Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Bad Attitude about Paleo

Weightlifting Last Night:

Romanian deadlifts: 65, 85, 105, 95# (sets of 3, then 2)
Bent-over rows: 55# (sets of 5)

I also added a page to my performance log to keep track of what I'm doing in weightlifting workouts. The idea is to work towards some goal weights and be able to look back over what I've been doing to make sure I'm going heavier, making progress towards those goals.

Today's WOD:

21-15-9 reps for time of:
Push jerks 70#
Goblet squats 16kg

My time: 13:00, at 82% of prescribed weight. In trying to think of something positive to say about this workout, the only thing I can come up with is that 70# is the heaviest push jerk I've done in a WOD, up from 65#. But it really sucked. I was a good 5 minutes behind everyone else in the class. And it was a big class. I wish I could get over that. But I also wish I could get better, I wish I could push myself harder.

The Paleo Diet and My Bad Attitude

So yesterday I caught myself complaining to anyone who would listen about the Paleo diet. At the gym, at work, poor Mike, even snarky comments on my food log. And I realized that despite putting a lot of effort into this nutrition challenge and taking it seriously, I have a very bad attitude about it. Last night I was searching for blogs about paleo eating, and they have such a positive approach, such a sense of adventure about it. It's not a chore or a collection of sacrifices for those writers, it's about eating real food that's good for you.

So this raises several questions for me. 1) Why do I have a bad attitude about Paleo? 2) If I dislike it so much, why am I still doing it? 3) Why did I do it in the first place? 4) Is there some way to improve my attitude and really give Paleo a fair shot? 5) If I can't embrace it fully, what can I take from it to best improve my health?

First, why do I have a bad attitude about Paleo? I think there are a couple of reasons. I really am an omnivore. I love food, I love eating, and a great meal to me is one where I can have a bite of 20 different things. I very quickly get bored of eating the same thing - I'm not that person who can pack the same lunch every day or eat the same breakfast. I think you can still get a good variety with Paleo, but when you cut down your food options, you are starting from a smaller pool of potential foods, and it takes time and creativity to find new and interesting things to eat. Because of this, I felt like I was sacrificing the variety I craved and I felt very bored. In addition, I had a very hard time adjusting to this way of eating. I was already eating Zone, but completely cutting out starches and dairy took away most of my calorie-dense foods for the day, and I just couldn't seem to eat enough to have energy. I spent a week feeling woozy and nauseous, and another week feeling just a little bit better. This was not the introduction I had hoped for - I figured I'd be making sacrifices but feeling good in return. Now after three weeks, I'm feeling a lot better - I think I've adjusted - but two weeks of feeling yucky did not put me in a place to like Paleo. One more thing - I cut down on and then completely gave up coffee. Any coffee addict knows that this is painful and doesn't put you in the most positive frame of mind.

My next question is: given all this, why am I still doing it? And a related question - why did I decide to do it in the first place? Well, I have to admit that it's partly my desire to participate in anything that's going on at the gym. I hate to feel left out, and a lot of people were doing this, and it appealed to me to be part of that larger effort. I'm also an experimentalist, and it seemed like an interesting experiment. People claim Paleo gets results (leaning, improved performance), and I wanted to see if I could get those results. And deep down, there is a lot about the Paleo diet that appeals to me, that is just common sense. I like the idea of eating meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts. Those are real, wholesome foods with lots of nutrition. I like the idea of restricting starches and sugars, because eating them just makes me hungry for more. Paleo keeps you away from processed foods - it's a very pure diet that eschews many of our modern dietary pitfalls - fast food, preservatives, corn syrup, artificial flavors, franken-soy-creations. With Paleo, you know what you're eating, you know what it came from.

So yes, there are good reasons to do this, and I want to keep going until the end of the challenge. Given that I want to keep doing this, the next question is whether I can find some way to improve my attitude. Let's face it, I really need to. I can't keep complaining about it, feeling resentful, being negative. I think I need to do what I saw in some of those blogs I came across - treat it as an adventure. I need to try to introduce more variety, try some new recipes. I need to embrace the wide variety of foods that I can eat. I live in one of the richest countries in the world, and I'm lucky enough to have access to just about any food I can think of. For the remaining days of the challenge, I'm going to do my homework, put in the work to find new recipes, and make food that I'm excited to eat. And I'll also make a conscious effort to not complain, to be more positive.

Finally, the question that has been on my mind the most is how much of this I'm going to continue. I really don't think I will be able to continue with a strict Paleo diet indefinitely. I think the one thing I will definitely add back in is dairy, but in limited quantities. With Zone, I was relying too much on dairy to get my protein. If I mainly limit dairy to snacks , I will get more protein where I need it. I've been eating nuts and fruit but no protein for snacks this month, and I think that's making me hungrier and weaker than I was on Zone. I just can't eat meat other than at meals - it just doesn't appeal to me and I can't get it down. Also, I think I'd like to add back in some alcohol. A beer or two a week and the occasional glass of wine with dinner is really not that bad and it makes me happy. And I will add coffee back in, but I'm really going to try to keep from having it every day, otherwise consumption will rapidly ramp up (I know this from experience). What I will take from the Paleo diet is avoidance of sugar and starches - I want to try to continue that. I probably won't be as strict as I have been this month, but I will try to maintain it. And I will go back to Zone rules/portions to keep myself in check when I do have starches or sugars. I think these compromises will allow me to eat in a way that is healthy and sustainable.

So I know this discussion was very me-focused. I wanted to make it a more general discussion, but it just came out this way, maybe because eating is such a personal thing. I hope that there's something in what I wrote that's useful to others trying this way of eating or thinking about trying it. It really comes down to being open to try different things so that you can find what works best for you.

Here are two blogs that sparked some of these thoughts for me. Check them out, if only for the recipes!

Caveman Food
Son of Grok
and of course don't forget to check out Steve's Paleo Zone blog

1 comment:

rosanne said...

Wow, that was a long one! Though I read every bit of it. Many of your points are my thoughts exactly. Well written! I'm with you, the Zone is much easier to do and staying away from the sugar and starches I believe is KEY! As for your complaining. Feel free to vent to me at any time. Amy, you are amazing to read and watch as you continue to learn and grow with crossfit. I admire your dedication and at times wish I had your strength. What's left 1 week?