March: Intentionally Eating

Hello! How are you doing? It has been a while. I don’t know about you, but for me, this year is flying by. I cannot believe it is March and for those of you also in the academia world, we are halfway through the Spring Semester. Craziness.

We have been keeping ourselves very busy down here with work, friends/family, and a daily pursuit of each other as we approach the 4-month mark or marriage here soon. I say daily pursuit because we both have realized the importance of intentionally doing the little things in our marriage that make a huge impact on the totality of the relationship.

What I wanted to share with you today is the other thing that has consumed a decent amount of our attention and time during the month of March. If you read the post I wrote entitled “intentionally eating” back in January you may know what I am talking about. As part of our intentional living challenge for 2014, we designated March to be the month we would take on the Paleo lifestyle in hopes that it would cause us to really think about what we are putting into our bodies, rather than just reaching for a packaged and processed snack/meal in the pantry. So grab your snack {or if you are like me, your third snack of the afternoon} and get comfortable because this is a lengthy one.

Paleo aka the “caveman diet” is one that many say is really not a diet at all, but rather a way of living. A lifestyle established during the Paleolithic Era in which the hunters and gatherers ate only what they were able to obtain organically from their surroundings. The reason so many people have adopted this way of living is because it is based “upon the fundamental concept that the optimal diet is the one to which we are genetically adapted” {}. Proven health benefits include but are not limited to: reduced risk of heart disease, lowered cholesterol, heightened energy levels, more positive outlook on life, weight loss, healthier skin, and several others.

To preface, I am by no means an expert on health. I do have a Master’s in Health Education, however it was more of a psychology emphasis so maybe I could tell you psychologically what nutrition and eating habits have on an individual, but not much about the actual food itself. This challenge for us has involved A LOT of time spent researching and talking to people who eat this way. I am still learning new things every day and really enjoying the process.

I figured the easiest way to break our experiences down for you would be to do this in a question/answer format based on questions I have received from people over the course of March. So here goes…

  1. Why did we decide to go paleo for 30 days? For me, it was the opportunity to take on a challenge that I have never attempted before. It was the chance to truly be intentional in this for an entire month, not just a day here, a day there. I feel fortunate to be able to say that we did not do this because we are overweight, sick, or have serious health complications. We did this because we have heard and read personal testimonies about how much better people feel holistically. Not just results in their blood work, but their overall well-being has improved. The other reason I wanted to try out paleo, is to for the first time in my life, really stick to healthy eating. If you know me even decently well, you know I have a sweet tooth the size of a massive cake, and really bad “grazing” habits. i.e. I would rather eat appetizers and snacks for dinner than a hearty meal. As a couple, we wanted to take this challenge on together and be able to hold each other accountable.
  2. Did we eat poorly before this? We really did not eat bad compared to America’s standards before we started Paleo. In fact, I would say we ate pretty healthy for the most part. A typical weeknight meal for us would be either chicken or salmon, rice or quinoa, and a vegetable of some sort. Oh, and probably a glass of wine. We would indulge in desserts whenever we craved them, but would not go overboard. Snacks for us were typically trail mix, crackers and hummus, or some fruit. Jordan is more disciplined than I am when it comes to refraining from sweets. So that big bowl of chocolates at work does not bode well for me. They are snack-size, okay? He has much more “normal” eating habits, whereas I would be totally happy with a randomly awesome dinner full of things I love {pickles, tuna salad, veggies straws, cheese, and some sparkling water}. The problem wasn’t what we ate necessarily, but rather the lack of attention we put into checking labels, ingredients, artificial additives, and most importantly, what food was to us. Food was eating whatever we craved. Food now is becoming fuel for our bodies and intentionally paying attention to how we feel after we eat. 
  3. What foods did we eat too much of? Cereals, toast, cheeses {mainly feta, Parmesan, and cheddar}, rice, risotto, quiona, desserts.  Not horrible, but we found ourselves getting full on the grains and gluten-filled foods, rather than on vegetables or protein. Enter food coma and sleepiness.
  4. What has been the biggest challenge so far? I know that we can both agree on this one. Finding filling snacks to tie us over in between meals has been pretty difficult for us. I think it is getting easier, as we research more and learn tips along the way, but especially if we workout during the day, we feel pretty hungry. The first few days we both felt extremely hungry, but interestingly enough, not tired hungry. We can no longer just buy some pretzels or any kind of protein bar. For such a snacker, this has really changed the way I eat throughout the day. Breakfast must be very large, and I am having to eat bigger meals since the snacking is not as feasible.
  5. How bad are the cravings? I cannot believe I am even able to say this, and maybe tomorrow I would give you a different answer, but so far I really haven’t missed many foods or had intense cravings for certain things. Sure, when I get a sniff of brownies or Mexican food, I want it, but my body is truly not craving those things. I have had a couple more headaches throughout the week than normal {I get headaches a lot} and I think that may be from cutting sugary foods out of my diet, but overall I am content after I eat. Like the guy at Trader Joe’s told us yesterday “Our bodies are full and satisfied after 5 carrots” which is so true. Sure, they don’t taste as good as that bag of chips, but the vegetables fill me up to the point where I really don’t need anything else. I know that Jordan misses the bread, especially on sandwiches because he eats those for lunch almost daily. I was more of a bun-less, use crackers instead kind of gal. Bread for me got in the way sometimes and I wanted to be able to taste what was inside.
  6. Are you able to eat out? Did 3 times this weekend in fact. I don’t think it is ideal, but for our lifestyle and since that is the main thing to do in Dallas, we have not restricted ourselves from going out to eat. We just had to think about it a little more and ask questions. This weekend we went to Ruth’s Chris, Central Market, and Seasons 52 and were able to find paleo-friendly foods at all three places. I had Salmon for two meals, tons of veggies, and had to really read the menus more diligently than I used to. Dressings can be tough, but almost every restaurant will have oil and vinegar which is safe. We are not going to let Paleo control our lives or be something we obsess about, so finding that balance is important.
  7. Is it more expensive? YES. YES. and absolutely YES. You guys, it is nearly impossible to not spend much money at the grocery store on organic foods or grass-fed meats. I am so thankful that we live within about 5 miles of a Central Market, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. It is amazing. And ridiculously expensive. Our food budget will be at least double this month, so if we continue to eat this way, we will definitely have to become much better shoppers.
  8. What changes do you notices so far health-wise? Jordan would have to answer this one for himself, but for me I notice a drastic change in my energy levels. They do not waiver as much as they used to. I no longer notice my mid-afternoon energy dip and desire to lay my head on my keyboard and take a quick snooze. The foods I am eating are giving me such great energy and the lack of sugar eliminates that post-eating sleepiness or worse, remorse about what I ate. I also have noticed how much harder I am sleeping. I used to wake up a couple times during the night, and now I am able to sleep through and wake up feeling refreshed. My skin seems less-dry and although I didn’t weigh myself before starting this, my pants are fitting just fine. 🙂 Unfortunately Jordan has lost 4 pounds which he absolutely does not need to lose, so I am trying to remind him to eat more by leaving little notes in the morning. This mornings was “grab 2 eggs in fridge.” I think he thought I was his mother or something.
  9. Are we doing this for lent?  We are not restricting ourselves of certain foods for a season of lent. Neither one of us actually partake in giving something up for the 40-days leading up to Easter. I understand people’s reasoning behind doing so, but I do not believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and in turn, requires us to give up beer for 40 days. He paid the price because he loves us unconditionally and forgives us freely. Although I do see the fruit in eliminating something that has become an idol or Lord in our lives, and replacing that with spending time with the Lord. However, the idea of lent should be an ongoing journey for us. One where we are constantly repenting of our sins, eliminating flesh-filled hobbies, and firmly being dependent on the One who died for us. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; why would I not want to take care of it? I must be a good steward of this body that the ultimate creator of the Universe designed specifically for me. It is His body, not mine.
  10. Will we continue doing this after March is over? Right now it is hard to say. I think that a lot of this lifestyle will carry over for us, without quite as rigid of restrictions. I recognize that I need certain vitamins that milk can give me, the way carbohydrates fuel our workouts, and I know that grains can have nutritional benefits. I do know for a fact that I have become much more aware of how much crap is added to foods, and how that cannot be good for my hormonal balance or health. We can still make desserts, in fact I have already made paleo-friendly apple crisp, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies in just 9 days. It is all about being appreciative for the body we were given, being creative in what we eat, and understanding what we put into our mouths. Eating should not merely be a hobby, but rather fuel to nourish us. The ultimate goal is to figure out exactly what works for us, not just what is in a book.

I wanted to get some feedback from a couple ladies who have chosen to eat Paleo, whether for a few months or permanently. Here is what they had to say:

  • “It has now been 6 mo. since I changed my diet. After 4 months I went to my doctor to have my cholesterol checked again. It was SO bad last August my doctor had a fit. In January my triglycerides went from a horrible 371 to 125! To say the least my doctor is a hppy camper and so am I. The other thing I thought of was the ability now to control cravings etc. I have NO cravings…I still can’t get over that. So, once or twice a week I treat myself to popcorn/chocolate or ice cream. No more than that so I don’t get back into the craving cycle which we simply can’t control because of the addictivenes of sugar/carbs. It’s so awesome to not be on the yo-yo weight gain/weight loss train anymore.”
  • “For me, it’s been about 2 1/2 months. I noticed a change in the way all my clothes fit…and I dropped 10 pounds in the first five weeks…but never really felt hungry because I was always eating good food! I have more energy than I’ve ever had. I used to be someone who could’ve napped every day (and frequently did). I have probably napped twice since we changed our diets…and that was due to some late nights! I sleep harder and longer at night and have sustained energy through the day. My skin has shown dramatic changes and cleared up a lot! And I just feel all around better! We will never go back…we enjoy dinner out sometimes and go “off-plan” but our home is only stocked with whole30/paleo foods. If I could convince all my friends to do this, I would!”

I have taken some photos of different meals we have made, breakfast ideas, and snacks for you to see. I can tell you one thing for sure, our plates are much more colorful! Thank you for reading about our journey and I apologize that other things have taken precedence over the blog lately. If there are some of you who would be interested in seeing more of a daily food diary as we continue through the month, I would be willing to do that. Just let me know!

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I hope you have a great week!

Abby Dawn

4 thoughts on “March: Intentionally Eating

  1. Abby, I think it’s great you and Jordan are doing this, and I enjoyed reading about your experience with it so far. I’ve been thinking about doing it but don’t know if I could really do it and stay committed to it for 30 days. I’d like to talk to you about it sometime :). Good job though!

    1. Thank you for reading Nicole! Give me a call anytime to chat about it or I think it is a good enough reason to get together sometime soon. Possibly meet up at Bishop Arts district one of these Saturdays for some brunch & shopping! Oh, and if I can stay committed and away from sweets, anyone can. It is truly amazing how the cravings have gone away. I am getting so full on hearty things, that I really don’t feel hungry for crappy snacks. I don’t think we will be 100% Paleo for more than a month, but I do think we will maybe go 70-80% Paleo. I do miss the grains and desserts at times!

  2. Loved reading this! Ian and I try to eat very healthy and tend to eat an 85% paleo lifestyle. It is something great to try but I can’t do it all the way. I need a few breads, desserts, and cheese! I have a major sweet tooth also… And like you said it SO expensive!!!!!

    1. Kelsey–thank you so much for the sweet comment & feedback about how you guys eat! I think my body is still in a bit of a shock without having the dairy, grains, and of course, desserts like it has always eaten. But I do notice a difference in my energy level & sleeping. I also agree in the whole 85% Paleo lifestyle and after these 30 days, I bet we will eat very similar. Now, if only I could become as diligent & intentional in working out as you! 😉

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