I’m closing in on 18 months of eating a predominantly paleo diet, with 3 successful Whole30′s in there. It’s taken me a while and a bit of work, but I think I’ve got my personal dietary framework mostly worked out.
And I hesitate to call it a paleo diet – it’s not, exactly, and I’m fully aware of that – but its easier than grain-free, refined sugar free, vegetable heavy, anti-inflammatory whole foods based diet with a little white rice once in a while.
Try coming up with an acronym for that.
Yesterday, I shared how I built it. Today, I’m sharing what it looks like for me.
A little basics:
- I’m not a re-enactor. I have no delusions that I’m eating like a cavewoman. I’m doing my best version of a diet based on how I believe we were meant to eat. Besides, if I were to be a re-enactor of anything, hoopskirts or the cast of Sense and Sensibility would be involved.
- I’m not a perfectionist. I’m going to slip up and I’m going to eat less than optimal foods at times. It’s okay, as long as it’s not a regular thing.
- I’m not a low-carb eater. My gallbladder-less body digest a lot better when I make starchy vegetables a daily part of my diet.
- I don’t have an unlimited grocery budget. It’s pretty tight, so while I’d love for all of our meat to be grass-fed and our produce to be organic, that’s not going to happen. I make the best choices I can based on a budget that I can’t stray from, with plans to do better.
- It must be sustainable. From the beginning, this has been the way I intend to eat long-term. Too strict and that’s not possible.
Here’s my personal paleo framework, working around that groundwork:
- No gluten. Ever. I’m at the very least gluten-intolerant, there’s no doubt about it.
- No funky oils or fats. That whole lack of gallbladder thing means most oils are *not* my friends.
- No refined sugar. If I’m baking, I generally turn to less refined forms of sugar like dates, honey or maple syrup. A little white sugar leads me to more sugar, which in turn leads me to misery physically and emotionally. It’s not worth it.
- Limited grains. And by limited, I mean very rarely and then usually white rice cooked in bone broth (preferable soaked). Legumes and corn both make my stomach bloat and cause gut pain, though I can handle a little hummus with a lot of veggies. Again, it’s not worth the pain – I get plenty of fiber from vegetables.
- Little to no dairy. I try to convince myself on a somewhat regular basis that my body is good with dairy. It isn’t. Once in a while, a little cheese is okay. But it’s not an every day or even a once a week food for me.
When you take all of that out, what’s left?
Here’s what my personal perfect diet looks like:
- Protein. Preferably in animal form, but not overwhelming in amount. I’ve tried going without it and learned the hard way that I need it to feel my best.
- Lots of vegetables. Lots. My dinner plate is usually at least two-thirds veggies and so is my lunch. I also include more starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips and hard squashes to keep my digestion happier than most people who eat this way (that no gallbladder thing again, I think).
- The right amount of good fats for me. It’s predominantly coconut oil, clarified butter and avocado for me. I limit olive oil to salad dressings or drizzling over already cooked veggies for flavor. I don’t do well on a low-fat diet (at all), but balancing that gallbladder issues means I can’t go super high either.
- A little fruit. One or two servings per day, preferably seasonal. Except maybe in August, when I’ve been known to happily chow down on 3 or 4 peaches a day.
- Gut healing foods. Bone broth is a regular part of my diet. I’m looking to add more fermented foods and will start brewing kombucha again once it’s warmer. I’ve had stomach issues since birth, and the more I can do to rectify that the better.
- Solid sleep. At least 8 hours, but usually 9. In a dark room. The only way I can make that happen consistently is to eat they way I should and – interestingly enough – the days I most want to stray from the way I eat often tend to be days I haven’t slept well.
- Move. Right now, it’s running and Les Mills Pump. It will probably change, but some daily movement and strength building is key to keeping me at my best.
- Paleo baking. Why? Because I love to bake and I like cookies. I also believe strongly that in order for this way of eating to grow and to be more accessible to people eating a standard diet, it’s got to seem a little less crazy-duck-for-extremists-only out there. Baking with nut or coconut flours is one way to make that happen.
- Grace. Lots of grace. I’m not perfect. The occasional treat is an okay thing. I’m going to have days that I eat things I’m best not. Sometimes, I’m going to eat the mashed potatoes even though they’re full of dairy. I’m going to have sushi once in a while. It’s okay. And when I get the urge, I’m totally eating that double, no cheese, animal style with extra pickles burger from In N Out. 100% isn’t my plan and wouldn’t happen anyway. Beating myself up over those little dietary wobbles is never productive and generally only brings me to even worse choices.
So what does my average day look like? A lot like this, though usually with a sweet potato in there somewhere:
I’m not perfectly paleo. I have no intentions to be. I agree with Primal Toad that labels are dangerous, unnecessarily divisive and sometimes confusing. For right now, this is the way of eating that works for me. I’ll continue to tweak it and experiment (I’m looking at you, nightshades!). And I’ll continue to encourage others to find their personal best way of eating, whatever that might be.
Note: This is my personal experience and should be taken as such. Take it with a grain of salt. I’m not a doctor or a dietitian – just someone who has lived a very long time with a myriad of mystery health issues and has worked hard to overcome them.