On January 3rd, we quit eating grains and sugar. (We weren’t home January 1st and 2nd and it just seemed too crazy to start a new way of eating while on the road.) I cleaned out the pantry so we wouldn’t be tempted to cheat. Of course, I took a picture.
We sold this to the girls with “we’re doing this for a month and then we’ll evaluate it”, so instead of throwing/giving away all that food (including their enormous stash of Halloween candy), I boxed it up and put it in another room. That way they didn’t need to cry over losing it, but I knew we wouldn’t be sneaking candy bars or making mac-and-cheese in moments of weakness.
Why would we do this, you ask? Well, because over the last year, I’ve gradually become convinced that eating carbs – in the form of grains and sugar – is really, really bad for you.
About a year ago, we watched the documentary “Fat Head.” I’ve been telling people about it ever since, so you probably already know that I think you should watch it. (Seriously, what are you waiting for?) It explains how bad carbs are for you and debunks the conventional wisdom that tells us to make “healthy whole grains” a regular part of our diet. It demonstrates that fat is not bad for you. You really have to watch it. And while you’re at it, read “Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It” by Gary Taubes.
More reading along those lines led me to Atkins. I followed Atkins from March to Easter, felt great and lost several pounds. But while filling the girls’ Easter baskets, I decided that eating a few little malted eggs couldn’t hurt. Yeah, those things are little, but suddenly I was eating candy every night…and then having a piece of toast for breakfast…then a few fries…then several slices of pizza…and just like that I undid all the work I had done when I followed the diet. They call it “carb creep” and I’m here to tell you it is real.
I struggled for the rest of the year, sometimes following Atkins and sometimes eating whatever. My weight fluctuated with my moods, but mostly climbed. I finally had to admit that I weighed more than I had in March, when I first started. Bad deal.
In the meantime, I had read more about the evils of wheat and sugar, and the benefits of protein and fat, and realized that I should be doing this for health reasons, not for weight loss. I noticed that the books/personalities/websites/blogs that are about Atkins or just a low-carb diet tend to use “fake foods” (like protein bars) or substitutions to get you through the weight loss program. The emphasis is on surviving weight loss. I didn’t like the idea of eating more processed foods. But the whole foods people were still on the “eat healthy whole grains” kick. As I continued to read and research, the words “paleo” and “primal” started popping up.
The paleo/primal crowd focuses on eating how our ancestors did (paleolithic). It’s low-carb, but with a health focus. From what I’ve seen, they’re not about losing weight so much as being healthy, although you’ll lose weight eating this way if you need to. They are motivated by a belief that grains, legumes and sometimes dairy (they seem divided on that issue) are just not needed in the human diet.
Once I was sold on that idea, it only made sense to live it out as a family. If I believe that sugar is horrible and grains are unnecessary and cutting flour from one’s diet leads to all kinds of benefits, why would I follow those guidelines for myself and leave my family to follow the Standard American Diet (SAD)?
So here we are. It’s been almost 2 weeks, and we are doing GREAT! A friend responded to the news of our diet by saying, “You can live long and miserable, but I’m going to enjoy life.” She couldn’t be more wrong. We eat meat, fruit and vegetables. We’ve kept the dairy as well. We eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. We’re not remotely miserable. The girls love the meat and fruit; they’re less than thrilled with the increase in vegetables. So they might claim to be a little miserable. 🙂 But they have a few bites of veggies at each meal and I believe they will come around in time. I’ve made a couple treats using soy flour and Splenda. I guess that’s the “ish” part of our “going Paleo.” The hardcores don’t eat those things on principle. For now, I’m happy that we have gotten rid of all the flour-based foods we used to eat, as well as the sugar in the after-dinner candy that my children considered one of their inalienable rights.
Have you ever followed a low-carb diet? Paleo? What was your experience?
Edit: I forgot to mention that I have not given up Diet Coke. And while we are avoiding sugar, we’re not being too TOO picky about it. For example, I realize that ketchup has sugar in it, but we’re still putting it on our burgers. I’d like to cut that out eventually, too, but for now I am happy with where we are. Once we get used to this, we can get more precise and cut out sugar in condiments and things. All this falls under “ish.” 🙂