Naomi goes Paleo, week 2
No more pancakes! That was the lesson I had to learn this week. Because a paleo lifestyle turns out to be more than just scrapping food groups that the cavemen didn't have. It is supposed to change the way you experience food as well. So not just quit the fast food ingredients, throw the whole concept out the window. And that isn't easy... especially if as a consequence I can't have pancakes for breakfast anymore!
The first 2 days of this weeks paleo challenge went pretty much the same as last week. Pretty easy, felt good about it, my wanted results where showing up. Cruising through it. Untill I discovered that paleo is more than just eliminating foods.
It started like this: I wanted to put mustard on a dish and I didn't know if mustard was allowed. So I looked it up on the internet, on the site of the Whole30 (the name of the challenge). Scrolling along I see this… PANCAKES: NO. Huh???
What???? I have been eating banana-egg-pancakes for breakfast since day 3. I can have both ingredients, can't I? Sometimes I add sweet potato of bacon or left over nuts... I can have those too, can't I? So why no pancakes????
I was very surprised and somewhat disappointed, as you might have guessed from the way I write about it. I love my pancakes in the morning! Even though it was way more work than eating oat meal and yogurt, I enjoyed my pancake moment. And now it was taken away..
Psychology of food
I kept on reading in the paleo bible, eager to find an explanation or motivation for the pancake ban. Turns out there is a whole philosophy behind it.... and I hate to admit it, but I even agree with it.
It comes down to this: The program is more than rules on what you can and can't eat. The spirit and the intention of the program is to change the way you experience food, the psychological effect it has on you. That little sentence that I wrote ("I love my pancakes in the morning!") is exactly why I can't have them on this 30 days program. Because the nutritional value of 1 banana, 3 eggs and some coconut oil is the same: whether you eat them separate of combined into a pancake. But the moment I find out that I can't have them as pancakes, my emotions flip into disappointment. That is the psychological effect food has on us, even on me... and I thought I was pretty immune to that.
This program wants to break that emotional connection we have with food. Many people eat because they are sad, binge on chocolate because they are angry, eat cake when they are happy, eat super sized junk food because they are drunk, reward themselves with a doughnut when they accomplished a goal, and so on... When you start reproducing your favorite comfort food with paleo ingredients, you completely miss the spirit of the challenge of the Whole 30. As I read on, it made total sense to me. I usually eat for the nutritional value, but I had to admit: I sometimes eat because of the feeling the food gives me.
My wife Brenda is a self confessed emotional eater. Especially anger and frustration have to be smothered in chocolate. For years she fought the feeling, but the last few months she has been working on being more mindful on why she eats. She read Deepak Chopra's "What are you hungry for?" and is getting good results from that method.
At HealthCreators I work with people who struggle meeting their goals, because their emotions tempt them into a binge: a whole roll off cookies in one go after a disappointment, for example. Or people who think they can never have a fun night out again because they can't have wine. That is emotions and food entwined. I do believe I am better off letting my choices rule my eating patterns than my emotions. So I took the challenge: no more pancakes!
Later on I had a conversation with Brenda, who admitted that if she was allowed to eat a banana, 3 eggs and some coconut oil for breakfast, she would probably be okay with that portion. But that if she had a stack of egg-banana-pancakes, she would overeat. She would kid herself into thinking it was healthy food, so it couldn't do no harm to take another one... and from my work I know she is not alone in this. I know people who eat only healthy stuff, but because of portion size, still don't meet their goals. Those people could really ruin a 30 day paleo challenge if there would be pancakes. And even worse: the pancakes would cheat them out of a valuable lesson regarding eating habits. So I have learned!
The remainder of the week I have been very strict, I tried to make my food tasteful, but not recreate my favorite junkfoods: wraps, lasagnas or pancakes. I did decide I wanted to sometimes do that after my 30 days, but maybe not all the time. As a consequence of not gift wrap my food anymore, I started to eat less, to the point that I was really hungry all the time. So I decided to write down what I ate and calculate the nutritional value. It turned out that it was not enough, calorie wise as well. So I upped my meat portions (I was a little low on protein as well), added a sweet potato to some dishes and increased the amount of nuts. After 2 days I felt stuffed, so that was not the way to go. And my paleo coach told me I was too low on calcium as well. I am trying to solve that by adding chia seeds to dishes. Doesn't taste of anything, hope it helps.
In conclusion: week 3 will be the week of fine tuning. Figure out what feels good for me, no deficites in important minerals. I watched a Ted Talk this week about mindful eating, I am going to give that a go this week You can say what you want: doing the paleo challenge is not boring!