When it comes to my health, I’m not where I want to be. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been where I want to be.
Every year of my childhood I grew at least two or three inches, and by the time I was 14 I was at my full adult height of 5′ 10″. The thing about tall people is that they’re just bigger all over, and as a 170 lb. teenage giantess in 1994, it was incredibly hard to find stylish clothing that fit. Flood pants and shapeless rock band t-shirts were my staples, and I paired them with glitter-painted Chuck Taylors and a nondescript bob haircut, which I constantly dyed an off-putting shade of drugstore auburn. Though I hid it, I desperately wanted to be beautiful and glamorous, but in reality I was plain and, as a childhood frienemy passive-aggressively said, “plump.” Around this time I began to experience the clinical depression that would follow me for life, and commenced my abusive relationship with food.
I think I started my first “diet” when I was 13 or 14. The longest period of weight loss I was able to sustain was in the 14 months after I graduated from college and worked as a legal assistant at a firm that paid for employees’ gym memberships. I had nothing to do in the evenings (no school!) so I worked out, then cooked adventurous dinners from whatever ingredients I could afford to buy at Whole Foods that week. I spent the rest of my disposable income on magazines and kitten heels from Banana Republic, and for the first time in my life felt that being a hot babe was within my reach.
Cue grad school. Cue 60-hour workweeks and $10,000 9-month stipends with no summer support. Cue stacks of papers, to write and to grade. Cue endless anxiety. Cue a lot of beer, and an increasingly heavy smoking habit. Cue a bunch of dead-end relationships and imploding friendships. Cue ten years straight of that, actually. Then, cue waking up at age 33–with a decent academic job and a loving partner, thank god–but with a reconstructed left knee, five new prescriptions I’ll likely have to keep taking for the rest of my life, and a weight gain of about 170 lbs. (yes, you read that right). I got engaged the day after I turned 34, and with a wedding (and a marriage, and a family) on the horizon, I realized that I really, really needed to think seriously about my health and my weight (I completely agree that “thin” does not equal health and beauty and that one can be healthy at any size, but I honestly do not feel healthy at the size I am at. No disrespect meant to anyone else).
So, here I am, ready to transition–slowly–into a paleo diet. I have been experimenting with paleo for about a year and a half. I attempted a Whole30 last year and it wasn’t a success, mostly because it ended up being too restrictive. But even in my failure, I saw some progress: I wasn’t starving, and my blood sugar didn’t plummet and make me feel nauseous and lightheaded. This week I’m going to do a 50/50 paleo, meaning 50 percent of my food intake will be from non-paleo sources such as grains and dairy. I’m hoping to move up to 60/40, then 70/30, and finally to 80/20, which seems to be a manageable lifestyle for many.
I have a fair number of paleo cookbooks, but this week I’ve mainly been reading Ciarra Hannah‘s The Frugal Paleo Cookbook, and taking her advice to cook with a “theme.” This evening my dinner was paleo zuppa toscana with paleo breadsticks and salad. The rest of the week is more Italian: spaghetti and meatball stew, zucchini carbonara, and paleo Italian beef. I’m filling in with some decidedly non-paleo overnight steel cut oats and strawberry yogurt smoothies.
And no, I don’t actually believe that this is how “cave people” ate. I have no idea how cave people ate. Nobody really does (in fact, I think “cave people” is a pretty condescending way to describe our human ancestors). I like paleo because it cuts sugar and simple carbs, and it’s hard to argue that this is a bad thing. At one point in our history, humans did massive amounts of running, hunting, farming, and other physical labor and thus consuming diets filled with grains and starches wasn’t really a problem. Not so anymore. I’d guess I spend at least 12 to 16 hours of my day sitting on my ass.
That reminds me–my FitBit Charge arrives tomorrow.
Here goes nothing.
Week 1: Successfully did 2 hours of distraction-free work each day! Instead of Chains, I’m now tracking with a fairly powerful iOS app called Way of Life (free, or premium version for $4.99). It’s the same principle as Don’t Break the Chain, but with a sleeker interface and lots of data visualization.
See you next week!