Paleo Challenge Week 3
2 People – 31 Days – 100% Commitment
So three weeks into the Paleo challenge and it all (finally!) seems to be fitting into place:
…My leg strength has increased from propelling my eco-friendly car with the power of my own gait.
…My stability has been optimised by slacklining the back of a dinosaur on my way home from work.
….and I’ve swapped my whistle for the cry made by pulling the tail of a prehistoric bird called Dirk.
However, as I sit in my drive-through cinema (surrounded by family, friends, tamed reptiles and a rather large, toothy cat), although I’m having a yaba-daba-doo time, my choice of Palaeolithic confectionaries leaves me somewhat perplexed about what to amuse my appetite with whilst I forget the realities of foraging and hunting and enjoy a good flick.
Okay, okay, so I haven’t actually turned into Fred Flintstone and my foray into ‘paleolithic living’ hasn’t extended beyond altering my diet. However, I have had genuine problems with finding a socially-acceptable (celery and almond butter is a no-go – WAY too noisy!!), and satisfying snack for the cinema!
So, in this week’s blog I’m going to speak more about the problems I’ve encountered by embarking on a paleo diet, especially those that I haven’t really found a ‘solution’ to yet – and, as you’ll see, these challenges have largely been social in nature….
So, three weeks into the paleo challenge and on the whole the diet has become a normal part of my daily life whilst I am at home….I go to bed looking forward to breakfast (a concept I had never anticipated experiencing); I’m automatically preparing snacks, ensuring there is always fresh fruit available and even lunch and dinner preparation has become easier; I‘ve also established some strong links with the local butchers and found a cheap local grocer who has all the fresh organic vegetables that I need….BUT, in order to maintain the paleo diet faultlessly I have found that I’ve had to undergo a stern examination of mental strength and determination to see it through when away from home!
The fact is that in the society we live in, complex carbohydrates have become such a staple commodity in our public places that I’ve had to ask myself repeatedly how much I want to maintain the diet and how much I’m willing to sacrifice to do so….
At the Cinema: the simple act of going to the cinema has required an inordinate amount strength on my part to ‘fast’ through the movie rather than succumbing to the processed sugar -laden confectionaries on offer.
At the Coffee Shop: a simple coffee with friends has often left me feeling isolated when we also wanted something to eat, as the narrow-selection of foods available are often limited to processed-carb heavy foods like pastries, sandwiches, panini’s, wraps, and salads with dressing.
At the Restaurant: When it came to resisting snacks, I found it quite easy to not give in to the temptations on offer, but when faced with the choices at a good quality restaurant the situation could often be more stressful. I am more the happy to ask about alternative choices to supplement a meal, but when you consider that you already have to rule out half of the menu, the variety of foods available are limited. You then have to factor in if the meal comes with a sauce, is cooked in a sauce or is in a pastry or white potato casing. So again, the range of meals available to order is probably down to a quarter if you’re lucky. You’re then also faced with the final challenge of what accompaniment to have with your meal: Salad? (If they have any!); Vegetables? (will you get enough to fill you up or will it be more of a garnish!); Do they have sweet potato instead of white potato options like mash, jacket, boiled or chips? (Ha! You should be so lucky!). The issue then is the financial implication, – if you can’t have all of the meal due to your paleo commitment, should you still have to pay the same, and would you get value for money if you didn’t have the sauces, sides etc? Some restaurants will be very helpful but from my experience is that even if they want to help, the generally don’t have the resources to do so.
Eating out when following a paleo diet can be tough not only on your level of enjoyment, but also on how you feel around other people who are allowing themselves the freedom to eat what they want: I found myself starting to resent the diet as, more often then not, the meal that I had chopped and changed was not as satisfying visually as what I could have ordered. This then led to some not insignificant social implications – I started to feel slightly miserable, irritable and down, and this sometimes had a negative impact on the friends and family around me. Now, I’m not saying this happened to me to a great extent, but then I’ve also only been on the diet 3 weeks – maybe it gets easier with time, maybe it gets harder.
To conclude, as great as I think this diet is (and I am very much a convert to its benefits, it definitely tests your resolve! If you are serious about sticking to it 100% you have to be prepared to sacrifice more then just a few complex carbohydrates – socially you have to be brave. It takes courage to ask for something that’s not on the menu, it takes determination to stick to your ‘morals’ and resist eating birthday cake at a party, and it also requires empathy from your peers to accept your choices and not to be judgemental, or even feel hurt if you refuse their offerings of kindness. Feeling socially unaccepted or isolated can lead to guilt, resentment, and general unhappiness and will more then likely cause you to revert back to your socially-acceptable, processed, fast-food, high-carb way of life.
Now this may seem an extreme outlook, but as this blog is about my experiences, some of these thoughts have gone through my mind and I can easily see them being a significant obstacle for some people to overcome. If you consider this diet would be extremely beneficial to prescribe to someone who wants to lose weight, there is a high probability that said person has some self confidence issues with regards to their appearance. If you then add the pressure of maintaining a strict paleo diet on top of their physical insecurities the consequences of emotionally unbalancing the individual could be disastrous on their overall mental health. Consequently, I would think very carefully before advocating an ultra-strict paleo diet…and maybe consider, instead, breaking people in gently with a ‘modified’ paleo that allows some room for the odd white potato or popcorn.
To finish this more rant than blog, I’d like to end with a recent observation….I was fortunate enough to spend the day with Leicester Tigers Rugby Club rehab department. The whole day was a fantastic experience but I was intrigued to see that their lunch was very much a paleo spread – swordfish, marinated chicken breasts, marinated pork chops, chicken skewers, boiled eggs, sweet potato wedges, four different salads and fruits made up over 90% of what was available. Therefore if an elite sports club thinks that this diet is the best thing for their players, then it can’t be too bad for us either!