This month our Crossfit gym is holding something called a “Paleo Diet Challenge”. Also known as the “caveman diet”, you essentially eat only the things you can hunt or gather; meat, fish, eggs, nuts, fruit, and vegetables. Things like dairy, sugar, carbohydrates, beans, and alcohol are not allowed. No processed food whatsoever.
Sounds fun, right? Right?
The trainers have created an elaborate scoring system: you can earn extra points for things like getting sleep and working out, and deduct points if you consume something from the restricted category. Like a bagel. Or a Twinkie. Everyone’s name and daily score are posted on a large whiteboard in the gym, and some elusive, unnamed prize has been dangled in front of us like the Paleo carrot in front of the proverbial donkey.
Joe’s been on a fitness kick, which is to say he visits the gym once or twice a week, and he mentioned trying the Paleo challenge. Always supportive, I poo-poohed it right away. “It’s the end of summer!” I whined while I leaned against the counter and crunched on Cheez-Its out of the box. “Who wants to go on a diet now?”
I’m religious about exercise. I do a variety of Crossfit and Bikram Yoga workouts seven days a week, so I’m in fairly decent shape. But you know what else I’m religious about? Eating. I take eating very seriously.
And I don’t exactly make healthy choices. I haven’t eaten an apple in close to a year; I’m certain of this because the last time I ate one, I picked it off of a tree. I’m still unclear about just what an edamame bean is – do I eat it or send it a Mother’s Day card beginning with ”Dear Etta-Mommy”? I only like bananas if they’re smothered in Nutella and strawberries need to sit loftily atop a cake like queens at a parade for me to look twice.
Some days, when I’m working at home, I nosh on nothing but cheese and crackers and diet soda. Then for dinner I eat an enormous meal and pick off of the kids’ plates while I clean up.
Luckily since I’m pretty active, I don’t struggle too much with my weight. I’m close to 5’9” and I weigh — ha, ha, gotcha! Did you really think I was going to release that scary number into cyber space? Get real. Let’s just say I weigh somewhere between 100 and 200 pounds.
But, weight issues aside, I do acknowledge that I don’t always feel good, and clearly there’s some room for improvement. Generally I avoid diets that restrict entire categories of food – like frosting – but this one seemed manageable. It’s structured in terms of what to eat, but not how much. No way am I measuring out serving sizes on some teeny-tiny kitchen scale.
Also on the plus side was Joe’s enthusiasm. I mean, what kind of wife doesn’t join her husband in making a few dietary changes?
Here is an excerpt of my journal from the first week of Caveman Paleo eating:
Off to a great start! Made a trip to the grocery store to stock up on fruit, nuts, and eggs. I feel a spring in my step already.
If “water is my friend” like the trainer says, then Diet Coke is my illicit lover with whom I share late afternoon delights and delicious restaurant meals. I miss you Diet Coke, come back to me. Come back.
Can’t write much. Head is pounding. Kids are annoying. Husband is stupid. Need ice cream.
I’m already starting to talk like a caveman.
I think this is what people call detox. I feel like Jamie Fox in the movie Ray, only instead of heroin I’m jonesing for gummy bears and sourdough bread.
Joe forgot about the diet and ate a lobster roll for lunch.
I’m having a lot of trouble giving up the vanilla creamer in my coffee. One of the trainers at the gym suggested trying coconut milk, because it’s “Paleo-friendly”. Coconut milk? If the caveman could manage to harvest his bad self a coconut, surely he could’ve dug up a potato. Or a skittle.
Called Joe at work today to see what he was eating for his Paleo lunch. “Clam chowder!” I told him clam chowder is not part of the Paleo diet. “Why not?” he asked in between slurps. “They could catch clams back then.” I reminded him of the cream. “Oh. I forgot about that.” I hung up in a huff and returned to my salad.
If I ran into a caveman today I would punch him in his beard-y face.
Gave Joe the hairy eyeball at breakfast while he downed a bowl of Lucky Charms and announced “Yeah. This Paleo thing isn’t really working for me.” I smeared his name off the whiteboard with the palm of my hand when I dragged myself to the gym to work out.
Sister reminded me today that cavemen didn’t live past age forty.
Celebrated early-anniversary-and -book-is-written with an overnight getaway with Joe. Went off Paleo a little at dinner an enjoyed some bread and a cocktail with my meal. Worth every bite.
Biggest Paleo challenge yet: dinner with my Italian in-laws. Meal was rolls, ravioli, some garlic bread, and cake. Oh, and some other dish with bread in it. Managed to push bowl of ravioli over for Caveman Husband to finish and concentrated on salad.
I brought Jack to Bertucci’s for lunch today. No rolls for me. Actually, they didn’t tempt me as much as usual. Wonder if I’m getting sick.
Completed first full week of the challenge, with a few slip-ups here and there. Still not easy (I reallyreallyreally want a piece of pizza), but I’m slowly getting used to eating caveman-style.
I’m on week two now. I’ve lost two pounds and so I weigh – gotcha again! Did you really think I would let it slip that time? Get serious. Let’s just say I weigh somewhere between 100 and 200 pounds.
I do feel good; my food choices are more deliberate, conscious, and my day is not just a snacking free-for-all. I’m not convinced I can make this a permanent lifestyle change – at this point I’m hoping to last until the 31st of August – but if I reach for a plum and water instead of a Diet Coke and Cheez Doodles in the middle of the afternoon, then I’ve made some progress.
But I do know one thing for sure: it must have been really hard to live as a caveman, wandering in the woods all day without so much as a vanilla-creamy cup of coffee to warm him up.