I recently paid a visit to my friendly naturopathic doctor to discuss my weight (ugh!) and diet. We ran lots of tests and concluded I’m very healthy but could drop a few pounds. One of the tests was the somewhat unfamiliar leptin hormone. Leptin resistance can make it difficult to lose weight and also to feel that you are full. Most naturopathic doctors like to see a level below 10, this also seems to mean less difficulty losing weight. My level: 18. This is not something embraced quite as readily by Western medicine yet. It makes sense that I’ve been having a rough time despite being very physically active and (mostly) eating healthy. The solution is essentially a low/no carb diet. It’s very similar to the ever-popular Paleo diet in some ways but is less restrictive and less meat-meat-MEAT focused. I’ve been at it for nearly two weeks and I’m down about 3 lbs, so I know it’s working. It’s the first and ONLY “diet” or “eating plan” that I’ve ever felt I could live with. Yes it means no bread, cookies, crackers, sugar, popcorn, cereal, muffins, cupcakes, or potatoes. However, it means plenty of avocados, nuts, lowfat dairy and ample amounts of vegetables. Lots and LOTS of vegetables. This is a great time of the year for it thanks to my delicious weekly CSA deliveries!
I’ve always been hesitant about the Paleo diet, yet intrigued. I’ve been turned off by the seemingly MASS consumption of meat products but this is less restrictive. It allows for *some* dairy, some beans/legumes, and tofu. The occasional low carb crackers/tortilla are also OK. I’ve been trying to keep my dairy and low carb tortilla/cracker consumption to 1/day or less. I try to mix up my protein sources among meat/poultry/eggs/tofu/beans/legumes/nuts.
My goal at the moment is to lose 10 lbs in six weeks. I think I’m on the right track and I don’t feel deprived, malnourished or hungry. I feel energetic, and as of today, day #12 I am not having an “afternoon slump” anymore.
It isn’t without SOME difficulty though, as any diet is. Things I’ve learned so far:
1. You must meal plan. This is non-negotiable with this diet. Carbs are EVERYWHERE and the basis for every meal in this country. Meal planning is essential for every “diet” or healthy eating plan. Pick an hour on the weekend, sit down with your grocery list and the internet and write down all your meals and snacks. I also open my list of CSA veggies due to arrive every Wed and incorporate them into my meals. It works, it’s tasty, and it saves $$.
2. When dining out, preview the menu and figure out what you can eat beforehand. Don’t make eye contact with the dish of garlic bread/tortilla chips/naan, you will be sucked in by their beauty and carby-ness. Focus on the salmon/steak/tofu headed your way.
3. Even though nuts are allowed and encouraged it’s still important to measure out a portion. Go ahead and get that Costco-sized tub of roasted, salted, cashews but get out your measuring cup and put it inside.
4. Learn to use vegetables in places where there would normally be a carb. For example, use zucchini pasta in place of spaghetti. Use lettuce in place of taco shells (and tofu if you’re sick of turkey/beef). Lettuce also works well as a tortilla. The more I eat this way, the more I realize it’s never really been about the tortilla or the shell for me, it’s about the filling. Pizza and ravioli on the other hand, I’m still crying over them somewhat. Although I did find an intriguing recipe on the blog of a friend-of-a-friend of mine for Paleo pizza.
5. Prepare yourself for potlucks, parties and gatherings. I was really tested during my first week at a family party and then AGAIN on the 4th of July. Plate upon plate of cookies, bowls of chips, delicious cheesy garlic bread. It made want to cry. At the first event I didn’t come prepared and I was sad about it. (bless my sweet mother for making deviled eggs!) I felt left out and hungry. At the 2nd event I was much smarter. We cut up celery sticks for me to use in place of chips (hello bean dip and salsa!), I ate a pile of fresh cherries and two delicious pieces of BBQ chicken.
6. Give in, but not too much. There may be a point when you just can’t take it and need that special treat. DO IT, but then immediately get back on the horse. This is a touchy subject because there are some people that can do this and not fall off track and there are some that cannot. I know for myself I can do it as long as my meals are planned and I know I’m not stepping into a bad pattern. I make my portion small and savor it. I try to anyway.
7. Take one day during the week and track everything you’re eating. Keep track of your caloric intake. Even though this eating plan should realistically keep you at a good calorie level (for me <1900/day) it’s not hard to go overboard on nuts/cheese and justify it. I HATE calorie counting and try to avoid it, but it helps keep me accountable if I do it once a week.
This is just my experience so far and I’m no expert, but this is what’s working for me. It will be interesting to see how it goes as I’m starting week 3. I was already mostly excluding sugar, wheat, and most dairy out of my diet, but I still heavily indulged in potatoes, corn (cornbread! corn tortillas! tortilla chips!), and non-wheat grains (quinoa! brown rice!).
I’m hoping the outcome of this is that I drop some weight and feel it athletically. I would love it if I got faster in the pool as a result of good nutrition. I know I already have more energy.