Last year I lost quite a lot of weight – around a stone and a half, by following Weight Watchers and adding Crossfit to exercise regime (I already ran quite a bit). After six months I weighed under 10 stone and felt fitter than I had in years but the Weight Watchers thing was getting me down.
Yes, I undoubtedly weighed less but I was still eating unhealthy foods – you can splurge on chocolate and booze or eat a microwave meal as long as it is within your daily points limit. So, when my Crossfit gym suggested a paleo challenge last November I thought it sounded like a way of eating that was worth exploring, moving away from processed foods and getting back to basics. It was a month that had a profound impact upon the way I eat. For a start I don’t think I’ve eaten a microwave meal since. I rarely eat any form of grain or legume (unless I’m in a fancy restaurant and the bread is really good or I’m on holiday in Italy and turning down the fresh pasta seems like a sacrilege), my egg consumption has gone up and they have become an integral part of my diet, I’m beginning to like kale (it’s a learning curve) and when I do eat diary I eat the full fat version. I think more about my food and what I’m cooking and I notice the hidden horrors in all kinds of foods you wouldn’t think contain it (did you know that even M&S plain peeled and cooked prawns contain added sugar…?).
In July, after a particularly decadent fortnight in Italy and a trip to Africa where I thought it would be churlish to turn down good food given to me, I needed to get back on track, so I did a month on the Whole 30 to re-programme myself. I was nervous about the challenge as I have always thought of myself as a bit of a chocoholic. A month without chocolate, heck no added sugar at all, was daunting but in reality I found it surprisingly easy. I never found myself in the grip of a sugar mad lust for a Galaxy bar or a packet of Harbio and to my surprise a date really did cut it when a slight sugar craving hit. Doing the Whole 30 takes some research, a good chunk of commitment and lots of discipline when it comes to cooking your meals or preparing food to take with you when you’re out and about. There were ‘rules’ I fell foul of on the first week when I was still getting to grips with it (carrageenan in almond milk, ‘paleo’ pancakes being off-limits, a slight misunderstanding about peas) but ultimately I think I did pretty well to stick to the letter of the challenge. The only real difficulty for me was not having any booze. July was the hottest month in England in quite some years and not being able to enjoy a cold class of white wine on a summer evening or a beer with friends at a festival at times felt like torture but the fact that is was so hard convinced me it was worth persevering with.
Since finishing I have had a drink or two and even a celebratory Magnum ice cream, enjoying the relative freedom to eat something in a restaurant without asking them to omit butter or substitute salad for fries, but already I feel sluggish compared to a month of eating really, really well. Ultimately I need to remember that don’t feel deprived of food when I eat paleo foods, any deprivation I feel is usually social and clearly my relationship with food is deeply rooted in the communal experience and its bonding abilities. There are still some bad habits there but these are ones that I am in control of that little bit more than before. Hopefully.