It has recently come to my attention that living off of boxed meals and things that are handed to you through a sliding window by disinterested fast food worker is probably not the best strategy for long-term health. I kid, as I do actually cook 90% 70% of our meals and I have been (under protest) gluten free for about two years now due to some health issues.
However, a recent battle against my own body (pardon me for not posting details, nosy) has left me searching for some relief from a myriad of strange and incredibly inconvenient symptoms.
So, starting today, my Partner in Crime and I will be embarking on a 30 Day Autoimmune Paleo Challenge (if you call it a challenge it sounds way more fun). What does that entail exactly? Well, basically it means that we will be cutting most of the foods we love out of our diet entirely, because apparently half of the edible plants in the world are secretly poison (I may be paraphrasing). Essentially we cannot have gluten, grains, eggs, nightshades (PIC thinks those sound like an ingredient in a mystic potion, really it’s just tomatoes and peppers, etc.), nuts, um…lots more but I feel like if I continue the list I will get irrationally upset.
I am doing it to try and alleviate some symptoms, he is doing it because he loves me and also because I refused to do this alone.
Going gluten free was a challenge on its own, given that I was raised on a largely Italian diet of pasta, bread, and tomato sauce, which to this day I consider amazing. I am not particularly proud of or even interested in my own gluten free diet (notice how it’s not in the title of my blog?), and, trust me, I find myself to be just as unbearable as you do. But I can’t argue with results, and they have been pretty good ever since wheat and I parted ways. Still, as much as I loathe my current dietary restrictions, I am really looking forward to hating how high maintenance my food will become over the next month. And you get to look forward the addled posts that are sure to come from this extreme deprivation.
This is not the kind of diet where you get to go to some fast food place and order three specific menu items and eventually life is good for you (ahem, Jared). This shit is camping (it’s intense…you’ll get it later). We are mostly restricted to meats and vegetables that don’t fall into any of the previously stated banned categories. Doable, but way less convenient than Hamburger Helper.
The key to success in any diet is preparation. We prepared. A lot. Too much, some may feel.
Purging our pantries
(Interest of full disclosure: I made it through everything but the pantry)
Since most of what we currently eat is on the forbidden list, and since I have the willpower of a small child, we first had to rid ourselves of all of the foods that would only serve as a temptation in the weeks to come. It was actually a great excuse for me to go through the cabinets and actually throw away all of those half used seasonings that I pretend I will use but in reality PIC hates them. At the end of this diet, some things will be allowed back into our life. Those things were put into a cabinet well out of my reach, so that in an angry fit I will have to go locate the stepping stool, haul it to the cabinet, climb it, and somewhere in all of that hopefully find it inside of myself to actually follow through on something for once in my life.
I’ve gone Paleo before and got tired of keeping up with living a caveman lifestyle in a city whose fanciest grocery store is a Publix (isn’t it ironic that a diet supposedly eaten by hunter-gatherers is now prohibitively expensive in modern times?). So we already had some staples, like coconut everything (coconut is a miracle according to Paleo). We did not have massive amounts of meat and non-nightshade vegetables, so off to four stores I went, trying to get the food we would need to sustain this diet while also trying not to spend our entire paycheck in the first week of the month.
My mother has a saying: “Everything’s organic because nothing is inorganic.” She says it literally any time the word “organic” and any sort of food noun are placed in close proximity in a sentence. And she doesn’t stop saying it until everyone has left the room she is in. I have long since stopped trying to argue this point with her, and while I am sure many of you out there can’t extol the virtues of an organic diet enough, as I visited most of the grocery suppliers of College Town, Alabama, I couldn’t help but feel the sentiment of my mother’s organic-based logic. I would love to be as super perfectly healthy as the next person, but it just isn’t realistic in this location and on our budget. And yes, I’ve read your blog posts about eating organic on a budget, but I’m going to go ahead and be honest with you: unless I start raising livestock in my very small back yard, we will settle for what we can get.
We recognize the idiocy of this step. However, we had four meals (plus any extra meals we could justify to ourselves) between the time we decided to start on Sunday and Sunday. We began referring to these as our “last meals”. Clearly our optimism and good attitude are what are going to get us through the next 30 days. PIC pointed out that we should definitely eat like crap in the days leading up to the Challenge to “really make the cleanse work hard.” I didn’t disagree with his logic. PIC went immediately for the $10 Big Box – a mess of dough, tomato sauce, and sub-edible meats served in a ludicrously large cardboard box that when opened looks a lot like a really sad portable buffet.
How many plates, sir? Oh, just one? I see…
My pick was sushi. Oh sticky rice and cream cheese, how I will miss you. As I tend to do, I turned into a human garbage disposal, making it my mission on Saturday to consume anything in the refrigerator that would have to be thrown away before the end of our 30 days. If you can’t consume your weight in leftovers in the span of a day, you aren’t really trying are you?
While I should have realized this was going to be one of the most grueling parts of the entire diet, it had not occurred to me that I would dedicate most of my weekend to the prep work required to make it through the workweek. As if a three and a half hour, four grocery store tour was not enough of a time kill, then I had to go home and actually make this random assortment of vegetables and raw meat into meals.
This isn’t even half of it, but I didn’t feel like unloading the entire fridge for a blog picture.
When I saw dreamy articles on Pinterest like, “Make 30 meals in 4 hours”, I really believed that would be us. That I could just tear through a marathon of washing, chopping, blanching, freezing, and so much more and be done by lunchtime. Turns out those people making the 30 meals get to use things that require no more effort than tearing open several bags and combining their contents in various combinations into freezer bags or mason jars.
Most of our lunches on this meal plan are just leftovers from dinners made two nights earlier. Despite this time saver, it still took a solid 8 hours to do all of the tasks necessary to get us through about a week and a half of meals. The alternative was to spend around 2 hours every evening getting dinner ready and messing up my kitchen, requiring an additional half hour for clean up. So yes, in the long run I saved us time. But I also wasted an entire Sunday of my life.
Let me explain to you that I cook. A lot. I cook every day. I am used to preparing the meals for the week in advance. I am also used to it taking maybe 2 hours at most. After hour 4 of portioning out vegetables I was already reconsidering this diet plan. I would love to have the time to cook literally everything (including Gatorade, stay tuned) from scratch. I would love to not have a career, hobbies, or time with my husband so that I can just wholeheartedly dedicate myself to this lifestyle. All the hunters and gatherers did all day was hunt, gather, make food, and try to not be eaten by megafauna. I basically had to do the same and then go live a modern, busy life on top of it. Except for the megafauna.
Right about now I’m having a hard time deciding if dealing with megafauna would be the better trade.
Stay tuned this month for AIP-compliant recipe(s), updates, and desperate cries for help.