In last month’s column I expressed a desire (need) to give 2014 a healthy kick-start and well, things must have been dire. As I write this, Kristen and I are on day 15 of a 28-day Paleo Food Challenge designed by the good folks at Fitwit (Fitwit.com). Processed food being something of a devil, the Paleo diet aims to eat what cavemen ate. Meat, fish, chicken, eggs, vegetables, fruit and some nuts are ok. Added sugar, dairy, grain, white starches, legumes and alcohol are forbidden. And since I’ve been asked, yes, wine is indeed considered a form of alcohol.
At first, I suffered a surge of skepticism. We can have fruit but fruit juice is banned? Regular potato = bad. Sweet potato = good? And why no legumes? Did cavemen frown upon the bean? I’m partial to the peanut because it is delicious, but turns out it is actually a legume with a terribly misleading name. Boo!
Our usual eating habits were in need of a makeover though and friends of ours have raved about the results the Paleo diet has brought about. Parenthood has trimmed our exercise time down considerably but perhaps dietary changes can make up for some of that. It is said that fitness is 20 percent exercise and 80 percent diet, so for 28 days we committed to follow the rules.
Staying Paleo compliant is difficult just from a shopping perspective. We’ve been scanning labels to make sure there aren’t nitrates or nefarious sounding additives like “guar gum” because they are in just about everything. I think I saw a carton of iodized salt where the secondary ingredient was sugar. Still, Kristen has stirred up a circus of kitchen activity to keep ahead of the game to avoid a food freakout and I’ve been a beneficiary. We’ve bought more squash varieties than I knew existed and have snacked on things like dried plantains and kale chips.
The real mental gymnastics come with not taking a bite out of the kids’ half eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and not licking the spoon after doling out a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I made Margo waffles with “lots of syr-ee-up,” which was utterly painful and when grain is out of bounds and you have not had any grain in two weeks, just don’t go sniffing a box of Wheat Thins. You’ll regret it.
I was ornery in the early going. Then there were a couple of sleepy days and brain cloud moments where I’d walk into a room and forget what I went in there for, probably a few raisins. All normal I’m told. Black coffee with a smidge of Stevia (permitted) instead of my usual skim milk and sugar was really weird at first but now I’m walking around like I’m Stevia Steve. Still, this current phase of the challenge is feeling a bit purgatorial. I am seeing positive results in my body and my workouts, but I can’t seem to shake Bagel Palace from my Bagel Palace. I mean brain.
The final leg of the journey is supposed to pump tiger blood through my veins where I will feel more awesome than Roberto Benigni at Six Flags. We’ll see how it shakes out, but I already know that I will benefit from what I’ve learned this month both about food and myself. As you read this, the challenge will be over and, hopefully, I will be pondering success down at Avellinos over a Quattro Formaggio pizza and a full bodied IPA, signing copies of my before and after pictures. For now, I gingerly sip my La Croix from a wine glass, like any proper caveman would.