My doctor, whose sense of humor is on the dark side, ordered the next in a series of plumbing expeditions, each of which descended more invasively into regions of my being that I hoped would never need scrutiny. “Hope you don’t mind drinking an irradiated milkshake,” she chortled, handing me the necessary paperwork. “Bottoms up!”
Yeah. That kind of humor.
I would not have subjected myself to any of the well-meaning incursions had I not been doubled over in agony on a regular basis, unable to walk a city block with my daughter on a recent trip to Portland. So, gamely slugging down the mocha chalk, I flattened myself on a cold examining table once again only to find that paddles, tubes, and prods could not reveal anything that might explain my distress and discomfort. Fortunately, that same doctor is not above lobbing an arch comment my way from time to time and was entirely at ease in suggesting that my systems might be protesting the added work necessary to operate a body that had packed on the pounds since retiring a year earlier.
“So, you think I should lose ten or fifteen pounds?” I asked with some regret.
Blank stare. No hesitation. “How about thirty?”
I don’t diet well, not that anyone does. My mother had the same inclination that I have demonstrated – losing, gaining,losing, gaining. She was, and I have been, a weight elevator, rarely finding the ground floor. I thought a thirty pound loss was unlikely, but, no doubt about it, my body was screaming for some help.
This will seem a digression, but bear with me. As a teacher, I advised students to find the passage that seemed the most troublesome or confusing; when reading Shakespeare, I often referred to those moments in which it seemed the character was saying, ” Blah, blah, blah, blah, verily, blah.” What they found was that in unpacking the blah bits, they found the key to the entire play. It was hard work, but it paid off.
My point? I needed to look at the most troubling aspect of limiting intake, and for me, the hardest part of any restriction of diet is in managing appropriate portions of pasta, rice, bread, buns, cookies, cake, pie, pretzels, chips, and fries. I can walk right by a tub of Rocky Road, but the sight of a fresh baguette, crust crisp, soft flesh within, sitting next to a slab of salted butter reduces me to insensible burbling. I may not be alone in that regard, but I appear to be not only powerless over carbs but powerless over thinking about carbs. In admitting that, however, I started to think that my issue might be a sort of addictive attachment to foods that seemed comforting but which had betrayed me, pound by pound.
I don’t like betrayal, and I was feeling nothing like comfort, so I faced the reality that portion management was not going to work for me. I had drop my favorite carbs completely. Go cold turkey. With regard to carbs, nada. nill, nothing, zilch.
Because the low-carb diets wouldn’t work for me, and since I had ditched white carbs, I grabbed all the fruit and vegetables I could carry, ignoring concern about sugar or calories, threw in bags of nuts, and began eating huge meals, often featuring eggs and chicken breasts. I don’t eat mammals and am allergic to fish and seafood, so chicken and turkey hit my plate once or twice a day. I’d read something about good fats, took a chance, and cooked a butter-rich chicken dish with green vegetables equally generously buttered. As a snack, and I snack a lot, I toss some tomatoes in a pan, drench them with shredded mozzarella, and have a tasty crust-free pizza crisped to perfection.
I started this routine in May, allowed myself a few moments of wicked deportment with the aforementioned baguette or a wedge of pie, but pretty much stuck to a diet I have come to enjoy very much. By the end of October, I had lost more than thirty pounds, gained energy, and felt fabulous.
A friend asked about my weight loss and nodded as I described what I do. “Ah,” she said,”the Paleo Diet.” I had not heard the term but guessed that she meant my days were essentially filled with hunting and gathering, probably approaching the sort of dining routine that might have fed a Paleolithic hominid.
Here’s the thing about this hominid living the Paleo lifestyle – I stick out in almost any dining circumstance. It’s not that I fill my trough with curious comestibles; I put fruit on salad, but that’s about as racy as my diet gets. No, the stuff itself is ordinary, but my grazing is steady, purposeful, and relentless. I heap a plate with various sorts of lettuce, cucumber slices, chopped carrots, sliced chicken, green peas, chunks of apple, peanuts, almonds, turkey bacon, orange sections, and walnuts. By “heap”, I mean pile. My companions finish a thick sandwich, polish off the chips, down a cupcake, and I’m still chomping. Take almost all of those ingredients, drop the lettuce, add spinach and four eggs, and I’m digging in to my first omelette. Forget the lettuce and eggs, add broccoli, spinach, beans, and baked chicken, and I’m good for dinner.
Happy as a kitten with a ball of string.
In the past, holidays and accompanying seasonal delicacies essentially took me out at the knees. I was pretty good until Halloween, got through the actual dishing out of treats, but ran into the day-after-Halloween candy sales (irresistible!), Thanksgiving pies (C’mon! Thanksgiving! Pumpkin pie!), a steady stream of baked goods and chocolate treats fresh from Santa’s workshop (HoHo!), and on to New Year’s Day, when the accounting was done, the spreadsheet documented spreading, and my self-regard was so damaged that I sought comfort with the only sure cure for my devastated sense of well-being – a baguette, crust crisp, soft in the middle, sitting on a plate with a pat of salted butter.
Elevator door opens. Going up?
So, with very little struggle and remarkable results, I just do what great-great-great Paleolithic grandpa did, eat what’s good for me, and set aside a few extra hours for mealtime.
I did find that my Palaeolithic forefathers ate so ravenously that entire species disappeared, including the Glyptodon, which looks like he’d be a mighty tasty fella on a bed of lettuce. So, you just might want to keep an eye on chickens in this part of Oregon.
Happy holiday greeting to one and all. Please pass the turkey.