I have had a niggling feeling for a while now that I may be using food as a reward… Too often in work when a tedious e-mail has been completed and a box of cupcakes waved under my nose, I happily indulge in a well deserved treat. After a brisk walk home resulting in a rumbling stomach and I am guiltily ripping the lid off the bread bin! I am frequently over indulging and as a result my jeans are snug, I feel lethargic and my skin could give the most unfortunate teenager a run for their money. I need to take action, and at last I have found a diet that loves rewards as much as me!
The Paleo Diet, better known as the Caveman Diet, is based on the principle that we have not genetically evolved that much since the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Therefore, to be at our physical peak, we need to follow their dietary habits, eating plenty of fruit, vegetable, nuts, lean meat and seafood. Refined and processed foods are out, only the foods that the average caveman would have rewarded himself with after a long day of physically taxing hunting are allowed. Rather than eating food that enhances my ever increasing waist line, instead Dr. Cordain (author of The Paleo Diet: Loose weight and get healthy eating the foods you were designed to eat) explains my rewards will be of the “psyche” and “body!”. Sounds perfect! After foraging around my local supermarket my cupboards are well stocked to embark for the diet that my body was built for.
Meat and vegetables seems to be the key to this diet, so even though roast beef, melon and spinach seem a peculiar way to start the day, breakfast is surprisingly tasty. I am feeling great until mid-morning when a lack of caffeine leaves my head pounding. You are allowed black tea or coffee on the diet, however, dairy is a definite no-go (cavemen didn’t often get the chance to stop and milk the wild animal they were about to butcher!). I personally dislike these drinks without milk so I have enforced a ban on caffeine altogether. Lunch is more roast beef (whoops, I should have thought this through more… I had leftovers from the previous night and every meal is supposed to include protein, fruit and vegetables!). I manage to endure the rest of the day sipping water and herbal tea and enjoy a tasty tomato soup recipe from the Paleo Diet book and a grilled turkey steak for supper.
I feel really tired today and struggled to keep my eyes open during my morning meetings. I suspect I haven’t eaten enough as I was in a rush this morning and only managed to grab a hardboiled egg from the fridge for breakfast followed by a sprinkling of nuts throughout the morning. I should have been tucking into my fruit and vegetables but I didn’t have the time to prepare anything and the sandwich shops surrounding my office are not caveman friendly. Following the Paleo diet means you need to be organised and I promised myself that I’d prepare some snacks for tomorrow. I find it hard to shake my tiredness off even after lunch and when a pizza voucher pings into my inbox at the end of the day I find myself drooling. Determined not to break the diet on only the second day I go for a quick jog after work and spend ages preparing a huge dinner of roasted beetroot, ratatouille and a pork chop grilled with lemon and thyme. I have enough left for the next day and go to bed feeling satisfied.
The caveman lived a physically challenging life and the Paleo diet recommends I take a minimum of 20-60 minutes exercise a day. Despite the fact no bread or pasta has passed my lips for the last three days I feel full of energy. A run around the village green will not suffice compared to the days of hunting, foraging and butchery of my ancestors so I decide to attack the gym vigorously. Not normally my favourite place (I live in a very well groomed borough), I lunge towards the weight machine and wrestle with the cross-trainer, and even jog home! I haven’t felt this alert for ages although I think my husband may be missing the old sleepy version of me as my new diet seems to have affected the energy levels of my vocal cords as well as my body. Apparently he doesn’t want to stay up all night listen to me discuss how great I’m feeling.
Unfortunately, diets never seem keen on alcohol, hardly uprising really considering how much drinking can damage your health, its full of calories and doesn’t really offer any nutritional value. However, alcohol is the social animal’s best friend and after four days of virtuous living, when the offer of a post-work drink comes my way, I think “why not”. The diet is not too strict and allows a beer or the odd glass of wine (although I am yet to find much empirical evidence of the caveman/beer and wine age). The joy of being out and with friends and not pumping iron with people who wear more make up to the gym than they would to a beauty pageant, means one glass of wine trickles into a bottle and I find myself a little light headed. As it increasingly looks like my regular processed and refined food diet provides a sturdier defence against the affects of wine, I stumble home feeling very guilty that I just may have ruined nearly a week of good work.
Today is the final day of the diet and I don’t feel great… I have a big deadline at work, my head is pounding and I am running later than usual. As soon as I walk into the office I am bombarded with questions and after five days of being caffeine-free I only just manage to politely ask our work experience girl to go and get me a very large triple shot skinny latte. As much as I also want to eat a croissant bursting at the seams with cheese, I think the hangover and latte are enough cheating. Unbelievably though, very quickly I feel normal again, if anything I feel really good. I have been following the food side of the diet in the last 24 hours despite my little slip up and I really think I can see the difference. My body is looking slimmer and my skin clearer. At lunch I buy a new dress. I am feeling good, light, and alert. Even though I initially decided to follow the Paleo programme for five days I think the positive benefits are too good to ignore so I will pursue this diet for longer. The food is satisfying, I look trimmer, I guess sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards!