Friday, June 13, 2014

Jamie's Thoughts: Paleo Burnout and How I Turned it Around

I admit it--I'm late to the game on this one.  Many of you in the Paleo community have long since discovered what a useful tool Melissa Joulwan's book, Well Fed is.  I am in love.  Seriously.  This book is awesome.

Danielle Walker's book, Against All Grain is what first turned me onto Paleo.  I adore her book and her inspiring story.  That book will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to this thing called Paleo.  So will her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I also love food.  I hesitate to call myself a "foodie" because I think that term's overdone.  But I was a "foodie" long before the term even existed.  The amount of time I spend thinking about it, researching it, and just generally immersed in it--is probably abnormal.  I knew that to sustain this lifestyle I was going to need to make flavorful, creative dishes to keep me inspired.  I was so worried about falling into a Paleo rut, that I ended up with a little bit of Paleo burnout.

Paleo burnout.  What does that mean?  Full disclosure here.  Let's start by talking about my schedule.  I work full time.  Well, often more than full time.  As a lawyer, when a deadline looms, an 8-hour workday is nonexistent.  Whatever and however long it takes to meet the deadline.  Sometimes this means working late into the night or even into the early morning hours.  I once contemplated sleeping at my office overnight. And lately, I've been putting long hours in at the office.

When I started my journey, I liked a bunch of Paleo pages on Facebook and signed up for various Paleo blogs.  And I measured myself against those beautifully photographed, innovative dishes I was seeing everyday online.  I exhausted myself to try to make beautiful Paleo desserts and to try new recipes with ingredients I had never used before.  I just couldn't keep up.  My work schedule coupled with the fact that I was putting a ton of pressure on myself to cook and have on hand creative, new Paleo dishes at all times was exhausting.  I found myself wondering just how sustainable this lifestyle was for me.  I was tired.  I had a case of Paleo burnout.

Then one day, I was on a plane traveling to New York City to visit some friends.  I brought along Melissa Joulwan's book Well Fed as reading material.  It had been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple months, neglected.  As I read the book, I discovered that Melissa advocated a very doable approach to Paleo--one that won't leave you in the kitchen all day for hours on end.

Melissa comes from a restaurant family and she learned about prepping food in advance like restaurants.  In other words, she learned about how to cook in volume.  While many Paleo bloggers suggest doing a weekly "batch cooking,"  Melissa goes a step further and tells you exactly how to do it--so that you can cook up quick meals over the weeknight and incorporate lots of veggies into your diet too.  She calls it a "Cooking WOD" or workout of the day like they do in CrossFit.  She provides step by step instructions on shopping, steam sauteeing veggies, and browning ground meats in advance to prepare you for the week.   Following her suggestions in Well Fed has really improved my Paleo diet.  I now eat way more veggies and fewer Paleo desserts.  She suggests 6 or 7 cups of veggies a day.  And her methods have also have helped keep me sane.  She suggests that most of your meals should be what she calls "Hot Plates"  These are easy skillet meals using meat and veggies you have pre-prepared, so they are done in about 10 minutes flat.

My very first "Cooking WOD" was pretty painless and it went something like this:

1.  I started out making a batch of bone broth in the slow cooker.  Yum, Yum.  Love having bone broth on hand as a snack for when I get home from work.  So much better for you than cheetos.

2.  Then, I seasoned some chicken thighs and put them the oven to roast.

3.  And I hard boiled a dozen eggs from pastured chickens.  These are so great to have on hand in the event of a hunger emergency.

4.  Next, I chopped up some cauliflower and garlic for cauliflower puree.  Mmmmm.

5.  And here comes the chopping:

Sliced cucumber.  Nice to add to salads and for a quick snack.

I had some leftover tomato I needed to use.  So, I sliced it up, put a little salt on it, and tossed it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Then I roasted it at 425 degrees for about 20-30 minutes.  Makes a great addition to salads.  

Chopped some onion for Melissa's Hot Plates.  

Sliced some red pepper to have on hand.  

And I chopped up some kale to steam sautee for future "Hot Plates."  Doesn't it look beautiful?  

6.  And I made some Paleo pesto which I later covered in olive oil to keep it fresh.  Isn't pesto magical?  I used this in salads and for zucchini noodles.

7.   And last but not least, I browned some grassfed ground beef with onion:

I also made some Paleo mayonaise but didn't photograph it.  All of this probably took me about two hours total.  And it kept me going for most of the rest of the week. Amazing.  There are so many little golden nuggets of Paleo wisdom in this book.  It really is a must read for people just starting out on this diet.

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