Those who know me well will know that I’ve not always been ‘into’ food and cooking. My food journey as a kid was mainly from freezer to plate in the company of that jolly old sailor, Captain Birds Eye.
Like a lot of kids I knew, walks home from school were punctuated with trips to the local shop to pick up some sweets – as many as you could buy with 50 pence. I didn’t eat a pepper until I was about 18 and my university cooking repertoire consisted of pasta, chilli and curry (from a jar) on loop. And kebabs, obviously. And cider. And….you get the point.
Moving to London did me no favours; drinking in this fine city and all it has to offer – for a long time – mainly meant drinking in twice the recommended weekly intake of booze. And the rest. Eating out, eating late, eating on the go, rarely making the time to shop or plan meals.
As I approach my 27th birthday, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my health and wellbeing. My life revolves less around big nights out and I’m making more time for things that make me feel good; yoga, cooking healthy meals, outdoor fitness classes. Simple things like reading, de-cluttering and going for walks.
I’d been making a lot of vegan recipes from blogs like Deliciously Ella that seemed healthy and tasty, but wanted to understand more about nutrition. I asked on twitter for recommendations for places to start reading on the subject and someone suggested the Paleo Diet, and another It Starts with Food; a book about a modified version of the Paleo Diet.
Paleo can be pretty much summed up as a diet that aims to get us to revert back to the foods our ancestors from way back would have eaten. Lean meats and fish, fruit and vegetables, eggs, and healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds.
The book tells us that avoiding man-made, highly processed and refined foods will bring a host of health benefits – from lower cholesterol, to weight loss and more energy. What’s quite nice about the diet is it allows for the odd treat – a glass of wine, a slice of avocado on toast – it keeps things pretty real.
If you think Paleo sounds tough, Whole30 is a whole lot tougher. It’s a modified version of paleo, lived and breathed for 30 days. No sugar, no booze, no dairy, nothing that resembles a carb or grain or corn (yes, even quinoa is banned), no legumes (chick peas, black beans etc and peanuts – who knew?!), no MSG, sulphites or carrageenan (bye bye ‘healthy’ almond milk) and no trying to re-create treats or non-paleo meals with ‘compliant’ ingredients.
Damn. That’s sweet potato gluten-free brownies off the menu (sob).
Have you lost your fucking mind?
Possibly. But I’m still going to give it a go. Why? Well, because apparently it will change my life. The way I think about food, my habits and cravings, and potentially my relationship with food. And maybe forever.
I spent about 3 hours of my Saturday night reading a multitude of blog posts by some of the many, many people who have taken on the challenge (and lived to tell the tale). What stood out was how amazed most people were by the results – physically in terms of energy and wellbeing, but also in terms of appearance. Weight lost, yes, but all the bloat the comes with eating lots of processed foods gone, skin clear, hair and nails healthier.
It’s intriguing, this idea that food can be such a force for good. I have seen food as comfort, punishment and reward. As friend, faux, and creator of ill-health. I’d like a slice of that. I’d also like to prove to myself I can take on a challenge like this – and win.
And a lot of the recipes look delicious – fresh, homecooked, lots of vegetables, tasty, well-flavoured and bursting with vitamins and minerals.
But I’m under no illusions that this will be easy. Reading the timeline of what to expect has given me some insight into the misery I can expect in the early stages, before reaching what I’m going to call ‘ultimate power woman’ status.
I’m lucky that my wonderful boyfriend James is joining me on this challenge. My sunny, positive, generous, kind boyfriend. We’re in it for the long haul. Here’s hoping he feels the same way after 30 days battling my hanger….
Pass me a chicken leg?