I was stopped at the elevator last week by one of our senior executives at the office as he pointed to my armload of grocery sacks filled with Tupperware containers. “You look like a homeless person,” he remarked. And, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself as I left the office and actually saw a homeless man carrying the same used grocery sacks that I was to haul his stash of supplies. Ok, I’m not trying to make light of the homeless situation in my city. This post isn’t about that. But I realized that day that some people see the daily sacrifices of a Paleo lifestyle as pretty silly. We Paleo-types are different. We’re not satisfied with most food in vending machines or finding food for purchase at the office. We just carry our own. We’re kind of like food-nomads.
I started the routine of carrying lots of food around over three years ago, to try and see if this Paleo thing was really feasible. Simply put, I stopped eating grains, dairy and sugar. That discipline nullified most snack options at my office and on the road.
One of the upsides to Paleo is that your body at some point stops storing fat and uses fat as a fuel source instead of the fast-burning carbs in grains and sugars. The downside is that once you’ve burned your fat-fuels…you’re hungry. And, in the beginning, you feel like you’re hungry all the time, especially if you’re exercising. So, I started playing “hobo” and just brought food with me everywhere I went. I came to rely on a staple of Paleo-friendly foods that would help me get to my next big fuel-up meal. Here’s what works for me: nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts and a pecans; jerky, the less preservatives, the better; apples, usually one a day; other low-sugar treats like berries; easy-to-prep vegetables like fresh broccoli, bell peppers and celery. Using these foods as go-tos, I create a daypack every morning that I can carry with me to the office and keep at my desk. I put the nuts in small bags so I can carry those to meetings and not lose focus halfway through. I usually save the apple for around mid-day, after lunch has been burned off. The great thing about all these foods is that it’s kind of hard to eat too much of them. If you’ve committed to Paleo and are constantly hungry, you can eat about as much as you want of these and not worry about tipping the scales. You’re just refueling without the side effect of storing away unused carbs as fat.
As impractical as all this sounds to the Paleo-newcomer, it has come in quite handy in a few instances that made me feel like quite the boy scout. I feel like I’m adding post-apocalyptic preparedness training to my werewolf goal. I pack my luggage and carry-ons with food stashes when I prepare for trips. Having readily available snacks is great at airports where most available food is of the “fast” variety. And, once I was on a plane that ended up being grounded for maintenance for several hours with all the passengers still on board. I was kind of afraid that I would be discovered tapping into my secret travel stash of nuts, apples and dried fruit. At a time when it seemed mutiny was imminent, I was the guy huddled in the window seat stealing bites from a brown bag. I survived the ordeal with a full belly and a clear head.
Other instances where this practice has been a lifesaver is road-trips and just days out running errands. Now, I don’t go so far as to stash my cargo pants with bags of nuts and small apples. OK, that’s a lie. I really do. Especially at kids’ sporting events. And, there’s usually a bottle of water stored in my vehicle, too. People often ask how I’m able to maintain the strict Paleo lifestyle with the lack of choices outside the grocery store. And, this is how I do it. Paleo-ists have realized that the world of pre-packaged food doesn’t offer us what we want, so we make the extra effort to do for ourselves what vending machines can’t. I’ve gotten over the part where people stare at me as I retrieve a bag of nuts, a piece of fruit and beef jerky from my pants pockets like clowns escaping a car at the circus. People have thought of me as strange for less practical reasons, so I guess I’m used to it by now. But, I think the idea of living like nobody else so you feel like nobody else comes into play. If I lived by the standards of the population I consider to be generally unfit, I can expect to look and feel like most of that population. Breaking that norm requires being different, maybe being stared at. But, in a day and age where it seems everything has been made easy for us, this Paleo way of life kind of bucks against that ease. We’re daily faced with a wide variety of “easy” and cheap lifestyle selections. But I truly believe that taking the easy way, the way provided to us by pre-packaged meals with a shelf life of years, just can’t be the best nutrition for our bodies. So, I’m pretty committed to finding a better way to feed my hourly cravings. It might make me feel a little silly sometimes. But, I’m secretly hoping folks will find their eyes wandering from my Tupperware-filled grocery sacks and see Chuck Norris arms holding them. (Okay, okay, wishful thinking….) And, if that gets a conversation going about diet and exercise, then, to me, it’s all worth it.