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Crash and burn

August 20, 2011

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm BWWWERRRRRR!!!

That was the sound of my Paleo experiment coming to an end. A horrible, bloody end. Details to come.

Perfectly accurate representation of how my experiment ended


August 6, 2011

It just isn’t the same without milk.


Coffee. It rocks (even without milk).

I’ll be picking up some almond milk this morning so I can maintain my dwindling caffeine dependency Paleo-style.

Paleo Defined

August 5, 2011

I spent a good portion of this past week reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes, planning meals, eating grains and dairy, and generally obsessing over how I would complete four weeks of Paleo. I eventually came to the conclusion that I just need to take it one day at a time (heck, even one day at a time!) and there was no need to continue if I couldn’t take it any longer. I fear an epic end to this experiment a la Charlotte, but I just keep telling myself that I can stop any time (that’s what they all say!) and that I surprised myself by being able to complete the past month without added sugars, so this might not be as hard as I think it will be. Speaking of Charlotte, she linked to this study which had some pretty discouraging things to say about Paleo, all of which I’m sure are true. Which is why I am only following this for 4 weeks, I’m already tired of all the planning and sacrifice this takes. 🙂 Also, if I fail miserably, at least I know I’m in good company.

When I say I’m following a “Paleo” eating plan, what exactly do I mean? Based on my extensive Internet research, I can only eat pretty much these foods: There’s some debate over (full-fat, unprocessed) dairy and starchy tubers in Paleo circles, so I’m erring on the side of cation (and the side of the The Paleo Diet for Athletes) and avoiding them. However, according to the The Paleo Diet for Athletes I should be eating foods with a high glycemic load just before, during, and just after intense exercise. They specifically recommend gus and gels. This feels like a hack, but it’s what’s recommended…and I honestly think I might be hurting myself a lot more by not following these guidelines. So after any intense workouts (hard intensity for over an hour), I’m allowing myself oatmeal. My standard, go-to breakfast. Other than that, I’m sticking to meats, nuts, fish, veggies, eggs, and fruit. No grains for me! So far, this has left me pretty hungry. Really hungry. I’m pretty satisfied after meals, but approaching dinner I’m ravenous (though that could be that the gap between lunch and dinner the past two days has been about 8 hours…). Clearly I need to figure out a better snacking strategy.:) I’m sure that I’ll figure something out, it’s only been two days after all!

No Sugar Wrap-up

August 5, 2011

Woot! I’ve done it, four weeks without added sugar. I’m sure some has snuck into my diet somewhere (I’m looking at you, Maggiano’s dinner and Red Pepper Pizza) but for the most part I’ve done a great job at eliminating extra sugar from my diet. Here are my thoughts on the past month:

Difficulty to maintain: To be completely honest, avoiding added sugars was easier than I thought once extreme temptations were removed and I got into a rhythm. It became a habit for me; desserts were simply not an option. I was concerned that by not allowing myself to have any sugar, my mind/body/stomach would rebel and make me crave it. I figured the cravings would be too intense for me to resist, but they were never really that bad (especially after the first week or so). There were a few moments where I experienced cravings, but they were relatively easy to dismiss. I do think I compensated by eating more fats (especially nuts!) and dried fruit, so I wasn’t lacking in calories or nutrients. There was a point where I probably would have committed murder for some potato salad, but fortunately some homemade mayo from my husband enabled me to consume it. The only things I really missed (aside from Miracle Whip…) were the occasional special treat (such as dessert from a restaurant) that I know I can’t reproduce at home. I’m guessing that long-term it would be more frustrating to avoid all sweets, but during this relatively dull period in my life it was fairly easy.

Weight: I believe my weight was down around 3 pounds from the beginning at the official end of my no-sugar experiment (I’ll need to check my logs). I’m not sure if that’s statistically significantly, but mentally it sure feels better than a gain. Rock on. ^_^ I should probably take measurements on the rest of my body, but I just can’t image them being significant even if I lost 3 lbs. of pure fat which is highly unlikely…

Exercise: My running was still a bit sluggish on Friday (when I run with some speedy friends!) but I felt strong and comfortable for my 11 mile long run on Sunday. I think I’ve officially recovered from my blood donation. This week is a cut back week in my training (have I mentioned that I’m training for a half-marathon at that beginning of Septemeber which will segue into marathon training through November? No? Well now I have. :)) so I can’t really say much about running this week, other than it hasn’t been terrible. Weight lifting has been going well. I do track my weights and I didn’t see have huge gains (not that I would have expected to), but I certainly haven’t regressed. I’m still able to do three consecutive chin-ups (barely).

Energy levels: I haven’t noticed any change in my energy levels, I’m still slowly racking up sleep debt though which leaves me fairly tired at the end of the week and at the end of the day. My husband likes to joke that any time I’m slow or tired it’s because of the “lack of sugar”, but I know that the amount of sleep I get has a much great affect on this.

Mental state: My over-consumption of food on a regular basis has decreased SIGNIFICANTLY. Normally, once or twice a week I would come home and not be able to eat dinner with my husband because I was too full from snacking at work. It’s not so much the added calories that bothered me, but the lack of control involved. I didn’t CHOOSE to eat my dinner in candy and snacks from the office at the expense of a real meal at home, it just kind of happened. Stress and hunger overwhelmed me to the point where I felt compelled to eat. There have certainly been a few nights of too many spoonfuls in the peanut butter jar, too many handful of nuts, and too many bites of dried fruits, etc. but overall not so bad. This could be a result of the excellent willpower I’ve been able to maintain in my eating, lack of non-sugared options at work, more satisfying fat/protein in my diet in lieu of sugar, or sugar cravings not being triggered any more. I’m guessing it’s a combination of all of the above. I also think that given enough time I might regress to my former stress-eating self. I’m rather afraid what will happen when I return to my regular style of eating. I don’t want to maintain this forever (I would really hate to miss out on birthday cake with my husband :)) but I am enjoying the control I have over my diet. Fortunately, I have approximately 4 more weeks until I need to worry about that.

…speaking of which, I started Paleo yesterday. Which is interesting. All two days of it. But that’s another post for another time. 🙂

The Not-So-Good

July 27, 2011

Last night’s anniversary meal was delicious. Fatty, buttery, cheesey, fried, and delicious. The “fatty, buttery, cheesey, and fried” part of that definitely had an affect on me this morning. I could tell that my stomach was off when I went to make breakfast. Certainly not in any pain, just minor discomfort (As though it had been filled to the brim with fat laden, carby goodness. Which it was.) and a notable lack of my usual ravenous morning hunger. Completely worth it for an awesome meal. I managed to avoid dessert but I made my husband swear on our not-yet-conceived-or-even-planned-on first born that we would go back for dessert once my little experiment is over because the tiramisu sounded delectable.  Tiramisu always sounds delectable.

I was happy with my ability to eat until I was comfortably full (but not stuffed) when surrounded by huge portions of  yummy goodness. I think the awesome conversation with my husband and the upscale nature of the restaurant made me slow down and appreciate my food, leaving me more satisfied.

On the not-so-good side of things, my run this evening was pretty crummy. I was hoping for a 5 mile tempo run but had to settle for 3 easy miles. I know, it’s better than nothing, blah, blah, blah, but my legs just felt like lead the whole time. I’m not sure I could have run any faster if I were being changed by flaming zombies (because zombies on fire run faster?) which sort of defeats the purpose of an easy run. I do have a compendium of excuses to justify my lame performance:

  1. Last night’s dinner: wine, fried zucchini, lasagna, and creamy-sauced, meat-filled pasta may not be the most effective fueling strategy (though certainly a tasty one).
  2. More often than not I run in the morning. But I run in the evening at least once a week with a group, so that’s not really and excuse.
  3. No sugar…I’m pretty sure there was enough sugar/carbs/calories/sodium/fat in last night’s dinner to make up for anything I may have been lacking. I don’t really consider that an excuse either.
  4. Higher than normal activity on the weekend. I upped my long run a little and spend a good deal of Sunday biking….combined with a strength+HIIT workout yesterday may mean I’m still fatigued.
  5. Giving blood last week. As I mentioned, it seemed to take about two weeks last time before I was back to normal. Less than a week out means I could easily still be affected.
  6. I’m a wuss and I really should have just pushed harder instead of letting myself get off easy.

I’ll take any of the above to justify my poor performance, but I’m thinking 6 is the most likely culprit and I need to bone up on my mental toughness…


July 26, 2011

Hey y’all! I’m over half way through this “no added sugars” experiment, and I’m doing pretty well if I do say so myself. I’ve found that it’s not the direct sweets I’m craving (though I certainly can’t wait to have some ice cream!) so much as the incidentals – mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, Miracle Whip. My husband made himself a batch of potato salad using Miracle Whip and it took all of my will power not to eat the entire bucket. 🙂 Fortunately, my ingenious husband whipped up a batch of homemade mayonnaise which consisted primarily of egg and oil. Add that to some boiled potatoes, onions, and celery and you’ve got yourself a pretty tasty potato salad. The oil used was olive, which normally lends an awesome flavor to foods but in this case tainted the salad with an odd taste. Oh well, it’s still a great salad and we now know to use a less flavorful oil next time. 🙂

Last Wednesday I did fall victim to sugar’s siren…but I think I had a justifiable reason. I donated blood and they wouldn’t let me leave until I had something to eat or drink. They offered me cookies, juice, and pretzels…I went for the cranberry juice. In retrospect, the pretzels may have contained the least amount of sugar but I was a little woozy when I made that decision. I’m pleased to report that the ingestion of that sugar did not trigger mass sugar binges or any notable physical ailment. If some sugar kept me from passing out I’m okay with it. Being able to donate blood in and of itself is significant. Frequently, I am unable to donate because my iron levels are too low. My doctor did some blood work and was not concerned, this likely just a result of being a smallish, athletic, female…however I do make a concerted effort to eat enough iron and combine it with other nutrients to maximize absorption. Last Wednesday my hemoglobin levels were WELL above the minimum necessary to donate on the first try! I’ve never had iron levels so high! I’m not sure if this is because of my reduced coffee intake (coffee inhibits the absorption of iron),  reduced sugar intake, or increased nutrient consumption, but it’s pretty significant. It could just be a coincidence, but a happy one at that.

Changes I’m seeing: I haven’t had any eating rampages recently. Before, I would periodically have this overwhelming need to eat anything and everything I could get my hands on (maybe two or three times a week). I hesitate to call these “binges” because that’s an overloaded term with strong connotations…but what I was doing certainly was not healthy mentally or physically. I did have an issue one day last week that involved me and a jar of peanut butter (along with some prunes, cashews, cheese…) but that was an incident I believe to be directly related to that joyous time of the month. Since and preceding that incident I have not had any overwhelming urges or desires to stuff my face. I can’t be sure if it’s the no added sugar, the increased will power, reduced stress levels, or something else (darn my sampling size of one!). This result is good. I do fear that by avoiding all sweets I’ll eventually reach a breaking point and gorge myself on them, but that has yet to happen. Though if my dreams mean anything, I could be setting myself up for one heck of a meal. I’ve had several dreams in which I consume vast amounts of forbidden food. The setting changes, I’ve been at a party, at the mall, at a funeral…but the result is the same. I fill up on sugary things and worry that I’ve inadvertently destroyed my experiment. But fortunately, dreams are not reality.

I had a great run last week (before donating blood), but since then there has been a small but noticeable decline in my running. I think this because I have not recovered my blood stores. The last time I donated blood for a full two to three weeks afterwards my runs were sub par. I’m not ready to blame this on my lack of sugar yet.:)

I think the biggest difference I’m seeing is in my mental state (I’ve lost a couple of pounds since the start, but that could easily be within my normal weight variation). Not battling the guilt which comes after having a daily hot chocolate is refreshing. Not that a hot chocolate now and again bad, but my compulsive desire to drink it made me feel powerless. Controlling and choosing what I eat is rather liberating.  I just hope the pendulum doesn’t swing the other direction when I have to moderate my intake further for Paleo. I’m very concerned about the amount of planning and preparation involved to make that work, as well as the effect of NO GRAINS and NO DAIRY will have on me. No peanut butter is going to be killer too, but at least other nut butters will make up for that. Fortunately, my husband has agreed to work with me to make this happen, so having him on my side will help. I plan on taking it week by week and allowing myself to bail if things get too difficult. I willing to make sacrifices for this experiment, but there does come a time when tinkering with my diet does more harm than good.

Tonight I’m celebrating my anniversary with my husband at an Italian restaurant. I’m sure added sugar will sneak into my meal somewhere (likely in the sauces), but I’m not going to worry about it. As long as I avoid overtly sugared drinks and desserts, I’m going to consider it a success. Though it is going to be difficult to pass on that tiramisu…


July 16, 2011

I have been ROCKING the no sugar added thing for the past week. No hot chocolate, no barbecue sauce, no M&Ms, no salad dressings, no cake from the kitchen at work…It is certainly hard at times, but not impossible. I think one of the most difficult things to say “no” to was ice cream with my husband. My husband supports my experiment and is doing is best to accommodate me, but he likes his sugar. The first night he needed dessert I concocted my own creation to have with: warmed smashed banana with cocoa powder and milk. Stir it all together and it was delicious. I also managed to abstain from any dessert while he had ice cream one night, which was a more difficult task but I think it benefited me to not eat when I wasn’t hungry.

In addition to not eating added sugars, I have SIGNIFICANTLY reduced the amount of coffee I drink. I was usually drinking two coffees (half decaf) a day, but now I’m passing on it most days (excluding the day I bought myself a much needed latte latte :)). This was an unintended side effect of removing sugar, it made coffee (and generally poor quality coffee at that) much less appealing. I consider that a success.

Consequently, I have noticed myself getting extra hungry at work. Normally a cup of coffee with milk/creamer sufficed as a morning snack at work and hot chocolate in the afternoon. I’ve been bringing nuts and raisins (naturally sweet!) as an afternoon snack, but it hasn’t been enough. I’m either hungry a few hours before lunch in the morning and eat them, or eat my lunch early and the snack is not substantial enough to tide me over. So additional snack appears to be necessary, especially since all of the candy bowls and vending machines don’t provide any non-sugar added options.

I’m also finding my intake of fats higher than it used to be. I think this is a result of eating more nuts now, and since these are healthier fats I’m not too concerned about it. I still get periodic cravings for sweets, but nothing insurmountable so far. I haven’t cut out artificial sugars though, so that may account for some of that. My weight has dropped slightly, but not significantly so I think that’s normal fluctuations. I thought the first week would be much harder, so I’m optimistic for the rest of the month. I continue to fear the restriction (bad perspective, I know) that Paleo will bring…