Tuesday, 14 August 2012

How to Make the Transition to Paleo

The Paleo diet is easier for some of us than it is for others. If you are eating a diet which consists mainly of sugar and carbs, particularly the really processed ones, the Paleo diet may sound like Kill-Joy's perfect way to get you wound up. Paleo experts suggest dropping your current diet and switching to 30-day trials without every food you've been used to, or a 30-day Reset. But what if you need to function at your best and can't function when you're body has been thrown into a place it hasn't met in, say, 10,000 years? And what if you've never cooked a chicken in your life? Don't run away, and don't bark back at Kill-Joy, who means well. Instead, try a proper transition, slow and steady. 

A 30-day trial is fine if you want to start seeing results quickly or you want to be aware of the real difference between how you felt on your old diet and how you will feel in 30 days. But what if you actually need to function during those 30-days? What if you are pushing your limits of activity? What if you can't take the 'carb flu', as I hear it's called, and either you need to keep going or you become extremely agitated when your body won't let you stay awake through the afternoon? And finally, what if you've never cooked in the manner advised by many of the meal plans online? What if you don't know how much the average supermarket chicken weighs and you've never had to squeeze its slimy legs into the oven before? A recipe with a long list of weird food preparation guidelines may be seriously off-putting for the five-minute kitchen spender or the person who is more familiar with the identically sliced meats in the cooked food aisle of the supermarket than he is with a very long kitchen knife. 

So, for anyone who even slightly fits into this category, try making smaller changes to your diet. Try experimenting with one recipe one day and another on a different day. Try slowly replacing your poorly formed, energy-depleting, high-carbohydrate, passed through thirty hands in a factory meal with something which looks like you could have hunted, caught, grown, or picked, yourself. And then evaluate the results so far.

Here's my best idea for making the transition. See what you think.
  1. Protein comes from poultry, eggs, and meat. Only. That's actually a massive variety of sources.
    • Get your poultry and your meat from the relevant 'fresh' aisles in the supermarkets. Choose grass-fet or organic where possible, but if not just go for something which requires cooking. The chicken breast fillets or the beef pieces in packets are fine. What you're doing right now is increasing the amount of poultry and meat you eat and buying ones which haven't been prepared, cut into shape, and depleted of nutrients. Seriously, turn over the packet and have a read of the ingredients. What does it say? Chicken? Beef? As expected? Right, now walk over to the cooked meats section. Pick up a packet of chicken. Turn it over. Read the ingredients. More than one? Anything you don't recognise? How comfortable do you feel now?
    • For eggs, choose ones which are organic or where the packet says that welfare of the chickens was good. Not only will it stop you feeling guilty, it will taste better too.
  2. Replace all 'carby' meals with their equivalent veg sources. Let's break this down:
    • Want pasta or noodles? No problem. Just replace the pasta itself with zucchini, carrot, spaghetti squash or other starchy vegetable source. Grind down until it resembles noodles, or you can play around to make pasta shapes, and then boil, fry, or think of something new. Now add the sauce. Great.
    • Want pizza? Make the bread out of flax and almond flour. 
    • Want bread? Ditto.
    • Cereal? Porridge? Oh my gosh, you have just reached the amazing Paleo meals! Nuts can make porridge. Did you know that? Nuts can make milk. Bet you didn't know that either. Combine an apple (without skin) and a pear in a blender, add maybe five almonds, and you have the same magnificence. You can also use buckwheat to make your own fabulous cereal. Try fresh fruit with almond milk for breakfast. Yum.
  3. What have I missed?
  4. If you do eat all the crap you're not supposed to eat (ehem, crisps, sweets, etc...chocolate is debatable), make these instead:
    • Sweet potato chips (dehydrated in the oven)
    • Other vegetable chips
    • Smoothies, sweet porridges, and dried fruit (limited!) to get your sugar craving sorted.
  5. No fizzy drinks. N.O. Make fresh fruit juices instead. 

---> Get that sorted, and you're on Transition Road! --->

Next, reduce the amount of carbs you are eating and increase the amount of protein. 

---> How are we doing? --->

Finally, vary the types of protein you are getting. Ensure that you have veg with every meal, and protein with every meal. Vary the amount of veg, too. 

---> And that's a wrap for now! --->

Just keep going!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Paleo Diet in Translation

Essentially it means, eat only useful calories.

I always look at a food and think, 'what will this give me?' What purpose does this food have? Will it make me feel better? Will it make me feel worse? Will an extra helping make me feel sick?

With the paleo diet, you look at every food and ask this question: is it something useful? Something my body can recognise and digest? Something that can be put to good use inside my body? Even sauces can contain proteins.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Paleo and calories

Back in the day, you ate what you could scavenge or hunt. You would eat after trekking at pace, concentrating on your prey, and then killing it. Today, we typically pick set hours in which to 'exercise' and we eat while sitting at a desk, having sat there all day. Calorie use is therefore different, and we might think that eating calorific meats when we haven't sprinted through the forest and wrestled with a wild animal, might add a little too much pudge to our fat-fighting selves. But, and here's the catch:  

is it possible that the foods we eat influence how much we do?

Okay, this may sound a little strange. I mean, why not eat a lion and then have its strength, right? That's the old wives tale which directs peer pressure in camping groups, isn't it? 'Go on, eat the big fat boar. Then you'll be just as strong as it,' say the inticing group around the campfire. But this adage has a simple truth to it: the best predators or the cleverest animals may actually be so nutrient and vitamin-dense that, by eating them, we will (gradually) gain strength, energy, and better brain function.
Note: in cases of illness and deficiency which is not food-related, changing diet may not solve the problem and is unlikely to increase strength, energy, and brain function...or anything else for that matter. Thyroid Disease is a particular example here.

In what I have read so far, I have discovered that first-hand accounts of experiences on the paleo diet all follow a similar theme: an individual changes their diet, and starts running. 

In a way, this makes sense. If you have indigestion, or you feel sick, or you jump on the treadmill but you are distracted by the food which keeps pushing its way up your trachea, running becomes difficult. You may also feel bloated, heavy, off-balance, tired, or just uncomfortable. But if your body is working brilliantly you are likely to feel light, quick on your feet, and in the mood for a run. 

What is curious about the above, though, is that it was running which all these people took up. Why not cycling, or swimming, or weight-lifting for that matter? It appears that the paleo diet works very well with increased cardio output. But are they running foods? It's not something that I've heard before.

I don't like the idea that we are genetically able to eat in a certain way, and that if we eat those foods we will find ourselves functioning to the true calling of human beings. But we always think of the diet-exercise connection in the following ways:

Increase your exercise + decrease your calorie intake, particularly of any unhealthy foos which may be in your diet.

Exercise --> reduced weight/increased energy + supports a good diet

The paleo diet, however, if I am interpreting it correctly, appears to be suggesting the following:

Increase the 'good' calories  only

A good diet --> increased [cardio] exercise

This is not to say that you should simply change your diet and then wait for the 'magic bullet' which makes you suddenly able to run miles, but the theory is that you will feel like you want to do more and are able to do more once your diet is sorted. 

The challenge, of course, is finding the right diet.  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Paleo, money, and my shopping list

In the past, as with tribes across the world, your food would be whatever you could scavenge or hunt. It would take a lot of energy and concentration (and luck, to some extent), but it would also be free.

So buying all of these ingredients in small packets makes my shopping list very long...and expensive. It is another reason for tweaking the paleo diet to your own needs. I will try to find a way to be on the paleo diet for relatively cheap. 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Why Photographing your Food is such a Good Idea

  1. It's a record of the times you've eaten, so that if you have forgotten to take note, you don't need to worry.
  2. You'll start paying attention to what's on your plate, not how much you can fit on the plate. A bowl of leftovers won't look so good for the camera, so you'll shy away from it. And the result? An easier task of digestion on your stomach. 
  3. If you can't be bothered for food diaries or are bored of them, this is a much more interesting and much more creative way to record what you are eating.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Understanding My Condition

If I ate badly then I would most probably not be able to digest anything. And then I would probably be diagnosed with something different, perhaps something more serious, or perhaps the more serious version of my condition. Perhaps I would need a pacemaker because I would have ruined my stomach entirely. I'm not saying that people with these more serious conditions have ruined their stomachs, but I am suggesting that motility disorders and preprandrial bradygastrias, particularly when combined with the symptom of regurgitation or acid reflux, have the potential to be much more worse. If my stomach is in a bad state, I might, say, bring up a bit of water in the car on the way home, or bring up the water I take first thing in the morning. Might I, one day, bring up the pill I take at around the same time?

If I let my stomach get worse and worse, I will bring up it all.

I need to acknowledge that this condition can become pretty bad. Just like if I stop taking my thyroid meds in the morning, I will get worse and worse, if I lose control of what I eat, I will also be worse and worse. Food hurts me, but I also need it. Food is my medicine, and like any medicine with rules surrounding how, when, and with what should you take it, so too does food require as much attention.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Smoothie Test

This is my first proper smoothie. By proper, I mean I actually spent time on it. It's genius. I mean, it's so genius that it had me sqeaking in excitement. It made two whole glasses worth! What a reward for all that hard work chopping one apple, a few strawberries, shoving lots of frozen fruit in a jug, and hitting the stir button on the food chopper. It's not my recipe: it's from 'Superjuice: Juicing for Health and Happiness,' by Michael van Straten. I added two mint leaves, because I thought it looked cool. But does Rusty like it?

Here it is: the yummy looking smoothie in a glass.

Here he comes. I think that's a sniff. I think that's a definite like!

And why wouldn't he?

It's just yum. And it passed the test!


  • The recipe called for one cooking apple, but there just happened to be a Pink Lady apple sitting in the fridge, so I stole that.
  • I couldn't find a scale (I know, I know: how do I live my kitchen days?) so I just took some leftover strawberries, some frozen mixed fruit, removing the blackberries, and some frozen mango (the recipe called for one whole mango, but I was all out), and some pineapple from a tin. The amount fit into a 1 litre measuring jug (right)
  • I tipped half into a plastic bowl and used the food mixer. Then I poured this amount back in and mixed it all at once. This way it all fit. The final amount made just under 1 litre, or 2 tall glasses.