I’m Baaack

If I didn’t have ADHD, there would be at least another half a dozen posts here by now. Alas, I get distracted, overwhelmed, busy trying to make a living and then embarrassed because so much time had passed without my realizing it. Yes, typical excuses all, and that is just the point.

When I first learned I had ADHD, I dove into learning about it — read all kinds of books, joined support groups, found doctors and therapists — thinking that once I understood it I would overcome it and it would go away. Nine years later, I understand the general phenomenon of ADHD and specifically my ADHD; and, sadly, I have come to accept that it will never go away. My brain is my brain and I have no more control over it than I have over my heart, lungs, liver or pancreas. I will always unintentionally get distracted. I will forever, without warning, forget what I was in the middle of doing and what I was about to do. My thoughts will always race faster than I can find the words to articulate them and I will forever speak in incomplete sentences, expressing pieces of thoughts a few paces behind the conversation that is taking place around me.

No, I will never quash it. The most I can do is understand how it shows up, hope that I remember my coping strategies when it does, pray that good people will not abandon me because I do not measure up to the standards of one who does not have ADHD, and be kind to and accepting of myself when, in my ADHD moments, I feel less than. If you are still reading, I thank you for sticking it out with me.

The good news is that since my last post I have maintained the animals, vegetables, eggs eating program and lost about 12 pounds. My cholesterol is down. Blood sugar, not so much, but the nutritionist thinks it may have been a false reading and we put in for a retest (because we know I am not ingesting carbs). The underlying dietary principles: eliminate all starchy carbohydrates (specifics are in my last post). Initially, the goal of this extreme eating program was to clean out my system and “reset” my blood sugar. It was supposed to last for two to four weeks. It was so successful for weight loss that I insisted on continuing with it for as long as I could stand it. (Hello, ADHD. Can you say perseveration?)

I will not deny that it has, at times, been grueling. My nutritionist permitted me occasional “cheat windows” (as opposed to the wildly popular cheat days that typically cancel out all of one’s previous abstinence). With that, I allowed myself a few mouths full of this or that — stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (in a one-hour window) on Thanksgiving; and, blue cheese and brie on gluten-free crackers on New Years Eve (more like a 3 hour window). That was pretty much the extent to which I went off plan (aside from eating nuts a few times a week with no ill consequences), until now.

I should not be surprised then, that in the past month or so I have hit a wall. The weight is still coming off but lately I have been less successful in adhering to such strict limitations. While I think I’m content to consistently lose a pound a week, I find I am losing patience, particularly when I remember that I have another 30 pounds to lose which means another eight months or so without pasta, rice, cookies (even if they do have to be gluten-free), ice cream and bread.

Of course, truth be told, I can never go back to eating those things the way I used to. If nothing else, this experiment has proven that carbohydrate restriction is the solution to my weight problem. And, truth be told, this is the case for many people. That said, since I have made food the center of my professional life as well as my personal life, I have been doing some serious thinking about not only what to eat but how to continue to make my living cooking without simultaneously making myself sick and fat. Fortunately, there isn’t a single diet that is right for everyone and this type of diet is right for some. And this type of diet doesn’t always have to taken to the extreme to which I have taken it. Some carbohydrate, two or three times a week, should be okay. My body should be able to tolerate that without gaining weight. Most people should be able to tolerate that without catapulting to obesity.

In that spirit, and because I miss certain foods and textures so very much, I am, on a very limited basis, going to add some carbs back into my diet to see how I react to them. A little gluten-free pasta here, a little ice cream there (home made, low-sugar, of course). If I start gaining weight, they’re out — at least until I’ve lost another 10-15 pounds. By then, my insulin resistance may be reduced (please, please).

Also, (full disclosure), it has not been as hard to maintain this diet as I have made it sound. After all, I am a trained chef and life-long culinary enthusiast. I make many low-carbohydrate dishes that rival those with carbs. If I didn’t have ADHD, many of those recipes would already be posted here. If I can figure out — and remember — a new strategy to keep up with blogging, they will begin to appear on these pages shortly.

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Animals and Vegetables and Eggs, Oh My!

Okay, so Paleo didn’t work. But now I’m in trouble. Since I stopped following the program I haven’t had a clear eating plan (thank you ADD). I’ve had some general principles – no gluten, low-carb, use healthy fats, avoid sugars – but as I learned while running an intense recipe research and development project out of my kitchen over the summer, “general principals” can be a very slippery slope. As much spitting after tasting as I did (and that was hard – we’re talking homemade lemon ricotta ravioli, chicken and dumplings, crab cakes, cherry pie, salted caramel snicker doodle ice cream sandwiches, beer-battered French fries, smoked brisket – yes, there was much on the agenda that was off of my food program), by the end of the project I had gained back the 10 pounds I had lost in the spring. It kills me. I get a little busy with work (okay, very busy) and all hell breaks loose with my diet.

I can thank my ADD for several components of that phenomenon. I can get so focused on something that everything else falls by the wayside – all of my attention being devoted to that something (in this case the recipe writing project). I can behave impulsivity, with seeming little regard for consequences (this because the reward center in my brain doesn’t function quite right so I don’t get the same jolt from positive or negative feedback that others get). I forget what I am supposed to be doing, like paying attention to what I am eating and not eating – this because my working memory (the RAM of the brain) only functions at about 30 percent of its potential so things drop out of memory all the time – I have to write things down all the time and even then I often forget to look at my list or that I even have a list or made a list. Sometimes I find myself going through a set of motions with no idea why or how I progressed to where I found myself – intuition takes over my actions and my mind goes elsewhere or I just plain get distracted. Yes, it happens to everyone, but it is to a greater extent for those of us with ADD. Not having a structure through the onslaught of all of that food I’m not supposed to eat was a recipe for disaster (and disaster was not one of the items on the R&D list!). Still, there were other factors at play as well and ultimately, ADD or not, I have to make peace with my unique challenges and get myself off of this particular rollercoaster.

My busy season is over and it is time – again – to work at getting my diet under control. I’ve got to drop the re-gained 10 and another 40 after that. I’ve been at this for a long time. Too long. But here I go again and I have to say, it is not without great frustration that I again have to bring this to the core of my consciousness. I tackled the low-hanging fruit long ago. I don’t eat junk food – no fast food restaurants, no chips and dip, no candy, no chocolate, no bagels, cookies, etc. I don’t drink fruit juice or sugared soda (I do drink diet but only occasionally). I don’t eat much red meat – I’ll have it once a week at most, more like once a month. I do eat lots of fish and poultry. I avoid starchy carbs – no potatoes, no corn, no white rice, limited carrots, no bread. I eat plenty of vegetables. AND, I am gluten-free. Already, I feel, there is little left for me to eliminate. To lose these 50 pounds I am going to have to do something radically different and I am more than a bit anxious about my options.

A few weeks ago, I started working with the new nutritionist in my doctor’s office. He wanted to introduce gradual change, so instead of handing me a piece of paper full of restrictions on the first visit, he said he would give me one key thing to focus on changing each week – along with a few other things to think about (clearly, he does not have ADD).

Turns out that along with the “one major thing” (eliminate bread completely – even the gluten-free stuff, which was not really new to me or, since I’ve been gluten-free for almost 3 years, not a huge disappointment) there were also seven other things for me to do differently, which for me means more things to remember and thus, more opportunities to forget.

After two visits, the list looked like this:

  • Lots of lean protein and “good” fats — mainly fish and poultry but also grass-fed – and only grass-fed – meats (Apparently, my body type is more suited to a high-protein/high-good-fat diet than to a starchy diet.);
  • Gluten free — I do have an intolerance: I get inflamed, congested and brain foggy when I ingest it;
  • No bread — gluten free breads often contain a lot of potato, tapioca starch and other starches that wreak havoc with blood sugar levels, which in turn wreaks havoc with hunger and energy levels (besides, most gluten free bread is awful);
  • LOTS of water throughout the day;
  • Fish, preferably wild caught at least 3 times a week;
  • Organic coffee (apparently coffee is VERY heavily sprayed with pesticides that mess with one’s hormones when ingested);
  • Pastured eggs – chickens were never vegetarians in their natural habitat – in pasture they have access to all kinds of insects, aka, protein, which leads, among other things to higher Omega-3 acids in the yolks;
  • Dairy-free cheese (I don’t do well with dairy, either) I probably won’t eat much of this because I don’t really like it;
  • High protein–low carbohydrate breakfast (to start blood sugar on a low and steady pace for the day); and,
  • P.A.C.E. workouts 2-3 times a week, in addition to my regular hiking, tennis and yoga practice (according to the nutritionist, this approach helps burn fat more efficiently than the long, endurance-type of cardio workout. I haven’t started the P.A.C.E. thing yet – as an unknown, I feel a bit intimidated by it).

Yesterday was visit number three and I was handed the dreaded piece of paper with the “full program.” Even a full piece of paper is too much to capture the plan. It looks like this:

Consume animals, vegetables, eggs as follows:

  1. Animals that run, fly or swim (grass fed, hormone free, wild-caught)
  2. Vegetables that grow above the ground (organic)
  3. Eggs (pastured)

That’s it. No nuts, no beans, no dairy, no seeds, no fruit, no grains and no vegetables that grow underground. Nothing processed, nothing sweet, nothing man-made.

I guess I can’t complain that it is too much to remember, but I can’t help feeling hugely restricted. After all, I am a chef. Food is my vocation and I am now not allowed to eat most of what is out there that I work with every day. Talk about being careful what you wish for. Exasperated – and afraid of never feeling food-satisfied again – doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.

I would take solace in the idea that this extreme, three-point plan is only for three months at most, however while I can look forward to reintroducing nuts, seeds and one serving of fruit a day, I am still kissing grains, dairy and legumes goodbye forever. They say that desperate times call for desperate measures. All I can say is that this had better be worth it.

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Paleo is History

It has been almost a month since I stopped eating Paleo. It was a pretty big decision for me to start the Paleo Diet (though I made it rather quickly thanks to my ADD) and almost as big a decision to stop. Philosophically, I struggled with it the most of way through, particularly after the results from the first 30 days. I like to think that despite my tendency for ADD-induced impulsivity I am not all that susceptible to fads and hype. I like to think that I look to my intellect and reasoning abilities to guide my decisions. And I also like to think that I am rational and open-minded enough to give new-to-me ideas a chance.

While the theory of the Paleo Diet didn’t sit quite right with me, the anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness intrigued me. I made a conscious decision to experiment with it, not to endorse and embrace it, but to experience and learn about it. But by the time I finally saw and accepted that it wasn’t working for me, I felt disappointed in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Somehow I became invested in it. While I had intended to merely try it on, by virtue of being fully in it I apparently fully embraced it. Somehow, I came to view the Paleo Diet as my last holdout for a clear, structured solution, probably because I really it to be the answer to my 45-year battle with my weight. When it didn’t fulfill its promise and I felt like I had been jilted by a new lover.

Yes, the facts (some of which I knew from the start were rather dubious) had been right there in front of me, still I felt betrayed. Either the Paleo gurus had misled me or I had misled myself. Ultimately, I suppose the real disappointment comes from the realization that there is no single solution out there waiting for me to find it. I feel kind of how I did when I realized that there is no giant cubby hole in the sky labeled “my life” waiting for me to crawl into it, but rather, that it was up to me to invent my life and carve out my own cubby hole. Here, too, it is up to me to do the work of identifying the dietary patterns that do and do not work for me and then to do the even harder work of remembering what they are and consistently making those choices even though they may not match what my taste buds or my impulses want in a given moment. Now that I see it, it makes sense. I just wish someone had told me all of this at the outset rather than me having to spend all of that time and energy figuring out that I have to figure it out for myself.

This means I have to pay attention to everything I contemplate putting in my mouth, long before it gets within whiffing distance, which, when your brain works as fast as mine does, can be very hard to keep up with. It means I need a plan of my own which also means that I have to constantly work at make sense of the many conflicting messages out there about what to eat. Some might call it being fully enlightened when it comes to my eating habits – thinking for myself instead of relying on somebody else to do that for me. But for me, it is a bit more than just that.

You may be wondering why I am making such a big deal of this and thinking that we all have to learn about ourselves, make choices and act on them so just do it and get over it. I’d very much like for it to be that simple. Alas, for 45 years I have been trying to do just that – and I have tried dozens of prescribed eating plans (aka diets) – only to (still) be frustrated and, um, fat.

Making sense of the conflicting information that we get from scientists, doctors and nutritionists about what to eat is a tall order in and of itself. Even more challenging for me is staying focused on the details of a given eating pattern once I have chosen one and then remembering that big picture – and that there is a big picture – to which the details belong. My ADD makes it harder for me than for most people to remember what I am supposed to be doing at any given time. It also makes it harder for me than for most people to conjure up the motivation to resist immediate temptation for the sake of a long-term goal. This is the nature of my ADD.

To put it another way, the conductor of the orchestra that is my brain is absent and my motivation and reward centers don’t function the way they do in non-ADD brains. Yes, I take medication, but it only regulates neurotransmitters that can help me focus, i.e., filter out some of the random stimuli that vie for my attention at any given time. The medication does not alter my consciousness or my subconscious nor does it directly impact my choices or behavior. It cannot fix my “broken” neurological reward center (i.e., it can’t force my cingulate gyrus into action). It does not help me to recognize when my intuitions are incorrect or when I am being acting impulsively. Yes, all people struggle with this stuff, but it is harder when ADD is part of the equation. Knowing this does not keep the undesired phenomena at bay; I know this and still I forget what I am supposed to remember, what I am supposed to do and what I am supposed to not do.

My working memory, aka the RAM of my brain, doesn’t retain all of the data that has been entered and I never know what has dropped out until it is too late, until I have completed an action that I cannot then undo. My brain is simply not wired to hold on to what I think, learn and decide and I am constantly surprised and frustrated by what drops out of my memory — if I even realize that something has dropped out (but that’s another story). Things that have been there for years suddenly disappear, things that most people learn once (when they are children) and never have to think about, let alone learn to do again. It is almost ten years since I have been diagnosed. As hard as I have worked to learn about it and understand how it affects me (ADD manifests differently in everyone who has it), my ADD continually surprises me and, as my many doctors and therapists have advised me, it always will — and, it will get worse (and harder to manage) as I get older. Oh, joy.

But, getting back to the Paleo thing, I’d like to say that I feel good about having had a curiosity, having done my own investigation and learned the answer first-hand; and, part of me does. I remembered what I was supposed to eat and not eat and followed all of the rules; that in and of itself was an accomplishment. However, being on the other side of the experiment, part of me feels like I got sucked in, distracted by a shiny object – like I should have known that it wasn’t going to work, that there is no easy, prescribed, one-size-fits-all solution and I should not have wasted all of that time and energy. As carefully as I thought I had considered it, part of me feels like I let my desire for an easy solution cloud my reasoning. While I know my decision to try it was not a blind leap of faith, now that I see that the diet is not my panacea, I feel like I made a bad decision and that I should have known better than to do so.

I tell myself that I wouldn’t know for sure unless I had tried even though I thought that the premises of the Paleo Diet were just not right. I ask myself, who am I to deny the validity of people’s first-hand experience for the sake of a set of theories? I want to let myself off the hook for trying and at the same time I feel like doing so would be a cop out. I keep thinking I should have known and that I did know and that I am somehow at fault for not heeding what I knew — even though I didn’t really know.

It occurs to me that what may be at play here is that I want to know what is true rather than to have to choose to believe what may or may not be true, and that I am frustrated with the reality that ultimately we can’t and don’t truly know much of anything. Perhaps it is this dimension of the human condition that is so disappointing to me. Perhaps it is this that I need to make peace with rather than the idea that I may have made a misstep or not tamed my impossible-to-conquer ADD.

So, I did an experiment and it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped or even the way the proponents of the Paleo Diet had led me to believe it would. I didn’t lose thirty pounds in three months; my blood sugar and cholesterol did not drop to normal levels; and, I don’t feel revitalized and full of energy. (Quite the opposite, I feel deprived, off balance and frustrated at having to redo the work of bringing my cholesterol and blood sugar to the lower but still unacceptably high levels they were at before I started my grand Paleo experiment.) Why am I beating myself up for not having been prescient?

Finally, I have decided. It is time for me to stop wallowing in my disappointment in myself, the diet, and the human condition and move on. So, goodbye Paleo Diet; hello grains and legumes! I can’t wait to dig into those lentils that are cooking on the stove right now. Maybe I’ll eat them with some brown rice and – look, a chicken!

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The Hundred-Dollar Mayonnaise

I wish that forgetting — or ignoring — that I have ADD could be as inconsequential as forgetting about some other physical characteristic, like that I have brown eyes. Yeah, yeah, the proper term is ADHD — it is not merely Attention Deficit Disorder but Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, neither of which really conveys the nature of the condition which manifests differently in all who have it — but I tire of all of those extra syllables, particularly because they don’t convey anything meaningful to or about me and more because whatever we call it has no value in describing how it will impact my behavior at any given time.

Like, last Thursday night. It was 7 pm, the end of a day that had me up and hustling since 5 am. I had just spent an hour sitting in rush hour traffic and then a quarter of an hour standing in line at the library. It was way past dinner time and I was ravenous.

What I really wanted to do was pick up some take out as I didn’t have anything ready to eat in my refrigerator. Before Paleo, Chinese would have been my go to, but all of that soy and rice does not work with Paleo. I was not in the mood for Middle Eastern or a burger with salad and I didn’t feel like driving to the Encino rotisserie chicken place I like. I didn’t want to spend more on the gas to get there than on the meal or to have another battle with traffic. I turned my thoughts back to home.

I could thaw and cook a piece of fish, but I was too hungry and impatient for that. I had had eggs for lunch so that was out. I thought about making a green drink but then remembered that that would be breakfast while driving from the gym to my 8am client the next morning. Green drink two meals in a row? No. Besides, I wanted food that I could chew.

Then I remembered the can of tuna sitting in my cupboard. And then I remembered that I was out of mayonnaise. Yes, I could make some mayo — it would certainly taste better than whatever I would buy, but I only had extra virgin olive oil in the house and I can’t get past the greenish tint that it gives the final product. I know it is just the chlorophyll from the olives, but it looks so unappealing. Besides, I wanted to walk in the door, sit down and eat, not start fussing with the blender.

I decided my best option was to go buy some mayo. My favorite store-bought mayonnaise (Best Foods, aka, Hellman’s where I’m from) has soy in it — not acceptable on the Paleo plan — so I would have to go to Whole Foods (rather than my local Ralph’s) for soy-free Veganaise – the only soy free mayo I knew of.

I did see red flags: It was late, I was tired, and there would be all of that temptation in the store — both for things I shouldn’t eat and for things more expensive than my budget allowed. But, I had to drive past Whole Foods to get home anyway. I vowed to stay focused on the mayonnaise and made myself a mantra: Get in, get mayo, get out. (Ha!)

I ought to mention that I hated tuna salad as a kid and don’t like it much better as an adult. I always have it on hand in case of emergency — and I do have friends who like it – but I think of tuna salad as a last resort– punishment, if you will, for not having planned better. As long as I add plenty of red onion, celery and good mayo it is tolerable. The one redeeming feature of tuna salad is that it is fast.

I also ought to mention that at that late hour my medication had completely worn off so my ADD was in full throttle which, because one of the manifestations of my ADD is the severe impairment of my already poor working memory (the RAM of the brain), did not occur to me. (Did I mention my raging ADD?)

So there I was: a foodie, an ADD chef, tired, hungry and unmedicated, in the middle of a grocery store, unable to remember where to find the mayonnaise (need I add the confounding factor of being on the Paleo diet in a haven for people with contemporary dietary interests and restrictions such as mine?).

Three steps in and the shiny object equivalents began vying for my attention. Ooh, almond milk – I’m out, I thought. Into the cart it goes. And, look, there’s an almond milk creamer I’ve never seen before. One of those went in the cart as well. Next a Paleo granola-like product caught my eye. Ten bucks. Oh, what the heck, I need some variety. In the cart it goes.

The bulk section caught my eye and I remembered that I was out of mulberries (I like to add them to my smoothies for extra protein, fiber and sweetness). I filled a bag and then decided to go for the golden berry, mulberry, goji berry, acai berry mix instead – more nutrients and only $21 a pound as opposed to $24. And since I was almost out of trail mix, I did some comparisons and finally selected an almond, cashew, cranberry mix – it was the least sugary one that didn’t have peanuts — and tossed that into the cart as well. What’s another seven bucks?

I was still in search of the mayonnaise when I found myself in the super foods section, looking to see if there was something new to add a little punch to my day-to-day (because I hadn’t already done that). Yes, right there: raw, sprouted-seed ginger snaps. Sounds awful but I do like ginger snaps. I decided to give them a try – another seven bucks. I saw the hemp powder (protein for green drinks) and remembered I needed some, but the brand I like is in the supplements department so off I went in search of that. Found it and dropped another $30 into the wagon.

My mantra long forgotten, I found myself in front of the fish counter where I saw a package of smoked mackerel – just what I had been looking for to serve at the breakfast I catered two days earlier. Oh, well. But, I thought, that might make a nice dinner – high in Omega 3s, good protein source, something different. And it was not tuna. Into the cart it went. Smoked mackerel is very oily and has a very strong flavor. It really is best on a bagel or other chewy bread. I decided to check the cracker aisle for something Paleo that might substitute for bread. Sure enough, I found a box of sea salt and black pepper flavored wafers made from almond flour for six dollars. Into the cart it went. Then I realized that I still hadn’t found the mayonnaise – my sole reason for entering the store. Shaking my head, I finally remembered the little cooler in the back corner of the produce department and marched off to retrieve my prey. Finally! Done.

By the time I got to the checkout line, sensory overload had kicked in and was slowly shutting me down. Lulled by the rhythmic blips of the scanning device as the cashier rang up my items, the numbers flashing on the screen were pretty much a blur. As I mechanically swiped my debit card through the machine I heard the clerk murmur, “That will be one hundred and seven dollars and …”

“One hundred and seven dollars?” I stammered, jolted awake.

“Things add up,” he said stoically.

Too drained to change course, I had to get out of the store. I needed the mayonnaise. I tapped the green button and took my shopping bag (yes, only one) from the clerk.

Mayonnaise. I had come in for mayonnaise. Get in. Get Mayo. Get out.

I wanted to blame the Paleo diet for the time, for the expense, for the exhaustion; but, Paleo had nothing to do with it. It was all me: I knew I was tired and I knew I was hungry – a dangerous way to be faced with any decision — but I had forgotten to remember that at that late hour I was not medicated, which makes an already challenging situation even more so for me.

One hundred and seven dollars for a jar of mayonnaise. Great. Thank you, ADD.

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My Paleo Plight

My current quandary started out as a 30-day experiment. I had read Robb Wolfe, skimmed Loren Cordain and was perusing a dozen cookbooks all of which lauded everything Paleo. I have tried pretty much every diet known to mankind so I figured, why not take Wolfe up on his 30-day challenge and give this one a try, too. Granted, there were some aspects of the theory that did not — and still don’t — sit quite right with me, but really, what did I have to lose by trying it out (other than some of my excess poundage and some points on the cholesterol and blood sugar charts)? I was already gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free, so it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to eliminate grains and legumes as well. I looked through my own repertoire of recipes and realized that a few dozen were already Paleo or easily modified to be so. How hard could it be? I already cook dozens of dishes that fit the bill and anything is tolerable for a finite period of time. I could even put together my own Paleo cookbook while I was at it, I reasoned.

My doctor (who practices integrative medicine and has a Ph.D in nutrition in addition to his MD from Harvard) LOVED the idea. He happily gave me some additional restrictions (only plants that grow above ground, no pork, minimal fruit) and offered up a bunch of supplements and some weight loss medication to help me along. (While I’m not morbidly obese, I could stand to lose a good 45 to 60 pounds though losing as much as 60 pounds feels unrealistic to me. Maybe I am being short-sighted on this but I have no need to be bone thin and if I could drop even 40-45 pounds I would be happy.)

My nutritionist was also on board and set me up with a supplement plan based on the doctors recommendations. Friends and colleagues nodded support if nothing else curious to see the results (or if I could actually stick to the full 30 days). My parents? Not so much. They didn’t out and out say so but how often do our parents need to actually articulate what we know they are thinking?

Heck, my doctor uttered the words “lose up to half a pound a day” and I was there. (I have a closet full of clothes that I am yearning to fit back into!) The Paleo people say my blood work will show great improvements in all of its “western-diet-induced” weak spots — high cholesterol; high triglycerides; not enough good cholesterol; too much bad cholesterol, particularly the sticky kind; A1C3 nearing six; and, high insulin resistance. In short, I’m on my way to having cardiovascular disease and becoming diabetic. I have watched my father live with heart disease since I was 12. With two bypass surgeries behind him, at age 86 he speed walks the treadmill for at least 30 minutes a day and is otherwise in excellent health, so I’m not too worried about the cardiovascular thing. However, my cousin, Scott, died a slow, painful and complicated death after becoming diabetic and refusing to make diet and lifestyle changes to try to reverse or at least halt its progress. The prospect of becoming diabetic has me extremely. The Paleo gurus promise lower blood sugar so bring it on!

Preparing meals and sticking to the eating program was easy because the basic plan is quite simple: Lean animal protein, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. So I made some favorite dishes that I hadn’t had in a while, like braised beef shanks with garlic, seven vegetable stew, and lamb stew with lemon and artichokes in addition to my regular standbys — roasted seasonal vegetables, braised greens and scrambled eggs with truffle salt. I was happy. Missing my brown rice pasta Aglio olio, yes, but happy with my lamb stew and garlic braised beef shanks.

At about two weeks into it, someone suggested that 90 rather than just 30 days would be a truer test. I pretty much immediately decided to go the extra two months. Mostly, I was after the weight loss. As much as I wanted to believe that I could lose 15 pounds in 30 days, I didn’t really believe that it was going to happen, and I figured that on the chance that it might, then maybe I could lose 45 pounds in 90 days and wouldn’t that be dandy. If I could reduce those blood sugar numbers even more then I would really be in the cat-bird seat.

On day twenty-seven I was at the doctor’s office having blood work done (I was going to be out of town on day 30). Upon returning from my trip — during which I was pretty darn steadfast and succumbed to only three small cheats in 10 days on the road — I practically raced to meet with the nutritionist and review what should be great results. Instead, I was dumbfounded. Dumbstruck. Dumb.

Forty-five days on the Paleo diet, I had lost about 10 pounds. Not the half a pound a day I was hoping for; but, not a terrible statistic and  at least it is in the right direction. But the rest? Cholesterol, up. Triglycerides, up. Good cholesterol, down. Sticky cholesterol, up. Blood sugar, up. Insulin resistance, up. WTF?

The Paleo people maintain that it is grains and legumes that mess with our blood sugar and ultimately our overall good health. My results seem to be showing just the opposite. It had never occurred to me that my numbers be worse, that eating Paleo would do me harm. While I had some doubts about some of the theory, I was expecting my experience to be similar to that of all those people I had been reading about who saw nothing but improvements from going Paleo. I felt so stupid. Of course, they weren’t going to relate the stories of those for whom the plan hadn’t worked. Now I am hesitant to continue for the additional forty-five days for fear of how much higher my numbers will go. I have three boxes of stuff I cleared from my pantry because the Paleo people said it was doing me harm. Should I go back to grains and legumes and lay off the animal protein? Then again, I did drop ten pounds. There is something to be said for that.

The nutritionist says stick with it, that I still need more time to let the results take hold. The doctor says that other medications I take are honking up my weight loss (why did he not foresee that or ‘blame that’ previously, I wonder) but didn’t seem to have a comment regarding the bloodwork. I’m wanting this thing to work — though not so  much wanting to eat this way forever — and wondering how much time is realistic. Thirty days does not seem like long for significant cholesterol and blood sugar numbers to take hold.

So, after receiving the news and spending a few days digesting it (and straying from the plan in moments of despair) I have decided to give it another 45 days. If my cholesterol and blood sugar numbers haven’t improved by then, I’ll be done with Paleo. Meantime, no grains, no legumes, no dairy and no processed food for me.  Maybe, if nothing else, I can lose another 10 pounds. Stay tuned.

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