Let’s talk about food, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about . . . anyone singing along right now? No, really, though, let’s discuss. Why have I been avoiding you? What have I been eating? Two exceedingly excellent questions. And, as it turns out, two questions that are inexplicably intertwined (Too much alliteration? Sorry).
The thing is, I haven’t really been eating much sugar lately. As in, no cake. Or cupcakes. Or froyo (is this my own personal version of hell?). Also, no alcohol. No pasta. NO CHEESE. Yes, the unimaginable has occurred: I’ve gone paleo.
Let me start at the very beginning. I think it’s important for me to describe the mini food journey I’ve been on, because it will influence the tone of my blog moving forward. However, I’m warning you now that this post is pretty darn long. Yeah, you’re going to learn a lot about me and what I think about food (as if you didn’t already know enough).
If you’re already bored, here’s the synopsis: I will continue to make desserts (some paleo, some most definitely not), ridiculous as well as healthy snacks/food, and blather on about them on my blog. Cool? Cool. Now you can skip to the end and look at pictures of some pretty delicious salsa.
For the rest of you, I just want to say that I am in no way judging or trying to influence your diet. Also, disclaimer: I am not certified in anything and have absolutely no health/nutrition/diet credentials. And, let’s be real. I started this blog on the premise of eating 3 desserts a day! I have absolutely no regrets (except that one day when I only made it to 2 desserts. Seriously? Weak).
However, I’ve always wanted live a “healthy lifestyle” that, of course, somehow included desserts. I just never really understood how it worked. It can be pretty difficult to sort through the plethora of information that exists on the topic. Is cardio training essential, unnecessary, or even dangerous? What about strength training? Are carbs the killer, and what is this pesky gluten that I keep hearing about? Do calories count, or do they not? And with all these terrible foods around, what in the hell can I actually eat?!
Now, take a deep breath. The crazy cool thing about exploring a different diet (and I don’t mean diet as in restricting calories, but as in what you’re feeding your body) is that your body gives you pretty immediate feedback. Constantly hungry, energy crashes, and weight gain? Let’s change something. Great sleep, feeling full between meals, no bloating ever? Gimme.
But, on the flip side, in order to figure out what foods make your body feel great, you have to actually keep track of the food you’re eating, and then how you’re feeling that day. Who does that? Not I. At least, not until recently.
If you’d asked me about my food sensitivities before I started on this diet exploration, I would probably only list lactose sensitivity (can’t drink a glass of milk, can decently tolerate yogurt and cheese). I honestly wasn’t aware of sugar highs or lows, or any other way that food negatively affected my diet. Boy oh boy, has that changed.
A little more than a year ago, when I started this blog, well, you basically know what I ate: 3 desserts a day, along with 3 meals a day. Seriously. No regrets on being a champion eater of desserts. I immensely enjoyed and learned from that time of my life, and am still forever grateful to the Goliard Board. I’m not going to lie to you; I felt no ill effects at the time, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t gain any weight (cue the boos).
After I returned from my trip and finished all my summer travels, I decided that it was time to get fit! I started working out regularly again – at least 3 times a week. I also ate healthily (or so I thought), apart from the smattering of recipes I tested for my blog. So, okay, I ate a fair amount of dessert. Still, it was way less than I was eating during the summer! But even with my increased exercise, my body wasn’t changing at all, and I felt like . . . ugh.
Around March, though, I got a real kick in the pants when I first read the book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It by Gary Taubes. Sounds like a real page-turner, right? No, but really, it was. Taubes seriously challenged the nutritional principle that I’d believed for so long: If I burned more calories than I consumed, I would lose weight. Why? Because all calories are not created equal.
I guess it should be common sense that 100 calories of kale is way better for you than 100 calories of Oreos. However, I had always thought that if I ended up under a certain number of calories per day, it didn’t really matter (Keep in mind, this is coming from the girl who routinely ate froyo for dinner). I didn’t understand the negative consequences of blood sugar spikes, or the interplay of hormones inside my body. And I don’t want to bore you with the details either
In essence, Taubes presents his case that an excess amount of carbohydrates increases the insulin in your bloodstream, which then leads to storage of fat in our cells. You know what contains a fair (okay, high) amount of carbohydrates? Dessert. And this is where I started freaking out. What would my life be without dark chocolate cake with a rich ganache filling? Or taro frozen yogurt topped with coconut, fruity pebbles, and mochi? Not that I have my favorite order down pat or anything.
At the same time, though, I also started to think that, perhaps, craving sugar all the time isn’t the healthiest of behaviors. Maybe it was time to see how I functioned without all the desserts. So I decided to try it out. I started eating a low-carb diet, cutting out all bread, pasta, rice, even quinoa!, and, of course, DESSERT. For a while, I felt pretty good, and I started seeing the results of changing my diet. But, being me, I found a way to sneak in sweets: almond flour cookies (a recipe which I’m definitely sharing with you guys later!), dark chocolate, brownies made with dates, etc.
While these particular sweets aren’t bad in and of themselves, they sort of defeated the purpose of me decreasing my sugar intake. And, as time went on, well, let’s just say the low part of low-carb sort of went missing. I floundered around for a while, knowing what I should eat, but never mustering the willpower to just do it. Then I found something called the Whole30.
What is the Whole30, you ask? It is 30 days of eating completely Paleo – meat, fish, tons of vegetables, eggs, nuts, good fats (coconut products, olive oil), and limited fruit. No legumes. No grains. No alcohol. No added sugar in any form – no honey, stevia, nothing. Clearly, it is a program that was created by those who revel in the suffering of fellow human beings.
Actually, the point of the program is really to see how your body feels when nourished with whole, natural, unprocessed foods. After 30 days, you slowly reintroduce groups of food, one at a time – dairy, legumes, gluten, etc. – and take note of your body’s response.
I must admit that it didn’t go so well at first. One mistake I made was not carefully researching the Whole30 program. Though I knew which foods I could eat, I didn’t know the recommended portions. After experiencing a ridiculous afternoon fatigue a couple days in a row, I realized that I actually wasn’t eating enough carbohydrates (in veggie form) to fuel my body. This is where my Whole30 food journal came in super handy; I could actually see what foods made my body feel a certain way! I was also invited to a couple dinners without any Whole30 options, where I essentially rationalized cheating on the plan.
But, I think my biggest enemy came in the form of my insane cravings. Clearly, I’ve always had a thing for desserts. About 9 days in, I could not stop thinking about Oreos, and cake, and OMG all the worst/best things in the world. For example, in my food log (see, so useful!), I wrote, “Craving like crazy – cupcakes and pizza. Oh please, give me some cupcakes and pizza! Oh, and oreos.” What? I tell it like it is. Actually, though, according to the Whole30 timeline, this response is pretty standard for the 8-15 day time period.
Food habits are exceptionally tough to break, and my mind could not stop thinking about all that sugar. Knowing that other people struggle during this part made me feel a bit better. It also scared me, because it made me realize that foods were secretly affecting me from every angle! Physically, sure, but also mentally and emotionally. As the ever-lovable Dr. Danny Castellano from The Mindy Project so aptly stated, “Food is a drug.”
And I will admit, I did not make it through my first Whole30. More than halfway through, I just sort of . . . quit. But, I got a wake up call two days later, when I had a huge, delicious bowl of noodles and felt horrible. Bloated, lethargic, just all kinds of ugh. I was complaining to my family all afternoon (sorry!). The next day, I partook in a dim sum feast. Not the greatest decision ever. Finally, I got it. I get it. Food can make you feel great or terrible, sleepy or alert, bloated or um, not bloated?
Two days after that, I started back on another Whole30(ish). As in, after my trial of last time, I decided to allow myself a tiny bit of dairy (cheese and Greek yogurt), and a modest treat meal a week. So yeah, I know it’s not strictly Whole30, but the thing is, you have to know what works for you. After going through so much food exploration, I know that feeling super restricted in my diet only makes me angry.
But now, almost done with my second modified Whole30, I feel pretty incredible. My clothes are looser, my energy is up, and I almost never get bloated (tmi?). I know, I sort of sound like a crazy food cult person. But hey, I’m not saying you need to get on the wagon. I’m just sharing my experiences with you. If you happen to be interested, you can check out It Starts With Food, which describes the science and philosophy behind the Whole30 Program.
As for me, I plan to show you all my creative Whole30 recipes in the coming weeks. After I finish these 30 days, I’ll gauge my body’s reaction to my reintroduction of different food groups. I plan to eat this way probably around 80% of the time. For the other 20%, I say bring on the frickin dessert! Life’s too short to skip the cake. And, as long as I’m not a slave to sugar cravings, I think it’s totally fine to indulge once in a while. So get ready for a whole bunch of crazy recipes!
Readers, if you’ve made it this far, THANK YOU (and good work)! I’m pretty interested, though…what do you guys think? Have you looked into Paleo, or maybe even done Whole30? Do you think it’s all a crock? That’s okay, too. I always want to know what you think! Without further ado, though, here’s my first (very simple) Paleo recipe: Mango Watermelon Salsa!
Now, I could blather on and on about this recipe.
But I think I’ve already talked enough for today, yeah?
Just know that I ate this entire bowl with a spoon (no additional dippers required!) right after I finished photographing it. Beware the power of the salsa.
Mango Watermelon Salsa
1) 2 ripe avocados, pitted, and diced
2) 2 ripe Ataulfo (yellow) mangos, peeled, pitted, and diced
3) 3 cups of watermelon, diced
4) 1 medium sized tomato, diced
5) 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
6) Juice of 1 lime
7) Sea salt, to taste
1) Combine all ingredients (except for sea salt) in a bowl. Add in sea salt to taste. Enjoy!