Warning: Long, self-obsessed post. As always.
There were those nine years once where I was a vegetarian. Remember that? I mean, I ate fish and eggs once in a while, and had a wee bit of turkey at Thanksgiving. If my hot and sour soup had pork bits in it at a restaurant, I wasn't going to raise a huge fuss. But pretty much no meat, from the time I gave birth to Addie on.
For lots of good reasons, I think. Factory farms are heinous. They contribute a lot to climate change, for example, and I think are illustrative of some of the nastier elements of American gluttony and disrespect for the environment. I have also been raised (by my own self) on a steady diet of women's magazines and advertising which suggests that a diet "rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy" is the way to go. And maybe it is.
So it may come as a shock (it does to me) to know that for the past two weeks I've eaten nothing but meat and vegetables. Like, 20 OUNCES OF MEAT A DAY. That's a lot of animals I've consumed.
Writing that sentence just made me a little nauseous. But I'm going to persevere.
This has not been part of a "diet," like the "Paleo diet," though it's related to that--it's a "food challenge" (which maybe is the same thing as a "diet") sponsored following a workshop at my Crossfit gym (which CF nerds call a "box"). The challenge is to eat nothing but high-quality, meaning grass-fed and organic, animal protein and unprocessed vegetables and high quality fats, meaning only coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados for three weeks. Then see what happens to us in the gym and how we feel in "real life."
I'm on the first day of week 3. If you had tried talking to me last week, when I was still going through nasty sugar withdrawals, my head would have spun around and I would have spit venom at you. This week, though, I'm feeling real good about things. Like, weirdly healthy and happy.
But why do this? Why the big turn around?
Answer: for some of the same reasons I tried vegetarianism, I guess. Because I'm always interested in experimenting with food. Because I'm curious about what making big changes in my diet does to my body. Because I had gained pounds the past few years and couldn't seem to take them off by doing more exercise, and eating less just pisses me off and makes me very obsessive. So, essentially because I'm pretty vain. Also because I had high cholesterol readings despite being really "healthy." Because as convincing as I found The China Study I also found The Paleo Diet quite convincing. And you know I read diet and health books like it's my job, so I'm not just being random here. But I'm also trying this challenge because I lift heavy at Crossfit four times a week, and I love seeing new muscles appear and feeling strong and challenged, but didn't like feeling nauseous or super-sore after a workout because I wasn't eating right. Because I'm sleeping so well and have energy during the day. Because I think a lot of advertising just tries really hard to make it super-easy for us to over-eat processed food. I find the arguments about the perils of wheat and soy production in this country really compelling, for example.
Because challenges are fun. Even when they suck.
But here are the things I'm thinking about:
1) I hope they provide us with some guidance for what to do after the challenge, because this really is a shitload of meat I'm eating, and even though we're paying extra for the "good" stuff, stuff that I hope is humanely treated and killed, it's still animals being slaughtered and really I don't know how good they're being treated. We may have to look into doing something more local where we can see how the animals are treated once we move to Idaho if I'm going to keep this up, like maybe buying a big freezer and part of a cow or something. That is so crazy that I just wrote that. Again, regurge. But I have lingering questions about the long-term effects of this, and how to effectively modify given those concerns.
2) This thing has made me come face to face with some of my worser habits around food (lots of snacking, too many processed and refined foods that had snuck in without my really considering them, eating too fast, mindless eating, and, of course, having dessert after every meal for the last 20 years). But mostly I've had to face my emotional attachments to food. People who talk about using "food for fuel" have always seemed like nasty perverts to me. Like an alien race. Like flagellants. I mean food tastes good. It makes you feel good. It's social. People who eat cardboard bars for "energy" are pervs.
Sigh. But yes, food is also fuel. I kind of get that a little better now. There are other, more fulfilling ways to comfort one's self, and finding those might also make your life better in other ways. Like, slowing down my work schedule and getting outside everyday, whatever the weather, makes me feel soooo good. Better than a quesadilla, even.
3) I've been thinking about what "cheating" means. I don't like the language of "cheating" because it implies a "diet" which doesn't seem particularly sustainable to me, and like I said, makes me go a little crazy. We're not supposed to have any sugars on this thing, which means no alcohol or sweets. But I've been pretty much like, fuck that. Friday and Saturday nights I have a glass of wine. And I make a wicked chocolate pudding from avocados that's incredibly decadent but not too bad for you:
in the food processor, blend up two avocados, 4 T honey, 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, 1/4 c coconut milk, 1t vanilla extract, and 1t instant coffee. Chill. Stick in in your pie-hole. Send me a thank-you note.
I have a spoonful (or ten) of that every night. Fucking delicious. You'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands, and if I can't have something like this everyday on this "diet" or "challenge" or whatever, I'm not going to do it. I don't think that's cheating, I think that's called living an awesome life. At least, that's what the pudding whispers to me as it's sliding down my throat. And, see #1.
I'm trying to think about how I might make something like this work for me long term. I think most paleos that I respect try for an 80/20 split, where you eat paleo 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you can eat other things. Which means working fruit and nuts back into the diet. I miss them a lot. And maybe dairy and pasta once in a while. Though I weirdly do not miss them at all.
4) And neither does the old poop-chute. I'll spare you the details, obvs, but let's say this little experiment has certainly made me wonder if I didn't have a little gluten/dairy intolerance there for a while. Like, for my whole life. I don't miss the tummy aches, at all.
5) Some things will get worked back in. Fruit. Nuts. I'll probably have my homemade granola at home once in a while at the end of the three weeks, and our semiannual binge at our favorite Mexican restaurant has to stay in. Cause it just makes me glad to be alive. And I need to do some more research making sure my liver stays happy and I'm still getting the shite-tons of fresh vegetables everyday, because that is a beautiful, healthy thing. I'll let you know how it goes.
Try that avocado pudding, friends. You won't regret it.