As much as I love being a part of a community, a bit of myself hates labels. “Gluten-free,” “vegan,” “raw foodist” — all of these are so exclusionary. Granted, many people become these things for health or moral reasons that I wouldn’t think of disputing, but there is a certain level of elitism in having the luxury to pick and choose exactly what you eat at all times. Yet on the flip side, too many of us are too willing to eat anything, no matter what kind of toxins or poisons are disguised within. Reading about nutrition, and specifically the paleo/primal approach, has taught me that we can all use a little awareness in our lives, especially when it comes to what we put in our mouths.
Have you ever taken the time to look at the labels on the cans and cartons you pick up at the grocery store? I mean, really looked at the ingredients? Not just the carbs, sodium levels, and fats on the nutrition information, because that’s all so skewed in our minds anyway. But the ingredients — like Vitamin A palmitate, thiamine mononitrate, malodextrin, modified corn starch, or guar gum — they aren’t really foods. They are parts of foods, chemical compounds and lab-derived extracts, that our bodies don’t readily absorb or recognize as nutrients. (All of these ingredients mentioned are found in so-called “healthy” frozen meals and nut milks.)
Veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds, pastured eggs and good quality meats, however, aren’t as difficult to shop for in that respect — although another aspect of the game comes with sourcing and budgeting for these things. Buying and eating whole foods cuts out the guessing game because there are no additives or preservatives to worry about. The paleo/primal approach to eating champions these foods because of their wholesomeness, their nutrient-density, and their digestibility. This approach also advises the avoidance of grains, sugars and dairy products because of their indigestibility and their high toxicity, thanks to modern processing methods — but this approach isn’t so much about what to avoid as what to enjoy. It’s about what these foods do for your body. Read more about it here and here and here.
I’ve been experimenting with paleo/primal cooking and eating for about six months now, at about 70% effort. And I love it. I feel stronger, healthier, cleaner and brighter. I’ve kicked most of my cravings for sugary, carby treats (thanks also to the IQS program) and I’ve slimmed down because of it. My struggle with low blood sugar mood swings and energy levels — thanks to what I think is a mild case of hypoglycemia — has nearly vanished. My meager attempts at physical fitness are enhanced by these foods, and my skin and hair are smoother. All because of grass-fed meats, lots of green veggies, macadamia nuts, coconut milk, eggs every way, avocados, roast chicken with delicious crispy skin, homemade broth, wild-caught fish, berries, some red wine and the occasional dark chocolate treat.
That being said, I’m ready to commit fully. I’m ready to quit this “side gig” stuff and dive headlong into a paleo life. There’s a Whole30 challenge starting up this month on Jan. 1, where a community of fitness foodies are committing to 30 days of clean paleo/primal foods. I’m joining up and I’m so excited to try this thing with 100% effort. I’ll be documenting what’s happening with me and my food for any of you that are interested, and at the end I’m hoping to show off some stellar results, and hopefully some positive changes in my body composition and skin.
Plus, I’ve had a great Christmas and New Year holiday at home with my family, and I haven’t had any problem sampling the yummy things everyone has been making. I’m taking about plenty of mama’s cherry pie, buffalo hot wing dip, chocolate peanut clusters, chocolate chip cookies, Camembert cheese, spicy barbecue chips and late night ice cream. I certainly don’t feel guilty about any of this because I enjoyed it all…but I do feel physically a little worse for wear. The Whole30 will hopefully give me a re-set and start me off for a successful year of paleo/primal vibrance.
Think about it — the benefit of eating whole, nutrient-dense foods grossly outweighs the temporary pleasure of eating a nutrient-sucking chocolate chip cookie, even if it does taste like heaven. But it all pays off in the long term with increased strength, vitality, and most importantly, the release from our strange, twisted food phobias and diet fixations. What a great joy it is to savor a buttery grass-fed steak, roasted sweet potatoes, steamed broccolini with sesame seeds and a spicy glass of Malbec, and to feel great because of it!
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I included the link to some great paleo/primal resources above, but there are plenty of awesome blogs out there that provide a realistic, everyday look at living life with an ancestral diet. Some of my favorites include Nom Nom Paleo, The Clothes Make the Girl, PaleOMG, and Health-Bent, just to name a few. If you’re interested, check out the links for more comprehensive info and mouthwatering recipes. And don’t forget to check back later this week for my first Whole30 week roundup of good eats and healthy habits!