How 30 Days of Paleo Changed Our Family

I haven’t posted in a while–things have been busy busy.  We finished our 30 days of Paleo and are pretty much continuing it.  We are not as strict with it now but we really enjoyed it and are going to stick with it as best we can in our busy world.  The biggest outcome of Paleo for our family (other than the fact that we had more energy and felt better) was in our children.  We discovered two things: 1) Our son is gluten intolerant and 2) when you feed your kids nothing but good foods, they start only wanting the good food and are more willing to try new and unusual things.

We have been on a long road with my son’s behavior and development.  He’s on the autism spectrum but is just boarder line enough to not receive much help (one of the reason’s we homeschool).  He’s also had terrible eating habits since toddlerhood.  He’d only eat white, starchy, processed, factory-made carbohydrates.  We tried feeding therapy, we tried changing our diet, we tried forbidding the poorer foods but nothing worked.  When we started Paleo, we went cold turkey–even with the kids.  We got rid of everything that was processed, carbohydrates and grains.  It terrified my son but it only took a few dinner battles to really get past it.  Once he started eating the better whole foods, he started feeling better, was more cognitive and actually started trying new things.  He went from eating a diet of french fries, chicken nuggets and rice to eating celery, strawberries, meat, salad, artichokes, almost anything I gave him.  And he was happier.  I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

When the 30 days were over, we let him eat some glutenous foods and the change was drastic and obviously connected.  As my husband said, “Our children are gluten intolerant .. when they eat gluten, they become intolerable!”  The day after eating gluten, my son couldn’t listen to a full sentence without tuning me out, he couldn’t remember any of his lessons, he grew dark and irritable and he was incoherent and non-verbal.  I had read many times about putting spectrum kids on a gluten free diet but I just stubbornly never wanted to walk that path.  However, having my son be with me mentally is worth every effort.  It really has made a difference.  He will still need some therapies and special help but I’m fully advocating a gluten free diet for spectrum kids.  And going Paleo actually made that incredibly easy!  We don’t have to substitute breads or desserts etc. we just eliminate all grains.  Truly amazing.

“Those Days” And How To Overcome

Every mother has “one of those days.”  I make a significant effort to not talk about them.  Positive thinking…super mom complex….denial… call it what you will but it rarely makes things better to dwell on the worst.  But…..today is “one of those days” and I’d love to share with you things I’ve learned to “deal.”

Baby number 3 is a fuss bucket–she’s oh so cute and sweet but she fusses incessantly. As in, hubby and I haven’t slept for a year, the kids are so used to her crying they don’t even look her way anymore, my arms are constantly full of baby–but not just sweet snuggly baby able to be put in a front back….no… that would be ok… we’re talking wiggly, unsatisfiable, back arching beastly kinda baby.   This is the kid that brought me to tears because I just wanted to fold the laundry without her screaming or without using one hand (the other being full of baby). And today she has been oh so difficult.  The funny thing is, if I were to give you a list of how my day went, it wouldn’t seems so bad.  Things like taking an entire nap time to make Paleo chocolate crepes that didn’t work so well instead of cleaning and doing laundry.  Things like cutting my own hair because life has been too busy to make it to a salon.  Things like trying to rock the baby to sleep while still dripping wet wrapped in a towel after attempting a shower only to have her refuse the milk and the nap…

It doesn’t seem that bad… but sometimes we as moms (and dads… and siblings….) get tired, get stressed, get burned out even if we are trying to stay positive.

In the past, this sort of day would have gotten me down for weeks.  You see, the biggest pressure I experience is giving into the pressure and judgement of society.  The age old stay at home mom question of “what did you do all day.”  It has to look like I did something with my day or I go into panic mode.  The kitchen is a mess, the laundry is behind, the beds are unmade, the kids watched TV (it’s a Birthday–no school), there is food and toys spread all over the floor and here I am taking deep breathes writing a blog post.

Since when is holding a baby “not enough?”

I’ll tell you when.  When we stopped being a community.  When we stopped being a village.  When we stopped supporting each other.  When women stopped making bread together while caring for their children.  We each started living in our homes as single families and no one else knows what’s going on in your days.  No one knows when you are struggling or when you are thriving.  Your worth is based on what can be seen–not necessarily on what is important.  I am a stay at home mom, not a stay at home maid, not a stay at home secretary, not a stay at home chef, not a stay at home nanny. I am a mom.  So on days like this, if the laundry is 10 loads behind and the dishes are everywhere it is because I was holding a baby and telling her I love her even though she is screaming.  It is because I tried a new recipe for my son’s birthday.  It is because I tried to comb my toddler’s hair.  It doesn’t mean I’m not working, it doesn’t mean I am lazy.  It means I am working despite being stressed out emotionally.  It means I’m still doing my job even though my own selfish desires are calling to me (like wanting to get dressed or pee).  It’s because I understand how short this time is going to be.  Soon the dishes will always be done and laundry will always be folded but there won’t be a baby in my arms.  There will be a grown woman in her place.  And I’m going to miss kissing her little head–even if she is crying while I do.

But knowing these things doesn’t always help–let’s be real.  I’ve been through babyhood three times already–I know how hard it is and how easy it is to get burned out.

So here’s some tips I’ve come up with to help myself:

  • -Mantras are amazing.  They work. I say repetitive things to myself like “this will pass,” “I love my life/family/child,” “this is worth it,” “I can do this.”  It doesn’t matter if you really believe it at the time.  Pick something that works for you and repeat it over and over until you do believe it.  Or at least until it distracts you enough to get through the difficult moment.
  • -Smile in spite of your situation.  Studies have been done to show smiling actually can boots your mood.
  • -Instead of getting angry laugh at the situation–there have been many times when I’ve been close to tears and realized how silly my children were being and laughed.  It was surprising to me how it made everything a little easier.
  • -It’s also ok to cry.  Crying is better than anger.  If the baby won’t stop screaming, put her/him in a safe place and cry. It’s ok–it’s hard to keep up the good attitude all the time and kids are much more forgiving of tears than harsh words.
  • -Stretch.  Take a second to do your favorite yoga pose.
  • -If the kids are in a good place for you to take a break, work out.  And work out hard.  I can still remember the first time I “worked out my frustration.”  I was swimming laps and I was so frustrated with my kids.  They’d been little beasts for days and I remember taking all my anger and frustration out on the water–one aggressive stroke after the other.  I felt amazing afterwards!
  • -Deep breathe.  When we are upset, we tend to breath shallowly or even hyperventilate without even realizing it.  Stop and even go as far as to practice your labor breathing.  We did Hypnobirthing with our last child and it has made me a better parent to practice the meditations and deep breathing exercises.
  • -Know that it is ok to let the baby cry, the kids watch tv, the toddler run around the house naked for a while if you need to get alone.  Do your hair, get dressed nicely, do something to feel better about yourself–even if it’s five minutes.
  • -Ask for help.  In our society, there isn’t a lot of people around just waiting to be asked but if you have a friend or if your husband is home, just ask for help.  You are super mom–you don’t have to prove that to anyone.  But you do need a break now and then–even superwoman needs a glass of wine and a hot bath!
  • -Leave the house (with your kids).  I am really good at this when it is not perpetual winter–like right now.  It is a lot harder to be angry and down when you are smiling at people as you walk down the street with rays of sunshine warming your soul.  Just get your kids and leave.  Leave in the middle of the tantrum, leave in the middle of the crying, get those kids and get some sun and some exercise.
  • -Be forgiving of yourself.  It’s ok to struggle.  You are the caretaker of people–of souls.  This is not an easy job.  Learn, forgive and move on more enlightened when you make a mistake.
  • -Be happy.  Find things everyday to rejoice about.  It helps it really does.  Even if it’s one simple thing.  Dwell on it. Be thankful for it.
  • -Always know that you as a mother are loved.  You are love–you made more love for the world.  Love yourself and love them.  It’s all going to be ok.

Paleo–Week 1 Observations

Here’s what I expected from my first week of the Paleo diet:

-I expected hunger

-I expected difficulty sticking with the diet

-I expected difficulty meal planning

-I expected to feel more energy

-I expected serious carb and sugar cravings

-I expected it to be worth it but hard

Here’s what happened in the first week:

-My hunger is more satisfied than it has been in months

-I actually WANT to stick to the diet

-Meal planning has been a dream (have meat, have veggies, use any combo of both and you have a meal)

-I absolutely DO have more energy

-I experienced no cravings. (Even walking by doughnuts, I had no desire to get one)

-It has been much easier than expected.

-Both my husband and I have lost weight. (I was surprised by the immediacy of this)

This first week has been so interesting.  I have to admit, as much as I wanted to try the diet, I still felt some skepticism about it.  But it has been amazing.

The first thing I noticed this week, was a renewed energy.  Something I’ve been missing for years.  I love the foods we are eating.  As a grazer, I was worried I’d really miss having salty carb filled snacks to eat all day–not so.  I look forward to munching on some nuts or snap peas and just a few bites satisfy all my snack craving.  There is nothing I have missed.

This weekend, we went to a party and lost  a little ground.  We were hungry and ate what was available.  And I have to admit the Orthodox came out in both of us–never refuse food when offered.  (Even if it’s a huge piece of chocolate cake with butter cream icing.)  But you know what? I didn’t really enjoy any of it and I felt worse afterwards–as did my husband.  It was almost good for us to take that break because we realized how much we wanted to continue the diet.

Something that has surprised both of us, is the weight loss.  Even after one week, I not only feel trimmer but I feel stronger.  Unlike other diets where I’ve simply lost weight by not eating enough and felt weak, the Paleo diet has allowed me to eat as much as I want and feel full while still losing the weight.  I don’t have a whole lot of weight to lose but I almost feel like my body is just getting healthier–like my little unpleasant places left over from pregnancy or lack of exercise are turning into body.  It feels great.

The most difficult thing has been convenience.  It’s hard to go out to eat and you have to plan to have snacks on hand.  Also, kids activities are awful–I never realized that every single kids event served nasty little carb ridden snacks.  I am going to have to do some more brainwashing to get the kids interested in bringing their own Paleo snacks everywhere they go.  Also, getting the kids to eat Paleo has been really easy.  They have felt better too, I think, and are more willing to try new things.

I am ecstatic to get back on board this week and continue this journey.

Paleo Day 2

It’s the second full day of becoming Paleo.  Not a whole lot of observations yet other than 1) Paleo lunch ideas have been difficult to think up and 2) I am surprisingly satisfied!  I’m not hungry at all–in fact I am MORE satisfied then when I was eating breads and carb fillers.  I’m a nursing mom with a high metabolism so this is really exciting–it feels great!

Today I think I finally realized what a Paleo lunch might look like.  I think salad is a great carrier for left overs.  I made a salad consisting of lettuce, tomatoes, sliced grilled chicken (I cheated and bought this pre-made–but I made sure it was pure natural chicken with only spices no extra ingredients), left over sweet potatoes fried in coconut oil, cashews and red peppers.  It was delightful.

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For the kids, I made them plates of snap peas, celery, salad, the fried sweet potatoes and hot dogs (again, I cheated with these for the kids but made sure they were all natural with no fillers).  They ate every bite–it was truly amazing.

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For Paleo baby, I just kept throwing food on her high chair tray.

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Eat all the food!!!

When she was full, she threw the remainder of her lunch on the floor.  When I got her down from her high chair, she immediately went and ate what she had thrown off the floor–a true cave baby.

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 I’m so proud.

Paleo Weekly Menu–Week 1

This week will be a huge learning curve for me figuring out how to cook without grains, legumes and carbs.  We eat a lot of noodles, rice and bread so this will be interesting but I’m excited.  You can read why we are attempting the Paleo diet here

I scoured the internet for Paleo menu plans, recipes and shopping lists only to get completely overwhelmed.  So instead of using some of the more complex Paleo recipes out there, I’m going to use this matrix and will cook mostly simple meals this first week.

Monday–this is our last non-paleo day and I’ll be using ingredients we have on hand to make a tofu, bok choy, noodle stir fry.

Tuesday–Meatloaf and green beans

Wednesday–Taco salad

Thursday–Fish (probably salmon) and sweet potatoes

Friday–Baked Chicken and veggies

Saturday–Veggie soup

Sunday–Meatballs and spaghetti squash

Breakfasts: eggs, bacon, leftovers, fruits and yogurt, smoothies

Lunches:  Tuna salad, egg salad,  shrimp on salad, veggie platters,

Snacks: Nuts, dried fruit, veggies, fruit

Shopping list:

Ground beef

Fish

Whole fryer chicken

Bacon

Shrimp

Eggs

Canned Tuna

Canned Salmon

Dried Fruit

Nuts

Frozen veggies

Spaghetti squash

Green beans

Lettuce

Tomatoes

Peppers

Spaghetti sauce

Chicken broth

Sweet potatoes

Frozen fruit

Yogurt

Fresh fruites

Fresh veggies

Fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary)

Coconut oil

Stevea

Coffee

Juice

Why Paleo?

Why are we trying out the Paleo Diet?  Mostly for my son and I.  I have recently been diagnosed with hashimoto’s thyroiditis which is an autoimmune thyroid disorder.  My doctors originally thought I had post-partum thyroiditis but the last specialist truly believes, based on my history, that it is hashimoto’s thyroiditis–a life long disorder.  I am regulating my thyroid using hormones but I still go through “episodes” that cause joint pain, extreme exhaustion, muscle weakness, mental fogginess, severe depression, etc.  Apparently, any time you mess with the thyroid (good or bad), it takes a while for symptoms to get better.  It has been years of going through cyclical “spells.”   I have been interested in the Paleo diet but wasn’t sure I really wanted to try it until I read several testimonial from other autoimmune sufferers–specifically those with hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  I was so excited to read that their symptoms were greatly relieved by  changing their eating habits, and I’m willing to give it a try.

The other reason I want to try to the Paleo challenge, is my son.  He’s on the autism spectrum and I have read over and over again that autism symptoms can be relieved by gluten free eating.  He has always been an incredibly picky eater and has craved white, salty, over-processed carbs.  This diet will be a challenge for him to comply to but I’m hoping once we make the change, he will feel much better and will be more cognitive as a result.

The premise of the diet makes sense to me–our society is full of over processed foods with way too many ingredients.  As I attempt to simplify our lives in other ways, it only makes sense for us to simplify our diet–eating whole foods in their pure forms.

I have never been a fan of “fad diets” and I’ve never really believed that a particular way of eating can change your life.  I have, however, been attempting to become more crunchy and have struggled with how to do that with our meals.  I’d love to be feeding my family truly healthy meals–I spend every evening cooking meals for my family so they might as well be good for you!  Anyway, the Paleo diet seems like a promising way to possibly help us feel better and eat healthier.  It’s worth the try! And coming from a skeptic, I will share my honest opinions as we go through the process.

Pre Paleo Party

We have decided to try out the Whole30–do 30 days of a Paleo diet and see how it goes from there.  We are including the kids in this. This week is going to consist of teaching about nutrition and learning how to eat on a Paleo diet (as well as reasons why).

The first step of going Paleo is cleaning out your pantry from all things that are not on the diet (carbs, grains, legumes, etc). I really don’t like wasting food so I didn’t want to just throw it all in the garbage. When the kids woke up I had a surprise for them–I told them they could eat any of the food items I had on the counter all day long.  They could eat all the cookies, all the chips, all the crackers they wanted to their hearts content.

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They went crazy!

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Party time!

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Enjoy, little children, enjoy,  ’cause starting tomorrow you’ll become a cave man and you’ll be eating only meats and veggies!