Adapting to a cleaner diet

I used to think I was a pretty healthy eater, and that I ate fairly “clean”-not too many processed foods, mostly natural foods like fruits, veggies, grains and meats. Then Tim started a 9 week paleo challenge. For those of you who are not familiar, the paleolithic diet (paleo diet) is based on the concept that the start of the agricultural age is when we started experiencing many of the health problems that are common in our society today. Basically, the belief is that when humans start messing around with food, we screw it up. Probably not a stretch; we screw a lot of things up. But anyway…they don’t eat grains because they began being processed and made into food products primarily at the start of the agricultural age, no dairy is allowed, no sugar…I’ll discuss the diet separately if anyone is interested (or better yet put you in contact with Tim because he’s much more versed in it than I am). You might be wondering what Tim’s challenge has to do with me-I certainly didn’t sign up for it. Except that Tim does 98% of the cooking in our house right now. So yes I did…I just didn’t know it at the time. My dinners have become almost 100% paleo. My lunches are frequently primarily paleo foods as well, because they are usually leftovers, or things grabbed quickly from the fridge on my way out the door (Tim has done a great job of keeping easy-to-access fruits and veggies on hand so he doesn’t get stuck). Don’t get me wrong-I haven’t given up coffee creamer, or my yogurt, which I’m fairly certain I would wither up and die without. Although I have started making my own thanks to Kelsey Knutti, therefore eliminating all of the sugar they add to the store bought brands, but that’s a discussion for another day. And I still eat bread once or twice a day. But overall, in addition to all of the clean foods Tim is preparing, I am finding that I have been paying more attention to what I am eating overall. If I go for a processed food-especially my beloved salt covered, processed, refined starch of an afternoon snack also known as pretzels-I feel guilty. If I eat something with a lot of added sugar, the sweetness becomes overwhelming. And I feel guilty. I would love to blame that on Tim, but if I’m going to be honest I would have to admit he has not pressured me or attempted to convert me at all. Oh what the heck, let’s blame Tim. It’s more fun that way.

This is a really long and rambling way to get to my actual point, which is that at the beginning of this somewhat new diet I was cranky. I craved my carbs with dinner, I wanted beer, I wanted my sugary yogurt, and I REALLY wanted to go out to eat again. But then things slowly started to change. I am starting to notice the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables more, and when I get a sweet tooth, grapes or an apple will usually do the trick. When I eat processed foods, I don’t feel so good after. If I do treat myself to sweets, it does not take nearly as much to kick the craving-moderation has become the norm and not a dirty word. When I think about Tim’s challenge wrapping up in two weeks, there are certainly things we will go back to eating, but if I’m going to be honest, I really don’t want our diet to change too much. Crazy-but kind of cool.

Why am I sharing all of this information about my diet that really has nothing to do with you? To encourage you to be patient. Take an honest look at your diet and try making small changes. Don’t use salt as your primary means to season food-give some herbs and spices a try. Don’t eat too many foods with lots of sugar in them-and start reading the list of ingredients in your foods before you assume you don’t. Have you looked at the amount of sugar in ketchup lately? Or how much sodium is in some wheat breads? Again, I’m not saying you have to eliminate these things from you diet, but realizing just how much is in some of your more commonly consumed foods is important. They add up fast. If you do start eating a more “natural” diet, understand that things might taste a little bland at first. Give it time. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how much time. I have researched it several times, and how long it takes for your taste to adapt depends on the individual. Some people notice a difference in two weeks, others 5 months. Some overcome the cravings for salt very quickly, but can’t shake that sweet tooth. But everyone adapts eventually. Give it a try, and if you have tried it in the past let us know how long it has taken you! I would say it took me about three weeks to be okay with the diet, but about 4 or 5 weeks before it became my preference. I can honestly say it was worth the wait.

**Please note that when I say diet I am using it to mean our daily diet that we plan on maintaining-not a temporary change designed to cause weight loss.

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