This week is my 6 month blogiversary, which means that I have been working on transitioning my family to a paleo diet for half of a year! But, all those small changes have really added up and we have made amazing progress. So, I felt an update to my challenges (and my goals) is overdue.
In anticipation of writing this update, I asked my husband what he thought about “this whole paleo thing”. He said (in a fairly nonchalant voice) “It’s fine”. My initial dismay at this unenthusiastic reply was immediately tempered by what he said next: “You have made such innovative recipes in your pursuit of paleo perfection, that I don’t really miss anything. Except beer. Can you make paleo beer?”.
It’s true that one of the most helpful parts in transitioning my family was to find or create recipes for paleo versions of their staples: things like muffins, yeast-based paleo bread, granola bars, and even yogurt. My husband doesn’t have an emotional attachment to food (like I do!). So, as long as it’s easy for him, tastes okay, and doesn’t make him feel ill, he’s “fine”. That’s what he meant. And, my husband’s diet does qualify as paleo now! He relies heavily on nuts and paleo baked goods, drinks heavy cream in his coffee, and has the occasional piece of cheese or serving of rice. But, my husband doesn’t have health issues that would suggest he needs to be 100% compliant. He is a man who can cheat on a paleo diet and get away with it. However, I wanted to know whether my husband is paleo simply because I cook him paleo food. Has he bought into the concepts behind the paleo diet? We had a long discussion about this and the answer is “maybe not entirely”. But, he has really changed his way of thinking about gluten and would no longer intentionally consume it. When he travels or attends a catered function at work, he loosens the other aspects of his diet but remains steadfastly gluten-free. While I think his level of buy-in still qualifies more as supporting me than supporting this way of life, I am pleased that he has accepted this key concept.
It helped to change gradually. This allowed my family’s taste buds to adjust slowly and mitigated any adjustment period that they would have felt with a more cold-turkey-like transition (like the one I did for myself). And if you don’t have obvious health issues that are compelling you to make a dramatic change, why not transition gradually? Some people need to just jump in with both feet (I’m like this due to some sugar addiction issues), but others need to warm up to paleo more slowly. And, I want this to be a lifelong way of eating and living for my whole family, so my focus is on sustainability rather than achieving the paleo dieter badge as quickly as possible. I have addressed parts of my husband’s transition to paelo in these posts:
- A Hernia Has a Silver Lining
- New Year’s Resolutions 2012–Husband Edition
- “Wait a Minute, I Can See Your Ribs!”
As an update on our attempt to get my husband to gain some weight, he has gained 4 pounds in the last 3 weeks with the increased food intake. He feels terrible if he skips a meal or doesn’t eat enough protein at breakfast and his appetite definitely seems better. I’d like to see him gain another 10-20 pounds, preferably mostly as muscle. But that will require further changes to his lifestyle, especially his stress management.
My husband is an assistant professor with his tenure review constantly looming over him in addition to the incessant pressure of getting grants in a very competitive funding environment. He is under a great deal of stress, what we refer to as “Assistant Professor Syndrome”. One of his colleagues recently joked that, due to the demands of assistant professorship, he was only “allowed” 4 hours of sleep. When we started transitioning to a paleo diet, my husband didn’t have major health issues that needed improving. And the continued issues he does have are likely caused by living with too much stress rather than deficiencies in his diet. Changing his diet didn’t affect his seasonal allergies this spring (although he was eating alot more dairy at the time). We did discover that he has a mild FODMAP sensitivity, which simply means we can’t eat quite as many cruciferous veggies as I would like (or else he gets a pretty bad stomach ache). He still has issues sleeping and feels tired much of the time. He knows that he needs to do better with carving out more time for exercise, but most days, it seems like an insurmountable task.
So, what are my new goals for my husband? I guess now, I want to work on the other tenets of the paleolithic lifestyle. I want to find ways to help him manage his stress and get better quality sleep. I want to help him find more time to exercise and get outdoors. I’m not sure exactly how to do this, beyond being as supportive as I can. I am hoping that the recent diet changes we’ve made will help regulate his stress and sleep hormones a little better (which usually takes a couple of months to really see). But, he is making gradual progress in these areas too, and I want to emphasize how much positive change he has made these last 6 months. And I truly appreciate his continued support of my venture to improve our family’s health and my desire to candidly share our story with you. Maybe I’ll thank him by buying him some gluten-free beer.