Recently, I just haven’t been feeling good.
I wouldn’t say I’m completely out of shape. I’m training for a half marathon, so I’m running 3-5 times a week, and I go indoor rock climbing 2-3 three times a week. On paper, that looks like I’m living a pretty healthy, active lifestyle.
But winter has taken a toll on my mental health. Waking up before noon is a struggle, I lack motivation, and consequently my diet has gone to hell. I still don’t eat fast food often, but I do eat my fair share of comfort food, with dark chocolate and sweet potato fries forming their own level on my food pyramid.
This summer, I’m turning the big 3-0. I just got engaged and I’m finishing my last semester of graduate school– I’ve got a lot to look forward to. But I’m still overwhelmingly just feeling– well, blah. And blah births blah. It’s a neverending blah-cycle of destruction.
Well, it’s time to break the cycle. I think a good first step for me is diet. Eating comfort food is a quick fix for a bad mood, but in the end it leaves me feeling bloated, cranky, and tired. So, for the month of March, I’m going paleo.
The paleo diet is a little controversial and definitely a lot culty (sorry crossfitters). So let me come right out and say this upfront: the concept of the paleo diet (let’s eat what cavemen ate because they were totally healthy!) is dumb. It’s based on flawed logic that presumes that diet (which actually wildly varied for our ancestors depending on their region) is the reason that our prehistoric brethren didn’t have cancer, diabetes, or other modern day health concerns– completely ignoring the fact that they were all dead by age 35, well before most people get those diseases anyway.
Why does the diet need this stupid concept anyway? Eating isn’t religion. Eating doesn’t need a theoretical belief system to make it right. And I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t have protein powder. I want this to be clear because I don’t think eating paleo is the only way to eat healthy, and I don’t strictly adhere to all the paleo rules. Generally, the paleo diet just advocates what all healthy diets advocate: eat a lot of lean meat, fruits, and vegetables. This is the cornerstone of every “eat healthy” diet. So why say I’m going paleo at all?
Partly, it’s just for ease of communication. But I do think that many of the paleo principles are a good fit for me. I hate portion control and counting calories; for me, it’s not sustainable. I also don’t like the way eating a lot of processed/grainy foods makes me feel, even when I do manage to consume them only moderately. In the past, when I’ve done a modified paleo diet, I’ve felt great– in fact, before I moved to New Jersey (the land of 24 hour diners and delicious pizza), my everyday diet was more or less paleo. I got sick less, was happier, had more energy, and just generally felt better about myself. Diet was just one component of why I felt good, but in the dark days of winter in New Jersey, I can at least control that part of my life.
So, what does “modified” paleo mean? Well, it means something different for everyone– that’s the beauty of modifying a diet. I’m going to try to stick to most of the basic paleo diet rules, but with a few key exceptions:
- Dairy. I’m not a big milk fan– I voluntarily buy coconut or almond milk at home anyway– but if I’m at work and I get a coffee, I’m putting some 2% milk in it. They don’t have sugar-free alternatives, and honestly, 1/4 c of 2% milk isn’t going to ruin my diet, but it will definitely make my coffee more enjoyable. I’m also going to still eat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and goat cheese. These are all relatively healthy forms of dairy that pack a lot of protein, and since I don’t have a lactose intolerance, I don’t see the sense in excluding them from the diet.
- Sweet potatoes. I don’t eat these too often, but including a small sweet potato in my diet a few days a week (especially since I’m half marathon training) is a healthy way to satisfy my inevitable carb cravings.
- Fruit. Usually, fruit is a big part of the paleo diet, but this is one food group that I will probably restrict more than the diet recommends. I try to stick to low glycemic fruits, like berries and cantaloupe, although I will eat bananas when having smoothies or paleo pancakes.
- Protein powder/bars. While highly processed food is usually a no-go, I will still use whey protein for my smoothies and Think Thin bars for a quick, sugarless, gluten-free protein-filled snack. I could shell out more $$ for official paleo protein/bars (just like the cavemen used to), but this doesn’t seem worth it.
- Alcohol. Bottoms up! I don’t drink often, but if I feel like, I’m drinking. I’ll try to stay away from sugary mixed drinks, but since my poison is usually diet coke and vodka (ew, right?), I should be fine.
- Off days. Once a week, I go on a long run– currently, it’s 7 miles, but it ticks up weekly for training. On this day, I will not eat paleo. This doesn’t mean I’m going to McDonalds– but it does mean that if I want brown rice sushi, whole wheat pizza, sweet potato fries, or froyo, I’m going to eat it.
Will this make me lose weight? Maybe. Before I moved, my weight ranged from 140-145lbs. Here, my weight ranges from 145-150lbs. I wouldn’t mind ditching the extra NJ weight, but if I don’t, I won’t be crestfallen. Health is more than weight– if I feel better, have more energy, improve my run times, and am less cranky, I am 100% fine with staying in this weight range– although I suspect that I’ll probably lose a little weight over the course of the month, especially when I first make the switch. My goal is to blog my progress throughout the month. Because people absolutely love before and after statistics, I’ll document measurements/weight & maybe some photos, but keep in mind that I’m not necessarily doing this to see any sort of drastic physical changes. I’ll also document my running progress, mood, and daily diet for the month of March.