Some of my dear friends have recently had to embrace rather dramatic dietary changes. A couple have gone low-carb (or no-carb), and one has had to do that full-on scary FODMAP thing.
In each case, the change of food and eating has gone remarkably well. Aside from friend get-togethers suddenly involving a bit more food-zhooshing *, each person has seen fairly impressive health changes. They didn’t just wake up one day and say: ‘Ooh, I’m bored, I think I’ll stop eating all bread products’ **, they had been diagnosed with specific health conditions that had a pretty good chance of being managed through food. And that was indeed the case.
So when my dear likeable nutritionist suggested that I do something similar, I didn’t go off my scone at her shouting ‘NO TRENDY DIETS FOR ME, MADAM!’ Partly because I respect her professional knowledge, partly because she’s a great person who would probably just crook an eyebrow at my outburst and ask me if I was aware of my behaviour, and mostly because I have seen for myself how food can act as medicine.
Since I’ve been feeling that my health and pain are out of my control, I’ve been keen to seek ways to regain some feeling that I am indeed in the pilot’s seat of this fabulous Deep Space Pleasure-Cruiser that I call my body.
It didn’t hurt that just before then, The Captain and I had watched the two-part Catalyst episode about gut health. Did you see it? That was the question that I heard at least eight times a day in the weeks following the screening. ‘Did you see those great Catalyst shows on gut health? Amazing!’
The Captain and I love science. Love it. In fact, at this exact moment he is plugging away on his second degree, which is in Extreme Science. (I have a really good friend who categorically does not trust science, even though she’s actually rather good at it, also incredibly intelligent, and I trust her too, which just goes to show there’s nowt so queer as folk.)
I learned two very important things from those shows. The first, which makes me feel really really good, and slightly tearful, is that I am not in fact a single organism trying to make my lonely way through the world. I am actually a MOTHER STARSHIP chock-full of other living creatures. I am a walking colony! I am Gaia. I am never alone, because all my bacteria are always here to keep me company! Hang in there, little guys. Starship Blossom is always here for you. (Except for the ‘bad’ bacteria: get out of my intestines, you minging bastards.)
The second thing I learned is that the things I put into my mouth have a big impact on the health of my little colonists, and their health has a big impact on mine. We are as one, we share our destinies. Aww. (Wipes away sentimental tear.)
Okay, so when Nutritionist suggested an elimination diet to try and establish which foods are contributing to happy happy gut bacteria, and which are leaking in a sinister ninja-style through my gut and encouraging my own immune system to try and break me, I was open-minded. (Actually, I may have shouted ‘SIGN ME UP!’)
Okay. There might have been a moment when I realised it was essentially a form of Paleo diet.
Now, I actually think Paleo is a perfectly fine thing to do. I have been nicking and using P recipes for some time, because a lot of them are really, really good. I confess that I find the whole trendiness of it a bit offputting. Yes, obsessive Paleo-Crossfit-Fake-Cupcake-Eaters, I’m talking about you.
I think it’s perfectly reasonable to do any eating and any exercise you want, but when you get a bit foaming-at-the-mouth obsessive about it and spend your whole day talking about how wonderful you are because you eat slightly differently from others, and using awful terms like ‘clean food’ and ‘real food’ ***, I am going to assume that you are a twit.
And I think this even though hypocritically I am actually blogging about this stuff. Send your complaints to Blossom, Fabulous Mothership, The Universe.
However I know quite a few people who have been quietly plugging away at their Paleo lifestyle, and chatting nicely about it with others, and sharing recipes, and these people really make me feel okay about it.
if you are one of these people, by the way, I apologise that my grumpy, suspicious rambling may make you feel as though I don’t trust your food choices. In my opinion everybody should be allowed to do what they want and eat what they want,and my allergy to trendiness should (and probably does) mean nothing to you. However, I don’t like it when people skite.
The other thing that worries me slightly about Paleo and similar fairly new diets, is that we are not paleolithic creatures any more, and humans do adapt to stuff; and I am sort of waiting for the science of food and nutrition (which is very new itself) to move on, and then maybe everybody will be mocking P eaters and laughing about how silly they were and didn’t they realise that eating this way would cause [condition], and then I’d feel like a twit myself.
Sorry, Paleo people who are actually scientists. I have been reading your stuff and I wish I understood it more (but my field is really history).
Anyway, I feel quite differently about AIP (autoimmune protocol). Partly because it is an elimination diet, which means that after a while you start reintroducing foods and see how they go, which seems to me like a pretty sensible approach. And if I find that I try and reintroduce things and they make all this pain and misery flare up again, then I am prepared to accept that I will not be eating them again. (Or, if I do, that it will be the result of a considered decision that I may have this slice of cheesecake, but I will suffer for it and so will all my little bacterial friends. Awww. I couldn’t do that to you, little guys.)
Lots of people who see me assume automatically that because I am fat, I must eat lots of rubbish. If you think that, sod off. I am a good eater, and have been for a long long time. I tend to cook all of my own food: breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am a devotee of whole foods. I don’t eat much processed stuff and takeaway is rare. My diet has been rich in veg and fruit, nuts and whole grains, eggs, small amounts of meat. Recently I have been working my way to a pescetarian diet, with loads more vegetarian food, seafood at least 3 times weekly, and a small quantity of red meat once a week.
This lovely diet has been turned on its head a bit with AIP. Luckily I am used to making all my own food, because this is what I will be continuing to do. And I will be continuing to eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg.
But as for the rest – big difference. I could tell you what I have abandoned on the AIP diet, but it’s actually easier to tell you what I do eat, and you can read the rest here.
Currently I eat any veg unless it’s a nightshade (that means no spuds or tomatoes, for a heartstopping moment there I thought my life was over); I eat fruit (but not too much, dammit); I eat meats and fish (yay), organ meats (which I love but a million people around me detest with a passion), bone broth (yummy), coconut oil and milk, olive oil (yay), and herbs.
That’s not a lot.
I’ve been doing this in earnest since Monday 1 September. Seemed a good time to start. My body is still in major WHAT THE BLEEPING HECK?! mode. You see, the thing is, even though I spent a week or so easing into it, once you really get stuck in you should stick to it pretty strictly – or else there isn’t much point, is there?
I am getting used to zhooshing my daily food so that I can eat enough to not be hungry or uninterested in food (a fate worse than death). I’m preparing foods for the fridge and freezer. I’m breaking the bad news to family and friends, so they don’t get too upset when I say no to a piece of cheesecake at their party.
And I’m planning to stay with this strict diet for at least 6 weeks.
There will be no Paleo tshirts, there will be no sodding mason jars, there will be NO Crossfit. There will be kale.
I’ll keep you all informed.
* ‘zhoosh’ is my favourite word
** If you do this, there is a chance that you are a trendy-wagon jumper. Sigh …
*** I find these terms elitist. They imply that the food eaten by other people is ‘unclean’ or ‘not real’. Not everybody can a) afford, b) find, or c) be arsed to eat the young Thai coconuts, organic kefir, or be-mason-jarr’d-kale-quinoa-organic-blueberry-goji-smoothies that you do. Have some respect for the way other people choose to eat, and they may be more inclined to respect your choices. Yes, this is me being grumpy.