Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hassles and stress

I got some unexpected work on work of the regular work I was already working work, plus Mik has a swim meet this weekend, plus HASSLES! STRESSES! LIFE! AAAAUUGH!

(In fact, the only reason I'm on the computer now is that we forgot to bring a few things to the meet when we left the house at 6:30 this morning. So I got to come home and retrieve them—and bask in the bliss that is not needing to watch any swimming for at least an hour.)

I just want to say that it's pretty challenging to eat primal foods when you're this busy, and relying partly on a concession stand for sustenance. I'm hanging in there so far, but my mom has already informed me that for my dad's birthday party this weekend, we are just going to order pizza, and to heck with healthy. (It seems HASSLES! STRESSES! LIFE! AAAAUUGH! has visited their house as well.)

If I have any time after the swim meet today, I'm going to spend some of it shopping and cooking so that I don't starve next week. Not sure how I'm going to squeeze in exercise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bean Frencher!

New Norpro # 5125 Green Yellow Bean Frencher Deluxe Slicer
We were in a thrift store the other day and saw one of these little beauties sitting on a dusty shelf for $2.99—the Bean Frencher! It's for French-cutting green beans, of course, but my mind immediately turned to Pad Thai and the arduous task of slicing up pea pods to help them pretend to be noodles.

We got it home and realized it wouldn't clamp to any of our counters, but we jerry-rigged something, poured out a pile of peas, and started frenching like mad. It was a two-person job, though fun, and before long we had a gorgeous pile of thinly sliced pea pods. I got the brainstorm of cranking the onions through it, and they turned out beautifully, too. Honestly, I don't think any time was saved, but thinner-sliced veggies always taste better, so it was totally worth the trouble. Plus I like the name. Need anything frenched?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Just wanted to let you know my husband has started a darn fine blog (chronicling his career as a so-far unpublished novelist) over at It will not contain any triathlon-obsessed stuff, ever, but some of you may be still interested. It's even possible he'll one day decide to write about his "semi-primal" eating adventure. One never knows.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall fun

I guess I'm transitioning early into a fall-off-the-primal-wagon-when-eating-out system, because that's what I did yesterday when my family decided to go to Sonic after an afternoon of hiking around outside. (Two of us played Frisbee golf, one of us climbed boulders, and one of us foraged for interesting evergreen boughs and other plant stuff to turn into a fall wreath. Guess who did what!*)

Anyway, my threshold for sugar has certainly changed a lot. I got a small lemon slush, and it tasted sickeningly sweet. My popcorn chicken, though—while I'm sure it was full of nasty oils and chemicals and breading—was crazy good.

This month's primal eating experiment is really not getting a fair shake, but that's okay. I'm not going to lose as much weight as I did in September, but it does seem like it's still coming off. By the way, my sister is still eating Paleo and has now lost 20 pounds. Woo-hoo!

* You don't really have to guess. If you don't know us in real life, you don't care, and if you do, it's blatantly obvious.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

If I had a hammer…

You know how they say when you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail? Well, I've got this hammer called primal eating now, and the more I learn about it, the harder it is to keep from smashing everyone I know over the head with a lot of very useful information they didn't ask for. Outside this blog and my immediate family, I think I've been pretty restrained, but I told my husband a few weeks ago that my goal was to start looking so skinny that people started asking me what I did to lose weight.

Well, much to my delight, that happened. A yoga instructor and a couple of acquaintances from class complimented me on how good I looked and asked the magic question. (Stop! Hammer time!) I started in with a bit of an explanation, and they all seemed pretty interested. Then one told us all about this nutrition book she'd been reading about how important it is to control the pH levels in the body. And one told us about how vital it was to monitor portion sizes. And the other one told us all about how Americans don't exercise, and we need at least an hour of vigorous cardio every day.

It's so cute how we all have hammers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cooking lesson

Not all of my cooking has been a success in this Paleo/primal adventure, but I usually eat it anyway. In fact, the only food experiment I've thrown away so far was a tomato soup that, very unfortunately, looked like a vomited spaghetti dinner. Yes, and not only was it a chunky mess, but for some reason I had put a squeeze of lemon in it, so even the taste was…never mind.

Oh, and there was my first, sad attempt at quinoa flour pizza crust.

But my point is, I really hate to waste food. And so I'm always checking the fridge for leftover ingredients I can toss into whatever I'm making. Here's what I learned today:
  1. Quinoa flour is a terrific addition to meatballs. I guess it does what breadcrumbs would have done, which is to make them more tender.
  2. Cauliflower, though white, cannot be blenderized into mushroom soup to turn it into "cream" of mushroom soup. Mushroom grits is more like it. (Don't worry, I'll eat it anyway.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hitting a wall

That workout yesterday felt like nothing (and in truth, it was around 40 seconds of hard running), but, oh, I am hurting today. My heels are killing me, my quads and hamstrings are sore, and there's a tiny sharp pain below one kneecap. I've done lots of exercise in my life, but I'm learning that all-out sprinting is a whole different animal.

On the eating front, I hit a wall today. Around lunchtime I was tired, hungry, busy, and there was no one to cook for me. Normally that situation would call for a bowl of cereal, but that stuff will kill you, apparently. So I opened the fridge, hoping for some leftovers to microwave. Long gone. Eggs? Had them for breakfast. Fruit? Gone. Nuts? Not exactly lunch-worthy.

So I opened the fridge again, reminding myself that if I want to eat this way, I have to cook. Well, there was that head of cauliflower (and not much else). I remembered the pizza crust recipe and figured I had nothing to lose.

And what do you know? It was good. Mine wasn't the most cohesive crust—in fact, it had to be scraped off the cookie sheet in sections and ended a pile of pizza substance on a plate—but it was tasty. It was also really filling (which is not surprising, since it contained a full cup of shredded mozzarella, just for me). But I haven't been hungry for the past seven hours, which, frankly, is exactly what you want when you're really busy, out of food, and sick of cooking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's not running, it's racing!

On an impulse I invited my 11-year-old to come running with me—or actually, as I phrased it to him, come outside and race me. The boy has a budding interest in running and triathlon, and the last thing I want to do is make it seem boring. Besides, I was supposed to be doing short bouts of sprinting, and what better way to get that accomplished than to race?

We jogged for maybe three minutes, with me explaining to him that I was old, and if I didn't warm up a little I might hurt myself. He said he didn't mind and that if he got tired he could just walk—which he then demonstrated, easily keeping up with me. (Oh, snap.)

We went out onto the bike path near our house and had four races of about 10 seconds each, walking and resting in between. We had a ball and came home huffing and puffing, having also raced to the front door. I didn't really feel like I had gotten a workout, but now, a couple of hours later, I can definitely feel it in my legs.

And who won, I suppose you want to know? Let's just say I'm going to want a rematch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What, running?

I finished working tonight about five minutes too late to go to yoga. The gym's class schedules are not matching up with my work schedule this week at all—but the weather has been beautiful for walking, so I'm still keeping up with my plan. Since a spin class isn't in the cards either timing-wise, I have the "opportunity" tomorrow to try a short sprint workout on foot (I believe that's also known as running).

Hey, fun fact: Not so long ago—in March, April, and May, actually—I was running more than 100 miles a month. And in June I ran for six and a half hours straight. Why does the thought of running for 15 minutes tomorrow fill me with dread?

Important pizza update: I tried for pizza crust again with the rest of my quinoa flour…aaaaaand I'm over it. I was able to actually ingest the crust I made this time, but it's just too gritty and weird for me. And I'm afraid the whole experience left me negative associations with both quinoa (which makes such a lovely Greek salad in its other incarnation) and pizza (gasp). I'll continue Crust Quest some other time and let you know if I come up with anything decent.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Experiments in pizza

I tried a quinoa pizza crust, and I think I made a few mistakes. I'm not sure if my homemade quinoa flour was too coarse, or if I made the batter too thick, or the pan was all wrong, or if I didn't cook it long enough, or I didn't cook it in enough oil—or all of the above. Whatever the problem was, I couldn't eat much of it.

And yet…sitting atop the disaster was a pile of yummy pizza toppings, so I scraped those off and was still happy. I mean, crust can be pretty tasty, but ultimately it's just there to hold up the good stuff.

I still have a head of cauliflower, so maybe I'll try that version tomorrow. And if that doesn't work, I also have some leftover quinoa flour to use for a third try.

I really don't see a downside to experimenting with pizza.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gluten hangover

Pizza last night was goooood…but I woke up in the middle of the night desperately thirsty and with a splitting headache. Huh. Gluten-induced dehydration? It fits with my theory that my body needs tons of water to flush out those simple sugars.

I spent a couple of hours today cooking—but nothing fun, just more of my new standbys. I was hoping I'd end up with enough food to get me through the next few days at least, but a lot of it is already gone. I guess I just have to accept that cooking is one of those tasks—like, um, all housework—that never really gets "done." I think I'll make something exciting tomorrow to keep my enthusiasm up. I've been eyeing a recipe for a cauliflower-based pizza crust…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Calculated cheating

I was going to try another whole month of fancy eating with no cheating, but I changed my mind (no, not "slipped up," not "broke down," not "failed"…changed my mind). It's because of good news: This week I sent out the invoice that means I've made 100% of the income our family needs for the year, so we decided to have a "hundred percent party" on Thursday night. We went out to a Mongolian grill place, where it's pretty easy to stick to meat and vegetables—but all the sauces have either soy or peanuts. So rather than go flavorless, I had soy and peanuts.

And while I'm confessing, I'll let you know that I'm planning to "cheat" again tonight. My husband and I are going to a concert and then out for pizza, and this time—rather than turn a fun night into a big pile of difficulty and annoyance—I'm going to actually have pizza. (It will be my first wheat since August 31.)

I still want to finish out the rest of this month eating almost 100% primal, but I've been doing a little calculation. I eat four meals a day, so about 120 meals in a month. If I want to be at least 90% primal, that means I have 12 meals a month—or about three a week—where I could eat less than optimally. That's a lot. I don't think our family eats out three times a week even in our busiest (laziest) weeks.

So that means this is going to be easy. All I have to do is eat primal at home and try to make relatively sensible choices at restaurants and in other situations. And I won't have to make any little charts or anything to keep track, either.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blood work

My mom emailed me the results of her and my dad's recent blood work. (My dad did not go 100% Paleo, but most of what he eats now ends up being Paleo anyway, because my mom does so much of the cooking.) From this time last year, her cholesterol level went from 232 to 198, and his went from 241 to 198, with less than 200 being "desirable." Her triglycerides went from 111 to 102, and his went from 241 to 143, with less than 150 being considered desirable.

Pretty impressive, huh? It makes me wish I had some before-and-after medical tests of my own, but that would have required going to the doctor, which I avoid.

My still-unconverted (ha ha) sister just commented that she was waiting for all of us to figure this out before making any dietary changes in her household. Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's a done deal! I'm convinced that I need to keep eating this way, and the blood work just confirms for me that there's no reason to worry about clogged arteries. Really the only thing left to figure out is how to steer my kids in a primal direction, too—but I guess if I could eat junk for 40 years and stay as healthy as I have, then they will probably survive their childhoods if I just do the best I can and don't annoy them too much with my "weird" cooking.

On the plus side, this morning my youngest put in dinner request for what he calls "death by tasties" (translation: mashed cauliflower, potatoes, and garlic). I think I'll make it DBT and meatballs, and see if anyone even notices that they're eating a darn-near-100%-primal meal.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I just realized I could backdate today's post and make it seem like yesterday's post so I could use today's post to whine about the swim I did this afternoon. (I didn't want to have two posts in one day. THAT WOULD BE SILLY.)

If I'm acting a little loopy, it's because I'm so darn tired from swimming.

I did only 1,000 yards total, but the main set was a 400 IM broken into a set of sprint 25s. And in the spirit of the primal exercise philosophy, I gave it my all. Like I was being chased by a killer eel. (Or any eel. Ick.)

And now I see why you're not supposed to do sprint workouts more than once a week. Because I will probably have to psyche myself up just to lift my hands off the keyboard and onto the mouse to hit Publish.

3…2…1…Publish. Oof.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saturated fat links

I've been researching (okay, just Googling; I guess there's a difference) the role of saturated fat in heart disease. It seems to me that the federal food pyramid and even groups like the American Heart Association are way behind the times.

There's lots of interesting stuff out there, but the take-home message, which is so counterintuitive that a lot of people simply can't accept it, is that fat does not make you fat. See also this, this, and this.

(Don't ask me how I became a primal eating evangelist. I'm not sure myself.)

But I'm suddenly wondering why federal guidelines haven't changed to reflect the evidence. Is there actually a sinister wheat-and-corn lobby at work?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A pep talk

I just got off the phone with my mom. She's happy that she's now lost 14 pounds eating Paleo but says she's sick and tired of it. She wants some bread. And some pasta. And some pizza!

I don't feel that way at all. (Well…if you know me, you know I want pizza.) But it seems like almost every day I get an idea or two about something new to cook. And since my husband is eating semi-primal with me now, we can cooperate on meals, which makes life a lot easier. Really, though, the most helpful thing is that I like what I've been eating. That must be what happens when you put a lot of thought into your food versus just microwaving the first edible thing you find in the fridge.

This is a huge change for me. Make no mistake: I was the queen of microwaving the first edible thing I found in the fridge. (I also ruled at pouring bowls of cereal.)

So for example yesterday I made these hamburger buns out of—no kidding—nothing but eggs and cream cheese. It was amazing. They went into the oven looking like white blobs of meringue and came out looking like the picture in the link. Now, mine were perhaps undercooked and actually MELTED when I tried to put hamburgers on them, but that's beside the point. The point is that trying stuff like this is fun. And when you hit a home run and get something new to add to your repertoire, it just makes it that much easier to stick with it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A funner kind of fun

I feel like I've spent the past six weeks glued to the computer—and way too much of the time just waiting for the stupid work to show up. But no more! I should be free again tomorrow, and I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm getting out of the house more. I'm doing more yoga. I'm going on more walks. I'm going to run, bike, OR swim every week.

This fits well with the primal philosophy toward exercise, which is to not do just a bunch of mindless cardio (hello, Ironman training). Instead, you're supposed to do resistance work (I'm counting yoga in that category), a lot of very light exercise (the walks), and the occasional bit of sprinting (the weekly run/bike/swim). And also to do stuff that's fun.

My new plan should qualify there. I know it's going to be more fun than five-hour trainer rides, although those were sort of fun in a twisted kind of let's-see-how-much-misery-I-can-stand sort of way.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kona love

I thought I had the Ironman bug out of my system and had moved on. Didn't stop me from spending all day watching Ironman Kona online! The pro race was great, but I'm getting jazzed watching the middle-of-pack finishers cross the line, too. I don't suppose my husband will let me stay up five more hours to watch the mighty stragglers…

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rush job

Oh, all the food I've made is definitely way too tasty. What a conundrum. If I don't cook ahead of time, I'm tempted to put cheese on bread and call it lunch. If I do cook ahead of time, I'm temped to have four bowls of quinoa salad (with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta) for lunch.

The problem isn't the cooking, really. It's the being in such a hurry that I don't even think my meals through.

So far, this month has been even worse than last in terms of sitting at the computer. I'm hoping to be freed up by next week, and to really start doing this primal experiment justice. There's a whole exercise philosophy to go along with the eating philosophy. Did you know?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile

Rounded out my cooking frenzy over the past few days by making stuffed peppers, a new batch of chili, and a quinoa salad (with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta). The idea is to have a ton of toss-in-the-microwave meals for the coming workpocalypse.

The only problem is that all the various tasties in the fridge are calling my name, and quite a bit louder than the work that's finally dribbling in. I never really wanted to overeat when I was on a strict Paleo diet. Maybe the bits of sugar and dairy I've let back in are working their black magic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Turning things around

I woke up from a nightmare at 5 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so my day started poorly. I made it worse by being grumpy to everyone. Then outside forces made it even worse yet—I had a week's worth of work to do in the next three days, and my client just wasted yet another day. So now I have a week's worth of work to do in two days. If I'm lucky!

I tried to solve this problem by eating Paleo ice cream, then by having a square of dark chocolate, then by making primal chocolate banana bread.

Finally, it was time for yoga class, where we're often told to "set an intention" for the practice. (I often think to myself, "I intend to spend the next hour doing yoga.") But today I said to myself, "By the time this class is over, I will be happy." And it worked like a charm.

Lesson learned. I hate emotional eating and adore yoga. Gotta be true to myself.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More for me!

I ran out of work, so today has been a bit of a cooking day. My usual process is:

  1. Get an idea for something I want to make.
  2. Google a bunch of recipes.
  3. Decide none of them is quite right and just wing it.

That's how I came up with the tastiest meatballs ever. I fed them to the kids (with spaghetti for them and with mushrooms for me) but they made faces. So I scraped theirs into my bowl and tried not to let on that I was glad I didn't have to share. (My husband liked them, so I may have to share with him.)

Then I announced that I wanted to make some more coconut milk ice cream, and would my 13-year-old be interested in strawberry-banana? He thought strawberry-kiwi sounded better, and I had two very ripe kiwis, so I made that. It was awesome, but he didn't end up liking it. Heh, heh, heh.

Now I'm off to create some homemade ranch dressing and maybe some spicy sausage patties to freeze (I bought a Costco amount of ground pork). I'm going to need my own fridge soon.

Picky primal

The more I read (and experience) about primal eating, the more convinced I am that I need to try to steer the kids in this direction, too. But it's about a million times harder than fixing my own diet.

Child One is allergic to dairy and eggs—and without eggs, I don't think I would have made it through September. I just don't know how to have meat and vegetables for every single meal. Plus, he doesn't even eat a lot of different meats (which is my fault, because I don't either). Child Two is even pickier, doesn't like eggs, won't touch lunch meat or chicken, turns up his nose at 80% of all vegetables. Sigh. We worked on this kid for years to teach him to like hamburgers (figuring it was the only way he would survive his American childhood).

Yesterday, I made them a vegan version of Pad Thai to try (i.e., removing the offending chicken and eggs), but neither was too enthusiastic. I think I will keep trying until they learn to love it, though, because that is some tasty stuff. Until then, those leftovers are mine.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another After moment

I just realized something extremely cool. You know how when you walk up a fairly long flight of stairs, you feel a bit out of breath at the top? (It's not just me, right?) I mean, it's not like I was ever clasping my chest and sucking air, but even when I was training for the Ironman, I regularly felt winded by stairs. I knew I wasn't "out of shape," so I just figured it was a fact of life.

Well, I just heard the cell phone ring, realized it was two floors down, sprinted down there, answered it, and then jogged back up, talking to the caller the whole time. Not even thinking about it, and not even a little bit out of breath. This is on almost zero "cardio" training for the past three months.

Wrap that in your low-fat tortilla.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My first After

Okay! The 30-day challenge is up. As you know from my constant whining about it, I felt pretty good before I started, and I feel pretty good now. So I can't personally report any huge changes. But here's how I did compared with the baseline I drew up before this all started: 

Before: I need to lose 20 to 30 pounds.
I just weighed myself and—without ever trying to limit the amount I ate, mind you—I lost 9 pounds. This delights and amuses me, because it's exactly the same amount I lost while training for the Ironman (over nine months) and exactly the same amount I gained back (in two months) after the Ironman. I will be interested to see if I can actually get below this weight in another month of primal eating. (Is there anything below this weight? I can't seem to remember that far back.)

By the way, my mom lost 11 pounds in the month, and my sister lost 12. My mom had the least to lose but was by far the healthiest eater—she was all about the celery sticks and broiled tilapia, whereas I was all, "Let's see if I can make ice cream and sweetbreads out of Paleo ingredients!"

Before: I am easily distracted when I should be working.
I've never heard any claims that Paleo can fix distractability, and I can't say I noticed a ton of change in my ability to focus. (If anything I was more distracted because I was constantly looking up recipes online.)

Before: I can't do any yoga pose requiring hip flexibility.
Again, Paleo doesn't claim to fix this. And it didn't. Sitting all the time didn't help.

Before: I never know where I've left my keys.
Now, this is interesting. I've never heard any claims that eating Paleo can fix flakiness, but I have to say I do feel distinctly less absentminded. I know exactly where my keys are at this moment.

Before: My STUPID FEET STILL HURT constantly. 
At first I was hopeful that this was going away, and it did get a bit better, but alas. My STUPID FEET still hurt (but they don't require quite as much capitalization).

Before: A lot of my hair is falling out.
Huge change here. My hair had been falling out by the handful, and now it's just a hair here and there—like a normal person.

Before: I have no desire to have an organic garden or play an instrument.
Those examples were jokes, so I still have no desire to do either. But I do feel generally more ambitious, more excited about being healthy, and more energetic.

Before: My fastest marathon is over six hours.
Frankly, I feel like I could beat that tomorrow, with no training. When I get more time, I'll probably start running again. The desire is slowly returning.

Before: My bathrooms are dirty, despite my having the desire for them to be clean and the ability to make them clean.
Oops. I've been feeling a bit more gung-ho about keeping the house neat, but that impulse hasn't yet extended to the bathrooms.

Before: My mother-in-law can beat me at arm wrestling.
I wish I had some other objective measure of strength to compare myself with, because I'm really not going to arm-wrestle her! But I have noticed in yoga that I feel much, much stronger. But maybe that's just because I'm doing more yoga now than I have for the past year.

I got a surprise, too: After years of getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom—sometimes even twice—I'm generally not needing to anymore. It's maybe one night out of every four now. My theory is that there's less sugar in my body; therefore my body needs less water to flush it out; therefore I'm just not drinking as much.

Okay, Paleo challenge, you had me at "hello, you just lost 9 pounds." Let's do it again!