June 2014 Update
As I go back through and read this post from six months ago, I laugh a little bit. I am such a yo-yo dieter, and I change my eating habits ALL THE TIME. Ask my husband, my best friends, my parents and my in-laws. I’m sure they’ll tell you how obnoxious it is. Are you a vegetarian this Thanksgiving.. or no? However annoying I am… they always try to accommodate my dietary needs, which is why I love them all.
Alex and I followed the lifestyle in the original post below for a sold few months, maybe six? eight? I so believed in it, and to be truly honest, I did lose a few pounds, and I did feel better.
That being said, meat is expensive. Meat and animal products are also highly correlated with numerous health problems. The Paleo lifestyle doesn’t allow you to eat beans or rice, which are staples in most gluten-free diets. Restrictions on those things don’t make sense to me now.
I re-read the Engine 2 Diet while I was visiting home a few weeks ago, and it renewed my interest in a (mostly) meat-free diet. Most of the rules below still apply, but the biggest changes come to numbers 2 & 5. We eat canned beans and legumes regularly. Beans make us a little bit gassy still, but as our bodies get used to eating them, this will eventually settle down. We also eat brown rice and/or quinoa at least three times a week. Also, I love all kinds of fruits… and berries are expensive. I always have apples and bananas on hand, and recently have fallen in love with mangoes, peaches and pears. Blueberries and strawberries are in season, so I’ve been filling up on those, too. Fruit is loaded with fiber and all sorts of good stuff… why would you cut that out?
Another major change is that meat is no longer a “staple” in our meals. If we have meat, it is generally chicken, and we usually split a breast so that we’re eating less than the “recommended serving size.” We rarely eat fish or seafood, but if we do, it’s normally shrimp. If I have to choose between red and white meat, we generally choose white.
Does this mean I won’t eat a steak or have meat if we go to a restaurant and I want some? No. It just means that I try to keep it to a minimum.
I’ve noticed that I almost instantly feel thinner and less bloated when I mostly cut meat out of my diet, and for someone who’s spent her whole life feeling bloated and gassy… that’s a huge deal.
It might not work for everyone, but it works for us, for now (ask me again in six months… ha!). With our bodies constantly changing and adapting, it’s no wonder that some foods might work better for our bodies at certain times. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve yo-yo dieted and lifestyled my way to where I am today, because I’ve learned a heck of a lot about my body while doing it!
I feel like I need to explain our (my husband, Alex, and I) lifestyle so that you can understand why I write what I do, what I believe in, and why a lot of my recipes will be similarly themed, or won’t have certain things in them.
Remember – I am not a doctor. I am about to share our lifestyle with you to disseminate knowledge and what has worked for me, so that maybe it can help you, too. The lifestyle that Alex and I follow has not been reviewed by any medical professional, and just happens to be what works for us. If you are thinking about changing your diet or lifestyle, I encourage you to always consult a doctor before doing so.
A little bit of background:
I’ve tried so many diets, you guys. Like, so many. You name it, I tried it. This is partially because I feel like I always have that last 10 pounds to lose, partially because I was a dancer for 15 years, and partially because our society breeds insecurity and the idea that we can never be skinny or pretty or perfect enough (but that is a completely different topic for a different time). There are only a few things I’ve tried that I actually trust and believe in, and they aren’t diets – they are lifestyles. Gluten free is one of them – Paleo (ish) is another, and they can truly go hand in hand if you want them to.
Alex and I tried Crossfit a couple of years ago because it was a total fad and we needed a kickstart to our exercise routine in the New Year (as usual). Not only is Crossfit expensive as hell, but as a former personal trainer, I think some Crossfit techniques can be dangerous and potentially lead to injury – but that is my own personal opinion.
Needless to say we quit the whole Crossfit thing after a couple of months, but one thing we took away from it was the idea of the Paleo diet – or the “Caveman” diet. The idea that we should only eat unprocessed, whole, organic foods that our caveman ancestors ate because, theoretically, that’s what our bodies have evolved to thrive on.
Whatever. It’s just another diet fad, right? Jump right up on that bandwagon.
We gave it a shot for a few months – but actually gained weight. Why, you ask? Because the main food groups to eat on this diet are meats/proteins, fat, and vegetables. Well, we weren’t doing such a good job of balancing our vegetables with our meats, and so we would have half a plate full of meat and just a spoonful of veggies. No bueno, guys.
When we moved to the South we decided to try Paleo again. Not only had we been eating a ton of fast and processed food during the move, but we had a fresh start with an empty pantry, and decided to give it a go. This time, we ate a whole lot more veggies, and a whole lot less meat – and we felt amazing. I attribute this not only to the fact that the food we were eating wasn’t as processed, but also because we were eating way more vegetables and subsequently, vitamins and fiber. We both lost a few extra pounds (not a ton, maybe 5-8 each), and just felt better all-around – which is really what we were looking for.
Great story, right?
The point of that little tale is to let you know that, after my many years of yo-yo dieting and digestive issues, and Alex’s years of shoving chipotle burritos and canned corned beef hash down his throat, we finally found something that works for us (yay!) – and it just so happens to be a majorly tweaked, but Paleo-inspired lifestyle (you can also look up the Primal Blueprint lifestyle, which is similar, but also focuses on a healthy mind, which is super important).
Here are the general rules we follow, and we don’t always follow them perfectly (they may be similar, but they are not the rules for the Paleo or Primal lifestyles):
1. Eat minimal amounts of “processed” foods. This means foods that come from a box, package or a can. We eat more of this than we would like.
The reason I have the word “Processed” in quotes is because what this really means for us is that a vast majority of our meals are made at home, and don’t come from a restaurant or fast food joint. We do eat canned vegetables and beans, especially if we make soups. We do eat food that comes from cans and boxes and packages (mainly, cheese and processed lunchmeat, which I know is terrible) – just not very often. We aren’t perfect – but it is our goal to live a realistic (and affordable) lifestyle – while staying healthy. Eventually, I’d love to eliminate all of these processed foods – but I don’t know if or when that will actually happen. In the mean time, we try as best we can to keep these super-processed foods to a minimum, and buy fresh as often as possible.
2. Stay away from grains (and GLUTEN!) as much as possible. This includes rice.
3. Keep dairy to a minimum (i.e., don’t make it a staple in all of your meals). We will use small amounts of cheese to help flavor things, but we don’t use much. We use almond milk in place of regular milk, and half and half in our coffee in the morning. Sometimes we have yogurt or cottage cheese, but not often. I also eat more dairy than I’d like – but this is a process. I have a mild sensitivity to lactose – so if I eat too much, I’ll know it.
4. Stay away from sugars that don’t occur naturally in food. This means no extra sugar in your coffee or cereal. Also means no baked goods, generally.
5. If you want to eat fruit, stick to berries. They have less sugar and more vitamins/antioxidants than other fruits. unfortunately, my favorite fruits are apples and bananas – so we keep these on hand fairly regularly. Even though they have lots of sugar, they are much, much better than snacking on something processed. I usually have them as snacks between meals.
6. Stay away from alcohol (HAHA, just kidding! We don’t do this, although I don’t drink beer too much anymore cause of the whole gluten thing, and I just hate sorghum beer).
7. Eat things with full fat, and use oils to cook. Fat free is a total gimmick. Your body needs fat to function (just like you can’t go completely carb free, since your body needs that to function, too). Fat free (just like sugar free) means that they’ve added something else (usually chemicals or completely synthetic compounds) to replace the flavor in the food you’re eating. Either you eat the full fat, or you eat chemicals, or if it doesn’t have added chemicals, you eat something that tastes like shit because all of the flavor has been stripped out. You decide.
8. Drink a TON OF WATER. No really, like a ton. Once you think you’ve drank enough and peed more than a racehorse… drink more. It flushes toxins, helps the digestive system work, and prevents bloating.
9. We also try to exercise at least 3 times per week – but with activities like kickboxing, yoga and bike riding to make it more fun (because let’s face it I absolutely HATE the treadmill, and trying to get me to exercise when I don’t want to is a likely way to die).
Here are the three reasons why I’ve just shared this with you:
1. The “Paleo” lifestyle is inherently gluten free because of it’s aversion to processed foods. If you’re looking for a place to start changing your diet, or just a way to feel better in general, the Paleo/Primal lifestyle (or a tweaked version) may be a good place to start. A plant-based diet is also a great way to start – but for most of us, cutting out all animal products isn’t an option, or we just don’t want to. Always check with your doctor before you make serious dietary changes.
2. It took me a really long time to find a lifestyle that worked for me and made me feel good. In today’s society with all of the processed and fast food we eat, and the gigantic portions we are served, I look at the pathway to a healthy lifestyle like a long and winding road, with detours and dead ends along the way. If what I found works for me can also work for you, make you feel better and save you some time on that road – then I absolutely want to share it with you. I encourage you to change things up to work for you and your own lifestyle (maybe I’ll post about this, later).
You don’t ever have to follow a diet or exercise plan to a T (unless your doctor says so, of course). You have to make it work for you. Why, you ask? Well, if you push yourself too hard, odds are you’ll jump off the bandwagon the second you get a chance, and you’ll make zero progress. If you don’t push hard enough, you won’t see results or feel any different. It’s about working to find a balance between what you can do, are willing to do and need to do to make changes in your life. This can be applied to anything – from weight loss to your career to gluten free living. Alex and I don’t always follow the guidelines I’ve just outlined for you, but we try and we persist – and that’s the point.
3. That being said, gluten free living is NOT about weight loss. If all you care about is jumping on the “gluten free” wagon because you think it’s going to help you lose weight or it’s the latest trend, you can turn around and hop off right now. You can still eat cookies and cake and pasta and bread and all of the things that will make you gain weight on a gluten free diet.
Hang on, though – don’t run away just yet! If you have digestive problems and can’t pinpoint them – trying a GF diet may be a good idea, and yes, you might lose weight – but it will mostly be from the extra gas and bloat that you’ve been hanging onto since who knows when. Double-win, though – cause you might lose a couple extra pounds AND you’re likely gonna feel a hell of a lot better.
Now that I’ve shared all of this with you, I guess it’s just a long, roundabout way of saying that since we try not to eat a lot of processed foods, many of my recipes will not contain flour (of any kind), and they are also not likely to be desserts or sweet treats (sorry!). They will mostly be healthy and GF breakfast or dinner recipes – many of which can also be considered “Paleo”.
Sometimes I still get cravings for baked goods, though – and I will definitely share my gluten free dessert escapades with you when they happen!