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Just the Basics

April 15, 2013

If you visit my site regularly or pay any attention to my Flickr feed, you may have noticed lots of pictures of food cropping up on the right. Not images of luscious cupcakes or steaming loaves of bread. Not styled images of fine dining or carefully crafted cocktails made to please my palate. Just straight up shots of really basic food.

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I’ve always been one to experiment with food. Well. No. Not always. I grew up at summer camp where everything was served out of tin cans. Sloppy Joes seemed to be the norm and I ate what I was served. In college I enjoyed bagels and baked ziti with the gusto of a college student and after college I ate what I could afford, which happened to be the free pizza I brought home after my shift waiting tables at California Pizza Kitchen. I was a generally healthy and fairly slim person so I didn’t think too much about what I was eating.

Then I started paying attention to how the world – particularly America – grows food, how we process food and how the body can react to food and so my husband and I started to slowly change our diet. Over the past eight years or so we’ve had runs of vegetarianism, high protein, slow carb and no sugar diets. With each eating experiment we’ve honed in on when we felt good and when we didn’t, and tried to adjust our diets accordingly. I like to think we now eat pretty well, but for the occasional beer and burger or pizza, but there is always room for improvement, right?

So, while my diet is pretty wholesome and I’m pretty healthy, I’ve managed to develop some strange skin allergies. My Dr. insists it’s anxiety, but I refuse to believe that there’s not something more than me fretting that causes head-to-toe hives and my skin to flush bright red, especially when I’m feeling 100% content and happy. It doesn’t happen often, but I’m not one to let something go without explanation, even if it is an infrequent occurrence. And I’m definitely not one to take prescription drugs to fix something, particularly if it’s just a Dr.s’ hunch that the prescription will solve it. So that’s where the food images come into play.

I’m following the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet to determine what in my current diet, if anything, might be causing my skin to misbehave. Both allergies and anxiety are categorized as things connected to autoimmune problems and so it seemed like this experiment would be the perfect way to see if I can fix what ales me, whatever it might be.

Paleo Autoimmune Protocol goes like this:

What’s Allowed:

Meats, vegetables and fruits

What’s not:

Nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplants)
Spices that contain nightshades or seeds (black pepper is out, too)
No grains
No eggs, no dairy
No legumes
No nuts, no seeds, no beans

Not even coffee!

No alcohol
No added sugars
No NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs)

And absolutely no processed foods.

There you have it. That’s the protocol. You follow it exactly for 30 to 60 days, then gradually add in one restricted food at a time, recording the way your body reacts to it. If there is a reaction, it’s out. If there’s no reaction, move along and continue eating it happily. Like I said, it may or may not answer my questions about what’s causing my body to malfunction, but I thought it worth trying.

It’s a strict  way to eat and I worried going into it that my dreams would be filled with hearty bowls of pasta, slabs of buttered bread and mugs of steaming coffee turning almost white with cream. But that hasn’t been the case (except for this weekend when my friend was in town and I really wanted to grab a drink at the comedy show we went to, and wanted to eat my way through the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market the next morning. There are no words for how enticing that market is.).

Luckily my husband is eating as I am this month (but for the occasional egg or pepper), otherwise I’m not sure it would be as comfortable as it has been. The biggest change it has created for us is the time spent in the kitchen, preparing lunches for the week, making fresh dinners and washing a never-ending assortment of pans. It seems our dehydrator is almost always running, and if not the dehydrator, the crock pot is going or the stove top is sizzling. Also, making everything from whole foods is also pretty darn expensive. We always focus on organic, local and sustainable produce and meats, but without grains and dairy as filler we have to buy a lot more food to keep us full. Otherwise it’s life as normal. We just feel a little clearer and more alert. And that is a pretty good way to feel.

I’m only a few weeks in so who knows if there will be any more heath benefits to report, but if there is anything to report, I will.

For anyone considering Paleo Autoimmune Protocol but can’t envision eating a restricted diet for such a long period of time you can see everything I eat with a brief description of the meal here: Paleo Autoimmune Protocol Flickr Set. And that really is a record of all the food I’ve eaten — every meal and every snack since April 1. Drinks aren’t pictured because water and water with apple cider vinegar in them are pretty boring to photograph. So is hot peppermint tea.

Anyway, that’s the scoop. I’m not endorsing this method of eating or even saying it’s right for me at this point,  I’m just letting you know why there are so many pictures of food popping up in my Flickr feed these days.

If you have ever considered doing an elimination diet, here are some resources I leaned on when getting started:

Robb Wolf

The Paleo Mom

Update: I followed this diet strictly for 2.5 months. Once I added all foods back in I learned that coconut is not my friend, which is funny because now that I think about it some of my problems began when I began incorporating coconut oil into more of my food. While most people are not allergic to coconut and it is considered fairly benign, it makes my skin break out and makes my stomach ache. Other than coconut, coffee makes me kind of sneezy, but I can have it in small portions. Overall my skin cleared up a lot, I felt great, had more energy and lost 10 lbs (5 of which I’ve gained back over the past 1.5 months as I started testing my limits and including grain again (grains, while delicious also make me sneeze and make me gain crazy water weight so I’m doing my best to avoid those as well).

On the anxiety front, the last panic attack I had was right before I embarked on the diet. My energy is much more even and my moods more stable. Even my husband has commented on how great my moods have been (no more acting like a cranky toddler!). All in all, I’m so glad I tried this diet and learned the things I did about how my body interacts with food. Plus, it was a fun exercise in will power. Now I just need to find another project that utilizes the same will power and commitment — making myself run or write or sew clothing on a regular basis have all been floating around in my head.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Hilary permalink
    April 15, 2013 8:26 am

    And how is your skin thus far?

    • Claire permalink
      April 15, 2013 8:36 am

      No hives or splotching or itching, but at the same time I only get the weirdness every few months or so. Not sure how I’m going to figure out if this has truly helped, but right now — in the height of allergy season — all has been behaving (I’m even less snotty, which is kind of a huge deal for me). I think I may only learn if this has truly helped my skin if, once I start adding foods back in, my skin starts freaking out again.

  2. April 15, 2013 8:32 am

    You are so awesome, Claire! I eat like crap…always. I remember going through a dairy elimination diet while nursing Cole and although it dramatically improved *his* outlook on life, I could only hack it for 30 days 🙁 You are an inspiration!

    • Claire permalink
      April 15, 2013 8:52 am

      I remember dairy being really hard to give up. I used to be a champion ice cream eater, but I gradually weaned myself off of dairy pretty well, but for some cheese and the occasional cream in my coffee or yogurt. Such a delicious thing! If I hadn’t gradually reduced my intake of certain foods leading up to this, I’d be a total wreck right now. It’s so great you were able to quit it for even 30 days!

  3. May 6, 2013 4:42 pm

    The food looks so colorful when you put it all together!

    • Claire permalink
      May 8, 2013 11:51 am

      Yeah, it really is. I have a surprising lack of green in these pictures though. However, in month two I’m suddenly having green everything, including a salad for breakfast the other day. And I feel even better than I did last month.

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