Not that anyone has been complaining but it seems like eight days is too long between posts. I haven’t felt particularly writerly of late on any front which is odd. I’ve had a few “ideas” bouncing around where “ideas” means the start of an essay but not the associated desire to actually do anything about it. Such is the life of an unpaid small time blogger.
Regardless, here we are. I started a nutritional challenge called Eat Real with CrossFit Rockwall this past Monday. In short, it’s a full on Paleo diet over 33 days designed to reboot your nutritional system. As an aside, I’m starting to detest the term Paleo, not because I’ve heard it 456 times in the last days and it’s preventing me from eating Thin Mint cookies, but because it has become so nebulous as to be meaningless even among those people who purport to understand the concept. For a little background, the original Paleo diet (well not original original, that would be sometime 45,000 years ago when we were getting killed by saber tooth tigers and pedaling our cars with our feet over to see our neighbor with the hot wife) came from Dr. Loren Cordain. He basically said we shouldn’t be eating a lot of crap like Thin Mint cookies washed down with a 44oz Coke and instead should eat meats and vegetables and fruits. I know, crazy talk. That version of the diet was pretty regimented and, God bless him, is now pretty financially successful if we’re to gauge financial success by Google trends.
The problem with Paleo in its original manifestation is that it’s hard to avoid Thin Mints and Cokes and bread and pizza. They are everywhere, not just literally but mentally as well. Tuesday night, I had a dream about doughnuts. I assume the set of people who dream about donuts is reasonably small. All my life, I have been a donut aficionado in the way that guy in the Dos Equis commercials is a beer aficionado. I don’t always eat donuts but when I do, I prefer to do it with hot super models and my pet cougar. No, but still, I like donuts. A lot. I was challenged in 6th grade Sunday school once to eat a cinnamon roll in under a minute. This wasn’t one of those wimpy Pillsbury canned cinnamon rolls (of which, I could eat all 8 if given the opportunity). It was a full on 7 inch in diameter cinnamon roll from Donut Stop, the crowning achievement of the donut industry in Amarillo, Texas. I lost the bet but not for want of trying. The point here is that everyone knows I like donuts including my Sunday School teacher in 6th grade who had me try to eat a 700 calorie sugar infused insulin bomb in front of the class. Not that I’m complaining. Yum.
My standard breakfast on the way to the golf course after college was three donuts (cherry frosted, cinnamon roll, buttermilk cake) and the biggest Dr. Pepper they’d serve me. How I don’t have Type II diabetes is a wonder. Suffice it to say, I liked donuts. So Tuesday night, two days into a nutritional challenge that most decidedly does not include donuts, I had a dream about donuts. I don’t recall the plot structure exactly but I do know there was a tasting contest and a monstrous maple frosted long john that chased me through a castle. I guess it’s not surprising I don’t remember the plot structure, sounds like there wasn’t one really. I’m surprised the Pope wasn’t flying an AC-130 shooting donut holes at me in Afghanistan. I digress. For me, the forbidden fruit is a box of sugar laden, fat fried, frosted confections from the donut shop in downtown Wylie and I can’t get away from them even when I sleep.
Most people feel this way (without the long john infested pastry nightmares) regarding the Paleo diet. So they change the definition to fit their predilections. Some people are lacto-Paleo. Some people are chocolato-Paleo. Some people are honeyo-Paleo. I doubt anyone with a straight face would say they were donuto-Paleo but honest to god if they were, I’d try that diet for 30 days. Still, the term Paleo has come to be fraught with definitions bestowed on it by people who want their cake and eat it too while still calling themselves Paleo. Trust me, I get why that happens but still, when I tell people I’m trying to eat Paleo, even those who know what that means, I have to say strict Paleo or lacto-Paleo. Who needs that hassle?
So I much prefer Eat Real. It’s not a term that demands a strict definition and even someone who has no idea what I’m talking about can probably get a good idea of what’s going on. Eat Real. As in Eat Real Foods. Things with no ingredient lists. Things without xanthan gum. Don’t know what xanthan gum is? It’s a food additive created from the bacterial coat of Xanthomonas campestris used as a thickener in foods and as a stabilizer for cosmetics so that they don’t separate. It causes black rot on broccoli. It thickens drilling mud in the oil industry. It’s an all-around thickening machine. And it’s in a lot of our food. If I told you I was eating real, you wouldn’t think I was eating xanthan gum.
Eat Real evokes an idea of eating things you might be able to grow or kill yourself. Eat Real says made up products with 30 ingredients like Doritos probably aren’t included. Ditto cokes or any other manufactured product that is made up of multiple individual manufactured products like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). The usage of HFCS in a wide variety of products that once just included sugar is probably the biggest science experiment ever foisted on the public. As it turns out, there is a wide public backlash against HFCS largely due to some unsavory studies that show what long-term exposure to HFCS can do. Like greatly increase the amount of organ fat around your heart and liver. Or increase the roaming triglycerides in your blood stream. Or drastically increase abdominal fat in rats. It’s gotten to the point lately where the Corn Refiners Association of America has launched a widespread campaign to patch over the spotty reputation of HFCS including an attempt to get the Food and Drug Administration to rename their product to simply “corn sugar”. I don’t know about you but when a leading industry wants to rename one of their products so that people don’t realize it’s in other products, I get a little nervous.
So, I like the term Eat Real. It’s easy to describe to people and they tend to just get it. Meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Water, tea and coffee. Simple. In description anyway, the application is a little tougher (see the donut dream above). Still, there is a growing attraction to knowing where your food comes from, what’s in it, what processes it went through in the production stage. Forty years ago, this was just normal life but these days, when you can buy a $5 box from Taco Bell or a $10 dinner box with breadsticks, cinnamon breadsticks, pizza, icing and marinara, eating real seems strangely quaint. That’s what makes it so hard to follow through on. Watching a basketball game last night, I saw no fewer than ten food commercials, none of which had a single vegetable or fruit in it other than the poor little tomato wedged in-between the mounds of bacon and hamburger on the Carl’s Jr. Six Dollar Burger (don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against bacon or hamburger).
Eating Real isn’t hard in implementation, it’s hard in follow through. We are bombarded by food manufactures who know our weaknesses and how to exploit them. It’s a constant challenge to avoid the temptation of easy food that is anything but real. That’s the hard part, staying conscious of the constant pressures to do something you know will make you feel good. Because that’s a benefit of eating real, feeling good again. I’m waking up feeling semi-energized (except for this morning when after a brutal workout from hell yesterday, I really just wanted that massive maple long john to fall out of my dreams and crush me in bed). I’m able to focus for longer periods of time. The cravings for high carb, high sugar non-foods are subsiding. Of course, some of these benefits might be psychological. It’s clear I have a bias to be looking for them. But it’s hard not to agree that removing things like xanthan gum and high fructose corn syrup from your diet can’t be beneficial, claims of the Corn Refiners Association notwithstanding.
We’re only 4 days into this challenge so who knows what things will look like in the middle of March. Still, Eat Real has fundamentally changed how I look at nutrion if for no other reason than I’m completely and totally aware of what is going into my food at any one point. Most of us don’t think for a second what’s in a Coke or a burrito supreme from Taco Bell or Chicken McNuggets. And frankly, that’s a problem. Just raising awareness can critically change eating habits.
In other life related news, there really isn’t any. It looks like I’m going to have to replant the spinach, chard, lettuce and peas I put out two weeks ago after our little cold snap last week. I started my tomatoes and pepper inside on Sunday, probably far too late for actual use in the garden this year but at least the housekeepers will be shocked that the planting supplies finally moved off the table where they have been sitting in the study for the past 10 months. The squash and tomatillos have germinated but nothing yet from the tomatoes and peppers. No job yet but I’ve applied for one I’d really like. It’s a slow process though. Thankfully, my golf game is getting a lot better though I’d trade a good golf game for a paycheck right about now. I have been writing quite a bit of code related to NBA statistics and that’s been fun. I tried to play the guitar Tuesday and I still can’t feel the tip of my left index finger. Playing the guitar may not be for me. For one, my fingers are apparently too fat to appropriately play the A chord (I can’t get all three on the same fret without hosing things up, chord-wise, downstream). Maybe I could just play songs that don’t involve A. Or switch to A minor. I”m starting to feel like my life is more like a minor chord anyway.