Back on the Primal Wagon

I ain’t gonna lie, y’all. I feel like shit.

There have been a few…how you say…off-plan meal choices lately. And the results have been surprising to me.

When you “cheat”, how do you feel? And I’m not talking about the psychological fallout or guilty feelings. I mean actually FEEL in your body?

I didn’t begin this WOE for any health benefits beyond those related to weight loss. The fact that this diet helped with some other pesky symptoms I had was merely an awesome bonus. So for a while, I thought there might be a psychological component to all of it. And there may still be. We can’t completely rule that out, knowing how strong the Placebo Effect can be. But I’m coming around to the idea that I’m avoiding those SAD foods for a damn good reason.

When I look back at the last few weeks, I see a pattern—Mexican food. As I’ve mentioned, I grew up in New Mexico, and things like tortilla chips and pinto beans are hard-wired into the satiety centers of my brain. There have been plates of huevos rancheros (Twice!) and a plate of Carne Asada that came with a huge serving of rice and beans, and of course, the preliminary chips and salsa. And maybe I washed it down with a few margaritas. Oy. Add to that a few bites of a traditional cupcake, some ice cream, a few potatoes, some rice, and more alcoholic drinks than I care to mention and it’s clear this summer’s social season is doing me in.

How do I know? Let me be frank. The intestinal issues are not fun. From the time I was a young kid until exactly 8 months ago, I suffered from severe gas. Gas that would often build up and make me start sweating and cramping from the pain. Gas that would wake me up, not because I woke up on my own, but because my husband would exclaim out of pure shock and awe when he opened the bedroom door coming home from a late-shift.

Yup. That bad.

Things on that front are so much better now. But when I cheat, it returns. Gluten and sugar are obvious triggers. But you know what I think the worst culprit is? Processed foods. Whenever I eat out and can’t avoid those vegetable oils and such, it really rears its ugly head. This was true in the olden days too. I remember my poor college roommate suffered through the Terrible Gas Episode of 1995 after I made a trip to KFC. That was not pretty.

On to better smelling pastures…what else have I noticed? I’m achy in joints that haven’t squawked in ages: wrists, toes, knees. I’ve had a few minor break-outs on my face. And even though I haven’t gained any weight, I suspect my body composition is a little less lean than a few months ago.

Add all of this up, and it has to be asked: Why would I do this to myself ever again?

In isolation, none of these is too bad, but I let it all stack up in a small amount of time such that my body is responding as though I’m returning to the SAD. So it’s time for a cleanse. A meat and vegetable cleanse.

I’m not going all Whole30 here, I’m saving that for October. But I’m dialing down the drinking and for at least a week, I’m limiting my fruit and snacking in lieu of huge meals of meat and veg. I’m on day 1 and I already feel so much better.

What do you do when you hit the skids? What percentage do you think is mental and physical? For me, I’d say about 20% mental vs. 80% physical.


16 Responses to “Back on the Primal Wagon”

  1. I’m going to go 20/80 with ya too… I’ve been Paleo for… oh… about 4 months now. The first time I “cheated” was after a whole month in – WOW. I had NO idea I was going to react the way I did… never even crossed my mind that I might have issues… basically, we went out to eat, at my FAVORITE micro-brewery. I had a pulled pork sandwich with extra sauce, a bun, fries, (many *ahem*) beers, and dessert. YOWZA.

    Woke up the next morning, felt like $hit, was unbelievably itchy all over, my knees & elbows hurt, my head hurt, I was in such a mental fog all day… I had NO idea what was wrong with me. After being up and feeling crappy for 5 or so hours, it dawned on me that it might be what I ate. Looked up the ingredients of the beer – one of the heaviest gluten based beers I could have chosen… add to that the rest of what I ate… I was shocked that I was reacting so bad physically. I ate nourishingly paleo the rest of the day, woke up the next day totally fine.

    And, I hate to admit it, but I cheated yesterday too… ate a sandwich on some bread… darn it if I’m not itchy today… *sigh*

    Thing is, I went into this never even thinking about the effect that gluten and sugar might have on me – by the time I went Paleo, I had already eliminated most SAD foods (save for whole grain breads and such…). I decided to try it because I was getting into Crossfit, and I wanted to lean out a little bit more. The added benefits of extra energy, totally clear head, and no mood swings are bonuses I never expected. And I never expected that I was *this* sensitive to gluten & sugar… It’s been interesting to say the least.

    • Totally. In the beginning, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to have the occasional sandwich or pizza, but now I’m not so sure. A group of friends and I get together every now and again for a dinner party and one couple is vegetarian, so I thought it would be okay to “cheat” (hate that word) for that so I didn’t have to pull the diva Paleo card. And it does seem to be less acute if I haven’t gone off-plan for a while.

      But it is amazing how eating this way will show you exactly what your triggers are. I always wonder, “Did I just always feel like sh*t before?”

      • I’m struggling a bit with the “Paleo-diva” card myself. I will bend over backwards to accommodate someone else’s diet restrictions or preferences but I’m not always good at standing firm in what I need.

        I’m learning this month that I have to be firm in what will and won’t work for me when getting together with friends. When you talk about that dinner party – why is it the vegetarians are to be accommodated but you following Paleo is being a diva? Of course, not so long ago, being vegetarian was the diva.

        And yes, I always did feel like shit before.

  2. So, I’m having a really, really hard time going 100% paleo. I’ve done it for about a 5 day stretch, and then there is something that sneaks in. (Usually a diet coke. Or sugar free gum. I love both. And they are gross habits I’m trying to shake.)
    I’ve noticed when I’ve got fake sugars in my system, my energy and creativity are limited. This may be 100% psychological, but it does indeed mess with my routine. When I’m doing paleo full bore, and I’m drinking water, I’m able to get so much more done in my day and my creative brain is humming.
    Now, about those margaritas and chips? They are my downfall. And I’ll say I wake up with a sick stomach and feel bloated for a couple days. I’m supposed to be doing the Whole 30 with Julez and i’m failing miserably. And frankly, I don’t need another thing to feel bad about myself for. So I’d better get my ass in gear.

    (So add guilt and depression to that list of symptoms.)

    • Oh honey! I would try to unplug from the dual thinking on this and not beat yourself up. Think of it as process instead of destination. It’s not like there’s anyone out there eating 100% Paleo, and if they were, I’d wager they aren’t much fun. ;) No sense in making a healthy commitment if not following the commitment is only going to cause more suffering.

      I think you’ll be surprised and find that the cravings for things like Diet Coke and gum will subside. I can’t even imagine drinking soda at this point. Like, the idea of sitting on a couch, watching TV, and drinking a soda? Can’t…form…mental picture…

      It might actually help to reverse the perception about Paleo foods. Eating Paleo is not an aberration from a “regular” diet. It IS the regular diet and everything else that has been invented in the last century is the aberration. We’re just a couple of generations in and can’t see it for what it is. So just aim for the real stuff. :)

  3. I can TOTALLY relate! I’ve been primal/paleo since January 2011 and when I eat processed food, my body punishes me for it. A few weeks ago, I had a bag of pita chips (Stacy’s), and I was literally in and out of the bathroom the entire afternoon.

    I have discovered that I’m very sensitive to wheat, grain, and processed crap! It’s even worse if I’ve been super strict up until the cheat.

    • That’s interesting, I feel like being strict actually helps with a cheat, before and after. Like it builds up or something.

      Well, at least you have great motivation to stay on plan! :)

  4. I couldn’t agree more about the oils and processed foods. Yes, I agree that those seem to be worse culprits than other non-REAL foods.

    Sugar and gluten of course are a problem as well. I find I can drink in moderation if I don’t also consume lots of sugar at the same time. If I do, I am up literally thrashing all night with night sweats, food cramps and extremely poor sleep. Sugar and alcohol don’t go well. But alcohol with reasonably decent foods seems more easily tolerated (assuming that it’s wine, or other non-grain spirits like tequila or potato vodka).

    As for the mental/emotional fall out? Yes, it’s very, VERY real. Many of our weight loss clients come to us with moderate to severe anxiety and/or depression. Eliminating the bad stuff absolutely gives you a much better, “cleaner,” calmer head. No doubt whatsoever. Total gut bacteria to brain connection, obviously. We have to guard our gut bacteria judiciously with the foods we eat or THERE WILL BE FALL OUT!!! :-)

    Placebo effect? I think eating a Primal/Paleo diet has so much power to genuinely (positively) change us emotionally and physiologically……I think very little is placebo effect (at least in myself and the hundreds of clients we’ve followed throughout the years).

    • Yes, I’m really excited, and mildly freaked out, about the research on the gut bacteria-brain link. Fascinating stuff.

      Will it spawn a whole new medical specialty: Gastro-neurobiology? I wonder when sociologists are going to start looking at the issue, too.

    • I will argue you on the anxiety/depression point. I was quite happy/pleased with my myself and pretty OK with my body before I started eating lower-carb (not quite Paleo/Primal, but very close except dairy — and no fake food over here, save 1 Diet Dr. Pepper per week). Now I am a cranky, emotional, overwrought mess. Much of that is due to the fact that my body isn’t experiencing the MIRACLES everyone says it should, despite being faithful for close to two months now.

      I’m not going to hijack Karen’s site (especially since she knows a lot of the struggles I’m dealing with), but wanted to say for the record: Please don’t paint all of us “weight loss clients” with the same brush. It’s one of the societal issues that has seriously stuck in my craw during this time.

  5. @Jules up there, such good points. I am beginning to think it’s not off-sides to ask if people could aim for at least gluten-free group meals or keep the grains off to the side (like a stir-fry with rice). Especially considering how crappy I feel afterward. Maybe it’s time to embrace the diva card.

    This is why I often volunteer for dessert at social gatherings. Then at least I know I can enjoy something without feeling like a total train wreck. Because I also know that if something standard is offered, I will at the very least sample it. This way, I’m not tempted.

  6. agreed. i’ve had some awful gastro effects after falling off the wagon. i mean, it doesn’t happen if i sneak one corn chip and salsa in, but god forbid i should go beyond that. i am really carb intolerant, and grains, especially, just do it to me every time. eat even just one serving of a grain product, and a few hours later, WHAM, the gas pains hit hard. not to mention the fact that eating grains causes instantaneous bloating and water weight gain that takes at least 2 days of being good to remedy. it is rarely worth it!

    in my opinion, the side effects of cheatign are 100% physical and 0% mental for me. i don’t dream up that gas and bloat, and at least with the water weight, i can confirm it using the scale.

  7. Diva Paleo card! I love the expressions you come up with (…asshat weirdo who thinks it’s all a big conspiracy…) Extended family social eating occasions have become something we dread. We are the couple who won’t eat the rice, potato salad, macaroni salad, baked beans, and rolls that seemed to be served with EVERY meal. Yes, just the meat and salad/veggies, please. However, it is quite comical to watch everyone else declare how miserable and tired they are after the meal is finished while my husband and I feel fine, aren’t overstuffed, bloated, or gassy. When did eating what you “like” become synonymous with feeling terrible afterward???

  8. I’m with you! I feel like crap, and it’s at least 80% physical. The summer definately got the best of me. We started a whole 30 this past Monday (my 9 year old included, much to his chagrin) I feel better already :)


  1. Back on the Primal Wagon | Paleo Digest - 08/25/2011

    […] and sites on the web!Back on the Primal Wagon The Paleo Periodical / Posted on: August 25, 2011The Paleo Periodical – I ain’t gonna lie, y’all. I feel like shit. There have been a few…how you […]

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