Last week I shared my wake-up call with y’all — what started as pesky, persistent dry skin patches and other random symptoms, like feeling plum out of steam, ended up with my needing to engage in a full-on confrontation of what brought me to this place. Bottom line: it was all about some sorry-ass lifestyle choices I’d made along the way.
And while the thing you’ve been ignoring, avoiding, and sadly putting off for way to long may not on the surface appear to be health-related, I’d argue that the chance of success when making any major life change is much greater if taking care of yourself is factored into the equation. In fact, you should make it the primary factor.
The crap we throw down our gullets as we run the gerbil wheel as fast as we can is not adequate fuel. The trick is to slow the pace enough so that you can be mindful of everything that you put in your mouth (!); this is a crucial step towards bringing you to not only better health, but also to an awareness of what being kind and nourishing can do to a person. Especially when that person is you.
Now that you’ve answered your wake-up call, are you ready for Week 2 of the Bitch’in Challenge?
Let me start by saying I’ve never been a girl who diets. Not successfully, anyways. I’ve had my moments with Weight Watchers, which is a pretty effective and smart diet plan because it curbs the size of portions (unless it’s “free” foods like veggies) and also puts the emphasis on high fiber, low fat foods.
That said, I think the height of my love for Weight Watchers peaked at a meeting where the group extolled the virtues of Cool Whip for an entire hour. Given my obsession with the “dessert topping,” it felt like a slam-dunk choice to me.
A BBF of mine who writes extensively about the weirdness of our modern world told me that “diet” choice is actually full of oddball junk like paraffin. He was close — from The Alternative Daily’s report, “There’s Nothing Cool About Cool Whip,” this is the ingredient I think he was talking about:
“Polysorbate 60 – This is a chemical emulsifier that is used in sexual lubricants and beauty products. To make this ingredient, ethylene oxide (a precursor to antifreeze) is polymerized with a sugar alcohol derivative. Research has demonstrated a strong connection between this ingredient and organ toxicity, tumors in lab mice and diarrhea.”
This is just one example of how “dieting” is actually often based on having a pretty shitty diet. I’ll now keep my Cool Whip ingestion as a mid-coitus snack, thank you very much.
And in any case, I’m not talking about changing your diet for the sake of fitting into your pre-freshman 15 jeans from 1902; I’m talking about proactively taking control of your diet so you feel better health-wise. And yes, this from the girl who brought you “Carbs, A Love Story.”
My holistic doc, when asked about what kind of diet I should follow, uttered one word: paleo. The same word that has been on the lips of my most health-conscious friends for a while now. I’ve sampled a paleo “dessert,” which included frosting made out of avocado and cocoa, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. But that said, the whole idea is to take out anything unnatural (see Polysorbate 60, above) and replace it with low sugar, low carbohydrate foods that even a caveman or lady could hunt or gather. (Although how they’d make “cupcakes” and “frosting” is beyond me with out modern day cooking gear like mixers and ovens.)
So I took one for the team and listened to an extraordinarily boring reading of the book Paleo Diet Plan: The Simple Guide for Paleo Beginners by Andryan Coombs. I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version here:
• Eat lean grass-fed meat (beef and if you’re adventurous, things like bison or venison), chicken, fish, turkey, and eggs.
• Fill up on veggies and fruits.
• Enjoy nuts and seeds.
• Use healthy oils (coconut to cook, olive oil, flaxseed oil, etc.).
• Stay away from grains, legumes, processed foods, dairy, refined sugar, refined oils, junk food, coffee, booze. In other words, many of the things that make life worth living.
And that’s it! Research support its claims of boosting energy, both physical and mental, and improving overall health with weight loss, improvements in body composition, and lowered levels in key health markers like blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and triglycerides.
While all good in theory, I’ve been testing this plan out for about a week now, and here’s what I’m thinking:
• It is definitely time consuming and more expensive to eat like this. Just hand Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck) your credit card and squint — keep in mind that all that grass fed, free range, and organic stuff is way cheaper than multiple hospitalizations for your shitty ticker, complications from diabetes, and chemo. (Harsh I know but this is a wake-up call, remember?)
• It also takes your attention — on more than one occasion, I had to very thoughtfully take my hand out of a bag of Goldfish crackers and my fork out of my kids’ french fries.
• That said, everything in moderation. I don’t think I’m personally down with getting rid of all grains, so I’m still rocking quinoa (up there with kale, which I also eat a lot of, as the most annoying trendy health food there is, but I buy it so whatevs).
• I bought a NutriBullet, and that helped a lot. Just shield your eyes when you look at the marketing materials — it’s a lot of middle-aged people chasing the fountain of youth through their precious “NutriBlasts.” If you look too closely, you might just recognize yourself in that thar clever marketing. I know I did (shudder).
• I’m not giving up coffee, half and half, booze, cheese, or occasional sweets. Just cutting back on all.
The one other thing you must do to really kick the shit into high gear is hydrate. My holistic doc told me to drink a gallon of water a day, and not to cheat — I literally fill up a gallon jug and make sure that I drink the whole thing by the time I hit the hay. And by the way, ditch those goddamn bottled waters! Drink tap water or fill up a BPA-free stainless steel bottle. (BPA is a potentially toxic estrogen-mimicking compound present in plastic that has been linked to breast cancer, early puberty, infertility, and a bunch of other nasty shit.)
So if you see gnawing on a carrot, eating a sliced apple with almond butter, or, more often than that, running to pee about 50 times a day, just know that it’s all in the name of good health. You really are what you eat, and so choose wisely, my bitches and for goodness sake, take the Bitch’in Challenge! Next week we’ll tackle boosting your energy in other ways besides food and water, while you continue to answer your wake-up call.
And if you’re looking for a good quick ‘n easy Paleo-ish dinner recipe, here’s the one I was digging most this week:
Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Makes: 4 servings (serving Size: 1/2 stuffed squash half)
Takes about an hour all in to make this dish.
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of broccoli, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 lb. Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (optional — this dish is delish with or without meat)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
Parmesan cheese to taste (optional) (this is where I fall off the Paleo wagon)
Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400°F.
Place squash in the microwave for 3-4 minutes to soften. Using a sharp knife cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with one tablespoon of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip those suckers over to cook with the cut side down. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes, until you can poke easily with a sharp knife or even a fork. Once the squash is done and cooled, you’ll use a fork to scrape the squash into spaghetti-like strands.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes. If you’re using the chicken sausage, add it and break apart with a wooden spoon or spatula to crumble. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sausage is browned and cooked through. (Obviously skip the sausage part if you’re not using it.)
Add broccoli and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add water and cook, stirring, until the broccoli is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl. Once the squash is done and removed from the shell, add it to the bowl with the other ingredients. Stir in Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Divide the mixture between the shells; top with a little Parmesan cheese if you’d like (other kind of cheese if you’re not paleo, like Mozzarella). Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the top starts to brown, about 2 minutes.