Halfway mark checkin

OK. I know I have had a couple of times of indulgences, but overall I just feel like this is not working this time around. But I’m guessing the way I feel today (really bloated, land monsterish, blah) can probably be pretty clearly linked to yesterday’s wine, chips, popcorn, etc. My weight is a pound up from 2 weeks ago and my skin is almost worse than usual. So something isn’t working.

Looking ahead to the second half of this challenge I am wondering what I should be working harder at or re-focusing on.

I just went back and read over all my daily posts & reply discussions from my original 30-day challenge in 2012. At that point I’d already lost 10lbs just by cutting grains so I wasn’t really changing too much. I went on to lose another 4 during that 30-day challenge. Here’s what I noticed:

  • I was eating yogurt w/ fruit, nuts & coconut — or eggs — every morning
  • I probably wasn’t eating enough fat/protein; R commented that I should really increase meat, fish & fat (like avocado)
  • I would often get that “gnawing” feeling after eating, which I interpreted as “hungry” – same as has been happening lately.
  • I was regularly taking a prenatal vitamin & vitamin D and C

So I think what I’ll try for the next little while is:

  • Cut back on the baked goods (this is a pretty widely acknowledged trap, but I think I wouldn’t have caught it if I wasn’t writing down what I eat)
  • Eat more fermented foods. Eat yogurt for breakfast or a snack, revive the poor neglected kombucha that I’ve been ignoring, investigate other ideas. I’m wondering if the gnawing feeling (along with bloat) could be disrupted gut flora that needs some help re-setting.
  • Make sure meals include a decent amount of protein & fat
  • Eating more veggies (I’ve noticed I’m not eating that much)
  • Seriously try to get more sleep, and more activity (for various reasons we missed yoga for the last 3 classes, and my muscles are telling me they’re not happy)
  • Get back to taking vitamins. I know the jury is really out on whether they’re worth it, but I really should be taking the prenatal at the very least.

I used to think I really needed to eat breakfast. But lately I’ve noticed if I just have a cup or two of coffee with cream,  I am not really hungry before lunch. But I can’t overdo it on the coffee because then I get jittery. Lately if I have breakfast it’s been some sort of paleo baked good (muffin, pancake, etc.) and not a really solid on like eggs or yogurt. So I think I should try out foregoing a meal before lunch and see how that goes.

It’s been a while

Yikes. It’s been almost a year since I last wrote here. But my diet has really been slipping in ways I’m not comfortable with so I think coming back to this space will help with some renewed enthusiasm and maybe even accountability!

So. I was pregnant this time last year; now I have a beautiful 7-month old daughter in addition to my spirited 3 1/2 year old son. My pregnancy was so much easier this time around, and I think at least part of that had to do with my diet, despite a few changes to my pre-pregnancy eating patterns. I did start eating a lot more starch (mainly white rice and oatmeal) during my first trimester to combat nausea, and I also developed a wicked sweet tooth. Until then I had always much preferred salty snacks, but seemingly out of nowhere I was craving ice cream, chocolate, anything sugary. The more the better.

Despite this I stayed within the recommended weight gain range of 25-30 pounds. I felt great at the end of my pregnancy – nowhere near the number of aches and pains as the first time, and sleep was much easier to come by. I just glowed inside when people told me I looked great; one acquaintance even told me I should just stay pregnant forever, it suited me so much. Those things were just wonderful to hear. I really was not used to compliments on my body. Within three weeks of giving birth all but a few pounds were gone, and I was back down to the low 160s, which is what I weighed when I got pregnant.

Through what I can only assume is the miracle fat-burning powers of breastfeeding I continued to lose weight effortlessly. By mid-December I was down to the low 150s… somewhere I hadn’t been in 10 years. I felt great and continued to enjoy lots and lots of compliments on my figure… well, I enjoyed them but they were still strange for me to hear. My body hasn’t ever really been a point of pride for me – more of a neutral area – so this took some getting used to. Still, it was nice to hear. During the fall I did Zumba and yoga somewhat regularly – usually one or the other at least once a week. I bought some new clothes and decided I should take a little more care with my appearance… staying in jammies till 5pm is not good for one’s self esteem.

Then Christmas happened. After the last year’s pregnancy-induced gorge-fest I vowed not to eat so recklessly. But… I did anyway. Not as much wheaty stuff as the year before but plenty of sugar and chips. And I knew within a week that I had gained some weight, and by the time we came back home another week later I had gained a full 10 pounds… yikes – 10 lbs in 2 weeks. A month and a half in, I have dropped 2 or 3 pounds but that’s it. I don’t feel like I’m eating crazily but I think overall I am making more frequent poor choices that just compound.

But there are also a few other things going on here.

1. I’m not getting enough sleep. My little one still eats a couple times overnight and I am sure that having such poor quality of sleep is getting in the way of me losing the weight. I also have a hunch that when I’m tired I am much more likely to snack at night – actually trying to keep myself awake. Not good. I need to be much more vigilant about being in bed by 9, reading a book for half an hour, then lights out. (Of course, the moment I drift off to sleep is when the baby wants to eat, but not much I can do about that right now.)

2. I’ve been sick. We got back from our holiday and immediately all got bad colds. Then we got over them and a couple weeks later got sick again. Between sick me, sick kids and nursing overnight I’m going on a week and a half of very poor sleep – like, maybe 2-3 hours of sleep per night, and that’s not even in one chunk. I am exhausted and I’m sure my body is not in its ideal state to repair and maintain itself.

3. To go back to the food aspect, I know I have really drifted. I’m not even sure I’d call my diet Primal-ish these days. I can’t seem to shake the starch and snack habits. Actually, it’s not the habit of snacking I am concerned about, it’s the snack food itself… eating a giant bowl of popcorn every night is ridiculous. But it’s my downfall. I remember when I started the PB I went for probably six months without making popcorn. Then I would make it every now and then. Then the last couple of months I’ve been eating it with alarming frequency…sometimes every night. Eesh. I need to get back to being much more mindful of what I eat. My initial success on the PB was definitely an 80/20 affair so I need to remind myself that a better diet doesn’t mean no treats at all.

So… it’s time to be more careful. I started reading “Grain Brain” and have been busy checking out the newest crop of Paleo cookbooks at the library for inspiration. I made eggs for breakfast this morning… baby steps back to normal.

People Who Follow Non-SAD Diets are Miserable and Hate Food

I hate it when troll-ish internet comments get to me.

Yesterday, there was a reader question on The Kitchn (which I’d unsubscribed to a few months back when I first went primal, but recently re-subscribed to because I kind of missed it) asking for advice. It was:

How do you organize dinners with a wide variety of eaters? (As in, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, etc.) Do you have a decent method to plan the food?

The editors suggested a mix and match meal, such as a taco bar, which I think is a great suggestion. Reader comments added further good advice, and then this one came along:

“Find friends that actually enjoy food, they are generally happier people anyway!”

Um, okay. I realize it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but hello! The food blogosphere is JAM PACKED with food lovers who follow every diet imaginable: from paleo to vegan, it’s all there. Seriously – there are probably tens of thousands of people out there who find creative, delicious ways to re-create diet-specific versions of basically any dish, and then take the time to blog about them, and even write cookbooks about them! You’re telling me these people don’t enjoy food and are miserable?

I would even go so far as to say just the opposite – that people who aren’t eating the best foods for their bodies probably aren’t as happy as they could be, because their food choices affect them in ways they may not even be aware of.

I know there are tons of people out there who just hate the fact that they have to eat gluten-free, but they accept that the alternative feels even worse. Likewise, I know others who feel best eating very little meat and I totally respect that! I say, eat whatever floats your personal boat if it makes the sailing smooth and pleasurable.

The thing that surprised me the most about discovering the primal/paleo/grain-free/whole foods blogosphere is that no one sees any of these diets as deprivation; they actually see them as liberating (the whole “cheat” complex notwithstanding, of course).

A later comment hit home:

“Reading some of these comments makes me cherish my friends even more. Yikes.”

If I’m taking it the way the commenter intended, I completely agree, and am so grateful to have friends and family who are totally respectful of, and cheerfully accommodate, others’ food choices or requirements, whatever they may be, and regardless of whether they understand or agree with them.

Bottom line: I, for one, like to know what my loved ones’ dietary needs are, because when you care about someone, it feels good to offer them a meal that they’ll really enjoy, and not have them feel like it was a burden or a hassle to prepare it.

Pregnant and Primal

This post title is misleading. I just liked the alliteration. I’m 20 weeks along but have not been following the Primal plan very closely these days.

Late fall I dealt with typical nausea and food aversions, although mercifully, they were not as bad as with my first pregnancy. This post on MDA was timely for me; I decided to take Mark’s words to heart and try not to stress about wanting to eat carby stuff. I bought rice pasta and we started eating rice, beans, and potatoes a little more often. I knew that since I was already eating a lot of veggies and fruit, that I wasn’t totally derailing my typical diet, I was just getting by, which is really all you can do in your first trimester. And then, the holidays hit.

Ugh. I ate like a maniac for about 6 weeks, tons of candy, sugar, and unfortunately, gluten. Although I didn’t notice any major gastrointestinal effects, the most apparent thing was my skin breaking out, like it did pre-Primal. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a combined work/pleasure trip a few weeks ago. Too much restaurant food in too short a time frame. I did stay away from gluten but gave myself license to have fries and as much “gluten-free” food (pizza, tortillas, bread) as I felt like. Big mistake. Several days in, I had zero appetite, was horribly irregular (not a normal thing for me) and started throwing up everything I ate. By the time I was travelling home I felt absolutely wretched, and caved and had a buttered bagel because it was the only thing I felt I could keep down. (And I did, thankfully.) A few days of yogurt and real food at home and I was right as rain, though. Although some of that may be attributable to travel and pregnancy, the bottom line is that I was not eating a very balanced diet, and my body just can’t handle that any more!

When I got home after all that, I thought, forget this, I have to get off the gluten for real, and stop letting myself see “gluten-free” foods as a treat. I am even reconsidering whether I want to be a regular beer drinker (I sometimes drink de-alcoholized beer these days). That was two weeks ago and I haven’t consciously eaten any gluten since. I have made rice and bought corn tortillas a few times, and I am still eating beans, since I love them and they don’t appear to have any negative effect on me. But I know I’ve been eating too much dairy, and need to cut back on that a bit.

I have also been eating too much sugar. I recognize now just how addictive sugar really is. Evidence: empty bag of chocolate chips in my office garbage can. I decide I need a little sugar fix and suddenly half a bag is gone. Ugh, how revolting! Not good for me or my baby.

I read an interesting post on Karen Le Billon’s blog the other day, about the Japanese approach to school lunches. What caught my attention was the emphasis on variety; the kids are taught they should eat 30 different foods a day and 100 different foods a week. As someone who craves variety, I thought this sounded like a fun challenge. So I’m going to occasionally track my daily variety count here. The last week or so I’ve been in a cooking mood and have tried lots of new recipes, including a new one for an almond-flour crust pizza that I loved and will put into regular rotation. I discovered a very quick and easy method for ricing cauliflower in a blender, which is great because I don’t have a food processor. And I blanched my own almonds for the first time ever the other day, and especially enjoyed all the recipes I made with them 🙂 So all hope is not lost; I think I was just in a funk and needed it to pass.

As for my actual pregnancy, it’s going well. I am so blessed to have gotten a space in a midwifery group, so that is about as awesome as it can get. And we met our new doula and she’s amazing! My only current complaint besides having to pee every five minutes is horrible nasal dryness and congestion. I have found a godsend, though: nasal strips at bedtime. This has made a world of different and between that and running a humidifier at night, things are manageable. I was so glad that I’d discovered the nasal strips when I subsequently got a  cold, too. Lifesaver!!

Despite eating like a maniac for most of the last few months, I have only gained a couple of pounds, though I am showing now. This makes me a little uneasy; I think we are so programmed to think that pregnancy=weight gain that to not see the numbers rising more is a little unsettling. I’m going to talk to my midwife about it this week. I think it’s likely the case that my body is still losing extra weight, while putting on pregnancy pounds, so the net increase is not that much. Of course, it’s also still early enough in my pregnancy – there’s still lots of time to gain weight. As a side note, I have a friend who went paleo during her pregnancy to see if it would improve her gastrointestinal problems (it did, although she’s since had a formal diagnosis of Crohn’s) and she barely gained any weight at all. Her baby was totally healthy and she has had a much more positive experience with nursing this time too. Those things may not be related, but I’m happy for her anyway.

Lastly, since getting off the post-Christmas gluten/junk train I realized that I was having joint pain over the holidays. I didn’t notice it until it wasn’t there anymore. More motivation to stay far away. There was an incredible, inspiring story in the NYT recently about reversing juvenile idiopathic arthritis by removing gluten and dairy, too.

Other random thoughts:

  • Over the holidays I bought the Wheat Belly Cookbook and have enjoyed making a bunch of the recipes. Dr Davis’s philosophy is similar to primal although dairy is more acceptable. The verdict is that so far, the baked goods I’ve tried (tortillas, breads, wraps, etc.) aren’t great, though the pancakes are okay and the mocha walnut brownies are awesome. But the other dishes have been great. Green bean casserole, pecan-crusted pork chops, salmon with horseradish sauce – all excellent. Most of these are naturally gluten-free anyway, but it’s nice to just be able to consult a recipe and not have to make any major changes.
  • The wheat-free diet/lifestyle has been in the news a lot lately, and the message that I keep seeing overlooked is the addictive quality of modern wheat. I know, for me, this is a big one. If I have one flour-based cookie, I want to have ten more. The very fact that people see the wheat-free diet as “deprivation” and impossible to sustain long-term supports this. But I do hope that its popularity in the media encourages more people to at least look into it and read some decent resources.
  • I now know two people who have been instructed by their doctors to get off gluten and dairy. Their reactions are just so sad; they just look at their current diet and see a giant hole where wheat and dairy used to be. They haven’t been given ANY resources on how to reshape the way they eat. They haven’t been told there are thousands of people in vibrant, enthusiastic communities online who eat this way and thrive because they still love food and have found ways to embrace the foods they DO eat. It’s sad. I made a point to share information about the paleo diet to both of these people. It may have fallen on deaf ears, but at least I can say I tried.

A couple of interesting posts on kids, eating, and beige foods

Two posts on different blogs within two days caught my attention: One Fit Mom’s Are Paleo Kids Better Eaters? and Jamie Glowacki’s The Whole Gluten Free Thing.

Jamie discusses the changes she’s seen in her son since removing grains from his diet (alongside hers, as well). In short: low grade but chronic health issues – gone, and better behaviour to boot. Love her quote, “Once you get on the path of mac and cheese and goldfish…it’s hard to get off.”

Carli makes observations about her son’s eating habits and the comments she gets from other parents who wonder how she gets him to eat so much meat and veg. She also notes that her son snacks significantly less than others. My favourite quote from her: “Once they’ve jumped on the “beige foods” bandwagon — bread, crackers, cereal, rice, pasta, bananas, breaded chicken, etc. — it can be incredibly difficult to get them to eat anything else.” I also found her thoughts on milk really interesting, though I’d add that I think juice is as big a problem as any.

I’ve been working on a post about kids and eating for about 4 months now and most of my thoughts are along the same lines. We don’t have a strict gluten-free or primal/paleo household but strive to eat real, quality, whole foods and I have noticed a lot of differences between my son and other kids his age. Hopefully I’ll get that post done sooner rather than later!

Milestone!

I have reached a 25lb weight loss!! I’m now at 165lbs, which is about what I weighed   when I moved here about 4 years ago. My body’s not the same since having a child – the excess weight I have is hanging out around my midsection, so clothes that I could wear pre-pregnancy don’t necessarily fit – but it does feel really great to be making progress in the weight department without really “trying”.

What I’ve really noticed is how easy it is to slip a little with indulgences. When I notice my weight plateau, if I’m honest with myself, I can almost always pinpoint a run of too much beer, potatoes here and there, random desserts, etc. Once I resume to eating more mindfully, I get back on track. It really does help to have go-to recipes and snacks that I like and that work well for PB. And because I have a few family members on both sides who eat similarly, it’s kind of fun to have some partners in crime to try out new recipes with!

I recently found an old Weight Watchers tracking sheet and see that the lowest I ever got with that program was 157lbs in July of 2007. Although I didn’t start the PB with the main intention of losing weight, I have to say, it has been infinitely easier and more fun to eat this way than WW ever was.

I also recently had bloodwork done and was a bit nervous for the results, after reading this post on MDA. Thankfully, everything looks great: my iron and ferritin levels are good despite not taking iron supplements any more (I attribute this to eating more meat and eggs and leafy greens), and glucose levels and lipids are all well within the normal range. Hooray!

Quick update

Well, it’s been almost two months since I last updated. In that time I have been on two holidays and slipped considerably in my focus on primal eating. It’s amazing how quickly things can work their way into your diet. I’d catch myself thinking, “I ate really well today!” and then remember that I had a piece of cake at a party, or ate a bunch of chips, or some other not-so-great stuff. While my meals themselves had been good, I was conveniently overlooking snacks. Time to get back to primal snacks and, well, not snacking when I’m not actually hungry. I never thought I’d say I was glad for summer to be winding down, but I’m definitely looking forward to the routine of fall.

My weight has resumed its slow creep downward, which is nice because I gained some weight back during my holidays, and I hadn’t realized just how pleased I was about the weight loss until I saw the number on the scale start to go up instead of down. While the pace has slowed, I’m now down to 172. Which means almost 20lbs since I started reducing grains in April, about 5 months ago. Seeing my sister this summer, looking so lean and healthy, was a big inspiration. Since having a baby and leaving the outside office workforce, I got rid of lots of my old “skinny clothes” in an attempt to live with reality and declutter my closet. But I held onto some favourite pieces and it’s been fun to try them on every now and then and see that I am closer to being able to fit back into them. It’s actually really exciting. I gave a bunch of really beautiful dresses to my SIL, and if I continue to lose weight, I may be able to borrow them to wear on occasion!

On the downside, over the last week, my skin has started to break out. My gut reaction now is that it’s probably because of the accumulation of junk food and bits of wheat here and there over the summer. But when I first noticed my skin was clearing up, I wasn’t sure what to attribute it to: primal eating, starting birth control, or a new moisturizer I was using. I’ve been off the pill for about two months now (in the primal spirit, I decided I didn’t really want to be messing with my body in that way) and switched moisturizers a while ago. My skin clearing up was such an amazing benefit of primal eating and I as I mentioned in my last post, think it’s one of the main reasons I have a hard time seeing myself going back to eating the CW way. So, my plan is to work hard at resuming primal eating, reducing alcohol, getting lots of sleep, and seeing where my skin goes from there.

I don’t feel like digging the tape measure out right now to update my measurements, but if my belt is anything to go on, I’ve continued to shed some centimeters, if not inches.

Side note: I’m thinking of trying to reduce my dairy intake. I don’t know though. I really love dairy.

30-Day Challenge Debrief

My results 

Weight: 174.4lb – loss of 4.6 lbs. That’s about 16 lbs from where I was 2 months ago.

Measurements: Overall my inches were down… ranging from .5 to 3 inches lost. I was starting to notice that my pants were looser so this was confirmed by the tape measure. Good feeling!

Skin: Much clearer; still the occasional blemish and overall tone is not that improved, but now that I’m not getting as many zits it seems more manageable and will probably be easier to work on the tone. The improvements to my skin make it very hard to consider going back to eating a lot of grains (this may be delusional, but I don’t think that I really ate that much sugar to start with, so I’m not sure how much of a role sugar played in this improvement).

Energy: Feeling good. Still not a huge difference but no worse than before, and possibly better. I did increase my Vitamin D to 4000IU a short while ago, and am curious to see if that makes a noticeable difference. Also may experiment with cutting back on yogurt and fruit in the am. I guess the other thing is that sometimes it’s hard to tell when things happen gradually.

Joint pain: This is a tricky one because I’ve been getting physio and massage, and when I am good about doing my exercises I feel a lot better. It’s hard to tell what effect my diet has on that.

Random Conclusions & Observations

I already knew that eating well takes effort – not that effort has to be really hard, but it was brought home to me that eating properly is more work than eating poorly. It’s hard to balance that priority with life’s realities: I’m a work-at-home mother to a crazy busy toddler, my husband and I have activities several nights a week, and because family meals are important to us, planning is key. This means I have to schedule grocery shopping, a run to the butcher, and at least make a rough meal plan, or else things start falling apart and we eat crazy pantry concoctions more than I like. I have to make these things a priority.

I need to learn to be a better judge of how much food a recipe will make. Sometimes I make a dish and think, for sure there will be leftovers… but then it all gets eaten at supper, so we’re out of luck for the next day.

Seeing as how I didn’t experience the energy and mood boost I expected to, I’m thinking it may not be a bad idea to track my food intake on FitDay or something – even for a week, to see how my macronutrients break down. It was something I considered when I started the challenge but decided not too because I thought it would be too much work. But I think it’s probably wise to do this, to pinpoint any areas that could be tweaked.

I have to decide what to do about this meat thing. I do like meat, but for the same vaguely moral reasons I stopped eating red meat about 10 years ago, I don’t feel like it’s something I necessarily want to eat much more of than I do at present. When I let myself think about it, it’s really hard for me to consciously eat formerly living creatures, not knowing how well they were treated when they were alive. The more I learn about how meat and eggs are produced, the more I find it hard to turn a blind eye. And I don’t WANT to turn a blind eye. It’s not that I have a problem eating humanely raised animals; I don’t. It’s that sourcing these products is a more expensive proposition that I’m sure I can afford. And what about eggs? You can get pastured eggs in the summertime here in Manitoba, but what happens in the winter? How intimately do I have to know the farmer to feel comfortable with how the eggs were produced? Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also discomfort, sometimes, too.

This new way of eating has prompted me to ask even more questions about the food I’m eating. Produce is another one. Do you know how expensive organic bell peppers are? They are like, $9 a pound. Although I’m not saying I want to reduce the amount of veggies I eat, it does make me even more interested in local, more sustainable eating. It’s just when I think of the sheer prospect of canning/freezing enough veggies during the summer to last the year, it seems crazy. But again, I have to remind myself, it’s not all or nothing. I can take things with baby steps.

I don’t think that I experienced a low-carb flu, but in retrospect I think that I was in a bit of a fog – I do remember grasping for words, and thinking, “What is WRONG with me? Why can’t I say the word ‘oven’??” Sometimes I think I am still in this fog, and wonder whether bumping fat & protein up would improve this. Or maybe, conversely, adding some more carbs back in?

I am uncomfortable with describing my diet as “primal”. Part of this is that I don’t want people to make false assumptions about anything. I think the Primal Blueprint deserves a lot of credit, and that Mark Sisson has created something pretty incredible, but I am just wary about self-identifying this way. Sweeping statements (I don’t eat grains! I don’t eat sugar!) are not for me. I’m not sure I need to call my diet anything… throughout the last two months, I haven’t declined any offers of food because they weren’t “primal”, I have just gone with my gut feeling and chosen from there. I think what will work for me is just choosing to eat a certain way at home and then picking my battles when I’m eating socially or at a restaurant. That expression isn’t even the best one – I don’t ever want to have a war-like relationship with any food.

I admit that I’m still having a hard time reconciling the PB as the healthiest possible way to eat, when countries like France manage to stay healthy while still consuming grains and legumes. Reading Jeannie Marshall’s descriptions of Italian cooking, with its fresh pasta, appreciation of legumes, and plenty of meatless meals, I just found it hard to believe that these people aren’t following a great diet. I have just started reading “French Kids Eat Everything” and I am seeing lots of parallels. I’m planning on re-reading “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, too.

At the same time as I was doing the PB thing, my SIL watched the film Forks over Knives and read The China Study and found them incredibly compelling. Another friend’s mother has made a plant-based, organic diet her priority as she recovers from cancer, based on having read The China Study as well. I was reading more about this study and happened upon The China Study: Fact or Fallacy. It’s a fascinating and surprisingly easy read by a raw foodist who thinks the science in the China Study is flawed and contradictory, but chooses to be nearly vegan anyway – because that’s what works best for her body and feels right for her. And I think that’s what it comes down to for me… if eating so much meat doesn’t sit well with me (physically or mentally), the solution is probably to incorporate some legumes so that I can still have high-protein, meatless meals.

My next step along “this journey” (Bachelorette, anyone?) is to learn more about the Weston A. Price Foundation philosophy, which is similar to PB in its advocating for REAL FOOD, and also promotes soaking and fermenting grains and legumes for optimizing nutrient absorption and minimizing anti-nutrients. The more I learn about WAPF the more I am intrigued.

I’ve been sitting on this draft long enough, so I’m going to hit publish… hopefully will be back with some more thoughts, recipes, etc. soon.

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.