40 Days of Paleo

Several years ago I had the inspired idea to go vegetarian for Lent. Okay, technically it was pescatarian, because, like any good Catholic, I still had to have my fish on Fridays. No matter – the purpose was to see if I, a bacon-loving, sausage-pizza-craving, general fan-of-meat, could go without it. It turns out that it wasn’t that hard. For all I was concerned about the temptations of meaty pizza, you know what I wanted most? A simple turkey sandwich. What I wouldn’t have given for some deli turkey, with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard between two slices of bread. It turns out I don’t need meat that much after all.

So why am I considering Paleo now? Well, I have been having, let’s say, some issues figuring out the amount I need to eat. I know I gained a few pounds while training for my half marathon and although it probably wasn’t noticeable to anyone but me, it’s not a positive trend. As I’ve continued running and working out at a higher level than I have in the past, I’ve had more and more days where I feel like I just can’t get full. The way I’ve been eating isn’t working and it’s time to try something new.

Now, I don’t particularly put stock in one diet over another. I firmly believe that the best diet is the one that works for you, but Steve Kamb’s take on Paleo has always sounded exceptionally reasonable to me. More fruits and veggies, little to no dairy and starches, some quality meats? I can’t lie, regardless of whether or not our paleolithic ancestors ate that way, that makes a whole lot of sense. Scarfing down a block of cheddar because my entire day’s worth of meals didn’t satiate me does not.

Consider this an experiment, the point of which is to revamp my diet to squeeze in as many fruit and vegetables as possible. (It is not a license to Eat All the Bacon.) I expect there to be a learning curve, as I give up certain things that I love. Here’s what I anticipate missing most:

  • Cheese. Peace be with you, Smoked Gouda.
  • Peanut butter. But I get almond butter and cashew butter and, ooh, I think I’ll try my hand at making pecan and walnut butters! Maybe I won’t miss peanut butter at all.
  • Black beans. With scrambled eggs and corn tortillas, they’re my go-to for a quick dinner. I am half-Mexican after all.
  • Kind bars. They all have rice. Not Paleo.
  • Bread. Obviously. I will likely be ready to offer sexual favors in return for a good sourdough or pretzel roll by the end of this. Don’t get any ideas.

But, I don’t expect myself to be perfect either and will allow myself some exceptions. Here are the rules by which I will govern this experiment:

  • By nature of my new business, I’m going to have to taste the occasional baked good. But I will only eat them if I absolutely must taste them. This is my stance in general, so it’s not much of a deviation from how I would normally conduct myself around leftover product.
  • I also run a baking meetup group. Our monthly meetups will not be Paleo days.
  • If I go to a restaurant, I’ll do my best to choose something within the Paleo guidelines, but I’m not going to ask the server to list all of the ingredients and then balk when the chicken’s been dredged in flour.
  • If I’m at a friend’s place and spontaneously they cook for me, I’m going to eat what they offer.
  • I’m keeping butter and white potatoes. Both are on the Paleo fence. Coconut oil weirds me out, so for the small amount of Paleo baking I plan on doing, I’m just going to use butter. Potatoes are generally shunned because they’re not as high in nutrients as other vegetables, but they’re really perfectly fine as long as they’re not deep fried or covered in heaps of sour cream.
  • Alcohol. I don’t drink much to begin with and the only reason I’m keeping it is because Rick is visiting in a couple of days and I do plan on having several adult beverages with him. Life’s not worth living if you can’t enjoy a drink with your best bud whom you haven’t seen in three years.
  • Generally I visit my parents a few days before Easter. When I do go there, that’s when this experiment ends. I am going to eat the hell out of my mom’s homemade flour tortillas.

So that’s it. The goal of this experiment isn’t necessarily to lose weight, although I’m curious to see where my body fat ends up at the end of this, and it isn’t to eliminate any food allergies that I’m aware of. I want to see if it changes how I feel. I want to know if I can be full and satisfied without tipping the scales in the wrong direction. I want to experience foods that I might otherwise forgo because making a grilled cheese on a random weeknight is seemingly easier. Will I feel good? Will I feel strong? Will I feel happy? Who knows…maybe I don’t need bread as much as I thought. We shall see.

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