Return to CW: A Horror Story
So I haven't been on in a while, but I wanted to throw a post out there just to share some of my experiences of late because I have had a wild ride these past few months, and frankly I can't believe that people can eat like this.
So, I am a college student who made the decision to study abroad for a semester in Spain. I have been here since January. I knew when I left that I would have to give up my primal eating habits, as the program required living with a host family and eating meals that they have prepared with them. The point is to experience their culture, which means no special meal requests. I was 6 months primal, but it was a personal sacrifice that I was willing to make. I have been here 3 months now, and let me outline my experiences with the infamous "healthy" Mediterranean diet.
First of all, breakfast every single day consists of 2 pieces of white bread toast with jam, tomato spread, or artificial corn "butter", a cup of either half coffee/half milk or tea, and a tablespoon of sugar. That's it. Lunch is large, usually some or of soup with either lentils, garbanzo beans, or pasta, followed by either fried fish or pork or an egg dish and a salad (consisting or iceberg lettuce, tomato, tuna fish, and corn). An orange is for dessert. And, of course, bread as a side dish. Dinner is either macaroni, a sandwich, or a crepe with cheese and ham, again with a side of white bread.
This is, as you can see, not primal. Not even close. The first weeks I spent dying from starvation between breakfast and lunch, which is 7 hours without protein or fat, so to speak (7:30-2:30). Then lunch came, and I would overeat from feeling desperate for food, which resulted in carb-induced exhaustion. This, I have decided, is the real reason that they sleep after lunch. I spent the first month in constant stomach pain simply from eating so much gluten every day after becoming unaccustomed to it. My acne flared almost instantly, and my face became both oily and flaky. I am exhausted all of the time, and constantly feeling like I just need to lie down and sleep. Zero energy. My head, back, and legs are constantly sore and aching. I have gained 15 pounds in 3 months. My menstrual cycle has become less frequent and irregular. My eyes ache and I have trouble focusing. All bathroom activity is irregular (won't go in to detail on this, haha). My hair is greasy at the scalp and dry at the ends. I go from being desperately hungry to stuffed to hungry again in an hour.
How on earth do people live this way?? And what's more, how did I ever live this way? While they do have some redeeming attributes (lot of eggs and olive oil), the volume of carbs and bread here amazes me. Of course, I avoid extra gluten and processed foods at all costs here when it is acceptable without being rude, but holy cow. I have never been so physically...pathetic. I feel like I have aged 10 years. I am 21, I should be full of life. And instead all I want to do is sleep. While I'm glad I lived with a family to experience culture, I will most certainly have to live alone and make my own food if I ever come back. I jut can't hack it.
Has anyone else had a situation where they ended up going back to eating CW style? I knew it would be an adjustment, but frankly it has been worse than I anticipated. I can't believe I spent 20 years of my life living this way, I was so blind. If only I had found this site earlier in my life!! This whole experience has been excellent reinforcement, and has reminded me why I will never ever again eat this way when give the chance to make a change. Thank you Mark, for saving me from a lifetime of feeling like this!
Thank you for posting that. I always think that people in their youth have such rugged constitutions that they can eat anything and still feel good. You've opened my eyes.
I checked out Amazon Spain, and no food, I'm sorry to say. I hope you feel better.
"Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine
Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.
Thank you everyone for your suggestions/comments/concerns!
Yes, this has definitely been a learning process for me. I originally started Primal for weight loss, I won't lie. But as soon as I started it I couldn't believe how good I felt. Plus, no acne? I hadn't been acne-free since I was 13! I did think that I could come here and go back to gluten and the like without much issue, but I now see that I was completely wrong. I think that in general, people my age do feel that way. But there are always outliers, and I have some friends back in the states who started to question their own eating habits when I started to not only look better but also be much more positive and vibrant. So progress, maybe, right?
Originally Posted by JoanieL
I have had no problem when I go out, that is true. The fact that they cook everything with olive oil makes finding that sort of primal dish super easy. I LOVE the tortilla and arroz, I honestly would go home and add the little bit of rice to my diet simply the be able to eat that stuff. I would agree that a lot of my issues come from her individual cooking style. She breads almost all meat, and while some days I might be lucky and get a tortilla and lomo, other days it is something like migas. Dinner is never gluten free for her, I suppose because pasta and sandwiches are easy. But I totally agree, living here paleo if I was alone would absolutely be no problem. Also, out of curiosity, what do you do when you go out at night with people here? Do you just drink wine every time? I can't imagine going out with Spaniards and not drinking anything, but I don't know if I could do just wine 4 nights a week. And while I love my tinto de verano, it is definitely not primal
Originally Posted by jaczor
Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest. My mother has celiac's, and has for a long time (back before grocery stores had "gluten-free" sections, haha). I have always assumed I would eventually contract full-on celiac's at some point, so this could definitely be the trigger.
Originally Posted by eKatherine
I have tried to sort of mention that I don't like bread and macaroni that much, which has helped a bit as they now only offer me bread once at every meal and accept no as an answer, instead of offering it 4 times and then just putting it on my plate anyway. They are an older couple, late 70's and early 80's, so they hang on quite strongly to the notion that only the mother figure of the house is allowed in the kitchen to cook. It is sort of her "zone", and we are not allowed to touch anything in there or make our own food. It's a cultural thing for the family, and I think the older generation in general. I will try seeing if I can mention some easy, primal foods that I miss and that would be simple for her to make. Although they are quite convinced that meat is unhealthy, so the grandfather doesn't eat a lot of it because he is try to lose weight. I'll push for it though Or just ask for tortilla every day, haha.
Well, that is tricky to say the least.
Originally Posted by fresa
I really don't like clubs, so I rarely have to be in that situation, when I do go I usually drink gin tonics, it's got some sugar from the tonic, but it's not that bad (specially compared to other mixers like coke or redbull). If you like whisky you could have that on the rocks, it would be perfect, the only problem for me is that I'm probably the only venezuelan in the world that doesn't like whisky, lol.
Now, most of my social activity is in bars or going out for dinner, I rely heavily on wine, which I love and I think it's good for you even though it's not really paleo. I do have a few beers every now and then, I love beer, but I don't have even half as many as I did before going paleo. My attitude towards social drinking is that Ill have enough to enjoy myself and have a good time and I count on being almost 100% paleo for the rest of the time to lessen the damage.
I only go out once or twice a week at most, going out 4 times a week and drinking accordingly would be completely different, I don't see myself staying healthy and continuing my weightloss in those conditions, best case scenario, it would stop my progress but I wouldn't gain anything back.
However, sometimes you just have to forget about it and have a good time, a few weeks ago we threw a party for a friend that was going back to her home in Mexico, it was a special occasion, so I just drank whatever I wanted and had an awesome time (and an awesome hangover the next day too, hahaha).
Last edited by jaczor; 04-26-2013 at 05:25 AM.
Now that I know you have a family history of celiac, I would presume it is highly likely that you have it right now. The fact that you have been consuming gluten for months means this is an ideal time to be tested for it. Do you have insurance that would cover testing now? If it turns out you do have it, the school ought to be willing to make some sort of accommodations for you, since it is highly unhealthy for a person with celiac to continue to eat gluten.
Originally Posted by fresa
I live in Madrid, been living here for almost two years now.
I assume it depends on the family, I do agree that what most people here call breakfast sucks, the healthiest you can get is bread with tomato and olive oil, other than that they rely on pastries. However, for lunch and dinner they do have tons of healthy and delicious paleo options, lots of meat, pork dishes, fish, eggs, jamon, if I'm eating out I almost never have any problems finding a dish that's completely paleo (and that I like). Even one of the most traditional spanish dishes, the tortilla, is paleo (if you eat potatoes, of course).
There's a small market (the old style) two blocks from my house, so I get all my veggies and meat fresh when I need it, the butchers really like me because I always go for the good fatty cuts (lol), which CW has made a lot spaniards affraid of because of the fat.I also always keep a stash of jamon (vaccum sealed) just in case I get hungry and don't have anything paleo around .
Back to your situation, I think it has to more to do with the eating habits of your host family, I do believe that people in Spain eat a lot more healthy than in the US for example. If you are stuck eating what they eat then it's tough, but people here do love eggs, have you tried telling them that you'd prefer to eat that for breakfast? free range eggs are quite cheap!. My advice is to try and do the best you can, maybe you can't do 80/20, but 60/40 is not that bad either.
Last edited by jaczor; 04-25-2013 at 05:46 PM.
You should arrange to have an endoscopic biopsy immediately when you get home after having eaten all that gluten. You may well have celiac.
Or maybe you can get it there. It would no doubt be cheaper.
Man, that sucks. Have you tried talking to your family at all about it? Might be a good chance for "cultural immersion," in the sense that you guys would be working together to solve a problem. What if you looked up some Spanish paleo-friendly stuff and asked them if they would help you prepare it? That might even elicit a conversation about stuff they like but don't eat usually because they think it's bad for them, and having you there would be a good excuse to have it!
I stayed with a family in Mongolia one time that bought me corn flakes special (without my asking ), and the girls were always trying to stir fry veggies to be "as skinny as me" (though they were also pretty damn skinny). I was being exploited to some degree as a resource to help the kids with English and both of the parents were cops so they had crazy work hours, but they still liked to give me Mongolian food when they cottoned on to the fact that I love it.
To digress, Mongolia seems like the most awesome food location. Plenty of meat, including the head and offal, and a handful of greens and tubers.
It's good, but also aloooot of dairy (not a problem for me) and there is quite a bit of wheat flour and soda/candy that has found its way in, even in the countryside. People go out and milk the animals, make up some milk tea, then start making noodles and donuts to fry up. There are old folks though who still remember Russians forcing them to eat potatoes for the first time, let alone drink a Coke, and the word for "potato" is in some contexts a general term for any root vegetable, like wild onions!