Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Paleo Stories: Melissa Joulwan

Melicious decided to take on Amanda Byers' 30 Day Paleo Challenge this summer. Here's what she had to say....

1. How did you prepare your kitchen for the challenge?

I'd been following very strict Zone, so I wasn't eating grains at home at all -- the only time I ate grain was a Saturday morning Tex-Mex feast with corn tortillas. When I started following paleo, I had to eliminate the dairy from my diet, but not from my fridge 'cause my husband was still eating milk and cheese. To minimize temptation, we divided the shelves of the refrigerator: top for him because he's tall; middle shelf for me -- and we put "his food" in one of the drawers.

After we saw Food, Inc., Dave went on a tear and read every label in the fridge. We got rid of a lot of sauces and such that weekend, but now the fridge is pared down to just the healthful things we eat regularly, and we found Good versions of the stuff we tossed, like organic salad dressing and organic, gluten-free tamari sauce. If you make yourself a food detective, you really can find what you need in a form that's Good for you.

A fun change that happened this week is that I realized I had an entire cabinet I hadn't opened in two months. It's where we kept our canned stuff. I cleaned it out and donated the food -- mostly canned beans and soups. Then I took my new stash of spices, bought matching jars and labels, and re-vamped my seasonings cabinet. Now my spice jars are on spinning lazy-susan trays so I can see all my options for kitchen magic. The entire renovation cost less than $30 and has made me so happy!

The easiest way to succeed in eating well is to identify the foods you like and fit in the program, then eat them often. I realized I was looking up the same spice blends and recipes over and over, so now my favorites are printed out and taped inside my cabinet doors. It's a hands-free, no-fuss way to manage recipes.

Grocery lists! Dave and I made a template for our grocery lists that divides everything by store (HEB or Vitamin Cottage) and organic vs. conventional. Each week, we print out the template and stick it to the front of the fridge. As we run out of stuff, we put an X on the list. Totally anal and totally useful.

2. Did you eat out at all with friends? If you did, how did you go about picking menu items that fit?

Previously, eating out was a challenge because I wanted to "eat like normal people" and "have fun and cheat." Now, I'm not that fond of it because except for rare occasions, the food I made at home tastes so much better!

But socializing is part of life, so again, food detective skills have to kick in. I found a place near my office where I can get grilled fish on a bed of lettuce and raw cabbage with guacamole on the side (Wahoo's Tacos). It's not as good as homemade, but it does allow me to go out with friends for lunch, and sometimes, that's more important.

I had a pretty big triumph recently... it was my work friend's birthday, and when I asked where he wanted us to take him for lunch, he said, "I know you won't want to eat there, but can we go to Dirty Martin's?" In case you're unfamiliar, Dirty Martin's is a burger joint on the UT campus. Bacon cheeseburgers, fried EVERYTHING, milkshakes... you get the idea. Last year, I would have either declined to go ("You guys have fun! I'm going to stay here and eat my packed lunch.") or gone with them and said, "F*ck it!" then had tater tots and a burger... only to feel badly about it later.

Before we left, I looked at the menu online and decided what I was going to eat: hamburger salad! Two thin burger patties on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomatoes and pickles. PERFECT! I got to enjoy the beautiful summer afternoon, had a bite of a fried pickle, one french fry off a friend's plate. It was awesome.

On the way back to the office and in the elevator ride up to the 12th floor, all of my friends were holding their stomachs and moaning. "Why did I eat so much? I'm stuffed!"

I wasn't happy they weren't feeling well, but I was enormously happy that I felt great, my hunger was satisfied, and I wasn't excluded from "normal people's" fun.

3. What was the most difficult thing you had to deal with?

As always, I'm impatient. I adopted a paleo diet because I want to lose more body fat/weight. I love how good I feel, and food is pleasurable again in a way it hasn't been for a while. I feel like the extra paleo "rules" have actually freed me, in a way. I'm feeling very creative in the kitchen, and I love that. But now that I'm at my healthy weight, my body does not want to give it up. It's going to be a slow process, and doing it this way is the right way, but it's mentally challenging. I want to reach my vanity weight! ;-) ... and that's going to take a commitment for the long haul. But food-wise, I've found it surprisingly easy. I even ate at Sea World and CHOSE to have a cheat. But if I'd wanted to stay clean, I could have done it: salad, BBQ'd meat, snacks in my purse. Despite the fact that there is garbage food EVERYWHERE, it's also getting easier to find clean-ish food, if you use your spy skills.

4. What was the easiest part of the challenge and did it surprise you?

I was VERY reluctant to give up dairy. I wasn't eating much of it: a glass of milk at breakfast, a 1/2 cup of yogurt mid-morning, and a 2% string cheese in the afternoon. But man! I didn't want to say goodbye to them. I decided to try dairy-free for a week, just to see how it felt and to see how I liked eating substitute foods. It's been a breeze! I haven't missed the dairy. And I've replaced it with things that are yummier: tahini dressing over vegetables is creamy and delicious, without the dairy side effects. I was shocked how much better I felt when I eliminated the dairy. And as a reminder, I ate half a cheeseburger on my vacation and felt like I'd swallowed a kettlebell. That was the last time I wanted cheese.

*******Make no mistake about it, changing your diet is H.A.R.D. However, there are certain things you can do to make sure you stay on track. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE!!!

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