Our Paleo experiment



Never in my grown-up-lady life have I been a dieter. I’ve never done Weight Watchers or Atkins, no/low-carb or no sugar. None of it. Not to say I’ve always been perfectly happy with my weight, because that’s not really true, but I just don’t “get” dieting. Ok, or maybe it’s that I don’t have faith in my own ability to keep to the confines of one. Like, one cannot be on a diet forever, so what’s the point, you know? Even before our wedding I tried, and sorta kinda failed. When I want to lose weight I work out more and eat less (um, this only sometimes works? Back to that thing where I am not good at saying no to myself). I like booze and sour patch kids and ben & jerry’s cookie dough, bacon and burgers and nachos, and I’m pretty sure those aren’t allowed on most diets, even in moderation. As it is, I generally already avoid processed foods and total crap. We cook at home nearly every night, and we buy organic/local/sustainable as much as possible. I was a vegetarian for 5 years, which I guess is sort of a diet, but which also means I’m used to thinking a lot about what I eat. But anyway. What more can you do? So that’s about it. No real diets for this gal, not really.

But then, Jon became extremely sick and his eczema was out of control and ruining both of our lives while leaving Jon in pain 24/7, and after trying every combination of medicines the doctors would give him with very little progress, we decided to take a hard look at diet and see if there was anyway to figure out a way to ease Jon back into the world of normal, not chronically-ill folk.

I’d read a lot about the paleo (short for paleolithic, as in the era) diet , which is based around eating like our paleolithic ancestors, hunter/gatherer style- and at the same time I’d come across a lot of information about elimination diets, and eventually, just after the new year we decided to go for it. Something had to change. So we went hardcore. Essentially we cut out everything-grains, legumes/pulses (including peanuts and peanut products), all processed foods, soy, dairy, sugar, alcohol, cheese, and weirdly enough, citrus fruits. Starting fresh! By doing that we could give our bellies a clean slate with which to start over and figure out what causes the most damage in terms of allergic reactions and general intolerance.

So obviously I wasn’t going through the same stuff as Jon, health-wise. But as the main chef in this little family, and with my own IBS issues and health stuff, I fully signed on to get the most out of our hybrid elimination/paleo diet. We dove in full speed ahead, and excluding a one-off cheeseburger night at our very favorite local food truck guy who was doing a pop-up two nights in to our trial (we had to go!), and maybe a glass or two of wine for me, we’ve been very good at sticking to it these past 6 weeks.

After we finished up a 30 day trial of elimination/paleo, we have been able to start adding some things back in, and because of how clean we’ve been eating, any problems pop up immediately upon reintroduction. So far we have found intolerances to yogurt, oranges, and oats (Jon) and a little trouble with wheat (me). And it’s nice having the knowledge to back up what is really effecting us inside and out. It’s really good to have that personal knowledge surrounding what you put into your body because, obviously, everyone is different. And some of us are more sensitive than others!

Now I wouldn’t say that paleo is a perfect diet, or the only way to live. I’m not down with the whole “our ancestors had perfect diets so let’s all eat raw meat and forego shoes and throw boulders around for exercise and then everyone will be perfect” and all that hype. People get a little hung up on authenticity in the paleo community, so it seems! But from a health standpoint it has really helped Jon and I think it is, essentially awesome. Also, um, I have eaten two donuts in the past few days, so….sometimes you just have to live a little, even when trying to better yourself.

Some pros of eating paleo-lots of protein (with a focus on high quality, responsibly sourced meats-we get ours from a local farm, so we know exactly what we are putting in our bodies), tons of veggies, lots of nuts and fruit. Does a great job of keeping me full all the time, although Jon, with his crazy fast metabolism and manly self does snack more than I do.

Some cons of eating paleo-it’s more expensive than a regular diet. No cheap pasta/rice/potatoes, etc to bulk up meals! It adds up, believe me. But surprisingly, we’ve only spent about £20 more per week on our food than pre-Paleo, so I think it’s worth it, as long as we can wing it. Also, eating this way calls for more meal planning, particularly for breakfast and lunch-no cereal or oatmeal in the mornings, no sandwiches at lunch, so we had to think a lot more about it, or leave time in our pre-work schedules to scramble some eggs and pack up leftovers to take to work.

Now we haven’t been able to test out all food groups in terms of reincorporating them back into our diet yet. But I really like being paleo overall, so I’m actually not too worried about it. I thought I’d be chomping at the bit to eat a sandwich again…but it’s just not the case. Jon and I have both slimmed down a bit, and we both have a lot more energy and are just generally more chipper-no weird mood swings based on blood sugar drops and all that stuff. Jon does eat a lot, just like he used to, particularly in the evenings, but now it’s fruit and coconut cream, rather than entire sleeves of cookies, so I’m not going to complain about that!

Over the weekend we tested out bread and a donut each from the bakery in Lindfield. So completely not paleo! It was basically our first meal with bread since the new year. And no one died! But we both felt kinda….gross afterwards.  Sluggish and bloated. And really, I couldn’t tell if it was a purely physical response to eating grain, or if it was the fact that we are maybe kinda fully on the paleo bandwagon now. I just feel so much better! And if this is life without bread, well, I’m down for it. Most of the time. Mama needs a bagel and a beer every now and again. And cheese. Cheese!

I’m not sure what’s going to happen moving on from here. As of right now we’re hoping to go 80/20, with paleo most of the time and some “time off” as it were. And that works for me. And more importantly, that keeps my husband up and running and healthy, which is the most important thing. More important than everything else, really.

If you made it this far in my long, weird ramble, congratulations, and also, thanks for listening! It’s just been such a big part of our life lately that I wanted to write about it and share what we’ve been doing. Obviously there’s more I could say, but I think this is more than enough for now.

If you want to talk more about going paleo, or if you have some super awesome paleo or gluten-free recipes, I would love to chat. Let me know!

A Valentine’s date with the dude

Last night Jon and I got dressed up and ventured onto the high street of Lindfield for a romantic V-day dinner at The Limes, a tiny, appropriately intimate restaurant. It ended up being a great choice. Five thoughtful courses (and nothing that made Jon sick except for the glass of champagne we started out with, which counts as a win in my book). It was just….nice! I’m always thankful for a little quality time with my dude, especially after a rough few months. It really seems like things are getting better.

Also, he understands my undying love of owls. A real catch!

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Jon’s birthday fun times!

Birthday! On Monday, Jon turned 28, and we celebrated with a day of hanging out and wandering around Brighton. Awesomely enough, the company he works for gives you a half day off on your birthday. Lucky duck.

We picked up a new pair of jeans for Jon (our new diet has solved most of his health problems and made him shed a couple of inches around the waist in the process, turning my already thin husband positively waif-like) and I gave him the fabulous watch he’s been wanting. We had a delicious sushi lunch at Yo! Sushi and an amazing steak dinner at a cute/weird little pub that evening with Jon’s parents and siblings. When we came home we toasted my favorite dude with some paleo-friendly brownies I made earlier that turned out astonishingly great (served with whipped coconut cream!). As you can see, most of Jon’s birthday revolved around eating. He’s pretty easy to please, when it comes down to it. And as far as I can tell he had a great day, which he 100% deserves.

Here’s to hoping 28 is a great year for Jon (and for me too, haha). Birthday, wooo!

Sour Patch Kids-a global conspiracy of deliciousness

I am a sour person. Not in personality, I hope, but anything with a tart explosion is bound to find it’s way into my mouth, particularly if offered next to a boring piece of chocolate cake/brownies/cookies, etc. Obviously I love cupcakes, a love which can be found sprinkled throughout the pages of this very blog, but seriously, who doesn’t love cupcakes. I’m just saying-sour has my heart. Lemon bars, lemon heads, lemon curd…basically anything lemony. And when it comes to candies in particular, Sour Patch Kids are my one true love. True story-I had my friend meet me at the airport when I came back from South Korea for one single week during my summer break, Sour Patch Kids in hand. Other true story-Lindsey brought me a big ol’ bag of Sour Patch Kids when we met up in Paris in June, and my mom sent a massive bag of the treats in my Christmas box this year. This love is real (and I know good people, don’t I?).

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A Christmas Cookie Party

One of my favorite, warm-fuzzy Christmas memories from my childhood was our annual Christmas cookie making. My sister, my mom, my grandma and I, all piled in Grandma Monk’s tiny kitchen, the tiny old-fashioned radio blaring Grandma’s preferred tunes of the 50s and 60s, flour and powdered sugar and colored icing and cookie cutters everywhere. We made snowmen and trees, snowflakes and stars and santas, too. So many tuppperware boxes full of our productions, enough to last for weeks until there were only a few sad, stale little treats left.

christmas cookies

I’ve made Christmas cookies every year, in every place I’ve found myself when the holiday season rolls around. It’s my little way of going back to that time, when I was young, in my grandmother’s kitchen, with my favorite women. And some day I’ll do it with my own kids-but that’s still pretty far away, I think.

christmas cookies

This year Jon and I invited some of our friends over for some casual cookie making, accompanied by hot chocolate (with a bit of Bailey’s in it) and some mulled wine. We listened to some records, made high art (as seen above, some people are so artistic!) and watched some fun holiday movies and cooking shows on tv.

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An Expat Thanksgiving

Working on Thanksgiving was weird. Not terrible, but not cool. People kept wishing me “Happy Thanksgiving”, which was quite sweet, but that kept reminding me of what I should have been doing! Anyway, on the actual Thanksgiving I came home and Jon and I had a little roast dinner and some wine-but then he left me to go to a work party he was hosting. In a word: lame.  I stayed in, out of the rain and wind and listened to Alice’s Restaurant while chopping up a million cranberries. But on Friday I finished work at lunchtime and rushed home to get my cookin’ on: green bean casserole, classic dressing, and the rest of the jalapeno-cranberry dip, and we headed for the train to Hassocks.

I have, and always will, love trains. (In case you were wondering). And trains around the holidays? Magical as all get-out.

Our fabulous hosts for the evening were Colin and Jess, friends of ours who are also half-English (Colin) and half-American (Jess). Although, to be fair, Jess went to uni here and they own a house, so her expatriation has been far more settled than mine so far, and she misses the States much less, I think. She’s got 10 years in England on me! Kal and Amy joined us later, and it was a great night-they’d found a torrent of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for us to watch and laugh at, and there was wine and all the important food-Jon even did a chicken wrapped in bacon. Because he’s fancy, and he likes bacon, and turkey is just…meh. Jess made pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin pie, and then we played Apples to Apples until it was time to make our way back to the station and call it a night.

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Getting back to routine

I haven’t managed to get back into much of a routine, so to speak, in the few days since I finished the course. I wasn’t sure if I’d be heading back to work this week at my old school since I hadn’t heard back from my boss by the weekend, so Monday I was lazy and bummed around the house. Tuesday morning I got a call from the school, asking me to come in and teach in the afternoon. Woo, paid work! But then after the lessons were over, my boss told me that actually, there wasn’t steady work for me right now, but they’d call me if anything  came up. Bummer. So last night I was back to the drawing board….until this morning, when I had another email from the school asking me to cover/substitute for the rest of the week. In sum, it’s been a bit of an employment rollercoaster. Some paid work is better than none though, so I’ll take it. Obviously.

Monday night my fellow graduates and I went out for a celebratory dinner and a few drinks, as we were unable to do last Friday night due to exhaustion/prior plans. The five intrepid teachers made our way to Archipelagos, this amazing little Greek restaurant that is actually right down the street from my house, and the food was delicious. The owner was so friendly and helpful, and I can’t wait to take Jon there-we love Greek food, and this place is bomb.

Archipelagaos Brighton

Afterwards I showed the guys around my favorite tiny pub, The Bee’s Mouth, which is weird and macabre enough to warrant repeated visits. It was a nice little night out (especially for a Monday), and  especially knowing that I probably won’t see any of these people again-or if I do, it won’t be for a long time, since everyone is leaving Brighton or wasn’t from around here in the first place. That’s the thing with ESL teachers….they travel a lot. So it’s nice to enjoy the camaraderie, while the gettin’s good. And It’s nice to go through an intensive experience like CELTA with nice folks. I wonder where everyone will be in a year from now?

Now I’m back to worrying about the next step. Making money, saving money, paying debts, finding a good/steady job….it never ends, does it? I thought I’d be relieved upon finishing this nonsense, but now I can’t stop thinking that this was sort of a benchmark requirement in the UK-most teachers have a CELTA, although many don’t have an MA like I do, but someday, probably sooner rather than later, I’ll have to do the DELTA (diploma version of CELTA, and done over 9 months’ time usually) if I want to move on up in this business. A bit soon to start thinking about that, but that’s where my head is. Bleh.