Monday, August 9, 2010

Primal Kitchen Chaos - Minus the Kitchen: Day 2

     Day two of my Paleo weekend started in typical Me fashion: Rolled out of bed a little later than I wanted to, grabbed a quick shower, tripped around the room clumsily getting dressed, and then scrambled around trying and gather my study materials for my certification. A master procrastinator by trade, I didn't print out my study guide, or even glance over it prior to this particular morning. And, of course, when I went to print it out in the hotel room, our printer ran out of ink.

     Breakfast needed to happen, and it needed to happen fast. With no time to be picky, we settled for a little 24-hour diner a few blocks from our hotel. Trying to put together a Paleo breakfast is probably the easiest part of the day:  Avoid french toast, waffles, and pancakes (unless they're Paleo pancakes--which you'd be hard-pressed to find in a restaurant--but we'll be covering soon), and stick with eggs (preferably an omelette to squeeze some veggies in) and a couple strips of bacon, and you'll be golden. I went with a 'vegetarian omelette": 3 eggs scrambled with peppers, onion, mushrooms, and tomato (without cheese), plus some bacon-y goodness on the side.

     When my food came, it was accompanied by a pile of greasy potato shavings, which I promptly slid off my plate onto my coffee saucer. Restaurant breakfasts always come with bread and potatoes attached to them--Normally I try to ask for a substitute like a fruit cup or steamed veggies, but this was a no-nonsense, gritty diner. Our waitress was an older lady named Marge who faintly smelled like cigarettes and looked like she had a rough night.  I didn't want to mess with her, so I politely accepted the meal as it was written on the menu.

     From there we sped off to Crossfit King of Prussia, which is about 25 minutes outside of the city. Got in, got registered, and got ready to learn some stuff. Things were going fine until about an hour into it, I started feeling like the Sandman drop-kicked me in the face. You see, prior to my pregnancy, I was a 2-pots-of-coffee-a-day kind of girl. Now, subsisting only on the tiny precious bits of trace caffeine found in a cup of decaf, my energy is frequently flagging (which is compounded threefold by that whole I'm-making-a-person-inside-of-me thing). I needed a pick-me-up, so I reached in my bag and ate a few slices of apple. I've read before that an apple will wake you up as much as a cup of coffee (likely because of the fructose), and I was feeling pretty desperate. It did the trick though, and before I knew it, it was time to get up and start going through some of the Crossfit movement demonstrations, which were sure to keep me awake the rest of the day.

     Lunch rolled around eventually, and I tucked into a corner with my little brown lunch satchel and dug in. Surrounded by my CrossFit brethren, it felt strange (yet incredibly awesome) to be among like-minded people who were tearing into similar tasty Paleo vittles--meat, jerky, nuts, fruits, and veggies. There was a vending machine that had Paleokits and Larabars in it, and the awesome people hosting the certification had a selection of fresh-made Paleo edibles (sliced avocado, turkey lettuce wraps, and a few other things) available for purchase. I was seriously in awe. I got no strange looks as I casually dipped the previous night's leftover Thai chicken in my coconut almond butter (oddly delicious), and no one around me was eating anything from any of the local fast food restaurants. It was glorious.
      I ate the remaining portion of my apple, and a handful each of my cherries and blueberries before heading back to my seat.
     The lecture continued on after lunch, where my nagging pregnant appetite had me digging for snacks again an hour later. I had a little packet of dried fruit and nuts, and it quieted my hunger pangs for the remaining duration of the lecture. As soon as the learning part wrapped up, it was time for the painful part--i.e. the workout.

*Cue ominous music*


    Yep. I did Fran.

    That's all I have to say about that.

    That pretty much marked the end of my first day at the Cert., and I shuffled to the car in a post-WOD haze, collapsing in the passenger seat, sweaty and exhausted. On the way home Mike and I shared some more of the jerky we'd bought, and once back in the room, I ate a few celery sticks with almond butter to hold me over until dinner. So far, all of my eating was right on track.

     This night we had big plans for dinner--a trip to my most favorite restaurant in the world, Fogo de Chao. Fogo de Chao is a Brazilian steakhouse--and, if you've never been to one, it basically goes something like this: a bunch of guys in silly pants run around the restaurant with giant skewers of meat, slicing you off some whenever you have your green "go" card showing. When you don't want anymore meat, you just flip to the red "no" side.

     There is no cap on meat. You can eat as much as you want.
     It is pretty much the best thing ever.

     We started off somewhat light, each getting a small salad from the salad bar with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette, along with some giant, stalky pieces of asparagus that looked like something Paul Bunyan would eat.
     Then the carnivory ensued: Top sirloin, bottom sirloin, filet mignon, filet mignon wrapped in bacon, pork, lamb--they had it all. I stuck with mostly lean cuts of meat, knowing there was no way in hell any of this was grass-fed. My mental limit was something in the neighborhood of 10 ounces of meat--I may have gone over a little bit. It was hard to keep track.
      But really. Who can say No to unlimited servings of cooked-to-perfection filet mignon??
     Not this girl, that's for damn sure.

     I managed to avoid the mashed potatoes that came with the meal, and rejected the little cheesy balls of puffy golden dough sadly peeking out from the bread basket.

I couldn't resist trying the sauteed bananas they brought though--they were quite orgasmic..and I don't even really like bananas.

     On our way out of the restaurant, I snagged an extra slice of bacon from the salad bar (the baby made me do it), and we headed back to the hotel again.

    And then it struck.

    Out of nowhere, despite the copious amounts of meat I'd just eaten, I was hit with the strongest, most powerful desire to eat something sweet and horribly un-Paleo. What to do, what to do?
    I could:
    a.) resist the urge and go home and go to bed.
    b.) give into the urge and get it out of my system.

    Under the dizzying spell of fierce sugary cravings, I decided to give in.


    Yeah, I know. I'm a horrible person.

     The truth is, I hardly ever choose Option B. Most of the time, I find a Paleo substitute to abate my hunger (like berries or a piece of fruit), and go on about my day. But we were in a different city, I'd been pretty on-target all weekend thus far, and I did Fran today for God's sake. I did Fran pregnant. I deserved to treat myself.
     There, I said it:

     I hate thinking of straying from the Paleo diet as "cheating." The word "cheating" evokes feelings of shame and self-loathing, making you feel like you're about to do (or did) something dirty. You cheat on your taxes. Your Trig exam. Your girlfriend. These are things to feel bad about. In this case though, I wanted an indulgence--not something I give myself every day, or even every week--and I wasn't going to beat myself up about it. I wanted sticky sweet, ooey gooey goodness. And I was bound and determined to get it.

     If you don't know me personally, it's worth mentioning that my determination literally knows no bounds. It can be a double-edged sword at times, because once I get something stuck in my head, I will not rest until it is mine. We walked around Philly for the good part of an hour, missing ice cream shops here and there by mere minutes of them closing their doors for the night. A normal person would've probably given up, taking it as a sign.
     But no, not me.
     I was a pregnant girl on a mission.

     We eventually found our way back toward the hotel, on the brink of giving up on my sugary fantasy, when we saw that Ruby Tuesday was still open. Knowing that every chain restaurant has a dessert menu full of scandalously delicious treats, we entered. I helped myself to a giant chocolate chip blondie with ice cream, smothered in chocolate and caramel, and it was heaven in my mouth. I savored every last bite of it without an ounce of guilt.
    The fact that I hardly ever treat myself like this made it extra-specially satisfying.
    Leaving only a few crumbs and a small dollop of melting ice cream on the plate, the savage sugar beast inside of me tamed and lulled to sleep, we went back to our hotel and crawled into bed.

    Another day of Crossfitting goodness awaited, I needed all the rest I could get.

So what did I learn that day?

1.) If you need a quick, non-caffeinated pick-me-up, an apple is a decent, short-term solution.
2.) For the most part, members of the CrossFit community have their heads on straight when it comes to nutrition.
3.) Meat is awesome. Then again, I already knew that.
4.) It's ok to give in to cravings from time to time. Please don't misinterpret this post as me giving the green light to dive in and say Yes every time you feel the urge to go on a sugar bender. I think it's important to try your best to stay on track, but acknowledge that sometimes, life warrants a little indulgence--and it shouldn't be something you should beat yourself up over (unless, maybe, you're doing the Whole30, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, or something along those lines--those programs are designed to be extra strict to detoxify and heal your body--but even then, don't fall into a pit of despair--or give up completely--if you wind up 'slipping up.')

    For other people struggling to adjust to the lifestyle, Mark Sisson has a really good piece of advice he refers to as the "80/20 principle": Basically, if you strive to give it your best 100% of the time, odds are, most often, in a realistic world,  you'll stay on track about 80% of the time. Don't feel like a total disgrace about about the other 20%, or abandon the plan--just acknowledge your weaknesses, tackle them one by one, and continue trying.

      It's when the ratio gets to be something like 60/40, or when you give into cravings whenever they strike, that you may need to step back and reevaluate/refocus your goals, and decide whether or not to prioritize a little better. You determine your own level of commitment, and need to find the best way to make it work for YOU. Eating Primal/Paleo isn't an all or nothing deal. If you're content to only be 60% Paleo, and you are happy with how you feel, look, and perform, then that's awesome. 60% Paleo is better than 0% Paleo.

     You get out of it what you put in--and no one ever said it would always be easy. Eating whole, real food makes you feel better from the inside out--and it shows in every avenue of your life. You will experience greater athletic performance, mental focus and clarity, effortless weight loss and maintenance, less pain and inflammation, and better overall health, the closer you stick to the Paleo lifestyle. Yes, it is difficult at times. And yes, it beckons a lot of commitment. But what it doesn't do, is demand that you stress and obsess over everything you put in your mouth. That is not living! When "Paleo" starts becoming synonymous with "neurotic," you really need to step outside of the situation and reassess your relationship with food..and yourself.

    Robb Wolf and The Paleo police aren't going to cascade down from the ceiling from grappling hooks to cart you off to Paleo Jail if they catch you eating a slice of pizza.

    Paleo is a lifestyle, yes--and it WILL make your life better--but it shouldn't be your whole life.

    And that's all I'm going to say about that (for now, at least).

    *After writing all of this I found these couple posts by the Whole9, which are definitely worth sharing:

     Stay tuned for Day 3, where I'll share more of our weekend food shenanigans, and offer up some more menu deciphering tips to help take some of the guesswork out of ordering Paleo when out on the road.


mwbode said...

Great story, Nicole! I always fall in the trap at restaurants of eating what they put in front of me. A nice warm basket of bread...I can resist for a few minutes but after about 5 minutes of everyone else enjoying a slice, I'm buttering one for myself :( Luckily we try to minimize how much we go out to eat and that has become far easier with a new baby.

libidiny said...

i hear you about the bread thing, trust me! I'm usually fine unless i reach out and touch the bread. If it's warm, it's almost impossible to resist.

Lately when we go out, i think our servers pick up on the fact that we're eating healthy when we order our meal with no rice/potato/etc, or whatever other 'tweaks' we request, and they ask whether or not we'd like the bread that comes with the meal--turning the bread down before it's brought to the table is way easier than turning it down once it comes! I've been totally breadless for awhile, but mike still struggles sometimes. it would be probably easier if it wasn't so damn good. haha.

Congrats again on daddyhood! I saw pics of the baby, she is beautiful. at some point we'll have to set up a play date. :)

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