Monday, January 31, 2011

I love it when a plan comes together

We are officially one week away from the kick off of our paleo challenge! Honestly, it can’t get here fast enough and I find myself questioning why we are waiting to get seriously serious. But, this does provide time for planning – which I love to do.

Aim high in steering. This is the primary piece of advice that my drivers ed teacher provided and the only one that I really remember. The concept being that if you look far enough ahead on the road where you are going, you will stay on the right track to get there. That advice helped me pass my drivers exam and I think it will help us successfully complete our paleo challenge.

I am working on planning our menus for weeks 1 and 2, and referencing them against our workout plans. The goal is to plan time to cook extra food on days we don’t workout, so the days we do have big workouts – I am not stressing about getting home to make a nutritious, healthy and satisfying paleo dinner.

Ryan and I both have day jobs that include about an hour train commute each way. So on weekdays, I need a plan! Especially if I want to do it all and still get to bed at a decent hour. If I plan the time to cook and workout, I don’t stress over not having enough time. This way I can make sure that we have time to do the things we have to (work), the fun things we love and live a healthy paleo lifestyle.

Menu and workout plan to be posted soon!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Goal

We’re not feeling all that great this morning, and there’s no question why.  Last night we had our last pre-challenge pizza at Edwardo’s.  Despite being delicious, as deep-dish pizzas here in Chicago are known to be, we both agreed that we won’t miss it.  Having planned a few “last indulgences” before our challenge, my excitement for these meals has begun to wane, while my aversion towards the congestion, sluggishness, and poor sleep resulting from these meals has grown.

Eating pizza I was reminded of an old roommate who did a paleo challenge through crossfit.  They measured before & after:  pics, weight, I think body fat%, and tested his VO2 max (the over-all capacity for work, tested by how fast he could row 5000m on a row machine).  Challenge winners showed the most progress in a combination of the categories.  Naturally before the challenge, what did he do to prepare?  He sat on the couch gorging himself on bad carbs like pizza and pasta.  In order to win a before & after contest it’s ideal to start the challenge in the worst possible shape if you want to win.  That way it’s the easiest way to show the most progress.

How do you win our challenge?  By following the rules for 45 days.  That simple.  Our goal is not to burn the most fat, or to look better in skinny jeans (BTW nobody looks good in skinny jeans).  Our goal is to do it.  It’s more like we’re conducting a science project, and we are our own test subjects.  In order to provide a more accurate pre- and post- challenge sample, we’re trying to eat like we normally would; mostly paleo, with an open meal every once in a while.  The next week and a half before the challenge that’s what we plan to do.  We’re planning to use the last of our Groupons which are set to expire over the next 2 months (Sushi, Cajun food, and Mexican), and have a few snacks at a Super Bowl party, but otherwise remain paleo.

It’s funny, the more indulgences we have, the more excited we are to start the challenge.  Bring on February 7th!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Spirooli is here!

I need a new ‘pasta’ - I am burnt out on spaghetti squash! So, I made a small investment in the Spirooli. I know I could probably do something similar with a plain knife and a lot of time. But the Spirooli is fun! – and it makes zucchini noodles super fast. I’ve only tried it with zucchini so far, next up are sweet potato fries, and maybe apple chips!


+ zucchini

= noodles!

Topped with homemade meatballs and tomato sauce!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why 45 days?

Stacey's so easy. 

Uh...not like that.  Let's start over...

Stacey's so easy going.  When I first brought up doing a 45-day challenge, she was totally in without my having to sell it to her.  After several weeks of chatting about plans, she finally wondered aloud, "why are we doing 45 days and not 30 like all these other challenges?"  Coolly, I spat out a few reasons and they seemed to make sense, but to be perfectly honest, I had no idea.  It just sounded like a good number.  Somehow she bought whatever line of reasoning I had, but then I had to ask myself:  why 45 days? Why not 30? Or 50?

Here's the logic:
1) 30 days is too short, but somehow the number 50 is an intimidating commitment.
2) Without any science behind this, we figure the first 2 weeks will be like some sort of detox period.  Being fully detoxed, we can then begin our traditional 30 day challenge.
3) Neither of us sees the paleo diet as a fad diet, but it's really more of a lifestyle choice.  The extra days beyond 30 shouldn't be too different than how we want to be living anyway.

And some (IL)logic:
1) In 30 days, it'll still be winter, but in 45 days...well, it'll still be winter here in Chi-town, but hopefully not still make-you-curse-because-it's-so-@#$%ing-cold winter.
2) 30/2=15 and 15X3=45.  There's some sort of mathematical symmetry here.  That helps somehow.
3) When Michael Jordan returned to the NBA he sported number 45.  23 days is just not long enough.  Sorry MJ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I will follow the rules.

I am not generally a rule follower – if you put a fence in front of me, I want to jump over it. However, for this challenge we will set forth the rules and I will follow them. So, here’s the food rules. Pretty straightforward in terms of what is considered paleo and what is not. I do believe that you have to decide how paleo ‘works’ for you on an individual basis. (a great post from Everyday Paleo on this topic) For that reason, I think our alcohol rules are pretty lenient – but it’s what is going to work for us and our lifestyle – since my hope is that our post-challenge habits are not that far off from the challenge rules.

Absolutely will be eaten
  • Lean meats (grass-fed as much as possible)
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Omega-3 eggs
  • Veggies (non-starchy)
  • Berries
  • Nuts - primarily walnuts & macadamias
  • Oils – olive, coconut and walnut

Not a bit, none!
  • All dairy
  • All grains
  • All legumes
  • Corn & corn products
  • Refined sugars
  • All other oils

Thoughtfully consumed
  • Fruit – 2 servings per day max
  • Sweet Potatoes – only on big workout days
  • Almonds – last resort nut, all nuts limited to 4oz max per day
  • Honey/Agave – Barely any, couple tablespoons per week (just enough to enjoy a very rare ‘paleo candy bar’)
  • Nut flours – only walnut; max two nut flour ‘breaded’ meals per week


  • Vodka – preferably Ciroc (gluten free, distilled from grapes), rocks or with club soda
  • Tequila – (will be trying Robb Wolf’s NorCal Margarita recipe)
  • Wine & Ciders – preferably organic and low sugar on the cider
  • Limit 1 drink per night, no more than 3 nights per week.
  • Max 1 night a weekend multiple drinks are ok if out for a social drinking occasion.
  • Remain cognizant of time before bed, allow 2-3 hours between a drink and bed time. If not, have a small, protein-laden snack.

Supplements (Ryan’s plan)
  • Fish oils – personalized quantity: use Robb Wolf's fish oil calculator
  • Vitamin D - maybe, will do more research, but something should be done because the sunlight is elusive right now.
  • CLA - 2000-3000mg/daily

I will take the fish oils, and may dabble in some fish oils that include flax and CLA, but overall I am just not as sold on the concept of supplements as Ryan.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Re: How did we end up here?

Sharing my side of the story.

The paleo diet was the first "diet" book I've ever read.  Before that, I've never felt the need to concern myself with diet, relying on consistent exercise to stay healthy.  After reading the book I gave it a try for about a month and loved it.  It was easy to understand, and just simply made sense to me.  I had more energy, was more alert, and miraculously my unexplained, lifelong nasal congestion disappeared.  This was the way to go.  That is until I lost my job.  Attempting to maintain the paleo diet while being unemployed proved to be too difficult for me and I got away from it for awhile.

A few months later, I found work and Stacey and I moved in together.  I was excited to get back to my paleo ways and Stacey had agreed to try it as well.  In the beginning, we didn't track how we ate.  We simply ate paleo the majority of the time and took open meals when the desire was strong, or the price of convenience was too high.  Growing more interested in how "well" we were doing we started the system of P's, C's, and W's for a month.  We'd get a P for the day if we stayed paleo the whole day.  The P's began to overpower our tiny Chicago Cubs calendar and we felt proud.  This continued for another month, when I noticed a trend.  If I knew I wasn't going to earn a P for the day, I would go nuts and lose control.  Rather than just one open meal, I would have 2, and then have a few cookies in between.  Okay, not just a few cookies, a ton of cookies.  I would go berserk on them until I felt ill.  It doesn't exactly help that Stacey is a fantastic pastry chef.  This lead to the O's.  An O for every open meal.  This way, rather than marring our whole day with bad foods, we would limit it on a per meal basis.  This worked out at first, but somehow the open meals began to grow in size and I'd feel ill anyway.  Ill to my stomach that is.  Stacey and I haven't so much as a cold since we started eating paleo about 9 months ago!

The growing size and general sense of disappointment after eating open meals are what led me to desire a paleo challenge.  For me, I need to go all in or I might cave.  One handful of Chex Mix and the flood gates open up resulting in a torrent of gluten ingestion and a congested nose.  I'm excited for how I predict I will feel after a few weeks of treating my body with respect, and February 7th couldn't come fast enough.
Oh, and no, it's not a coincidence that our challenge starts the day after the Super Bowl.  It's by design.  One last chance to pig out on all the old comfort foods before the challenge.  We're finally going fully paleo and who knows, we might not be back.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How did we end up here?

I first heard about the paleo diet sometime in 2009, when Ryan’s roommate began crossfitting. I borrowed The Paleo Diet book, gave it a glance, and then left it on the night stand to gather dust, a lot of dust – eventually returning it without really reading it. In April 2010 Ryan and I moved in together and began eating paleo and working out on a regular basis. Ryan was already a regular at the gym, and I found it so much easier to get there with someone rather than just on my own. I cannot pin point why we decided to try eating paleo. Ryan had already dabbled in it a bit and I had a general feeling of wanting to be more fit - I also finally made myself buy the book and read it.

In the beginning we tracked the fully paleo days on a calendar, marking down a P. If we had any element of a meal not considered paleo, you would not get the P. We also tracked workouts with either a C for cardio or W for weights. We set monthly goals for how many P’s, C’s and W’s we wanted to achieve – with often slightly differing goals. This eventually evolved to tracking O’s, open meals, instead of P’s. With new goals set on limiting O’s per week. Over time, I have found that I feel 100% better about everything when I am eating paleo.

In December of 2010. Ryan had a surgery resulting in many weeks of recovery time. He has just recently gotten back to the gym. For now it’s just getting on the treadmill to move and walk (and get used to our new Vibram five fingers)! During Ryan’s surgery and recovery I became more focused on being a caregiver – as well as preparing for and living the holiday season - than ensuring I was getting to the gym and grocery store. So our paleo living goals took a dive.

That brings us to our upcoming 45-day Paleo Challenge! The plan is to eat 100% paleo and commit to a consistent fitness plan, the details are still in the works on that one. Not a bit of sugar shall pass these lips, no grain will I know – bring on the meat and veggies! We’re working on truly defining the ‘rules’ of this 45-day challenge; are we going to allow honey? If so, how much? – once the rules are final we will post them. It will help keep me honest.

Day one of the challenge is February 7th – until then we are busy planning our menus and workouts (and maybe sneaking in a last bite of pizza that I know I will regret but somehow still think of as a comfort food – this is Chicago after all!).