Paleo Strawberry Salad

My favorite go-to #paleo salad recipe:

  • Organic lettuce – I like romaine and bibb lettuce the best.
  • Organic sliced carrots
  • Organic sliced strawberries
  • Uncured cooked bacon – I will cook up several slices at a time, let them completely cool, then chop it up and place in a BPA free plastic sealed container to use throughout the week.
  • Organic sliced baked chicken – Coat in 100% pure olive oil (my favorite is California brand), Real salt, and fresh ground pepper. For 1lb. bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Check that the temperature inside the chicken is above 165 degrees with a meat thermometer.
  • Olive Oil & Vinegar – I like to shake up some olive oil with red wine vinegar before drizzling on the salad.

The carrots and the strawberries add a little sweetness. The bacon adds a little saltiness. And the olive oil is your good source of fat that doesn’t overpower any of the other flavors when mixed together.

What are your favorite #paleo salad ingredients?

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Primal reflection – 2.5 years in

I wrote about my switch to a primal lifestyle and diet almost 2 and a half years ago. It’s been an incredible road since then finding out what foods work best for me. Eliminating certain foods at one time seemed such a daunting task. The psychological, emotional, and physical hurdles that are presented to you are not easily conquered. However, with patience and diligence (and non-judgment!), I do wholeheartedly believe that anyone can do it. And that’s brings me to the topic top of mind for me today – why we eat. Just as Socrates says, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” it follows that you must truly know why you eat to be able to jump some of your eating habit hurdles to achieve great health.

Hurdle #1 – Eating as an event

Where there is a party, there usually is a bountiful spread of  grain & sugar-laden foods. One of the reasons for this is that chips and queso are cheap and lots of carbs are good to have around when there are copious amounts of alcohol. (You know, to “soak up” that alcohol as people usually say.) Examining why we drink copious amounts of alcohol is another hurdle for another day. (However, eliminating that would also eliminate the need for any foods to do the “soaking up.”)  But back to the party. We have to break our usual practice of eating as an event if we are ever going to get at the root of why we eat. For this hurdle, this is just a habit. It’s an easy way to get people together. But do we really need to be in “feast” mode every time we get together friends?

Hurdle #2 Life is and always will be stressful

My wonderful husband reminded me the other day of a phrase I used to say all the time, “you’ve got to play hard to work hard.” Many of us have extremely stressful, demanding lives – work, family, money, civic involvements, etc. They will never stop being hectic, but our approach to that can change. I’ve had to learn that being on top of my game at work, doesn’t mean that I have to have everything together all the time. I’m not a person where moderation comes easy. Most often in life, I’ve had an all or nothing view. However, I have seen first hand that moderation can be learned and is actually preferable. The moment that I forbid myself from doing something, I immediately want to do it more than ever before. But if I rationalize and allow myself to make a conscious decision on why I do something, I usually end up making the better choice and within a happier frame of mind.

Hurdle #3 The psychological and emotional side of it all

One of the most profound things I have learned in the last few years is that the mind and the body are not separate entities. You can’t master one without affecting the other. For myself, I had no clue that I was eating to make myself FEEL better. I think that often you hear something life that, and you immediately think of someone who is depressed or overweight or someone who has made lots of bad decisions in life. But in actuality, we all can do this (sometimes very subtly) in our daily lives. “I haven’t cheated once this whole week, so tonight I’m going to treat myself.” “It was a really stressful day at work and things happened completely out of my control, so I could really use something comforting to eat right now.” “I am really tired, and I already skipped out on doing some exercise so I’m just going to sit and enjoy some really good food.” The list of reasons goes on and on……. Then guilt sets in. We begin thinking extremely negative thoughts about ourselves. Judging ourselves. And then we feel worse than we did at the beginning when we decided to “treat ourselves.” It is an incredibly vicious cycle that can’t be stopped until a conscious, present decision is made to deal with the feelings of disappointment that started it off in the first place.  Let me be the first to say that sometimes dealing with those feelings at the beginning is opening a pandora’s box of all kinds of other things you had no clue were even bothering you, but with patience and non-judgment, those things can be dealt with just like anything else. Once you get at the root of the problem, the cycle begins to break down on it’s own. You’ve already taken the hardest step, chosen the long road, didn’t reach for that “quick fix,” and it only gets easier after that.

Tackling “why we eat” is an incredible undertaking, but the rewards far outweigh the difficulties. There is never a point in life where you can say, “Well, I figured it out so now I’m done. I’m going to just sit back and relax from here on out.” We’ve never got it figured out. We may know as much as we can for a time, but there will always be something else to understand in the future. So let me close by saying this – stop judging yourself, right now in this moment and in every moment in the future that judgment creeps in. Just allow yourself to understand – don’t force it. The mind is a brilliant and sometimes deceptive machine, but it has sustained mankind for many years and will continue to do so for many more. Respect your intellect and let it guide you. Don’t compare yourself to others because they can’t help you figure this part out. No two people can possibly think or experience thought in the exact same way. Only you know what is truly best for you – that is if you been “examining your life.” 🙂 Trust that you can and will make the better decisions.

In Response to Mark Sisson’s Post – “Women and Intermittent Fasting”

I’ve been following Mark Sisson’s (of MarksDailyApple.com) blog post series about intermittent fasting.  Today’s post titled “Dear Mark: Women and Intermittent Fasting” brought two things to my attention: 1) I have my own experience to share on the topic and 2) We need more posts from a primal woman’s point of view. So…..I’m combining those two now.

Over the years I have experienced varying degrees of fasting, from several days to eating just 1 meal or a few small meals during a single day.  What I have learned can really be summed up in a phrase “listen to your body.”  That may sound too simple, but I’ve found that the harder you try to fight your body, especially when it comes to hunger, the worse the outcome.  Think about the hungriest you’ve ever been, then throw in some irritability and extra adrenaline. What are you going to do the moment you get your hands on food? Yep, eat like there’s no tomorrow. You may think you’ve done something good for your body by fasting, but then you’ve undone it all during the overeat. However, where I think fasting does make sense is when you really don’t feel hungry (or hungry for a full meal – I feel this often.)  If I eat just a very small portion of something sustainable, such as a small portion of protein and veggies – I’m talking a few bites of each, it seems to jive better than going without food at all for a long period of time.

So it sounds like I might be saying “eat several small meals per day,” but I’m really not. I do find it less time consuming and more fitting for digestion to eat reasonable sized meals 3 times a day for the most part. However, interspersing very small meals here in there or prolonging the period between one meal to another has proven for me to be very effective. More over, that whole “eat breakfast” thing people are always talking about….well I’ve found it to be beneficial in helping stabilize eating throughout the day. I do keep my breakfast to a small portion as well. I have found that overeating on breakfast or brunch can make my day almost worthless.

Another behavior that I think primal people try to stray away from is snacking. I believe this to be short-sided for reasons I’ve mentioned above. Mindless eating is of course not good, but you are less likely to mindless eat when you’re filling your body with protein and vegetables.  I have found that having a small snack in the mid-morning, afternoon, or shortly after getting home from work can go a really long way in sustaining you until your next primal meal.

So to sum it all up, eat reasonable meals when you’re hungry and don’t eat when you’re not hungry. Sound simple? Awesome. My job is done. 🙂 (Of course, this is just my own experience. I encourage you to explore your own and then share how it goes!)

Caveman Cookies and Larabars

Recently I have stumbled across some new paleo treats that I wanted to share. I have been preparing for vacation (out of the country) and looking for some snacks I could take that would be packable and a good alternative to a non-paleo meal I may be presented. Both of these you’d want to eat in moderation, but after trying them this past week, I’m happy to say that they are delicious paleo treats that you don’t have to cook!

Caveman Cookies

A friend of mine passed along the Caveman Cookies website to me, so of course I had to buy some. I went ahead and got all three flavors to test them out.

My favorite is the Original. It tastes similar to an oatmeal raisin cookie, just not nearly as sweet. This is actually a plus as your taste buds become more sensitive when you cut out sugar on the paleo diet. The Tropical were also delicious with a sweet coconut flavor. The Alpine are definitely named well as a winter treat with their hazelnutiness.

Beyond the cookies tasting great, the online purchase experience was top notch. I replied to the order confirmation email I received when I realized that it didn’t give me the discount they were advertising on their Facebook page, and someone emailed me back almost immediately to say they had changed the total for my order. Very nice people making some delicious cookies.

Larabars

I posted on my Facebook wall that I had discovered Larabars and that they were “Flippin awesome…..and paleo friendly,” only to be quickly warned by one of the lovable CrossFit Ktown coaches to be careful with these. You really do have to look at which ones you get. The Apple Pie and Blueberry Muffin seem to be two of the lowest in sugar content which is from a natural source, but you definitely want to eat in moderation. These bars are all natural made from fruit and nuts. I picked up the Apple Pie kind at a local Target and was pleasantly surprised by how good and filling they are.

Overcoming urges to cheat on your paleo diet

No carbsSticking to a particular diet is a battle in and of itself. Trying to eat on-the-go and eat within your diet is enough to drive a person crazy, or more likely to cheat on the diet.  I have already chronicled the many reasons why eating paleo can not only help you lose weight but improve your overall health, so I won’t need to go into that.  I’m assuming we’re all up to speed on that, but if not, please look back at some of my previous posts on it. Today my focus is making it easier to overcome those urges to cheat on our diet by attacking our most vulnerable moments.

I generally do not have to travel all that often. However, this year has been one trip after another. All have been great experiences, with the exception of meal times. Many times I’m able to eat on my own and choose what I eat, but then there’s the times when you walk into a conference room with lunch on the table that someone has gone out of their way to prepare for your group.  Nice, right? Well in a lot of cases that lunch consists of sandwiches, chips, cookies, and the like.  No one wants to look ungrateful, and you certainly don’t want to put off the vibe that you’re “not happy” with your food selection. I know the rule of thumb for paleo is choose your meals when you can, but of course you’re not always in charge of your meals, so don’t go overboard and disrespect someone for not preparing what you like.  However, if you are in a lot of meetings like the one I described above, you might start eating lots of sandwiches and empty carbs. Then you have the unwanted insulin spikes followed by crashes and the fatigue that can set in after long meetings and no “energy food” in your system.

As you may have guessed, this started happening to me.  The snowball effect then ensued allowing me to start cheating elsewhere.  I became very tired for no reason, allergies became  a daily struggle, headaches, bloating, you name it. I was not reaping the great benefits from a paleo lifestyle.  I finally became fed up with it and started pinpointing anything that caused me to cheat on my diet.

So here is a list of some of my potential cheating moments & then solutions that have helped me overcome those times:

1) Situation: Meeting with meal prepared

Solution: Eat an energy jam packed breakfast & bring filling snacks to eat just before a meeting or take with you “just in case.”

Breakfast options:

1. Paleo smoothie: banana, almond butter, frozen berries, coconut milk (I drink one almost every day.)

2. Banana pancakes: 1 ripe banana, heaping tbsp almond butter, 1 egg – drop in pan with a little butter just like normal pancakes. You can make a lot at one time and refrigerate to eat throughout the week.

3. Leftovers from the night before – always a good option if you had some lean meat and veggies for dinner

4. If you’re traveling, skip the many carb ridden breakfast options and look for a meat option and dig for the berries in that huge bowl of melon also known as the “fruit bowl.”

Snack options:

1. Fruit – if you can’t refrigerate, then take along some apples, grapefruit, bananas (keep to a minimum), or dried berries.

2. Nuts – I’m loving the dry roasted cashews from Earthfare at the moment.

3. 70% or higher cacao content dark chocolate – very low in sugar and a great, flavorful treat.

4. Water – believe it or not, lots of times when we feel hungry, we may actually just be thirsty instead.

Sometimes you are just out of luck when it comes to a prepared meal. Another option is to eat minimally at these prepared meals, and then eat some of your healthy paleo favorites shortly after onyour own time. I’ve been able to work around this way for about 4-5 weeks now and it seems to be working for me.

What about you? What ways have you found to curb your carb urges and choose the paleo option?

CrossFit – The ridiculously fun workout

Lately I’ve been giving updates on paleo living and sharing some of my favorite recipes. Now that I have just completed my second month of CrossFit training over at CrossFit Ktown, I thought it would be best to share what’s been going on over at the gym. CrossFit isn’t your typical “globo gym” workout. There are no isolated bicep curls, mirrors on the walls, or a treadmill to be found anywhere. You will find gymnastic rings, pull up bars, plenty of barbells and bounce weights, kettlebells, and the dreaded row machines. As I’ve written in an earlier post, CrossFit is designed to mimic movements we do in our daily lives. We do squats to protect our back from heavy lifting by bending at the knees rather than at the hips. We use kettlebells to keep all of our muscles engaged and increase our strength as the weight moves around in our hands. We do Olympic lifts that require our entire body strength that quickly strengthen and lean us out. We do sprints in the 100 degree heat because let’s face it, it’s just fun! (note: extreme sarcasm)

The coaches over at CrossFit Ktown have been great and so much fun to work with (yea I’m talking about you: Grant, Jessie, Erin, Taylor, and CBo). All of the boxes we use for box jumps have sayings on them, some funny and others serious. One of the boxes says, “Training is a process, not the events of one day.”  That is definitely the philosophy over at CrossFit Ktown.  You’ll regularly hear Coach G say, “Doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re always progressing and getting stronger.”  Where you usually find gyms very cold and depressing, CrossFit Ktown is encouraging, challenging, driving you to want to get better.  I’ve done things just in these past two months I never thought I could do such as deadlifting 115 lbs. or finishing a WOD like “Erin” where I’m not going to lie, I was a bit scared right before we got started. Note: the named ones are always the difficult ones. To be completely honest, I’ve had a blast with everyone these past two months. I look forward to my evening class and feel so much better and more energetic after a CrossFit day. To top it all off, I’ve shed 4 lbs. of body weight since we first started 2 months ago.  Seeing results is the biggest motivator one can have.

I know my progression has loads to do with combining paleo with CrossFit, and I’m still doing yoga to stay limber and flexible. You can’t overlook how important flexibility and spine health is for any workout program.  I know the inevitable plateau will probably hit here soon, but I’ll be ready for it reminding myself to just keep pushing to get better a little bit at a time.

Snacking the paleo way – my new favorite trail mix

For the most part, it’s easy now for me to find a paleo meal at a restaurant or whip something up at home. There are so many different lean meats and vegetable combinations to keep you changing it up often. However, the harder thing is finding a satisfying paleo snack. I have been surviving for several weeks now on bags of almonds and pecans or an apple that I keep with me. Eating the same thing days on end can definitely get old. Usually when people break from a set diet is when they are bored with what they are eating.

This weekend I decided to change up my snacks. I went to the Fresh Market at Western Plaza instead of Earth Fare where I normally go for produce, meats, nut butters and coconut milk. They both have a great selection of nuts, seeds and dried fruits, but I wanted a change from the usual. One thing that Fresh Market does well is pre-packaging many of their fresh nuts, seeds, and dried fruits into small containers. That makes it even easier than scooping into individual bags. I went down the line a few times and decided that a really good mix (a paleo trail mix) would do just the trick. I picked up small containers of each of the following (no salt or oil in any):

Roasted cashews
Pecans
Walnuts
Sunflower seeds
Almonds
Dried Cranberries

Each cost around $3 per small container – around $18 total.  At home, I combined a little of each into regular sized Ziploc bags, and I was able to make 3 packed bags of it. When I say packed bags, I mean they are almost too full to shake around. You have to shake gently to mix it up. It is a perfect combination especially with the little bits of dried cranberries that surprise you every once in a while.

On Sunday, this proved to be a great pre-movie snack, but you could definitely tote it along with you in a purse or really big pocket. I had a few handfuls before leaving the house to see “Salt” at the Regal Riviera – excellent movie by the way – and it held me over until dinner. In fact, I’m eating some right now. So when your diet starts to wear on you, switch it up! Don’t fall into old habits because it takes a little more effort to find something new. I bet there are plenty of other great snack ideas out there for me to discover, but don’t worry, when I find them I will definitely tell you about them.