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.
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.
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.
Feel free to email me with them!
And to any who might give it a shot, good luck!