The Year of Living *Paleo-ly

I love food.  No mixed emotions there, no deep-seated conflicts or internal struggles, I just love it.  I want to move to Vermont where I can legally marry it.  Historically when invited to gatherings I could always be counted on to bring dessert, sometimes more than one.  I’ve lovingly been called a cupcake whore.

So you can understand the surprise of those who knew me when I started down the Paleo Path.  You’d have thought I told them I was going Base Jumping without a parachute.  Everyone wanted to know the impetus for this radical change, but there was no dramatic catalyst.  I’d been eating pretty much the same way my entire life and I just wanted to see what it was like to eat differently.

Wendy at 2 years. This isn't staged: it's my way and the way of my people.

Wendy at 2 years. This isn’t staged: it’s my way and the way of my people.

I was largely inspired by the book ‘In Defense of Food’ by Michael Pollan.  The premise is deceptively simple: just eat real food, not processed, fried, or genetically modified crap.  I made an appointment with the sassy and sensational Nutritionist Carly Pollak of Nutritional Wisdom and brought her a single day’s food diary.  She pointed out that I was basically dosing myself with sugar and simple carbohydrates all day long; I realized reluctantly that she was right and that it was (almost probably) a bad thing.  My program began with an 11 day detox, cutting out:

bad ingredients for paleo diet

I was a little panicked: what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was I supposed to eat?!?  Her response to that question was “Food”:

good ingredients for paleo diet

I survived the detox with only minimal emotional scarring and then went into maintenance mode, which was mostly the same as the detox but added back in a [optional but not cumulative] glass of red wine every other night and two cheat meals a week.

Flash forward 7 or 8 months: I’d lost some weight and everything was moving in the right direction.  Then it clicked that this wasn’t going to end; this was to be my way of eating for the rest of my life.  It was still so unnatural for me: I felt like I had actually acquired an eating disorder, because I was constantly thinking about what I could and couldn’t eat every time I ate out or grocery shopped.  And it was more expensive too.  (Crap is cheap.)

I fell off the wagon a little bit after that.  I didn’t go back to my old ways of eating, but I was definitely getting in more than two cheat meals a week.  Sometimes I had a whole cheat day!  I had to decide whether I wanted to abandon the whole thing or recommit.  I somewhat reluctantly got back on the wagon.

Then one day around 10 months in I had a mega cheat meal of pasta and bread for lunch; a short while later could barely keep my eyes open at work.  I seriously contemplated shutting my office door, turning off the lights and taking a nap on the floor under my desk.  It dawned on me that I hadn’t felt that way for almost a year, and yet I used to feel that way after every lunch.  It was a little shocking to realize I’d lived most of my adult life that way.  I couldn’t go back to that.

Present day: it’s been just over a year since I started, and it feels completely normal to eat this way now.  A couple of girlfriends started seeing my Nutritionist when they saw it wasn’t terminal so there’s some solidarity there, and being surrounded by like-minded people through CrossFit helps a lot.  I’m no Paleo Paragon but I don’t think it’s really a destination anyway.  You recommit to it every day: some days that means you just make the least bad choice and resolve to do better the next day.

Last Thursday's dinner (the Pepito-crusted Tilapia was a bit of a cheat)

Last Thursday’s dinner (the Pepito-crusted Tilapia was a bit of a cheat)

My family is still adjusting to the change.  When I went home to D.C. for the 4th of July my mother made it a point to ask me what I could eat.  I pretended not to understand the question and responded sweetly: “Food, mom.”

*Paleo-ly is not a word.  At least not until just now.  The blog title is a play on the film/novel ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ as a way of conveying that:

  1. I’ve been eating in this modified way for about a year now
  2. It has left several local cupcake vendors dangerously close to bankruptcy

 Anyway, if you try to use ‘Paleo-ly’ in serious conversation you’ll look ignorant so don’t do it.  If you do, don’t credit me.  If you use it in a non-serious conversation and someone laughs you can totally credit me.

Images: author’s own

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3 thoughts on “The Year of Living *Paleo-ly

  1. Kristy Bowden

    This is awesome. I’ve been eating paleo-ly (this is now an adverb and I think would be correct usage, if “paleo” was a real word and could be turned into an adverb) for a while now too, and I love it. So much of eating before meant feeling crappy afterwards. It’s amazing to not feel bad from lactose intolerance pain or insulin crash after eating. Thanks for posting!

    (Sorry about the grammar nerd out above. I should really give up using parenthesis.)

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