You may not believe me if you saw me today, but in my younger years I used to be extremely overweight. High school was a nightmare for my waistline and me. It was a period of my life defined by self-loathing, extremely low self-esteem and battles with fad diets that I prayed would result in the loss of excess pounds.
No Dairy. No Grains. No Sugar. No Alcohol. Those are the tenants of the Paleo diet that have helped me transform my body from fat to fit.
No alcohol? To those who know me, the phrase, “Yeah right,” is silently running through their heads. But seriously. No alcohol.
Not only was I forbidden from alcohol, but adopting Paleo eating habits also meant that I had to end the 25-year love affair that I had with pizza once and for all. On the last night before I became a modern day cavewoman you better believe that I chowed down — between sobs — an entire large pepperoni pizza, with extra cheese, all to myself.
Believe me, no one was ever more saddened by the thought of eliminating pizza and booze from their diet than I was. At one point in my life, Coco Puffs and beer were a legitimate excuse for breakfast, and still there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss the relationship I had with my Domino’s deliveryman. But it was a serious change in diet that I needed to make if I ever wanted to really feel good about myself.
The Paleo diet is a focus on eating natural foods that have been around for thousands of years. In other words, the “Caveman diet,” as it is also sometimes called, focuses on eating the way nature intended it to be.
If it comes in some cute packaging or contains ingredients that sound like they were birthed in a chemistry lab, chances are it’s probably not Paleo. Nowadays, the standard American diet, featuring foods saturated with sugar, refined sugar and even more sugar, is simply ruining the health of almost anyone who tries to eat according to the food pyramid.
As it turns out, we’re built to eat different foods than what we mostly eat now. The overwhelming amounts of sugar and unnatural processed foods that saturate our diets just weren’t around when our caveman ancestors were running around, throwing spears in saber-toothed cats and speaking in “fe-fi-fo-fum.”
So eliminating processed foods is a way to rid your body of the tons of preservatives, salt and sugars that are so often added to our favorite foods like breakfast cereal, bread, candy, donuts, pasta and cookies. By moving away from daily processed foods and toward natural foods, it’s virtually impossible not to make better eating decisions.
So what am I eating now that I’m a Paleo woman?
Actually, for a diet that cuts my two favorite food groups, dairy and grains, I’m still left with a ton of delicious options. As a Paleo eater, there are more than 100 different types of food at my disposal, and I hardly ever feel deprived.
Almost all meats are Paleo by definition, so if it used to moo, oink or make some other sound — it’s fair game.
And yes, that means I can still eat bacon. Thank God, because I needed some guilty pleasure to replace my beer and pizza cravings.
How about shellfish? Shrimp? Fish and other seafoods are definitely on the Paleo diet. The ocean is so beautiful and generous with its delectable oysters and succulent shellfish. Not only are they deliciously Paleo, but also they’re chock full of good stuff like Omega-3’s as well.
If it swims or has fins, go for it. Heck, even the occassional meal at Red Lobster is OK, as long as you have the willpower to say no to the rolls. Thankfully almost all fruits and vegetable are on the diet as well. When I’m hungry I make sure to stuff my face with obscene amounts of asparagus, avocado, brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, apples, oranges and grapes. I inhale almost every kind of fruit and nut, and cook with oils like olive and coconut oil.
The best part? Unlimited cups of black coffee. The key to my heart. Fill ‘er up.
In the year-and-a-half that I’ve been eating like a modern day cavewoman, I’ve lost more than 30 pounds, cleared my skin of unruly breakouts, increased my energy level and strengthened my immune system.
They’re great improvements to my health that I wouldn’t trade for a slice of toast or a bag of Skittles. I prefer to count myself out of the two-thirds of adults in America that are labeled as obese. So go ahead and keep that slice of cheesy pizza. I’ll just take a skinnier jean instead.
Kate Hofberg is a graduate student in the College of Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org