atkins, sharing a steak-laden summer with my then similarly inclined brother. I have been vegan, a way of eating that then felt right and filled me with peace. I am grateful for vegans, although I no longer am one.

People make food choices for a variety of reasons, within the contexts and experiences of their lives so far. I fault no one (save, perhaps, cannibals!) their food choices, because I cannot quickly grasp the intricacies of their lives or souls any more than they can do so mine.

I offer respect, and request the same respect be afforded me.

I have recently gone Paleo. Often referred to as “the caveman diet,” this way of eating emphasizes eating those foods our human bodies are best equipped to digest, thanks to many thousands of years of our ancestors becoming adapted to do so. Our ancestors had not, for instance, adapted to eating Cheetos and Snickers ice cream. Our bodies are similarly ill equipped to break down and process these strange new foodlike substances. Yet regardless of how poorly we process them or how gross we feel after struggling to do so, we keep on eating them.

And why wouldn’t we? They taste so damn good! They, should, too, having been engineered to hit human reward centers for sugar, fat and salt.

Totally sweet and perfectly Paleo

Totally sweet and perfectly Paleo

Junk food is out on Paleo. But there are other foods, seemingly healthy ones, that can stir up profoundly negative (if quieter) responses within the human body: grains, legumes, common cooking oils. Sounds crazy, right? I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t started having clear, adverse reactions to them.

Some months ago, my body was struggling to cope with non-food environmental toxins. The longer I struggled with those, the more my body ended up treating everything as a toxin. I was doing what I could to mitigate this toxic response without actually leaving the environment, including eating mild elimination diet foods to limit additional strain to my body. This helped somewhat, but–still exposed to the core non-food environmental toxins–I eventually reacted to virtually everything. Even rice.

It got so bad that my sister told me with heart-wrenching terror that I sounded just like our mom at the height of her mental illness.

I was despondent, but determined to keep seeking an end–the pleasant, not-dead kind!–to my body’s constant high alert state. Finally removing myself from the toxic environment helped a great deal, but so much damage had already been done, I felt like I was barely healing.

Enter one bad movie. My vision blurred, my thinking muddled, my hearing fuzzy due to inflammation, I opted to destress in an environment where focus wasn’t really important. Alone in a movie theater, I searched for books on healing inflammation. It Starts With Food came up immediately.

Alone in the theater and with no one to berate me, I began reading through the book’s customer reviews. They were so uniformly positive and persuasive, I bought the book and began reading on my phone.

Even with my then fuzzy thinking, it made sense. I changed my diet immediately. I had neither time nor health to waste.

So what if I’d thought of it as a “fad diet” before? At that moment, in those circumstances, all I cared about was the mere chance it might help.

I immediately began eating mainly a little meat, a small portion of fat and tons of vegetables for each meal, with some fruit here and there. I took the most restrictive path to start in light of how seriously wounded I was. I didn’t want to risk exposing myself to anything even potentially inflammatory and thus prolonging the experience.

Within a week, I was hearing and seeing better. My thinking was becoming clearer and my face no longer looked or felt inflated like a helium balloon. I hadn’t experienced any bona fide miracles, but I was feeling better. It was enough to compel me to finish my initial 30-day Whole30 experience.

The 30-day window came and went. I kept it up, because each day at it added a little spring to my step. Unlike the first couple of painstaking weeks, I wasn’t scraping by one meal at a time, and I no longer felt the fear of getting hungry with nothing nearly ready to eat.

I now cook at least two big meals every Sunday morning, a one- to two-hour process I deeply treasure. First, I make a meat and veggie stew using bone broth I make on Saturdays. With that in the slow cooker, I whip up a meat and mushroom “hot plate.” The stew is my breakfast most mornings of the week; the hot plate, with meat varying by the week and accompanied by a hefty dose of veggies, my lunch. Dinner is something like steak or salmon, made delicious with a minimum of time. Quality meat is only a small portion of every meal, with vegetables the bulk.

My meals fill me. They’re easy to prepare. I savor every bite of directly nature-derived goodness. Although I still struggle with inflammation, usually in response to unnatural, chemical fragrances, it is no longer constant.

I feel nourished. I feel strong. I feel substantial.

Paleo me

Paleo me

I highly recommend It Starts with Food and Practical Paleo to the Paleo-curious. It Starts with Food will give you a solid framework for a 30-day test run, as well as a rundown on how to easily prepare many meats and vegetables. It also offers a hugely helpful daily email pep talk. Also on the menu? Shopping guides.

Practical Paleo will give you tips on when and how to eat as well as what, with fantastic, easy recipes and tailored meal plans. Nom  Nom Paleo rules, and Google links to just about any recipe you could dream up. Just start any recipe search with “paleo” and marvel at the various tasty results returned. My favorite recipe found this way was for blueberry liver. Until I tried it, I didn’t know it was possible for liver to taste good under any circumstances!

I’ve strayed a couple of times in recent weeks. Specifically, I’ve always loved India Pale Ales, and I wanted to see how I’d do with them now.

The verdict? Not terrible, but not great. I’ve become so used to feeling better after eating these days, feeling “mostly not terrible” after drinking beer was terrible enough to dissuade me from even casual beer drinking.

I like feeling how I do these days, simultaneously removed from a toxic environment and eating good food. The first few days of sugar withdrawal were rough, but since then, I have known the true goodness of being truly nourished.

This feeling? For this, it’s well worth ditching all the junk food in the world.

Any questions?
Any concerns?
Feel free to email me with them!
And to any who might give it a shot, good luck!

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  1. Running from Hell with El
    July 5, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Awesome work my friend! Thank you!

    • July 5, 2013 at 7:39 pm

      Thank you for pep-talking me into posting this! ♥

      • Running from Hell with El
        July 5, 2013 at 9:23 pm

        My pleasure–thank you for asking me to read it! Your writing and your mission are both wonderful. And I may try Paleo some day, when . . . well, when I get some other stuff worked out. 🙂

  2. SSS
    July 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    thanks so much Deb… I too have been struggling with health issues and have just started to change and eliminate stuff from my diet… not too different from this paleo….. started a couple of months back with blood pressure through the roof and the Dr thought I’d have a stroke.. then on to blood and urine tests, turns out I have subclinical hypothyroidism and I suspect Candida issues.. so in my research I have found that what you put in your body is very important to eliminating or minimizing symptoms… my Dr is of no help he’s following “guidelines” and will redo bloodwork in 6 months!!! so I’m still fumbling through the learning but thought that the paleo type is very similar to what I should be doing 🙂 how fitting that I finally made my way back to SSS and all the pages I LOVE ♥

    • July 6, 2013 at 3:58 am

      SSS I’m very much the same… I’m uninsired now so I don’t have a doctor, but when I have they’ve been pretty useless. I hope one day to be able to consult an actual expert on diet or a Doctor of Osteopathy (they have basically the same training as a doctor in the US but with more of a focus on whole-body and body systems rather than handing out prescriptions :)), but for the most part I’m just on my own with it. Doing something like paleo — fresh whole food, basically — is surprisingly effective for a startling variety of things. Though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by any of it, it’s kind of so simple it’s stupid. 😀 I’d highly recommend doing your own research and seeking out people who are dealing with the same issues… I have PCOS and GERD and talking to other people who are living with those things has been approximately a billion times more useful than any doctor.

  3. July 5, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Nicely done! Glad you are feeling better. I’ve been toying with the ideas behind paleo, but it’s hard to get it going when the other two people in the house aren’t willing to give up the junk. And if it’s here, I may as well eat it. 😦

    With the info and references you’ve provided, I think I may be able to give it a go. I could certainly benefit from it.

    • July 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm

      The first couple of weeks were pretty hard thanks to A’s love of things like Twix, Kit Kat and peanut butter cups. I moved my food into one cupboard limiting my exposure to the junk, and after a couple of weeks totally stopped seeing it even when it came into line of sight. It’s definitely rough the first week or two, but then it starts feeling natural, and it’s like you can actually taste your food again. It’s a lovely thing!

      I hope you’ll give it a shot. The mailing list is a great resource, well worth the $15, and many folks find the forums totally helpful.

      If you need any moral support, shoot me a text or email! I mean it! ♥

  4. July 5, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    Unfortunately I’m hearing more and more people having similar symptoms to what you are having. 😦 My FIL was diagnosed with celiacs but his symptoms leading up to it were all more neurological – vision, fuzzy thinking, poor balance, etc – and not the typical intestinal stuff most think of with celiac’s.
    So glad you are feeling better! Let food be thy medicine… 🙂

    • July 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      Thank you! I think our bodies are inundated with so many toxins these days: on our clothes, in our containers, on our furniture, in our food, in our air. Our bodies are durable, but man, why subject them to so much?!

      • July 6, 2013 at 3:08 pm

        I totally agree. I’m also very skeptical of GMO’s…especially since GMO corn is used to make corn syrup and corn syrup seems to be in everything.

  5. July 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks for posting…I started paleo a year ago for a crossfit challenge and have eaten mainly primal since. I think for anyone struggling with inflammatory diseases it should be tried. I’m glad you’re feeling better! Also, my favorite paleo website is paleomg.com. She’s hilarious and very talented.

  6. Donnell Jeansonne
    July 6, 2013 at 7:34 am

    So glad to read you are doing well and feeling better!

  7. July 6, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Deborah thank you so much for sharing! I’ve been researching the Paleo diet and you just sealed the deal for me. I am so motivated and inspired now. And I would love that beef and mushroom recipe and I am borrowing your Sunday ritual of cooking. The house will smell amazeballs!

    In this short 6 months of 2013 I have been to the ER and almost died twice from blood pressure, been diagnosed with 3 kinds of skin cancer, too many RA and fibro flare ups to count and now a possible slipped disc.Not to mention the sluggish I don’t give a crap feelings I have. Some friends are convinced diet is the key – although for whatever reasons Drs. would like to just fill me with abazillion pills instead of considering something as simple as diet.I tell you- all of this for one person just can’t be “normal”. There is something working against nature and diet sure seems the culprit.

    Thank you for going first and sharing your results. I’m right behind you sister and I am sharing this post. You never cease to amaze me in your ability to see past roadblocks and have the courage to do what’s best for you. ❤

  8. Lisa
    July 6, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I have two concerns/questions. I have been experiencing inflammation for over a year now with my feet and ankles blown up like balloons. All my tests are coming back negative – even for celiac (which my mother has) So I’m wondering if it is another type of food allergy. But I’m also Bi-polar and on heavy meds (which I’ve been on for 9 years and have me in remission from symptoms so I don’t want to stop them) so I don’t know how that affects me. I am just starting to go no-meat because of the way the mega-farms treat the animals and I want to protest that. So….is dairy inflammatory too? Any suggestions just based on your experience with food? I see a GP who hasn’t a clue, and a Osteopath, who is my psych. who has been great, but thinking I need to see someone else. Ideas?

  9. July 7, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    What a fascinating and happy-making post! I’m so glad you found something that is working for you. That is wonderful, just wonderful. The topic of what we put in our bodies is so interesting to me right now. We are so hard on our bodies, and recently, while listening to a Science Friday where there was a pro-Western and pro-Alternative medicine debate going on, I just kept thinking to myself, “well, if we just started eating in a way that worked with our bodies instead of destroying them, wouldn’t that just eliminate much of the problem?”

    I don’t know if that’s really the answer, but I’m certainly glad that you’re feeling better. Hatzlacha and may it be a continually improving experience.

  10. July 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Well, Paleo-Deb looks fabulous! And it sounds like she feels fabulous! Good for you.

  11. July 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I’m so glad you’ve found something that works to make you feel GOOD. Keep it up, sweetie!

  12. July 9, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    After 5 days of a salt infused, fried food fest I came home from holiday feeling like something the cat dragged in and buried in the litter box. Right now I would do anything to feel better. Already I don’t drink, so no problem there. But there are only two of us in the house and one is a picky eater, add to this my travel schedule .. gad this makes it tough to follow anything.

    I love you are feeling better. You look fantastic.

  13. July 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Congratulations on your benefits. I am a part time Paleo, about 75% of the time, and once in awhile I cheat. That being said, I too saw big differences in a lot of allergy/inflammation issues Ive had.

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