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Grokking in Guate with a little wiggle room

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  • Grokking in Guate with a little wiggle room

    So, after two years of living in Guatemala and SAYING I was going to commit to my life, this is me attempting to finally do it. Two years of my life that I haven't been living fully (well, 24 years of my life that I haven't been living fully).
    Motivation? Look better naked, obvi, but mostly trying to get my mental health back in order. I feel like I've been going through periods of depression the past few years, and maybe this is a way to make my head not such a roller coaster from day to day. Will try and track emotional journey as this goes on.
    I started a private blog about 2 weeks ago to chronicle this journey, and then decided it's useless if no one else can see it, because we all (and by we I mean me...because who are you people anyways?) I can't hold myself accountable. It's kind of scary to put this out in the world and put all my vulnerabilities and failings/triumphs out there for you to see, but a part of me is kind of hoping no one reads this anyways
    So, my goals for the next 30 days:
    Cut out sugary treats entirely. I told myself I'd be flexible with this and it doesn't work. It just leads to me binging on half a tray of peanut butter brownies (yum) in the span of 30 minutes. I think I'm addicted to conventional sugar, so we're going to cut it out. The problem is being in the Guate Guate and trying to integrate culturally has to allow for some wiggle room, and i love to bake and it's apple season (apple pie, apple cookies, apple crisp/crumble/muffins/bread/YUM) but I'm going to try to cut them out entirely.
    Cut out conventional carbs from all but one meal per week - leaving wiggle room for tortillas and beans because, they're delicious, and I'll allow them in the name of cultural integration.
    Start experimenting with different meats/cooking fats. The good thing about Guate is we have pretty easy access to things like lard, ofal, and different cuts of meats (although I have yet to learn the names for them in spanish, but usual just point to a part of my body at the butcher and he understands...or at least, i think he does. It's possible I've been eating cow butt for 2 years without knowing it).

    Anways, those are fooding. I think I'm also going to cut out dairy, which clashes with my attempts to learn how to make cheese. Will allow wiggle room for homemade cheese.

    As for exercising:
    Two long runs and two sprint sessions per week (I know the pitfalls of chronic cardio, but it is a HUGE stress relief for me so I'm keeping some in)
    Bumping up my yoga routine to at least an hour a day, with two heavy sessions per week
    Incorporating the grok super 5 (pushups, pullups, etc etc) at least twice a week. This is a challenge as these are all the exercises I hate and avoid.
    I don't feel like I need to change anything about walking. I walk everywhere here with no car or bike, so that comprises most of my day anyways.

    Anyways, blabbered enough. Although I can't help but notice how much wiggle room I've left

    So question for the world, for all of you who are not reading this post anyways, is wiggle room dangerous? Do we need to go all out or not even bother trying? Is it just predicting failure? Hm...

    Today is September 5th - End date of experiment is October 5th although i'll attempt to go two months with this depending on how the first month goes. Let's see what happens, shall we?

    It's 9:30 and I'm doing this instead of work. Productive shmabby. So far have eaten 1 apple, 3 scrambled eggs with butter, and two cups of slightly mediocre coffee (hard to make good coffee without fancy appliances...any suggestions?). Grok on!

  • #2
    Hi Abigail. Welcome! Note that the following is not orthodox primal or paleo.

    I think your body is telling you it needs good carbs for all that walking, yoga, running, etc. I personally won't go without refried beans, corn tortillas etc., potatoes or rice. Certainly, if I had your activity level and had access to authentic, traditionally prepared ones somewhere like Guatemala, I would definitely eat them, with plenty of that lard. I also consume dairy. If you can do dairy, I'd for sure have that too.

    But I should ask whether you are trying to lose weight or if you have other carb issues. I do. But keeping under 100 g. of carbs per day lets me lose fat.
    Ancestral Health Info

    I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

    Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


    • #3

      Hm...why am I doing this...good question
      For a while I convinced myself that the primal thing wasn't necessary for me. Bread's delicious, lentils are like bacon for me, and cookies and baked goods are a daily staple for me. I've never had issues with weight especially (although I wouldn't say I look like I want to) or health issues, but after being introduced to Paleo by several friends (one of which had been holding out on me because I was a vegetarian and she didn't think I was open minded enough to "see the light") I started being more aware of not only physical but mental health. I'm in a fairly demanding environment - living in another culture without my typical comforts and dealing with a lot of stress that has had huge impacts both on physical and mental health - and was sick of feeling my periodic bouts of depression, self-loathing, and just general crapiness. This usually translated into other areas of my life - not being as effective in work, not putting effort into relationships, and just generally feeling crummy all the time and resentful of those that don't. It's taken me most of 2011 to take the step to fully commit to this lifestyle, and in just a week of being more intentional about my diet and life in general I felt amazing - I went from about a month of depression to a week of elation, totally positive about everything in life, finding it hard not to smile, loving everyone and everything i encountered, and just feeling better. It was incredible, and last night after a setback binge of peanut butter brownies and annie's mac and cheese I woke up this morning feeling depressed and horrible again. I think this may be the wake up call that I needed.
      So, I guess that's my motivation. Can't deny the physical aspects will be a welcome bonus, but mostly I want to see if long-term change to make my life more primal can have long-term impacts on my capacity to love life. I've always thought of myself as a happy person and HATED losing that, even if it was just for a short-term in the long scale of things.

      In terms of carbs, I am going to allow myself some leway at least in the "healthier" grains of beans and corn...especially because, as I understand, the process of preparing them down here (soaking, cooking for long times at low temperatures) break them down more and make them less harmful. Not entirely clear on the science of that, so any explanation would be greatly appreciated. In terms of dairy, I've just heard from many people how much better they feel without it. That being said, I've already loaded up my salad with parmesan cheese and the quantity of joy that it brings to my life I think greatly outweighs any potential side effects a little bit could have on my life. I like you're input, keeping it in, but I am curious to know your thoughts on why you keep dairy in?

      And thanks for the post. I sweated for a few minutes thinking "oh f***, my life is out there in the world and people KNOW ABOUT ALL MY FAILURES!" But i think that's the beauty of this community - people don't judge and are just generally wanting to make everyone's lives better, recognizing we're all in this struggle together. Thanks for the support, even if it is just to remind me someone else is holding me accountable


      • #4
        I'm glad I could be of service. For traditional methods of preparing foods see the Weston A Price Foundation or google "nourishing traditions."

        To understand the depression issue, I strongly recommend The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith even though you are not vegetarian now. Mark's review and first chapter.

        I mainly have dairy because I like it and have not had any problems with it.
        Last edited by Hedonist; 09-05-2011, 07:00 PM.
        Ancestral Health Info

        I design websites and blogs for a living. If you would like a blog or website designed by someone who understands Primal, see my web page.

        Primal Blueprint Explorer My blog for people who are not into the Grok thing. Since starting the blog, I have moved close to being Archevore instead of Primal. But Mark's Daily Apple is still the best source of information about living an ancestral lifestyle.


        • #5
          Oh, Guatemala! I have visited Guate five times, 4 as part of a development organization team and the last time completely on my own for 3 weeks in Antigua attending a Spanish school. I would love to have the opportunity to live there.

          But food-wise must be a real challenge for someone wanting to go primal. It's a heavy carb culture for sure. I was always served lots of white bread, in addition to the tortillas and beans. And they like their sweets. Good luck to you in going primal. Sounds like you have excellent reasons to work at it, though. Mental attitude is everything, and affects everything else in life.

          I'd keep the dairy in for the pure enjoyment of it. But stick with cheeses and heavy creams, forget the liquid milk. There's a wonderful cheese that I only find in Central America, salty, very white, eaten in slices or slabs, like a fresh Feta. Do you know what it's called?


          • #6
            It's incredible to me how much this culture revolves around simple carbs and sugar. Food marketing industry has hit the jackpot here in terms of increasing consumption of sugar (even their traditional drinks are now loooooaded. It's to the point you can't watch them make it because you'll just throw up drinking it), white bread, and pastas. Don't even get me started on pepsi and coca cola - there are family's that can't afford enough food but never fail to have a 2 L bottle of coca cola with every lunch. Vomit.

            The good thing is that it's the "land of eternal spring" and so I have constant access to all the vegetables I can eat and cheaply, and the general culture hasn't gotten too far removed from it's roots that all parts of animals are available for consumption - any local butcher has plenty of livers, hearts, (hooves), lard, etc -just got to know your butcher (which you can do here! Little by little learning to appreciate the benefits of going primal here). It also helps that any sort of processed foods or store bought cookies (Weakness) are not in my budget.

            As for the cheese, I know exactly what you are talking about but have no idea what the name is. Will ask some of my Guatemalan friends and try to get back to you. I'm actually eating a chunk right now as I keep a stock in my fridge and your post made me crave. mmmmm

            If you are back in Guatemala any time soon would love to meet up!


            • #7
              Anyways on a separate track, today ended up being good. After a slightly depressing and unproductive morning spurred by last night's binge (any advice on avoiding binges?) I stayed on track today, had a salad with lots of wallnuts and parmesan for lunch, probably 3 too many apples with almond butter (i had 4...give me a break they're itty bitty here), then had a delicious bowl of beans and tortillas for dinner. Tomorrow I'm making it my goal to make chicken livers which will make up for my lack of meat and vitamins today. Hey, I'm only in Guatemala so long, and in Boston there aren't tortillerias one very corner offering me hot, fresh, hand made corn tortillas at will. Gotta aprovechar!
              Exercise went well too. Did 20 minutes of 5 minute interval jumping rope and then 2 sets of pushups/pullups/squats/planks. Need to up this, I always thought I was fit but I've DEFINITELY never been strong. I wonder how muscles would look...
              now off to do a few minutes of pre bedtime yoga (need to make this a goal for tomorrow) and meditate for a good night's sleep!


              • #8
                Congratulate me, I just popped my OFFAL cherry

                Painting a picture:
                Me, last year at this time, at a friend's house being laughed at because they slipped lard into the refried beans and I was, technically, a vegetarian. I really wasn't that upset about it, but people like to make the gringa feel stupid.
                Skip to me this year: Walking down the streets of my town to two different pork shops and 3 chicken shops and arriving home with 1/2 pound of pork, 1 lb of lard, and 1/2 lb of chicken livers.

                Primality is weird...
                Anyways, I did it. I ate chicken livers. And you know what? They were GOOD! Not even in just the stomacheable way, but they were actually DELICIOUS! I have to stop myself from not eating the whole half pound because I'm stuffed and I don't know if my body can handle that much nutrients from one meal.
                Anyways, let me start with saying that I've had super thick glasses since I was 8, so I've always been REALLY into vitamin A. Carrots were, and still are, by far my favorite vegetable and so anything that comes my way promising super high quantities and rapid absorption of it is automatically put on my worthwhile list. The man in my life (who turned me on to paleo) insisted that it was necessary to douse them in butter and mix them with eggs so you didn't taste their nastiness, but I was sort of set on actually tasting them and seeing what all the fuss was about, so instead I did them Cajun Blackened Chicken Livers with Lemon and Garlic | Mark's Daily Apple and THEY WERE DELICIOUS! I EVEN LIKED THE TEXTURE! I think this seasoning would be awesome on regular chicken too, but I think it's something I'll save for my livers. Question: Is there such a thing as too many vitamins/too much liver in one meal? Otherwise this may be a staple, although my cat is on bad terms with me tonight because usually when I come home with liver it goes straight to her plate. This is awesome. Served it over swiss chard and baby spinach from my rooftop garden and topped it off with lemon juice from my lemon tree. I love guatemala...

                So, apart from that, this morning was a big helping of beans and eggs and tortillas, and two HUGE cups of coffee which is so not needed in my life because I'm already super perky and obnoxious as is. Then I had to go into the office this afternoon so noshed on a small avocado and two tortillas (I always panic slightly when I am not around for a meal because I dread having to buy something mediocre and waste the little money I have, so even though I wasn't hungry I noshed). I think I need to try out IF in situations like these. Also had a bag of fried plantains (shoot me, they're delicious) and homemade blackberry yogurt (uses honey instead of sugar). Then, I already indulged you all in my amazing creation. THOROUGHLY ENCOURAGE IT if you've never eaten OFFAL. It's part of my resolution to try one new organ meat per week. Next week, beef heart.
                And I bought lard! LARD! tomorrow's lunch promises to be equally delicious.

                Exercise was good too. Woke up and did a quick 10 minutes of wake up yoga, followed by a mid morning 3.5 mile run, and then an impromptu salsa class this evening. Starting weekly salsa/bachata classes, so that goes into my "fun" workouts.

                Interesting note. I was exhausted and winded for the rest of the day after my run. Hard with the altitude here, but I can't help thinking it falls into the chronic cardio category. I still like to run, and have a goal to be able to run far, but maybe I need to focus on more intense, shorter workouts for now until I can do 3 miles without it being intense cardio, more just fun cardio.

                Anyways, in case it was not already completely obvious from this email, i am super happy today. SUPER HAPPY. Second day in a row, and I can't help but think it's diet related. Really digging this feeling. Sorry if I'm irritating.

                Although, I'm not really sorry, because happiness is fun and also infectious. And also, offal is delicious.


                • #9
                  Bacon wrapped chicken livers are awesome. Just bake them for about 10 minutes...

                  Check out Dr. Emily Dean's blog for information on depression...she's a Harvard paleo shrink who has really dug into nutrition and mental health.
                  Evolutionary Psychiatry: Intriguing Links Between Depression and Cholesterol


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AbigailLyn View Post
                    Anyways on a separate track, today ended up being good. After a slightly depressing and unproductive morning spurred by last night's binge (any advice on avoiding binges?)
                    I highly recommend a couple of tbsp of coconut oil or butter. It destroys any desire to binge for me.


                    • #11
                      appreciate it! I searched alllll around the nearby tourist town for coconut oil and everyone just looked at me with raised eyebrows. I love being the strange gringa...Not sure if I like the idea of eating raw pats of butter, this primal thing is new for me, but if it helps avoid the binges i may try. maybe I'll try just eating a chunk of coconut? Should have a similar effect, right?


                      • #12
                        Hey! I totally see what you are saying about us being on a similar journey...nice to have a companion for the ride!! :-D

                        Well done for getting back on it after a binge...that takes a lot of strength. Am loving how happy and bouncy you sound and look forward to reading your journal as it goes on (am subbing btw!).

                        Oh and you have totally inspired me to try those cajun chicken livers! I normally just make pate and although I love that I still couldn't bring myself to just cook them and eat them but now I will...if you can, I can too! ;-)
                        Finally uncovering the real me!

                        My 'Serious Six' journal.


                        • #13
                          Laughing about the pats of butter..... sorry, I meant coconut butter - also called coconut manna or coconut cream. It is basically the coconut oil and fiber all together in one delicious mix. if you can imagine what coconut would be like in peanut butter form you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect. I either spoon it right out of the jar or use very dark chocolate to scoop it out. Actually, I've just made myself hungry.......


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by LitheGrokkette View Post
                            if you can imagine what coconut would be like in peanut butter form you've got a pretty good idea of what to expect.
                            I want that...


                            • #15
                              Okay guys, I'm posting early because I'm about to leave for salsa lessons/dancing and won't be able to later. Let me preface this by saying that I am REALLY FLIPPING P*SSED and it has absolutely nothing to do with what i'm eating or doing. It has to do with the fact that the muchacha next door (the girl who cleans my guate family's house) has yet again stolen from me. I don't know how she's getting in anymore, but I found a ladder placed precariously next to the wall to my house which leads to my terrace. F.M.L. okay, not really fml because my l is pretty fabulous right now, but SERIOUSLY. She's up to 150 DOLLARS now, which in quetzales is ridiculous. I just don't understand, and maybe someone out there can help me, but what makes it okay in people's heads to steal like this. This is the 6th time it's happened. Every time I take precautions to change location of hiding places, lock the doors every time i leave my house, etc and somehow the b*tch still finds her way in. AGH i'm about to lose my mind.

                              Anyways, let's go primal, because prior to the last 20 minutes my day was great. I played hooky on work (well, not really, because no one is working here now because elections and independence day are coming up. And really, who can afford to work when there are SO many decorations that need to be made? and also I've decided that part of my life's work is to improve on me - and that includes any and all things primal and anything else i need to do to make my life liveable. Such as clean my house) and cleaned my kitchen. This was nearly an all day process because, let's face it, i'm kind of a pig. but i felt great, and put on some jams and high heels (not super primal but way more fun to salsa in) and now at least one room in my house looks great. My bedroom is another story, that's for tomorrow.

                              Anywhos, I also took this opportunity to primalize my pantry for the upcoming challenge. So far I've been pretty lenient with guidelines in terms of allowing myself a lot of cheat days, and I decided (with the exception of beans and tortillas, because it's both bean season and corn harvesting season and my last one in guatemala) to do it fully. It's amazing how much of my shelves were cluttered with this stuff. I now have a DO NOT TOUCH bucket in one corner filled with quinoa, bakers chocolate, chocolate chips, flour, sugar, oats, rice, macaroni and cheese (annie's, that was hard), pasta, cous cous, popping corn, etc. It's amazing how much space I cleared on my shelves, and they look much neater and primal. I decided not to give them away because these items are hard to come by and expensive here, and after 30 days I fully intend on having some cheat days. The one thing that didn't make it in because it somehow got tucked in with my nut stash was my peanut butter, but there's only about 1/4 a jar left so I will find some lucky person to gift it to (is it rude to gift semi full shit?). So, primalized pantry.
                              Maybe I'll post a picture tomorrow, because I am super proud of how clean my kitchen is. Like I said, oink oink.

                              Getting back to basics:
                              Food for the day: breakfast of eggs cooked in chicken liver butter from last night with black beans and mucho coffee. Snacked on an apple as I went through market, then had another mid morning snack of an apple with almond butter. More coffee to keep my mojo flowing for cleaning. Lunch was 1/2 lb of pork cooked in lard over spinach with some lemon juice and a carrot. I wish I knew how to cook pork. Since I was pretty much a vegetarian when I started cooking for myself the meat department is still a little daunting for me cooking wise. Most of the time I just do chicken because it's easiest, but trying to branch out.
                              Last night after my chicken liver celebration I was so gung how on having the rest in my eggs this morning, but for some reason when I woke up chicken livers sounded SO unappetizing to me. Maybe I overdid it, or maybe my body was just like "TOO MUCH VITAMIN A" (side note, I still need my glasses. Damn it.)
                              I think my biggest food issue is that I don't know when to stop. When I make something super healthy, if it's delicious I generally eat twice what I probably need to. I need to learn moderation - I like the idea of putting away half the meal before you start it. Maybe I'll try that. I can't convince myself that I need a 1/2 lb of meat at every meal...I also ate so much because I'm trying to avoid eating out tonight. This is one of my biggest problems, I plan ahead too much. Instead of just eating when I'm hungry I'm constantly trying to prevent future eating disasters, and because of that I eat too much. Hmmmm. work to do.

                              exercise - not too much because my salsaing tonight is my fun exercise. I did about an hour of yoga which was fabulous and getting me back on that train, also did sun salutations briefly in the morning, and cleaning is a work out because, like i said, pig in shit.

                              So that's my day. Excited for this challenge to start. And excited that I am now 150 dollars poorer. That is two months rent down here. Sad face and going to get aggression out tonight via wine and dance so that I don't get aggression out tomorrow via punching a lady in the face and sitting on her until she gives me my money back.

                              Still, happy today for the most part minus last minute disasters with theft.