If you follow my Tweets, you may have noticed that I sometimes mention that I’m “eating paleo” or, more often, “failing to eat paleo.” I’ve been meaning to blog about it, and when Wyn asked, “What is paleo?” I thought it was time.
First and foremost, I’m nowhere near true paleo, and I’m not saying the paleo diet is good or bad. I’m just using some of the guidelines to eat better.
Several months ago, I went low-fat, and while I successfully lowered my cholesterol, I didn’t really lose that much weight. Namely the five pound roll on my stomach, because while I was eating low-fat, I was still eating a lot of processed carbs and sugar. For instance, in addition to a healthy lunch, I’d have a handful of pretzels or cheddar bunnies. Then again after my yogurt in the afternoon. At night I’d have some kind of low-fat dessert (Skinny Cow ice cream, or graham crackers, or fig newtons). If I had the night-time munchies for something salty, I’d attack low-fat chips or crackers.
With paleo, you cut all of that out.
FitBomb gives a really good explanation of what the paleo diet is (and his wife takes gorgeous pictures of her food and has lots of tasty paleo recipes). Also known as the “caveman diet,” it’s built around the idea that you eat only what you would hunt or gather – meat, vegetables, fruit, and nuts – and avoid sugar and carbs, including, now here’s the controversial part, whole grains, beans, and legumes. Dairy is a no-no as well.
I’m sure there’s some very good reasoning behind this, but whatever it is I’m not interested in cutting healthy carbs, sugar, or dairy. What I *have* done is:
- cut carbs that are highly processed, even low-fat ones like pretzels, air popped chips (my fave!), and those low-fat sweets I mentioned
- reducing carbs with little or no nutrients (white rice and pasta)
- reducing sugary drinks (little juice, less sugar in my coffee; I never drank much soda so that’s not a concern)
- replacing all of those with more vegetables, fruit, and nuts, or in the case of drinks, coffee without sugar, tea, and more water
And you know what? I think it’s working. I’ve been at this for about a month and a half – with some splurging and falling off the wagon (like this weekend) – and I’m feeling trimmer. That five pound roll on my belly seems smaller, and my jeans are looser. Suddenly I need a belt.
You’d think that would be logical – Gee, fewer non-nutritious snacks and more nutritious foods? Duh! – but I needed the idea of “paleo” to give me guidelines and inspire me to keep going.
Again, I’m nowhere near real paleo. I still have carbs. I know I’d probably lose a lot more weight if I cut carbs completely, but it’s just too hard. Plus some carbs are good for you!
Here’s a typical day:
Breakfast. Black coffee and oatmeal with skim milk, one teaspoon brown sugar, one teaspoon honey or maple syrup. Carbs up the wazoo! But good for my cholesterol.
Second coffee. I’ve recently switched from coffee with a hazelnut syrup shot to a black Americano for my second cup of Joe. I think cutting out that extra bit of sugar has made a difference.
Mid-morning snack. Nuts. This has been my usual snack, even before going pseudo-paleo.
When I’m at work, I either get:
Salad bar. Half a cup of pasta with tuna, celery, peas, and mustard (no mayo); peppers; beets; and asparagus, plus a small beef barley soup (this is only soup that’s good at the nearby grocery store). Before pseudo-paleo, I’d also have a handful of pretzels or some other low-fat salty snack, but I’ve cut that out.
Pre-made bento box. There’s a Japanese market nearby that has good bento boxes. I go for the ones with more protein, some kind of veggie, and no rolls. Yes, I eat the rice.
When I’m working from home, I go all-out paleo.
What I’ve been doing lately, and which I’ll probably need to switch up soon before I get sick of it, is scramble one or two eggs with scallion, and fry up some chicken sausage with peppers. Pretty right?
For side dishes I fry up some broccolini with ginger, garlic, and a pinch of salt, as well as some butternut squash.
I’m addicted to butternut squash lately. It took me awhile to figure out how to cook it. At first I just steamed the hell out of it, but that wasn’t very good. Then I cut it up and fried it and it was delicious. Here’s a step by step, in case you’re interested:
- Cut off the ends
- Peel it. I don’t have a peeler so I just slice off the skin with a very good knife.
- Cut it in half width-wise then length-wise.
- Pull out all the gross seeds and membrany stuff. You’ll need to use a spoon and scrape like hell.
- I usually take half the squash, cut into quarters and steam for about 20 minutes, or until soft (if the squash is a little old, some milky white stuff might come out upon steaming; don’t worry, it’s normal). I save the other half for another day.
- Cube it.
- Fry up in olive oil. I also add a teaspoon of brown sugar, a generous pinch of salt, and cinnamon. I cover it and let it sit for a few minutes at a time, and cook it basically till the squash has soaked up all the oil.
That’s a stray piece of broccolini in case you’re wondering.
It’s incredibly filling. I usually can only eat 2/3 of what I make, then eat the rest for a snack later.
Low-fat, high protein yogurt. Greek yogurt’s the best.
Nuts. Almonds, pistachios, macadamia, peanuts, you name it. Before I’d eat some low-fat chips or cheddar bunnies. No more!
If I’m at work, right around five, I get hungry again. I have a 90 minute door-to-door commute so it’s a while before I eat dinner. Before I’d have more pretzels or cheddar bunnies, or a granola bar. Now I have an apple, or carrots and celery, or, yes, more nuts – basically something crunchy and nutritious which will keep me full till dinnertime.
For dinner I just have my usual, trying to stay away from anything deep-fried or too cheesy (though once a week I do have a slice of pizza with a Greek salad), and have something balanced.
Dessert. No more Skinny Cow ice cream or graham crackers! Now I have an apple or veggies, or (you guessed it) more nuts! I have a nut addiction.
I’ve also tried to increase my cardio workouts. Before I was slacking with cardio just two times a week and yoga two or three times, which is not bad, but not enough cardio.
I read in some magazine that post-menopausal women (not that I’m one) who want to get rid of fat in their middle need to do cardio at least four times a week, burning at least 300 or 400 calories each time, and weight-bearing/core exercises at least three times a week. I use that as my guideline, which is surprisingly helpful.
And I’ve given up on trying to work out on the days I go into the office. There is NO WAY I can get up five, especially going to bed at 11 or midnight.
Here’s what my ideal exercise routine looks like:
- Sunday. Run 4 miles. Weights.
- Tuesday. Run 4 miles. One hour yoga.
- Thursday. Elliptical 40 minutes. One your yoga.
- Saturday. Run 3 or 4 miles.
Lately I’ve been hitting three cardios and three weight-bearing/core routines. It helps to include a shorter but faster run outside.
Like I said, I’ve fallen off the wagon multiple times. There was the day I inhaled an entire bagel (usually I only have half). This past weekend, I had a cheeseburger and french fries, potato chips, and a shit ton of chocolate.
But somehow, at least so far, it’s been easier to get back on the wagon. Last night for instance, MB was late coming home from work. I was starving and scarfed down some sliced chicken and boiled then fried up some baby carrots with salt and rosemary. Heating up those carrots in a little oil made all the difference, and I was totally satisfied till MB came home.