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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

It's so easy, cavemen did it.

One word: Paleo. As in Paleolithic. Basically, it describes a way of eating similar to our ancestors. Funny thing about our ancestors...despite the information in antiquated history books we read in middle school, they lived a pretty long time. And you know what they didn't die of? Diabetes. Heart disease. Cancer. Autoimmune disorders. Massive populations didn't suffer from obesity, depression, fatigue, or infertility.  So why are we, 10,000 years later into an "agricultural revolution" and seemingly modern in every way, suffering from these things in unthinkable numbers? What are the differences between our Paleo ancestors and us? Sure there are environmental influences and genetics always play a part, but more basic than that, there are huge differences in our diets.

There are a few things Paleo's didn't eat that we now consume in massive quantities:
1. Grains - no cereal, bread, pasta, baked goods, rice, legumes, etc.
2. Processed seed oils (canola, vegetable, soybean, safflower, etc. etc.)
3. Sugar
4. Soy
5. Processed dairy

One expert, Chris Kresser, goes into all of the ins and outs and medical explanations of why the above things are essentially poisoning us. He calls them toxic because by the very definition of the word, these things kill the human body. Some people are affected early in life (ADHD, Celiac, Lupus, etc.) and are diagnosed and medicated. Some people are affected decades later (arthritis, Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.). Others of us are affected in ways doctors have a hard time diagnosing (fatigue, stomach pains, headaches, depressive moods, etc.), but are still very real obstacles in our everyday life.

The bottom line is that we now deal with these illnesses and debilitating diseases in record numbers and modern medicine can't always cure or even manage them. Make no mistake - I'm not even close to saying a diet is a cure all!  But what if just maybe getting back to basics - before the dawn of high-fructose corn syrup and whole grain flour - makes a dent in how we feel everyday and lowers the chance to succumb to disease? What if shunning food marketers and the ole trusty FDA food pyramid and instead embracing real food helps us live happier, longer lives? What if our ancestors ate better than we do now? I think it's worth looking into.

I could write pages on the philosophy of Paleo eating, but there are many people who have already done it for me and have done it really well. If you want to read more, check out these sites and decide for yourself. I like:

http://thehealthyskeptic.org/ - This site is a crucial first read. He's the one I linked up above. I like how in depth his information is...though it kept me awake that first night. 
http://paleodietlifestyle.com/ - A simple way to dip your toes in - not too heavy.
http://everydaypaleo.com/ - I dig her. She's a mom. She's practical. She's got before photos on there most of us would burn.
http://thepaleodiet.com/ - This guy focuses on the science of it all. There are a lot of skeptics out there. He invites them into the ring.


For me, I'm on board....at least for a trial run. If you know me, you know I'm just about as play-it-safe as they come. I don't buy into fads or crazes easily. (I didn't even own an ipod until 2010 - no joke). And this whole blog is about going crispy, Kim...not going crazy. For me to say I'm into this Paleo thing is a big deal. I really want to see what this diet can do. So we are going Paleo for 60 days. Not just me. Not just me and Jon - ALL OF US.  What can it hurt? Absolutely nothing. What can we gain? Potentially, a substantially higher level of health. I mean, in my last post, I said I felt 3000x better just cutting out sugars. And I dropped lbs. If what all of these studies are saying is true about the above toxic foods, maybe I'll feel like a goddess in 2 months.

In all seriousness, I am definitely curious to see how my kids change. My son has stomach pains all the time - he's repeatedly been tested for what they can test for and it's all come back negative. But the poor guy still suffers from time to time. He's had to go down to the nurses' office for belly pains and I hate not being able to help him. My oldest daughter has been recommended for ADD testing. I'm really anxious to see if removing these toxins has an impact on her day to day. And for the younger girls, I'm just hoping to get more goodness into them and break the "kid food" habit (a.k.a. all the crap the food marketers say kids should eat) before it gets too ingrained as "normal" for them. It's not going to be easy (Look, Kids! Homemade kale chips for snack!), but I'm committed to giving it a go.

Tomorrow's task: Cleaning out the pantry. Stay tuned.

If I'm so healthy, why do I feel like crap?

The beginning of this journey....

I thought we ate well. I'll shop at four stores to avoid conventional produce on the dirty dozen list and buy organic. We don't eat junk. I don't buy Doritos or Coke or Lunchables. There is no high-fructose syrup in my house. I've stopped buying Yoplait or most other yogurts that have as much sugar as a Snickers bar. I rag on my kids about making healthy choices. They don't drink juice or eat candy or cookies. I grow a vegetable garden. We don't eat real butter or saturated fats. I pay premium for no-sugar whole wheat bread and buy only nitrate free lunch meat and bacon. I make baked goods maybe 1x every few months for a special treat. I don't buy sugar cereals or pop tarts or any of that stuff. I cook only whole wheat pasta. I don't buy sugar laden tomato sauce or peanut butter - just the healthy stuff. When we do have meat, 90% of the time it's chicken - occasionally red meat for a special treat or maybe fish if I can find a sustainable source on sale. I've made a real effort to stock us with healthy snacks - granola bars low in sugar, whole wheat crackers with hummus, pretzels and cheese slices, etc. Sounds healthy, right? Then why do I still feel like crap??

About a month ago, I turned 34 and for the first time in my life, I was really bothered by getting older.  I looked in the mirror and said this is the worst I've ever looked or felt in my life. I'm not obese or even "overweight" by medical standards. But I'm the heaviest I've ever been and, well, I looked like I was 4 months pregnant. Technically I could squeeze into my pre-kids size, but not without a small battle, lots of sucking in, and baggy shirts to hide the muffin tops I'd been pretending weren't there.

But even more important than that, for the first time ever, I FELT old. I was tired and cranky and feeling less energetic than ever. I realized my days were about getting through them. Nights were about dreading the morning. For the first time in my life, I looked at myself and said, "This is the worst you've ever felt and looked. And if you don't change, this is the best you will ever feel and look...because you're getting older." Depressing? You bet.

Then there was the whole mom guilt card. If I feel poorly both physically and mentally, how can I be a good mom to my kids? They deserve the world and I can't give it to them if I'm not at my best. Then there is my husband. I want to be the best partner I can be, but that's not possible if I'm tired and grumpy. We want to enjoy life and hopefully live a really long one!

Enough was enough. I had gotten to the point where I wanted a life revamp because what I was doing wasn't working. I decided if I was really going to give myself a makeover, I better start at the beginning. My diet.

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So my first step after my birthday evaluation was to go on a "diet." Jon and I have dabbled in diets before - South Beach, etc. and have had moderate success, but clearly nothing we did was sustainable as a lifestyle or I wouldn't be writing this blog. However, one diet we tried last year, The Belly Fat Cure, really did produce some drastic results. The whole premise is to cut out all but 15 grams of sugar each day. That's a significant amount considering the average American consumes 189!!  SCARY. Life got in the way last time I used this book and I fell into old habits, but I was determined this time and started right away.

I was religious and within 1 week of cutting out excess sugar, I dropped 5 lbs. Nice! And I felt better. I was sleeping well and waking refreshed. I was excited about the day. As for food, I was full. Most anything can be adapted to accommodate no sugar (no fake sugars either!) Choices were varied. I was happy. I thought, "This. Is. Working."

My next thought was - I have to get my kids doing this as well. If sugars were having such a negative effect on me as an adult, imagine the assault they were taking on their little bodies. So last week I sat down at the computer to start researching how to wean my kids off sugar - again, they don't eat Fruit Loops or drink juice. But we do like granola bars - they're fast and easy! And they eat pretzels and goldfish and other seemingly healthy kid snacks. But these are actually pretty poor choices sugar wise and I wanted to research alternatives.  I wanted to get Crispier. That's when I stumbled upon this. And it completely turned my world upside down.

After spending 6 days doing nothing but reading and researching, I came to the conclusion that cutting sugar is only the tip of the iceberg if I really want to be a healthy mother raising a healthy family. I decided I need to look to our ancestors....apparently they were kinda badass food wise.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Thanks for stopping by!

Welcome to Crispy Living. It's an online journal documenting my family's shift from a "mainstream" to somewhere short of "crunchy" lifestyle - first up is food. And we're starting from square one. 

Mainstream living is what I would define as a typical American lifestyle - consuming foods and goods that are marketed to us because, well, that's all we know. We grew up this way. It's comfortable. It's easy. It's "normal." Mainstreamers don't question and have a false sense of security that someone out there (government? food authority? smart people in a room somewhere?) is watching over them.

Crunchy living is the complete opposite. Bucking trends, traditions, and conformity, a crunchy lifestyle is composed of doing exactly the opposite of a mainstream family. But crunchies can go to the extreme....sometimes just for the sake of going extreme. It's not always practical or even smart.

Crispy living, however, is finding a happy medium between the two. It's finding the balance between what is practical and what is not. It's navigating the modern world we live in and reminding ourselves that there is no single authority protecting us from harm.  And it's realizing that what we thought we knew, might actually be killing us. In a nutshell, being crispy means being smart. It means being skeptical and asking questions. It means not falling prey to mass marketing - damn you McDonald's fry commercials! But it also means not jumping off the cliff to, well, extreme crunchiness - I will not be making my own breastmilk yogurt, thank you very much. 

So I'm inviting you into our little experiment as I navigate my family towards Crispy. I'm thinking it's probably going to be a bit painful. Probably a little trainwreck-ish actually. But I've got my eye on the prize: a happier, healthier, well-rounded, and solid family life. Join me on my adventure. :)