Welcome to my week on the Paleo diet, or, “How much bacon can I eat under the guise of ‘dieting’?”
So what exactly is the Paleo diet? Before embarking on this adventure, I was already weirdly familiar with paleo, due to knowing way too many Crossfit enthusiasts who sneered at things like oatmeal and beans. ”I can’t eat that, it’s not Paleo.” Really? I wondered. Since when were we hating on oatmeal, which studies have shown time and time again to be basically the healthiest food ever? Apparently, we’ve been hating on it ever since someone decided the root of many modern health problems is that our bodies haven’t adapted to modern diets, and we should eat more like our ancient ancestors. This means that meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds are all okay, but anything we started eating after the dawn of farming – grains, sugars, legumes, dairy products – are not. Pretty much all processed food is off limits, as ancient man did not eat things out of cardboard boxes or plastic wrappers. Or did he?
Why I’m excited: According to this diet, I can basically just eat avocado and bacon until I explode, and this is technically ‘allowed.’ Also, I am technically allowed alcohol and coffee in ‘moderation,’ whatever that means. This is crucial, because no one wants to be that girl on a diet who makes up a lame excuse why she can’t go out because it’s easier than being at a bar and having to order a virgin vodka soda. (Can I even have club soda on this diet? I’m pretty sure the cavemen didn’t drink that.)
Why I’m skeptical: I can eat all the bacon. This whole thing kind of seems like people took the Atkins diet, cut out the dairy and put a picture of a caveman on it. It was rated the worst diet in a recent ranking by US News and World Report. But why judge diets based on experts? I’m going to try this diet for myself, in the name of science (this is science, right?).
Since I am the worst food photographer on the planet, my diet will be documented using what I know best: TV shows.
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 4 slices of bacon, because… why not? Also, fruit salad because I feel I need to eat something that appears to have actual nutritional value. The amount of grease left on my plate when I finish the bacon is horrifying. This diet cannot possibly actually be healthy.
Lunch is a spinach salad with chicken, because this follows the rules and I am deeply uncreative. On the way home from the gym, I stop at Whole Foods to pick up provisions (mostly I am hoping they will have some sort of Paleo desserts, but if they do, I don’t find them). I have forgotten how expensive meat is, because I don’t usually buy it to cook at home. I consider investing in coconut oil or milk because this seems to be a Paleo staple, but I can’t see myself having much use for the giant jar of coconut oil after this thing is over. I grab dinner from the hot bar – salmon and asparagus.
Smoothie for breakfast. This is clearly a mistake. Despite eating a salad the size of my head for lunch, I am hungry an hour later. Apparently protein in the AM is actually important. Also, I am exhausted, but I think this is because my cat woke me up in the middle of the night, and I cannot blame Paleo for that. Lunch is salad with chicken again – color me creative. Also, our cafeteria sells pretty much nothing that isn’t in some way bread-based. Dinner is leftovers from last night. This is getting boring. I attempt to look up recipes, but 90% of the websites about paleo include way too much preaching about how letting so much as a grain of sugar into my body is going to kill me, and I can’t really get past that.
Egg and avocado for breakfast. It’s amazing, until about 11:30 when I weirdly transform from pleasantly satiated to desperately hungry. It does not help when my coworker wants to go to a deli and pizza place for lunch, ergo forcing me to get a Greek salad (sans feta) because I can eat literally nothing else on the menu. Even after inhaling this, I am still hungry. I raid the cafeteria at work where there is pretty much nothing I can eat, so I get a coconut water, hoping it will sort of help. THIS DIET IS THE WORST AND I HATE EVERYTHING.
After work, I head to a new Mexican restaurant with friends. You know what’s Paleo? Guacamole. You know what’s not? Tortilla chips. You know what’s gross? Using a tortilla chip as a utensil for guacamole but not eating the chip itself. You had best believe I do this anyway. Post guac disaster, I am supposed to meet a gentleman caller for a drink. The jury is out on the Paleo-ness of potatoes, but at this point I decide that for me, they are in, and permit myself to order truffle fries. I am still forced to explain to my date that no, we can’t get the hummus, because cavemen didn’t eat beans. Later that night, I have to bake cookies for an event the next day. It is incredibly difficult to bake cookies that you cannot sample, but somehow I persevere. All that sugar, after all, is pretty much deadly.
I attend a breakfast event, and due to my inability to consume croissants or bagels, I eat some fruit and drink all of the coffee (so much for moderation). As a result, I am buzzing all morning.
Later that day, my horrible friends Facetime me from someone’s apartment where they are consuming all of the junk food. I want to reach through the phone to rip the Oreos out of their hands and/or punch them in the face. They invite me over, but I decline, citing my murderousness. Instead, another friend and I head to a hotel bar, where, blessedly, the snacks (olives and nuts) are Paleo-friendly. I realize midway through stuffing my face that the nuts are mixed, and technically, peanuts aren’t Paleo. I spend the rest of the night awkwardly picking out the almonds and cashews and leaving the peanuts in a pile on my plate. I also order Brussels sprouts with bacon. They are glorious.
I make a giant breakfast of egg and bacon and avocado. I am at this point too lazy to go grocery shopping and end up doing nothing but eating cashews for the rest of the day. Whoever said this diet would give me energy was a lying liar who lied. Due to my inability to summon the energy to leave my couch, I spend the day catching up on TV. This activity is way less fun when you’re not allowed to have popcorn.
Due to being incredibly sick of eggs, I foolishly have a smoothie for breakfast again. This is a horrible mistake. I want a donut in the worst way. I don’t even like donuts. Why is this happening? It takes literally every ounce of my rapidly waning willpower to keep me out of the cafeteria to get a donut. Lunch is salad. With chicken. WHY IS THIS DIET NOT DONE YET? Completely lacking both energy and enthusiasm, I come home and eat an avocado for dinner. Yes, guys, just an avocado. Then I dream of all the things I will eat when this dumb diet is done. Donuts. Oreos. A giant bagel with cream cheese.
This is almost over. Breakfast is “Paleo pancakes,” which is where you mash up a banana and mix it with an egg and cook it in a pan and pretend it resembles actual pancakes, which it does not. They are fine, if you enjoy eggy-tasting banana. They are not fine if you want your breakfast food to taste like breakfast.
Dinner. I have a date. We are going to a restaurant that serves sushi. It is at this point I cave. I just want to eat carbs like a normal person. They are delicious. Afterward, we go for frozen yogurt and it is pretty much the best thing I have ever tasted in my life.
In conclusion? This was horrible. In my normal life, I manage to eat ‘healthy’ a good portion of the time, but as soon as I put the paleo restrictions on myself, I ended up wanting all kinds of garbage I would never normally touch. Also, if you like having friends, and spending time with them in places where food is located, this diet makes that extremely challenging. I’m sure I cheated a whole bunch on this diet because I wasn’t going to ask if the brussels sprouts were cooked in butter (not allowed) or separate the sprinkling of cheese from my fries. Basically to follow this diet to the letter, you need to be making all of your meals yourself because otherwise you don’t know what’s going in them. I will acknowledge that my meal variety was not great, and could probably have been more enticing had I felt like cooking, ever. I will concede that cutting out processed foods was probably not the worst thing I have ever done for myself. I will not concede that carbs are delicious, and I’m very glad I’m not a caveman.