In Case You Were Wondering…

I didn’t intend to ignore most of the good lessons I’ve learned in the last two years; it just sort of happened. The universe has sent me a smack pack of reminders, and I’m sharing them with you so you don’t have to receive a similar gift basket of your own.

It started last Saturday night with a wedding. The evening was balmy. My husband Dave was looking SO handsome. Romance was in the air… and I had a cocktail in my hand. After dino-chow-friendly BBQ, I had another vodka & soda… and then a giant piece of Italian cream cake. Which I ate like an animal.

I felt 100% guilt free and enjoyed myself immensely.

Sunday evening, cuddled on the couch watching Scream 2, gluten-free pizza seemed like the best idea ever. I mentally praised myself for not eating my entire half of the pie.

And on Tuesday, when we realized our income tax refund was going to four times as much as we’d hoped, we decided to celebrate: Cuban food at the restaurant where we held our wedding dinner. Fried plantains. Yucca. Hunks of crispy pork. Mango-infused rum cocktails. And trés leches cake.

Friday, one of my best buddies at work was celebrating his last day before jumping ship to a new job. We had a beautiful, decadent meal and cocktails at Second Bar + Kitchen. My entree was a sensible and tasty pile of sauteed greens topped with slices of grilled steak – but I had bites of a handful of non-dino-chow appetizers – and my own fork to sample the array of desserts that hit the table (including – oh, my! – a chocolate toffee sticky pudding with bacon ice cream). And then, since I’m telling you the ugly, naked truth, I drank two vodka & sodas at our Karaoke Apocalypse show.

To cap off the week of hedonism, I snarfed my way through some tortilla chips and salsa on Saturday morning, alongside my healthy, dino-chow approved bowl of caldo de res. And then after a somewhat reasonable BBQ lunch, I ate a bunch of bites of banana pudding with whipped cream.

That’s quite a collection of treats, no?

Here’s the thing… any one of those meals would have been so OK with me. But instead, looking back on the week, I realized it was almost like a slow-motion binge in between squeaky-clean dino-chow meals.

I can’t help but think: What was I thinking?!

The truth is, I wasn’t thinking. I was just chowing.

I thought I was celebrating, but I forgot that true celebration is accompanied by mindfulness. And that celebratory emotions – joy, love, triumph, woot it’s friday! – can and should be separated from food and drink. It’s totally appropriate to mark a special occasion with a treat… but it’s best when it’s done by being fully present and savoring each bite. All of the occasions listed above would have been just as sweet if I’d shown restraint in the food and booze departments.

I don’t feel guilty, and I’m not beating myself up – which is a huge improvement over past behavior.

But I am realizing that all that “fun” really wasn’t such a great idea for me. Around about Thursday morning, I started wondering if my period was coming early because I was so freakin’ cranky.

I actually told a co-worker who was annoying me that I was going to stab him in the face.

By Friday night, I was feeling pudgy and unattractive – not the right frame of mind when I’m supposed to be the confident, fun-loving hostess of Karaoke Apocalypse.

Saturday, I was a hormonal wreck, still blaming pre-pre-PMS. Until I reflected on the week and the sugar-alcohol-grain roller coaster ride on which I’d taken myself.

Here’s the thing: physically, I don’t feel all that terrible. I didn’t have a stomach ache or weird bathroom experiences. I didn’t feel really depressed – just a little “off” – and I laughed a fair amount this week, along with the crankies.

But I didn’t feel Good. And I certainly didn’t feel Strong. Powerful. Confident. Energized.

Sometimes I wonder if being all picky-pants about what I eat is worth it. You know how it is… we say “no” to cocktails most of the time. Pass on dessert. Avert our eyes from the brie on the cheese board as we reach for the olives included as garnish.

Make no mistake, my faith in the power of dino-chow is strong, but even I wonder from time to time if all the fuss is necessary.

But that’s because I’ve forgotten what the “old normal” felt like. Puffy. Sniffly. Cranky. Lethargic.

Pretty much the anti-superhero.

I enjoyed myself quite a bit this week. I also felt crappy quite a bit this week.

This morning, determined to get back to feeling Good, I went for a run-walk around the lake and had a nice little chat with myself about the difference between “fun” and “happy.” Again. Then I came home and got busy in the kitchen. So far today, I’ve eaten homemade machacado and eggs, mango with coconut milk, and deconstructed hamburger salad.

That’s ever so much better.

I’ve been reminded… again… that yes, it’s worth it.

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  • Judes says:

    I've just had a similar experience, although over a weekend instead of a week. I just posted it an hour ago on the blog, although alot more rambly and pointless than your post!

    I'm also guilty of something similar here:
    "I actually told a co-worker who was annoying me that I was going to stab him in the face" – but it involved eyeballs and ballpoint pens.

    Thanks for posting 🙂


  • Patty says:

    Hey Mel, just more content for those books/cookbooks/new blog/etc! Sometimes, we do have to be reminded …over and over and over. On the upside, congrats on the giant tax refund, getting back to super-hero status, and for only threatening the co-worker. 🙂

  • nickjunk1 says:

    I'm one who not only has to be reminded….over and over and over (love that Patty!), but my 'forgetfullness' lasts a whole lot longer than you girls! Perhaps because I'm newer and still getting my feet planted firmly? Thanks for your great blog!

  • Kara says:

    great blog post. it sounds like i was reading it straight out of my journal. just because the chips and pretzels are easy, doesn't mean I have to have them. Thank you for posting this!

  • Megan says:

    Great post! I went off the reserve for a few meals this weeknd as well to celebrate a batchlorette party, a wedding, and a few other meals with old friends. MAN am I feeling it today. Totally reaffirms why I eat whole unprocessed foods and why the self-discipline is worth it. Thanks Mel!

  • Ehsa says:

    Oh, the nuances … "had a nice little chat with myself about the difference between "fun" and "happy" … a chat I'm going to put on my weekly schedule! (Do you put potatoes in your caldo de res?) Wonderful post, as always, thanks! (Are we due for a Smupdate?)

  • kel says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I didn't just fall off the paleo bandwagon, I lept off it for a lovely extended trip to Italy… it's vacation eating right? Except I've been 'vacationing' at home for a week now. Thanks for the post, it's the movitation I needed!

  • Holly says:

    I love this, what a great reminder. Though I generally feel fantastic eating such a clean diet, I do get down on myself every once in a while, like — Am I missing the boat and being fanatical? But the truth is, it's not fanatical, I'm a planner. And it's not for something useless, it is something that touches every part of my life, from how I look to how I feel to how I perform. And it IS worth it! Thanks for the encouragement and reminder.

  • Matt F says:

    Yeah…I'm still recovering from amost a month of living like that minus the driniking. Not sure why cause a good drink would have beat the heck out of some of the crap I ate!

    It brought me to a couple of conclusions, Dino Chow is the way for me and if I'm going to go off the rails I should drink beer instead of eat crappy store bought cookie.

    I did end up in a deep depression, and it took me a bit to figure out why.

    Thanks for the great post. Like you, been there done that!

  • Irene says:

    Great post, i went off the reserve and getting back to dino chow has been good but my mood was definetly the pits of doooooom. I think I need to consider my "treats" with more care, a dear friend was concerned I am so up and down with food and believes in moderation. Sorry I just can't do moderation I have seen the promised land of paleo and I need to keep happy. Again, great post put into words some of my thoughts

  • Kelly says:

    On the weekends I would have lovely cheats on the breakfast items and by the afternoon my two sons and husband are cowering in the corner of the living room afraid I will try to take one of their limbs off. This is something never noticed by me until the kids said something to us about it. Dang, did that just really come out of your mouth? I chalked it up to being around them all weekend. Since then we have played around with it and yes, I get very anxious, hypersensitive and just plain old crabby when I cheat. Leave it to children to come up with unadulterated observations. Needless to say, my cheats have become way fewer. Hmm–the things we do for our family. ;o)

  • Ms. Julie says:

    Yes! Ballerina and I have found the same truth! We did some experimenting with non-Paleo foods after our 30-Day Challenge ended, and decided to pretty much hop right back on the wagon.

    Oh, and thank you for inspiring my daughter. She now has a new blog: 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you SO much for posting this. We recently lost a loved one and I've been binging on funeral food for almost a week. Sometimes it's just easier to eat what is so graciously provided than try to explain why I don't eat this or that. Services are tomorrow and I head back to work Thursday. I honestly can't wait to get back in my own world with my own food without the burden of explaining why paleo is the the way to go. Thanks again for reading my mind.


  • Kelsey says:

    Well all this post did was make me want to go try Second Bar + Kitchen. Thanks a lot! 😉

  • Trish says:

    awesome post and oh so true – I slip on and off and on and off and then I wonder why I'm tired and (eek) have allergies. I'm working on the 'on' and getting my booty back to my Crossfit gym. Thanks for the blog and everything you do for this community. 🙂

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hello, everyone! I've loved reading all your comments. It certainly helps to know that we're all fighting similar cravings, missteps, backslides, etc.

    I've been eating perfectly clean since Sunday, and I feel like a new person again. WHY, oh, WHY must I keep learning this lesson over and over?!

    My birthday is next week, and I'm working on a plan to celebrate without hurting myself. I might even make a gluten-free cake, instead of the Cook's Illustrated extravaganza I was planning to make… just to show myself what I know to be true: I can have a fun, celebratory birthday without eating foods that my body thinks are poison.

    I'll keep you posted on what I decide. I might still make the poison cake 😉

  • Meghan says:

    “But that’s because I’ve forgotten what the “old normal” felt like. Puffy. Sniffly. Cranky. Lethargic. Pretty much the anti-superhero.”

    Are you inside my head right now? I have been so incredibly grumpy and mean over the last few days, and I am 100% sure it’s because of the crap I’ve been eating. Like you said, you forget how bad you felt before until you head back there. What’s worse for me is that I feel like every time I have an extended indulgence (damn the grandparents for giving my kids Easter candy), the impact is worse than the time before. I think I’m becoming more and more intolerant to things, particularly sugar. I’m currently in the midst of detoxing. Pray for me.

  • Mel says:

    Meghan –> Oh, man! The sugar grumpies are the worst. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that right now. You can turn the ship around! Start eating clean Right This Minute. And in 2 days, you’ll feel better.

    As for the heightened sensitivity, I’ve found that if I eat really clean, then indulge ONCE, I feel just fine. But yes, when I go off the rails for, like, more than one treat a week, the impact hits me harder than it used to. I think that’s because the “new normal” is ever so much better than the old normal.

    Sending you hugs and mental kale.

  • Meghan says:

    Thanks for the hugs! Something else I forgot to mention…I hadn’t had a diet soda in months. I’ve had several over the last week. Fake sugar, real sugar…my body hates it all now. I remember Melissa on Whole 30 mentioning a similar experience in regards to detoxing from coffee in the caffeine manifesto. As you said, the “new normal” just gets better. Love the new website by the way!