The ‘What’ and ‘Why’ of Going Paleo: Less Sugar, More Vegetables

It has been a gradual process, but we have been eating what the internet refers to as paleo for almost six months now. I haven’t been super open about my health struggles on Instagram or Facebook (let’s be real, those are the highlight reels, and there was nothing about eczema on my earlobes that I wanted to remember) but I have been posting a lot about food we make, which has prompted many questions from friends and followers. So here’s a few non-reasons we went paleo:
  1. because I wanted to lose the baby weight 
  2. because it is trendy and I like to post pictures of my food with #hashtags 
  3. because we have so much money we wanted to eat steak 3x a day
I’ve shared some about my eczema explosion postpartum but diet was one of the ways we did an overhaul on our life, mainly for my benefit. I was covered in raw, weeping eczema sores from my knees to my earlobes and conventional medicine couldn’t offer me anything but oral or topical steroids that nearly guaranteed a rebound effect. So I went to the depths of the internet and came back with Paleo.
Most healthcare professionals will tell you that unless you test positive for a food allergy, eczema is not related to or caused by certain foods that you eat. This is somewhat true. Some people have true food allergies and have a reaction when they consume foods, this reaction being eczema. We see this all the time in infants. Breastfeeding moms cut out eggs, dairy, soy, etc. from their diets and some babies see almost immediate improvement within days. I do not have any food allergies. I’ve been tested several times throughout my life and I have none. I did go “gluten free” for a spell in college and “felt great” and did a Whole 30 during my first few years post-grad and had “tiger blood”, but nothing diagnosed ever from a healthcare professional that says I should avoid any foods. So, eventually I was back on the Standard American Diet as I was for most of my life.
I can report, however, that for most of my life I have felt bloated, had a bellyache, been tired, been sick, had eczema patches, been grumpy and not slept well. So I diagnosed myself: unhealthy. How do you get healthy? You eat less sugar, more vegetables.
So we began eating these things: meat, fruit, veggies, fish, nuts, seeds, and natural sugars only. I am definitely an ‘all or nothing’ personality and struggle with “in moderation” so it is a lot better for me to just say: I do not eat ________. I eat before I go to parties, we don’t really go out to eat without researching and planning ahead of time (which has saved us a ton of money), and we have invested in a total of three cookbooks that rock.
So at almost 6 months (with a little splurging around the holidays) paleo I am almost totally clear from eczema, and at least 80% healed compared to where I was this summer. The insides of my arms, hands, right wrist and the backs of my legs still have spots that just will not go away, but I know that eventually they will. I am not bloated, or have a belly ache, or am hungry in between or after meals, or grumpy for no good reason (I actually got my husband to admit this). The most striking of them all is that I’ve gotten over two colds in like 3 days or less which is really uncharacteristic for me. Especially in the winter, I usually get sick and stay sick for the entirety of the season, needing no less than 3 z-packs. I literally have woken up with a stuffy nose and two days later been totally normal. 
 I don’t believe that Paleo is the answer to all the things (and I really hate ‘labels’, so I cringe every time I say ‘I’m paleo’) for all the people, but I do think that our world would be a lot different if everybody ate a little less sugar and a lot more vegetables. I honestly think people would be a lot nicer to each other, and would probably feel a little better. So, back to my non-reasons:
  1. I did totally lose the baby weight (and quite a bit more) and bought a pair of pants a few weeks ago in a size that I haven’t seen since middle school and it totally freaked me out. The weight loss was a nice distraction from my eczema this summer, I will admit since I gained 70 (yep, that’s SEVENTY) pounds while I ate baked brie for nine months growing baby Lincoln.  I have stopped losing and have maintained the same weight for two months now so I’m feeling good about that, definitely think this is ‘my size’. I am most definitely not depriving myself of anything as I am eating super nutrient dense foods and lots of them. So if you are wanting to lose weight, I defer back to the “less sugar, more vegetables” statement above. Also, I still don’t really exercise intentionally, but I do chase a toddler around and carry him all over every day. 
  2. #whole30 is so trendy and you know #vegan and #organic and #pastured and #freerange and #paleo and #dairyfree and #sugarfree #holistic and all  the other foodie health buzz words that actually really drive me crazy. My account on both hashtag relevant social media sites is private, so I don’t do a lot of tagging because no one can see my pictures if they are looking for #paleo anything. Occasionally I’ll post a picture of say, a chocolate chip cookie, and I’ll #paleo it, but really it’s just to avoid the “is this paleo?” question that will inevitably follow. If it’s #notpaleo I’ll hashtag that as well, just you know, so nobody thinks I’ve got some magical recipe for #paleotequila. And sometimes I just make up dumb unrelated hashtags for funsies. But yes, you’re totally right, it is a health food trend that can be misunderstood and used inappropriately, but I really believe at the heart of the paleo movement are really good things: less sugar, more vegetables. 
  3.  We do 90% of our grocery shopping at Aldi (there are not enough words for how much I love that store) and on Wednesdays they do “special meat buys” where you can get like 5 pounds of chicken for like 7 dollars. It’s unbelievable. Steaks are discounted 50 cent a pound and I actually bought two boxes of organic spring mix (I realize, not meat) for 50 cents each and I have no idea why. The dates were great on it, I think it was just overstocked, but seriously. I will bring a quarter and my own bags all day every day to spend ~$100 a week on groceries to feed us real food. And we used to do steaks once a week, but that was expensive so now we do it once a month and it’s great. It is amazing how inexpensive it is to eat less sugar, more vegetables. 

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