Just do it

As much as it pains me to use that phrase, I think the time is right to just do it: stick the the PB way of eating for 30 days. I’m going to start this coming Monday. I’ve been slowly making changes in my eating for the past three weeks and I think I’m ready to try for 100%. I knew I would try the 30 days, but wasn’t sure when I would start. I still think this is going to cost more in groceries, but I’m going to try to make it work.

What has nudged me into being ready is that the last few days I’ve let go of some of the principles I’ve been working on adopting — just becoming less focused. Yesterday was the worst. I wasn’t really prepared for dinner and we needed to eat earlier than usual. I wound up picking up some tortillas so we could have wraps. I ate one, and I felt fine physically, but for the rest of the night I couldn’t stop thinking about snacking – the first time since I’d started consciously shifting my diet that this has happened. I wound up eating another tortilla, some olives, about half a jar of spicy pepper rings, two glasses of wine and some chocolate. It was ridiculous, and I felt totally out of control. At one point I was standing in front of the fridge and actually said out loud, “Stop!”. And this morning on the scale, I was up, instead of the same or down. It’s probably just all the salt I ate, but still… not a good feeling.

I’ve also slacked on the veggie loading a bit and this will be a good way to be more mindful of that. Especially with summer and all its delicious produce on the way!

I have to say, though, it has been interesting so far… I was expecting low-carb flu and headaches, but so far, so good… it seems like as long as I eat enough protein at a meal, I’m less likely to get hungry between meals. Some of my clothes feel looser, so that’s a bonus, too.

Anyway, tomorrow night my husband and I have date night and have a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. I actually can’t remember the last time we’ve done this, so I’m looking forward to it. I see this as a treat and not a cheat, so I’m not making any deals with myself about what I’ll eat or won’t eat. We’ll just see.

Another reason I feel like I’m ready to commit is that I have noticed an improvement in my skin and I love that. Around the time that I started changing my diet, I started using a new moisturizer during the day and just straight jojoba oil on my face at night, so it’s hard to say for certain whether it’s the gluten/grains/sugar or the different skincare regime, but I’m thinking the diet it can’t hurt.

This 30 days will be tough. My husband isn’t on board with PB and he misses his carbs, so in the interests of having a happy partner there will still be starches on the menu, I’ll just be avoiding them.

So, my plan is to do daily posts of what I ate to keep myself accountable and have a record of what my diet is like. Hopefully that will allow me to find patterns of success (replicate good days!) or challenges that can be solved (maybe figure out why I was so hungry on a particular day). I guess I’ll post my official weigh-in and measurements, too.

Only one question: can I still eat chocolate and drink red wine on the 30-day challenge?

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Food culture and breastfeeding

Over the last few years I’ve been reading more about food, where it comes from, how it’s produced, and our relationships with it. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a big one for me, and more recently I read Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bébé and was intrigued by how the French think and act around food —  it’s appropriate that the UK version of the book is called French Children Don’t Throw Food. I’ve also got a request in at the library for Karen Le Billon’s French Kids Eat Everything.

Lately, I’ve been reading Jeannie Marshall’s book Outside the Box (which I mentioned here) and so far, it’s really good. One of the earlier chapters deals with infant formula as the first processed food (“food product”) babies can be exposed to, and Marshall shares her own experiences with breastfeeding challenges (and ultimate success) and then goes on to talk about the role of breastfeeding in a food culture, generally.

I found this fascinating. I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding (and more specifically, women overcoming cultural and institutional ‘booby traps’ and getting the personal support they need to be successful at breastfeeding) but I’d never stopped to think about it in this way. Of course, while a fetus is in utero, it’s eating everything its mother eats, and we’ve all heard that’s why babies in certain parts of the world will eat strongly flavoured curries with no objection when they first start solids – they’re already used to those flavours and intensities. But I had never stopped to think that, of course, breastfeeding is the next logical step in the introduction of a food culture to a baby. Marshall writes,

“Valeria [her midwife] also started preparing me to think about the process of breastfeeding and assured me that my diet during that period would also continue to influence his [her baby’s] tastes. It is a fact that flavours like garlic and broccoli pass from the mother’s diet into breast milk, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest children tend to gravitate toward those flavours once they are weaned. The healthy benefits of mother’s milk aside, this was the next step in the gentle process of raising a child to appreciate the taste of his particular family and the region where he’s being raised.

All of us had clearly gotten the message that “breast is best” for the baby’s health, that everything from a strong immune system to higher IQ levels later on are associated with breastfeeding. But we don’t often think about the role breastfeeding plays in shaping our children’s food preferences too, the way it influences what they eat later and how that consequently affects their health. In a place like Italy, or even more specifically, Rome, there is a range of tastes and a sort of coherence to the way foods and flavours work in the overall diet, so breastfeeding is an obvious way to pass those flavours along at the earliest stage of life – as long as everything else falls in tnto place.”

The weirdest thing is this: when I picked this book up from the library, I took a quick look at the new releases shelf and spotted the La Leche League book Feed Yourself, Feed Your Family, and just a few hours after I read the above passage from Marshall’s book, I read this in the LLL book:

“Unless you truly suspect your baby has a serious food sensitivity or allergy, don’t hesitate to continue to eat the good, wholesome food you’ve always eaten. If you come from a family or background where special dishes, spices, and ingredients are a prized part of your heritage, they are part of your baby’s heritage, too. You are passing along your culture through your milk, and if it tastes like onions, so be it.”

Just interesting that, what with all the fuss made over picky eaters who won’t eat vegetables, we don’t hear this argument for breastfeeding more often. I had never heard it myself until this weekend, and I read A LOT about breastfeeding. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more these days, as I’m thinking more about food.

In my own experience, I didn’t purposefully stop eating anything in particular when I was pregnant or nursing. In the early days of pregnancy, I had all-day morning sickness, and carbs were all I wanted: potatoes, pasta, crackers… the thought of protein, especially meat, made me even queasier. I remember that for a while, I had to turn away from the sight of gooey, cheesy pizza on TV commercials, but I practically had the number for Thai takeout on speed dial – the spicier the curry, the better.

Now, at almost two, my son has always been a non-discriminate, enthusiastic eater — and lately, he’s been asking for “d’autre spicy” (“more hot sauce”). He can’t get enough of it. Did he get a taste for this before he was even eating solids? It seems entirely plausible. In his wonderful book Hungry Monkey, which I read while I was pregnant, there’s a hilarious scene where Matthew Amster-Burton discovers that his daughter will happily eat insanely spicy foods, “panting and sweating — and asking for more”. I think it’s true that we often get in the way of what our children might like to eat because we assume they won’t like it.

Anyway, all food for thought. Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s a good expression! So, the Primal tie-in to this topic is that I’m glad that PB emphasizes the importance of breastfeeding. I will admit that I am having a hard time reconciling the rich, healthy food cultures found in Marshall’s Italy and Druckerman and Le Billon’s France with PB’s no-grains, no-legumes mandate. But that’s a post for another day. This also has me thinking, what is my family’s food culture?

A shelf full of cookbooks, a reader full of feeds

So, last night’s Banh Mi salad was delicious – but notes to self: do not just dump a bunch of jalapenos into your bowl without first testing to see how spicy that particular pepper is. And make some homemade mayo already – the soybean oil in storebought mayo does nasty things to your throat! But moving on…

I knew it would be fun to find new recipes to incorporate into our meal plans, but I also knew it would be painful in some ways to let some of my favourite blogs go. I love Bakerella’s blog, which features desserts that are practically works of art. It’s not that I ever even use her recipes, they’re just so fun to look at. The Kitchn is another favourite, but I wish I could filter out 3/4 of the recipes because they’re not PB-friendly. (Credit for featuring a cookbook called “Lard” today, though!)

For a long time I thought I didn’t have FOMO (fear of missing out) but I realized that I do. It’s not tied to social media or connectivity, as it is for many; it’s tied to blogs. When I let my feed reader get out of control I have a hard time making all as read, because what if there was something really interesting in there?? Unsubscribing is like that, times ten.

But, I’m trying to see this as an opportunity to subscribe to some new primal-friendly food blogs (Elana’s Pantry, Paleo Spirit, The Primalist – which is great because it’s Canadian) and unsubscribe from some that I love but are probably not going to be supplying me with many appropriate recipes.

As for my cookbooks? I’ve been slowly culling other books from my way-too-large collection and next up, I should do the cookbooks. It’s not that I’ll be getting rid of anything that’s not PB-friendly, but more that I should ditch the books I never look at or only use one or two recipes in.

Alrighty – it’s the long weekend and I’m looking forward to a belated birthday breakfast with my SIL at the Tallest Poppy. No fergasa for me… which makes me sad… but maybe I’ll get some extra bacon to make up for it.

What we’re eating…

The process of moving towards primal cooking has been surprisingly easy. Because I love cooking, I’ve been finding it fun to scope out new recipes. Here’s what’s on the menu for dinner this week:

  • Banh Mi salad
  • Cauliflower crust Hawaiian pizza & broccoli salad
  • Shawarma salad
  • Coconut curry salmon with cauli-rice [use yogurt instead of cream cheese, and add extra peppers and onions to the sauce]
  • Pork taco salad (sans chips, I guess!)
  • Bacon & eggs with hashbrowns (maybe) & tomatoes

For lunches: leftovers. For breakfasts: yogurt; eggs, fruits, avocados, coconut pancakes, etc.

This morning I attempted to make banana pancakes. I mucked with the recipe (added more eggs and bananas and threw in a handful of ground pecans) and they were hard to keep intact, but they tasted great with berries. They were pretty sweet, so I didn’t even miss syrup. But I prefer coconut ones.

I’ve been doing pretty well on the snacking front. I do find that if I eat enough protein at meals, I’m not hungry in between meals. When rice or bread is a main component, my stomach is rumbling with hunger shortly afterwards.

I do need to find some sort of snack that satisfies my cravings for something salty. Though I have cut way back on popcorn, I know it’s got to go completely (except for as a treat, of course!) and that’s the only snack I have that really fits the bill for something salty. I need to get on those primal crackers. They’d be so good with some cheese and olives.

That’s it for me for today. Ciao!

Checking in, feeling good

The PB promise of effortless weight loss seems to be true.

I haven’t even started the 30-Day Challenge, but I’ve been cutting back pretty substantially on grains and sugar… and my weight just keeps going down. A week ago I was at 185 and this morning I am at 181. Even after my weekend of debauchery! I keep thinking the scale must be broken. I’ve been eating more eggs and cream than ever… but also more veggies, which I feel great about. Eating cauliflower “rice” the other day, I realized I wasn’t even thinking of it as a substitute for real rice, but as getting a whole extra serving of veggies. It’s nice to eat some things (cream, bacon) without a niggling sense of guilt.

I”m not going to lie, I’m sort of excited for my next physical and bloodwork to see what my numbers look like. What a weirdo!

Not noticing a huge change in energy levels but not feeling any better or worse, so that’s good. I’m trying to make an effort to ask for (or just take) what I need to feel happy, balanced, and healthy. Last night I went to an amazing “restoration and meditation” yoga class at Peg City Yoga – in 75 minutes we did only 3 poses and there were lots of blankets and bolsters and good music involved. Sign me up for next week, and the week after, too! This week I’ve asked my SIL to babysit for a couple hours one afternoon so that I can do some summer clothes shopping in peace. And I didn’t feel guilty about it!

Going to have lots of computer work coming up over the next few days, so I need to be diligent about getting fresh air, too!

Treats, not cheats

Being the language nerd that I am (okay, full-on nerd, what with the grocery flyer fixation and all), I’ve been thinking about the terminology associated with diet, and specifically, with dieting.

I’ve been reading the MDA eBook “Primal Living in the Real World” and while it’s full of really helpful advice, one thing that keeps jumping out at me is how often people talk about “cheating”. This term has always rubbed me the wrong way and I feel like it’s even more misplaced in a nutritional diet like PB than in a traditional diet like Weight Watchers.

The way I see it, it’s not a test. You’re not being graded. Cheating implies that you’re doing something morally wrong. That you’re getting credit for something that you didn’t do. The thing I like about the PB philosophy is that it’s not about tricking your body into feeling better or losing weight. I prefer to think of food-related “cheating” as “making bad choices” or “eating my feelings”!

Likewise, your relationship with food is not like your relationship with your spouse. You can’t “go behind the back” of your bacon and eggs by eating a slice of toast at the same time.   I just feel like calling this sort of behaviour “cheating” is not helpful at all. It’s almost anthropomorphic, in an abstract way. Like food is actually human in some way. Like good food can be betrayed by not-so-good food. I don’t know if that makes any sense.

Anyway, the other interesting thing is this: when do we differentiate between cheats and treats? If a treat is really a treat, it should be enjoyed. A treat is something that is relatively rare, because if it were more common, well then, it wouldn’t really be a treat! So how do people decide which indulgences are worthy of being called treats and eaten without remorse or guilt, and which are just bad choices — what they call cheats?

I guess a “cheat” implies an element of guilt, or of weakness, or lack of control. Would you call it a treat and be glad of it if you felt like you were letting yourself down?

Mark calls red wine and dark chocolate “sensible indulgences”. Are these treats, or is a treat something above and beyond an indulgence? I’d like to think so — I’d like to have a glass of red wine more often than “rarely”.  But a treat – say, a rich dessert made with lots of sugar – enjoyed in the moment and then moved on from? That sounds good to me. But packaged crackers, tortillas, and rice aren’t “cheats” or “treats” – they’re just not optimal choices.

Thoughts from anyone? Does the word “cheat” belong in the PB vocabulary?

Seeing the world through a different lens

I’ve always loved grocery flyers. I don’t know; I guess I’m just a nerd that way. I remember that once I stopped buying meat at the grocery store (and started buying it from the butcher), I started noticing how much of the average grocery flyer I could just ignore – almost always an entire page or two.

On my last trip to Superstore, having done up a fairly primal meal plan for the week (well, at least not requiring any new non-primal supplies), I was again surprised to notice how much of the store I could just ignore! I’ve generally been a fairly “outside aisle” shopper, but on this occasion, all I had on my list was produce, dairy, fish, and just a few canned goods, condiments, and nuts on my list. I only had to venture down an interior aisle for mustard, coconut milk/water chestnuts/bamboo shoots, and walnuts. No need to go to the bakery for anything. No getting trapped behind oblivious shoppers as they debate which brand of whatever they want. It meant I got in and out of the store pretty quickly, which my little guy was glad about!

Then a couple nights ago, I was picking up a few random things at Sobeys and decided to see what the chocolate section looked like – I like that “fancy” chocolate is available at most grocery and drugstores nowadays. Anyway, in this Sobeys, this section is located at the end of an aisle that’s virtually all candy, rice cakes, fancy crackers, gluten-free (read: rice-based) products, ice cream supplies, etc. As I walked down the aisle I had another mini-epiphany – what if everyone ate Primally? They could condense this particular aisle down to a tenth of the shelf space! (Pretty sure I have not eaten my last Sour Patch Kid or bowl of popcorn, so I’m not going to say they could get rid of the entire aisle.)  It was just a surreal feeling to think – not one of these products could you make at home… it was all so heavily processed and manufactured. (I just requested “Outside the Box: Why Our Kids Need Real Food, Not Food Products” by Canadian journalist Jeannie Marshall from the library. Looks awesome.)

Anyway, when “they” say that PB is about a different way of thinking about food, they’re right. I’m already starting to see things differently.

Aside: I’ve been thinking I should hit up Young’s, a large Asian market in town, one of these days – I already know it’s the best place to get exotic peppers and other Asian produce, but I’m wondering if they have more Aroy-D products, and maybe even the Tetra Pak coconut milk? I also want to check out Gimli Fish…. fish at the grocery store always looks so sad and nasty.

Ugh…

Last night I had book club. Book club is not as much about the book as it is about everyone bringing something delicious and the group mowing down while we talk about everything but the book. It was my first big social occasion since thinking about trying to eat more primally… and it gave me lots of challenges.

For my contribution, I made spanakopita and tzatziki. I was cleaning out my deep freeze the other day and found two packages of phyllo, and figured I’d get some help in using them up… I’m not just going to throw them away. So, there was that: a good combo of veggies & cheese… wrapped in wheatiness. Luckily, I inadvertently underbaked them, so they were not as appealing to me as they normally would have been. Thank you, fear of burnt food!

Someone brought homemade jalapeno poppers, which were scrumptious, but were coated in panko (more wheat); another person brought crackers (even more wheat) and a hot spread along with some devilled eggs (I’m not going to lie, it was fun eating the eggs without guilt!). For dessert, someone had made homemade chocolate ice cream with chocolate bits, and our drinks were mixed cocktails, one with Coke. Everything was delicious and I had some of everything.

Those poppers were awesome. I could probably make them with some sort of nut-based coating, though it would change the flavours. Something to experiment with!

But I also had a raging headache and suddenly was feeling really congested within an hour of finishing my ice cream. I don’t know if it was because of all the sugar and wheat, or just because it was getting late and I was tired…. but it wasn’t a nice feeling.

I could have limited myself more. To be honest, I went into the evening not really thinking about whether I would limit myself… I knew there would be lots of unprimal food, and I knew I would eat it. I just didn’t anticipate how uncomfortable that would physically make me! (I thought of my sister and her grilled cheese headache.)

Anyway, it’s unlikely that I’m going to go to book club down the road and not try a little bit of everything. I’m thinking the key will be to bring something I can eat fairly freely and then just make sure I take it easy on everything else. I’m on drinks next time… time to start brainstorming that! (Maybe sangria?)

It probably didn’t help that yesterday I had a couple slices of bread and a beer during the day, although it was an otherwise “good” day, food-wise. We’re housesitting for my in-laws this weekend and they had stocked the fridge with tons of fresh veggies and there was lots of meat and fish in the freezer. I made a coconut curry salmon, pepper, and onion dish (with cauliflower rice! it’s good!) for dinner; we had an egg scramble with lots of veggies for lunch, and yogurt and berries for breakfast. But it’s that damn Winnipeg-style rye that got me! It’s the only bread they keep in the house because my FIL loves it (my MIL is gluten intolerant). But it’s like crack. It’s impossible to stop eating once I’ve started. So I had three small pieces of toast slathered in butter with lunch. I don’t know if it’s something I will ever be able to give up….as a treat, anyway.

Okay – today is a new day. There’s a birthday at our family dinner tonight, so there may be cake to contend with. My strategy will be to remember how awful I felt at the end of the night last night and see if I can resist the cake. And have a glass of wine instead of beer. But it’s a gorgeous sunny day. It’s a beer kind of day. We’ll see.

p.s. Happy Mother’s Day to me. A reminder: the best gift I can give myself is to take care of myself – no one else can do it for me!

Brainstorming meals

To set myself up for success, not failure, I feel like I need to do some pretty significant planning. Here are some meals I’ve been brainstorming.

Breakfasts

  • Eggs – scrambled, omelette or frittata style, etc.
  • Omelette muffins
  • Strained yogurt & berries or fruit/nuts/coconut
  • No-atmeal (made this for my SIL postpartum and we all loved it!)
  • Coconut pancakes & fruit
  • Add-ons: avocados & tomato slices, bacon, sausage

Lunches

Lunches are challenging for a couple of reasons. Ideally, we eat leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, but because there are almost always three of us eating lunch at home, sometimes there isn’t quite enough to go around, even though I try to make extras at dinner for just this reason. Second, lots of our “old” lunches involve bread – grilled cheese, tuna melts, wraps, etc.

I need some more ideas for lunches that come together in 10 minutes or less… with minimal preparation, but here are a couple bits & pieces I’ve thought of that could be combined to make a good lunch:
  • Soup (make big batches of several kinds & freeze in smaller amounts, take some out the night before)
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Veggies & dip
  • Primal crackers with cream cheese/regular cheese & olives
Dinners
Here are some generic ideas plus some from the MDA Reader Cookbook that look awesome.
  • Basic meat/veggie combos
  • Spaghetti squash or zucchini “pasta” with veggies & sauce (mmmm…. carbonara with cream and bacon!)
  • Meal salads (Bacon, Chicken & Avocado salad – MDA)
  • Taco salad (sans chips) with sour cream & guacamole
  • Pulled pork & coleslaw
  • Mojo salmon with veggie sides
  • Mustard-roasted fish (Ina Garten)
  • Pizza with cauliflower/mozza crust
  • Curries (mmm, butter chicken without the guilt!) and cauliflower “rice”
  • Zucchini/sweet potato pancakes with sausage or bacon
  • Pork tenderloin with cilantro pesto (MDA)
  • Crockpot pork-stuffed peppers (MDA)
  • Mediterranean-stuffed pork loin (MDA)
  • Sesame chicken and “rice” with fiery ginger and chile sauce (MDA)
  • Crispy nut & herb fried chicken with creamy avocado (MDA)

Snacks

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Celery with cream cheese or almond butter
  • Piece of fruit & slice of cheese
  • Veggies & dip
  • Handful of nuts or trail mix
  • Primal crackers (MDA sesame & sunflower crackers looks delish)

Pros and cons, opportunities and challenges

I’m trying to see some of the off-limits things about the Primal Blueprint as opportunities instead of challenges, so I’ve been brainstorming a bit about what will be easy and what might be hard, but that I can see as an opportunity.

No challenge here:

  • I love berries and they’re Mark’s choice for best possible fruit to eat. I almost never buy fresh berries because they’re expensive (out of season, anyway), but big bags of frozen mixed berries are a pretty good deal.
  • I love coconut everything. Bring on the coconut milk! (Speaking of coconut milk, I was looking at a few different brands the other day and noticed most of them are full of absolute crap. The only brand I found that’s just coconut milk and water is Aroy-D, which is the same brand as my favourite canned curry, and as it happens, Mark’s favourite brand for coconut milk and cream. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the tetra paks; I’ve only even seen it in cans.)
  • I love eggs, fish, chicken & pork
  • I love veggies and, knowing we could stand to eat a lot more of them, will be glad to incorporate more “meal salads” into our meal plans

Challenges into opportunities:

  • I have quite a few grain-dependent recipes that I make frequently and will be kind of sad to see go. But I love trying new recipes, and it will be especially fun to start making things that I would have previously seen as a treat (like bacon anything!). I just subscribed to MDA’s newsletter and got the free PDF cookbooks…. lots of tasty recipes in there that I’m keen to try.
  • I love baking (although to be fair, I haven’t done too much of it in the last few months.. I don’t know why!). I’d be sad to give up things like Saturday morning pancakes and making hot cross buns with my mum at Easter. But I’m trying to see this as an opportunity to keep traditions, just tweak them. Coconut “paleo pancakes” are just as good as flour-based ones – no reason not to make that swap. I came across a blog last night called What I Crave that shows you can be primal and still do lots of baking – just just have to think outside the box.
  • Probably my favourite thing to make for my loved ones is pizza. Since a bread crust is off-limits and the thought of meatza pizza makes me want to throw up, I’m psyched to try out the cauliflower & cheese pizza crust recipe my sister has perfected – it sounds delicious!

Challenges, full-stop:

  • It would be hard to live sans legumes. I love beans, and as a family on a budget that doesn’t eat tons of meat, we’ve been eating a lot of legumes. Although I’m going to try to follow the PB as closely as possible for my 30 days, I don’t foresee a time when I don’t use beans as protein at least occasionally.
  • I don’t eat red meat, and again, for PB on a budget, that kind of sucks because it is almost always a cheaper meat than poultry. At least pork is somewhere in the middle, and we all like pork.
  • I’m a huge popcorn fan. It’ll be hard to give that one up. And just when I find out that mo’ butter is mo’ better!

I came across a quote on This Primal Life that encouraged me:

“This isn’t a contest.  There is no judgment or guilt.  It’s about making it work for you and your life.”

Along with Mark’s 80/20 principle, this is a good reminder that no one’s perfect – there is room for imperfection in the Primal Blueprint.