Recently, I set foot on an unnatural food path for me. Under the supervision of a recommended natural health expert, Philip Weeks, I committed to going Paleo, that is dairy, gluten, sugar and grain free. To be clear this is in no way for purposes such as detoxing, losing weight or because it’s simply on trend but because like so many people I’ve met and got talking to since I’ve begun this, I suffer and have suffered from IBS and acid reflux for the past 12 years and no medical test or intervention has helped clear my symptoms and believe me, I’ve tried them all.

So in a bid to document this journey for myself and others who find themselves in a similar position, I thought I’d write about the experience of cutting such foods and how this has played out for me as well as the recipes that have saved me on the days that I just wanted to grab a handful of cheese/brownie/croissant (these are interchangeable, some days you can apply all three) and demolish it/them.

Paleo path

So to start I wanted to pass on the top 5 tips I wish I’d known prior to starting my Paleo journey..

  1. Be Prepared – I left Philip’s clinic in London after being informed of my new restrictions having missed breakfast and wandered into Pret, numb, hungry and with no clue to what I was doing. Completely unprepared and naive to the process I spent the first week hungry and depressed with little motivation to research recipes or stock up on new foods, other than avoiding starvation. As your body adjusts to the new diet the withdrawal symptoms are pretty shit, if I’d had foods ready to snack on, it would have certainly helped the adjustment. There are tons of recipes online and a wealth of information on going Paleo so if you’re planning on restricting your diet, take the time to think about how it will work before hand.
  2. Clear the cupboards – However you want to do it, just make sure you remove every vestige of ‘illegal’ substances. Unless you’re a hardcore masochist and enjoy punishing yourself, just clear the pasta, biscuits, cereal, ice-cream, whatever it is and restock the fridge and cupboards with plenty of suitable alternatives. The first few weeks I craved replacements for the things I missed the most, mainly bread and cereal (and beer) and it took me a few weeks to workout recipes that plugged this gap (I will post these soon, unfortunately it does not include beer) so in that time don’t make it easy to fall back into your old ways. 
  3. Think ahead – Having researched those recipes, plan meals and lunches in advance. I roast a huge organic chicken every Sunday no matter what now, the remains then make up the majority of my lunches in various salad forms and the bits leftover make for two very happy geriatric cats. Cook in bulk too, there will always be days when you can’t be arsed cooking and having those leftovers in the freezer for another dinner can be a life saver. Oh and tupperware, put that on your shopping list and if your leftovers are a bit sparse keep them for lunch the next day with some extra greens. One thing you realise quickly, unless you’re lucky and in a decent city where there’s more choice, is that lunch solutions are pretty limited and it’s times like this you’re more likely to relent. I travel everywhere now with a little container of green tea bags plus my various probiotics and if out for the day will fill another with plain nuts and seeds for those desperate times that you’re faced with a counter of items that you simply cannot eat.
  4. Don’t be embarrassed – Unless you’re a practising hermit, you’re going to have to eat out – be it you’re invited to dinner at a friend’s house or your dining out at a restaurant. I still feel a tinge of embarrassment when badgering waiters about ingredients in a dish and have even pretended I’m allergic in some attempt to feel like that legitimises what I’m doing. Yet while I was busy informing everyone that this is not about losing weight or a fad diet in a bid to prevent them thinking it ridiculous, on the flip-side it has also got me into countless conversations with others who are suffering themselves and at a loss as I was as to what to do, and happily I’ve been able to help point them in the right direction (hopefully) with the bits of knowledge I’ve gleaned since starting this journey.
  5. Try and try again! – I’m afraid for those that err on the fussy side will likely find this journey that bit harder. I highly recommend you learn to like eggs if you currently don’t as they may just become your best friend  –  the humble omelette has saved me on countless occasions these past weeks. You’ll need to find new staples to replace those that are no longer allowed too, a big coffee lover and tea drinker, I never thought i’d get over letting go of my flat white but the adage about the more you try it and eventually you’ll like it is true for me it turns out. Coffee is now black and I don’t miss the milk anymore, builders tea has been dropped for Green Tea which I’d never liked until forced to find an alternative to English Breakfast and now I can’t get enough of the stuff. You might find kale hideous but try frying it with garlic and chilli and you may just learn to love it. When it comes to snacks, if you can I’d recommend giving them a miss altogether, there’s few alternatives that are really acceptable and having had the odd mouthful of cake (work recipe research purposes of course) it’s scary how I could happily have nailed the rest of the cake despite having had none for weeks – sugar sure is addictive.

While this for me this strict a path is not forever, rather one designed to heal my existing issues, it has radically changed my attitude to certain ingredients and widened my field of thought and ideas on recipes going forward. While I can’t eat any of the ideas for now *weeps* I continue to research how to incorporate lower sugar plus dairy and gluten free ideas into my own baking and how this doesn’t have to mean a lack of flavour or texture, rather just new options for delicious and healthier baking.

So if you find yourself on this journey for whatever reason, then I hope the upcoming recipe posts will be of some use to you. Good luck and don’t forget to give it time. You’ll be surprised how addictive feeling good is 🙂