The Primal Challenge Day 30 – The Finale

Day 30. The final day. I’ve been putting off writing this post for as long as I can. Probably because it is officially the end of the challenge, and I’m not sure I want it to be.

My procrastination has led me to tackle my own version of chewy mocha power balls (no berries, a few extra dates) and a double serving of frosty fruit smash. I then ate half of it and put the rest in the freezer – I’m still worried about Friday’s skin fold test.

I wanted to make the paleo banana bread recipe, but my sister in law did and ate four pieces of it in one day, so I’m a little scared. You know my track record with other backed paleo goods. And nuts.

Lizzy told me today post WOD she felt posting the MODs each night was therapeutic, and she would miss it. I guess I feel the same way about my blog posts.

I started the idea for my first post when the voice in my head that often talks to me seemed to make a little bit of sense. You know that voice that often tells you what you should and shouldn’t do? Well mine often says it in a more colourful way, and sometimes rather than just saying yes or no, entire paragraphs of often useless drivel and one sided conversation ends up swimming in my head.

The beginning of the 30 day challenge  – something so new to me given I had never tried to cut out any food before, let alone multiple food groups – seemed to ignite that voice in my head and send her on a sugar fuelled drive, so much so I had to get it out.

Just as Lizzy did with her MODs, I found the writing therapeutic, and it was a simple way to reignite a very rusty passion and habit for writing.   I never expected others to like it, or to follow or to share it, or to comment. Or that on day 28 a random Crossfit Rookie News website would pick it up (where were you day 1?!).

So I know I don’t want that to be over.

But most of all, I don’t really want the 30 day challenge to be over, because I’m slightly scared of what I will do when it is.

There is still that bottle of wine (or three) in the fridge. Right next to the ciders and the beer and the mixers ready for the gin and vodka. I never normally drink during the week (when I am at home – if I am travelling, out to dinner or just out for drinks of course this rule does not apply) but there is part of me that is worried I might bust out a vodka on the rocks the moment I’m able to.

A few ears still remain of the Easter bunny that was eventually cracked open on Sunday night. I almost want to eat them now in case my husband gets to them first. I have the fear of missing out – a stupid fear – like there are no more Chocolate Easter Bunnies in the world. Like normal rabbits, they seem to be quite effective at multiplying and running around in other peoples gardens when not wanted.

And a few Tim Tams – the original, not those that have tried to catch up with crazy modern times and added more sugar to the already existing overflowing amount. There are a few of them left too.

The wheel of double Brie cheese is almost calling my name from here.

I don’t think I really want to eat these things (well maybe only a little) but once the word ‘challenge’ is removed from this entire clean eating gig, then my mental barrier which has been effectively blocking these nasties from me will be lifted, and maybe then I’ll return to my human self, loosing all superhero self control I had during the last 30 days.

I think that might be scarier than the primal fear I first felt.

So, reflection time. What exactly have a I learned/experienced/felt during these 30 days I hear you ask? Yes I literally hear you ask. Almost every day someone asks me if feel better, have I noticed a difference, has it been worth it.

So here it all is – sugar sweet, sweat and tears…

Lightbulb moments –

#1

I was VERY naïve when it came to some foods and healthy eating. As a 30 something who was actively exercising, and had friends who thought I was already on a very strict eating plan, I was in some way shape or form kidding myself.

Sugar is sugar, regardless if it is in chocolate cake or muesli bars. The entire time I was saying no thanks as others ate over stimulated Picnic bars (my ultimate favorite) or pieces of cake – and silently judging them for it – I was doing the same thing with my Carmen’s muesli, muesli bars, fruit, packaged soup and other no longer –never were – healthy foods.

Here Miss Sugar is no longer center stage. She has been reduced to a mere understudy in her now dirty and ripped tutu and doesn’t seem so attractive anymore.

#2

Sugar is EVERYWHERE.  I mean EVERYWHERE.  Hidden in much of what I had in my pantry and used every night for dinner, and then wondered why neither of us could loose any weight.  In case you think I am exaggerating, here is a list of where Miss Sugar hides, loitering in the curtains waiting for the main star to break her leg so she can take over….

  • Masterfoods dried herbs, including Lemon Pepper, Garlic Pepper Seasoning, Chicken Seasoning, Roast Vegetable Seasoning to name a few.
  • Tomato sauce – all brands
  • Fish sauce – most brands
  • Moist coconut flakes – yeah this little sucker almost had me!
  • All supermarket stocks
  • Premade pasta jars – a regular in my household before this
  • Most pre-packed nut mixes
  • Most ‘mixed fruit’ packages also include extra sugar – why I don’t know.
  • Most things that are ‘flavoured’ are not really natural and the ‘flavour’ is in fact sugar.
  • Most ‘light’ or ‘lite’ options
  • Salad dressings and mustards
  • Some herbs in jars (eg ground ‘fresh’ ginger)
  • Most things in jars eg curry powder, paste etc
  • Tinned foods – especially soup (did I mention this was my lunch most days prior to day 1?)

#3

Dinner can consist of food, real food, and still be satisfying without rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, quinoa, potato as a side option.

This one was hard to accept, because most of the above is – or was – a staple and favourite of mine.

#4

Corn is a grain. Yep I know, seems obvious – but I am blonde remember.

#5

Just because you are going through a learning journey relatively late in life, does not mean others are – so don’t presume their ignorance is as low as yours and preach to them if you want to have friends in the future.

#6

Eggs and smoothies keep you much fuller than sugar muesli and fat free milk for breakfast and you can never have too much bacon.

#7

Expect headaches, maybe a few stomach cramps or joint pains. Maybe that crazy voice in your head will scream at you so violently you want to poke out your own eyeballs with a spoon and swallow them with your hide the greens smoothie, or maybe you will just feel like shit for the first few days. It’s normal, deal with it.

#8

Don’t eat kale stems if you want a normal digestive experience the following day….

#10

Red wine jus – the only sugar coming from the red wine and balsamic vinegar – does not classify as a challenge fail. Paleo gingerbread – verdict is still out.

#11

You might like to ask permission to eat eggs at your desk in the morning before you warm them up in the microwave. Especially if in a communal office.

#12

Some supermarket eggs might look happy but they are not so watch out. Just because they have a smile printed on them, does not mean they are free range or organic, so check the packet carefully. Along with the coconut milk. There are many sneaky tricks talented marketers (like me) do to convince us the food we are buying is good for us, when really it is just crap.

#13

Paleo is not a dirty word – although the spellchecker seems to think it is (red line has been driving me crazy last 30 days).  It is a choice, not a diet, but a lifestyle for sometimes, often, almost always or every now and then. It’s a personal choice, and one that should be respected.

#14

It’s really not that hard. You can just say no. You look on the back of the pack, on the side of the jar, wherever the ingredient list is hidden and check what’s in it. Then you make your choice, and move on.

Hardest parts?

You probably want me to say laying off the booze.

For those that know me, you probably expect me to say laying off the booze (someone did ask for my advice on where to stay somewhere the other day as I would know all the local watering holes….) but really, I don’t think that was it.

Nor was it the often ridiculed, eye rolling, back handed comments and full face slaps I got during the 30 days from people like the pre primal me. Full of spite, bitterness, often a little resentful and mostly just very naïve and unaware.

The preparation was fine, I am an organised person by trade, and even though I love them, the potatoes didn’t even get me in the end.

Hardest part – worrying about not fitting in. By not taking that chip, or sitting on your hands so you don’t eat another olive because they are the only thing you can eat so you have had about 30 already, or not having that wine ‘just to be social’. Perhaps this is my own insecurities leaking through, but not being ‘normal’ or not ‘fitting in’ or being an ‘inconvenience’ and therefore making people unhappy was the hardest part for me, personally.

Oh, and the nuts. Of course, the nuts. That was pretty hard.

Best parts?

Well I have done a PB in both deadlifts and back squats – well above my own body weight – and I’ve improved in many other things too. Although still cant get a handstand….

I have a much bigger and better appreciation for real food. I no longer buy supermarket meat. Yes I used to. I tried to say it was a cost saving method, (please don’t judge me) and now get my vegetables from a market. My eggs are always smiling, where, ill be honest, before they were not.

Many, many new recipes to try at home for dinner and beyond.

My ranting, posting, blogging and talking to others has had an impact somewhere, even if only a few people. But I know of some who have actively made changes and just like I used to get happy feeding them poison, now I get happy by steering them away from it (don’t fear team, I will still bake for you).

Skin fold test aside (Friday people, Friday!) I’m sure there has been a difference in my body even if only on the inside.

The best part?

I did it.

Game set match.

I side kicked that stupid tutu wearing ballerina Miss Sugar and her toe dancing seduction to the no gluten and grain ground with little more than a few eggs. Well a lot more really, but I’m running out of stupid analogies and need to wrap this up.

The point is, the 30-day challenge is over and I’m a little melancholy because I enjoyed discovering more about real food, and I enjoyed writing about it and discovering more about myself.

So a big THANK YOU to everyone who helped or read my ‘boring blog’ along the way – too many to mention – but in particular Bec & Lizzy from Primal Junction, and those who encouraged, supported, and shared the 30 day journey with me, even those not participating formally in the challenge but ate clean ‘almost always’, ‘sometimes’, ‘every now and then’ or ‘most of the time’ (just lay off the banana bread for a bit Heidi) 😉

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The Primal Challenge Day 28

Last night I was poisoned. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or just a miss communication, but it happened. And I paid for it. All night, and most of the next morning.

My nervousness over going out for dinner seemed to have been warranted, perhaps it was my sixth sense or my third eye or perhaps it was just because we are so close to the end of the challenge I am more worried than normal about things going wrong.

The menu was different. That was the first thing. I had looked and planned and prepared and thought I knew exactly what I would change and what I could keep, but then it was different and my choice wasn’t there and sides I had googled to see what they meant were no longer an option and I was thrown into panic.

A specials menu was put under my nose and when the waiter came to take our orders it was so loud from the other side of the bar I could hardly hear what he was offering. It must have been the same for him because I had to repeat twice that I was no gluten, no dairy, and no grains.

He ran off to check with his superiors in the kitchen, like they all do. And I waited patiently, looking at the menu again. There were two options that from what I could tell would not cause much trouble.

  • Option 1 – beef shin with pumpkin, carrot and black cabbage (aka kale).
  • Option 2 – grass fed Black Angus with potato, salsa verde and something else I had no idea what it was.

There were pros and cons for each.

Option 1 –

Pros – looked like it was relatively straightforward and not much to change. Plus it was something different than the standard steak I had been ordering as the safe option when dining out.  I was assured it was both gluten and diary free.

Cons– when I asked the waiter if it came with a sauce, there was a flicker of uncertainty on his face before he had to run off and check again. When he returned, he said only what the meat is cooked in, its own sauces for braising.

Option 2 –

Pros – it was steak, which means you generally can’t go wrong with a steak. You can tell them how to cook it and what you don’t want on it.

Cons – would have to substitute the potato, put the salsa verde on the side and find out what the last part of the puzzle was. Plus I had steak all the time. ALL the time.

I chose Option 1. I took the risk. The sauce was a worry on my mind, but I again repeated to the waiter no grain, no gluten, no dairy and he assured me that all was good.

I ignored the comments from my fellow dinners as they apologized to the waiter for me being so difficult, told me I should just eat air (did they not remember their own diets and meal plans before they got married?!) and drank my standard mineral water.

There was that buzzing in the back of my head that continued to worry me about my food choice, and at one stage I thought about asking to change to the steak. Something felt wrong. But it was too late, and before I knew it our meals had arrived.

The plate was put in front of me and I straightaway knew I was in trouble.

Two large bits of beef. Great.

Some squares of roasted pumpkin. Fantastic.

Both resting on a bed of kale. Very happy.

But then, smothering, almost drooling off the entire dish, was the sauce.

And no, not just a sauce, a gravy if you will. A thick, onion based gravy.

This was not merely a meat sauce. This was not even just a stock. This, my friends was a guaranteed to be not on the challenge list of approved substances, sugar full sauce.

The waiter must have seen the worry on my face as he came rushing over straight away.

What’s your concern.

The sauce.

Don’t touch it, ill just double check it has no gluten and dairy.

He was off before I could mention anything about sugar levels and just as quickly rushing back to my side.

Defiantly no gluten and dairy.

Ok, but about sugar.

His eyes narrowed.

What exactly is it you can’t eat or your allergic to?

Um… I’m not meant to be having sugar either…

There was a pause. It was uncomfortable. Not just for me, not just for the waiter but also for my friends at the table and the rest of the diners who were by now obviously staring at us.

Is this a choice?

The once friendly waiter asked.

Um yes.

So you are not going to die if you eat it.

Not yet! I wanted to tell him. Maybe later, when my body is so clogged up with artificial sweeteners my heart cant pump anymore. But instead I shook my head.

No, I won’t die.

Stare down. The waiter versus embarrassed diner.

The waiter won.

 I’ll just scape it off.

And so I did. Full of humiliation, not enjoying one bite of the meal I scraped the sauce off the meat the best I could. I ate the carrots, the pumpkin, the kale and most of my meat.

I had made my choice. It was a failed one, and now I had to live with it.

Sure, I could have sent it back, asked and paid for another meal, made everyone wait for me to get it and most of me desperately wanted to. But the other part of me realised the mistake was mine, and not the poor waiter who took the order and scurried back to and from the kitchen.

I thought I had been clear.

When he took our entrée I said the only thing I could eat were the olives.

When we were offered a free round of drinks I said I was only on the mineral water, and when he asked if I wanted a soft drink instead I said no thanks, I cant have sugar. And when he offered me a pepsi-max instead, I simply smiled and said no thank you, no sugar, even fake sugar.

So why did he think sugar was ok in my meal, that sauce was ok, THICK sauce and how was it thick if no flour had been added to it?

After our semi-embarrassing stare down when taking coffee orders – actually taking my coffee order as the others continued to drink wine – he bought it not only with a chocolate biscuit on the side of the plate, but a small jar full of brown sugar.

I know it was loud in that place, and he had other tables but HAD HE NOT BEEN LISTENING TO ME SAY NO TO SUGAR ALL NIGHT!!!???

I almost forgave him because we sat there so long, talking over wine and mineral water that he finished his shift and clocked off before a bill was paid and a potential tip.

Not that I was planning to give one.

That night I woke up four times. I was restless, uncomfortable and unable to sleep. My stomach flip flopped all night and when my alarm went off at 8:30am rather than springing out of bed like I normally would have, my head throbbed, my mouth was dry and my stomach killing me.

I felt as though I had a hang over.

I had drunk 1.5 litres of mineral water over dinner so there was no way I should have had a thirst, or a headache, but I did.

I hadn’t touched a wine all night, but I was bound to the loo as if I had drunk the bar dry for most of the morning (sorry I know this is too much information but it is required).

I could hardly keep food down, and felt like I hadn’t slept at all.

Even my paleo breakfast at Palate couldn’t pep me up.

I’m not sure if it was just the sugar I know must have been in that gravy/sauce/poison, or if they had put corn flour in it and forgot that it is a grain and still a flour, or if there was something else, but my poor old stomach did not like it.

28 day’s of detox and my stomach can’t handle the slightest hiccup. Or maybe it never did and I just looked past it.  Or maybe I just guilted myself into being sick after not sending my meal back.

Just in case it was the meat, I text my friend who had the same meal, but of course she was fine. No stomach pains, no dehydration, no headache, no need to remain close to the toilet and buy an extra 12 rolls of loo paper from Coles. And she as the one who drank the bottle of wine.

If that gravy means I failed this challenge, then I failed myself and I have well and truly paid the price.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me, my body has said it all.

And if that reaction is just from sugar I know was in that sauce, although quantity unknown, then what will it do when I bust open the container in the fridge that holds a Tim Tam and the ears of an Easter bunny I have been saving for the end of next week? Or the drink I know I am going to have with friends on Friday night as they celebrate end of dry July? Or the yoghurt I am going to introduce next week to go with my clean muesli I had just made? Or the piece of full fat double Brie cheese I can’t wait to remove from the plastic wrap in the fridge and devour, because I cant seem to stop thinking about what I am going to have to eat post this challenge that I probably still shouldn’t have.

Day 28 and when I should be close to celebrating, I’m well and truly panicking.

The Primal Challenge Day 11

I may have quit sugar (almost) and changed my diet dramatically, but coffee is another thing. My one morning skinny latte, with a sometimes second in the afternoon or after dinner has jumped to two standard long blacks with a sometimes third.

Which has led me to wonder – am I just substituting one addiction for another?

When I start the trail mix as my afternoon snack, I can’t stop stuffing handfuls of it down my throat, leaving the floor under my desk covered in flakes of coconut that has spilled from my hands in the rush to eat it. If I know I have the jug of smoothie in the fridge, one glass is never enough.

I was never this way with food before!

Have I that much of an addictive personality that I need a hit of something to get me through the day? Or am I really still addicted to something I have cut out and my body is searching for it through mouthfuls of everything else?

At this rate, my skin fold test is going to have some very alarming results!

Today I have only had my one morning long black which I sipped while chomping down some poached eggs, bacon and avocado.

Then I had back to back meetings from 12:30 – which was actually a blessing in disguise as otherwise I would have gone for a walk to get another one.

The trail mix was still thrown down my throat like it was my last meal before being executed. 

When the startling realization of my eating habits and new found coffee addiction surfaced, I was a little angry with myself.

As If to prove a point I emptied my filing cabinet (which serves as my work pantry) of my previous unclean snacks. Carmen’s muesli bars, three different types. A bag of banana chips, covered in sugar. A dusty strawberries and cream chupa-chup, another full box of ‘go natural’ muesli bars with a variety of four different types including gluten free, some with dark chocolate, some with nuts, some with fruit – all with sugar.

I loaded everything into a donating box and walked around the rest of my team offering them supplies.

Many were too scared to accept – those who sit near me and have heard my rants around no sugar especially.  Some took one of each and packed them away for later with a smile of thanks.

I left the box on a team members table – the furthest one from me – and felt moderately proud of myself.  Walking back to my desk I took a look over my shoulder and noticed the vultures come out of the woodwork the moment my back was turned and swoop down on the goods.

Good.  Then I could be less tempted.

I say less tempted because in truth, not all unclean items from my ‘pantry’ were donated.

I’m a ‘just in case’ type of person. I always have a pen and notebook in my handbag ‘just in case’. I always carry around some form of food in my bag, muesli bar or apple or nuts ‘just in case’. My home pantry has four tines of canned tomatoes and six of coconut milk ‘just in case’.

I like to have a backup, I hate being left unprepared.

So I kept one of each type of muesli bar in my filing cabinet – two of the gluten free dark chocolate – ‘just in case’.

It’s not the right attitude, I know that. I should have donated them all.

But there is something still in the back of my mind that is not quite convinced I will follow this entire clean eating program after the challenge.

Why?! I hear you ask.

For one, I love corn too much. And rice. And pasta.  And potatoes. And yoghurt.

I know I will introduce some good quality full fat natural dairy back into my diet. The other things, maybe they are what a primary school teacher would classify as a ‘sometimes food’.  I’m not sure yet.

And then of course there is the alcohol.….

Breakfasts are changed forever. The muesli that would keep me high on sugar for an hour tricking me into thinking I was full before the 10am muesli bar or piece of fruit that did the same, will not be an everyday item.

My meats and eggs will always be clean. My oil selection has been expanded to coconut.  I don’t own margarine.

I’ll probably have some red wine jus every now and then.  Pasta is a nice to have, there are many other options for rice, and sometimes as I demonstrated last night with my beef, bacon and tomatoes on roasted eggplant creation – you just don’t need a carb or grain to get you through a meal.

So on day 11, I’m pretty sure I’m a changed woman!

One who is eating well, but addicted to caffeine and an absurd bout of trail mix….

Well almost, I am not quite sure yet. I’m keeping my muesli bars ‘just in case’.1052870_10200525003422460_892511868_o 1064589_10200525004102477_1385939196_o 1071472_10200525004822495_1011020940_o