Try It Tuesday: The Paleo Diet

Have you ever watched "Degrassi: The Next Generation"? It was one of my favorite shows growing up.

I remember an episode where Emma does a science project on how food, specifically “healthy” foods, can positively impact your body and cognitive function. Her project was flawless, except for one thing … J.T. (RIP)  didn't align with Emma’s hypothesis. Despite his poor eating patterns, he actually performed significantly better than expected. Long story short (a 22-minute-episode long), she realizes that the food we love can positively affect us, changes the name of her study to the “Mind-Body Connection,” and beats Liberty for first prize in the science fair.

So what does Degrassi have to do with my paleo diet experience last week? Everything.

The paleo diet is based on the (erroneous) premise of eating what humans ate during the Paleolithic era. This includes nuts, lean meat, fruits, and vegetables. Since humans were hunter-gatherers and didn’t farm, any and all grains, as well as dairy should not be consumed. I dabbled with paleo a couple years ago, tried it for some time, and then let it go. I honestly don’t remember the details surrounding my decision to try it, as well as stop. But this time, I won’t forget.

Sunday Night

Like most Sundays, I made all my food for the week, but unlike most Sundays, I had to get creative. I went over to Pinterest and looked for “paleo recipes,” and found an endless sea of pins that could help me. I made coconut flour pancakes, turkey sausage, cooked some bacon for BLT lettuce wraps, seared some steak, and made banana paleo bread. I thought “this will be easy” and went to bed.

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Breakfast

Grapefruit Green Smoothie

Paleo Cherry Pie Smoothie

Paleo Chocolate Smoothie

Paleo Chocolate Smoothie

Late Morning Snack

Coconut Pancakes w/ Maple Syrup and Turkey Sausage

Coconut Pancakes w/ Maple Syrup and Turkey Sausage

Coconut Pancakes w/ Maple Syrup and Turkey Sausage

Coconut Pancakes w/ Maple Syrup and Turkey Sausage

Lunch

Spinach and Eggs with Smoked Salmon

BLT Lettuce Wrap

BLT Lettuce Wrap

Spinach and Eggs

Mid-Afternoon Snack

Paleo Banana Bread with Strawberries

Paleo Banana Bread

Paleo Banana Bread

 

Dinner

Steak with Mixed Green Salad

Mussels in a Tomato Sauce and Strawberries

Steak with Strawberries

BLT Lettuce Wrap and Strawberries

 

Monday

Paleo bread and strawberries

It’s the beginning of the week, so I started off strong. I had the case of the Mondays (not unusual), but still managed to pull myself out of bed and did an hour of yoga. In the chart above, you can see I did pretty well and did my best to get fruits and/or vegetables on my plate at each meal. Some of the food was better than others. The coconut pancakes were ok, but the paleo banana bread was grainy and had no flavor.

Overall, the day was ok. I was never full, and it really felt like I wasn’t eating. Granted, I wasn’t starving, but I was just never satisfied.

Tuesday

I woke up and I was sick; my throat was red and scratchy, and I had a low-grade fever. I joked that it must be the paleo diet (there’s no correlation between paleo diet and sickness, I just caught a cold). Nonetheless, I still got up and went to work. For breakfast, I had a paleo cherry pie smoothie. It was good, but I also drink smoothies on my regular diet. The only difference was that I skipped the oats.

For dinner, I had some mussels. I had some in the freezer and to my surprise the ingredients were paleo. The day was ok, but again, I never felt full.

Wednesday/Thursday

Cherry Pie Smoothie

On Wednesday and Thursday, it become more difficult. Granted, I was sick, but I also just didn’t like the food. My meals weren’t appetizing; they were boring, flavorless, and restrictive. So I began to eat less. Between those two days, I raked up a measly 2,100 calories, way less than my required minimum energy and nutrient requirements. If food isn’t enjoyable, what’s the point in eating?

Friday

Ah, the end is finally near! I woke up this morning miserable about my dietary patterns for the week, but I felt hopeful. I planned to finish out the diet and have some oatmeal at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. I wasn’t feeling any of my meals, so I had another paleo cherry pie smoothie for breakfast, and that was it. I planned to eat lunch around noon, but again, I wasn’t interested. Around 2 p.m., my coworkers offered me some cookies. At first I said no, but then couldn’t take it anymore and indulged. I didn’t feel guilty at all! In fact, I felt liberated. After work, I got a burger and fries, and I felt even better. And I finally felt full!

Conclusions

Like Manny eating a chocolate bar (Degrassi reference), food should taste like happy. Whenever I eat oatmeal, it reminds me of all the mornings growing up when my dad would make it for breakfast. Yeah, oatmeal contains B vitamins, fiber, and iron, but it also contains memories of sitting on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons with my dad. Or the many Sundays my mother would make non-paleo banana bread. It filled the kitchen with a sweet smell as it baked, and I always saved it for last so I could savor each bite. For me, food can make me happy and be nutritious at the same time; it doesn’t have to one or the other.

Also, the paleo diet is super restrictive. No grains or dairy really prevented me from going out to eat. In fact, on Tuesday, my coworkers went to a vegan and gluten-free friendly restaurant, but I couldn’t enjoy anything on the menu. While most meals were gluten-free, they still had rice and quinoa. Luckily, I didn’t have any outings with my friends, but clearly going out to eat just wouldn’t be feasible.

The paleo diet does have some good qualities. While I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables normally, without grains and dairy, I had to rely on them even more so and consistently reached my recommended fiber intake, even on days where I wasn’t eating as much. I also drank a lot of water since most beverages are a no-no on paleo.

All in all, the paleo diet just isn’t sustainable for me. There’s nothing healthy about eating 1,000 calories a day, but because I don’t find food on the paleo diet enjoyable, that would be normal for me as I duck and dodge meals.

If you’ve been successful eating paleo, great! There’s more than one way to be healthy. But for me, I have to say no to this diet … kind of like how Ellie did when Jimmy asked her out (another Degrassi reference).

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