Read around the Paleo blogosphere…

One of the things I love about the primal/paleo community is how generous its inhabitants are.  They are so giving of their time, knowledge, help and experience – for free, on the internet!  That is one of the many reasons I LOVE to buy their books and help them out personally.  I am a little behind on the book buying right now due to our impending move, but Eat Like a Dinosaur is next on my priority list!

My favorite day of the week is Friday.  Not for obvious reasons – actually, logistically, it’s a nightmare.  Due to early dismissal from the high school, the kids’ volunteer schedule, and art class I am on the run from 12:30 until 6, making it hard to prepare and execute a healthy and nutritious reunion dinner for the five of us – so I usually beg my husband to take me out after the CaveBaby goes to bed.  I love Friday because that’s when Mark Sisson publishes his success story of the week, and Modern Paleo it Paleo Rodeo.

If you think I like the success stories because I like looking at beefcake pictures of musclebound dudes, think again!  Mark also highlights people who have changed from emaciated and malnourished to healthy, beaten PCOS into submission, brought together multiple generations in a family in pursuit of a common goal,  and in general found a life of health and happiness outside the sphere of “normal” in our current society.  The quote that became this guy’s title caused one of those seismic shifts in my brain when it came to the imperative to eat real food – that continuing to eat a regular American diet is a slow and painful suicide, one bite at a time.  I find these stories and pictures to be so inspirational – they help me continue to make good choices in what I chose to consume every day.

The Paleo Rodeo over on Modern Paleo’s blog is also a great read every Friday.  They round up interesting stories from the blogosphere and put them all in one handy little place.  There is also a huge list of paleo blogs that writers self-submit.  Two years ago it would have been feasible to view all the blogs in the list…but as the movement has grown, so has the list!  No, you won’t find me on the list…yet.  One of these days I will have the nerve to do so – maybe when I come up with a particularly good recipe and document it!

Another blog I like to read these days is The Paleo Mom.  Sarah is funny and smart, with a scienc-y PhD, so she likes to approach paleo from a technical aspect – but then gets into the touchy-feely stuff about the effects of the changes on her family.  So it appeals to both right- and left- brained folks.  I also came across PaleoNonPaleo this week after Alison did a guest post on Paleo Parents.  Her post was about how paleo had changed their family for the better, in terms of one of her kids’ behavioral issues.

I finished reading Why We Get Fat this week.  It was a phenomenal read and caused some significant seismic shifts in my brain about the cause/effect relationship of diet and obesity.  I am currently reading Dean Dwyer’s Make Shi(f)t Happen for a change of pace.  It appeals to me because it approaches making changes to the mind/body connection like an organizational change, which was my job in a previous life.  It’s very positive and inspirational, if that is your gig I definitely recommend it.  Personally, I am a bit of a science nerd myself so my favorite books tend to approach this way of life from that perspective.

So there you have it!  I still haven’t had much time to putz around in the kitchen like I’d like to, so still nothing new on the recipe front.  But the days are getting longer, and I have a grill tank full of propane out back so I can envision a few splendid summer recipes on the horizon!

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Wahls and Sisson: A Match Made in Primal Heaven!

Mark Sisson was the gateway drug to my primal conversion a little less than two years ago, so it’s fitting that he is building on the inspirational video of Dr. Terry Wahls I posted last month.  Primal and paleo lifestyles aren’t all about heavy cream and butter – while they can be a welcome addition to your lifestyle if you can tolerate them, the primary focus of the foods eaten should be meat and vegetables.  If you are able to consume her recommended 9 cups per day, you probably won’t be very hungry anyway.

Mark Sisson does a great job of expanding on the reasons you should be eating these great foods, and gives helpful hints on how to go about it.  Last week he featured leafy greens; this week it’s sulphur.  Just about every meat-based recipe I cook these days starts with a chopped onion.  What I found out today is that if I let it sit on the cutting board for about 10 minutes, the active components of these vegetables are able to better withstand heat.

Inspiration 2

When I wanted to learn more about this primal/paleo lifestyle I had stumbled upon two years ago, I wanted to hear how people were implementing the changes in their day-to-day lives.  So I turned to blogs to find out what people were eating, how they were feeling, what kind of exercise they were doing, etc.  At the time, there were only a few blogs to be found; the concept was pretty new and revolutionary compared to the low-cal low-fat chronic-cardio movement that has dominated our culture.  I found some good blogs, and as I can I will add them to the blogroll and link to them in posts where relevant.

Things changed dramatically when I found out I was pregnant at the elderly (in my mind) age of 38.  Is it safe to eat this way?  Is it sustainable?  How will we feed our baby once he is born?  So the thrust of my search for knowledge and experience changed.  Luckily, I found Paleo Parents.  They were several months ahead of me in the paleo quest, and had a baby to boot!  Their website is very nicely done design-wise, and the content is very, very helpful.  I love reading about how the paleo lifestyle has helped them, as a couple, to lose 200 pounds!  It has also helped them to understand the effects of processed food on preschooler behavior.  But the icing on the paleo cake, so to speak, is their recipe for gluten-free Monkey Bread.  No, it’s not paleo with all of the sweeteners, but a special treat every now and then is not a bad thing!  I also have a lot of respect for a man who wears his baby – it’s not easy!  My husband has tried our Boba carrier but it doesn’t feel as secure for him because he doesn’t have hips – I think he would be more comfortable with a framed carrier.

If you are looking for more information on how to implement a more natural lifestyle for your family, check out their website.  If you have small children and are making a transition to living “paleo”, take a look at their new book, which should be out March 20 according to Amazon.

Inflammation…

…I had it.  A couple of weeks ago Mark Sisson had a piece on his website about inflammation.  I will tell you about my inflammation story and how I resolved it with the Primal Blueprint.

Starting the summer of 2007 or 2008, my allergies kicked into high gear.  It was not unusual for me to go through a half box of Puffs Plus with Lotion in an evening.  I attributed it to standing outside and grilling dinner for 20 minutes.  I was miserable – taking Zyrtec AND Claritin AND Benadryl AND Visine AND Flonase every single day.  It didn’t help.  My allergies got so bad that summer that I was unable to wear contact lenses for 8 weeks that fall, and use steroid eye drops.  I decided to start taking allergy shots so I wouldn’t have to take so many pills every day – they made me feel like a zombie, and I was a busy mom who worked part-time.  The allergy shots did not reduce my dependence on allergy medication, and I had an anaphylactic reaction to the shots one fine day.  It wasn’t pretty – my face swelled up, I was covered in hives, and it was difficult to breathe.  A three-month long sinus infection drove me to give up on the shots – they didn’t seem to be helping anyway.

One observation I had was that, on the evenings I needed the big box of tissue, I was drinking a glass of red wine while outside grilling.  Hmmmm.  Could I be allergic to red wine?  Perish the thought!  I enjoyed it!  It was like my little companion while I cooked!  But experimentation finally told me the cold hard truth – if I wanted to drink the red wine, I would pay a price.  I started experimenting with  other forms of alcohol – beer, martinis, etc.  Sometimes I reacted, sometimes I didn’t, but I was still taking a handful of allergy meds at this time so I didn’t have an accurate experiment going on.

Once I did clean up my diet I found that just about any alcoholic beverage consumption can cause some sort of rhinitis reaction in me – from getting slightly stuffy to all out serial sneezing for hours.  I will never forget the Christmas party my boss had, where he took us all to Carvers for dinner – I had a small bit of vanilla-flavored vodka at his house before the dinner, and spent the entire evening sneezing!  To this day I couldn’t tell you how awesome my prime rib was because I couldn’t remember eating it! 

I noticed that once I started eating in a primal/paleo manner, I required a LOT less allergy medicine – I read Mark’s book in April 2010, and spent the remainder of the spring on minimal allergy medicine.  Then I got pregnant, and for some reason they kicked into high gear – maybe because I was eating a lot of potatoes and rice in the beginning.  However, after getting back to a cleaner diet I can report that I only take the occasional Benadryl when I choose to consume the (very) occasional glass of alcoholic beverage.  My beverage of choice is usually sparkling wine.  I almost never drink red wine, my former cooking companion, because it elicits the most severe response.  I miss it, but I love the way I feel these days – clear-eyed, clear-nosed, and clear-headed. 

Which brings me to the small rant – people who say “I can’t give up _____”.  Inert food of choice there.  Yes, you can.  In fact, the more you think you can’t give up something, the more you probably should in my opinion.  Cheetos, ice cream – when I talked about my eating habits with a friend last year, her one comment was, “well what about ICE CREAM?”.  Now, I have an ice cream maker and a cabinet full of coconut milk.  When the mood strikes, I can make ice cream, but it is what it should be in my life – a rare treat, not an everyday treat.  When I see temptation in front of me, either in the form of a sugary desert or an enticing glass of social lubrication, I ask myself, is it really worth it?  Sometimes the answer is yes with a side of Benadryl, but mostly the answer is no thank you!  I feel better without it!

Why Primal?

What circumstances brought my family to embrace a primal/paleo lifestyle?  It started about 10 years ago, when I was 29.  As a wife and mother of two young children ages 3 and 5, I was puzzled by the fact that I required a daily 2-hour nap to function through the afternoon and evening – on top of not being able to get up before 7:30 am despite going to bed at a reasonable hour (about 10:30).  Shortly after my 30th birthday I started to gain weight as well.  A couple of visits to the doctor did not yield much – maybe I was depressed?  Maybe it was another prescription I was taking?  Try some antidepressants?  Well, I tried them and they made me feel much, much worse with symptoms like vertigo and nausea. 

Finally a doctor visit within the year yielded a slightly out-of-bounds test result for thyroid hormone deficiency.  I begged the doctor for a little, teensy, eensy prescription of Armor Thyroid, and from there I was allowed by my insurance company to regularly visit an endocrinologist to keep the hormones balanced.  Still carrying around 25 extra pounds, a little sleuthing on the internet produced the idea that a low-carb diet helps people with low thyroid lose weight.  My husband and I tried the Atkins diet a couple of years before, and by day 3 we were crabbing at each other over nothing, and decided to give up and go out for a carb fest, after which we felt much better.  This time I approached the Atkins diet with a lot more information, a fully stocked pantry, and a plan for snacks in case the hunger monster hit.  We both had success eating low-carb, but a lot of chemical-laden semi-foods found their way into our daily lives (Splenda!  Atkins bars!  Protein shakes!).  It was a diet, not a lifestyle, so it was not sustainable for the long-term for me.

The next six years my weight continued to yo-yo, the variables being my eating and my thyroid numbers.  I started working, and the more I worked the less I cooked.  My kids were growing, and afterschool and evening activities also shoved cooking to the back burner.  We ate out more, and had an amazing market around the corner from our house with a deli full of ready-made and healthy-ish dinner food.  However, by the summer of 2009 I was heavier than ever while not pregnant, and I knew I had to do something about it.  My husband was still in decent shape, making weight for his job, but carrying around a few extra pounds that made keeping physically fit more painful.  I started back down the low-carb path, and lost a few pounds.  Some more internet research led me to a website that has changed the way I look at how I eat and what I do for physical activity.  It challenged me with thought experiments, showed me phenomenal success stories of real people, and had delicious recipes.  In fact, there was a new post every single day of the week with practical tips on how to develop your own success!

That website was Mark’s Daily Apple (www.marksdailyapple.com).  I bought the book and paid for a quick delivery – I wanted that book in my hands before spring break 2010.  I read the book, and brought it along with me for encouragement.  I did my best to avoid more neolithic-style foods, and actually lost a couple of pounds on the trip.  I couldn’t stop reading passages of the book to my husband while we were laying on the beach – and soon he picked up the book and started reading for himself.  I soon noticed that he stopped buying “low-carb” oatmeal and granola for breakfast.  We were committed to working on our health and fitness together!  We were having a great time, I think we went shopping for pants for him twice in two months!  He was wearing a smaller size than when we got married!  I however, would grow much, much bigger…from a surprise pregnancy, courtesy of my body feeling years younger than the 38 I actually was. 

So while I was getting bigger, my husband was getting smaller.  The first couple of months all I wanted to eat was rice and potatoes.  Then my eating improved, but it was far from perfect and I went on to gain the normal amount of weight for me while pregnant – about 50 lb.  I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, but was able to manage it by avoiding bread and sugar, but I continued to eat rice and potatoes occasionally.  My numbers remained within range, except for the one night I ate Pizza Hut, which I never did again after that!  I delivered an 8#14oz baby at 39 weeks, and he did not have the precipitous blood sugar drop that his older brother had 12 years prior.  The first six weeks I did not restrict my eating because I was nursing, taking care of an infant, healing from surgery…and running two teenagers around to their activities.  I needed fast food on the go, and if it was a sandwich, then that was what I had (salads and leftovers don’t seem to travel well in a car!).  I lost about 30 lb of baby weight, and then decided to get back to a more primal-style diet.  My husband continued to get leaner and stronger during this time, I might add.

Did I mention we moved, across the country?  So my adherence to primal and lifting heavy things was sporadic.  Once things settled down, I joined a gym, joined an organic co-op, and started seriously planning our weekly meals.  I am still busy driving the kids to activities, and thanks to our current location I get to drive a lot more!  But I take the time to plan ahead, and have standby protein ready to go in case of emergency. 

As of January 2nd, I have been on the Whole 30 challenge (http://whole9life.com/2012/01/whole-30-v2012/).  The gist of what I have given up from the primal lifestyle is cream in my coffee, occasional dairy in recipes (cheese/yogurt), a square or two of chocolate after dinner, and alcohol, which I didn’t drink frequently anyway due to histamine intolerance.  After a week I can tell I will need to go shopping again at the end of 30 days!  My jeans are looser, my shirts fit nicely, and I can wear all of the cute clothes I bought to celebrate my weight loss just before I got pregnant!  My husband is helping me in the gym – coaching me on deadlifts and recommending workout exercises and frequency. 

We feel that we owe it to our kids to be as healthy and fit as we can be.  The primal/paleo lifestyle allows us to do that in a way that does not require us to measure food, count calories, or spend hours in the gym lifting light weights or pounding out miles on a treadmill.  We are also feeding our youngest in a way that is more compatible with a primal/paleo lifestyle.  He does not eat teething biscuits, cereals, or juice.  He does eat things like eggs, bananas, apples, sweet potato, grassfed beef, and Greek-style yogurt.  He is healthy and happy and growing at a perfect rate! 

I am not a medical professional or a dietitian (though I did get into an argument with one while I was pregnant over the “diabetic diet”), but I know from logic and now experience that eating a real food diet with lots of vegetables and good meat is what our bodies need.  My energy now, at nearly 40, is much, much better than it was 10 years ago.  I couldn’t nap even if I tried!  I wake up at 6 with plenty of energy to tackle the day.  I love my life this way.

Inspiration

http://youtu.be/KLjgBLwH3Wc

I saw this video a month ago and, while I do not suffer from an autoimmune disease such as MS, I do take daily thyroid hormone pills (when I remember to).  This video, to me, shows the power of eating good food, of getting your nutrients from what you eat, instead of popping a pill to mitigate symptoms of an illness or ailment.  Dr. Wahls’ recommendation to eat 9 cups of vegetables per day is daunting!  It has pushed me to try to eat greens in some form at every meal, including breakfast.