My Official Guide to Eating Badly
I like to blog about a lot of fancy stuff, but in reality, it's not every day I'm making braised local grass-fed oxtails and wild caught sea bass. Life gets in the way. But that doesn't mean you have to totally lose all the benefits you would get from a top-notch diet. Over the years I've figured out how to degrade my diet gracefully.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post on mammals, primates have an evolutionary strategy that involves fallback foods. These are resources of low-preference that are eaten when preferred foods are not available. These foods allow primates to survive when things get rough.
I have my own fallback foods. They are for when I just don't have time to go to the butcher shop. Or I've worked so long that the idea of cooking a meal from scratch and then doing dishes seems daunting. These foods have to be
- Reasonably healthy, but they don't have to be perfect
- Able to keep well
- Not require much prep or cleanup
Since I moved to Chicago and Trader Joes is a normal grocery store instead of a series of endless loopy lines like it is in NYC, my fallback diet has been based on stuff from Trader Joes. Typically smoked wild salmon, Applewood sliced roast beef, pre-cooked beets, and random cheese and fruits. A typical meal like this would be a few slices of gouda, a clementine, a few slices of roast beef, some beets, and some of the wild salmon with mustard on rice crackers. I have to say that this tastes better than typical primate fallback foods like tree bark.
When I worked at an office last, it was next to a Fairway and often for lunch I'd just go to the deli and ask for a half pound of sliced roast beef, a half pound of cheese, and then buy some random pre-sliced fruits and vegetables. One time a coworker implied that eating a block of cheese might be a bad idea, but nothing ever happened to me.
The next level of degradation is a little riskier. It's when you are on holiday in France. Or it's Thanksgiving. Maybe you want to eat some things that are normally not part of your diet. There are good reasons that they are not part of your diet, but there are better reasons that you want to indulge. The things I think about here is
- Determine what foods are never OK at any time. For example, if you have celiac, you are not going to be able to eat gluten ever again. That's why I advise people who have health improvements with gluten elimination to actually get screened. You can't just order a burger without a bun if you have celiac, you need to be way more careful than that.
- Determine whether or not there is a dose-response curve. For example, with people like me who have some carbohydrate malabsorption (lactose or fructose), often there is some toleration.
- Determine whether or not you can improve your tolerance. For example, if you are intolerant to lactose, often the lactaid pills work very well. I've been experimenting with Glutenease (which I heard about from Dr. BG's Thanksgiving post) with good results, though I am worried it's just a placebo effect. If it isn't then, I think it's possibly the "Amylase Thera-blend" that is helping. Probiotics might also work.
- There are also things that seem to degrade tolerance. At least for me, alcohol seems to definitely reduce the amount of things I can digest properly.
- Ask yourself whether it's worth it. Over the years I've determined that I don't like most Easter candy enough. It's just not that tasty to me to be worth the breakouts and other assorted maladies. There are a lot of other things that just aren't worth it to me. I remember the last time I had Chick Fil A, which is strangely a fast food place that I have tasty memories of from my childhood in Georgia. But last time I had it, it didn't taste as good as I remembered and I felt bloated and sluggish for an entire day. Nope. However, I am going to Sweden at the end of this month and I really do think there are some things there that are worth eating. I plan on having at least one serving of Kladdkaka, a rich gooey chocolate cake, at my favorite cafe in Stockholm.
I made a silly graphic for paleohacks yesterday and weirdly, people were impressed. It was made with default Smartart in Powerpoint :)
I also recommend the Highbrow Paleo Guide to Binge Drinking.