Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Starting The Paleo Diet

on March 30, 2014

Two weeks ago Shroomi was visiting the chiropractor. While examining her closely, our chiropractor asked if I had a lot of dairy in my diet. I looked down at the large cup of hot chocolate that I was holding at the time, and thought about how it seemed impossible to have a meal without some form of milk, cheese, yoghurt or cream. Guilty as charged.

We discussed my diet for a while, and the chiropractor recommended avoiding dairy for six weeks. Blemishes were forming in Shroomi’s silky soft skin, and the chiropractor thought they were from dairy. If the blemishes cleared up, then they were probably caused by proteins entering my milk. If they didn’t clear up after six weeks, then they were probably coming from another source.

My desire to be an excellent mother suddenly clashed with my desire to keep eating exactly as I wanted to. I compromised with myself and decided that I just wouldn’t buy foods that contained dairy once the ones that were in the kitchen had been eaten. That tub of ice cream would be the last. Those fresh chocolate chip muffins would be the last. That loaf of garlic bread would be the last.

As I sometimes sing during Shroomi’s tantrums: so sad, so sad. Sometimes she feels so sad.

Since it is almost impossible to cut out dairy without reducing a large part of the grains in our diet, my partner and I decided to cut those out as well. I’m not a big fan of elimination diets, so if I was going to start one I figured I might as well go all the way and be done with it.

We decided to follow the paleo diet. The theory behind this diet is that you eat the types of food we evolved to eat, instead of rubbish that has the nutritional value bleached out of it and is mixed with worthless chemicals and other exciting things. The diet has fairly simple rules:

  • No excessively processed foods. If the ingredients list is full of numbers in brackets, the food probably hits this category. If it has been dunked in bleach, chlorine, or other chemicals that you might use in the laundry, it hits this category.
  • No dairy. Dairy is a food source that came to us with agriculture, not with evolution.
  • No grains. These foods are apparently full of proteins that are difficult for people to digest, so grains require a lot of preparation just to be edible.
  • No legumes. These foods are high in nitrates. I’m not sure what the problem there is, but since I don’t often eat legumes anyway I don’t particularly care.

Looking at the diet this way, which is what we did at first, makes it seem rather depressing. Here is how the diet looks if we focus on what can be eaten:

  • Meat. Meeeeat. Grass fed is better than grain fed, and wild is better than farmed. The fresher the better.
  • Vegetables. Leafy green vegetables are full of many nutrients that have heaps of health benefits. This category can be improved dramatically by also eating all the other types of vegetables that aren’t quite so boring.
  • Fruit. As with any sugary food, fruit is best eaten in moderation.
  • Eggs. Free range is better than caged. If you can find them from a farm that isn’t so riddled with disease that the eggs need to be treated before they can be sold, that’s much better.
  • Herbs.
  • Spices.
  • Nuts.
  • Seeds.

Most of the foods that are banished on this diet can be substituted easily if you know which websites to look up. There are paleo pastas, made with arrowroot powder and almond flower. There are delicious breads, made from zucchini and bananas. There is fake rice, made from grated cauliflower. This morning my partner whipped up some banana and egg pancakes for our breakfast, and they were great. We’ve even been stuffing ourselves with an incredible fudge that he found somewhere online.

I have to confess that I have been eating like an idiot on this diet. Cutting out certain foods is one thing, but feeling hungry and dropping my milk supply is not an option. After a week of this I decided to face the fear and get on the scales. I needed to know what the damage was.

I’ve lost 1.5kg. I’m ok with that.

The physical change in Shroomi is already visible. She is still gaining weight at her normal pace, but she is putting on more muscle than fat now. Her stomach looks trim compared to this time last week. People who don’t know about the diet change have commented that she looks less chubby and more grown up.

I doubt that we will be able to maintain a strict paleo diet. Our friends and family are not joining us on this journey, so either we will prepare all joint meals or we will have to accept that other people have different food priorities. Regardless of how many wobbles we might have on this path, it is already clear to both of us that this diet will be here to stay. I like the compliments too much to give them up for a bowl of grainy, milky deliciousness.

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