To Paleo or Not to Paleo?

What happens when the diet everyone says will work for you . . . doesn’t?

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Over the last two years I have developed a careful relationship with food. I’ve had to give up gluten and dairy (originally in order to recover from constant respiratory infections). This means no processed foods for the most part. I also consume vastly less sugar. It’s quite a change from my carb-heavy (and weighty) days of yore. I lost 100 lbs and five dress sizes. There have been other profound changes. If you’d like to know more, please ask in comments.

Foods still included in my diet that were not Paleo were white potatoes, soy, popcorn, beans, lentils and rice. I did eat GF breads on occasion, but am just as happy without them.

My partner and I decided to undertake a Paleo challenge to improve overall body composition. I expected this shift to be easy. Food-wise, it was. Unfortunately it completely upset the happy balance I had achieved with my digestive system. I have been extremely physically uncomfortable with highly unpleasant gut pain since undertaking Paleo. You might argue that I’m doing it wrong-too much fat, not enough fat, too much fiber, not enough fiber–but the truth is I put a lot of time and research into our meal plans including snacks. I have read multiple Paleo food and lifestyle books and blogs. I was prepared for this, and shifts one way or another week over week made no positive impact.

So, I began to reintroduce the foods I cut out. It took about three days for my body to turn around. I’m still struggling. If I weren’t 100% sure it isn’t the case, I would think I’ve been eating gluten. Gluten causes extreme brain fog for me. I haven’t had any of that. I just hurt and feel sick to my stomach all the time.

And this doesn’t even touch trying to budget for a family of five to eat within a Paleo plan.

Here’s the thing, friends (esp GF friends): Paleo can be a much better way to eat for most of you. It cuts out processed food and sugars. It does not mean eating only meat. You should be eating more vegetation than meats, and I have heard of Paleo vegetarians who stick with nuts and seeds, fruits and veggies (which makes more sense than the meat-at- every-meal version I see many friends practicing–after all, meat was a sometimes good , not a staple in the Paleolithic era). I want to be clear this is not a vilification of the Paleo diet. I will still post Paleo recipes just as I share GF or dairy-filled recipes. However , if you have already achieved gut health through an elimination diet, don’t mess with your food choices. We all have different eating needs. There is no one “right” plan for everyone. If you are concerned about weight loss, add exercise–especially weight-bearing exercise.

And this post doesn’t even touch the prohibitive task of budgeting for a family of five. If you thought gluten-free eating hiked up your bill. . .

For me, I suspect walnuts were a major player in my gastric distress, but I can’t be sure. Everything went to heck within a week of Paleo eating, and I hadn’t introduced walnuts at that time. After their introduction, though, I experienced a new kind of intestinal pain.

Since recovery isn’t new to me, I’m comfortably on the road. I’m sad to say goodbye to Paleo in a way–for a long time I saw it as the only possible answer. Yes, that was short-sighted and ego-centric, but it’s also a very American way of thinking. Fortunately, pre-Paleo, my goal of healthy eating was already met. I’m happy to get back to it.

What are your experiences with #Paleo eating? What other elimination diets have you tried? Why did you try them? What was the outcome?

The Docks Episode 5

In the mood for a post-apocalyptic SF/F web-serial? Click here for previous episodes of The Docks

***

When my eyes had searched back over the dunes, I’d thought it impossible we’d find the Jeep again. The sun was pushing up at the darkness, but the Jeep was nowhere in sight. I stood holding onto Helene’s shoulders, still trembling from my out of body experience combined with the horror of finding Alan after all. I dismissed the thought that all this time, our bonfires had been built from human bodies.

“We’re taking him with us,” Helene said.

I wanted to argue that this was his grave, but Alan was whole if not lifelike in his petrified state. Glossy, tinted purple, slick as glass. His hair was parted to one side as if it had never been out of place, despite a screaming, flailing fall into the unknown. His face was peaceful. Happy, almost. I bent to look closer. Helene’s back shifted and blocked my view. I tried to make sense of the rush of emotion she was trying to hide. She was recomposing the expression on her face. Possessive. She was filled with fire and hate. I stepped backward.

“Of course we’ll take him with us. I’m just trying to figure out how.”

As if something were listening, the sand began to rise beneath us. Helene threw her arms around Alan, trying to find purchase so he wouldn’t slide from her grip. I threw my arms around her. We rode the shifting dunes back toward our fire. I could see it burning, a small dot in the lightning distance, and there was Helene’s Jeep.

“What’s happening?” she shouted.

“I don’t know.”

The motion stopped near our fire, some sand snuffing it out. Helene cradled Alan’s head. I turned to watch dunes ripple in and out of existence until whatever had carried us was back home in the seabed. I wanted to shout after it. “What are you?” Maybe, “Thank you, but why?” Why had it given us Alan, delivered us and him back to the Jeep? I saw the twin stars again in my mind. The glow was controlled and furious. I felt the mystery calling to me, calling through me. I was certain I was necessary for some goal, but I felt intermediary. “What do you want?” I was shouting.

“I want to go home! Let’s just go, Bria. Thank you for coming with me. I don’t want you to tell me what happened out there. There was . . . something.” She shivered. “Something you did. I know that. But whatever you did, I know you weren’t trying to hurt me.” She shivered again, making me aware of the physical pain she was feeling. It had been hidden until now.

Wait, what was she saying? Helene knew about our bond, but she wasn’t sure what it was. She wanted me to explain, but first-

“ . . . home,” she was saying. “Can you drive us? Bria?”

I took the keys. We’d have to make time to get there before daylight. And there was Sheriff to get past.

We loaded Alan in the car, flat on his back, stretched out as he was. We had to tip the front seat down.

Helene sat in the back, her hand over one of his.

“Are you in there, Alan?” she was saying. “It’s almost like you’re in there. I know it’s silly, but, are you?”

I saw her hand play over his face. She trailed her fingertips over his throat, the love plain on her face and fractured heart. When her tears began to fall, I kept my eyes on the road. I needed to focus. I gripped the steering wheel, reweaving the shield as I blinked rapidly against tears of my own.

On Growing as a Writer (and an announcement)

I woke up this morning to find a pitch rejection in my inbox. This was happy because the rejection was expected, but not within four hours of submission. I expected to wait 2-3 weeks for any response. I can’t take the immediate rejection as an insult because, while the pitched piece is strong, the essay walks just over the line of what this magazine publishes. I was well aware of that, having done my research first by reading their published pieces. What I said to myself was, “It can be shaped.” Also, I had a plan for where to submit next. I will enact that plan today.

It’s lovely to develop a professional relationship with my work and its acceptance /rejection. In 2008 I was just growing myself as a professional writer. Post-partum depression and PTSD derailed that process. I am beginning again on completely new themes with three children who are my full-time responsibility.

It is difficult every day not to see a paycheck–not to have a numeric compensation for this work I do. I could sit and estimate what I save us per annum by remaining at home and fully accessible to my children’s needs, but that value is one reflected in small successes.

Truly, launching oneself as a writer is the same, especially in the game of Nonfiction. While I do have the option of donation on this blog (PayPal on the sidebar) and would love that personal recognition, for me it is equal to a comment or a share. (Please comment! Please share! Follow me on Twitter and retweet my work! I seriously squee with joy for each of these actions, AND I take the time to respond personally.) As for writing outside this blog, monetary compensation will be minimal for quite some time, I expect. I will plug away.

Currently I am in a space of consideration of what to safely share. I have a backlog of essays exploring events and themes I cannot be certain I want to own as me. Writing should not be safe, but we must still protect ourselves–a topic we will in my local writing workshop, Writing Through Trauma. You can now sign up here. (Please Overlook the misspelling of my name. This is a brand new page for Unity and we are working together to sort out the links.) The class runs Mondays, 6-8 PM from January 19-March 9. I will post course details soon. For now, know that Winter is coming. You can use it to examine those thoughts not quite sleeping.

The Docks: Episode 4

Miss an episode? Click here.

***

How could I let this happen? I looked around at the shifting sands, drifting eerily without the wind to move them. Helene stood next to me, her eyes narrowed in the moonlight. “There’s something out here,” she said. She took a sideways step toward me. Our shoulders touched. I shivered with the effort of keeping the wall between us. It wasn’t easy. What Helene was feeling was the raw wound of a lost spouse. She’d been tied to Alan, that much I was knew. She’d told me as much on the doorstep.

“Will I always feel this way?” was what she greeted me with as soon as I opened the door. “Will it hurt like this forever?”

“Helene-“ I began, but how do you continue? Her face was blotched and red. Her eyelashes twinkled wet under the porchlight. “Do you want to come in?”

“No,” she said, smoothing her hair down absently. “I don’t know why I came here. I just-“ She trailed off.

I knew why she was at my door in the middle of the same night Alan had died. I’d been with her when he was swallowed up by that great nothing we were staring into right now. I had opened myself to her, foolishly, impulsively, to ease her grief on the ride back to Soel. She was bonded to me know, a piece of my mind the way I would be a piece of hers, if it were possible for her to learn bonding. My mother seemed to think it would be impossible for Helene to recognize and reciprocate the bond the way she and my sister could.

Maybe she was right.

But Helene had looked at me in a way that would have touched my heart even if she hadn’t been bonded mind to my mind. “Come with me. I know we haven’t been friends, but I feel like I can trust you with this.” She’d leaned forward and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Sheriff’s with Alan’s family. My parents think I’m asleep. I came out the window.” She’d cocked her head to the Jeep in the drive. “My dad’s.”

“Sure,” I’d said, grabbed my jacket from the hook on the back of the door, and disappeared without a word to my own family. I could feel Jana with me though. My sister was listening, ready to help if I needed her.

***

We were already into the canteen of Frist I kept snapped inside my coat. Helene held it in front of her, turning the round container to let the firelight illuminate the odd inscription. “What does it say?” she asked.

I looked at the words, curved and pointed in the Brazic script of Deserters. “And always come home to Me,” I whispered.

She sipped Frist from the spout and handed it back to me. “Thank you. It’s helping.”

We returned to staring silently at the moving sea of sand beyond the docks. Our fire burned green at our feet. I felt the Frist igniting my energy. The cobwebs were clearing. The night unrolled backward. I let the trance overtake me.

There was Alan, spewed up from the sand. Up to the docks, waving, walking backward, pausing now and again to rest. We were all there, the Middles and Uppers of Soel high school. Me, my first time in the dunes, watching the fire uneasily. The fire disappearing into the sand. The Uppers removing the driftwood back to where they found it.

In my trance, I split myself. My father had taught me this; to exist in one plane but investigate another. Time reversed. The fire was lit. I looked at myself, then past myself to the docks, and past the docks to the waterless seabed. Was there something there? Was Helene right? On the way back to Soel, second vision had shown me something sinuous with a jaw that unhinged to swallow Alan whole. I searched the sands.

There, twinkling in the seabed. Two stars. Not stars. Eyes. Locked with mine. I stood rigid, gasping against the trance, against Helene who was shaking me and crying, “Bria, where are you? Don’t leave me here. I need you! Bria, come back!”

The eyes came toward me. Dunes rose and fell like waves as a beast found her way out of a waterless grave. How long have you been here, Strange Creature? You, I wanted to tell her. You are beautiful. But what are you? How long have you been waiting underneath the sand? What have you been waiting for? And why do you stir now?

“Alan!” Helene was screaming. “ALAN!”

I broke free of my trance and found her running toward the docks. What was she doing? 

“Helene! Come back!”

“ALAN!” she shrieked into the deathly still night.

I followed her, pulling my knees high as I knew to keep traction as I ran in the sand. “Helene, he can’t be here. Come back!” I pushed hard to catch her. She was moving at speeds I didn’t know were possible on shifting ground. Sharp grains of sand found their way into my throat. It burned. I panted. “Stop, Helene! Wait for me!”

I lost sight of her when she ducked behind a newly formed dune. I continued running as I had been, parallel to the nearest dock. “Helene?”

“Alan!” I heard. Her voice was muted by distance.

I unraveled the wall I’d built to protect myself from her. I threw my conscious outside my own body until I found hers. Helene hadn’t bonded me in return. That left what we shared incomplete. The symmetry of a bond was what gave it stability. Should I lose my mother or sister, some piece of them would always remain with me through the bond they had created. I wasn’t certain, but if Helene were lost forever in the dunes, I would be lost too. Eventually my shield would weaken, and if she were alive and crazy, my mind would be lost to hers. If she were dead, the absence would suck me into its void. So I slammed my mind into her body and led myself to where she cried over a long piece of driftwood.

Putting my body back on was like rolling on a bed of cactus.  My mouth was dry and my throat burned. The shift hurt, and it took me a moment to regain my senses. When my vision cleared, I stumbled toward Helene. My hands found her shoulders. “Come on,” I told her.

She stood up and I gasped, my brain scrambling to make sense of what my eyes were seeing. It wasn’t driftwood Helene was crying over. It was Alan’s body, perfectly petrified.

***

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Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Curry with Meatballs

You may not know this, but I used to keep a recipe blog that had many dedicated followers. Mostly, I shared recipes that fell from the many branches of my family’s cultural tree. However, I also made health-conscious adjustments to old Betty Crocker recipes. There was a lot of trial and error.

Because I was on a budget with little kids, I became quite proficient in adjusting my recipes for slow cooking and savings. Right now, I’m supporting my partner in a #Paleo challenge he is doing with our #CrossFit gym. Here is a Paleo slow cooker recipe that is just right for Fall. Happy eating!

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Curry with Meatballs

12 servings

1-2 lbs ground beef, formed into small meatballs and cooked
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced or shredded
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 head cauliflower, chopped or shredded (optional)
28 oz. canned tomato sauce
2 T tomato paste
1 T green curry powder
2-3 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin seed
2 tsp dried cilantro flakes
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground clove
coconut or olive oil
Water

Place vegetable except for onion and garlic in the slow cooker. After browning the meatballs, add onion, garlic and spices to the pan along with coconut or olive oil. Sautee 1 minute and add tomato sauce. Remove from heat, mix well, and pour into your slow cooker. Add enough water to bring the liquids just even with meat and veggies.

Cook on HIGH 5 hours.

I serve this as a one pot meal.