My journey with the Paleo lifestyle began the day after Rosh Hashanah. I use the term ‘lifestyle’ rather than ‘diet’ for many reasons. Fully committing to this major lifestyle change was a tough choice for me. As a new year approaches, it is not uncommon to profess, “I’m going to start eating healthier, control my portions and make better choices”, “I’m going to eat less, move more and exercise regularly”. However, my resolution was: “I am going to try the Paleo lifestyle for a few weeks.”
What is the paleo diet exactly? Essentially, it is eating the foods that were eaten by our ancestors in the Paleolithic era. It’s part of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle meaning that the foods you are permitted to eat are: fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, lamb, poultry, and game meat), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Foods that are not considered part of the lifestyle are dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and other processed foods since these items were not part of our ancestral menu.
The desire for this change came after staffing the Hazon Cross-USA ride. I made the decision that I wanted to start eating cleaner, organic foods. My usual diet would be considered pretty healthy to most, as I only eat kosher meat and stick to vegetarian when I’m dining out. I had heard about the Paleo diet before the Ride but never wanted to commit fearing that my already restricted kosher lifestyle would restrict me even further. But when I heard that my Crossfit Gym, Crossfit Dynamix in Astoria was going to do a “Paleochallenge” I found the inspiration to give it a try.
Eating Paleo meant strict meal planning and preparation. It was something I was mentally ready to commit to and a new personal challenge I wanted to take on. I thoroughly enjoy scoping out farmers markets weekly to see what unusual fruits and vegetables are available and then I challenge myself to make innovative recipes using them. Upon my first foray in to the Paleo lifestyle, I took a trip to my local farmers market, grocery list in hand. I was able to sample different beautifully colored fruits and veggies, it really gave me a sense of what eating organic and sustainably really meant I ordered my meat from Grow and Behold — kosher, organic, grass fed meat — the best kind around, just like the kind our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. After one week of meal prep and food organizing I was hooked. Even though the temptations were there and I felt a bit hungry at first, I was able to turn this challenge into a sustainable lifestyle. I’m about 5 weeks in and have never felt better! In general, I feel great, have more energy and have already surpassed my personal strength goals.
During my morning commute I have even become a Paleo nerd and I use the time to listen to a variety of Paleo podcasts. One in particular grappled with the debate of flavor versus nutrition. Our biochemistry was designed to draw us to foods for the sole purpose of nourishment. This podcast highlighted that the five main flavors we are designed to taste tell us different things. Salty and savory flavors are generally associated with meat, while bitter tends to mean that something may be poisonous. Sour flavors are things we should avoid; and lastly if it is sweet it is simply not poisonous. Keeping this in mind, we can extrapolate from this argument that the processed foods we have come to know and love aren’t based on our nutrition but rather flavor. We gravitate towards food items that nourish us. Going back to our original question, if a caveman found a cookie in a cave, would he eat it? My answer: only if it was made out of berries and smelled sweet!
*Adrienne Winton works at Hazon and staffed Hazon’s 2012 Cross USA Ride and is looking forward to another adventure next summer! Adrienne holds a Master’s degree in Outdoor Education from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Adrienne loves travelling, exploring unique Jewish communities and creating innovative recipes in her small yet versatile kitchen. *