Plant Paradox Diet: Phase 3 Update
Our family is starting week 18 on the diet and we are feeling great. I’ve lost ~20 lbs and I threw away my heartburn medicine, which was my primary motivation. My headaches are less frequent and it is crazy how I no longer crave sweets or chips. I’m not really snacking, my grocery bills are down, and we are eating a lot less meat. My daughter is happy and healthy and doesn’t feel yucky after eating anymore. My son lost a little weight when he stopped eating cereal and ice cream, but feels strong and is sleeping great. My husband is so supportive and self-disciplined, that it makes it easier on the rest of us to not deviate because we know it won’t be worth it if we do. I’m so grateful we tried this diet as a family and didn’t give up hope in resolving our health issues.
I think there are a few reasons why it is working so well for us:
1. We added as much variety as quickly as possible.
At the 8 week mark we started adding back some foods with pretty good success – for us that means no digestive or skin issues. I tested Phase 3 foods in the following order:
- MCT oil in smoothies and on waffles
- Baby cucumbers and zucchini
- Peeled and deseeded tomatoes and peppers
- Pressure cooked black beans
- Pressure cooked basmati rice from India and quinoa
I had been so anxious to add foods, but I was surprised by how little variety we really needed once we tested them. I now feel like I have the option of adding cukes to a salad or grilling zucchini. And mentally I needed to feel free to do that, especially when eating out. A part of me needed to know that I could handle it too – this felt like physical proof of my healing gut. But honestly, these foods haven’t become a regular part of our diet (except the rice for our kids every couple of weeks or when we have company).
2. We saw immediate success and felt better in the first month.
I didn’t do this to lose weight, though I was hopeful it would happen. Weight loss has been a natural byproduct of the diet for me, and it feels more effortless than other diets I’ve tried. The Phase 1 fast was killer for me because I was so damn hungry. Now I understand I was converting from a sugar burning metabolism to a fat burning one. Reducing the amount of protein and increasing my healthy fat intake is helping me to continue to lose weight, something that didn’t happen for me on the paleo diet.
3. The right mindset.
I did hypnotherapy right before discovering the diet. I knew that my meds were causing various health conditions and I wasn’t willing to live with them for the rest of my life. I wanted to choose a different story of aging and retirement – one filled with vitality and avoiding disease if possible. I knew that my heartburn was a symptom hinting at a deeper problem, but hadn’t had success curing it in the past. A part of me always held out hope that this was possible for me, despite trying for 20 years to fix this issue with various doctors and healers.
I worked with Lacy Grevious on healing my digestion and trying to understand why my body was holding onto weight. We explored some of the memories and stories I was living out of, and we worked through some of the issues that came up so that I could choose a different story to live out of now. It was a serious brain-training opportunity for me, and I highly recommend it for someone who feels stuck in a behavioral pattern. I had also read the book Women, Food, and God by Geneen Roth and that helped shift my mindset. I really believe that the combination of these things set me up to be successful and made it easy to stick with this diet.
4. We are figuring out how to make this work for us.
As we transitioned into Phase 3, we moved from thinking about the diet as a temporary fix or something to power through. We started wondering how we could make this work for the rest of our life. Our whole family is having less digestive distress and feeling more energized, so we knew it would be worth it.
This means that we make exceptions when it makes sense. Allowing ourselves to try things and see how it feels. Using our bodies as guides and knowing that things change over time. Here are a couple of examples:
- Holidays: Having a sweet treat has always been part of what I look forward to at celebrations, so I’ll make a treat as compliant as I can for a birthday or holiday. Then I decide not to worry about it and just enjoy the treat. The funny thing is that I’m naturally curbing portions in a way I didn’t have the self-control to do before. This feels good. For the 4th of July, I didn’t have time to bake, so I threw together a deconstructed dessert with what I had on hand that was awesome. I whipped goat cheese with a little honey and orange zest, made frothy cream with some maple syrup and almond extract, crumbled up a gluten-free graham cracker, and added a few strawberries. I would totally make it again! (And I happily enjoyed the leftover goat cheese on my waffles the next morning.)
- Special-occasions: When I took my kids to the drive-in movies, we packed almond-flour crackers and some cream cheese and drank sparkling water. But I also picked up one treat for the kids from the concession stand when they asked. My goal is for them to make good choices on their own - my job is to help guide them. (And it turns out the conspiracy theory of big agriculture is more persuasive than any generalized health benefits – they really don’t like being manipulated!) Truthfully, they are even better at using how they feel as a guide than I am and are making great decisions.
5. My salad game is STRONG.
I listened to the Lazy Genius podcast on building a salad and it helped me get excited about eating a salad for lunch or dinner. For me that means including 4 elements:
- Crunchy – romaine or iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced napa cabbage, carrots, blanched almonds, pecans or walnuts
- Creamy – sheep’s milk feta, avocado, MCT oil, black beans
- Sweet – balsamic vinegar, carmelized onions, fresh berries, roasted peppers, or sweet potato
- Flavor boost – onion salt, Everything Bagel seasoning from Trader Joes, Balanced Bites Diner blend seasoning, lime juice, grilled veggies
Here are some of my favorite new recipes I’ve tried in the past few weeks:
- Honey Lime BBQ chicken thighs
- Enchilada sauce for tacos using a recipe like this one. I used canned and peeled San Marzano organic tomatoes that are from Italy, and I cut open the whole tomatoes and discarded the seeds. We haven’t had any issues using a little of this sauce on our tacos and it has added a ton of flavor. But I may try making a nomato sauce using a recipe like this one and seasoning it differently. I am also planning to make a batch of hot sauce with ancho chilies to have on hand. I’ve made this before using this recipe and adding some honey to the end product and it was delicious – rich, sweet with a slight raisin flavor, and a little heat. The fermentation really adds a depth of flavor. Last time I made it I used dried peppers without seeds, but this time I’ll also try and remove the skin too. Otherwise, I’ll have to use fresh poblano peppers that I roast first to help steam off the skins.
- Sweet potato gnocchi. I make this with a simple browned butter sauce with sage. My son (who hates sweet potatoes) loves this recipe and asks for it frequently. It is a little labor intensive, but a fun thing to make with the kids. We found the Trader Joe’s frozen cauliflower gnocchi to be good, but we like this one better. I make a double batch and freeze half on a baking sheet so they don’t stick together.
- This Shrimp Louie salad is so good, you need to just make it. We were lucky enough to use some fresh caught shrimp from a friend and it was a hit.
My husband is doubling down with the keto program to juice even more benefits from the diet. I am sticking to Phase 2 and dabbling with keto and fasting to continue to lose weight without trying very hard. Without a gall bladder, I have trouble digesting a ton of fat. So, I’m paying attention and adding a digestive enzyme if I feel like I need it. We will continue to reduce the amount of animal protein to 4 oz or less each day, switching mostly to seafood since we’ve worked our way through the meat in our freezer.
I’m ready to up my exercise game and see if my B-vitamin deficiency is resolved so I can recover from workouts better. (Many people on long term PPIs have B-vitamin deficiency.) I also want to take advantage of the summer sunshine! It feels like a small window of good weather in the PNW to build a habit – but I know being in nature alone makes me feel more like myself.
My kids are consuming more sugar than is reccomended in the diet, but it is so much less than they were that I’m not worried about it. I want them to listen to their bodies over my dogma – so that will continue to be our focus. I stock our pantry with good choices and just let them self-regulate at breakfast and lunch and between meals. We always sit down for dinner as a family (when we are hungry for it). But we haven’t really been that hungry – we are finding that a late breakfast of waffles and an early dinner with a coconut popsicle treat at the end of the day is enough. We will have a smoothie mid-day when we are hungry or if we need to eat dinner later.
My main concern at this point is that I’m worried that we will be even more sensitive to deviating from this diet than we were in the past. (e.g., Will my microbiome no longer be able to help me digest grains?) Also, when we are with other people, they often feel uncomfortable eating with us because our diet feels so limiting to them. (How can you not allow your kids to eat pizza? Don’t you go out for ice cream in the summer?) I really don’t understand why it is so important to them and would rather we talk about something else.
But when it is just our family, we make it work and enjoy ourselves. While this concern is real, it is so worth it. If this is what it takes to live a long and healthy life, sign me up. I’ll happily bring our own dishes to potlucks or take the time to choose a restaurant that will offer us a few options.
Another challenge I’m facing is that since I’m no longer thinking about food or craving specific things, I don’t feel like cooking. Thinking about and preparing food has been such a big part of my adult life (and identity), that I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. I stopped meal planning and am winging it with what I have each week. In a lot of ways this feels freeing, but I think my family is getting bored of tacos and salads. So I’d like to find a cookbook or blog to experiment with. Or maybe I’ll just setup a rotation of dinners and not have to think about it too much? I’m not making a story about it and am just going to go with the flow and see if I can find something that works for everyone. I’m finding it harder to make a meal plan in the summer when our schedules and appetites are all over the place. And that is okay.
I hope this summary of our experience with the Plant paradox diet has been helpful. I’m excited for how well this worked for us and plan to eat this way for a long time.