On July 24th, without a lot of warning (none I was heeding, anyway), I switched from a kinda-mostly-gluten-free-and-dairy-free diet (with lots of cheating but no sugar) to a strict low-carb paleo diet. For the wonderful reasons of “because my doctor said so, and he’s scary.”
There are several different interpretations of “paleo,” but the way I’m implementing it is this:
and grass-fed organic meat
and hopefully some seafood too
olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, lemon juice
a few nuts, a few berries, but not many
the occasional apple
no grains (corn is a grain), no legumes (green peas sometimes exception), no potatoes, no dairy.
no sugar or sweeteners (but that predates paleo)
no eggs (as of August 24, when I found out I was allergic)
Also, I’m allergic to spinach, asparagus, walnuts, cinnamon, cocoa, and coffee, which otherwise might get to be part of this diet. And I’m allergic to gluten, wheat, and peanuts, which I wasn’t going to be eating anyway. The asparagus and spinach allergies are low enough that I’ll make exceptions if I’m out and about.
Why am I doing this?
Because I have that fun and contested illness known as chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic fatigue immunodeficiency syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, systemic exertion intolerance disorder, and by something else now too, I bet. They seem to like coming up with names for it.
At any rate, I have a fairly mild case of it, but as it’s not at all a mild illness, it’s still a pretty big impediment to me doing anything at all with my life. In between all kinds of scary test results (where are my natural killer cells? why is there no detectable level of a hormone-precursor molecule in my blood? why can’t my body produce enough cortisol? etc.), I am also trying to get my wonky blood sugar under control and stock up on the many nutrients I’m low on.
The foundation my doctor suggested was the paleo diet, with an emphasis on veggies.
What’s it been like?
The first four days I thought I was dying. I was even more lightheaded than usual. I thought I was starving. I got hot flashes. I smelled terrible. I looked up how many calories I got the first day (1000) and realized that in addition to the “low-carb flu,” I didn’t know how to eat enough on this diet.
After those first four days, things got a lot better. I don’t get crazy dips of energy before meals, and I have a little bit more energy to spend throughout the day without triggering a relapse. I’m not longer having the hot flashes and my sweat isn’t so ridiculously smelly.
While I wasn’t trying to lose “weight” (by which I mean size), I have lost a lot. I don’t have a scale, so can’t tell you numerically, but I taken three sets of pictures and the difference is striking. Unfortunately for you, they’re naked pictures, so not going up on the internet.
What’s really surprised me, though, is the shape of the size I’ve lost and how attractive it is. Most of the times in my life when I’ve been really skinny, even if it was from doing tons of yoga or what-have-you I haven’t looked this healthy. The best way I can describe my body in the mirror at the moment is “happy.” It’s a happy shape. Paleo isn’t the only thing going into that, but it’s a major contributing factor.
No, what’s it been like logistically?
Kind of a nightmare. I basically eat stir fry three times a day.
One of the symptoms of CFS is orthostatic intolerance. In other words, when I stand up, my blood pressure lowers and I either pass out or start feeling very wonky. Some days I can’t even sit up. So cooking is mostly out of the question.
My husband had to learn to cook three paleo meals a day, every day, with basically no warning. Then we found out I couldn’t have eggs (which, okay, I kind of knew. I knew they made me feel sick but I wasn’t going to stop until I got it in black and white numbers on the allergy test) and things got even harder.
Basically – I have stir fry for three meals a day. The vegetables almost always include cabbage, carrots, and onions. There may also be bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, kale, collard greens, or something else my lovely man comes up with. There is always some kind of meat – (sugar-free) sausage, (non-pork, sugar-free) bacon, ground beef, chicken, or salmon.
We also have this cool “casserole” we can make, but it’s a lot of work and a bit high in carbs for everyday eating.
Now that we have a few weeks before I start school again, we’re going to try out a few other recipes.
I was just at a fabulous retreat where for the first several days I didn’t even have to break into my cooler because everything just was paleo. I’m especially craving her salads and this delicious coconut soup she made, at the moment. So I’ll see what David can figure out.
We’re spending way too much money on food. Mostly on the meat – it’s a couple bucks per meal for me alone. Then David and Scarlet are eating junk, which is a phase I hope we’ll move out of. But it’s not like they’re super thrilled about the idea of eating paleo with me, or like we can afford it, or like David has the time or energy to make all our former curries and bean dishes from scratch at the same time he’s stir frying things for me.
I’m looking into quail, since I wanted to raise some anyway and I’ve heard their eggs are okay for people with egg allergies. I don’t know that it’ll save us any money, but it might save us some time. Cooking time. Not chores time. And I do want the option of (very occasionally) indulging in some paleo “breads,” all of which require eggs to hold their almond-flower-y selves together.
I also want to expand into different types of meat (it’s very American of us, in a bad way, to eat only ground beef and chicken breast) as well as different parts of the animal. I’d love to go buy some 1/4 cow or something, though with my inability to help at all in the kitchen, we’re currently mostly into things that don’t need a lot of preparation. I do definitely want to explore liver and bone broth, if nothing else.
I may also start adding in some more carbs, paying attention to how I feel. If I can get a bit more of my energy from sweet potatoes or butternut squash, then maybe I don’t have to eat so much meat, which doesn’t exactly thrill me. Hopefully this is not an ever-after diet. I’ve eaten in a lot of weird ways in the past, but this is by far the most restrictive. Still, it’s worth it to have an extra hour and a half every afternoon when in the past I would have been napping.