In the months since starting Paleo (July 2011), I had almost forgotten what it felt like to have a stomach ache.
However, over the last few weeks I have learned two important lessons:
1. balance on your plate is just as important as eating whole foods
2. listening to your body is essential
These lessons have come as a result of a series of digestion issues. Specifically, in the form of crampy aching after most of my meals. This has led to a lot of frustration for me (“I’m eating Paleo foods… why is my stomach hurting?” ”I have a Paleo website and a Facebook page with over 2800 fans… I can’t tell all of those people that I’m having regular belly-aches!”).
It started week before last. Almost every night, right after dinner, I started feeling a little queasy and crampy (in my lower stomach… not like heartburn or acid reflux). Usually, after about an hour, the feelings would go away. I figured it was just a fluke because I was so busy with work and gearing up for a trip, so I kept going on my merry way.
The next week (last week), I was in San Diego on a business trip. I know that I consumed gluten on at least two occasions that week (not voluntarily, I promise!). I also snacked on a lot of nuts and fruits. I had a stomach ache almost every night that I was away. At that point, I blamed it on the stress of travel, working in a different environment, jet lag, and too many meals out.
I came home on Sunday evening, ready to get back on track and let my gut re-heal. However, I have still been in some pain almost every night this week… UNTIL TONIGHT.
Why tonight? Well, I think it’s because I haven’t consumed ANY nuts today, and I’ve had very little fruit.
WHAT?? But I thought nuts, seeds, and fruits were allowed on the Paleo diet!!
Yes, they are allowed! But let me tell you something:they should be eaten in moderation.
Last night I sat down and had a heart-to-heart with myself. What has changed in the last three weeks that could have caused all of these digestion woes? Well, there are a few things that have changed, but the summation is this: I have gotten a little lazy.
So today I did a little test. I woke up, made myself a real breakfast (3 eggs, scrambled with kale in coconut oil, bacon, and chamomile tea with full-fat coconut milk), stayed satisfied until it was time to make a good lunch (chicken and leftover kale with fresh guacamole), snacked on a few blueberries with a cup of hot tea, and then had a delicious dinner (garlic-lemon chicken with roasted carrots and balsamic onions). I felt so healthy all day!
That means that you should make sure your body has what it needs, that it is comfortable, and that it is disciplined.
Whether we like it or not, all three of those things require that we make a commitment. It’s very easy for me to put myself on the back burner. When I’m doing something important (working, taking care of things at home, even blogging), I will sometimes ignore feelings of hunger, or try to do something quick to make it go away (a spoonful of almond butter, a handful of pistachios, a square of dark chocolate, etc.). I will sometimes do a tough workout when my body is already crying out for rest. And I won’t even go into my occasional sleep issues (here’s a hint: I do not like going to bed early).
Well guess what, folks? It turns out that stomach aches are not as fun as I remember.
And guess what else? This is all in my control!
I sometimes complain about how overweight people don’t just reach out and GRAB an opportunity for better health! It is all in your control! But here I am realizing that I myself have not been taking advantage of that control.
1. I’m taking a break from nuts and seeds, and slowing down on the fruit. Will I miss my heaping spoonful of almond butter with flaxseeds? Yes. Will I want to take a dive into the huge Costco pistachio bag every time I walk past them in the kitchen? Probably. Will I wish that I could make my favorite chocolate chip cookies every night? Definitely! But I control my habits; my habits do not control me.
2. I am forcing myself to eat three good meals each day. This means that my little habit (developed over the last few weeks) of not eating breakfast, even though I’m hungry, needs to end. And grabbing a smoothie or a handful of nuts for lunch is no longer allowed (I knew this already, but like I said before… I allowed myself to get a little lazy!). To ensure that this happens, I’m putting breaks for food in my work calendar (which guides my day). If that’s what it takes, that is what I’ll do!
3. It’s time to get back into better sleep habits. I learned so much about the importance of sleep in February, and I don’t want to let all of those benefits fall by the wayside!
4. I have to listen to my body. When I am exhausted from traveling and not eating well (as I have been this week), I do not need to work out. My adrenals don’t need any more stress. Therefore, I am taking the rest of this week off. On Monday, I’ll ease myself back into my regular workout routine, and I’ll be rested and strong enough to handle it.
5. It’s time for some gut-healing. I’m not sure if my gut is irritated by the over-consumption of nuts, or by the recent gluten consumption (probably both!), but I’m definitely feeling like I have some healing to do. I’ll be making some bone broth, loading up on the sauerkraut, trying a little liver, and sipping on some kombucha over the next few weeks (take a look at #2, #3, and #4 at this link).
For a look at my complete “protocol,” click here.