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About what I've been eating

Back in January, I began looking into my food choices. Which I had always considered fairly good, but then I made the mistake of taking some jerk's advice and actually writing down what I was eating, and I discovered that my diet consisted of good food bookended by total crap. So it would go like this: HEALTHY BREAKFAST then cookies HEALTHY LUNCH maybe more cookies or chocolate or hell why not both HEALTHY SNACK which I should probably add chocolate to HEALTHY DINNER with some wine, duh, then dessert than maybe more dessert before going to bed because let's not deprive ourselves.

I began looking into said diet because I suspected I could feel better, and also I had one of those scary doctor's appointment moments, wherein they weigh you as an afterthought and you look at the scale and you're all WHAT THE NO THAT CANNOT BE PLEASE GOD HELP.

I was already thinking about the connection between food and emotional health, anyway, because I could certainly tell that eating too much sugar had a negative effect on my mood (and yet I couldn't stop, dear God no). I had read  "The Mood Cure"  some years back, and the author made a pretty interesting case about sugar being bad and fat not being as bad as everyone said it was, but there was all this talk about supplements and then I got sleepy or something shiny distracted me for a few years.

But anyway, there I was, feeling kind of gross from my post-Christmas cookie binge, not to mention my post-cookie-binge flu, so I began to do some research about diet and its effects on mood. By "some research" I mean a ridiculous amount of reading. I read books and then I read the studies cited in the bibliographies of those books and then I read more books that those scientists wrote and then and so on. (I highly recommend Gary Taubes' "Good Calories, Bad Calories"  and "Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It" Oh! And Robb Wolff's "The Paleo Solution.")

I was convinced that I should try out the paleo/primal diet, which essentially recommends cutting out grains and sugars, and focusing on meat, fish, and vegetables. Oh, and not avoiding saturated fats because the whole idea that saturated fats are the devil is simply untrue. If you're interested in the full scoop, you can go here.  (A strict Paleo diet, I should note, also eschews dairy, but I wasn't quite ready for that in the beginning.)

Now, if you've read this blog for any length of time, you know, because I keep telling you, that I'm a sugar addict. I like sugar. A lot. But I bought a shit-ton of vegetables and meats, I depleted our supply of Christmas cookies via my mouth, and I told myself that I would try this out for one week. Just one week! And then I could have a cheat day, and then I would tough it out for another week. And so on.

But a week passed, and I realized I didn't feel like cheating. So I continued for another week. And then a month. And then another month. I actually liked eating like this, it turned out. And I didn't see any reason to stop.

Now, I wasn't Super-Paleo, which means VERY LITTLE FRUIT and NO DAIRY, and for all I know ONLY ORGAN MEATS THAT HAVE BEEN FRESHLY TORN FROM THE ABDOMINAL CAVITY, GRAARGH. But I had definitely renounced all grains, and I realized that they held no real allure for me. I didn't even want pasta. And I used to eat pasta every other day. I liked pasta, my friends.

But I felt good. I noticed that my skin improved, and my energy levels were much higher. I also, incidentally, lost a few pounds. But while I was never tempted by grains (this was reinforced for me when I had a few bites of birthday cake at one point and felt like I was being punched in the gut for the next several hours), I had definitely cheated. With chocolate. And ice cream. And yogurt slathered in maple syrup. For instance.

Then I read about this Whole30 program, which was right in line with what I've been trying to do. And because I was already 80% of the way there, I thought, what the hell. 30 days isn't all that long. 30 days of absolutely no dairy (not even milk in coffee). No sugar at all. Not even artificial sugars. Not even sugar-free gum. Oh, and no alcohol. COULD I DO IT?

I am here to tell you that I COULD, and I DID. And I had no problem with it. I felt great. I lost more weight (about 15 pounds in all). And it was during this Whole 30 Program that I managed to get off of some of the meds I had been struggling with. It was kind of fantastic.

(My only problem was what happened when, once I was done with the 30 day program, I tried out some of the foods I had renounced. Because I never intended to shun them forever and ever, amen. I still wanted to live a little. (Except I'm done with grains. Especially wheat. I don't know whether I have an intolerance, or what, but my body has sent me a clear message that wheat is not my friend.) Anyway, here's what happened in my head, every time I tried one of the foods I had been pining for, however mildly, during those 30 days:

1. Well, this isn't as good as I remember it being.
2. I should eat it anyway. Because I CAN.
3. Aaaand now I feel horrific. I am a goddamn genius.

This has so far been my experience with frozen yogurt, regular yogurt (I really like(d) yogurt), several desserts, alcohol in all its myriad forms, and cheese in all its many wondrous incarnations, including -cake. Oh, cheese! I always loved cheese. It now is just disgusting to me. I'm not trying to be smug or self-righteous when I tell you this. I am mourning the loss of cheese. It's like seeing an old boyfriend you once were desperately in love with and now all you can think of is how he smells like something that's been in the fridge too long.)

So that's the deal, and I highly recommend checking it out, if you're at all interested. But I'm not saying you're an idiot if you don't, you understand. I hesitated to even bring up this topic, because I didn't want anyone to think I was judging their food choices. I realize this is intensely personal, what you put in your face-hole. I'm not saying that you should all eat like this. I'm only telling you what works for me. I like eating this way. I feel good. And who knows? Maybe it would work for you as well.

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Reader Comments (71)

Well, I'm really thinking that I should do this. I've gained a few pounds the past couple of years from eating out too much and being generally lazy. And then I went and turned 40 this year and it does not want to come off! Which is annoying. I already gave up wheat a few years ago and feel incredibly better all around. But I know I don't eat nearly enough protein and I rely on easy to grab snack food way too much (read: cheese).

Did you download the Whole30 plan e-book Alice?

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

I have since fallen off the wagon, but I did a pretty strict 30 days of primal eating. And I felt fantastic! Before then, when I hadn't eaten, I'd be irritable, mean, crabby, moody, and felt physically ill - headachey and nauseated. But after a while, all that went away. I ate when I was hungry and there wasn't this same HULK SMASH urgency to my need to eat. For the most part I've still stayed away from a lot of the carbolicious goodness that was always my go to stuff when I'd get hungry. And I've eaten more meat than I ever have. So I'm still doing better than I was before, even if I do have my hamburger on a bun and a dish of ice cream sometimes.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterangelle321

Well, if you think I'm gonna listen to somebody who weighs what they did in HIGH SCHOOL, you've got another think coming! Now, if you'll excuse me, I will be sobbing into my cheese tray.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCincy

I recently gave up gluten in all it's myriad forms and flavors (no easy task) because of a celiac disease diagnosis.

I have never felt better in my life.

I had skin rashes and horrific near-constant yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis and horrendously crampy and bloaty and gassy stomach issues and I was terribly terribly depressed... and now I am fine.

Food is weird.

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Good for you!

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdgm

You inspired me a while back with a post on getting fit and this post is just as inspirational. Keep on keeping on and enjoy the summer! :)

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Can you a share a basic outline of what you eat daily?

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Michelle, I did follow the whole30 e-book! I recommend it highly. There are a whole bunch of recipes on there.

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Alice - thank you so much for sharing your Whole30 experience with us! We're thrilled that you had such great success with the program, and would love to use some of your comments as a testimonial in our "Whole30 A-Z" post. Would you kindly email me directly to discuss?

Thanks again - and well done!

Melissa Hartwig
owner/founder, Whole9

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa & Dallas

For those of you needing to understand why grains are bad, my best recommendation is to read Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution. Yes, it's geeky and delves deep into the chemical reactions our bodies have when we try to digest grains and glutens and the bad stuff...but once I read it, I understood better why I was having the reactions I was having when eating these things that continue to be touted as "healthy".

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ

Laughed out loud at this:

1. Well, this isn't as good as I remember it being.
2. I should eat it anyway. Because I CAN.
3. Aaaand now I feel horrific. I am a goddamn genius.

That has been my experience over and over again as I have changed my diet and then tried to go back to the dark side. Thanks for putting (hilarious) words to it!

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAshley

I'm really happy for you and that you are feeling so great. For me, this diet wouldn't work. I'm a vegetarian already, and to take away all legumes, grains, and cheese...a life of paleo accepted vegetables would be too dismal. Also, a diet that says quinoa is nutritionally sparse, but says yes to bacon...doesn't feel quite right to me. Thanks for the post though.

July 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergirlseven

I'm happy to read this! I tried Paleo last year after breaking my arm because I thought "what the heck, I can't fix anything else, I might as well fix my diet". It's been amazing how different you feel after awhile, and even a recent trip to San Francisco where I was SURE I would want to indulge in Sourdough bread (I didn't, to my amazement) didn't tempt me off the wagon.

More than anything, my recent experience with breaking my arm (Again. Don't ask.) and how it healed very differently this time around has convinced me that what's going on inside when I'm eating Paleo is even more important than what's going on outside. So I try not to be too much of an evangelist about it, but it's tough!

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

I'm reading this and thinking "Hmm, okay, maybe I should try that..."

Then again, I'm also eating peppermints right now. Yummy yummy peppermints.

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Ann

While I'm glad you're doing so well, Alice, I'd just like to speak up for those of us who feel good, weigh 112 pounds and ate a big bowl of brown rice and spiced chickpeas for dinner.

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKP

Girlseven: "yes" to bacon would be pushing it. The Whole9 website explains in great detail why bacon is really not okay. Some Paleo people want to fool themselves into thinking it, but nah.

KP: Sure. I never claimed this was the only way. And I didn't go on this to lose weight, remember, I did it for mental health reasons. And when I was vegetarian, I was the most depressed I've ever been. But that's me.

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlice

Of course. I totally appreciated the tone of your post. I was just moved to chime in when I caught a whiff of "if you eat grains, you're poisoning yourself" in the comments.

Love your writing!

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKP

Yes, your right Alice. I did read the bacon article, and let's just say...they don't say no to bacon.
Glad you are feeling good, thanks for the feedback.

July 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergirlseven

Question: did you experience overwhelming and deep hunger at first? I have dropped gluten and dairy, and as a starting point, it was a huge turnaround (wanting an extra tool in my box to battle chronic depression is my main motivation). But I kept having periods of hunger that felt like starvation, even though I was making feeding myself a full-time job. I always hit a breaking point, and filled it with, say, grilled cheese and ice cream. Not even so delicious (ok, the ice cream was!), but I think I get "high" off the bread and cheese. Yuck. Makes me wonder if the "hunger" isn't a craving not unlike an addict would feel. I am pretty sure that I ate enough fat and protein (I did so til I felt satiated). Just curious if you felt it too and if it passed eventually. Thank you for this post!

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Delurking to say that this post is speaking directly to me!

I've been thinking that I really need to make a big change with my diet, largely for weight reasons, but also because I'm clearly caught in the sugar-addict spiral of eating and feeling like crap and eating some more.

I'm definitely going to look into Paleo, now. My husband thinks I'm nuts, but it's time for a big change.

But, in the meantime, maybe I'll have just one more bite of ice cream...

July 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGoddess in Progress

Thanks for posting this Alice! I'm just now getting serious about eliminating sugar from my diet altogether. I too am a sugar addict (my doc tells me it could be due in part to the alcoholism gene in my family, manifesting itself into a sugar addiction for me. Nice, huh?). I'm happiest when I eat oreos for every meal, and then chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Something's got to change ... so I appreciate the info on Paleo and will definitely check it out.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary Kay

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