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:
- Animals that run, fly or swim (grass fed, hormone free, wild-caught)
- Vegetables that grow above the ground (organic)
- 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.