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Paleo Journeys with Lucy Lichtenstein

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Today’s Paleo Journeys guest is Lucy Lichtenstein from Feed Me – Real Food Co. I first met Lucy  a couple of years ago at the Low Carb Down Under conference in Sydney. We have since been catching up for a coffee or lunch whenever we’re in the same city and chatting about our experiences and views on this ever-evolving lifestyle. I see Lucy as a bit of a veteran in the local paleo scene so I thought she would have an interesting perspective on where the movement is heading and her own journey. Lucy is also sharing her love for gelatin together with a recipe for Herbal Tea Gelatin Gummy Squares.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m a massive foodie and health geek with a love of cooking and living a health conscious lifestyle.

Growing up, I always had a love of sports and realised somewhere along the way that healthy food mattered too. After many life experiences travelling and living in other parts of the world, I came to the realisation that I wanted to be involved in nutrition and food in some way.

A large part of this was due to an experience I had living in a country with a lot of malnutrition and I realised how much it affected and bothered me, which spurred me on to pursue a Nutritional Medicine degree for the last couple of years. However I’ve put this on hold for the time being to grow Feed Me.

I’m always someone who loves to experiment with different aspects of food and health and I’ve been following a “paleo” type lifestyle for almost 3 years now and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wellness Guys podcast and there was one particular episode that got me thinking differently about food and what we were being told to eat. They were debunking the food pyramid and talked about what is actually healthy to eat. At the end of the episode I remember thinking, “But what about whole grains? They didn’t even mention those!”. I even went as far as to email them and ask about this and got a great reply from Damian talking about how grains are not an essential food for us to be healthy and that there were some better than others. This kind of blew my mind in a way because that’s not what we’ve been hearing for years on end!

It then got me questioning my Anatomy and Physiology lecturer, who told me the exact opposite, but now that I had heard another side to things, I was really curious. I proceeded to listen to more of the Wellness Guys podcast, who had people like Loren Cordain, Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf on the show.  Before this I had been following people like Jillian Michaels (cringe!) and counting calories to the point of annoyance (more cringing!), and after hearing these paleo and primal guys talk about their approach, it made a whole lot of sense. Me being the self-experimenter that I am, decided to give it a shot and have not looked back (or at Jillian Michaels!) since.

What does paleo mean to you personally and how would you describe your own eating framework and lifestyle?

For me, what started off as a fairly rigid approach of “eat this because it’s paleo” or “that’s not paleo” has inevitably “evolved” over the years. I started to realise, rather than being confined to a strict set of diet rules or being evangelical about things, it’s more about sourcing the best quality, nutrient loaded foods possible, finding what makes my body feel good and removing the processed inflammatory rubbish that doesn’t make me feel good. It’s also about enjoying the delicious food we very fortunately have available to us and supporting local and ethical producers as much as possible.

The way I eat is probably closest to the Perfect Health Diet approach if I had to label it. I’m not 100% strict with food all the time and if I am going to have some kind of treat, I will just make sure it is made with the best quality ingredients where possible. But if there’s a social situation where some questionable food might be a part of the equation, I don’t really worry about it and just enjoy myself.

Paleo/Primal is more of an underpinning philosophy in my life than just a diet and applies to almost anything I do and really puts a perspective on things for me. Beyond food, I also stick to as close to natural as I can, so that would be things like functional fitness for movement, natural personal care and cleaning products, no unnecessary medication, minimal technology where possible, spending time outdoors in the sun and in nature, sleeping and waking early, etc. I love the back to basics approach of it all.

What are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the way you look and feel, since you started your paleo journey?

The biggest health improvement I experienced was that my asthma which I had since I was a child disappeared within a week or two of switching my diet to a paleo type approach. And it hasn’t been seen around town since! I put this down to removing the inflammatory refined carbohydrates and sugars.

My energy levels are much more stable and I don’t feel the need for the 3pm nap I used to have a few times a week because I felt tired. I can go for really long periods in between meals without eating and not have it be a problem with sugar crashes, cravings, irritability, light-headedness or any of those other things that are associated with eating the standard Western diet and not eating for a few hours. It’s become apparent that my body has switched over to be able to use fat as a source of energy which can be a lot more stable, efficient and even burning than relying on sugar as its primary energy source which needs to be continually topped up with sugar upon sugar.

What is the best thing about living a paleo lifestyle? What do you find challenging?

It has the ability to transform and improve the lives of countless people, which it has already done and I believe will continue to do. Also, the food is ridiculously delicious!

Some challenges would probably be travelling and eating well. I usually bring my own food though if I know options will be limited, but sometimes you just need to make the best choice possible with what is provided if you find yourself caught off guard and unprepared. No stress about it though.

In your opinion, how do you think paleo, as a lifestyle and movement, has evolved in the last few years and where is it going?

The evolution of the lifestyle has been interesting. As I mentioned above with how things have evolved for me, I think that was a natural progression of heading towards where this movement has shifted to. I think there is a lot more focus on food quality and knowing where it comes from, supporting local producers and acknowledging individualisation by using Paleo as a template and starting point and then working out what is best for you by taking out or adding in certain foods to see how you react and feel.

Previously it was more like a diet with a bunch of foods we should and shouldn’t eat. Now there are some so-called “grey area foods” like dairy and safe starches, which we’ve come to see as healthful foods (if tolerated by the individual). People also seem to be thinking more about other aspects than just the diet and there’s a big wave of Crossfit, natural movement, functional and practical fitness going on.

The media version of this whole thing is still misinformed but at least there is a lot more recognition. In terms of where I think this is all heading… I think there might be a shift away for a lot of people that have been living this lifestyle for a while to stop identifying as “paleo” per say and just eating real food and living well. By the same token though, I think the label of paleo will be around for a while with a lot more people trying out the approach, having success and then trickling down to friends and relatives who wonder what all the fuss is about.

I think there will also be more availability of chemical free, organic foods and grass fed and finished animals, which we are already starting to see due to the growing demand for it.

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