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The NOURISHED SOUL
16Mar2012

Eat Like A Caveman: An Interview With A Paleo Convert

The Paleolithic Diet or Lifestyle is getting a lot of buzz lately. It’s also commonly referred to as the Caveman diet. This is because the diet mimics that of early humans. Essentially, you consume nothing but meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You remove all dairy, all grains and all refined sugar. Sound restrictive?

Well, it kind of is. Until you get creative.

I’ve been circling this diet for more than 4 years. I’ve continued to eat limited amounts of dairy and bits of sugar. I thought that was pretty good. I thought that as long as I mostly ate well, than I was doing pretty well.

2 weeks ago, I went completely Paleo. I was feeling spent. Knowing how much diet can affect literally every aspect of our lives, I decided to completely eliminate the remaining dairy and refined sugar. Within 4 days, my energy had tripled. I was sleeping well again. My headaches went away. My dry skin cleared up. My mood boosted, considerably.

Last night, I tried a little experiment. I went to Chapters and while I was there, I got a hot chocolate. I love hot chocolate. I used to have a very close relationship with hot chocolate. I confirmed that hot chocolate did not feel the same way about me as I did about it. Within 5 minutes of drinking my beloved drink, my hands swelled up and my energy plummeted. I literally had to put down my books and my drink, leave the store and go home to bed.

North Americans have put convenience above health. We’re just so important and busy, after all. And yet if we spent as much time preparing wholesome, great tasting foods for ourselves, as we did at work or some other very important task, the health of our population would look vastly different.

I decided to interview one of my closest friends who has recently and radically changed her diet from the standard North American, processed diet to a Paleolithic Diet. Michelle is honest and straighforward and quite simply, very funny. When we had one of our marathon phone chats a couple of weeks ago, she told me that she’d gone Paleo. I was fascinated. After all, growing up with Michelle, one of the things I distinctly remember, was her LOVE of all things SUGAR!!!

Can you describe your diet before you went Paleo?

Before Paleo I was a dairy extremist! Milk with every meal and cheese in every way possible. I truly saw milk as a healthy choice and cheese as an important staple in my diet. Not to mention my lust for ice cream and all things chocolate. I consumed cookies and snack foods by the box while occasionally intermingling some broccoli or a green salad loaded with dressing. The most disturbing thing is that my diet was one of “convenience.” Processed, easy to heat and serve. As a mom of boys aged 9 and 11 I had very little time to even consider what was going in my body. I just had to eat and go.

What made you decide to change the way that you were eating?

My girlfriend and neighbour Sarah sat on my porch one evening “sipping” on our Corona’s telling me about the girl’s weekend she just returned from where all of her high school friends were living this Paleo lifestyle. She enchanted me with tales of lean thighs and no spare tires… legs with muscles that flexed when you walked and that it was easy… stop eating crap. Eat like our ancestors and you will drop unwanted pounds and actually feel good… and sleep better. SLEEP… wow, I haven’t slept since I was pregnant with my first child 12 years ago.

I had been trying to cut down on eating after dinner and not gorging on Nachos and cheese after 10pm as I was feeling my midsection was starting to “muffin top” and I was generally feeling sluggish. Now in my late 30’s , I was starting to experience changes in my body directly related to what I ate and was watching friends around me develop ailments that I thought would never happen to “us.” Ultimately, I was ready to take control of my body without even being aware I needed to.

Out of all the “diets” on the market, why did you choose to start eating in this way?

It just made sense. Sarah dropped off Rob Wolff’s book to me the next day and I started leafing through it. This was the ideal lifestyle for me. I love meat. I could never go vegan. I could however eat eggs and meat while loading up on veggies, nuts and fruit. Another big sell was that peanuts are really the only nuts not allowed, so with a son who has a peanut allergy, this fit with my kitchen. Since I had a partner in crime living right next door we could support each other and we did weigh ins for a couple of weeks where we instantly saw a difference of 4 pounds every week (without working out!)

Was it a difficult transition for you?

I wouldn’t say it was difficult because I was focused and being a competitive person, I didn’t want to give up. I went hard core. No cheat days. No weakness. Be a strong woman …the chocolate and cheese cravings passed. Since I saw instant results in my weight and body contouring I wanted to keep up the effort. I didn’t experience a lot of the headaches like some people do when eliminating refined sugar, in fact my morning headaches disappeared… and I was sleeping! I got excited about committing to something just for me. Something I could control and reap benefits from. The most difficult part was listening to the comments from family and friends regarding my personal dietary choices… “you’re so skinny, why are you on a diet?” “oh, don’t put that on her plate… it’s not PALEO!” Whatever!

Food preparation does take more time and effort. But in the long run, I am more organized at meal planning and the cost of organic etc. is a wash once you cancel out the fast foods and processed foods that used to litter my freezer.

Can you describe how you felt, generally speaking before you changed your diet to a Paleolithic way of eating?

I felt very tired in the afternoons. I didn’t sleep well at night… couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep. I suffered from eczema. I was skinny, but not in a way that was healthy. I didn’t feel I was at my true weight. I was almost embarrassed to be “skinny fat.”

Can you describe what changes you’ve gone through, and how you feel since adopting a Paleo Diet?

First of all I feel proud of myself for accomplishing the goal of healthier eating. I have dropped 15 unnecessary pounds and am much leaner and muscular that before. I stared running as exercise and found it was a great fit with my diet and mental wellbeing. Diet and exercise… heard that somewhere before… maybe during a commercial while I shoved nachos and coke down my pie hole! Since I have so much more energy, I sleep well and feel more confident. I feel healthy both mentally and physically. Now I actually crave veggies and fruit. I have become an accomplished cook and can whip up fantastic nut flour based pies and appetizers like nobody’s business.

Are your husband and kids eating Paleo as well?

I would have to say that the entire family is eating more healthy, but the kids are still on dairy, although Riley has taken nicely to almond milk. He never really liked milk to begin with. I have strict “treat rules” for cookies and ice cream which they’re following. My husband went Paleo with me in the beginning but was never hard core as he likes his cheats of beer and granola. (Not to say I don’t enjoy my wine now and then.) However, I am the only one presently “practicing” the paleo lifestyle.

As an aside, my mother went Paleo for 2 weeks while living with me at the cottage and lost 10 pounds and was very proud of herself!) She has since gained it back cruising all winter with my dad.

What would you tell others if they were considering making the switch from the common North American diet to a Paleo Diet?

I like to tell people about my paleo diet only if they ask or if I see an opening in their present diet that isn’t working for them. I am not a preacher. (Vegetarianism works wonders for some people.) We are all such spectacularly diverse people, what works and enhances my life is not necessarily what will be fitting for another. My best advice is to educate yourself about the Paleolithic Lifestyle and about your own body.

There are agencies out there profiting from the gluten they shove down our throats… and the addiction we have to sugar…there is not one single reason why we as humans should consume an ounce of processed food.

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