Arifa lives in Bromley with her husband, Matthew, and two mad cats. Everyone in their house (including the cats) loves food. Arifa does the majority of the cooking because she really enjoys it and because Matthew would happily just cook and eat bacon and broccoli every day if she let him. Both Arifa and Matthew work full time and spend several hours a week training at CrossFit Central London. Arifa is a bit rubbish at planning anything in advance, so most meals are cooked fairly randomly with whatever happens to be in the fridge at the time.
Arifa and Matthew are expecting their first baby in June this year, so life is about to change quite dramatically!
What made you start Paleo, and why did you carry on?
Soon after starting CrossFit, I heard a lot of people talking about paleo and when my CrossFit box announced a 30 day challenge I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately that didn’t work very well – I assumed at the time that I could only eat grilled chicken and vegetables so very quickly got bored! Being a food lover, I really like a lot of variety in my diet. I then tried the Zone diet and that was even worse! I found that measuring and weighing everything was a bit soul destroying. So I looked into paleo again and discovered that I could actually eat a varied diet and incorporate it into my normal life with some fairly easy changes, and Matthew was more than happy to do the same. What has kept me going is the positive effect it has had on my energy levels, body composition and training routine.
How Paleo is your diet at the moment?
Before getting pregnant I was eating about 80-90% paleo and felt great! I was still eating a bit of dairy (milk in tea and occasional cheese or ice-cream) and having a cheat meal once a week or so. I had gained weight but lost body fat and my training was going really well. Although the pregnancy was planned, how it made me feel came as a bit of a shock. I had no idea how much it would mess with my hormones and I suffered fairly badly with morning sickness for the first few months. I lost nearly 4kg in weight and went off most food, so I was surviving on just eggs and fruit and the occasional packet of ready salted crisps, which was pretty much all I could face eating. Luckily that has now all gone and I’m almost back to eating the way I was pre-pregnancy, except for occasional cravings for toast or chocolate which I’m allowing myself. So I guess at the moment my diet is about 70% paleo.
What do you find hardest about sticking to Paleo?
I’ve never actually managed to give up dairy and I’m quite happy to carry on eating it in small quantities. At the moment I’m craving the odd slice of toast, although even pre-pregnancy I would have an occasional slice at the weekend. I also love chocolate but tend to go for dark chocolate and have small bits so I don’t worry too much about it. Other than that I don’t find it very difficult at all. I’m happy to make my own snacks and treats and also do paleo baking, so I never really feel like I’m missing out.
How do you manage when you’re eating out?
It really depends where you go! Most restaurants are happy to substitute vegetables or salad for non-paleo options. Again, I don’t find it too difficult, but then that’s probably because I will usually choose restaurants where I know I can get some sort of paleo meal. Having said that, I also don’t stress too much about it, and if there are no paleo options available then I will just consider it a “cheat” meal and eat whatever I like. I don’t think the very occasional bit of rice, pasta or even cake will kill me!
What would a week of Paleo meals look like for you?
I’ve been putting off doing this interview until I could photograph a week of food, but that hasn’t happened! Being pregnant means I don’t have the same energy levels as I used to, so when I get home I just cook dinner and eat it and can’t be bothered to faff around with taking pictures! I’m still CrossFitting 4 or 5 days a week and occasionally cycling to work, but it does tend to use up a lot of my energy. However, I have done a “week of paleo” for the blog previously so please feel free to take a look at that. It’s a good representation of my diet even now.