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Welcome to Go Paleo’s inaugural blog post! This is a forum for exchanging ideas with you all about what it’s like eating paleo in a non-paleo world, sharing recipes, thoughts and discoveries about food and fitness.
I thought I’d kick things off by writing about the reasons why I started eating Paleo, which eventually led to my career change. My pre-Paleo life was centred around wheat and sugar. As a cake decorator, my job was to transform wheat, sugar, eggs and butter into elaborately iced creations, making chocolate fudge layer cakes iced with ganache and fondant icing topped with sugar figurines and lifelike flowers constructed petal by petal from sugarpaste. I was pretty good at it, I won prizes for my cakes and breads and taught classes. You can see some of my sweet creations here. Life without sugar was unimaginable.
But as I got further into my 30s, I could no longer rely on the metabolism of my youth, and found my pants getting steadily tighter. My husband (for it was happening to him too) and I referred to it as “the Thickening”. Others may refer to this phenomenon as “middle age spread”. And it was happening despite our generally active and healthy lifestyle (or so I thought at the time). Our diet was the standard “healthy” Western diet mixed with a good amount of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Italian food. Though we ate virtually no processed foods nor drank soft drinks, we did eat brown rice, noodles, white pasta and bread (sourdough, artisan, wholegrain) regularly and ate takeaway quite often.
I got sick of not liking what I saw in the mirror, and I was outgrowing my clothes. Shopping bores the hell out of me, and I dreaded the prospect of having to buy a whole new set of clothes. Then I remembered the adage, “Abs are made in the kitchen.” Mainstream media pushes the idea that you just need to exercise more, so it took me a long time to be convinced that abs are indeed made in the kitchen. I didn’t want to believe it before. I had wanted to believe that I could eat whatever I wanted, do a bit of exercise and all would be ok. Except that it wasn’t working. I liked to think that I lived in order to eat, and saw food as a source of pleasure and an end in itself. However, in order to regain my health and get lean and strong in the process, I had to reverse my whole philosophy and instead, eat to live. That is, to view food as nourishment and fuel.
So I learnt that abs are made in the kitchen, and that diet counts for 80% and exercise for 20%. This was a revelation to me. I changed my way of eating, trying various approaches (a dark period of my life which I shall refer to as the “Egg White Omelette Days”) before happening upon paleo nutrition. It made so much sense to me, and explained how modern humans have got it so wrong. I realised why we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and why metabolic syndrome and auto immune diseases are so prevalent. Animals in the wild stay lean and healthy without counting calories simply by eating their optimum diet (the foods they evolved to eat) and moving like wild animals (run only when you have to escape from a predator or hunt for food). You will never see obese animals in the wild, yet we and our pets grow fat on a diet of grain, sugar and inactivity.
So what changes have I noticed since going paleo? On the physical front, I have no trouble maintaining my goal body composition without starving myself or counting calories, I can fit into all my old clothes again, the acne on my back which I’ve had ever since puberty has disappeared, I no longer get canker sores or pimples, dry skin patches on my face have mostly disappeared, plus great things in the digestive health area which fall into the TMI category. Mentally, I no longer think about food all the time which is very liberating, have lots of energy, don’t feel the need to eat every couple of hours and don’t crave sugar anymore.
I must confess, I’m not a fan of the term “paleo diet” – it’s simply about eating real food. When people who haven’t heard of paleo ask me what it is, I end up mumbling something about cavemen and what grandmothers eat, without feeling like I’ve done a great job describing what paleo really is. But if you’ve found your way here, you probably know what paleo is, and already want to eat paleo.
If you are new to the paleo journey, welcome! It’s going to be an interesting ride, and you might want to check out some of the resources here. Also, The Primal Shift podcast, episodes 1 and 2 are especially helpful if you are beginning to dip your toes into this paleo thing.