Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sugar and Spice---One is not so me

Let me start by saying that I've always been a self-proclaimed "Cookie Monster".  My dreams as a child  of becoming a baker were superseded by my nightmare that I'd devour all the inventory.   Not a good business model...My fantasy come true would have been to win a Golden Ticket to Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory. My sole prerogative early in life was to get candy, lots of it.
I'm not gonna lie, looking at this picture STILL gives me a rush...
Having been the only kid in the family blessed with slow metabolism and an eventual Thyroid disorder,  you can probably put 2+2 together and realize that weight was a bit of an issue for me.  I wasn't huge, but when my brothers wanted to throw the ultimate insult at me, they knew to stick the phrase "chub rock" somewhere in the mix.  I remember always being hungry for so many things, food, love, praise, adventure...

I knew from a young age that Skinny Jeans were not going to be a part of my future.  Even though I still look at them on the rack, especially the cute ones with little pink heart patterns, I know better...Regardless, I was always well-liked and generally at ease socially growing up despite a little more junk in my trunk.  More of a Creative Type than a Jock Chick, I excelled in things like Performing Arts but always wished I could be healthier and more fit.  I thinned out a bit in high school but then I think Krispy Kreme came to the West Coast or something like that because my weight started to climb again.  After leaving for college, the dorm life got me to my highest weight ever.  Strangely enough, it was also around that time I discovered a major fascination with nutrition and begun studying it on my own time with quite a bit of voracity.   I cannot tell you how many books I've read and eating styles I've tried--you would think I'm crazy (like all my close friends do).  It just seemed so clear to me that food is the foundation of health but that the psyche is the roadblock, or it was to me and I wanted to break through.  I studied and experimented with quite a large amount of discipline yet still struggled with weight to various degrees and could never really quell that HUNGER.  My journey to Optimum Health always seemed to get a flat tire around Almost Thereville.

A little over a year ago, I turned my ever searching mind's eye to this somewhat new concept I hadn't heard of: Paleolithic Eating.  Otherwise known to the greater community as "Paleo" and very popular among Crossfit Gym goers.  The basic concept is this:

The Human diet should be comprised of foods that we have been eating since Caveman times (Animal proteins/Fats/Organs,Vegetables, Fruits, Nuts, Seeds).  The foods that humans have created with the help of the Agricultural Revolution although cheap, have brought a tremendous amount of health issues into our world.  Obesity, Diabetes, Autoimmune Disease (like Hashimoto's, Fibromialgia, RA, and MANY more) have all been shown to have a direct link to our bodies inability to properly/optimally digest foods like grain (yes, even WHOLE grain), legumes,  dairy and we are basically overfed where carbohydrates are concerned.  We are really out of whack nutritionally.

What's even worse, is that for whatever sick reason, these foods have addictive qualities and unfortunately it can be the food that you are least tolerant of that you may not feel the ability to stop eating.  Like that moment when you realize that while watching It's Always Sunny you just ate an entire sleeve of Fig Newtons. Mind you, when I say least tolerant of that doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an allergic reaction to it like a child allergic to peanuts (legume!) who's throat swells up when exposed.  It could be something as commonly accepted (or lauded by teenage boys) like flatulence (FARTY Fart Farts), fatigue, foggy headedness, constipation and more.  The fact that we can sit down to a meal with family and friends and all feel like falling asleep or sit around clutching our aching bellies and laugh as your brother Jimbo toots the Ole' Butt Trumpet is symbolic of how far gone we are.  Isn't food supposed to GIVE us energy as opposed to taking it away?  Didn't Pac Man get a power boost when he ate the virtual Cherries?  We eat food to propel life.  How have we forgotten that so easily and accepted an opposite reality with so little alarm?

As basic as it sounds, it took real work on  my part to even know/remember what true hunger felt like. Does that sound crazy to you?  News Flash: it's not when you're sitting on your ass in front of the tv and decide some gummy worms are the best. idea. ever. but would refuse a plate of carrot sticks.  Think about it.

So, as you can probably tell, this Paleo concept resonated with me.  The deeper theory goes into how, with proper diet, our body finds hormonal balance.  Hormones are what control aging, mood and HUNGER.  Could I finally kill the Cookie Monster inside me?  I'd also been struggling a bit with my thyroid medication and felt I could use some nutritional fine tuning.  From what I read, Gluten (found in just about all mainstream bread, pasta and pastries) was likely the CAUSE of the Autoimmune disease I had.   Eek!  I'd been eating TONS of gluten every day for over 30  years.  Oops.

I've been exploring Paleo Eating for over a year now and I've had my ups and downs.  I felt good eating that way but at points I really thought I should feel BETTER for the amount of effort it seemed I was putting in (you have to cook a lot since most prepared foods contain all the things you are trying to avoid).  The social element was a bit tough too.  It gets a bit tiresome being "the picky one".  It can be costly.  I didn't magically turn into this chick:

Clearly, something was wrong....

Mind you, I was still on a carb/blood sugar roller coaster and eating full bags of Trader Joe's dried, unsweetened Mango in one sitting.  Cookie Monster did not want to go easily even if that meant hiding out in a Paleo Cave somewhere within me. 
When we decided to move to Puerto Rico last October, I kind of just threw it all out the window.  So  busy with work and preparing for the huge change, I just started eating whatever the hell I wanted to.  I mostly wanted to eat Rice Krispie Treats and Taquitos.  We also did what was basically a five week road trip driving cross country from CA to the East Coast (you can read about that in this previous post) and really didn't get to prepare any of our own food so I ate what I was given and didn't hesitate to partake in the goodies that were around me.  I was also a bit of a Champagne Wino and Hot Toddy fein, but that's another  story for another time. Or not. 

As painful as it was, and I'm pretty sure I had a 5 week stomach ache, I did see that I hadn't given Paleo a real shot.  My previous diet wasn't balanced even though I was eating healthy foods.  And even unbalanced, I felt waaaaaaaay better than I did eating all the crap I thought I wanted/missed.  Yes, that cinnamon bun tasted like sexy heaven in a g-string for those first few bites but was it worth the lethargy, brain fog and stomach ache that followed?  Was it worth the feeling I had when I got dressed in the morning, the sense of frumpiness I couldn't shake and increasingly tight pants?  The answer became quite clear to me and I knew what I had to do.

Cut to the 21-Day Sugar Detox Program created by Diane Sanfilippo.  Am I just getting to this now?  Jeez.  Thanks for still reading, if you are!

By doing Level 3 of her detox program, I decided to embark on a real/whole foods journey back to Paleo.  It's a 21-day program but I'm kind of trying to adopt this as a general way of eating since it is essentially a strict somewhat Low-Carb Paleo format---meats, fish, fats, organ meat if I can stomach it, vegetables, nuts, seeds and only particular fruits.   I think this is a good approach for me to remove the excess weight I put on in the last 6 months, get my blood sugar/carb cravings under control and really give this lifestyle a chance to show me the benefits of eating in a way that best balance out my particular health concerns.  I'm not going to go into a ton of detail here about the specifics of the program to be fair to the fact that she sells this on her website (and she's just a young woman trying to make a living helping people through nutrition so I don't want to screw her over).  I will say that I'm really enjoying the Detox so far and can feel a HUGE difference already.  

Here is a link to page where you can download the guide for yourself:

Considering that sugar is snuck into almost EVERYTHING, I'd bet most people would benefit from this type of experience.  Your health is YOUR health though, so you can do whatever you want. 
Here is a snippet of what Diane has on the 21-day Sugar Detox homepage.  Ask yourself these questions:

Do you experience…

  • Sugar cravings or carb cravings?
  • Energy spikes and dips throughout the day?
  • fatigue, lethargy, depression or anxiety?
  • brain fog, cloudy thinking, trouble concentrating?
  • hunger that goes from mild to intense very quickly?
The above issues are all signs that your blood sugar balance is a bit out of whack and that your diet may be too high in carbohydrates.  

I've been on the Detox for 12 days now and I'm very happy. Being in between jobs right now and having just moved to a totally different place has been helpful mostly.  It's been hard for me to find a few things that I'd know exactly where to get in LA, but having endless time to prepare food has eased the things that would have posed a challenge in LA.  I've had carb cravings and detox symptoms but enough around me to distract me like beautiful beaches and a new culture.  Getting a lot of sleep has also helped a ton.  The cravings come and go but I'm happy to report that my hunger has been reduced GREATLY.  Low carb eating really diminishes appetite.  Take that Cookie Monster!  I am not so overwhelmed by hunger that I make bad decisions nutritionally.  

You may be asking, "well, what exactly do you eat"?  Well, I'll tell you AND show you 'cuz I'm cool like that!

I usually eat about three meals and one snack, but it varies.  I may eat 2 bigger meals and one snack or three meals and two snacks.  I'm starting to feel like that skit on SNL about the Change you remember that one? 
I drink water, tea, coffee and sometimes club soda or sparkling mineral water.  You will notice that does not include alcohol, at least for now.   

It's about listening to your true hunger cues.  Just because it's called a "Detox" does not mean it's a "Fast".  You should not be hungry on this program.  After having made many of my favorite recipes withOUT some of the sugar containing items I might usually add (Worcestershire Sauce in meatloaf or a touch of honey in a vinaigrette) I have realized I don't really need them.   When you stop eating sugar, your taste buds change!  Really!  It's cray cray.  

So here are some of the things I've been eating:

Eggs are kind of my go to for Breakfast but I usually take a break from them every few days.  I like to make my eggs fried in a little coconut oil or clarified butter (butter with the milk fat removed so ok for those avoiding dairy).  I pair it with some sauteed spinach, or throw some veggies in scramble style and almost always pair with a glass of water and delicious Puerto Rican Coffee with coconut milk or sometimes a teaspoon of coconut oil.  If I'm feeling lazy, I might just eat the eggs by themselves or with a few slices of bacon.  Yep, you read that right. Bacon is a part of this.  If you weren't in before, I'm guessing you might be now!  

I also made Coconut Milk from scratch since the canned coconut milk here has been hard to find without preservatives that seem to upset my stomach.  Labor intensive but realllllly good.

If I am taking a break from eggs, I will rotate the meals I eat for lunch or dinner in as breakfast does not HAVE to be comprised of Breakfast Foods!
Hamburger using Romaine Lettuce instead of bun with Cucumber/Carrot /Sesame  salad

Ground Pork/Beef Tacos in Romaine shells, topped with Sofrito and served with Garlic Roasted Asparagus and Iced Herbal Sun Tea

Dry Roasted Chicken Thighs with steamed Cauliflower, Okra and Sauteed Onion

Spinach, Coconut, Almond and Pasteurized Egg Smoothie with Cinnamon before blending

After Blending!

Additionally, Tommy made some amazing pan-seared Pork Chops with a green olive Gastrique and a "kitchen sink" ratatouille of all the vegetables that needed to be used.  I was so excited to eat that meal that I didn't even wait to take my photo.  I made an awesome meatloaf too.

Snacks have been a small handful of almonds or a few bites of some leftovers.  I try to always have a little protein although I just had a sliced tomato with a quarter of an avocado and sea salt.  It was awesome.  Puerto Rico has Pincho Vendors all over the place too---it's a popular street food that's basically grilled chicken thighs on a stick.  A PERFECT PALEO SNACK! 

So there you have it.  I feel very blessed to be at a place in my life where I have the time and motivation to create the nutritional foundation I've been trying to create for many, many years.  In addition to the physical benefits I've experienced, such as better skin,  a much flatter belly and less bloating the mental benefits have been huge.  Examples include a more balanced mood and a generally happy disposition. I also find that I am more creative, humorous and hopeful about life.  I want to sing more.  

And I sure do like to sing. :)

As I climb down from my soapbox, I just want you to remember, Dear Reader, that we all have the power to control what we eat so why not give our bodies what they need to thrive?  All you have to look forward to (after a possible short period of discomfort) is a more peaceful mind, a more beautiful body and increased harmony with the natural world.  To me, this is a no-brainer.  Trade in your HUNGER for sweets for a sweeter HUNGER FOR LIFE!

Hasta Luego y Gracias para Leyendo!

1 comment:

  1. !!!!
    JUNI! Get out of my head! Your prior-to-paleo life story is EXACTLY the same as mine!
    Minus the brothers.

    So glad you're feeling good and enjoying life... keep it up!
    And read this, I can't stop laughing:

    Big hugs!