So here we are. I've just finished my last mandate-Paleo meal (for the record, it was red curry again, which was delicious but... red curry again. I think I had six or seven red curry meals). I am clawing at midnight. My first week or two was rough, and then I settled into a groove where I felt comfortable enough with what I was eating, and the light at the end of the tunnel wasn't shining on me yet. It is now shining. I wish to go into the light. I am seriously considering staying up 'til midnight just to eat something that is verboten right now. I don't have to get up early - why not?
The only thing I've been more excited about this month than eating carbs tomorrow is getting my top choice internship. I've been salivating over the possibilities for breakfast. I have something delectable in mind. I cannot wait.
Let's recap. I'll start with the good.
- I appear to have lost about five pounds, without trying. Actually, I lost about five pounds the first week or so, and have pretty much remained at that weight. I've mentioned I wanted to lose a little, so this is good! It's hard to say whether this was an inherent aspect of the food I was eating, or due more to the inaccessibility of snacking. Not that I didn't snack, but it took more time, thought, and preparation. Granola bars make me fat? Maybe.
- My heartburn decreased significantly. Actually, the first week or two, I had basically none (except after cheat meals), but it's been coming back more frequently in the latter part. [If you happen to be curious about other digestive effects: no improvement, no problems.]
- I'm actually inclined to see my diet over the last month as pretty healthy (but there's more about this later). I ate a lot of seafood, and my fruits & veg consumption jumped a lot. I hope I'll keep that up!
- As I've mentioned in previous posts, this has been a great source of learning, and of different ways of viewing and thinking about food.
There's also the not so good.
- Did I mention how I hated it? It doesn't matter if I lost weight, because I hated this diet. The best I ever managed to feel about it was neutral. There are probably other ways of doing Paleo that I would enjoy more (my friends do a Paleo-like diet where they eat beans. I miss beans), but I'm not interested in much more research.
- My energy levels never recovered. Like I said before, I feel fine just hanging around, but any attempt at intense activity and I feel unbearably weighed down. Even today, as I hustled up one - one - flight of stairs, I felt winded and tired in a way that I never used to. I did manage a good run this weekend, so I suspect it may only have been a matter of time, but again, not a transition I wish to see through.
- Oh god, the cost. Even choosing very economical meats like canned and frozen fish and bone-in chicken thighs, and being fortunate to have many of my produce choices on sale, I spent a lot of money on food. I spent around $300 on just me this month - somehow Keith managed to pretty much not eat at home this month, so the grocery costs really were almost all me. It's a lot more than I normally would spend.
- I still feel like I spend every waking moment thinking about, preparing, or eating food, and then cleaning up. It's really annoying.
- But here's my favorite not-so-good. I wish I'd planned ahead and had a blood panel done last month, but I didn't, so instead I'm using my not-super-fuzzy memory of my lipid levels from about three years ago. I feel my lifestyle has been stable enough in that time, however, to make them a valid point of comparison (the doctor who ordered my tests agreed). I did at least plan ahead enough to have a new lipid panel done this week. At this point, I was honestly rooting for Paleo. I would love to have hard data make me eat my skeptical words. Didn't happen. First the neutral: my (good) HDL was basically unchanged at 44mg/dL. A little low, but still in the okay range. I think my HDL may have been slightly higher a few years ago, but we're still talking 40s. And then the bad: my (bad) LDL increased from ~45mg/dL to 61mg/dL. I think my LDL may actually have been lower, but I'm trying not to overstate my case. This is not good! Obviously, 61mg/dL is still a great level, and I wouldn't give it a second glance on its own, but that's over a 30% increase. That's concerning. That's enough right there to make me say, nope, not gonna happen, experiment over.
So that's my recap. I'm a little disappointed to be vindicated. I'm actively trying to avoid being a dietitian who clings to yesterday's research and shuns tomorrow's. I was honestly hoping this might be good for me. And that's not to say it's bad; my friends who do the beany-Paleo have had marked improvements in their lab values. What I do know is that it's not for me. I hated the limitations, I hated the time and cost it required, I hated the totally arbitrary social limitations, and it obviously did not agree with my body. I wouldn't immediately tell a patient who was interested in Paleo not to do it, but I certainly have a new sense of caution I'd use to discuss it.