Feedback On My, Eat Mostly Food I’ve Grown Myself Challenge

fruits-and-vegetables

For most of my life I’ve subscribed to the low fat, high carbohydrate philosophy of eating, what I’ve actually eaten has varied quite a lot but it’s safe to say that it’s been dominated by wheat and oats, in all it’s forms, but mostly bread.  Fresh foods have mostly been fruit, dominated by pears, apples and grapes with very few vegetables, oh and I love sweets and cakes.  I’ve tried to discipline myself many times over those years, to try and reduce the sugar and eat more whole grains but I’ve not been completely successful.

A few years ago I came across the Paleo style of eating and the associated lifestyle.  It really appealed to me, I was at a time in my life that was dominated by the modern ills, I was watching a lot of TV, buying and using too many gadgets, eating too much processed food and completely dependent on a half dozen medicines to get me through the day.  I was in pain most of the time and suffering from daily headaches and brain fog.  I was stressed and anxious.  I kept positive though, continued to work hard and walk every day but I needed more.  Paleo provided that ‘more’ or at least it did for a few months, but I found it a huge struggle to eat so few carbs, which was then considered key to Paleo, so I gradually drifted away from strict Paleo and then old bad habits started to creep back in.

Interest in the concept of Paleo though still burned bright in me, the idea that the way we evolved to live over the last million years and especially the last 100,000 years MUST inform the way we live today.  As a society we seem to think we can evolve ourselves as quickly as we do our technology, which is clearly ridiculous when you think about it.  Paleo wasn’t my first flirtation with healthy living though, I’ve been interested in diet, exercise and stress management for about 40 years, I’ve not always actioned what I’ve read though because the advice metered out is either too restrictive, required too much discipline or was just too contradictory.

But I’ve kept reading and listening to podcasts about Paleo and health in general and gradually refined my own beliefs, informed by our evolutionary heritage, but also workable for me.  When I retired a couple of months ago I decided that the time was right implement this philosophy for living well and to start testing it to refine it to the point where I could realistically follow it for the long term.

In a nutshell my philosophy for living well in retirement is as follows:

  1. Eat whole unprocessed foods
  2. Eat mostly vegetables and berries
  3. Eat a little meat, eggs and diary – all from organic and/or high animal welfare sources, ideally outdoor and naturally reared
  4. Minimise my consumption of wheat
  5. Move around most of the day and keep busy
  6. Include variety into my days, weeks, months and seasons.  Really mix things up every few years
  7. Be kind and leave the world better than I find it
  8. Have plenty of time for myself and my own interests
  9. Carve out time to really relax, reading, meditating, listening to music, napping
  10. Spend lots of time with friends and family

I decided to use 30 day challenges to help me build the habits that underpin these 10 lifestyle pillars.  Eating mostly food I’ve grown myself was one of those challenges.  It contributed to the following:

  1. Eat whole unprocessed foods
  2. Eat mostly vegetables and berries
  3. Minimise my consumption of wheat
  4. Move around most of the day and keep busy
  5. Be kind and leave the world better than I find it
  6. Have plenty of time for myself and my own interests

To make the challenge practical I also allowed myself to eat wholefoods that I hadn’t grown, so long as I was growing them but they were not yet in season. Very importantly I also allowed myself wholefoods that I’d not grown, like eggs and meat, if I’d done enough exercise to ‘earn’ them, otherwise I’d have starved.

It turned out to be a really eye opening experience, I loved it, but couldn’t quite achieve it.  The idea of growing and eating my own food was hugely appealing, I’d already started marking smoothies, which made it logistically practical to eat a huge amount of vegetables, and I was already doing a lot of exercise, so I had calories in the bank to invest in buying meat, buts, eggs, dairy etc.  I really tried hard to stick to the rules of the challenge and I managed it 95% of the time, failing only:

  1. When we went out for a family meal to a carvery restaurant and I just had to have Yorkshire Puddings – no noticeable negative affects
  2. Twice when I was driving for six hours and found that M&S Pork Pies provided the best way to get the fuel I needed to survive the ordeal – no noticeable negative affects, apart from too many calories
  3. Once in the cinema I binged on dark chocolate orange protein bars – which rapidly resulted in an outbreak of acne
  4. I allowed myself dark chocolate rice cakes and munched down a few too many of them as a treat for drinking yet another very green smoothie – empty calories and too many carbs
  5. I desperately needed something to snack on and didn’t find any whole, unprocessed food to fit the bill, so I snacked on cheese spread triangles at night

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Smoothies were key to success for me, I could quickly make them up the night before and they contained a huge amount of veg.  Once they were made up I didn’t want to waste them
  2. I could survive happily without wheat, although a little wheat had no negative affects
  3. I struggled to eat enough, so I found myself eating too much meat
  4. I craved carbs, so I munched rice cakes
  5. Don’t keep cheese spread triangles and rice cakes in the house

Now that I’ve completed the challenge, quite a few of the habits have stuck and I’ve decided to grow even more of my own food.  This is how I’m planning to eat from now on:

  1. I will continue to drink three smoothies a day and these will, where possible, be filled with garden produce: blueberries, lettuce, kale, cabbage, broccoli, radish, beets, cold potato, green bananas, tomato paste, olive, coconut or avocado oil
  2. I’ve discovered a good snack food, I make up a small pot of mixed nuts, dried apricots and a few banana chips and it lasts me all day
  3. I’m only eating meat once a day and eat a mix of grass fed beef and poultry with a huge pile of veg
  4. I’m only eating eggs a few times a week normally when I go out for breakfast with family and friends, that’s the only time I will eat bacon too
  5. I’m still allowing myself a little wheat, but only in the form of hot buttered toast or Yorkshire Puddings when I’m eating out
  6. I’m eating a large berry salad for supper with a couple of spoonful’s of full cream
  7. When I’m exercising heavily I allow myself a bowl of toasted oat granola with lots of nuts, seeds and coconut and a glass of milk
  8. I’m mainly drinking water now, but I allow myself a can of ice cold coke a day, sometimes two when it’s hot
  9. I’m considering making whole wheat sour dough bread, if I manage to convince myself that it’s healthy

The biggest lesson though is the huge amount of satisfaction that comes from growing food and eating it, I’m doubling the amount of my garden that’s dedicated to berries and veg and I’ve put my name down for an allotment.  Ideally I’d like chickens on that allotment too.

I’m tapping out this post in Caffe Nero first thing in the morning, it’s a lovely sunny Sunday and I’m planning on a decent walk followed by a relaxing afternoon reading with a few cleaning chores thrown in in keep me mobile.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. November 1, 2015

    […] been toying with sustainability, going for a year without buying anything, recycling carefully, growing my own food but there’s much more I can do and will be doing.  I’m going to try and create less waste, […]

  2. December 16, 2015

    […] the shopping and cooking for the family, I keep the house and garden, clean and well maintained and grow lots of my own food, I make my own compost and look after the cats.  Hundreds of litle steps in the right direction […]

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