The downside of regularly eating a healthy diet is what happens once you get off of it.
It always starts out the same way. You’ll spend several months diligently writing out meal plans and buying groceries off of a carefully prepared list. Even your special treats will be Paleo-friendly: 85% dark chocolate, or dark chocolate covered almonds… even some grain-rich but gluten free items thrown into the mix, or coconut ice cream with agave nectar. Bad, but not really bad.
But then one day you’ll get tired of cooking or even eating home-cooked food. You’ll want to go to the diner in town. Maybe you’ll even order something clean off the menu, like a turkey dinner or a steak with steamed vegetables. But then you’ll succumb to the temptation of the garlic bread that accompanies it. Or if you’re like me, you’ll only contemplate ordering something clean and decide to give yourself a break and get chicken fingers or shrimp–fried and breaded. You’ll savor each bite of the forbidden fruit, realizing that you almost forgot how good it tasted and pleased with yourself for allowing yourself a break, once in a while.
And then, the aftermath. It starts with just a bloated, full feeling you’d also forgotten while you ate your clean meals: meat and vegetables, occasionally supplemented with fruit, nuts and seeds. Then the stomach upsets or digestion problems. Then you’ll find yourself feeling incredibly sleepy, perhaps going to bed two or three hours early or suddenly needing a nap. You’ll wonder if you’re getting old, or if your diet really did have that much of an effect on you. Your feelings of guilt will fade, being replaced by thoughts of going back to your old ways, your diet of bagels, donuts and pizza. You’ll curse the gods, the unfairness of it all, and lament that having a clean diet makes cheat meals so so painful. You’ll wish for a moment to replace your picture of near-perfect health with your previous diet, where lingering discomforts were masked by their pervasive presence, because you didn’t know any better. You’ll dust off your copy of How I Became Stupid once more.
Sound familiar? In all seriousness, I haven’t found the answer to this pattern yet. I think 100% Paleo is a bit too stringent, and when I cheat, I like to go all-out and gluten-free pastries just don’t cut it. I’ve found that I can sneak small amounts of non-Paleo foods (especially if eaten immediately after a workout) without the ill effects I experience otherwise, and that dairy and sugar don’t really have much effect. I’m one of the few annoying people who could probably skip sodas completely because of their high sugar content, but am helplessly addicted to chocolate (among other things). I’m stumbling through the journey with the rest of you, cursing our Paleolithic ancestors as I go.