What’s the Deal with Paleo?

Tips for Success

Written by Erin Cummins
Paleo SaladA few years ago, I had a meeting with my college’s nutritionist where she suggested I go carb-free. (I imagined a police scene: “Step away from the bagels and no one gets hurt!”) So I valiantly embarked alone on a new way of eating, trying to eliminate carbs from my life entirely. It ended, as these things always do, in a wild scuffle for a half-eaten cannoli.

My dreams of making a change were over until a few months ago, when I joined a new gym and was introduced to the Paleo diet: a more “official” version of what I had tried to do before the day of the fateful Cannoli Battle. I have subsequently thrown myself into this lifestyle with the abandon of Honey Boo Boo hopped up on go-go-juice. If you are considering going paleo, here’s what you should know:

What it is (and importantly, what it isn’t).

With the paleo diet, the focus is ostensibly on “eating what our ancestors ate”—and by ancestors, I mean people who actually used their wisdom teeth and for whom a fun Saturday night meant fingerpainting the cave walls. In actuality, the name “Paleo” is just a trendy name for a fairly simple way of eating. The focus is NOT to go out into the wild, battle a dinosaur, and finish it all off with some (hopefully not poisonous) berries—the point is to eat real food, food that hasn’t been overly processed and pumped full of salt, sugar, and fat. The point is to get back to the basics.

There are some other arguments about evolution and our bodies’ capability to handle certain types of foods (namely, grains) but the most salient argument for me is that it’s about putting the “food” back into, and removing the “stuffs” from, our foodstuffs.

What you eat.

Eat what is good for you. Look not at the calorie count, but at the nutritional content of that which you eat. For example, many paleo-eaters will only eat grass-fed beef: they argue that while you can get protein from regular beef, you’re probably not helping yourself out by ingesting pink slime. (Personally, I am not the Lehman Bros, so I eat non-organic/grain-fed meat. That is a sacrifice I’m ok with).

Also, fear not the fat. Healthy fats are good for you! As I understand it, they allow you to store up nutrients in case you get sick, so your body has something to fall back on. Let me put it this way: if you are up against a wall, and have to choose between eating something that’s sugar-free or something that’s fat-free, eat Sugar-Free. Sugar-free foods are supplemented with fats (to make them taste good), and vice versa for fat-free foods. It’s way, way worse to eat sugar than fat. At least fat has something to offer.

How to succeed

1) Do your research. There are a lot of detractors out there (link and link). Not everyone is sold on this lifestyle—and that’s fine. If you are considering switching over, you should read what they have to say (the good as well as the bad), and find out if this is for you.

The other research you need to do is internal: find out how different foods affect you. For me, I discovered that my gross adult acne was tied to eating dairy. If I had never tried cutting it out, I would never have known how nice my skin could be! So try going a few weeks without different food groups and see how your body responds. This is the best way to find the right combinations of foods for yourself. You may find that a strictly paleo diet won’t work for you, but certain modifications are extremely helpful.

2) Get a buddy. If nothing else, you need someone to commiserate with—someone who won’t think you’re insane if you start having dreams of chocolate bars and pasta.

3) Forgive yourself; don’t give up. My Nana likes to tell me that attitude is 90% of life; this is definitely true when it comes to changing your habits. There are many moments where I have to stop and remind myself why I do paleo in the first place (especially going out to dinner; I hate to be that person who has so many specifications to her order!), but in the end I have found that forgiving myself for making mistakes and keeping myself excited about trying new recipes has made this process more “real.” Concurrently, it’s easy to quit something if it feels like a temporary fix; by changing my attitude to realize that this is a permanent change, it’s easier to come back after making a mistake.

4) Use tools: recipes, blogs, cookbooks. The quickest way to lose steam is to eat the same thing every day. When I first started, I got so bored of eating salad every day for lunch, I wanted to stray to sandwiches just to mix things up. The only way to pull myself back in was to find new recipes- eating leftovers became much more satisfying! Creativity doesn’t hurt either; instead of sandwich bread, use lettuce and create mini wraps. Instead of fries, make your own sweet potato fries. There are a lot of great blogs and resources out there. I will be honest though- some of them are not that great because they require you to have fancy food implements, like food processors and stuff. Some people who are really into paleo are also really rich; I have had to modify a lot because (as I may have mentioned before) my last name is not Rockefeller.

5) Listen to great music and read awesome books. This is more general “life-success” advice, but I can’t say enough how Serena Ryder’s Stompa has been able to pull me out of a bad mood. And when I’m happy, I have the energy and desire to take care of myself. So find an anthem. Memorize a poem. Learn about the Peloponnesian War.

Personally, there are a lot of good things that have resulted from my switching over to paleo. For one, I’m no longer feeling guilty that I’m not following “doctor’s orders” (and I’m also not clawing for Italian baked goods… most days!). Another great thing is all the experimentation that I’ve been able to do; having a limited set of ingredients often forces me to find creative ways to mix things up. I’ve also lost weight (which is nice) and gotten stronger (which is nicer). Ultimately, though, for me, the best part of eating this way is connecting to ancient peoples. I don’t mean cavepeople when I say this, by the way- I mean the Ancient Romans (those of you who know me should not be surprised that I brought it all back to Rome). Romans had a common Latin expression, ab ovo usque ad malum, “from the egg to the apple”, essentially meaning from start to finish. Typical Roman dinner parties would have eggs to start off the meal, and apples for a sort of dessert. Since switching to paleo, I have started most days with eggs, and finished each night with a nice snack of an apple- literally living out a proverb from 2000 years ago. This hasn’t been the easiest change in my life, from the egg to the apple I have seen a lot of great results.

Should I Upgrade to Windows 8?

Experience from Erin Cummins

Windows 8 ScreenshotYou know that feeling you get when you’re standing on the edge of a cliff? With the wind whipping at your hair and your face, your heart is pounding out a fearful tattoo.  Even so, you slowly, almost against your will, shuffle your feet forward, closer and closer to the edge… because as scared as you are to stand there, there’s a tiny part of you whispering “jump… jump…”  That’s how I felt about switching to Windows 8: I was standing on a frightening but seductive precipice.

Well. I did the perhaps-inadvisable thing and took the leap.  It felt more as if I had been pushed, actually; my previous computer (a Dell) died at an unfortunate moment, and I did not have much time to spend poking around doing more research.  I decided to buy a Samsung laptop that came equipped with Windows 8, and for the past few months I have been playing with it.

So now I, as the unfortunate first penguin who has been pushed into the freezing sea, have the duty to tell the rest of you what’s going on down here in the water.  Is Windows 8 a glorious sea full of tasty fish? Or am I dinner for the killer whales?

Built to accommodate tablets

If you think I’m being a tad dramatic, yeah–I am.  Really, Windows 8 is not so different from Windows 7 (or even Vista, actually).  The biggest difference is in aesthetics; Windows 8 is built to be compatible with touch screens and tablets, so you do not get the classic “desktop” view upon first logging in. Instead, when you log on to your computer you come to the Start page, your home screen full of apps.

Many new PC ultrabooks are coming out with touchscreens, so this new start page is really helpful with that: the icons are large enough to tap with a finger.  I like the apps, even on a non-tablet device; Windows apps have the “live tile” feature and flip with new news and pictures, so you can be caught up without having to actually do anything. I particularly enjoy the Kindle app and Netflix (both of which are free, like many apps).

Getting down to Business (to defeat the Huns)

When it’s time to actually use your computer as a computer (use a browser, write a paper, etc), it’s easy.  Your desktop is an app on the home screen so you can just click on that and you basically have Windows 7 open. You can set things like Microsoft Word or Firefox as apps on the start page as well and those will both take you straight to the desktop.  I haven’t noticed any differences in the way Windows 8 handles these programs; it’s just like any other computer.

Having two different home screens (the start screen and the desktop) is revolutionary; at least in the sense that it means I can basically have two computer wallpapers.  Now my pictures of a saxophone-playing hamster and my head photoshopped onto Dame Maggie Smith’s body can be given equal billing on my computer, as they do in my life.

Navigation

The biggest difference between the desktop app and Windows 7 is the lack of a Start button in the lower left of the page.  But because of the layout of Windows 8, you actually do not need a start button.  If you want to access any program, you can go back to the start page and do it there.  If that other program is not part of the desktop app, you can lock it onto the side of your screen and have two apps open at once on your screen.  If you have a touch screen, doing this is very easy; it’s a bit harder with a mouse, where dragging things around the screen takes a bit more effort.  Luckily, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts that take the place of the touch screen motions; for example “Windows button + [period]” will automatically snap the app to the side.

Administration

Shutting the computer down is less intuitive.  But once you learn how to do it, it’s not that tough: just use “Windows button + C” and the settings hover on the right of the page. You can then go ahead and click on the power icon, and can choose from the classic options (“shut down”, “sleep”, “restart”).

You can access the task manager the same way you always have been able to- Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Some things never change.  You also still have the Control Panel, which can help you to uninstall programs, connect to the internet, and basically access the behind-the-scenes of your computer.  And if you need to do something with your computer that you can’t figure out easily, there is always Google… just saying.

Downsides (let’s rant)

So far this review has been pretty tame, so I might be accused of being some kind of propagandist spy-blogger if I didn’t tell you about all the things I do not appreciate about Windows 8.  So here’s a list of rants:

1) The Netflix app causes the screen resolution to overload when you are connecting the computer to your TV (or other screen).  WHAT’S THE POINT OF THAT? People often watch Netflix on shared devices… it’s confusing that I would have to use my browser instead of the specially-made app for this. Get yo act together, Netflix.  Inconceivable! Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line!

2) A lot of techy people do not like the fact that there is no Start button.  And yeah, it kind of sucks if you just used the Calculator and have to go all the way back to the apps to open it again, instead of clicking on the recent items in the menu.  But overall, I really don’t think there’s a lot to miss from the Start menu; you still get it all, just in a different place.

3) Internet Troubleshooting.  Over the holidays I went home with all my brothers, sisters, and their significant others–and everyone had a laptop.  My parents’ router just did not have the bandwidth to support all 8 computers at once, so I ran into a lot of issues trying to connect.  At first I thought it was my computer, so I ran a lot of troubleshooting tasks. This was not awesome. It was not-some? Anyway, in Windows 7 you could go to the Network and Sharing Center, click on the globe icon, and Windows would just troubleshoot everything.  Now, I’m sent to the Help section, and given 3 options of different types of problems to troubleshoot. And I’m like… can’t you just run all 3 at once and fix whatever it is? If I knew that the problem was my adapter, I’d just fix that.

4) Windows 8 is clearly engineered for “fun”–in my opinion, this is not a system on which a business computer would thrive.  Apps are largely built for watching shows, reading books, or playing games–nothing that should be done in the office.  Businesspeople will want to go straight to the desktop, and will be frustrated by the new extra step of bypassing the start page.  Then again, I have not tested with any business-y apps, which may be out there and be very helpful. And we have also seen the speed with which companies are making the switch to “keep up with the times”–many business executives have tablets they take on trips with them instead of computers–so it’s not crazy to think that businesspeople could adapt to Windows 8.  And the question remains as well: will they have the choice to stay behind? The worlds of technology and business obey the law of the wild: Evolve or Die.

Ultimately, out of all the operating systems for PC computers, Windows 8 is one of them.  As it was famously said, “we are unable to stem the tide of history.”  Whether we like it or not, Windows 8 is part of the future.  Chances are, if you have a PC, you will use Windows 8.  Even Vista, which is authoritatively regarded as “yucky,” was the primary operating system for years before Windows 7 came out.  Windows 8 is happening: software and apps are being developed for it, and newer computers and tablets will be equipped with it.

To return to my original musings about penguins and cliff-diving (two topics definitely relevant to technology…), the choice is still yours as to whether you are actually going to jump into the ocean.  This penguin survived (and is doing quite well for herself), so it looks like the coast may be clear. Windows 8 is not incredible, but it’s not terrible either, so you need to answer the following questions for yourself: Are you going to stick with previous operating systems as programs are made more and more for Windows 8? Will you spend your days searching for a non-existent start button (“Are you there Start? It’s me, Margaret”)?  If I jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?