What I had difficulty with during my time in Japan was maintaining a paleo lifestyle. I was determined that I would stick to eating my protein and vegetables and figured I could get a good bit of fat from eating fish and other forms of protein. I packed a few snacks for the 19 hour travel time:
The flight was fine and I ended up fasting most of the trip while attempting to get some shut eye which is close to impossible for me in a seated position.
We reached Osaka in the future and we made our way to Yumiko's where her mom prepared an incredible and delicately prepared feast. Yumiko had prepared her mom for my "odd way of eating", so it was known that I did not eat grains or sugar. But something I wasn't aware of about Japanese cuisine is they love to sweeten everything with sugar, and I mean everything. Most meat dishes were prepared with a sweet sauce, so when you thought you were getting something savory, it was actually pretty sweet. They consume a lot of wheat, soy and of course rice. This is the staple of every household and I learned very quickly that it would be difficult for me to maintain a paleo style of eating for the next three weeks.
|Paleo breakfast courtesy of Yumiko's mom :|
I started eating rice to bulk up my meals, and purchased rice balls from the 7-11 (their 7-11's are amazing) to take with me for emergency hunger pangs on our long hikes. This helped with my energy but almost immediately I felt bloated and cramped with some minor headaches. I powered through it because this was a once in a lifetime experience for me and nothing was going to ruin it. There are also many occasions where politeness trumps. No one wants to insult their host, so sometimes we sacrifice to show our appreciation.
It would have been fine if all I ate was rice, but something happened after a week. I started craving carbs regularly. I haven't had a carb craving in over a year, and my experiences reminded me all over again how addicting grains and sugar could be. I started a "to hell with it" and "I'm on vacation, I'll get back on track when I get home" attitude and ate pretty much to my hearts content. Donuts, bread, rice, tempura, udon, sushi, ice cream, Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki and other local fair. My taste buds enjoyed themselves immensely and I had some pretty good eats (best sushi EVER). The rest of the vacation I experienced days of constipation, intestinal cramping and bloating, headaches, lethargy and irritablilty, all the reasons I started paleo in the first place.
Returning home from such an incredible trip, I set out to get back on track immediately, but there was one problem. In the three weeks, I had become completely addicted to carbs again. I craved everything. My first week back I had terrible jet lag which allowed a head cold to take hold of me (I blame little sleep and poor immunity from poor eating habits). My husband and I were too tired to cook or go grocery shopping to restock the fridge, so we ate take out for a week. I even sunk as low as McDonald's . . . twice. I craved buttered toast constantly and ate pasta. I don't even really like pasta, but my resurrected addiction had consumed any reasoning and will to cease. I hadn't put on any weight during vacation due to my 10 fold increase in physical activity. But being home and laying on the couch eating junk food, I had put on 4 lbs in 1 week. I felt like a zombie and I hit rock bottom on Sunday. That's when I decided enough was enough.
Monday was my first day of paleo again and it felt good. I've succeeded with today as well and I feel I can get back on track quickly. I still fight the cravings but I don't plan to give in to them as easily as last week.
We all fall off the horse once in a while and in a way, my experiencing was a bit of an awakening. I'd forgotten what a drug like effect grains and sugar have on us and how it's so simple to become "comfortable" with the many symptoms that ensue with consumption. It's also very easy, as I experienced in a short period of time, to be consumed with the craving again. So many people I know complain of bloating, cramping, headaches and such and assume that these are normal functions of the body. There's always a quick fix at the drug store. I'm happy to be back on my permanent fix of paleo and can only hope to never experience any of these symptoms again. It's good to be back, in more ways than one.
I don't want to give the impression that paleo is impossible in Japan. If I were living there, I would have complete control over what I purchased and cooked. Actually, the selection of protein at the grocery store was astounding and I've never seen so many different types of radish. The issue is relying on food from restaurants and train stations and of course there are language barriers with menus and wait staff. It's difficult to communicate and most people don't understand your reasons for being particular.
Have you had any difficulties with travelling while maintaining a paleo lifestyle?