Why I am Eating Paleo : A Tale of Vegetables

I was 8 years old and my brother had his girlfriend over for company. We were having chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and CARROTS. Carrots were my least favorite food, but my mother wanted to prove something to the company, so she made me eat them. Reluctantly and with great difficulty, I managed down a small bite of carrot and immediately ate some potato afterwards. As the food settled at the bottom of my stomach, almost before it could hit, I felt nauseous. I did not have time to run to the bathroom before all of it came back up onto the dining room floor. This started my 2 decade-long battle with vegetables.

I knew it was inevitable, people asking me about this odd “cave diet” I am trying out. For those who do not know what Paleo is, it is basically a return to the dietary blueprint of early people: nuts, seeds, meat, vegetables, fruit – natural things / non-industrialized.This means no dairy (dairy had an large amount of sugar in it, lactose, and other ingredients that are not considered natural), no grain (the grain post industrial revolution are very different genetically than any early people ate – look up “wheat belly”). The basis is lower carb, low sugar (to keep glycemic levels lower and regulated throughout the day) to better regulate fat burn throughout the day. Fat and some carbs are important to eat, as our body needs them for energy, and to store in order to burn during exercise. Different people vary as to what they are willing to consume as with any meal plan. For some people, it is really about getting back to the days of yore, others its about not eating any foods that could adversely affect health over a period of time. Whatever the reason, people vary in strictness. 

So, that’s a quick overview, Google it if you want more info. 

Why am I doing it? 

As you know by now, I spent the first 26 years of my life progressing to a slow, fattening health casket at an early age. My primary diet growing up was pasta, fried chicken, little debbie snack cakes, mountain dew, chips, pizza, and every other sugar and fat filled junk crap you can stuff in your body. I did this for 26 years, failing at a nutritious diet. Growing up, eating vegetables was never a norm. My parents tried making me eat them, but honestly  they weren’t part of their diet that much either. Growing up without a lot of money did not afford spending too much money on food, and the health education of my family was poor, at best. Those carrots that came back up were just a symbol of something much greater happening psychologically. Maybe it would because so many other aspects of my life were unhealthy, maybe it was just a lack of education and trying new things and parents that eventually caved on the issue. Whatever the reasons may be, I spent the entirety of my life avoiding all vegetables. Yes, all of them.

It made for quite a conversation piece, something I didn’t like to talk about. “You don’t like ANY vegetables, not even (insert that person’s favorite vegetable here)”. Nope, not even that one. People could not wrap their heads around it. Throughout my life, I have only found a few people like me, destined to be a food outsider for hating vegetables. I mostly avoided the topic, but if it came up, I just politely said, “I don’t know, I just don’t like them”. Sometimes I would lie and say I had tried a vegetable, even if I hadn’t because then I would get, “Well, you don’t know if you don’t try it”. I had tried a few here and there over the years, each time wanting to recreate that display of my 8-year old self.

Even over the last two years, transforming myself, vegetables have not been part of my diet. “How did you lose 60 lbs. without eating vegetables” A friend said to me awhile back (and now I have lost 100 lbs. mostly not eating vegetables). Lots of exercise, calories in/calories out, kind of stuff. I was taking multivitamins and V8 for friends saying, “You are going to get scurvy”. Even though I had adopted a new lifestyle of health and fitness (and I did cut out a lot of the junk food, the sugar, the simple carbs, etc.). 

After starting CrossFit a few months back, I eventually came across the Paleo diet. The two go very hand in hand, in theory and philosophy. CrossFit is all about function movements that help your everyday life, and eating Paleo is about giving you the basic building blocks you need to make your body run the most efficiently, so the marriage of the two make a lot of sense. When I first heard about it, I thought about my diet at the time, and although dramatically better than it had been in the past, I thought “There is no way I could pull that off, it’s mostly vegetables”. I bypassed it, and in mid-October, as I started seeing results with CrossFit, I thought about Paleo once more (as it is everywhere when looking at CF). From there, I thought, “let me try it for a week”, so I set off on the voyage. Within 3 days time, I felt like a starving dog left outside in the middle of winter. I was miserable. The problem was that I was mostly left to ground turkey and chicken. I had just spent the week prior trying “wheat-free” after reading a lot on wheat belly and the genetics of wheat. It made sense to me, so I thought I would try it, as ‘whole’ wheat was a big part of my diet still.

So, from there, I realized this was not for me, went back to just eating low carb, high protein, etc. Another month passed by, and at this point I was at a 4 month plateau of 96 lbs. lost. I had been wanting to pass that 100 mark, just to say I had done it. My goal was Christmas day (what better gift, right?) I made a plan to bump up the intensity of my workouts and try to eat leaner. The other reason for wanting to make dietary shifts was the month before was a generally bad eating month for me. I had several ice cream binges, the Halloween pot luck went down pretty bad, dietarily, and I found myself gorging and using food in an emotional way. I knew that was only the beginning to starting down a pathway of regression. Even though I knew I would never gain 90 lbs. again, I started feeling very much out of control, something that I had spent so much time gaining, so I thought I would start paleo again. 

This time, I had a plan. I spent the entire day looking at recipes, making a grocery list, and researching the diet. I realized, also, that the first time I did paleo, I didn’t really do it. Even a few things i’ve had since I started are semi-questionable for strict paleos, but for me the reasons for doing it are a bit different. Part of it was to give myself control over eating and try to develop better eating habits, but also to expand my palette. Being a much healthier individual these days, I don’t want to be the guy who is healthy, buuuut doesn’t eat vegetables. So, I went shopping, and got a bunch of things : You can see at MY PALEO ADVENTURE post. So, I tried the squash, I liked it, and that started me on Day 1 of a new lifestyle. 

I’ve tried eggplant, avocado, spaghetti and buttercup squash, tomato / onion (sauce), so far, but for this 30 day challenge hope to try a wider variety of foods. So, opening up my options is a huge factor for progressing in a healthy lifestyle. My friends are finding it hard to believe that I am eating vegetables. I won’t say that I am a vegetable lover by any means, and there is still a lot I need to try – actually a lot of conventional ones – peas, green beans, broccoli, and yes, the dreaded carrots (although I did have some carrots a month ago at applebees and lived to tell the story).

The biggest difference this time, when trying new food, is I see, in an very enlightened way the connection between my body, mind, and what I am tasting. I am more open to the idea of trying something new, even though residual resistance is still there (Hey undoing 26 years of thinking one way is hard!). The point is that I am making a solid effort expand my options. 

Today is day 10, and I honestly feel great. I hit the 100 lbs. lost about 20 days ahead of my goal, I feel mentally and physically better, I feel good about the choices I am making, and it’s just another thing to show that anything is possible. I spent the entirety of my life wishing I liked vegetables because I knew they were healthy, but not having the tools to try them and like them. Taste buds are taste buds, and there are certain things that are just gross, but it is important to understand that aversion is often a situation the mind creates. 

So, if you are feeling like you can’t get over the next hurdle, you can. If it’s dietary like giving up your favorite soda or eating less sugar. If it is fitness based like running a 5k or even the first mile, realize that only a piece of your struggle is in your body, the rest is in your mind, your greatest enemy and your greatest ally. Check back for more of my paleo photos of random stuff I am trying. I think tonight I am going to make turkey tacos with lettuce and tomato (go traditional! (with no shell of course, as that is not paleo!) 

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