Diet

What Eating Only Unprocessed Foods has Been Like

This was originally written over 3 years ago, on June 24, 2013.  But most of my food philosophy still stands.

A few months back I made the decision to try to go completely unprocessed in terms of diet.  Truth be told, I didn’t formally make the leap until about 2 months ago.  But in these last 2 months, some of the changes have been surprising and others, not so surprising.

My food philosophy is fairly simple. No GMO’s (if I can help it).  No processed foods. Little to no sugar.

The “gmo” thing hasn’t been much of a problem although over the past couple months I have had to cut out a couple foods like corn, soy and yellowneck squash out of my diet.  I’ve had sushi in restaurants a couple times and each time I used soy though.

Avoiding processed foods is another beast altogether.  For instance, suddenly mundane things like mayo or ketchup become t0-do tasks. This isn’t as much of a problem since I am gluten-free (do to laziness…who wants to make bread?) so sandwiches have become a thing of the past.  Things that are kind of cumbersome are things like making italian dressing for salads but even this is fairly easy.

Grocery shopping is nothing more than a trip around the edges of the store, this by the way is how to how to avoid buying fake forskolin supplements. And of course, I still have to buy things for my 5 year old daughter who isn’t too keen about my diet as she has noticed trips to MCD’s suddenly plummet.

I don’t want to have to think about it and cooking it should be about as easy as eating it.  Oh…and it has to taste good.

I also still have coffee in the morning (with cream and honey) and an alcoholic drink or two at night.  So, I guess you could call this almost paleo although I don’t like considering myself anything other than someone who eats what they are supposed to eat.

Over the past 2 months, I have lost roughly 15 pounds and a few inches of girth around my mid-section.  I know this isn’t “biggest loser” amounts but I am not that overweight.  The biggest thing for me hasn’t been the pound count though as much as it is the how-do-you-feel-in-your-clothes feeling.

Here are a few things that I have learned along this journey….

You have to plan what you eat.  This is probably the hardest part for most and not having food around for you to snack on is a recipe for gorging yourself on things that you probably shouldn’t eat.  Almonds, mixed with a bit of dried fruit replace that bag of chips late night.  A big bucket of salad pre made on Sunday can get you through the week for lunch.  If you are in a hurry, a chopped up chicken breast cooked in bacon fat can expedite the cooking down from 15 minutes to 5-8 minutes.  Boiled eggs are perfect when you are refrigerator grazing.

That said, everything has to be pre-planned to a certain degree.  It’s actually remarkably easy.  Grocery shopping pretty much consists of me planning a week of protein with staples.  I kind of put a little toe water here by joining the primal blueprint weekly menu planner which I will talk about a little later.

Protein Staples include eggs and bacon, chicken, some sort of fish, bison and the occasional pork product.

Vegetables and fruits are fairly easy.  I buy a couple pounds of spring mix and then some seasonal fruits and vegetables, usually around $30.

Eating out isn’t as hard as I thought they would be.  In the past 2 months, I have managed to stick to my diet through an anniversary dinner, memorial day weekend and finally a week long vacation to Florida.  I figured the anniversary dinner would be relatively easy (and it was…I had a spoonful of canoli with the wife for dessert) but I was dreading memorial day weekend.  All in all, eating burgers without the bun wasn’t really all that bad although I did get a few weird looks from my wife’s family.

The reality is that most restaurants these days cater to the gluten free crowd which happens to closely resemble my diet. And hey….aside from vegetarians and vegans, who wouldn’t love a juicy hunk of steak with potatoes and vegetables?  For the vacation, I was able to sidestep all the junk food and replaced it with fresh fruit for breakfast and a huge caveman type meal for dinner.  Fresh fish anyone?

Food doesn’t have to be boring.  The last time I went on this diet, I was basically eating chicken breasts, fish and burgers with a side of broccoli or some other vegetable.  In essence, it was very boring.  This time around, I elected to sign up for Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint menu which basically plans weekly meals and breaks them down into a grocery list.  It helped me get out of the cycle of eating bland boring food.

These days, I have an organic chicken thigh recipe cooked with green onions and bacon in a chicken stock dish that even my daughter loves.  I also make a pretty mean Bison Chili topped with avacado.  This week, I making carnitas, which I will eat on a salad. I don’t necessarily follow the menu plan to a T but it gives me ideas for delicious whole food recipes.

Of course, there is boring too.  For example, my post workout days I eat 4 eggs with a slice of bacon and wilted kale, which looks (and actually could be) a quiche.

Your body reacts better to whole food than processed food.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise but what did was how my body has changed.  For instance, I used to have some pretty bad gas issues that was getting worse the older I got.  When I made the switch, it virtually went away overnight.  Same thing with heartburn.

People who are Paleo would like to attribute this to their diet but I think that what is really going on here has more to do with actually eating whole foods rather than ingesting a bunch of chemicals.  I do think that the copious amounts of refined sugar in the American diet wrecks havoc on the intestines and gluten rich products probably aren’t the best idea in the world.

A lot of people talk about insulin levels and how well a whole food diet controls this but even more surprising is the fact that I’m rarely hungry and when I am, I eat a ton less than I used to.

And fiber?  I keep hearing all the dietitians talk about fiber but I have been just as (if not more) regular without gumming up my diet with high fiber foods (like whole wheat bread, bran, granola, etc.)  Of course, a lot of my fiber would be coming from the vegetables I eat.

And then there is sleep.  I sleep a lot more soundly, feel more alert when I’m awake and rarely have that mid afternoon crash.  I don’t know if this accounts for the food I am eating or if it is a placebo effect of thinking myself well although after a couple months I would think if it was all in my mind, it would have run it’s course.

You don’t eat as much as you would think.  This was a total surprise.  I thought eating this way would create a bigger food budget but in essence, it has actually dropped my food budget.  There are days where I have to force myself to eat (non workout days).

Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are times that I don’t eat a lot.  For instance, a week ago, I sat down and ate a pound of ground beef in one sitting (and didn’t feel bad about doing it).

I don’t crave the foods that I thought I would.  I have heard of all sorts of things about sugar.  And before going into this, I thought for sure I would miss my ice cream time.  But to be perfectly honest, I haven’t.  In fact, I can take my daughter to the yogurt place and not even worry one bit if I am going to fall to temptation.

The last time I did this wasn’t as easy though and I think it was because I allowed myself sweets every now and then.  I know a lot of diets have cheat days but I think this compounds the cravings when ultimately what you need to do is break the cycle.  Breaking the cycle is the hardest part.

I don’t do cheat days but I have had a couple meals that isn’t a part of the diet.  For instance, I had an orangesicle gelato shake while on vacation with my daughter and there was a day where I had a slice of pepperoni pizza.  In both cases, there wasn’t a feeling of reward there though.

I’m losing weight but it wasn’t instantaneous.  Here’s something weird.  The first month I was on this diet, I didn’t lose a single pound but my clothes started fitting better.  But in the past month, I have dropped 15 pounds.  I started at about 205 and am now hovering around 190.  My six foot frame could stand to lose another 15;  I think that this is completely doable by the end of the summer.

Some tips for anyone who is thinking about trying this diet out.

It’s only been 2 short months but at this point I do have a few tips to help those who are wanting to try this diet out.

  1. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.  Perhaps the biggest thing to consider is that this is a lifestyle choice, not a diet that you should play around with to lose weight.  You will lose weight on this diet though.  And feel better about it.
  2. Expect a period of your body readjusting.  I didn’t lose any weight the first 2 weeks although I felt a heck of a lot better and my clothes started fitting better.  I think that a lot of what this has to do with is your body reaquainting itself with burning fat stores (which is the primary fuel) rather than the usual ready on hand sugar that most diets consist of.
  3. Don’t sweat what you are eating…just eat whole foods.  Well, kind of.  You probably aren’t going to lose much weight if you are eating bags of almonds and drinking coconut milk.  But for the rest of us, you can pretty much eat what you want and get results.  The way I look at it, a pound of ground bison may be 1,000 calories but then again, it is probably half of the calories most people ingest at a restaurant.
  4. Keep Foods Interesting.  Whole foods don’t have to be boring.   Experiment with your food or even better, experiment with combining foods.  Apples go nicely with bacon for example.  Why not cook the two together and add them to a salad?  Beef and Avocado absolutely rock. Recently, I discovered that basil in burgers is mighty tasty.  And then there is coconut flour, which makes some pretty bad ass (and healthy) pancakes among other things.
  5. Cheat Days?  What’s that?  I know that a lot of popular diets advocate a cheat day but from my personal experience they just lengthen the cycle of cravings.  When I stopped eating lots of sweet things, the cravings went away completely after about 2 weeks.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t indulge every now and then.  What I am saying is allow your body time to adjust to NOT craving the stuff before you do.
  6. Don’t obsess over the scale.  The hallmark shouldn’t be an actual number but how well your clothes fit your body.  If they are fitting better, then good things must be happening.  I would recommend to step on a scale no more than once a week.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up when you visit the dark side.  80/20 rule applies here.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself every now and then and let’s be honest here- No one wants to be THAT guy at a family function that doesn’t eat because his / her diet is conflicting with the menu.
  8. Organic is better.  I went round and round on this one but have decided that organic chicken and grass fed beef is worth the extra dollars.  This is personal though.  The idea of making a bone broth from an animal that has been fed antibiotics since it was born and then me eating those antibiotics kind of freaks me out a little bit.  When a label reads organic, you can rest assured that there isn’t any preservatives or other weird stuff in your food…at least not to the extent that comes from conventional farming.  The way I figure it, the less weird stuff in your food, the less resources your body has to use to get rid of the weird stuff.

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