I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’ve mentioned candy corn more times than is normal, lately.
I mean, it IS that season. But you know season it is NOT? Eating-like-crap season.
Pretty much every month there’s a holiday that we’ve come to base around eating in some way or another. Valentine’s Day. Easter. Memorial Day. 4th of July. Monday Night Football. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. The Superbowl. All fun holidays that involve a lot of cooking and a lot of gathering and a lot of extra food that taunts you for a week afterward.
I’ve been doing a lot of research on healthy living and how our nutritional profile affects how our bodies function…positively and negatively. I firmly believe that nutrition is a HUGE, if not the #1 component that dictates our health and wellness. Meaning…I probably should eat less candy corn. (GASP!)
I’ve become totally enthralled with the idea of eating clean. For the most part, I try…mainly when I’m at home. But I get lost when I leave the house. Or if I’m starving. Still, I’m terrified of chemical-laden foods; I’ve read too many articles about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and processed “foods“. Scary stuff. Why do we willingly subject our bodies to so many chemicals? Lack of education? Lack of awareness? No interest? Under the impression that it’s too expensive to eat healthy?
I first started learning about the Paleo lifestyle by reading one of my favorite blogs, Carrots ‘n’ Cake. I became intrigued…I thought Paleo was all raw meat and running around in loin cloths. Not the case, my friends! In reality, it’s more like this. I began listening to the Balanced Bites podcast on iTunes (podcasts = best way to pass time on the train EVER). I read Practical Paleo and started picking out recipes to try. Once I formulated some initial questions, I asked around for more information. Shannon, a certified cycling instructor and personal trainer from Badass Fitness graciously offered to answer some of my questions on Paleo living. Here are her answers to my questions:
1. Is Paleo beneficial for someone who doesn’t have a gluten allergy, digestion problems, or issues with a lack of energy/sleep, but just wants to eat cleaner and take care of their body? It seems that a lot of the material focuses on Paleo in relation to auto-immune issues or general health problems.
I don’t have any of the gluten intolerance or digestion issues, and my students would probably tell you the last thing I need is more energy (lol!), but I feel better and stronger since switching to Paleo eating. Even if I eat a big, filling Paleo meal, I don’t feel sluggish or groggy afterward. And it seems like it metabolizes so much more quickly, so overall I just feel lighter and more agile, alert. The only ‘downside,” and it really isn’t one, is that I am hungry every 2 hours or so vs every 3 hours like before. But I am Italian and I like to eat, so I think it’s a good thing! I also, without trying or even going into Paleo for weight loss, dropped a couple of pounds within the first 3 weeks.
2. What was the first step you took to dive into a Paleo lifestyle? How did you “become” Paleo?
I just did it, really. I had been reading and hearing about, so I did a little research and realized this eating plan could totally fit me. Once I decided on it, I cleaned out my pantry of grains, legumes and removed the dairy from the fridge and went grocery shopping for Paleo eating!
3. Do you track your meals? Do you count calories, or simply eat based on how you feel?
I teach 11 classes a week, 5 of them cycling and four of them bootcamps, so with Paleo I just have to pay particular attention to getting enough calories and carbs from sweet potatoes, winter squash and fruits on those days when I am doing a lot of cardio. I eat when I am hungry, which with Paleo is more frequently, so I would say I plan meals more than ‘track meals.’
4. What was your diet like pre-Paleo?
I was already a clean eater about 90 percent of the time, so this leap wasn’t as huge as it probably is for some people. Still, pre-Paleo I was a big Greek yogurt and couscous/brown rice eater. Those are probably the two biggest changes.
5. Is there anything specific you struggled to cut out of your diet? Do you follow the “plan” 100%, or do you make exceptions for certain foods?
I do miss Greek yogurt sometimes, and oddly I miss my coffee creamer! I am following Paleo much like I did my clean eating before – I eat this way 90-95 percent of the time, meaning when there is a special occasion when I want to enjoy the birthday cake or a time when the Paleo options just aren’t available, I am not going to worry about it. I am a realist, and I believe in moderation and enjoying life. I am enjoying life on Paleo, but I also know that life happens so we roll with it! (Editors note: LOVE THIS! I firmly believe that you must enjoy life and not obsess over those little things…while still holding yourself accountable when you need to.)
6. What are the biggest challenges and rewards for you?
The challenges are probably just ensuring I have the fuel I need during the day to get through my classes, work, and having the time to plan for that. I use a Paleo meal delivery service for some of my meals, which is awesome, and I am loving convenience Paleo snacks like fruit, beef jerky, etc. The reward is in feeling lean, strong, and energized, and knowing exactly what I am putting into my body. So empowering!
7. What would you say to someone who believes Paleo isn’t for athletes?
While I am a fitness professional I am not an athlete. Still, I love Paleo because I care about what goes into my body and I want to live WELL (as opposed to just existing) for a long time. After going to Paleo and feeling this great, I truly believe this way of eating is how we were meant to fuel our bodies.
So, why am I writing about this? I’m sick of eating crap and feeling like crap. I want to feel healthier and stronger and confident that I’m eating nutritiously and fueling my body to run. I think that working towards a more Paleo-ish diet with cleaner, non-processed foods and more vegetables will absolutely help with that. For some reason, for me, starting a new job coincided with weight gain and a lack of accountability when it comes to eating. But I know that it feels absolutely amazing to eat right, feel lighter, and have the confidence that you can do this and be successful. I want that feeling back.
Side note: my Mom informed me today that she recently passed the “30 pounds lost” mark! She’s been walking up to 10 miles a day and obviously taking advantage of the fresh fruits and veggies they have in Iowa…I’m so proud! Way to go, Mom!
Anyway, yeah, I’ll still have candy corn every once in awhile (IN MODERATION, KARA. IN MODERATION.) but I’m getting back in the healthy-eating game. And yeah, unfortunately sometimes it feels “harder” in our society to eat healthier. But it’s also hard to be unhealthy and overweight. Choose your hard.
Busy is not an excuse. Time is not an excuse. When you truly want something you’ll find the time, a way, the motivation to do it. No excuses.