Posted by: Morgan | November 29, 2011

One Month ‘Eating Real Food’ Challenge – Day One

“Do you want to start being gluten-free tomorrow?”

“Sure, we have to go shopping soon anyway. Sounds good.”

That is literally the conversation my husband and I had two nights ago, the day before we started our ‘Eating Real Food’ challenge.  It wasn’t truly as random as that sounds, as we’ve been talking about trying gluten-free and/or dairy free for month-long trial periods, just to see if any of us are allergic or sensitive to those foods.  But we hadn’t planned on starting yesterday, and we hadn’t really researched anything yet.

I have a lot of friends who are living “alternative” diet lifestyles;  gluten-free, paleo, primal, GAPS, vegan, vegetarian.  I’m fairly aware of the differences in all of them, some of the reasons to try the various food lifestyles, and the results my friends are seeing after making changes in their diet.  I did not, however, have any idea how to apply any of that information practically when it came to buying food for our family.  So I turned to my very favorite source of information, my friends on Facebook.

I got information about paleo and primal eating, websites and food blogs written specifically for these lifestyles, foods to avoid and foods to look for, pros and cons of several different “competing” diets, and even phone calls with two friends who have switched to paleo in the past year with amazing success stories.  My brain starting trying to sort through everything while Caleb was at work, so we could go shopping when he got home.

Because this journal is almost more for me than for anyone else, I want to mention the advice that stood out the most yesterday: “Make a list of what you can eat, not what you can’t”. I didn’t realize how profound that was until we got to the store later, but that’s getting a little ahead of myself.

Our first day gluten-free became a failure by lunchtime.  We realized we still had a whole pack of flour tortillas, so we decided to finish them off without any guilt and go from there.  I also started getting so much information about going completely grain-free and dairy-free, that I realized we may already be making changes to our initial plan.

In the end, we decided on our own variation of paleo.  We’re going completely grain-free, dairy-free, and mostly sugar-free for one month.  We’re not limiting our meat choices or intake, and striving to get free range, grass fed, and pastured as often as possible.  We’re going to focus on good fats, good veggies and fruits, and making pretty much everything from scratch.  We’re going to take pictures throughout the month, as well as take measurements of Caleb & I before and after.  Throughout the month we’re going to document what we eat, how we react, how we feel, what changes we notice.  After the month is over we’re going to slowly add the different things back in, one at a time.  If we see adverse reactions in any of us, we’ll adjust our long-term diet accordingly. Thus why our challenge is calling simply the ‘Eating Real Food’ challenge.

So we went to the store. Everything was great at first; we started off in the produce area and slowly wound our way through, choosing items we typically already like, with a substitution of sweet potatoes for regular potatoes as something different than our norm. We passed through the meat section quickly, and then got to the ‘processed foods’ area. I remained upbeat and peppy for a minute, brightly saying “I guess we just walk past all of this!”…and then we had to walk into one aisle for olive oil.  I saw some gluten-free cookies and thought that’d be nice for Emma during the transition. They weren’t grain free, so I started reading all the labels nearby. I got overwhelmed and wiped out. I started to despair of being able to do this. I felt that the world was one big kernel of grain.

I was able to pull myself away from the gluten-free “disaster area” and move onto the bulk section. I relieved my anxiety by focusing very hard on each of the ingredients lists for the various nuts and dried fruits. I was careful to only pick things not marked “May contain trace wheat”.  I got a small selection of nuts and dried fruits for us to try. Then I needed to leave. I was tired and hungry and couldn’t handle thinking “alternative” any more.

I ate an apple on my way home. Then I went to bed and had dreams of Biggest Loser contestants running through areas full of grains, with the words “gluten-free” and “paleo” being shouted over and over.




  1. LOL@ “I guess we just walk past all this.” Welcome to my life 😀 Produce used to be that section for me. Veggies were prettymuch invisible, now stuff that comes in packages is. Yes, the world is one huge kernel of grain. Stuff like this makes you feel like an outsider at first, and then you find others and then it’s more like a super-healthy cult or supportive secret society. I’m constant looking in other people’s grocery carts for signs of a kindred spirit. When someone has a cart full of unprocessed food and no grain or dairy, I know it’s not by accident and have no qualms starting up a conversation. We picked out a paleo person just by the dog food they had in the cart once.

    • 🙂 Thanks for the welcome! I already have a pretty awesome ‘tribe’ – you should join it. It’d make you happy. Plus I know you, and so I’m ahead by two. You rock.

  2. Like you, I’m trying to figure all this out. Right now, I’m trying to limit my diet pretty severely, eating mostly boiled skinless chicken legs and thighs, and drinking Lipton’s diet green tea. That’s not much variety, but I like the chicken and the tea, so I think I can stay with it long enough to see how it works for me,

    Best wishes to you.

    • Good luck Jim! What are the reasons for limiting your diet to those specific foods? Are you seeing the results you want?

      • I’m approaching it like an elimination diet. I’ll add more things gradually, especially fresh salads, with no dressings.

        And I seem to be feeling a lot better, so I guess something is working.

      • How did you decide on chicken and tea as what to limit down to? How long have you been doing the diet?

        I’m really excited to see changes in our quality of life this month!

  3. Why did I decide on chicken and tea? Because I studied 417,957 randomized double-blind peer-reviewed studies, involving 236 million people. and …

    Oh, never mind. The truth is just that I wanted to get lots of protein and lots of calorie-free fluids, and I just chose chicken and tea because I enjoy them.

    I’ve tried lots of diets that I didn’t enjoy, and those yucky diets didn’t last very long, even when I lost weight.

    • haha! That is an AWESOME reason!

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