First question you might ask is why does the second part of the ‘Food Freedom‘ series come after more than two months after the first one? A few reasons. During the last three or four months I was kind of trying to figure out and change my eating habits. Changing a few things, trying different food groups, experimenting and doing loads and loads of research.
During this time I didn’t really want to publish a food post with a different attitude every two weeks. And after I’ve decided to depart from strict paleo, I didn’t really want to put it out there because, to be honest, I didn’t really want you to judge me. And I also didn’t want to give you any doubts if you are perfectly happy enjoying the paleo way of eating.
During this time, I really grew more and more convinced that one shouldn’t base their food choices according to other people. And that’s the reason I am writing this after all. I’ve found out that more and more people who were on paleo for a longer time grew uncertain and wanted to depart from it a bit. And like me, a lot of these people struggled, because if something has helped you to start a healthy lifestyle and helped you to get rid of your various food addictions… how can you abandon it without slipping back to unhealthy habits? How, after a long time that you have believed that bread is evil, how can you at the same time have it from time to time but don’t let it sabotage your diet and goals?
Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.
In this article, I am going to tell you, why I have departed from the strict paleo and why I think it is not a lifestyle that is maintainable for me for the rest of my life. Therefore, beware, all of this is the stuff that I’ve found out about myself and shouldn’t be taken as a general eating advice. Everybody is different, find you own food freedom. :*
Also, if you are paleo, consider closing this page and don’t read it, it might shatter your beliefs a little bit.
Like this one, most of my struggles with paleo were psychological. And I think that it is a very natural thing to humans. If I tell you, you can’t eat any legumes, you suddenly start craving peanut butter, hummus and feel bad that you can’t have a lentil salad at the restaurant. That was my issue, anyway. Because I was restraining myself from a lot of things, I felt like I was missing out at times. And funnily enough, I wan’t craving ‘unhealthy’ food on everyday basis, but I was craving plain yoghurt, peanut butter, quinoa or oats.
Not paleo ≠ not healthy and Paleo ≠ Healthy
In paleo, you divide food into being paleo and not being paleo. But what I think that these groups do NOT equal healthy and unhealthy. The brownies that you make with almond flour, coconut, bananas, dark chocolate and honey may be paleo but are they a better snack option than a plain greek yoghurt with fresh berries and oats? Mmmmm, I’m not sure. :DAnd further, I had oat porridge for breakfast, I felt guilty afterwards. I had rice for lunch and I felt like I was cheating. Just because they weren’t ‘paleo.’And what’s worse, this started triggering actual wrong food choices for me. ‘Right, screw it, I already had rice for lunch so I might as well buy an almond croissant on my way home.’ 😀 Srsly, this is wrong on so many levels. 😀
Paleo people say that you shouldn’t be tracking calories or macros and eat until you are full or satisfied. Obviously, they don’t know me at all. 😀 I have such a big appetite that if I was a man, I would make the most epic gainzzz ever! 😀 No, but seriously. When I was plateauing with my progress despite eating strict paleo, I started tracking calories and macros and that’s when things really opened up for me. My strict paleo pancakes has 600kcal, I found out that I really don’t need half of avocado with my meals and I found out how many excessive calories I am eating when snacking on spoonfuls of almond butter. I found out that a piece of bread has as half as many grams of carbs as a banana. No, I’m not saying that the source of carbs/calories is not important, of course it is. But the calories are important anyway, you can’t deny that.
For some people, it’s great that they don’t have to snack in between meals because they are busy and they like that they are satiated for hours. Not me. I love snacking.In work, at uni, in between lectures, when writing an essay. And it wasn’t very appealing to me to snack on boiled eggs at the library. Therefore, my snacks were sneaky – handful of nuts here, half of a banana there and loads of homemade ‘approved’ desserts. I would honestly bake a tray of muffins or brownies every week because I wanted something to snack on. But since I have allowed myself to snack wisely but on anything I want, I haven’t baked anything in weeks. I’m having fruit, smoothie bowls, hummus with veggies, mozzarella, yoghurt and life feels so much better and less complicated. At the same time, the portion sizes of my main meals are much smaller since my mind is not panicking that I will not be allowed to eat for hours.
Cravings and intuitive eating
I think that paleo can be great and very beneficial to your health and wellbeing. But I also think that if taken too seriously, it is very likely to make your relationship with food a bit obsessive. And because I am a ‘all or nothing’ kind of girl it was hard for me to determine how often I should treat myself. Therefore, I would avoid all the sugar, I would limit the pieces of fruit I have every day, I would be conscious about how much ‘carbs’ I have. And that is a bit too much. In my case, anyhow, this obsession made me crash more and more often. Because I wouldn’t allow myself too much fruit or any sugar, one day I would just crash and eat a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.Now, that I got rid of this restrictive psychology and I know that I can have anything I want, I don’t have such cravings anymore. Things I’ve been craving recently are smoothie bowls, legumes and oats. I think that suppressing your cravings puts your body and mind under stress and can be harmful if done over a long periods of time.
So, what is my answer, what do I eat now?
Funnily enough, most of my food is still paleoish. The biggest change, I suppose, is that when I train in the morning/midday, I don’t have eggs for breakfast. I have oats. I still eat A LOT of salads and heaps of roasted veggies. Sometimes, I add feta cubes, sometimes I add quinoa, sometimes I add beans. I love snacking and I still snack on the healthy stuff and I always check the ingredients and macros before I have it. I totally allow myself to eat bread (again, I choose wisely which one) but it’s funny because I eat like 2-3 slices per week. I track macros and calories but I don’t have a certain macro ratio that I want to hit every day. I track them in order to control my portions. And I feel a lot better, I feel so much leaner every day and I’ve lost 2kg in the past month. Absolute food freedom will come when I don’t have to track my food anymore and can determine it intuitively. I’m just not there yet. And that’s fine.
PS: Now that I’ve got this off my chest, I promise I’ll be posting more food stuff soon.
Seek your own food freedom.