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.
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:
I was a little panicked: what the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was I supposed to eat?!? Her response to that question was “Food”:
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.
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:
- I’ve been eating in this modified way for about a year now
- 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