After successfully shedding over 80 lbs of weight eating anything I wanted within a certain caloric budget, I've become enamored with the calories in/calories out mode of thought.
I've been reading paleo articles and doing a great deal of independent research, and the case against processed foods, wheat, etc. is definitely valid. However, sticking to a mostly-paleo diet hasn't really had many noticeable effects for me, and to be honest I was a hell of a lot more relaxed and happy about the variety of food choices available to me prior to adopting a grain-free lifestyle.
I'm constantly looking for ways to justify eating peanut butter, cinnamon toast crunch, and ice cream (some of my loves), and when I see so many thin/shredded (and most importantly happy) people doing so on a regular basis while just staying active, it's a hell of a struggle to abstain. I suppose I should also note that my doctor is begging me to gain weight (5'9", 126 lbs at the moment) and I've suffered (and still do) from some disordered eating patterns and behavior. I'm anemic as well (not iron-deficient though).
I guess I'm just looking for some consolation/support. Kinda pathetic.
For some of us, the foods we eat make us feel like crap, and so we cut out everything that might be the problem to see if it helps. It's an elimination diet, with paleo as the baseline. But if the foods that make me sick don't make you sick, then I wouldn't be that worried about eating it sometimes. Maybe your body is just better adapted to the current world than mine.
But, two thoughts:
Eating cinnamon toast crunch (and not eating enough fat/meat) essentially gave me an eating disorder, because grain makes me malnourished, anxious and depressed and caused all kinds of crazy food-related behavior that I chalked up to neurosis.
Plus, this is the worst part about counting calories: you make trade-offs. Can you allot, say, 1/10 of your calories a day to processed junk food? Maybe you can with no ill effects, in which case, enjoy. But if you're allotting 1/2 your daily calories to ice cream, you're giving up nourishing foods. You won't gain weight, but even if you don't have bad food reactions, you'll get sick.
Also, please don't feel pathetic. Everyone's here looking for info/support. And if your doctor is begging you to gain weight, then consider why and consider that maybe you should. You can gain some back without gaining too much, and you can do it without falling back into your ED, I promise.
As someone who was never overweight, I am perpetually perplexed by the way weight-loss dieters seem to measure everything by "shredded"-ness. I suppose it's understandable given the obsession with weight you probably need in order to lose, but once you're at a healthy weight, weight should be the last thing you think about when it comes to food. You're eating for health, not a number on the scale or a bodyfat percentage.
Stop thinking like a fat person and start thinking like the thin person you actually are. Your mind hasn't caught up with your body and until it does you're going to be experiencing plenty of dissonance.
I know it's hard if you see apparantly healthy people eating and enjoying crap... but if you would know how they look and feel 30 years later you would probably delay the dopamin reward for the better outcome. Nearly everyone dies from degenerative diseases. More and more elderly get senility, there ability to think with a clear mind vanishes. If this happens, life becomes worthless and your personality fades away. I am happy to abandon crap food which are proven to attack our mind (and body). Bear in mind that you earn the probability of living a vibrant life even when you are old while you'll see those "healthy" people eating junk degenerate early. A healthy diet/life is not only about weight, it is about respecting our body's needs so that in return we are rewarded with health both of the body as of the mind, and the latter is the most important.
Craving processed food is often connected to childhood experiences and an imprinting of those dopamin highs. Many of us learn to be happy when we have these or those processed foods and connect the experience of eating them to being happy. It is a psychological/neurological program running us but it gets weaker and weaker the more we change to whole foods.
What is your diet like?
There is so much food variety, since eating paleo I probably ate more diverse than ever before.
My typical day was cereals with milk, sandwichs, bread, sweets, fried potatoes and other processed cereal/sugar crap.
My taste buds were so numb, that no natural existing food was tasty anymore. I needed sugar, msg, sauces and other additives to enjoy anything I ate.
Today I eat a banana, sweet potatoes or a steak and know that I need no "modern food" at all.
It is important that at first you don't limit yourself to few food groups. Within a paleo/primal framework you can enjoy anything from fruits, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, nuts, eggs, fish, meat, high quality dairy and even some grain alternatives if you prepare them properly.
There are literally hundreds of different foods out there to enjoy. If you limit yourself to some of them but then go on and eat processed food it might be wise to first search for whole foods, even if they aren't strictly paleo (dairy, fermented buckwheat). They serve you better than some cinnamon toast crunch. (whatever that is^^)
Here's my take on it... if you go by the cals in/out - then just do that & enjoy the foods - in moderation - that you enjoy.
For me, I can't compare myself to how others eat/act/look - b/c I'll never look like they do, act like them or eat like them.
If I eat something that's not usual to my diet (lots of fruit or maybe some ice cream), then I know to eat a little less the next day & keep my activity levels. I don't go overboard, in that I won't over-exercise to compensate for Thanksgiving dinner, for example, b/c I know that I'll lose what little weight I may have gained in a matter of a few days (or a week) by simply maintaining my lifestyle.
So, if you don't want to be "strict" - then don't. But don't eat your "cheat foods" all the time. Some ppl create "cheat days" that they can eat what they won't usually on their diet. If that works for you, try it.
When I went GF, I panicked & felt really sad at all the foods I thought I couldn't eat... until I realized how much REAL food is out there I hadn't tried, didn't eat often, etc. It was a period of adaptation, for sure. Every now & then I'll make GF pancakes (high protein & can only eat 2 small pancakes w/bacon instead of that insatiable stack), or GF brownies (if friends are coming over. Sure, it's not paleo, but I'm also not denying myself things I enjoyed before... but those processed GF foods are full of carbs & are processed.
You'll be ok... just give yourself some time to come around w/the changes you're making. Change takes time. So just enjoy the ride.
Like Krisha and yourself, I have experienced disordered eating behaviour, and I have determined almost definitively that neolithic foods bring on intense mental distress for me. You've got to keep away from cinnamon toast crunch and eat real food. You deserve to give your body and mind the chance to heal, and while it will be hard to keep away from the foods you are addicted to, once you spend a few months paleo your body will no longer crave neolithic foods and your mind will become much calmer.
The people I know who "thrive" on grain based diets have to take acne medicine. They have to eat every hour or will moodily bite someone's head off. They suffer from severe allergies, manic depression, and Type 2 Diabetes. People who eat grain based diets are only happy when they eat grains.
I wish you luck on your paleo journey. You've just got to keep at it and eat lots of animals, veggies, and tubers - your emotional health can and will improve.
My questions would be this: How old are the people you see looking great while eating crap? And, how much do you actually know about what they are eating on a regular basis? It's much easier to look great while eating total crap while you are young--especially if you are getting lots of exercise. That doesn't mean those choices won't catch up to you eventually because for most people, they will. Also, unless you spend a lot of time with someone it's really difficult to judge the quality of their diet. My diet at home is pretty pristine, but if I am out (where more people are likely to see me) I make more compromises. Judging my diet based on what I eat at a restaurant or at a holiday dinner would give a pretty skewed version of my dietary reality.
For me, CI/CO was a disaster. It never resulted in any significant or consistent weight loss, but it did result in disordered thoughts about food. When I adopted a WAPF/paleo diet, I stopped counting/measuring and started losing weight. However, I think it is important to remember that this style of eating isn't just about losing weight (and for some it's not about losing weight at all). It's about eating an optimal diet for health. Counting calories clearly resulted in weight loss for you and that is great since that was your goal, but eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch and ice cream isn't likely to result in long term health.
That said, there are paleo calorie counters. There is no reason you can't do both if it is really important to you and it doesn't result in disordered eating patterns. But, it's not a green light to eat junk if you want to stay healthy.
It's good that you realize you're on shaky ground with food in general. Unfortunately, losing weight doesn't cure food issues and, as you've seen, can leave you struggling more than ever. Being thinner than you want right now while having thoughts of highly processed foods just confirms your weight is still tied to rational and emotional food choices rather than the natural signals and responses of a healthy body/gut. You're still partly driven by the addictive nature of the processed foods.
I've had some of the thoughts you described. They wrecked several past diets for me, in fact, including my first cycle of ancestral eating. The problem is that when you do eat those old favorites, they may or may not taste as good as they used to if you've been eating 100% ancestral for 30 days or more. They may be so addictive that you gradually increase them until you're back to eating 100% SAD. They may make you sick, either in immediate/obvious ways or more gradual, insidious ones.
First, if you haven't yet done so I strongly suggest you get through the holidays as best you can and then consider going 100% ancestral for just 30 days--you can do 30 days, right? Then you can gradually loosen up within the domain of ancestral eating to include more foods and natural treats. You can still make crunchy things spiced with cinnamon--see this recipe as an example.
For another example, eating fermented foods--kefir, water kefir, saukraut, yogurt, etc.--all provide lots of flavor while promoting the health of your gut. I make water kefir and I'm going to try making counter-top yogurt (Finnish viili) soon and mixing it with my daily fruit choice.
You can have fun and variety in your food but do it ways that traditional societies have used to maintain health and keep their guts happy.
If you need to gain weight why not smoothies with bananas, almond butter, egg yolks, cinnamon, chocolate, and other goodies (like this)? If you have anemia, it is important to stick to an auto-immune based paleo protocol until that's resolved and find cheats that fit into that like coconut milk ice cream?
At least give up grains. You will feel a lot better. Some people just lose too much on pure paleo. I live with one. If he has to up his carbs to gain weight, he eats more sweet and white potatoes. You do not need grains for anything.
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