The Paleo Paramedic and the Shakeology Controversy

I have always been fairly active.  In high school, I was the goalie for our girl’s hockey team; I played softball in the summertime, and threw shot put and discus for our track team.  In college, I joined the track team for a year as well as played a little rugby in my spare time.  I was active, but not really physical fit.  After college, I started my career as a paramedic.  After a couple years paramedicing, I found out that I had some back issues.  It was kind of an either you get fit and strengthen your core….or you might not be able to be a medic anymore.  Of course my choice was get fit.

I dabbled in the gym here and there.  I dropped around 60 pounds doing the elliptical, treadmill, and Insanity.  This was really my first taste of the Beachbody programming.  I liked it…a lot.  July 2011, I was introduced to CrossFit, and also tried my hand at the Paleo way of eating.  I fell in love with CrossFit on Day 1.  I think many of us in public safety are addicted to adrenaline.  It was a perfect fit.  Paleo…was more of a challenge.  I did strict Paleo for 30 days. I lost a little weight, had more energy, noticed clearer skin, allergies were better… It was tough though, and I didn’t stick with it.  I tried to figure out why my first paleo experience didn’t last. I think what it was, was that I became bored with it. Chicken and spinach, steak and spinach, tuna and spinach. Same thing over and over and over again. Boredom.

Fast forward to the January 2013. I evaluated my diet. It was full of processed foodstuffs. I always justified eating poorly. “Oh, just a little treat…I worked out today.” I realized that this just wasn’t acceptable. I needed to change things up. Around the beginning of January 2013, I decided to go back to Paleo. Fairly strict Paleo, actually. This time, I decided that I was going to put a little more work into it. I made a commitment to making Paleo my lifestyle…not just a “diet.”  Around this time, I joined a challenge group of accountability put on by my good friend Laura, of Fully Fit.  Through this challenge group, I also decided to try this Shakeology that all my friends were talking about as well as purchase the fancy new T25 workout.   Around this time, I also started a blog and Facebook page.  I became the Paleo Paramedic.  I really just wanted to create a place to post pictures, recipes, motivation, and thoughts on just being fit.

Within a week or two, I noticed a difference.  I felt better.  That was the biggest change.  More energy was the biggest one.  I felt focused and awake all day long.  HUGE change.  Better sleep was also a positive side effect of my lifestyle change…which also leads to more energy.  My skin became clearer.  My allergies were better.  My clothes became looser, and I started to drop weight and inches.  Ok, I’m sold.  Once in a while, I will have a cheat…or treat.  I remember the first time I had a cheat after beginning my Paleo journey.  It was something at the fire station…something biscuity or wheaty.  Man oh man was I miserable.  I felt bloaty, gassy, crampy.  I had heartburn and I got the hiccups.  This was when I realized that I never knew how good my body was supposed to feel.  By eating Paleo, taking out the things that have tendency to cause these symptoms, I felt good…great even.  Ok, this Paleo/ Shakeology combination really is a win!

This time around, I put a little more work into it. I make a point to make at least one new Paleo recipe a week. This time, Paleo isn’t a chore. Eating is fun. I actually eat probably better, more exciting meals than before.

Then there’s Shakeology.  I fell in love with Shakeology right away.  It truly is a fantastic product.  Packed FULL of ridiculously clean ingredients into one little scoop. Fruit, vegetables, protein, anti-oxidants, probiotics, calcium, iron, vitamins…do I need to go on?  Besides, who doesn’t love a shake every day?  There was one thing though that kept bugging me.  It’s not 100% Paleo.  While it IS full of real food and clean ingredients, it still had a thing or two (i.e. quinoa) that I wasn’t sure about. I felt like as the “Paleo Paramedic,” I couldn’t completely promote or endorse…or really even talk about a product that I wasn’t entirely sure I believed in.

I really thought hard about my views on Shakeology.  I did research.  I read the Beachbody forums…I read the Paleo forums…I talked with smart people who know nutrition.  Finally, after about a year of my eating real food journey, I came to a decision.  I’m good with Shakeology.  I feel good when I drink it and notice a pretty incredible difference in the way that I feel when I don’t.  A couple things.  1.  I don’t get sick. I don’t call in sick to work for illnesses anymore.  My sick time bank has been looking pretty plush lately.  2.  When I skip a few days of my Shakeology shake, I feel ridiculously lethargic and it’s hard to focus.  Severe lack of motivation.  3. Testimonials. One of my friends told me that she swears by it.  Before drinking Shakeology, she would feel bloated beyond brief and feel really pretty miserable.  She tried changing her food up, she changed her workouts, she tried this, tried that…no improvement. BUT, since drinking shakeology, really since the first week of drinking it, she has felt great!  Testimonial after testimonial after testimonial, you hear of stories like that.

So, in short, while Shakeology isn’t 100% Paleo, it’s still a clean food product. Gluten-free, non-GMO.  Real food.  Real good (ok, grammar police.  I know.  It just sounded good to write).  I’m good with Shakeology.  It’s truly a great product and I am totally ok with talking about and sharing about. The Paleo Police may cringe…but that’s ok. This stuff works for me. It’s a part of my Paleo.

Now that the Paleo Paramedic Shakeology controversy has resolved, I’m just here to talk about clean eating and fitness. You don’t have to eat Paleo…honestly, I recommend just eating real food. Clean eating is a pretty cool thing. When you’re not eating a diet full of processed garbage, you just feel…good. When you’re not eating processed sugar, food tastes amazing. Fruit literally tastes like candy. It’s like your taste buds are alive. While I do CrossFit 5 days a week and a Beachbody DVD (Insanity, T25, P90X3…) the other 2 days a week, it doesn’t meant that this is the only way to be active.  Really, I’ve found that as long as you get moving, you’re golden. Start out slowly and work your way into something a little more challenging. Just get after it.

I’m committed to this stuff now.  Clean eating and fitness.  It has become who I am.  I am dedicated and passionate about it all.  That’s my story.  It’s my clean eating and fitness journey.

jour·ney (n): an act of traveling from one place to another. Synonyms: adventure, trek.



Life is Good


While reading through a recent issue of my Alma Mater’s alumni magazine, I came across an interesting article.  The article is called “Life is Good!” Bert Jacobs, co-founder of the Life is Good company, spoke at my school’s Homecoming celebration this past year.  The article talks about how Jacobs spoke on how we all have a choice to be an optimist vs pessimist. Jacobs went on to say “It doesn’t just put a bounce a step.  It makes you magnetic.  It makes things happen.  It connects you to other people. …it’s the world’s greatest secret.”  Jacobs talked about how once you make the choice to be optimistic, you enable “superpowers” like wisdom, creativity, compassion, and love.

I had this article bookmarked for a long time…finally got around to reading it today.  Good timing, I say.  I feel like it’s so easy to be negative, especially in this line of work.  Pessimism, cynicism…it’s all there.  Day after day after day…the negativity just builds up.  Anger and frustration are easy….but I realize how important it is to CHOOSE to be optimistic. Life is better when you look on the brighter side.  Something as simple as thinking “I get to” instead of “I have to.”

“Some days, you just have to create your own sunshine.”



Sirens, Snacks, and Shift Work

Food.  It’s kind of a big deal, especially in my line of work.  Depending on which type of public safety officer you are, you may go for quite awhile without having an opportunity to eat.  That big fire, a high speed chase, that CPR from hell…  OR if you do shift work, perhaps you get those random cravings at 0300. That being said, snacks are a big thing for me.  I like to have a lot of options.  Little munchy things as well as filling snacks. I have had quite a few people text me or message me asking me about some good snack choices. I’ve been working on this post for awhile now…adding to it from time to time.  Here are a few suggestions that I came up with.

Rule #1.  Never allow yourself to starve.  Eat when you can.  I always have snacks on me.  I typically have a Larabar or trail mix from Trader Joe’s…something light, yet filling.  My flight suit and medic pants have some pretty solid snack pockets.  I’m not afraid to use 3 out of my 11 pockets for snacks.  I even keep trail mix and Justin’s almond butter in the glove compartment of my car for road trip emergencies.  Tip: try pre packaged Paleo snacks like Paleo Kits from Steve’s PaleoGoods or muffins and cookies from Tripps Primal Farm and Kitchen.

Rule #2. Veggies and protein.  I really like mini cucumber sandwiches.  Small cucumbers sliced in half, the innerds scooped out, then layers of cheese, turkey lunchmeat, and mustard (no need to call the Paleo police.  I realize cheese is not Paleo).  I also like lettuce wraps.  Romaine hearts filled with mustard, meat, cheese, peppers, bacon, etc.  Ants on a log is also another solid choice.  Celery, almond butter, raisins. Just like 1st grade.  Guacamole and plantain chips. Tip: I’ve found that both vegetables and protein tend to fill me up…especially when I am in a mindless snacking part of my day.  Both are good, but when you combine the veggie AND the protein, you have a total snack win.

Rule #3.  Pack a lunch.  When you pack a lunch, you know you have a solid meal with real food.  For the days that I spend on the ambulance, I always have my lunch box with me. I tend to pack a plethora of options as well as a ton of finger food. Again, more veggies.  Pecan hummus and carrot sticks are a good one.  Also, when my almond butter is running low, I like to cut up a handful of celery sticks to put in the jar.  This makes for easy, mess-free dipping.  Cauliflower is a pretty good choice as well.  Filling and not messy.  A CrossFit Paleo cop I know likes to take cooked chicken breast to work and dip it into homemade baconnaise as a snack.  Nuts like almonds and pistachios are a great choice instead of having chips or crackers. I have also been known to pack a salad in a mason jar.  Put your dressing on the bottom then add plantain chips or almonds on top of that.  Continued to add the various layers of your salad.  When you’re ready for lunch, just give the jar a shake and dig in (I do recommend packing a large fork as well…unless you have small hands that can fit into the jar.)  A few other things I may have in my lunchbox include apples, slices of orange, small packages of Justin’s almond butter, some dark chocolate, local grass-fed beef sticks, sweet potato chips…  Snacks are great, but one can not live on snacks alone.  It’s also important to pack some solid sustenance.  Finger food.  One day, there I was, driving down the road….eating steak strips.  I also like to take grilled kabobs along.  Hard boiled eggs, homemade chicken tenders, and homemade coconut oil fried fish are also a few other options that I have been known to take along with me.  Decent protein. Protein will fill you up, and if you nom on clean protein choices, you’re set. Nutritious AND delicious. Tip: I have a couple insulated lunch bags that I take to work with me.  I can throw an ice pack or 2 in there in the morning and keep the lunch bag by my side all day long, even on an ambulance road trip. I also do this when I take road trips in my personal vehicle.  Saves money, there are fewer stops, and I am able to fill up on the good stuff instead of whatever drive thru options may tempt me.

Rule #4.  Strategic convenience store snacking…in case of emergencies.  Sometimes, when you are in a pinch, a gas station is the only option.  While choices are limited, there are a few go-to items that I’ll grab for on the road.  Almonds.  Almonds are good to snack on and great for you.  Once in awhile, if I’m starving and need something satisfying, I will have a roller dog (well, a bratwurst, not a hot dog) with mustard.  Now, this isn’t the best option, but I figure it’s a pretty good meaty protein source for those times that I’ve been up and all.night.long, am STARVING, and craving all things bad.  Again, hard boiled eggs are a great choice.  Pork rinds.  Hey, they’re Paleo.  Sometimes I can find a piece of fruit or a package of dried fruit.  A big bottle of water as well.  Water will help to fill your rumbly tummy.  Tip: I actually like to just walk around a few times to see if I can find anything new and exciting….and kind of Paleo.  The popular items are typically on the ends of the aisles and part of big displays.  Walk around a little to find better options.

Rule #5. Water.  I try to stay hydrated the best that I can.  Sometimes your body thinks its hungry when really, you just need water.  Have you heard about the apple test?  I can’t remember where I heard this, but I kind of use it as a rule of thumb, “When you’re hungry, ask yourself, ‘Does an apple sound good to me?'” If it does, you’re probably hungry.  If it doesn’t, then odds are, you need some water.  Tip: Many people reach for Mio or Crystal Light to enhance their water experience.  Yes to drinking more water.  No to the calorie-free, ARTIFICIAL sweetener.  For something different, try adding fruit to you water.  Buy yourself a fancy new water bottle.  Something.  Everyone needs more water.

I guess the most important thing is to not let myself get too hungry.  In order to succeed, you need to plan ahead.  I’m always thinking about when I will eat next and what I will do if I get a flight or ambulance call just as I’m about to sit down for a meal.  When hunger strikes, I really don’t want to miles away from my food.  It makes me irritable.  Nobody likes a grumpy medic.

Whoever you may be….firefighter, busy mom, office guy too busy to take a lunch…hopefully this helps a little.  Eat.  You’ll be a happier person.