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Living in a Paleo World but am I a Paleo girl?

I started the Paleo Diet Challenge, the team challenge that I doing with the folks at CFDV, on January 4th.

I broke the news about The Challenge to The Husband on Christmas Eve while we were in Giant doing our food shopping for Christmas dinner.

“So, I guess I should tell you now… I’m doing this thing with CFDV called The Paleo Challenge. I can’t eat grain, legumes, dairy, sugar or alcohol for 7 weeks. I’ll probably be a total bitch.”

Looking at me as if I head 7 heads he said (actually, he yelled), “Why do you do these things? You’re crazy!”

It’s week 6 of The Challenge. I haven’t been bitchy (no more than usual), I haven’t lost my mind and The Husband has been extremely supportive.

Giving up grain, legumes, dairy, sugar and alcohol hasn’t been as difficult as I thought; although sometimes when I’m at the store I do find myself gazing longingly at the fancy cheese. The biggest challenge of The Challenge has been all the meal planning and food prep. I’ve long had a Sunday routine of boiling some eggs and cooking a huge pot of oatmeal for the week’s breakfasts and snacks, but Paleo takes this prep to a whole ‘nother level.

Lost is the convenience of whipping up a protein shake in the car or when I get home after a long morning of appointments. No more oversleeping and leaving the house without snacks and with the certainty that I can run into Wawa or Whole Foods and get a protein bar or bag of peanuts.

Paleo = Planning and Preparation. Preparation that begins with marathon grocery store trips. Produce Junction after Saturday’s workout. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Giant or Acme on Sunday.

Then there’s the food prep (and did I mention the planning). The Paleo diet calls for a significant consumption of protein (meat, chicken and seafood), unlimited vegetables and some fruit and nuts.

My Sunday afternoons have been reserved for vegetable prep – washing, peeling, chopping and in some instances cooking. All so I don’t have to think or have to opportunity to stray each night when I get home and it’s time to make dinner, and so I have vegetables for breakfast, lunch and snacks.

Then there’s the eggs. Since I don’t eat meat – no poultry or red meat – I’m left with eggs and fish for protein. Pre-Paleo my main sources of protein were fish, tofu and other soy products, wheat gluten and dairy. Did I mention that I hate eggs? Did I mention mercury poisoning from over consumption of fish?

Thank God for Mark’s Daily Apple and his awesome recipe for omelet muffins.

And the fish – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much fish in my life! Because of mercury concerns (the jury’s still out on whether it’s hype or fact), I’ve had to take care to select low mercury fishes – Tilapia, flounder, salmon, shrimp and sardines (fillets sans heads, tails and bones). Hopefully, I haven’t turned into a thermometer; my post-Paleo mercury blood test will tell.

So what are the results so far of the 7 week challenge? Well, according to my friend, H., my skin is clearer. Not sure what that means since I’ve always had clear skin.

In terms of body composition, I’m down 2 inches around my “true” waist (in spite of what Old Navy thinks, that’s above the belly button, not around the butt crack), 1.5 inches around my belly button and at last week’s “weigh-in” I was still down 11 pounds. I couldn’t bear to weigh myself this morning; I had my only major cheat last night with Indian food. Yum!

All in all I feel great and my jeans are fitting, if not loose. Thank you, Paleo Man!

What about when the challenge ends in two weeks?

First, I have a date with some Thin Mints and a bottle of Grey Goose. Just kidding (OK, not really).

Through The Paleo Challenge I discovered that I was definitely consuming too much sugar – a little Agave in my coffee, a little honey in my Fage, the added sugar in some of the low fat products I ate. My intake was nothing like the average American but too much for the healthy lifestyle that I advocate.

Although I’ve been a vegetarian for over 10 years my vegetable intake was no where near the levels of the Paleo Challenge. I have veggies with breakfasts (collard greens), my morning snack (leftovers from the night before or peppers and onions), lunch (usually salad greens and other assorted veggies) and dinner (Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and kale to name a few). Definitely a habit worth keeping.

I’ve also discovered that I don’t “need” my Friday night (or Saturday night or Sunday morning) cheat meal, but it did provide me with something to break of the routine. That Friday night cheat meal will definitely be reintroduced but will be much less gluttonous.

Dairy products (Fage, milk in my coffee or tea) will be the other non-Paleo habit that I’ll reintroduce. I think I’ll take the same attitude with cheese that I have with chocolate – nothing run of the mill; only select and savor the highest quality.

In terms of soy and wheat gluten, I’ll have the occasional veggie burger, soy sauce when I go out for sushi and Chinese and wheat gluten a few times a year at vegetarian restaurants.

Outside of those few, perhaps infrequent deviations, I think that I’ll remain a modified-Paleo girl; much to The Husband’s chagrin.

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