It may be controversial to say this, but culturally, Paleo is today what veganism was to the early 2000’s. It’s popular, it’s challenging, and people are using the diet to change both their bodies and their relationship with food. Obviously for some, vegan ethics are built out of compassion for animals and a desire to abstain from anything that might contribute to their suffering, but for others that simply isn’t true. They want a hot body, or they want to lose weight, or they want to lower cholesterol and gain more energy. At one point, veganism seemed the right answer for all of the above.
I have seen the following slogan floating around the vegan/vegetarian fitness web world: “I will not let vanity usurp my compassion”. Essentially, this is saying “hey, I don’t want to eat animals just to look better”. Although this is a little bit reductive- come ON, dudes most people who adopt a Paleo lifestyle generally claim to feel better as well as look better- I understand the sentiment. For me, personally, I don’t feel great about eating an animal in order to make personal gains. It’s not an argument I’m making, it’s just how I feel about my fitness, my ethics and my body.
I also happen to think that many things about the Paleo diet could potentially be beneficial. This past year I have been devoted to trying to figure out my completely chaotic and sad digestion and as one of the most often espoused Paleo claims is that it heals the guts, I can’t help but be interested in it. I am curious about the claims that grains and nuts contain poisonous amounts of Omega-6’s, that grains can contribute to Leptin resistance (Leptin being the hormone that let’s you know when you are full), and that they are also far too high in Phytates, which means they inhibit nutrient absorption. I don’t know if I believe all of this necessarily, because duh, I am not a scientist, but like I said, I am curious. And I knew my old diet wasn’t working for me and that these things could possibly be contributing to why. (I have been a huge whole grain and nut eater for years, never questioning whether or not these things were healthy).
So, for the past few weeks I have been engaging in the possibly laughable Vegetarian Paleo diet. And actually, its not too difficult, considering that in addition to Paleo principles of giving grains, processed foods, sugar, and legumes the kiss off I am steering clear of nuts, cold/raw things, most fruits especially bananas, tahini, spicy stuff, nightshade vegetables, raw carrots, and garlic too. (Thanks baby stomach with your inability to handle anything ever!) The crazy thing about a Vegetarian Paleo diet is that there is almost no information about it, especially compared to how much general Paleo stuff is all over. I thought it might be a service to others to talk a little bit about my experience, as well as a service to myself because I would love some comradery and recipe swapping to happen.
SO. What do you eat as a Paleo leaning vegetarian?
I eat eggs (Pasture raised only), and I love them which still surprises me because I was vegan for so long. I also eat Sweet potatoes, Winter squash, and tons of greens. Roasted vegetables and home made soups are common. I have learned to eschew vegetable broth that isn’t home made because it is generally full of bullshit chemicals, MSG, high fructose corn syrup and sugar, which I don’t want to put into my body. Why are they trying to make something so simple into some sugar brew to soak your vegetables in?
Coconut has become my best friend. I eat Coconut milk, oil, butter, and flakes, all unsweetened of course, on a daily basis. I eat flax and hemp theoretically, but not very often. I drink almond milk and coconut milk kefir. There is no sugar, maple syrup, agave or honey in any of this stuff (which is above and beyond Paleo, really, because many Paleo-leaning people still feel fine eating honey.) I eat as many fermented things as I can, because I want those probiotics bad. I make my own kombucha, yogurt, almond milk, and sauerkraut when I can get it together to do so. I make Paleo biscuits, frittatas, butternut squash/pumpkin pies, and cauliflower crust pizzas often enough for it to be specifically stated. I don’t mess with very many nuts or nut flours usually, although some Paleo people eat that stuff too. I don’t eat nut butters at all because once I start eating them it is hard for me to stop and nothing hurts my gut worse then a big nut baby floating around in my colon. I eat a ton of avocados. Everything I eat is completely delicious, and unboring. When I got my list of dietary restrictions I thought I was doomed to bland food. Not so.
I eat some stuff that is decidedly un-paleo. Those things are tempeh, (about ½-1 serving a day usually), edamame, miso, sprouted quinoa rarely, and lentils or split peas if I get a soup craving. The tempeh is often and the rest of the stuff not so much.
I don’t eat dairy, and I don’t understand how so many people who claim to be Paleo can justify eating that as part of their diet. No judgement! I just don’t get it!
As far as I can tell, I am not losing weight (although I don’t weigh myself because it makes me batshit fucking crazy to try) and that is not really my goal. That being said, it hasn’t been super long and I do expect that my body will change some, as I am very committed to my dietary choices and have been upping my CrossFit to three days on, one day off, and not avoiding the strength days like I used to. Some days, my stomach feels better— much better actually— and I have no idea if that is because of the Paleo or because of the other restrictions I have based on what my acupuncturist has prescribed.
Most notably, I have a ton more energy. Like, too much maybe. I have always been an early riser but after six years of school (undergrad and grad) successively, followed by a life of having three jobs, I have grown used to just being really tired all the time. Add in an eating disorder and a propensity to over-exercise and, well, you get a person who needs a fucking nap. But these days I am just pumped. Not having as much terrible stomach pain makes me feel downright silly and my tendency to bust out a muppet dance at the drop of a hat is exponentially higher. I have also loosened my anxiety about how much I need to eat because especially since giving up nut butters, I just eat a lot. All the time. I had grown so accustomed to constant intense gassiness that I had a hard time even really identifying hunger and would regularly have intense blood sugar lows that were punctuated with bouts of anger. (FUN!) These days its pretty damn clear when it’s snack time and I am much less likely to be a total dick just because I got hungry. (Sorry friends, it’s not you- its me!)
In the future I will post a typical Vegetarian Paleo day of food, but for now I bid you adieu. For more information about why grains and nuts are supposedly busted, click here and here. This Mark’s Daily Apple dude seems to have a lot of opinions.
What do you think? Do you hate me for comparing Paleo’s popularity to that of veganism? I couldn’t help it, its kind of true. Also, please give me some recipes. I like variety and tend towards making the same thing all the time.