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UnGrained, Again (or, Paleo take 2)

636069190726213870-2082395881_paleodiet2For a month last year, I took a stab at eating Paleo/Whole30. It went pretty well, but not without its challenges. The worst thing for me was giving up dairy. I made the switch to almond milk, but it just was not the same. I got cranky. The first 30 days went well. Then I eased up. Then, I fell off the wagon. I went full all-grain-all-dairy-all-sugar-all-the-time. I told myself I’d try it again. But for the life of me I couldn’t get myself to do it. It just made me too sad.

About a month ago, I had to come to terms with the fact that I was just feeling like crap in every way possible. My blood sugars were veering higher and higher. Every part of me, except perhaps my right wrist, was hurting. I was exhausted. I was overweight. I was having debilitating gastrointestinal “attacks” a few times a week. It all sucked. I walked around muttering, “I feel like shit.”

I had a feeling that grains were probably doing this to me. In fact, this has been
a very helpful go-to visual every time I’m just a little bit tempted. witness5

I made a deal with myself on October 1st. I told myself if I tried to de-grain and de-sugar, to de-alcohol and de-soy and de-legume, I would allow myself to keep one thing on my plate. DAIRY.

When I was little, my mother used to call me “Nezumi” (mouse) because I was so addicted to cheese. Which I still am.

But as it turns out, it’s harder to eat tons of cheese when you’re not also consuming them with some sort of grain. Like crackers. Or bread. Or pizza. Or macaroni. But I can still have cream in my coffee, and cheese crumbles in a salad.

This, it turns out, has made all the difference. I feel like I could do this forever. My appetite is shockingly decreased. It’s not really my appetite, it’s my cravings. When I eat a non-grain item, I’m done. But once I eat anything with grains, whether it’s a spoonful of orzo or a stale tortilla chip, I just want MORE MORE MORE. That’s been interesting.

Since October 1, my blood sugars have taken a dive. I was hovering in the 130-160+ range for my fasting sugars, which is NOT GOOD. (they’re good if they’re near or below 100). It just took a few days and I saw my first sub-100 number in probably a year.

I’ve lost 9 pounds. It’s October 15th. That’s pretty good math. I wanted to lose weight, but my primary motivations were my diabetes and my various joint pains. I started out with a very painful shoulder, hip and scapula. The scapular pain is GONE. The hip pain is much decreased. It’s almost gone. (on a scale of one to ten, it’s maybe a two) The shoulder pain is another story, but I think it’s a more serious issue that inflammation. I went and got a cortisone shot for that yesterday, and I hope that it will kick in later this week, and that it will last a good while.

Meanwhile, though, my second foray into grain-free life has been smoother and easier than I expected. It just takes a little #wycwyc. (What You Can, When You Can). I realized I couldn’t do this without allowing myself the dairy. But as it turns out, there are still big benefits.

I’ve decided to ease up and allow one off-day per week. Today, I had a few bites of orzo salad, one or two crackers at a birthday party, and half of my mother’s leftover chicken pot pie. It was interesting. With each of those bites, I instantly felt like they revved up my appetite. I didn’t want to stop until the plate or bowl was ALL GONE. That just doesn’t happen with other food.

How much do you wanna bet my blood sugars AND my weight will be nudged up tomorrow morning?

 

Does Cricket Flour Bug You?

Photo Credit: N@ncyN@nce/Flickr
Photo Credit: N@ncyN@nce/Flickr

Until a week or two ago, I had never heard of cricket flour. Yes. Flour made out of dehydrated, ground up crickets. But then somebody brought some cricket-flour cookies into work and they were passed around the lunch table.

cricket

Hey Mikey! I liked them!

They were actually pretty good. Chocolatey. Like… a cookie. Because the crickets had been pulverized into dust, they didn’t FEEL like crickets. (ie., I could not distinguish any little antennae or cricket-legs as I ate my cookie) There was no discernible cricket or insect like flavor. They just tasted like.. cookies. I had no idea I had stumbled onto a hot new food craze. WHO KNEW?

A company here in the Bay Area produces both these cookies and the flour they’re made of. At first I was thinking, WHYYYYY? but then today I read this article about how my newfound love, almond milk, is sending us deeper into drought-land by the minute, and how we might all end up eating dried insects if this keeps up. Or how maybe we should, anyhow.

According to Bitty’s website,

Cricket flour is a tasty source of sustainable nutrition, packed with protein, healthy fats and micronutrients. We start with sustainably raised crickets, which are slow roasted to bring out their nutty, toasted flavor. Then we mill them into a fine flour that becomes the basis of our delicious, high-protein baked goods and baking mixes.

All our products are free of grains and processed sugar, and are made with coconut oil rather than dairy products. Best of all, they taste terrific. When you’re starting with an ingredient as good as cricket flour, why would you add any of the “bad” stuff?

Crickets are also one of the most sustainable forms of protein on the planet. Last May, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published an incredible report concluding that edible insects may be the key to stabilizing the global food supply.

According to the UN, if edible insects become a part of the mainstream global diet, we can reduce greenhouse gases by 18%, and lower the average cost of food globally by 33%. Check out Bitty founder Megan Miller’s TED Talk to learn more about the benefits of cricket flour.

So what do you think? Would you eat cricket flour products to save the planet?

I’m not quite ready to pop a chili-flavored insect in my mouth, feet and all, but I just… might… be able to start with flour.

This Dairyholic/Grainaholic’s Month of Paleo

Today marks my 30th day of eating Paleo. Woo!!! I’ve had a lot of surprises this month. Here’s my recap.

First, I learned to love a lot of things I either never liked before, or had never given much of a try. But given that I was someone who used to go through more than a quart of half-and-half a week (NO KIDDING), I had to figure some things out.

First off, was dealing with what to put in my coffee and tea. I tried coconut milk and almond milk. They were unacceptable. (in my drinks) Finally, I realized that all the joy had been sucked out of my caffeinated beverages, so I might as well just stop drinking them. The result? Not so much of a problem. I just stopped. Now, when I wake up in the morning, I just eat FOOD. And have some water. It’s fine. I’ve adjusted. Weirdly, I notice that I am, overall, MUCH MORE ALERT than when I was drinking caffeine. So there’s that. I realized that my coffee-and-tea drinking was a habit. A nice one. But it didn’t kill me to just switch to water. If you had told me this any time in the past few decades, I would not have believed it. I miss the ritual of coffee, the smell of it, the nice way that a warm mug feels in my hands. But I’ve survived that.
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Then, the issue of actual “drinking” milk. I was also a big fan of drinking a glass of milk, like, for pleasure. Lo and behold, I discovered that I also liked goat milk, which apparently some people on Paleo (or is it primal?) enjoy. I did feel a little cheatish though, in addition to feeling like Heidi, enjoying her grandfather’s goats’ milk up in the Alps. I tried a few almond milks. BLECH. Then, something in the super-fancy packaging of this Pop & Bottle brand caught my eye one day when I was at the little market near my office. Yeah, this tiny little 10 oz bottle cost $6.00. But I decided to try it, and YUM. I mean, YUM. I just hope I can figure out a way to replicate it. I’ll just save it as a special treat though, since I’m not eating desserts or drinking alcohol.

Oh, yeah?! What about dessert?? Well, I did indulge in birthday cake (twice!) during the month. The first time, I was pretty sure I would die if I didn’t get to have a piece. So after much agonizing, I did. It was delicious. The second time, at the end of week 3, I figured I would enjoy another piece for dear Mr McBody’s birthday. Totally different experience. I could TELL that it was “good,” ie. high-quality, but it just didn’t have that same delicious sensation. I had a couple of forkfuls and then left it. I developed a real fondness for eating fresh raspberries with coconut cream when I wanted dessert. But the need for daily desserts really reduced drastically.

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One of the best results, ever.

One of the very best things, though, has been the impressive reduction in my blood sugars. This number on the left is really the lowest I have ever seen it, since I began testing it in 2009. This was pretty dramatic.

I went to see my new doctor yesterday and had all my labs drawn. EVERYthing was in normal range, and especially my cholesterol and lipids were stellar. So there’s that.

But… how WAS it?! It wasn’t all easy. The first week was tough. After around 2-3 weeks, most of my craving for particular foods went away. But it was replaced by a strange sadness, like a mourning of the relationship I used to have with food. Which was, in many ways, like a love affair. I LOVED cheese. I LOVED certain kinds of desserts, and bread, and butter and so many delicious things.

The 30 Days are over. So now what? Well, yesterday I gave myself some sourdough bread with some real butter on it. It was… meh. I mean, I could’ve taken or left it. Today, I had a slice of homemade veggie pizza. Now that? That was pretty darn good.

Since starting on February 1st, I’m down more than ten pounds. This feels good. I’ve been trying to shed these pounds for the good part of a year, and this is the first time I’ve seen a steady decrease on a consistent basis in a long time. So I’m going to keep going. I might have a few non-Paleo treats once or twice a week, but I’m not going back to my pre-Paleo days.

This major re-setting of my food intake has been pretty dramatic. I’ve never eliminated so many different food groups ALL AT ONCE before. I learned that it didn’t kill me. Maybe quite the opposite. I’m feeling pretty alive.

The Paleo Experiment

from Unsplash/Sonja Langford
from Unsplash/Sonja Langford

Anybody who knows me, knows that I am one of the least likely people ever to go the Paleo route. ME? I probably love cheese and dairy products more than anyone, ever. I LIVE for cheese. I put half and half in everything (coffee, tea, MILK). But this past year and a half has not been easy. I’ve had recurring aches and pains, a plantar fasciitis or other foot pain (possibly posterior tibialis tendonitis) that would not quit, and weight gain and the like. It has not been fun. (reason for not blogging in forever: I hate doing nothing but whine for months on end)

In December, I got together with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. She looked FANTASTIC. I’d remembered her at my 25th anniversary party, hobbling around and unable to walk the one block to the beach. She was in terrible pain, also in her feet. But now she looked slim and vigorous, and had done a 6 mile hike in Italy! She had lost 40 lbs, she said, and felt terrific. What happened?! I asked. And she said: Paleo. She had visited podiatrists and surgeons and therapists and chiropractors and acupuncture, and finally her own primary care physician suggested she might try an “anti-inflammatory,” i.e. Paleo diet. She was one step away from surgery which had a small chance of actually improving her situation. So she tried. She said that within two weeks, her debilitating pain was GONE. And she hasn’t looked back since.

Well humph, I said. She said, “Don’t do it for weight loss. Do it for pain relief.” These words kept echoing in my head. I mulled it around. I just didn’t feel… READY in January, that universal month of Good Intentions and Resolve. But when February came up and I was still hobbling down the stairs from my bedroom every morning, I thought, okay. I WILL TRY.

I had to not think about it too much. I had to just do it. I bought the NomNom Paleo book, and read a bunch of stuff online (which is unending).  I woke up on February first and set about learning how to make the most perfect hard boiled egg ever. (it involves pin-pricking the shell, and baking soda, believe it or not) And then I just started.

NO grains. NO dairy (except a little bit goat milk). NO legumes, sugar or alcohol. That’s a huge list of NO’s.

perfecting the hard boiled egg
perfecting the hard boiled egg

The first week was pretty rough, I’ll admit. It was really an epic psychological battle. I whined a little bit on Twitter and Beki pointed me to this Whole30 Timeline, which pretty well summed it up. I definitely went through the “KILL ALL THE THINGS” phase and the “Hardest Days” phase. Somewhere in the past few days, though, I have felt myself calming down, sinking into it, and looking around in utter disbelief that I, the Dairy Queen of the Universe, have survived thus far.

Things I have noticed:

  • I’ve dropped some significant poundage. Even though this was not the primary goal, it has been a relief. YAY.
  • For the first time in about 10 months, I have been able to descend my stairs without leaning heavily on the bannister. Like – bounding down the stairs as in days of yore. Very thrilling.
  • Foot/heel pain: pretty much almost gone. Maybe a little teeny tiny ache. But: so much better.
  • For someone who has had 2-3 cups of cream-topped coffee or tea per day for decades, I’m now just drinking water. And weirdly enough, the lack of caffeine has resulted in feeling MORE AWAKE THAN EVER. Especially at night. My brain feels like a giant, light-filled cavern. For someone who is used to collapsing into oblivion the second I lie down, this isn’t exactly what I had bargained for. But I am finding it interesting. And once I do fall asleep, I sleep long and deep.
  • I’m actually not a social pariah or anything. IMG_8120I even brought this big bowl of roasted veggies to a birthday potluck and people acted like I’d brought a huge pile of freshly-minted cash. They fell upon it, and the bowl was empty within 20 minutes.
  • I don’t hate or feel repelled by the taste of sugar. I did have a moment, on day 7, when (at the aforementioned party) I thought I would die if I could not have a taste of the birthday cake. I whimpered to my husband who said I wouldn’t die if I DID have some. So I did. I was expecting it to be this moment of “BLECH! TOO SWEET! UGH! HOW COULD I EVER EAT THAT STUFF?!” but no. It was absolutely delicious.IMG_8129
  • I have developed a taste for green smoothies. This is nothing short of a miracle! I gagged at any liquid green anything previously, but my daughter came home with her NutriBullet and made a delicious concoction of kale, cucumbers, carrots, apples, oranges, lemon, ginger and the magic AVOCADO. Yes, it was yummy. She knew better than to put anything abhorrent like bananas in there.
  • Did I mention? My blood sugars have been stellar. 🙂
  • I love olives.
  • Cauliflower is the miracle food! It can be made into “rice,” “mashed potatoes,” “pizza crust.” It can be roasted and pureed. It can substitute for so many things. We tried a cauliflower-crust pizza, on my 3rd day of Paleo. I was hosting a writing group in which one of my friends is GF and DF. But I knew it would also help me stay on the Paleo track. Well, it was a unanimous HIT. Even the people who COULD eat the regular pizza, were totally enamored with the cauliflower crust one. BOOM.
  • IMG_8089So, today is officially my halfway mark. According to the timeline, I should be feeling pretty awesome. In fact, I do feel pretty good. It’s subtle, but I’ll take better-fitting-clothes, fantastic blood sugars and pain free feet any day. It’s what I had hoped for. Even more, really. Because it hasn’t totally KILLED ME.

(edited to add) Well, it didn’t kill me. But I would be dishonest if I didn’t add – one of the strangest little sad things about it, is that it has somehow killed my joy of food. I mean, I LIKE the food I am eating now. It’s fine. It’s even delicious. But it feels very consciously like “food = fuel” and food is not about pleasure in the same way that it used to be. I no longer swoon over food. I no longer spend hours and days thinking about it. This is a LOSS. I just have to balance it out with what I’ve gained. I admit it’s been a little bit (more than a little bit?) sad.

What will I do when the thirty days are over? I don’t know. I think I’m going to take it one day at a time. To choose mostly Paleo, whole30 type foods most of the time. If I can keep it up 80/20, I’ll be happy.

In the meantime… it’s nice to be back here. I’d love to hear from readers who are Paleo eaters, who have tried it, who do it all the time or a little bit of the time. Now I’m curious!

Do you eat Paleo? What benefits have you noticed? What are the challenges? What are your solutions? 

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