A Paleo Alternate Reality: The Struggles with Oompa and Loompa


Ever had this conversation with your toddlers?

“What do you want for dinner tonight?” says me.

“Meat,” say oompa and loompa.

OK. Sounds good to me.

I take out the fresh grass fed sirloin, marinate it in grass fed ghee and Himalayan pink salt, grill it on low until it’s tender and juicy. I set the table with toddler friendly plates and have on the side garlic seasoned, mashed garden grown potatoes.

Food ready, I call the kids to the table.

Oompa the older sees the food and says, “I want pasta.”

Loompa the younger echoes, “Pasta!”

“No,” I say, “meat. You asked for meat.”

Oompa says,  “No. I want pasta and sprinkle cheese.”

Loompa chants, “Pasta! Pasta!”

And with each chant of pasta the inner paleo in me withers. I think that’s why part of my mind is in an alternate reality.


Personally, I struggle with feeding my kids what I consider healthy food and keeping my sanity. The two struggles are often intertwined. I mean, kids test our sanity, right? That’s their job in life.

In the past three years I’ve become hyper-aware of what is in the food I am eating. Through excessive research I’ve found that a diet abundant in healthy fats (grass fed butter, pasture raised animals, oils high in saturated fat) and protein from pasture raised animals, but low in carbohydrates and devoid of refined sugars is the best diet for me. Excessive carbohydrates, even so-called healthy grains, are a non-starter. Instead, when I do eat carbohydrates I gravitate towards sweet potatoes and rice.

The results? I haven’t been in this great of shape since I was twenty-two and training for Air Force ROTC boot camp.

I follow the paleo diet in a loose fashion in that I eat dairy and grains from time to time. The big changes to my diet have been the virtual elimination of refined sugars and a daily carbohydrate intake under 75 grams a day.

What is the paleo diet? Robb Wolf explains it best.

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, ophthalmology, dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. – Robb Wolf

I follow more of a paleo template. Every person is different. Therefore what works for me won’t necessarily work for you (or oompa and loompa).

If you are interested in reading more about the paleo diet outside of Robb Wolf check out nutritionist, Chris Kresser’s site, fitness author, Marc Sisson, and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

What does my paleo approach have to do with oompa and loompa, you might ask?

Well, I’d like my children to eat the best diet possible. I’m open to any diet for my children as long as it’s devoid of refined sugar and processed food. Even grains, but a grain centered diet takes effort and preparation. You should neutralize the anti-nutrients in grains by soaking and sprouting them. Then they can be used for cooking.

Do you think I am at a point in my life where I can hand make pasta from sprouted grains?

But my children love boxed pasta. I can’t soak boxed pasta. By then the grains are beyond help. It’s like trying to reanimate a desiccated corpse.

One could argue that, as a paleo parent, I shouldn’t have pasta around, but here’s the rub. Pasta is easy. Certain foods that give me a small internal cringe are easy. I’m looking at you, cheerios.

When you have three kids easy and fast are essential. That’s why I try to win small battles now.

So, instead of simple whole grain pasta we have Einkorn pasta.

If you aren’t familiar with einkorn wheat you should read this article on the Tropical Traditions site. The short of it is that the dwarf wheat we eat today is about as far removed from the native wheat of the wild as we are from chimpanzees. The dwarf wheat has been found to produce a higher insulin response, and it has a higher amount of gluten protein .

So, instead of plain butter, we eat grass fed Kerrygold butter.

Instead of vegetable oil we use rendered pork fat from local, pasture raised pigs.

Instead of flour we use nut flours.

Small victories.

Compared to the standard American diet I feel that my children eat quite well, but I would like to do more, feel even better about what they are eating. I read many paleo parenting websites, Paleo Parents, The Paleo Mama, Nom, Nom Paleo, to name a few, and honestly I don’t know how they have time to prepare all of the wonderful meals they detail on their blogs and in their cookbooks–yes, cookbooks! (Eat Like a Dinosaur being a favorite).

They have idyllic breakfasts, wonderful lunches in cute containers, and dinners that have more in common with a Norman Rockwell painting than with reality.

In my world half the time my wife and I are lucky to get something on the table that isn’t take out or take ‘n bake pizza.

We’ve gotten better, but there just isn’t time to be as good with the food as I’d like us to be. The food I feed my kids is important, and is a work in progress, but I’ve come to the realization that there are other parts of life on which I should focus.

Is it better to spend the time I have after work playing with my kids or spending an inordinate amount of time on a meal I found on a paleo website? The answer is obvious, but coming to grips with the answer was difficult for me.

Care to share your experiences feeding your children?

Journey to the UCLA Medical Center

Last week I had a doctor appointment at UCLA Medical Center. You should know that UCLA is 60-70 miles from Palmdale. I’ve been to UCLA dozens of times. Conor was born there. I could close my eyes and drive the way were it not for other cars.

Still, being me, I spaced out and drove down I-5 instead of I-405. The wrong way. What followed was an adventure in navigating Los Angeles traffic on a Friday afternoon while I tried (in vain) to make my appointment in time. Along the way I saw beautiful houses. Slums. And figured out the rest of my novel.

Official Flag of the City of Palmdale, California

Official Flag of the City of Palmdale, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I chose to have my primary physician at UCLA instead of Palmdale, because I’ve found that the doctors who can’t make it in LA, come to Palmdale. Sure, there might be a few good doctors in Palmdale, but I have yet to find them. I have a great doctor at UCLA. She’s progressive. Takes the time to listen to what I have to say. Engages me. Gets to the root of any problem I might have. My appointments with her are a conversation and nothing like a traditional medical appointment.

I left Palmdale at 12:50 for a 2:15 appointment. Cutting it close already. The choice route is to take I-405 to the Wilshire Boulevard exit. I was by myself, as Alefiya and I thought Conor could use a nap. So, who better to talk to on the journey than myself? And what was the subject? My novel. I have written over 110,ooo words and there were mysteries yet to solve, questions that were bugging me. While I talked my way through the rest of the story I drove straight past the I-405 branch off point. Now what was I going to do? I pulled out my trusty Windows Phone, clicked on maps–all while driving 75 mph–and figured out an alternate path, using 101 West.

The time was now 1:45.

California Interstate 405

California Interstate 405 (Photo credit: Mark Luethi)

Anyone who lives in Los Angeles will cringe at the thought of taking 101 West on a Friday afternoon. I tried to take the exit for 101, but somehow ended up on 138 East to Pasadena. I saw the traffic going west on 101 and shook my head. There was no way I would make my 2:15 appointment. Still, I wanted to try. I was already in Los Angeles. The worst they could do at UCLA was turn me away. I took the third exit I came across, parked at a Vonns (Safeway to people in Washington and Texas) and re-mapped. I found a side route that would avoid 101 and take me through Beverly Hills. Not bad. Always great scenery to see.

For Los Angeles natives, the route was Riverside to Moorpark and then south along Beverly Glen. Little did I know that I would pass near Warner Bros. Studio, Universal Studios, go north of Studio City, and see many of the iconic landmarks with which one associates Los Angeles.

What I did not count on, or foresee, was seeing such a great contrast in neighborhoods. Within a mile of each other were some of the poorest and richest houses I have ever seen. I saw terraced estates reminiscent of the Italian countryside and slums that could have been part of a third world country, but were here, in one of the most wealth-ridden cities in the U.S., and near one of the best universities on the west coast, UCLA.

I drove as if I belonged on the roads in Beverly Hills, in my dirt covered, grey Subaru Legacy. One hand on the wheel, the other tapping the map for updates on distance to the next turn. People were kind to me. Let me merge when I realized I was in a turn only lane. By 2:15 I’d given up on being on time and just hoped they would let me see a doctor, even if not my own.

The drive down Beverly Glen is curvy. I felt like I was in one of those driving arcade games, zooming through a city, but at only 45 mph (35 was the speed limit). Still, with one hand on the wheel, it was probably for the best.

At 2:40 I hit the west side of the UCLA campus.

English: The new UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Ce...

English: The new UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, from the south-west looking across Westwood Bl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took a right onto Le Conte, and I knew where I was. I crossed Westwood Village, took a right onto Gayley and pulled into the parking lot of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. I hurried into the internal medicine building, ran up four flights of stairs, and checked in at 2:45. They told me I might not see my doctor, but I would see someone.

I was relieved. I’ll spare you what I did while I waited. They called me back to see the doctor at 3:45, and lucky for me, I got to see my doctor.

Now, why was I here? For a checkup. But I also wanted to fill my doctor in on my diet. The best way to describe what I’ve done is to call it a form of the Paleo diet. About 50% of my calories are from healthy fats–grass-fed butter, coconut oil and MCT oil, 25% come from vegetables, usually celery, carrots and cucumber, and the last 25% comes from grass-fed beef. Many of my friends will be shocked to learn that I have all but given up soda (I grant myself one a week). And I avoid wheat. If one wants to know why you should cut wheat out of your diet, read the book Wheat Belly.

Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly (Photo credit: Earthworm)

As a result of these changes, I can keep my carbs to less than 100g a day. I do this for five days a week and then let myself eat more carbs on the weekend. I’m not perfect. Some days I eat more than 100g in carbs, and sometimes I have wheat, but I do my best to avoid it.

The ultimate result of these changes in my diet? I’ve gone from 198 lbs to 181 lbs in the span of two months. I’ve lost over 5% body fat and gained muscle definition. I HAVE NOT exercised once. I go on evening walks, pulling the kids in the wagon, but that’s the extent of my physical activity. I DO NOT count calories even though I do watch my calorie ratios. At 6’1″ I was not overweight to begin with, but I always felt I could lose 10 lbs, and I always had trouble, even with swimming and limited running and counting calories. At the height my exercising and calorie counting I never got below 193 lbs.

Now, not only do I feel better, but my TEETH are happy. I had the best visit to the dentist I have ever had. Not one cavity or hint of a cavity or decay.

But, I was hesitant to share my diet change with my doctor. I mean, 50% of my calories come from FAT yet I am burning fat. I do not watch my total calorie intake and do not exercise and I am losing weight. I wrote down EVERYTHING I am doing–my daily routine, what I eat, what vitamins I take. I went point by point through the list with my doctor. And you know what? She did not bat an eye. She said, “so the weight loss is intentional?”

I said, “Yes. But I’ve lost lots of fat, too.”

You see, I was still trying to give her ammunition. I wanted her to poke holes in what I had done. Do you know what she said?

“Of course, with what you are doing, eating a high fat/low carb diet, you lose fat.”

She had no concerns about what I was doing. Said I was healthy.

By the way, I had over 200g of carbs that day. For tests I had to drink a fair amount of juice, and since I’d already blown past the carbs for the day, I gave myself a Dr. Pepper. Very sad to report that the Dr. Pepper tasted fake. Like a diet soda. The last three Dr. Peppers have tasted that way to me. I may be over them for good.

If you are interested in the diet, I’d read a few blogs. A great one is written by Chris Kresser, a nutritionist. A good community to explore is the Bulletproof Exec. I hate the name, but the diet is explained rather well on his website. I do not follow his diet all that closely. The Bulletproof guy is big on mycotoxins. I’m aware of them and avoid food with mycotoxins, if it’s convenient, but I haven’t gone so far as to rid all of my food of mycotoxins.

My next fitness goal is more muscle definition, a leaner build, but I do not want to spend lots of time on weights or at the gym. That’s why I’ve started the Body by Science program, where you work out the five main muscle groups once a week for no more than 12 minutes. You work the muscles to failure, do the reps as slow as you can. I’ve just started. When I have results, or have spent more time on the program, I will report on my gains.

Cover of "Body by Science: A Research Bas...

Cover via Amazon

On the way home I had to contend with the 5pm Friday traffic heading out of Los Angeles. I sat there a while. Talked to myself some more. Figured out the rest of my novel. I already knew how the story would end, but I was concerned about the path to the end. Now I know the path. That evening I put down all of thoughts. Now I have to write.