Is it Paleo? Is it Vegan? Does it even matter?

This week, I thought I would take the opportunity to discuss my Food Philosophy and explain, in advance, why you will see Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, and sometimes not so healthy dishes featured on my blog  and Instagram (@theother62). I have been developing my Food Philosophy over the past two years into what it is today. In order to understand my Food Philosophy, you must know a little bit about the journey that got me here.

My foodie journey began in the Fall of 2014. While I attended law school from 2010-2013, I was surviving mostly on Sarapino’s pizza and mac and cheese bites. I suffered from daily headaches, never felt great and would feel nauseous constantly, but I contributed my symptoms to too much stress, coffee, alcohol, etc. It was only after graduating from law school and taking the bar exam in July of 2013 that I started focusing more on my diet and symptoms. After about a year of frustration, including a humiliating trip to the doctor, I decided to take matters into my own hands and embark on my first Whole30. I will not go into detail on the nuts and bolts of this program but it is essentially an elimination diet that pulls from the Paleo lifestyle. I was first introduced to this program by a good friend and loved that all the information needed to complete a Whole30 is available free on their website. However, given the fact that I like to know/research pretty much everything, I dove head first into their first book “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I loved that they addressed each food group separately and talked about how different food really impacts your body.

It turns out that I was pretty uneducated about what food I was consuming and there was a very steep learning curve to climb. Not only that but prior to my first Whole30, my definition of cooking involved a TV dinner and a microwave. Needless to say, the first 30 days were tough and I ended up actually staying on the Whole30 program for 45 days because I was scared. I knew that I was feeling better than I ever have, which meant that something I had been eating was causing some serious damage to my body. Honestly, I did not really want to find out what that was because I knew it would change how I eat for the rest of my life, and the idea of giving up bread, cheese, wine, etc was more than I could handle. But, eventually I decided it was time to do the reintroduction, and to my surprise I found out that I have a severe gluten intolerance. So, I get to keep cheese and wine but I had to give up (normal) bread. I was in denial for a while and would sneak the occasional donut, but pretty soon my symptoms were back and completely undeniable.

After my first Whole30, I embraced the Paleo lifestyle; filling my shelves with (almost) every Paleo cookbook I could find. However, after being Paleo-ish/gluten free for about two years, I realized that some of those pesky symptoms that were relieved when I quit eating gluten had returned. I was back to the days of headaches, nausea, and fatigue. In between, I had completed five more Whole30s but felt like it was not addressing the issue. So back to the doctor I went, and almost exactly two years after completing my first Whole30 I was now completing my first Elimination Diet. The Elimination Diet is Whole30 on steroids. You cut out dairy, sugar, nightshades, beef, pork, citrus, nuts, eggs and corn but you are allowed to have brown rice and beans, both of which are not Paleo and have never been a staple in my kitchen. The Elimination Diet starts with two days of Detox (liquids only) followed by two weeks of elimination and then a lengthy 60 day reintroduction period. I will talk about my Elimination Diet, and why I have to do a second one, in more detail in a subsequent post but there were a few key takeaways, which are now a part of my Food Philosophy.

The elimination portion of the diet reflects a more vegan lifestyle. Turkey and chicken are allowed but let’s be honest, there are only so many different ways to eat a chicken breast. I learned fairly quickly that I had been consuming too much animal protein while trying to adhere to the Paleo diet. I rarely consumed beans or rice, since they are not Paleo, but found that my body actually responded well to both. Additionally, I found out that I cannot tolerate tomatoes, pecans, and cayenne, which were all allowed on the Paleo diet. But after reintroducing pork, I found that I love bacon (who doesn’t?) and thus bacon once again became a morning staple. I could go on and on about the lessons learned during my Whole30s and the Elimination Diet but with only 62 hours who has time for that?

So I will get to the point, my Food Philosophy is that everyone is different and there is no one size fits all to nutrition. You have to experiment with a diet like the Whole30 or maybe even with an Elimination Diet to determine the proper nutrition plan for your body. I had been avoiding beans and rice just because they were not Paleo, but once I added them into my diet my health actually improved. I had also been consuming tomatoes and cayenne because they were considered Paleo when in reality they were making me feel awful. If I had stuck to the Paleo diet I never would have been healthy. Likewise, if I had labelled myself a vegan, I would not get to enjoy the occasional bacon, and what is life without bacon? I don’t know and frankly I don’t want to find out, which is why you will see Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, and some not so healthy foods on this blog and on my Instagram, and why you will never hear me say that I am Paleo, Vegan, Vegetarian, etc because I’m not. I am trying to eat the healthiest food for MY body. I personally believe that everyone should develop their own Food Philosophy and I hope that I have encouraged you to do so.

If you have any questions about anything I mentioned in this post, please reach out to me!

– KT

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