In December, I was contacted by Elevate Vitality asking if I’d be interested in trying out a weekly meal plan. Owner Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a holistic nutritionist, naturopath, and herbalist based out of Bondi, Sydney. After perusing her lovely website and reading up on her philosophies, meal ideas, and past client recommendations, I thought I would give it a whirl. Besides, January might be a fun time to experiment a bit with my diet.
As you know, I am not crazy-strict about what I eat. I mean, of course I incorporate plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and some dairy into my diet. However, I also enjoy my fair share of treats. I definitely overindulged throughout the holidays, eating my body weight in cheese and baked goods. To me, holiday indulgences are fine, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Although after all was said and done, I was feeling a bit out of sorts, and knew that I needed a little shock to the system to get back on track with my fitness and nutrition goals.
Cassie has 6 meal plans that I could choose from. Her philosophy when it comes to meal planning: “One size doesn’t fit all.” Very true. These are the descriptions taken from the Elevate Vitality site:
- Gluten-free – to reduce inflammation, this meal plan is perfect for those with coeliac disease, auto-immune conditions, thyroid imbalances, fatigue and IBS
- Hormone balancing – use this meal plan to support and balance your thyroid, adrenal glands and reproductive health
- Paleo – this is a simple, satisfying and clean-eating plan to re-boot your body
- Sugar-free – perfect if you suffer from candida, depression, fatigue or low-immunity
- Vegetarian – a healthy plant-based diet, this meal plan does contain eggs and a small amount of dairy
- Weight loss – an effective meal plan to help you kick start your metabolism
How to choose, how to choose…
I’d heard a lot about paleo eating habits through reading other fitness and health blogs. Although I don’t train in cross fit, I know it’s a big way of eating within the community. Even people who aren’t huge into fitness have benefited from a paleo diet and claim to have renewed energy and overall health. To me, it sounded like a good place to start. Plus, I was interested in seeing how my body (and mind) reacted.
I can’t post a copy of the exact meal plan, as it is part of Cassie’s services. However, just so you are aware, here is a brief look at what a typical paleo eating style involves (although some people are most/less lenient regarding both sides):
Okay…I’m hungry. Not as bad as I thought I’d be, but my stomach’s definitely growled several times today. The meal plan’s mid-morning snack didn’t have any protein, so I changed it around so that I ate scrambled eggs with spinach and tomato when I got home from my 8:30 gym session. I think protein post-workout is very important, so I just moved things around to accommodate my schedule. I also ended up having to add walnuts to my salad at lunch for extra depth, as well as an apple to my afternoon snack.
I had a very intense workout today with my bootcamp trainer, so I have been feeling the lack of carbohydrates in my system. The chicken at lunch in my salad was pretty helpful, but I’d do anything for a big bowl of cereal right now (wheat and dairy…of course, the two things I’m not supposed to be eating). Dinner was surprisingly filling. I’m so used to having a starch as my third meal component, but now I am thinking that I could probably make due with more hearty vegetables.
I was pleasantly surprised by my egg and roasted pumpkin breakfast combination this morning. I’ll be truthful in the fact that I am not a savoury breakfast fan, especially on early week days mornings. However, it was very filling and I had a ton of energy, much more than if I’d had cereal or toast. I guess it could be a new option to pair with eggs, rather than my typical avocado combo
Lamb and steak is on the menu for the next two nights, but as I stood hovering over the red meat section today, I could only imagine the little sheep and cows in Thomas’s book running around saying, “Baaaa! Moooo!”. But mostly, I just don’t like how I feel when I eat red meat. So I opted to throw some prawns into a salad for tonight’s dinner. Luckily I don’t know what sound crustaceans make.
I wasn’t particularly enthused by anything on my meal plan today, so I just went with previous options from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I also made a protein smoothie with vanilla rice protein, coconut water, frozen strawberries, and mint. It was delicious! Not sure if it counts as paleo or not, but at least I didn’t use milk.
If there was ever a moment to shout, “TGIF!”, this would be it. I was up this morning at 4:30am to teach an early Body Attack class. I had a banana as a pre-workout snack, which I have found this week to be the perfect food before doing cardio. I always wake up with a fairly big appetite; it doesn’t matter how much I’ve eaten the night before. I’ve always been that way. So, sometimes I find that I eat too much first thing in the morning before a workout, and I oftentimes feel a bit weighed down, especially if I am doing cardio. A very small carbohydrate portion, like a banana, has really worked for me this week. I wasn’t hungry during my workouts, and could perform much more effectively. This is definitely something I’ll be conscious of once my paleo week is over.
The problem with today’s plan was that my midmorning snack was supposed to be veggie sticks and homemade avocado dip. This is a great snack, but not after burning a large amount of calories. I made a big spinach and tomato omelette instead. Normally, I’d have a slice of toast with this, but not this week. To be honest, I am not missing bread at all.
We grabbed a quick dinner out in our neighbourhood this evening. Adam had a burger, Thomas had organic lamb, and I went for a grilled chicken salad (which ended up being very satisfying).
I have to behave myself today, because I totally cheated on Paleo last night. After dinner, I ended up having coconut yogurt with some chocolate chips in it. Then I ate some cereal because I was still hungry. I can’t believe I almost made it through the week without sneaking in some grains and yogurt. Half disappointed in myself, half apathetic. Moving along…
On a more positive note, I’m officially obsessed with roasted pumpkin. I’ve eaten it before in salads and even on a favourite restaurant pizza here in Brisbane, but it’s not something that I’ve bought and prepared at home before having this meal plan. However, it’s so easy and really makes a difference with my energy level and overall meal satisfaction. I’ve been seasoning it with rosemary, olive oil, and a bit of Himalayan rock salt, then roasting in the oven or BBQ. It’s been added to my weekly meal rotation!
This morning I made Cassie’s blueberry almond meal pancakes for breakfast. I was going to split them with Adam, but there weren’t really enough for two hungry people, so I ended up sharing with Thomas! They were delicious, super filling, and I loved the added coconut! I’ve read about almond meal as a great gluten-free substitute for regular flour, but I’ve also read about some of the negative aspects of eating too much of it. So I’ll definitely make these again, but only once in awhile.
I ended off the day with a grilled chicken salad, while watching Thomas and Adam put back some spectacular looking Turkish bread. Funny though…I wasn’t even jealous. To be honest, I still don’t miss bread, especially in the evening. This week started out rougher than I’d thought it would, but I’m feeling much better now. Although, perhaps it’s also due to the fact that I know I can eat some of my old faves again tomorrow!
Cassie’s plan was so simple to follow and very, very achievable. I believe it would really work for a lot of people. There were several meals that I thoroughly enjoyed. My biggest issue was the whole meat thing. I don’t eat/like red meat, so it kind of limited my dinner plans; meals were getting a bit redundant.
As I said in the beginning, I wanted to try a more strict and clean diet to see how it affected my energy levels, sleeping, and overall vitality. My intention was not to lose weight, as I am currently in my “happy zone”. For the record, I lost 2 lbs (not even a kilo), which in my eyes is pretty inconsequential.
I complied a list of my personal Pros & Cons for adopting a paleo diet, merely based upon my week long observations:
As you can see, there were definitely components of the Paleo diet that resonated well with me and that I will continue with in the future. It was nice to understand that it’s not as “caveman-ish” as society perceives it to be. With lean organic protein and tons of fruit and vegetables, it can be extremely positive and beneficial.
Last night I made a red curry for dinner with basmati rice: my first day off the Paleo plan! Interestingly, although it was delicious and very satisfying, it was also the first time I was bloated in over a week. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m looking forward to regrouping this week, speaking with Cassie (I’m working on a follow-up interview with her), and deciding on how I will sort out my eating from here. My Paleo week was interesting, and like anything in life, you take the positives from the experience and run with them. There isn’t a specific diet that is perfect for everyone. Some things work, some things don’t. It’s all about learning the facts, trying new foods, eliminating others, and continuously being open to finding the diet that works best for you. Or in my case, a nice blend.
What are your thoughts on the PALEO DIET? Have you tried it? Would you?
Have you ever added or eliminated a “healthy” food from your diet, and saw significant improvements in your overall wellness?
* Although I received a meal plan from Elevate Vitality (valued at $15), I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own!