Paleo Trials…


I’m a gemini, a true gemini, and as such there are multiple me’s living inside my head. Angels and daemons, Jekyll and Hyde, Dumb and Dumber. Friends and family have always said of me that I am always so passionate about everything I do, for about nine days…

The last few months, the first me thought it was a great idea to revert back to pescatarianism, the second me agreed. So both me’s felt better, less bloated more eco-friendly and generally happier with the diet element. After a while though, the second me (who had been doing a lot of research into off-grid living and pre-historic Britain) told the first me that it wasn’t enough, that the root of all evil was the agricultural revolution and that we should go back to basics, hunter-gatherer. The first me thought this was a most excellent idea (yes he just watched the new Bill & Teds film, sadly), tied up his woven shoelaces and stomped right in.

What they found was quite something. Clearly as a pair of idiots, they needed some guidelines to follow to see what food types and lifestyle changes they must follow in order to earn their Caveman badge, so it was only natural to purchase Living Paleo for Dummies.

The book itself is great, really easy to read and understand, gives the background to what paleo is and its origins from over 2.5 million years ago (when monkeys ate some funky mushrooms, saw Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and spawned the first truly cosmically conscious being), the do’s and don’ts of what one can and can’t eat and a remedial understanding of the science behind paleo and allegedly why it works so well as a lifestyle – not a diet.

Armed with some rudimentary knowledge, we set off on our week-long paleo trial to see what all the fuss was about. We kept a diary (as instructed in the book) to see what went well, not so well and how we felt before, during and after the process.

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Day 1

Weight = 87.5kg
Breakfast = Banana, Apple
Lunch = Eggs, Salmon Slices, Asparagus
Dinner = Venison Steak, Mushrooms
Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water
Snacks = Pistachios, Peanuts
Exercise = None
Mood = Indifferent all day
Fatigue = High

Notes = First day was a struggle, it didn’t help that we were on hangover day 2 after our trip away with the older kids camping trip Wales. Need to prioritise exercise and prepare / eat breakfast every day, no fail. Really enjoyed the venison again (same steaks that we cooked over the fire-pit on Saturday after the sun had descended behind the Clwydian hills), and the garlic mushrooms, although we need a better accompaniment than the crappy box salad from the supermarket, possibly cauliflower rice or greens. Coffee without sugar/stevia wasn’t too bad.

Day 2

Weight = N/A
Breakfast = Fruit and Spinach Smoothie
Lunch = Eggs, Salmon Slices, Spinach
Dinner = Venison Steak, Mushrooms, Cauliflower Rice
Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water
Snacks = Pumpkin seeds
Exercise = Cross Trainer x 30 mins
Mood = Good to Bad
Fatigue = Medium

Notes = Loved the cross training session. Felt a bit full and sickly after eggs and salmon for lunch for the second day running, need to vary dinners as we’ll become bored of the same every day. Looked at soup recipes tonight. Felt like we wanted something sweet to drink most of the day, even cordials, but more like pop. Got tired in the evening but that was due to number crunching all day at work. Would have been nice to eat with the family but the missus threw a hissy fit when we wanted to also use the kitchen to cook cauliflower rice. That’s always the real struggle, not missing the food types, just the resistance of others. We get that we change our diet/lifestyle often (searching for methods and techniques that will provide better health, well-being and longevity), but constant criticism in what we choose to put in our own body is a real drag. Rounded the evening off nicely with a nostalgic trip down memory lane by playing Age of Empires, starting off as a stone age hunter-gatherer. A true paleo day!

Day 3

Weight = N/A
Breakfast = Fruit and Spinach Smoothie
Lunch = Sweet Potato, Fennel and Coriander Soup
Dinner = Huevos Gambas Rancheros
Drinks = Coffee, Lime Water, Red Wine (small mouthful)
Snacks = Nuts
Exercise = None
Mood = Good
Fatigue = Medium

Notes = Woke up early and contemplated cross trainer again but legs still a little stiff so walked the dog instead. Worked out how to use the new soup maker and prepared breakfast and lunch. Very happy the way in which soup turned out, will be a paleo pal for sure! Gave us a mood boost, especially after a conflict in work. Soup was amazing, perhaps a little too spicy for the wife (chipotle chilli flakes) but we adored it. Felt like our insides are cleaner, two months of being a pescatarian has helped for sure. Have not felt bloated in a long time now (other than when on/after the beers). Probably need to eat more protein/meat, as we want to start pumping iron soon to put weight on our arms and shoulders. Dinner wasn’t that nice, added cocoa to it as per the recipe, too rich. Lot of post-meal gurgling. Gah. Got real tired in the evening, another “difference of opinion” with the wife over us eating something different even though after a full day in the office and us also cooking lunch and evening meal for everyone. Did pour ourselves a glass of red wine but only had a mouthful before pouring the rest down the sink.

Day 4

Weight = N/A
Breakfast = Eggs, Spinach, Tomatoes, Halloumi, Mushrooms, Guacamole
Lunch = Sweet Potato, Fennel and Coriander Soup
Dinner = Vegetable Stir Fry with Ginger, Cashews and Venison Strips
Drinks = Honeydew/Rooibos Tea, Coffee
Snacks = None
Exercise = Cross Trainer x 30 mins
Mood = Good
Fatigue = Medium

Notes = Pee no longer smells of Sugar Puffs in the morning, but did have some minor cramping. Tinnitus is raging at the moment, no real root cause uncovered, not related to diet or kundalini yoga we think. Took the wife for breakfast (first paid trip out as a hunter-gatherer), we had a plate of vegetables but did have a slice of grilled halloumi (hangs heads in shame), we wondered if there was any paleo cheese, no. Cashew dip and paleo Doritos look nice though. Soup from yesterday still a resounding success. Same can’t be said for the blueberry muffins. Not a big fan of coconut and the coconut flour flavour we bought really came through, not to mention the lack of height and density of the “cakie”. Bin enjoyed it though. Had a wobble at dinner time, with the wife out with friends and our usual Thursday fatigue resorted in getting pizzas for the kids, sorely tempted to tuck in but didn’t, as we couldn’t cope with the laughter and sly remarks from the missus. We will be strong, we have willpower! Did read that some paleo folks do the 80/20 rule and allow non-paleo days which is something we may gravitate to (but still avoid anything processed).

Day 5

Weight = N/A
Breakfast = Fruit Smoothie
Lunch = Broccoli and Fennel Soup
Dinner = Broccoli and Fennel Soup, Almond Bread
Drinks = Raspberry Tea, Coffee, Water
Snacks = Veggie Sticks (Tomato & Kale)
Exercise = Outdoor Run x20 mins
Mood = Good
Fatigue = Medium

Notes = Up early making Broccoli soup (rock n roll!). Another masterpiece, adore our “stolen” soup maker, makes it so easy, we say stolen (not as a nod to our Scouse lineage – but to explain before anyone calls the rozzers – during the lockdown, a kind Hermes delivery man (or woman) left a package on our doorstep with an address we’d never heard of. So we kept it in the hallway for 28 days to see if anyone would rightfully claim it, they didn’t so we acquired it for free, so not stolen, more “rehomed”). Another argument with the wife over evening meal, bored now, we may end up sticking to the paleo life just to spite her! Feel so cleansed inside and out, this is working. Tinnitus is still raging, keeping background sounds higher than normal to mask it, only just working. Went to Holland & Barrett for some provisions (almond flour mainly as the coconut flour isn’t good). Picked up some better soaps at a quarter of the price of Lush which should last four times as long by looking at the density. Came to the conclusion that there are so many amazing recipes out there one would never get bored of paleo, the only downside is the preparation and cooking time. As busy home office workers, we’ll need to get up earlier to prepare breakfast and lunch (but a vegetable soup should last us 2-3 days). Snacks are fine with fruit, biltong, nuts and seeds. May be that we use some weekend time to prepare food for the week ahead. Of course if we didn’t work we would have more time to invest, but we have six years to get this stuff off to a fine art. Picked up some cup measures so we don’t get caught out with US recipes as yesterday’s “muffins” were a disaster. Afternoon headache, so logged off early and caught some zeds. The Paleo for Dummies book did say that may happen with cutting out all sugar so it could be that. Made our first almond loaf with poppy seeds and it turned out great. A little dense and moist in the middle but we suspect we over-whisked and should have folded it instead. Will toast it lightly and that should do the trick. Could not be bothered cooking an evening meal so took the “bread” and soup. The bread was awful, just too sweet. Bread is meant to savory not sweet, but the coconut and almond flour cannot replace wheat flour for taste and consistency. On the basis that these are really the only big ingredients in paleo, baking really is off the menu for us. We guess if one was to live off the land in the UK, these items would not be available anyways so it’s no real loss. We do need to eat more though, one reflection on paleo is that it’s an easy lifestyle when working in the corporate domain, having a wife, three kids, energetic dog and having to cook everything from raw materials. Physical and mental fatigue is kicking in and we are in bed at 7:30pm on Friday night exhausted. One other thing is for sure, it ain’t cheap to live like a caveman either. We’ve also decided to hang up our running boots for good now. Few weeks back a brisk 5km left us with leg and joint pains for days, same already this afternoon, we’ll have to swap to the cross trainer and bike permanently now to avoid the impact damage. This week has been a challenge on many fronts both physically and mentally but will stick it out for the full week. We may have a blended diet/lifestyle going forward, taking the best bits from what we have learned over the seven days (which at the moment are fruit shakes for breakfast, vegetable soups for lunch, biltong, nuts and veggies sticks for snacks, plenty of water throughout the day, sugar free coffee, an evening meal that consists of meat/fish and two veg (all vegetables being on the menu not just some), the odd glass of red wine and avoiding all processed foods and sugars. On the physical front, walking, cycling, cross training, kayaking, weights and kundalini yoga will keep us on the straight and narrow, and meditation, meeting friends and blogging will keep our mind right. We’d say that would equate to around an 80% paleo lifestyle which is good enough to maintain a healthy mind, body and soul which ultimately promotes longevity which is why we really started this thing in the first place. Our aim is to set up a small holding in five years time, living as much off-grid as we can, so acquiring the right lifestyle diet and associated skills now is essential.

Day 6

Weight = N/A
Breakfast = Fruit Smoothie
Lunch = Tuna & Egg Salad “Sandwiches”
Dinner = Venison Burgers (Mushroom Buns)
Drinks = Coffee, Red Wine (small)
Snacks = Biltong
Exercise = 10km Walk
Mood = Great
Fatigue = Low

Notes = Woke up at 5:30, no surprises going to bed so early. Took the pooch out early as he’s in a bad shape himself (flea infestation) and he enjoyed his early morning bimble on the beach. Long soak on the bath to unstiff the dead leg which worked. Morning trip to the grocery store for today’s paleo purchases. Tuna, egg sandwiches (Romain lettuce instead of bread) went down a treat, good change to the soup. Took the daughter around town for her birthday present run and found an amazing alternative food store in Liverpool, vegan and paleo heaven. Got some alternative pasta (vegetable-based penne and spaghetti) and crisps. The mushroom double decker venison burgers for evening meal were great, very full after eating two of them. Most food we’ve eaten in one day so far. Earned my small glass of red wine, and as Saturdays go this was a lean one. My eyesight was poor in the evening, probably to do with too much number crunching this week at work and the fact I haven’t had an eye test for a while. Checkup needed next week, don’t think it’s diet related. Excited for tomorrow – foraging course!

Day 7

Weight = 84.5kg
Breakfast = Fruit Smoothie
Lunch = Tomato Soup, Veggie Straws, Biltong
Dinner = Fried Chicken
Drinks = Diet Coke, Fanta
Snacks = Biltong
Exercise = 10km Walking / Foraging
Mood = Great
Fatigue = Low

Notes = After our “morning manoeuvres”, we weighed in at 84.5kg, dropping exactly 3kg since the start of the week, putting us at our ideal weight. We didn’t start paleo to lose weight but it’s nice that it’s nudged us to our target quickly, which was probably down to the lack of processed crap we normally put into to our body and the increased and varied exercise regimes, which must now be maintained going forward. As our calorie intake has gone down, we need to boost it up to maintain our current weight. We love biltong and found an ethical producer in Sussex who purvey venison biltong so ordered a trial pack to see what they are like. Best biltong we’ve ever had was at a vineyard in Constantia, South Africa’s wine region just out side of Cape Town. A friend an us took the open-topped “red bus” and meandered our way through the many splendid vistas; Table Mountain, Cape Town’s marina/bay area, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Groot Constantia vineyard. Each vineyard had its own food stalls and market area, and the biltong was amazing. We bought a huge bag full and planned to eat a little for the remainder of our trip. Needless to say after a few wines and an awesome bus trip home through the scenic Hout Bay and Camps Bay, the bag was empty by the time we got back. Those memories fired up our long lost love of biltong, so naturally as it’s so expensive, our thoughts turned to making our own. A 45g packet in Morrisons cost £3. That’s roughly £120 for 2kgs if our maths are right. As one can buy a 2kg joint of topside or silverside beef (grass-fed of course) for around £10-£15, it makes total sense to make ones own in bulk. After reviewing some of the expensive purpose-built drying machines on Amazon and the free make-your-own drying box on Wikihow (https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Biltong), we’ll get building next week (probably a wooden version) and store it in the “office” once our son buggers off back to University and we’ve had Rentokil in to defumigate his room. After watching the artsy animation movie Away with our daughter, we headed off to the beautiful Welsh countryside, just outside Ruthin, for our foraging course (full blog to follow) and munched our way through flora, fauna and fungi for four hours, collecting some fayre along the way for next weeks meals (Hen of the Woods and Pocini mushrooms look a delight!), the most enjoyable day out we’ve had for quite a while, very educational and inspiring. As we were late getting back and had to time to cook we had to go to the drive through and get fried chicken, not entirely paleo but we’re not going to beat ourselves up about it.

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All in all we found the trial week very positive and educational. It gave us an insight into what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would consume which was of course easier for us due to technological advancement.

We’ve tried a great many diet over the years and have tried to select the best bits to keep the mind, body and soul maintained, falling foul as one does from time to time. One thing is for sure, we will continue to juice every morning and soup most afternoons and our evening meals will consist of mostly meat or fish and two veg. Most importantly, we will stay away from processed food as much as we can (including breads, pastries, sugar, rice and wheat products) and eat ethically. We will reintroduce all vegetables (potatoes, legumes etc) as if we do manage to set up an off-grid small holding in the future, we will be able to cultivate our own produce (we just wont set up our own fiscal-based community so that Humanity 2.0 doesn’t go the same way 1.0 went!). We will also make sure that we exercise every day, even if some days are lighter than others. We will maintain our course too for spiritual enlightenment, continuing our quest for knowledge and peace via yoga, meditation and cosmic discussions with like-minded individuals.

Pros

Reduced body weight
Reduced bloating
Reduced alcohol intake
Reduced sugar intake
Reduced toxicity
Reduced fatigue
Reduced cravings
Reduced profits of “Big Corpa”
Improved sustainability
Improved culinary skills
Improved exercise regimes
Improved mental stability
Improved willpower
Improved vigour to live life differently
Improved likelihood to live off-grid

Cons

Increased expenses
Increased food preparation time
Reduced food choices
Negative attitude of others

Conclusion

The pros of paleo far outweigh the cons in our opinion and on that basis we would highly recommend paleo or paleo-lite (80/20 rule). Even if one did it for one or two weeks per month, the benefits are there in abundance. In the immortal words of Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys “Suck it and see, you never know”…

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