I’m not a fan of resolutions or diets. In fact there will soon be an episode of the podcast I co-host about that. However I love quantified data and the science of habits. So when my friend Elizabeth sent me a link for the Quantified Diet Project, I was in!
Basically, there’s a phone app called Lift, which I had previously used to track habits I wanted to create or change. Basically you can pick whatever habit you want or you can choose from pre-made tracks of habits. Within that you can talk to others who are trying to do the same habit as you, encourage each other, ask questions, etc. and it will send you reminders if you want. It follows a few of the basic ideas of how you change or make a habit–choose a small thing, be accountable, reward yourself for the habit. If you want to learn more about that I highly suggest this class.
So for promotional and citizen sciencey reasons, Lift chose the month of January to crowdsource an experiment. Everyone got assigned a diet randomly. You were allowed to veto your diet, and get assigned another, but I got Paleo. Because of my general eating habits, Paleo was probably the closest I could get to my regular eating habits, however I was really hoping for the group where you sleep more. More info on the project and all the diets you could get are here.
So it’s two weeks in and I will say I have minorly broken once and majorly broken (in a planned way) one other time. But generally it’s been easy for me.
How I Generally Eat
My fridge is mostly frozen cooked meats–ground turkey, cooked shrimp, grilled chicken breast and frozen or fresh vegetables. if I am eating at home I mix those two in a bowl and add a sauce. DONE. Also I have a lot of convenience foods like TJ’s turkey meatballs and hummus. While I am an infrequent sugar user, I do use it once a day in my coffee. I eat a lot of yogurt and cottage cheese and sometimes other cheese. I pretty much never eat bread except for burrito tortillas. My main carb is rice. DELICIOUS DELICIOUS RICE. Basically I eat meat, and I try to eat vegetables. If I am somewhere and someone has made a special dish or this is the only place I can get something, I’m going to have it.
Good Things About Paleo
I generally like cheese but hate other dairy so coconut milk is awesome for me. Also, basically it’s a fat and meat free for all, which is exciting.
Things I Miss
I can’t say I have had an intense longing for much, other than convenience. I’d like sweetened dark chocolate. I love rice and f’rice is not rice. I am not a huge sugar eater generally but I very much miss a dunkin donuts regulah regulah. Hummus is a daily staple for me, usually, but I can’t say I’m dying for it. I was in the grocery store the other day and there were lots of things that smelled great and I would totally eat if I could, but I’m not really jonesing. I would say for the first week I was constantly hungry but that seems better now.
Cooking & Going Out
Basically I have to cook all the time. Which is a total pain. It’s a good thing it’s winter and most of the time this month it has been a polar vortex outside because I have been cooking like crazy. I definitely feel like paleo food porn blogs say that you could batch cook (which I do) but essentially unless you are at home all the time or really like salads, it’s a lot of cooking. Going out to eat isn’t super difficult in theory–I’ve been easily able to find food, but usually not enough. When you subtract most of the filler portion of a meal, you need twice as much meal to be full, at least. That doesn’t necessarily pan out if you ask for no fries or sub veg for something. There’s also no real way to know there’s not secret sugar or some other non-paleo thing in your food when you go out without asking and taking up a lot of server time and then having to talk about it with your dining companions.
Let’s Not Talk About It
And talking about it is, despite me posting this, generally not something I want to do. No one cares what you’re eating unless it’s really delicious and they get to have some too. Moreover the few times I have mentioned it people either get very defensive about their own diet or have to tell me how paleo is stupid. Which I sort of agree with.
Paleo Is Kind of Dumb
While I think it’s fairly well proven that for many people if you stop eating carbs you drastically drop a lot of weight, paleo allows weird carbs. I can’t have cane sugar, but I can eat dates, fruit, honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc.. While every paleo tome would say to use any of those sweeteners sparingly, how is cane sugar better or worse than coconut palm sugar?
I’d posit that a lot of people who lose a lot of weight on Paleo (notice, we don’t know how healthy we are, just that they lose weight) do so for the reason they do on any other low or no carb diet by cutting out a lot of sugar in their diet. What they also cut out is convenience food. I’d guess this is true of most other diets–if you can’t easily get things at most restaurants you cook for yourself, and that diet is almost always going to be healthier for you.
Despite what the blogs that encourage you to cook paleo might say, it IS pretty expensive. I am an extremely savvy and thrifty shopper (I worked in retail for crying out loud!) and I’m spending more money on groceries than I would if I ate out every meal. These are rough estimates at the moment but I’ll definitely do some calculations at the end of the month. Paleo websites suggest doing CSAs and buying half a cow. These are reasonable options if it’s summer and you have a car. I get the impression that most paleo cooking bloggers have at least one stay at home cook.
It makes socializing pretty hard unless none of your friends go out to drink or eat. Or unless you want to be That Guy. As a person with intense non-food allergies I cannot bring myself to tell servers I have a gluten allergy, which lots of paleo sites encourage you to do. Basically, if there’s a little non-paleo in my meal, I am not going to worry about it.
Paleo Is a Conspiracy of the Coconut Lobby
Basically everything I eat has coconut in it. Which is not a complaint in my book. I love coconut. But seriously, everything has coconut.
Okay let’s talk about the actual problem with paleo–NO BEER. Basically booze isn’t paleo but the most approved of alcoholic beverages are dry red wine and tequila with soda and lime. Okay not to belabor this but AGAVE IS SUGAR IS CARBS!!! Several sources have all suggested vodka and soda too, which is even more baffling because vodka is wheat. Anyway I hate red wine and most bars I go to with friends are beer bars so I have ended up just not drinking. So far, no one has noticed. Which was an amazing revelation. I didn’t know what I’d say if they asked anyway because again, I really would rather not talk about it. No one cares about what you’re drinking! Woo!
What I Won’t Take With Me
So I will definitely not be paleo when this ends, but I generally don’t eat most carbs so that will stay the same. I will definitely go back to rice, dairy (mainly cream and cottage cheese and yogurt), and sugar in my coffee once a day. Also being so incredibly diligent about everything seems like a lot of work for not as much return as just MOSTLY being paleo. So I’ll be gambling by eating out more after this ends.
What I Will Take With Me
I will definitely be cooking more after this. The creativity forced by eliminating ingredients has really jump started my cooking again. Also the use of rendered fat. I’m using rendered fat all the time! I’ve come up with some awesome dishes that will totally go in my normal rotation, except with cheese on top.
Eggs. I generally hate them. I hate the whites, specifically. Why is there not little carton of yolks? I could eat that fine. I am okay with poached and can deal with anything with a runny yolk if I can put salsa and cheese on the white part. A couple of years ago I went to a restaurant named Street in LA and had this sweet coconut runny fried egg. It was delicious and anytime I fry an egg with coconut oil it tastes like that. Huzzah! I can eat an egg now!
Fruit. I know this sounds weird but I almost never eat fruit. Again, I like sweets, but if I am hungry I want a savory thing, not an apple. Fruit always seems crazy expensive to me–I could buy steak at that price! But I will definitely be eating grapes, bananas, and more dried fruit after this. FYI fruit is not acceptable on all paleo diets but is on the one they set out here.
I’ll probably check in at the end of this to see what changed. Until then, I’m going to go eat more meat.