Friday, June 29, 2012

Eating Is a Pain in the Ass

Title says it all really, but let me expand a little. Cooking sucks and takes too much time, grocery shopping is a chore, trying to eat healthy is tiresome and boring, eating out is expensive,  etc. etc. If I had the option, I would take a pill everyday that satisfies my hunger and meets all my nutritional needs.  Having to eat is a real drag.

So what has led me to this rant? A little over a month ago I was thinking about my diet and how about 80-90% of my daily caloric intake comes from grains, legumes and sugars. Pretty much a lot of carbs. This was due in large part to the fact that I had been vegan/vegetarian for around 12 years, and I had become accustomed to eating a lot of grains and soy based veggie products. So I decided to basically do a 180 with my diet. I decided to go on the Paleo diet for 5 weeks. For those unfamiliar, Paleo diet is a diet loosely based on what our Paleolithic ancestors ate. Pretty much a lot of vegetables, fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds, and meat. No dairy, grains, legumes, sugars, or highly processed foods.
I wasn't really trying to lose weight with this diet, even though a lot of people do, but I wanted to see how my body would respond to a much lower carb intake (coming mostly from fuits & veggies) and also improve my daily incorporation of vegetables into every meal. This diet would also require meat consumption levels that I probably hadn't seen since I became a vegan/straightedge/hardcore warrior at age 16. Before going to Thailand last year, I had begun to eat some meat again, but not a lot.  Basically just re-testing the waters to see what I had been missing out on, if anything. While in Thailand, I pretty much ate everything, because most vegetarian food there is pretty insipid and they also use fish sauce in everything (it's their salt). I was, therefore, fairly prepared for 5 weeks of pretty heavy meat eating.

I'm now down to my last few days of my 5 week Paleo challenge and here's what I found:
  • I ended up losing a whopping 0.6 pounds, which is fine as I wasn't hoping to lose weight as I'm 5'10" and around 150. I did, however, lose about 1.5-2% body fat, so I leaned up a little. (Disclaimer: my scale could be full of shit on that, but I've been using it for 3 years and try to make sure I take measurements consistently in terms of time, hydration, etc.)
  • Eating Paleo is really expensive! This is especially true if you are trying to eat grass-fed & free range meat like a lot of Paleo advocates advocate. You also end up cooking with lots of coconut and almond products (oils, butters, flours, etc.) which aren't cheap like their grain/legume counterparts.
  • My energy levels seemed fine even though I'm assuming I was taking in a lot less carbs. I could get through my 2 mile run followed by a 1-1.5 hour Muay Thai session just fine. Where I did notice a difference was in my Sunday long runs (6-8 miles). I can normally do these runs in the 7-7:30 minute/mile pace. While on paleo diet, these runs were a lot harder, and i was generally in the 7:40-8:00 range.
  • Incorporating vegetables into breakfast is a real challenge. I mean, who the hell wants to eat spinach at 7:30 in the morning? I crave sweets badly in the morning. Sausage & kale scramble is really good though. Hat tip to Chow Bella.
  • Making your own condiments is super easy and they are better for you. See links below pictures for the recipes I used.
  • Eating out on the paleo diet is WAY harder than it is as a vegetarian or even vegan.
  • Being off of refined sugars for 5 weeks did not do much to curb my sweet tooth. I was born to eat sugar and will crave it no matter what. ugh.
  • This diet has forced me to think a lot about how much vegetable matter I consume and ways to incorporate vegetables into every meal. That is a good thing. I've also learned a lot about nutrition and food politics.
So am I going to continue eating Paleo? Probably not. I do agree with a lot of the tenets of the paleo diet. There is no doubt that eating a diet heavy in vegetables,eggs, lean meats, nuts, and seeds is a healthy choice.  I want to cut back on the amount of grains, sugars and legumes I eat as well. I seriously believe the reason we as Americans are so fat is the abundance of these foods (carbs) in our diet.

I'm still trying to figure out how to take the paleo diet and incorporate it into a more vegetarian-ish diet. I have serious reservations about eating factory farmed meat; not only is it terrible for the animals, but also the environment. However, it is probably more environmentally (and economically) responsible for me to buy grass fed meat from the local farmers market than it is to buy some shitty soy-based Morningstar Farms veggie burgers made by the Kellogg corporation. There's plenty of science to support the deleterious effect our massive soy production is having on the Earth's Nitrogen cycle (a lot of which is probably fed to factory farmed animals, another reason not to eat them). Of course the real problem behind all this is the Earth's immense human population. The need to feed so many people is what is ultimately killing our planet. STOP breeding people! Seriously.

I'm ranting again. Sorry. My plan from here is to set a weekly budget (I can't be spending over $400 dollars a month on food like i did this past one!) and use it to load up on fruits and veggies at the farmers market. Anything left over I will use to buy grass-fed meat. This will ensure that most of my food is responsibly and locally raised and grown. I will obviously have to supplement with some store bought things like oils, nuts and seeds. And cheat meals every once in a while of course.

I'll end this tome with some pics of some things I made while eating paleo for those who don't like to read.

Pork loins with sauted cabbage.

What I would often eat for lunch.

I ate this as an egg alternative breakfast. From Everyday Paleo.

Pork Basil Burgers & homemade garlic basil mayo with  sweet potato fries & homemade ketchup.

Double Chocolate Banana Nut Brownie Muffins

Burger on a Paleo Bun with a pile of steamed broccoli and green beans.
Also, I don't have a picture, but these were the best paleo pancakes I tried. Full fat coconut milk is a great idea not only in pancakes, but it is super delicious on top of them!