paleo postmortem

I did it! I went paleo for a whole month. Yesterday marked the end of 30 whole days of cavewoman-style breakfasts, lunches and dinners sans grains and dairy, minus the three days I let myself cheat due to extenuating circumstances (like birthdays and races).

I can’t help but feel a little victorious. I’ve never tried any sort of “extreme” diet before, and always wondered if I had the willpower. Turns out I do. This single fact probably means more to me than the supposed benefits of the diet—the fact alone that I resisted chips and salsa, popcorn and Greek yogurt for a whole month shows me that when I put my mind to it, I can do anything.

OK, now we’re getting a little cheesy. Seriously though, overall, it was good mental training. Sometimes, food can get the best of me, consuming my thoughts and leading me to false paradises that I then regret visiting. Going paleo helped me narrow my diet down to the absolute bare necessities, the most nutrient-rich, unadulterated pure foods I could possible load up on. And you know what? After the first week’s mental fog passed (likely from the significant reduction in carbohydrates), I felt great. I slept well, had tons of energy, and rarely experienced that mid-afternoon energy slump.

But. Yes, there’s a but. After all is said and done, I simply missed the variety a truly balanced diet offers. Don’t get me wrong, when you come home from two hours of hill repeats at 7:45 in the morning and your husband has bacon and eggs ready for you, you don’t complain. But after days upon days of eggs, boiled, fried, steamed, poached and in omeletes, eggs get old. No matter how much you love them and no matter how good for you they are. I just wanted to sink my teeth into a soft, chewy, crusty piece of good old-fashioned TOAST.

So yesterday morning, that’s just what I did. After my hour Masters swimming workout, I bolted to the market near our house and grabbed a loaf of Bread & Cie’s Fig and Anise bread. Came home, popped two slices in the toaster, and slathered them with butter and honey. Delicious. I wasn’t satiated for as long as I was on my prior paleo breakfasts, but it was worth it.

Here are a few things I learned while trying the paleo diet that I’ll carry over into daily life:

1-Eat your veggies.

I always knew this in theory, but I wasn’t practicing it to the extent I should’ve been as an active person. Carrot and celery sticks don’t count. I have learned the joys of sauteed greens as a quick side or even breakfast. I will continue to eat plenty of easy, broiled yam fries before long weekend training sessions. Mark and I joined a local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) and somewhat ironically, our first pick-up was last night. (I can see a “Stuff White People Like” post emerging: “Picking up their organic veggies at Lululemon. Ugh. Oh wait. It already is one.) Our first box was impressive, as the spread in the first photo attests.

2-Protein, in moderation.

The paleo diet pushes the consumption of animal protein at every meal and snack, an approach I find not only unecessary, but also bad for the earth. Even when done 100% organic, it’s still just not necessary for us North Americans to hog all that meat-production energy for ourselves. (Yes, I used the word hog in a paragraph about meat. Hey, it’s a blog not a thesis.) I will continue to implore Mark to make the delicious roast beast on a regular basis (his second, rosemary-rubbed version, above, was even better!) and poached salmon has become a staple.

3-Food is worth it.

Meat costs money, yes. Fresh, organic veggies cost money. Big surprise. Paleo has taught me to really stop worrying so much about cost and invest my income in the food that keeps me alive and thriving.

4-Balance is best.

In the process, I’ve re-discovered Mark Sisson’s Daily Apple blog, and though it has some propaganda-esque tips that probably exist to build his publishing and supplement empire, contains some really good, moderate advice. Like this tidbit:

“We often say, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And for good reason. The target of (paleo) is deep-seated: the long haul of a healthful life, not a brief stop off for cosmetic fixes. The necessary approach, then, is centered around sustainability. One hundred percent compliance with (paleo) principles is ideal, sure, but consider it the ultimate representation – a consummate form rather than typical daily function. The PB is rooted in life, not just research, after all. A practical baseline is this: if you align your life with the PB principles 80 percent of the time, consider yourself on course.”

I love that. Eighty percent I can do. Perhaps even 90. But I simply enjoy certain foods too much to warrant their elimination from my life.

5-Go with your gut.

I know I just argued for balance, but now I’m going to argue for personal preference. Paleo changed my adviser Nell’s life and triathlon training. It works for her. It worked for me, too, but not in that same life-altering way. To me, taste, pleasure, and variety matter far more than some long-term nutritional benefits I’m not yet convinced of anyway. As a LAVA contributor writes on her blog, “by focusing on your own needs, it’s very simple to find enjoyment out of consuming a balanced diet where no food is off limit.” And while you won’t see me loading up on gummy bears anytime soon, I don’t want to live a life where I have to say no should I ever crave them.

All in all, going paleo for a month reaffirmed that while I love being healthy and fit, it’s more about putting life in my years than years in my life. I know I said this in a prior post, but it seems to be the theme of this whole exercise in pseudo-madness. VG’s doughnuts, here I come…

one week to go

It’s not that I dislike this whole Paleo thing, it’s just that after three weeks, it has started getting a little, well, old. Maybe this is  because I just spent six days living out of a car, hotel fridge, and whatever small-town American diners I could get my hands on. That would tire anyone out, rookie Paleo forager or not.

In my last post, I shared how I got by en route to Utah, but once those snacks were gone, I had to work a little harder. If I were to choose this as a way of life, I would have to be much better prepared. I’ve said that a lot, I know. Am I just lazy?!

I also think it would also be easier to do Paleo on the road if I’d been solo. I enjoy eating with my husband–it’s something we share–and it’s hard to enjoy a mini vacation when “doing breakfast” means sitting at a grocery store deli table eating cold cuts. Yeah, no. So here’s a little glimpse of the foods that helped me get by, with the help of Flickr’s Creative Commons for all but the Grind salad. I kinda forgot about the blog this weekend. It was a busy one!

Photo by inazakira

We arrived Thursday afternoon and hit up a Mexican place, were I managed to order a decent salad with chicken. Thankfully, there was a grocery store right across from our hotel for Thursday’s dinner: yay for rotisserie chicken eaten with your hands in your hotel room. Now that’s entertainment.

On Friday morning, I passed up fake eggs and greasy sausage patties care of Best Western, and we headed to a Grind cafe in Cedar City for breakfast and a few hours of work. Their spinach salad (above) came Paleo-fied with eggs and bacon. That evening we tried out the local BBQ joint Sonny Boy’s, channeling our Dinosaur BBQ love. It was good, but didn’t hold a candle to the Syracuse mainstay. I had brisket, ribs, a side salad, and their fried cauliflower. Not exactly what you see in the picture, but more or less.

Photo by VirtualErn

Saturday, race day, I cheated. Though I did manage to do Paleo for breakfast at a local diner. This we count as our Utah dining disaster #1: cold coffee and an omelette that took so long we were on our way out the door when it finally arrived. Just your basic ham and veggie omelette, nothing to write about here. But during the intensely difficult 100k/61m trail ride that took me the better part of the day, I just couldn’t stick to my Paleo plan. Gels? Yeah right. Give me chunky trail bars, gummy worms and pb&j. (Click here to read about my full experience at this awesome new race.) I cheated after the race and had a pulled pork sandwich, but after a few bites the bun didn’t really appeal to me and I just pulled all the meat out. That night, I indulged in two beers (paid for it at altitude with a nasty headache) and Thai food, of which two of the dishes were Paleo. Not bad, I say.

On Sunday morning we hit up a really cute local diner, the only place that was open. I had an avocado bacon tomato omelette that was quite delicious, and got it with sweet potato fries (Paleo!) instead of the toast and hash browns. It didn’t look exactly like this one (ie: no cheese), but you get the idea.

photo by Jinx McCombs

Then we were off to Hurricane, Utah, just 45 minutes away and our home base for exploring Zion National Park. We couldn’t check in until 3 and we arrived at noon, so we spend a couple hours in McDonald’s using they’re internet and drinking best-you’re-gonna-get coffee. It cracks me up that the three times I’ve been there in the last oh, five years, have been to use their Internet. “Lunch” was random Paleo snacks and fruit, and for dinner in Hurricane we hit a ghetto Chinese place. I had a greasy chicken and vegetable dish that looked kinda like this, sans the black beans and with more vegetables. We hit up the movie Horrible Bosses in the evening, and bought strawberries from the local grocery store for a mid-movie snack.

Photo by FotosVanRobin

Monday, hiking day, I had cauliflower, carrots, and broccoli from the grocery store (with Craisins) in the hotel breakfast nook while Mark enjoyed some toast and Froot Loops. I think I got some weird looks on that one. I managed to subsist on nuts, and dried and fresh fruit for the duration of our 6 hour hike, but boy was I ravenous when we finally hit up Oscar’s Cafe in cute little Sprindale. I had their “Maui Burger” without a bun, which was a (slightly overcooked) beef patty topped with a slice of grilled pineapple. Our server didn’t charge me to replace the fries with a garden salad, which was nice. I snuck a few fries though, to dip in the delicious chipotle-aioli sauce.

Photo by Jennifer Chong

That night, I caved and we got frozen yogurt. Sometimes little things happen in life that only food can fix. Because of our broken air conditioning, we left Hurricane at 4 a.m. to beat the heat, and I enjoyed a mushoom and spinach egg-white omelette at Denny’s, served with turkey bacon and fruit. Not bad, Paleo peeps, not bad. We got home around 10:30, napped, and then it was back to work. Mark grilled up some fresh Ono and roasted some broccoli, mushrooms and red onion for dinner, rounding out a “work-cation” (my new term) that was, except for a few minor deviations, mostly Paleo.

So it’s true, you can do Paleo on the road. You just have to be prepared to spend a lot unless you’re prepared, and start developing a taste for packet tuna. It was a great trip of new endurance feats, and I’m sore and tired to tell the stories. Happy to be back in gorgeous San Diego where the market is only a stone’s throw away and our fridge is always stocked with good things.

paleo road trip

We just arrived in Cedar City, Utah for the inaugural Fire Road Cycling mountain bike race. The rocks are red, the air warm, and our car’s air conditioner on the fritz. What can you do? Cars get old and wrinkly, too.

Road tripping gives me the munchies. As I threw stuff together last night—after getting beat by my swimming rookie husband in a sprint session at the pool—I wondered what on earth I would do for seven hours in car, on Paleo. Last time, driving down from the Big Sur Marathon, I gave in to just about every crappy convenience store craving. Well, within reason of course. I’ve never craved a Twinkie.

As my Paleo guru Nell says, “prep in advance and pack as much as possible.” I didn’t have a lot left in the fridge (I always go on a fridge-cleansing mission, even before short jaunts), so I cobbled together all the Paleo goodness I could find. Exhibit A: Polar Tuna packs (don’t buy this brand, it’s dry!), apples, salt-and-pepper pistachios, almonds, crispy seaweed, and … drumroll please … Bare Fruit Granny Smith Apple Chips. These, my friends, are a popcorn-tortillachip-ricecake-pretzel lover’s Paleo dream come true. (Not pictured: carrot and celery sticks and cantaloupe balls.)

Back to the apple chips. I discovered these at Costco (this blog is becoming a tribute to that crazy behemoth of a store), where an 11 ounce bag set us back only 5$. They are perfect. Ingredients? Organic apples. 58 calories a serving. Some crispy, some just a little chewy inside. How? Something called “bake drying.” Don’t ask me how they do it, but man, it’s delicious.

Considering my breakfast consisted of a lone smoothie at 4:45 a.m, I was a hungry at oh, 7:30. And 9:45. And 11:58. These little snacks, combined with Mark’s delicious press pot followed later by a tall Starbucks it’ll-pass Verona, kept me going all the way to Utah. We passed the hours chatting with our roadie, and listening her audiobook, David Cross’ Why I Drink. He doesn’t touch my heart like Sedaris, but it’s pretty funny stuff.

Oh, and the best part (besides the forthcoming beef jerky story) was … we saw a Manitoba license plate! It was on the back of a Bison transport semi truck, so not really that strange, but still. Here’s the snack collection, with a shot of our very own plates in the background.

And to leave you on a humorous note (or humourous, if you’re Canadian), behold a little exchange we managed to overhear in our apartment parking lot the other day.

Hipster teen #1: “Man-i-to-ba??”

Hipster teen #2: “I swear that’s not even a state, man.”

HT#1: “Oh, it’s in CANADA, look at the little leaf on top of the ‘i.'”

HT#2: “I get it. It says ‘Eh.'” (Our license plate just happens to be EEH 245. No connection to the Canadianism at all, boys.)

my cheatin’ mouth

Today marks two full weeks of Paleo eating in the bag. As I begin Week Three, I can’t help but look back over my accomplishments, failures, and more lessons learned.

The thing that stands out most is how much my running has improved. Two long runs on this diet and no belching issues at all. I know I can’t jump to conclusions yet, but this seems like a victory worth celebrating … for now. I’ve also managed to resist popcorn, oatmeal, Chobani yogurt, and Mark’s unbelievable lattes.

As for the failures? Well, I haven’t been following my coach’s meal plan to the T. Lunches of “poached Halibut on a bed of julienne carrots, zucchini and leeks” have been losing to my day job, a busier-than-usual freelance plate, and this recent string of gorgeous summer days. I haven’t been getting in all the “Recovery Homebrew” smoothies included in my plan, which is probably leading to the onset of major munchies which usually hits at about 9 p.m. To satiate myself, I chow down on almond (which as I’ve recently learned from Nell, isn’t a good idea!)

The site of the cheating

And then there was Friday, Mark’s birthday, my first official “cheat night.” No, it wasn’t a night of marital infidelity. I decided that spending money on a meal out just wasn’t smart if I couldn’t enjoy any of it, and settled on Searsucker, a top-chef finalist’s trendy new San Diego spot. Partly because it looked good, partly because it was downtown, kind of a novelty for us North County dwellers. We had their “carb-free” crabcake, artichoke hearts with Gruyere and tomato, and short ribs as appetizers, then shared the Mexican-inspired tongue and cheek (yes, literally), and duck breast with confit. On the side, an arugula, prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato salad. So yes, it was Paleo only insofar as there was meat, though it was fattier than the diet prescribes. Vegetables were lacking (our choice, those are a la carte), and though grains weren’t featured, there was a significant amount of cheese. (Overall, we were a little disappointed by the food. It was OK, but nothing worth raving about.)

I paid for it the next morning on my 40-mile bike ride, during which my gut rebelled, and I had trouble absorbing water. It’s hard to know if it was eating the prohibited foods, or just eating and drinking a wee bit too much.

New Encinitas Whole Foods

I’ve learned a bunch, too. Like that the best kind of deli meats are known as whole cuts, as opposed to the “sectioned and formed” meat products (gross!) or processed meats. Thankfully, Whole Foods just opened a mile from our apartment, and their Applegate farms oven-roasted chicken and turkey breasts are just excellent…especially when paired with some walnuts and pear. (New favorite!) I never really ate deli meat to begin with, but now that I need to be having so much meat, it’s just so easy to turn to.

This article by Phil Lempert outlines what to look for in deli meats, the main issue being sodium nitrite, which is also used alone or with sodium nitrate to fix the color in meat products. (Um, really?) During cooking, however, “nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds,” Lempert says … compounds that are known carcinogens associated with all kinds of cancer. (See the original article for more information on a study done in Sweden.)Another thing I’ve noticed is that I’m craving dairy far more than I am grains. A cold, creamy lick of frozen yogurt or a rubbery slab of mozzarella have tempted me many times over these past few days.

I’m starting to draw conclusions already about this way of eating, which I fire at Mark in small doses through the day. “So I was thinking, about this diet…” The man patiently indulges me every time, as we weigh the pros and cons, what seems to make sense and what seems ridiculous. I am really enjoying trying Paleo out, but I’m not sure I could eat this way for the rest of my life. I read a quote recently in Outside about putting “life in your years,” not just “years on your life.”

Paleo thus far has taught me to be more creative in the kitchen. It wasn’t that I was bad at this before, but over the past year I’ve lapsed. Paleo has helped me make friends with not only a ton of interesting new veggies and greens (rapini, chard, Japanese sweet potato), but methods by which to cook them. The best part of all of this so far is learning that dinner actually comes together more quickly and with less stress than when I used to scour blogs and cookbooks for exotic-looking recipes.

roast beast (and beets)

My second Paleo Experiment-induced trip to Costco on Sunday ended in me taking home a five-pound top sirloin. I purchased it with the intent of making my own homemade (read, additive and sodium-free) healthy roast beef. I’ve never been a big fan of deli meats, and up until trying this new way of eating didn’t really eat much beef at all. But that, along with many other habits and tendencies, has all changed over the past week.

As the days go on, some of the “symptoms” of going Paleo continue to lessen or disappear. Namely, strange stomach pains, a dry mouth, and periods of mental fogginess. Everything seems pretty much back to normal now, with the addition of new energy, better sleeps, and a pretty consistently positive mental outlook.

It’s always so hard to know with these things which are caused or related to a certain factor (here, the diet), or whether they would’ve happened anyway. That’s the complication with the Paleo way of life. Die-hards claim a lot for it, but could many of those “improvements” be due to them incorporating new and fresher veggies and fruits into their diets?

See the above salad. I would often eat salads for lunch at work, but this new diet prompted me to add some turkey and roast beets (which I blasted under the broiler with garlic and olive oil for 30 minutes, skins and all). The turkey was an early-Paleo Experiment slip-up. It’s deli-style, and even though the ingredients are only “turkey, turkey broth (containing less than 2% salt and vegetable oil),” it’s probably not the best. The black flecks on there aren’t pepper, they’re roasted hemp seeds: delish.

Another thing was red about my day besides the beets? The roast beast.

Yes, you read that right. The roast beast. With apologies to any sensitive vegans out there (though they surely would’ve stopped reading by now, so I have nothing to worry about), it is rather pleasant to say “roast beast.” It’s from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and I’ve always found the expression hilarious.

The beast in this case was that five-pound hunk of Paleo protein procured from that grocery store where couples like us should really not be shopping. (Costco). We cut it in half and froze the other 2.5 pounds, and then followed Saveur‘s sandwich issue instructions for DIY roast beef: season the tied roast with salt and pepper, sear in a cast-iron skillet until the edges are browned, and then bake at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for three and a half hours. Take the temperature to make sure the interior reaches 130 degrees, cool, slice, and you’re done!

By slow-cooking the meat at such a low temperature, you retain that nice even pink color. Who wants brown-grey roast beast? Not this Who. Mark reported that it’s not really thinly-cut enough for a good sandwich, which makes it even more Paleo-friendly than it already was.

Tonight, post “Andrew” yoga, I had 100 grams of this served with sauteed spinach and some of Mark Bittman’s Spiced Melon Balls? (For this simple summer appetizer, simply mix the balls from a whole cantaloupe plus one whole honeydew with the juice of half a lime, ½ tsp. salt, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. cayenne, and 1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro.)

5 Lessons from Today:

1. Don’t add coconut oil to a smoothie with frozen ingredients in it. It will turn to a grimy, greasy slop.

2 .If you’re going to eat roast beast often, invest in an electric meat slicer or marry a butcher.

3. When you go Paleo, it won’t be long before your co-workers start calling you a cavewoman.

4. Roasted seaweed, nuts, or hemp seeds work well when you’re craving popcorn or pretzels.

5. Choose your cheats wisely: I haven’t “caved” (ha ha) often, but tonight am giving in to Stone’s BELGO Anise Imperial Russian Stout while I watch the season premier of Weeds. Hey, it’s not easy being a cavewoman.

a paleo weekend

First of all, I MADE IT A WHOLE WEEK! Woot woot! (Or maybe that should be “grunt grunt,” given that this is a Stone Age diet and all.)

So apparently I won’t have to take on my Paleo experiment alone. I’ve dragged my husband into it with me. Well, not exactly, but he’s pretty content meeting his grain and dairy intake in the mornings with a bowl of cereal, but after that, it’s been fairly easy to convince him that slabs of flesh and piles of spinach can constitute good eats.

He arrived home Friday afternoon, and after a day of refueling with yams, I was excited to head to the grocery store and pick out some nice red meat. Performing his caveman-like duties, Mark seared the meat in the cast iron skillet while I sauteed some zucchini and cherry tomatoes for a side.

I already talked about Saturday’s delicious mussels, so I’ll move on to yesterday’s meal. After my 10-mile run (with no GI problems to report!), we headed to the Leucadia Farmer’s Market for the first time in ages. There, among the herbs and hippies, I discovered some purple-skinned yams called Japanese sweet potatoes. Even when the only starch I’m really allowed is yams, I’m a slave to variety.

As per my coach Nell’s cookbook, I sliced the large yam into 1/2-inch pieces, and tossed it with 1 Tbsp of chopped basil and 2 Tbsp of olive oil. I threw in some paprika, as well, and then broiled them on a rimmed baking sheet for about 15 minutes. I used to bake yam fries, but broiling is a much faster way of doing it and yields a crispier crust. We ate the fries with a batch of homemade “Paleo” mayo (eggs+olive oil) that turned out a little runnier than we would have liked.

With our yam fries, we had seared grass-fed steaks that were oh-so tasty. Who needs a grill? (Actually, I really want a grill.) I am embarrassed to admit that it was my first time trying grass-fed steak at home. Prior to going Paleo for a month, we didn’t really buy and cook a lot of meat, let alone pricey steak, but this month it’s all about the “why not?”

I also tried Nell’s recipe for Rappini, or Broccoli Rabe. Basically, you take a half bunch of the greens, coarsely chop them, and put them in a pan with 1-inch of water. You then steam them for 5 minutes, drain off the water, and mix them up with the juice of half a lemon, one Tbsp of olive/walnut/flaxseed oil mixed with fresh basil, and a handful of chopped sundried tomatoes and raisins. It was a very nice accompaniment to the full-flavored steak and the starchy yams.

In other news, I managed to resist all the samples at Costco, as well as the peanut butter filled pretzels that our friends brought to the beach. I think this “diet” is turning out to be more of a mental exercise than a physical one. I’m continually surprised by my own willpower. I’m usually the type of person who can put away two baskets of tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant before the food is even delivered. Over the past week, I’ve had to learn to just not want things. It really is amazing how if you put your mind to it, you can overcome things that used to be daily pleasures.

One pleasure I won’t give up, however, is wine. And last night I cheated a little more (in the name of celebrating one week) by adding a Pink Lady to the mix — which could very well be my new favorite summer drink. And while I’m not really allowed tonic water (sugar sugar!), if I’m allowed energy gels on bike rides, I can justify one or two of these little evening indulgences every once in awhile.

Right Nell? (wink wink)

Pink Lady

2 oz gin

tonic water (Whole Foods’ 365 brand sweetens theirs with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup)

Angostura bitters, to taste

Fill a rocks glass with ice. Add gin, tonic water, and 6-8 shakes of bitters. Enjoy!

the great popcorn resistance

Still going strong on with my Paleo Experiment here. On Friday, Day Five, I headed down to La Jolla Cove at 6:30 am to meet up with some Tri Club friend for a swim. I usually only swim there in the evenings, so the clear morning conditions were a real treat. I saw two sting rays swim by underneath me (rather eerily), and a school of silvery fish not swimming per se, but sorta just hanging out.

We all headed to the Pannikin in La Jolla afterwards, where I managed to resist the fresh muffins and scones sitting on our table. Their coffee was better than it is at the one near our house, so that was another treat. Everyone else headed off to work, but I was taking the day off to pick Mark up from the airport, so I headed back down to the water to go for a run. Nell had me doing hills on the treadmill, but I opted for the real thing instead.

After my run I ate mashed-up yam in my car. Tasted a bit like baby food (gotta work on that!), but otherwise it nailed my carb craving pretty well. I’ll be eating lots of yams, so I’d better get used to it.

It’s great to have Mark back, not only for obvious reasons, but to help me eat though the massive boxes of grapes and cherry tomatoes (Costco!) I’ve been eating since Monday. Having him here will help me be able to mix things up a bit. Friday night we bought some steak, and yesterday, before heading out to one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen, we got some mussels from the little market by our house. I steamed them with onion, garlic, and white wine, and served a perfectly ripe avocado alongside. (Not to mention finishing off those “tomatoes of the week,” too!)

Possibly the biggest miracle so far is resisting popcorn. Thankfully, movie theater popcorn is gross anyway, but I usually make mine at home and smuggle it in. This time, the only smuggling was of the fruit and trail-mix variety.

I still feel energetic, despite a bonking a little on my 2.5 hour ride Saturday–but that could’ve been my strong riding partner, not my lack of dairy and grains! My muscles have felt a little more tired-out than usual, but also, that’s not necessarily from the way I’m eating. I’m sleeping soundly, my mood is cheery, and I’m feeling good.

This morning I’ll tackle my first run of any significant distance on this diet (10 miles), and tomorrow it’s onto Week Two!

egg yolks by another name

Day Four’s in the bag. To be honest, I’ve only craved dairy a few times, and grains not once. Some of the transition issues, which shall remain nameless, have dissipated. I still have a bit of a dry mouth, despite drinking lots of water.

And I’ve learned a few things, too. For one, the yolks from hard-boiled eggs, whisked into olive oil and lemon juice (vinegar, sadly, is not allowed) make a great excuse for a “creamy” salad. I was supposed to have bison and greens tonight, but I had a few things that needed to be used kicking around, so whipped up this uber-colorful salad. Romaine, spinach, grapefruit, peppers, a boiled egg, shredded chicken, red onions, Craisins, and my new favorite dressing–which you’ll see on the second picture. It was so big I didn’t have a plate large enough.

Another thing about this new way of eating: you appreciate variety and “treats” a whole lot more. I will be glad when my massive Costco bag of spinach is gone and I can try some Swiss chard. Crunchy cravings are satisfied by almonds and carrots. A small glass of wine (technically a cheat item but OK’d by my coach for special occasions, which I deemed Day Three and Four of my experiment. Uh, oops?

I have a TON of energy. Almost jittery energy, which I’m not sure is good or bad. On my mid-day bike ride today, I was pretty hyped-up, but I’m not sure if this is because of increased coffee consumption or the merits of Paleo eating. I find I am craving more than the usual one cup a day of coffee. This could be because of the lack of simple carbs, or the fact that our office now has a proper coffee maker.

I know, I know. Four pictures of a salad? I finally dragged out the good camera for this one, straying from the usual dim light and shaky hand iPhone photos. A woman will do crazy things when deprived of popcorn, Chobani, and her husband (for the past month, too!)

Another thing I’ve learned is that gimmicks are sometimes cool. Like these produce bags from my mother-in-law. They actually work! My cilantro and romaine have stayed crisp longer than I care to publicly admit. As for that family-of-eight sized bag of spinach from Costco? Maybe I don’t want that to stick around forever (though it is fantastic wilted in coconut oil. Paleo for a month will teach you some crazy things!) Off to bed. I bumped the early-morning swim I planned for today to tomorrow, so it’s up and at ’em at 5:30.

But first, one last sip of red wine.

greenery, baby

As you may have read by now, from June 20 (Monday) until July 20, I’m turning freshcrackedpepper into a journal of my Paleo eating experiment. If you want to learn more about the thinking behind this approach to food, check out my coach Nell’s blog, or The Paleo (It also goes by other names, like Primal, Stone Age, Caveman, etc.) I’m trying it to see how I feel sans grains, gluten, and dairy.

Today was Day Three. My co-workers seem to be the ones bearing the brunt of my strange new ways. This morning, one of them went to heat a beverage up in the microwave, and voila! there was my breakfast, waiting for me to come back and get it. It was leftover dinner from last night: spinach, chunks of cooked salmon, and halved cherry tomatoes sauteed in coconut oil. Let’s just say he didn’t have the most positive things to say about it!

lunch: stewed "salsa" chicken over spinach and romaine, cherries, kombucha

I slipped a little today, not in terms of what I ate, but in not weighing portions exactly or eating the specific things Nell prescribed. She said substituting is OK, however. Her plan is just a guideline, and as long as my creativity falls within the Paleo confines, it’s all good. Chicken or salmon. Mango or melon.

The marine layer, or “June gloom” stuck around all day today, instead of “burning off” (the cool thing to say if you live by an ocean). Consequently, I felt a little gloomy myself. Came home, entertained the cat, patched some bicycle tubes, and texted a friend to see if she wanted to go walking on the beach. She was heading out for dinner with her husband and some friends I happen to know, so invited me along.

My first meal out on Paleo. Yikes! Would they think I was crazy? Would I have to answer a million questions? When I found out we were going to a place called the Greenery Raw Cafe in Leucadia (where we used to live and which I’ve been wanting to try for months), I was relieved. And I was right: There wasn’t any meat, unfortunately, but almost everything else was A-OK. (Or maybe that’s P-OK).

the curry

I scarfed down some turkey breast before leaving, just in case. When it came to mealtime, I got to try the Creamy Spinach Salad, whose “cream” is blended pine nuts and garlic. It was surprisingly good! I ordered the Vegetable Curry (above–it was dark in there, hence the awful iPhone photos!) It featured broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and avocado in a creamy curry sauce made of macadamia and pines nuts. Mmmm!

I also got to try the Spaghetti and Veggie-Walnut “Meat”balls, which were served over noodles made entirely of zucchini, and marinara sauce. And, their Pad Thai. I was impressed at how well they preserved the flavors of the “original” meals, or how you’d expect them to taste at a “normal” restaurant. So vibrant-tasting, though, and great for summer, as they’re all served room-temperature or cold.

spaghetti and "meat"balls

My only stumble was the burger, which I only had a few small bites of. I checked the menu and oops–sprouted buckwheat! I didn’t feel too badly, however, as I’ve been 100 percent successful thus far. My analytical friends went on to discuss what grains and vegetables would’ve actually been around before agriculture, and what it would be like to really have to hunt and gather for our food. There was talk of urban chicken-keeping and wild potatoes and whether the cavemen had spices like curry.

Probably not. But this is the “modern” take on Paleolithic eating, not an exact replica. If that was the case, I’d have withered up by now. Off to bed–I’ve got an early swim and then a potential Triathlon Club Aquathon race, if I have a productive enough day.

the buckwheat culprit!

why does your office smell like fish?

Um, because that’s all I’m eating? No, not really. But I guess if I do want my co-workers to come and chat with me every once in awhile, I should wash my plate pronto. Oops.

Two days down. I know, I shouldn’t be counting yet, but I can’t help but feel that two days is a marker of sorts. One day, anyone can do. It’s a flash in the pan. Heck, people fast for full days (and even longer). Maybe by the time I’ve done a full week I’ll have a different perspective, but as I near the end of my second full day eating Paleo, I can honestly say, it’s not that bad.

No, I’m not at the THIS IS THE MOST AMAZING THIS EVER! stage. I imagine that will come eventually, given the comments already left on my first Paleo post. (What gives? I go on a blogging hiatus and then crack out an entry on eating Paleo and suddenly readers come out of the woodwork? Fine by me!) Nope, I’m still at the humble “I can do this for a month,” stage.

My first Paleo breakfast--sorry for the blur, it looked fine on my phone!

I’ll be candid here: this way of eating is a ton of work. I spent the better part of Sunday night preparing my fridge, and after a 6 am Masters swim Monday morning, spent at least an hour preparing my breakfast, and snacks and lunch for the day. But I don’t think the time element is unique to Paleo. If I was getting meal plans from any coach, it would involve extra time. I actually welcome this change in my life. Before this experiment, I was too haphazard about eating, and would often just grab a can of sardines and a banana and call that “lunch.” I think this project will teach me, at the very least, how important it is to set aside time each evening to plan out your next days’ sustenance. Especially if you’re an on-the-go triathlete who doesn’t like to spend a lot of money buying lunches or eating out.

So, Monday. Poach salmon while I unpack my swimming stuff and check my email. Steam kale on a steamer above the poaching water. Chop up tomatoes, sprinkle with flaxseed and olive oil. Voila! Sure was a lot more colorful than my usual toast or oatmeal. Then I grilled some chicken. 75 grams for morning snack (with red grapes and walnuts), half a breast for lunch (with spinach and more grapes, flaxseed and walnut oil), and 100 grams more for afternoon snack (with avocado and carrots). Dang, that’s a lot of chicken.

The only non-Paleo foods I'm allowed

I’ve learned already that I’m going to end up improvising and substituting a little here and there. Grapes, because I bought a huge box at Costco, instead of the prescribed cherries or apple. Kale, because I have it, rather than chard. There’s only so many different fruits and greens a girl can keep in her house before going bad. (It’ll be easier when Mark gets back and can help me eat all this stuff.) I’m also going to end up adding a lot more spices, onions, and garlic than my coach has in the prep. I know she’ll be OK with this, given the recipes in her awesome cookbook. I figure that for now, she’s kept it pretty simple so as to not overwhelm me. It’s enough having to weigh out pieces of fish and handfuls of nuts, and measure spinach. I’m sure that after a few days, I’ll get better at “eyeballing” things and listening to my body when it’s asking for more.

Day One brought with it a mild headache and some gas. But when you’re on a brand-new diet, it’s hard to tell if those would’ve happened anyway, or if they’re an effect of the foods you’re eating. Maybe my body just has to adjust to all the new fiber and protein I’m throwing its way. By Day Two, both ailments had subsided, but I had a few weird pains in my gut. Again, here’s to honesty!

I had my first pre-workout smoothie this morning, which involves almond butter, banana, water, and egg white powder. Not as good as my usual fruit-and-kefir concoction, but manageable. I couldn’t get the “gel per 25 minutes of activity” prescribed down, however, so fueled my two-hour ride on one and then scarfed down some extra post-ride figs. Unfortunately Mark wasn’t here to soak them in espresso for me.

That’s all for now, folks. Off I go to mix up some egg white powder and banana to fuel my 6 o’clock track workout. Maybe I’ll add some cinnamon and raisins just for fun. Then it’s home to more fish. And kale. And whatever other nuts and fruit I feel like throwing into the mix.