There are so many things to do in preparation for a vacation. There are even more things to do when you're prepping for a beach vacation - not only do you have to make sure your flights are booked, suitcase is packed, and Kindle is loaded, but you also need to make sure that you feel happy and confident in your appearance. And a whole week in a bathing suit requires some serious confidence, so in order to adequately prep for a beach vacation, you have to start pretty far in advance. While I'm not a huge fan of dieting/exercising JUST to look good in a swimsuit (good health should be a priority year round), I completely understand that sometimes it takes an impending week spent in the sand to make yourself reevaluate some of your recent health and wellness choices. That was certainly the case for me and my husband.
We had a really gluttonous April. Like, really gluttonous. With so many fun restaurants in San Francisco to try and so many friends to try them with, we found ourselves eating heavy meals three or four times a week. While I pretty much always enjoy a heavy meal, unhealthy outing after unhealthy outing can start to weigh on you (edit: pun originally not intended). So, with our July beach vacation in mind, we decided to change the way we were eating. We decided to go paleo.
I know. I know. The whole paleo diet craze drives me insane (have I ranted about that yet?). Just the name" paleo" is enough to send me into paroxysms of criticism - to start, the name is inane. NO ONE who practices the paleo diet today in America is doing anything even somewhat resembling living in the paleolithic period. If they were living under rocks, killing animals with handmade spears, never seeing a doctor, and dying when they were 30 in tribal attacks, THEN the diet/lifestyle would be appropriately named. But I digress. Despite my beef with the naming convention (and let's face it, there's a lot of beef), I think there's something really compelling about this whole meat-and-vegetables thing. About cutting out processed foods. About cutting out sugar. I don't think there's a nutritionist in America who wouldn't agree that the vast majority of people need to eat fewer carbs and eat more fruits and vegetables. My husband and I were definitely part of that population, so we decided to do something about it.
Our "paleo" (ugh) diet boiled down to this - for breakfast, we ate eggs and fruit, for lunch, we avoided bread and rice wherever possible, and for dinner we ate meat, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and onions. I know that sounds boring (and like we were giving up a lot) but honestly, it just wasn't that hard. Yes, I definitely craved sweets on multiple occasions. And yes, we did cave every once in awhile and eat a whole pizza (what's life without pizza?). But for the most part, we stuck to the plan. We ate single squares of dark chocolate on the nights where we just had to have dessert. And we ate normally whenever we went to restaurants with friends - the point of the diet was not to make people around us uncomfortable.
One of the best parts about our little clean eating experiment was how easy cooking dinner became. Seriously, 15 minutes of dicing and seasoning vegetables followed by 40 or so minutes in the oven and you are DONE (this is made even easier when your husband does it for you every night). Fifteen minutes of labor isn't asking all that much of someone, even if you've just had a long day at work. You generally wouldn't think that food preparation would get easier when you were trying to adhere to a diet, but in this case, it did. Major point in the paleo column (seriously, paleo, ugh).
I'm not going to claim that I lost a bunch of weight. I didn't. I don't look like a supermodel after a month and a half-ish of eating healthily (you've seen my pictures). However, I truly feel so much better. One of the best benefits for me personally was finally cutting dairy out of my diet fullscale. I can't digest dairy. I know that, and yet I keep eating it because it's JUST SO DELICIOUS. But after a few days of eating meat, fruit, and vegetables (and nuts every once in awhile, too!), I noticed that my stomachaches went away. I noticed that I didn't feel heavy and lethargic. Will I still eat pizza and ice cream every once in awhile? You'd better believe it. But I know now that life feels pretty great without them, too.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this little mini-essay. I guess I just wanted you guys to know that I tried another food experiment, and I think it worked really well. Has my opinion on depravation changed? Absolutely not. I think eating strictly paleo while maintaining a normal social life would be borderline impossible, and I'm just not willing to sacrifice happy hours, new restaurant outings, or the occasional trip to Bi-Rite for paleolithic perfection. But for those of you who, like me, want to clean up your eating act but find all of the diet guidance out there to be just too confusing, in my opinion, sticking to the meat, vegetables, and fruit; no processed, no sugar, no fried model is simple, easy, and effective. Do you have to refer to it as "paleo"? No. (In fact, please don't.) But will it have a positive impact on your health? I truly think it will.
So, three days to go until we're beach-bound! So. Much. To. Do. This week I've realized that one of the most important steps in prepping for a trip is realizing when to say no; when to take it easy. Last night, after a longgggg day at work, I came home to an empty apartment. Part of me wanted to do what I always do: hop on my computer, work on this blog for an hour or two, answer as many emails as I could, and then go to bed early so I could get up in the morning to go to the gym. But you know what? I think that would have sent me over the stressed-out edge. So instead I put my computer to the side, watched two hours of Chopped, ordered sushi, and eventually wrote this somewhat-cathartic essay. And no, I did not go to the gym this morning. That's what tomorrow is for, right?
Eat some meat and vegetables, and have a wonderful day!