Falling Off the Wagon: How I did and why you SHOULD

I’ve recently been on a short holiday to the ‘big smoke’ with a side deviation to a beautiful piece of Australia known as the Margaret River Wine Region.  I was understandably excited to be heading off, but I have to say, thanks to Paleo, I was also a little daunted.  How was I going to manage to eat right whilst away?  I had family do’s, social gatherings and road travels to contend with but its not like I could expect the rest of the world to plan meals around my choices!

In the end, we made the decision that we’d take the ‘do the best you can’ approach for the 10 days [including travelling] that we were going to be away from home.   It turned out to be an interesting, gastronomically challenging and very insightful holiday; one which led me to realise why it is probably a good idea for everyone to fall off the wagon once in a while because it sure helps to remind you why you are on it in the first place.

I have to say, driving 13.5 hours with stops at roadhouses makes eating Paleo nigh on impossible – unless you pack your own lunch, which we did, sort of.  We also bought some chicken on the road figuring that was ok (it wasn’t ideal, but better than a burger?), but mostly we ate nuts, fruit, sweet potato and beetroot chips and drank loads of water.  Oh and I had my first coffee in nearly 6 weeks at 11:30pm … it was actually a pretty terrible coffee but it did the trick: I yabbered like a crazy person for the next few hours – it was actually quite amusing – the effects of the coffee and the sugar on my mind and body was unbelievably intense!  I was still wide eyed four hours later.  Meanwhile I’m pretty sure I would have looked like one of those pictures where the subject’s eyes are made huge and squarish – I was buzzing!
As luck would have it – our first family meal was seafood pasta – it was absolutely delicious and the lenient attitude we’d taken meant we felt we could enjoy it and not feel guilty.  I will say though that I ate way too much and I noticed that the “you’re full” voice I’ve gotten used to hearing [and listening to] was suspiciously silent.

Another day, we had a huge family lunch – and it proved simple enough to eat well: roast, with roasted sweet potato and pumpkin, garden salad… but I did veer a little: I ate half of one small white potato, which I found a little tasteless, there was fetta on the vegies which I quite enjoyed, and I ate some garlic bread which was AMAZING.   But, despite the hallpass we’d given ourselves, I had no hesitation in saying ‘no’ to the trifle and pavlova on offer for dessert.  And considering Pavlova was one of my top 3 desserts pre-Paleo, that’s saying something.  But it honestly held no appeal to me [Note: I watched my husband eat his pav and subsequently feel absolutely horrible within 10 minutes – have to say I felt pretty glad that I had said no].

We managed to keep our breakfast very paleo throughout the trip – eggs, bacon, sausages, fruit, etc.  Eating lunches was a little more tricky but I found a hamburger is still an amazing lunch when you just get it sans cheese and then remove the bun to the side.  The chips that inevitably came with it I ate but, like the white potato I had at the family lunch, found surprisingly tasteless and unappealing.   Any burger / sandwich lunch can be made Paleo fairly easily, if there’s nothing available on the menu to suit.

Our sojourn into wine country I thought would be hugely challenging: I used to LOVE cheese [despite being lactose intolerant – there’s tablets for that, you know], and pâté, and crackers and chocolate.  But – once again I surprised myself. Sure, I did have a couple of crackers with pâté but the cheese held no appeal for me.  I really felt no compulsion to eat it and certainly didn’t feel I was missing out on anything while those around me enjoyed it.  I bought chocolate deliberately [I’m off the wagon, may as well enjoy it!] for us all to share, a packet of my favourite red Lindt balls… and then ate one, which was divine, and put them away. I simply had no desire to have more than one.  The next day, I ate another one – and that was it.  I was shocking myself!  Unlike the hot chips, which I can say were mostly tasteless, the chocolate DID taste as amazing as I’d expected but that pre-Paleo compulsion to continue eating it was just … gone!  One ball was absolutely enough. What the?!

The two meals that I really have to mention though: fish and chips [the restaurant type, not from the local shop] and my favourite fast food meal, a ‘Rippa Sub’ combo from Red Rooster, both ordered for lunch. On different days, of course.
I scraped off most of the batter from the fish before I ate it and I did sort of enjoy the chips – more than previously, anyways. But again that ‘You’re full” notification somehow missed my inbox and within 10 minutes of finishing I sincerely had the urge to try ease the nauseous sensation I was feeling by making myself throw up. It was that bad.  The meal would have been probably a 5/10 and that is certainly not worth the way I felt afterwards.

As for the RR, well I just love the whole deal: the chicken strips, the herb mayo, the chips…yum!   I got water, not coke, for my drink [as I had always done] and then set about eating my meal with gusto – this was one of those moments when I was going to eat non Paleo and enjoy it, no guilt.  And I’ll admit, the sub was yummy.  Just as good as I remembered!  The chips were underseasoned but to be honest by this stage I’d kind of realised that hot chips will never really appeal to me again so I wasn’t too disappointed.  So I’d say that this meal I would have rated about 8/10 – really enjoyed it.  For ten minutes.  Then I was right back in the “Oh my god, I feel so sick, get me to a bathroom” zone once again and really consciously annoyed at myself for putting such trash into my body.

[To clarify: at no time did I actually go to the bathroom and make myself sick, it was just a very appealing thought.]

By the time it was hometime, I could not wait to be back to clean, Paleo eating.  Nothing processed, no grains, no dairy.   I didn’t eat a lot of those things but it was enough to make me realise I don’t want to eat them, any more.  To realise that what I’ve changed to – this new way of eating – is making me feel so much better, healthier, lighter.  It’s reset my internal workings so that my little “you’re full” voice is able to be heard; its flushed accumulated waste out of my body so I don’t feel heavy by 2pm; it’s given me back my taste buds so I can appreciate the taste of real food as opposed to only being able to taste overly strong, fake flavours; its corrected my appreciation of ‘sweet’ so I can enjoy a little and it’s enough; and most importantly I think it’s putting me more and more in touch with my own body every day, giving me such a strong sense of how much control I have over how I feel, dependant on what I fuel my body with – and I just don’t want to do it to myself anymore.

I also put weight on amazingly quickly; not a substantial amount, but my ‘fluffiness’ – that band of wibbly, wobbly, sponginess around my middle – reappeared within about 4 days, as did my feeling of heaviness.  I figure that the heaviness is the inefficient processing of crap food that I was forcing my body to digest; the ‘fluffiness’ I think may just be retained water, or waste, that my body would normally a] only deal with in minimal amounts and b] be able to dispose of quick smart.  By subjecting my system to such a huge load of rubbish to deal with – backlog got created. Boo.

I really am glad that I fell off the wagon.  I know going forward that I will be even more sure that what I’m doing is the right thing for me.  I will crave those banned foods a lot less because now I know how they’ll make me feel if I do eat them.  I will definitely still occasionally indulge in certain naughty foods [read: garlic bread & pasta] but I will probably do it a lot less often than I thought prior to this trip because, again, I’m aware of just how quickly I will feel it within myself.  Its given me a blunt snapshot of my body on a good diet and my body on a modern diet: they’re as different as night and day and I sure as eggs know which body I prefer.

So go on – fall off the wagon if you need a reminder why you’re there.  Don’t fall too hard or too long, your body doesn’t deserve that – but a little reminder now and then can go a long way towards keeping up your motivation to live, eat, exist the Paleo way.

Take care out there, and thanks for reading 🙂

S.

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