Saturday, September 3, 2011

I'm So Bored with the Paleo's - Part 3 - My N=1

After reading Hyperlipid's take on the Guyenet/Taubes smackdown, I realized that I had better get out part 3 of my series before everyone is so exhausted from it all.  No need to do an experiment in food reward.  I already have.  Of course, to Guyenet's homies, it is still N=0, but I'm posting it anyway.  So there.  (This is the snarky part, now, on to the serious part.)

A few years ago, I participated in a year-long "food experiment".  I became a locavore.  And, it was bigger than N=1.  You can read about it here.

The plan was for us to eat food grown within 100 miles of Ojai.  Pretty much everything was to be local, except salt and 3 exception foods per month.  And, we were allowed 2 meals out per month. (I didn't know this at the time, but this experiment was to be the start of my journey towards the paleo diet.  I'd never even heard of a paleo diet and I was a semi-vegetarian.)  Every month, we switched out our exceptions.  I usually chose a grain, some kind of meat, and something different, like coffee.  Many others chose chocolate.

A few weeks into the challenge, things loosened up a bit.  We voted in canning additives like citric acid, yeast, and one rule that turned out to be really helpful for me, that if there was something that was going to be thrown away, that was OK to eat, too.  (And its just amazing what people throw out, once you start paying attention, but that is for another post.)

We had different rules for out of town, and I figure that I was out of town for a total of almost three months out of the year.  But, I didn't eat SAD food when I was gone.  Mostly it was scratch cooking.  And, when I visited my mom for a few weeks, it was low-fat "diet" scratch cooking, just not local.

I figure that taking into consideration all the exceptions, vacations and dumpster food, I was eating about a 75% local primal/paleo diet, better than many I saw at the AHS11.  There, that's my disclaimer, but I'll bet I have a better food log than those folks over at the Foster's POUNDS LOST study.

So, what were we eating?  Fresh veggies and fruit, backyard eggs, chickens when we could get them, goat meat.  A few months into the challenge, we found a local source of beef, and then some local beans.  The only oil was made from olives.  Southern California isn't a big place for growing grains, so we had just a few of those that we grew ourselves.  But we did have olives, avocado, and every kind of fruit and vegetable, though not all year-round.

I had an advantage over others in the group in that I had access to my own home-grown food, lots of local veggies and fruits that I had canned, dehydrated and grown during the year before and in my 4-season garden.  Others were able to enjoy backyard chickens and eggs that I was prohibited from growing in my yard.

What didn't we have?  Well, lots of things that Guyenet says are rewarding.  Things like packaged foods, msg, HFCS, bread, chips and dip, cooking oil, chocolate, soda, sugar, bottled salad dressings, spices, seasonings, flavorings, crackers, oatmeal, peanuts, cereal, fast-food, potatoes, soy sauce, ice cream, catsup, mustard.  We DID make good use of our exceptions.  On the months that I choose turkey, I ate turkey almost every day.  Then I would switch to beans and then eat them every day.  It was boring at times, especially all the rice.

Eventually, I figured out how to make my own mustard out of the seeds I grew, made with vinegar from apples I purchased at the farmer's market the year before.  What surprised most of us is how our palates changed.  It took really only a couple of weeks, and we got very used to eating foods with no extra spices or seasoning, just a few herbs, garlic and olive oil.

I bought a large container of honey, but rarely used it.  Most of us did no baking because we didn't have flour.  Eventually I stopped seasoning everything, even though I had a stash of dried herbs and hot pepper.

So, without all the food reward, how much weight did we lose?????  We all thought once we got away from that bag of chips and the take-out food, the weight would pour off.  I think I lost around 2-4 pounds for the entire year, but mostly because I really pushed the dieting during the last month of the challenge.  I don't think anyone else lost any weight.  We were all surprised.  After all, people had been telling us that if we got away from all that nasty processed food, we would become thin.  It didn't happen that way.  That is because that theory is wrong.

Stay tuned for my next story:  all about what happened with wheat on the locavore challenge...


  1. I second the being sick of it. I dont even read the offenders blog anymore. Its kind of funny because Guyenet is the first one that kind of kicked me into paleo. The only blog I am 100% commited to is Dr. K's. Its a shame because we are already fighting an uphill battle going against conventional wisdom that people get so caught up in their own ego trips and turn newcomers off. I used to think that I wanted to really get involved in the community and help spread the word but the longer I go the more I am like Ill just get myself to optimal and expend my new found and boundless energy elsewhere.

  2. Cameron, that is how I am beginning to feel about it too. I just tell people that I eat meat and vegetables, and that my favorite foods are coconut and olives.
    The first "paleo" blog I followed was Hyperlipid, and I didn't know it was even paleo at the time. I just thought it was extremely interesting. I am really glad Peter has joined the discussion.

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