If you’ve been following the blog then you already know I’m a big fan of the Paleo diet. It just makes sense to me. It emphasizes health from the inside out by encouraging you to eat more real food that your body was designed to eat.
Proteins like grass-fed beef, lamb, and wild salmon.
Carbohydrates in the form of green leafy veggies, low sugar fruit like berries, and the occasional starchy carb like sweet potato.
Healthy fats like coconut and olive oil
And throw in an occasional sweet treat like the candy of the gods, dark chocolate.
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This post is designed for someone looking to get started with a Paleo eating approach.
Diets can suck a fat toe
First things first. I’d like you to get away from the mindset of being on a “diet.” Whenever I hear that I automatically think of something that is going to be temporary, restrictive, and nearly impossible to keep up for longer than a month or so.
Your nutrition plan should be something that you feel comfortable keeping up for the long-haul. Don’t build your life around your nutrition plan but instead build your nutrition plan around your life.
When I first got into this health and wellness thing I remember being so restrictive with what I could eat, what I couldn’t eat, and when I had to workout. I was miserable, had no social life to speak of, and felt exhausted and grumpy all the time due to over-training and a lack of nutrients in my diet (there’s more to nutrition than chicken and broccoli).
Two approaches to Paleo
I’m a fan of simplicity. To many choices and you never end up making a choice at all. So if you’re looking to do this Paleo thing I suggest two different approaches.
1: Balls to the wall, I’m all-in!
2. Slow and steady habit building, toe in the water.
Balls to the wall, I’m all-in!
This approach is like a smoker quitting cold turkey. Essentially you make the decision to go Paleo and in an instant toss out all your non-paleo goodies, hit the market for your Paleo friendly foods, and never look back.
The balls to the wall approach is usually done in 30 day challenges like Whole9 or The Paleo Plan. The idea behind the 30 day challenge is to reset your system, assess how you feel at the end of the 30 days and then make small adjustments that allow you to stay Paleo while also enjoying your life.
The good: A 30 day challenge is a great approach if you have a community of people participating that can hold each other accountable, motivate each other, and bounce around tips with one another.
They usually provide clear and concise guidelines that are easy to understand and follow. If put together correctly they eliminate a lot of the “what can I eat, what can I not eat” questions.
If you are able to keep up with the challenge for the entire 30 days at the conclusion you really feel a sense of power, accomplishment, and may have grown a little hair on your chest… except for you ladies, that would be weird. But I think you get me.
The bad: They can be tough! They usually require you to go cold turkey and follow the rules 100%. This can require a ton of willpower (which we often think we have a ton of but are actually limited in). 30 day challenges if not done right can leave you wondering what to do next. Some typically participate in the challenge and then fall off the wagon after the 30 days because they really never learned how to eat healthier. Sort of like cramming for a test to get a good grade but the next day having no recollection of what the hell it is you just studied for.
Who’s it best for: Someone that already knows a fair amount about nutrition and Paleo eating. Has almost got it down but is not quite there yet. They’ve already almost eliminated most grains and gluten containing foods, dairy, and legumes, but might be struggling a little bit.
This is not to say a noob can’t do it. Ami here went all-in and got fantastic results.
One of the reasons challenges can be so tough is because sugar and grains actually have addictive properties. Just like cigarettes and drugs. This can lead to actual withdrawal symptoms. Some of which are covered in this post we did a little while ago: 30 truths in 30 days: The first 30 days of Paleo and what to expect.
Slow and steady habit building, toe in the water:
The slow and steady approach focuses more on building healthy habits that build upon one another over time.
Each week you would pick one habit to work on. In this case it would be one Paleo eating habit. The goal is to make one change every week or two until it has become as automatic as tying your shoe or the route you take to work everyday.
The good: The habit building approach is great because you are just focusing on one single change every week. It is not a complete overhaul of your current nutritional approach or lifestyle.
The bad: Lets face it, we live in a society on the hunt for instant results and immediate gratification. Patience for most of us is severely lacking. The habit building approach can take a bit longer to immerse yourself in the plan or to even see results but it is often easier to stick with and maintain for the long-haul.
Best for: The noob. Someone that is not sure where to start, nutrition is all over the place, and has a hectic schedule. Focusing on one thing at a time is less stressful for this type of person and allows them to get a better understanding of why they are doing what they are doing.
What approach is best for you?
So which approach would be best for you? If you get your Sherlock Holmes on and start searching for clues it is pretty easy to see which approach will work best for you and your lifestyle.
I’m going to try to make it easy on you by outlining a few different types of “dieters.” Identify yourself and give the approach suggested a shot.
The Weekday Wizard: Monday through friday you’re a nutrition beast. Totally dialed in, just crushing the healthy food all day long. Come the weekends and the wheels fall off…. and I mean fall off. You don’t just enjoy a slice of pizza – you’re putting back an entire one, the booze is flowing, and the good times are-a-rollin.
This typical lasts until sunday night and come monday morning you are dialed in again and enjoying another solid week of nutrition until friday night rolls around again.
Mr. 100% Or Bust: There is no gray area for you. You either are 100% compliant to your nutrition plan or not at all. If you have one nibble of a donut or a teaspoon of ice cream you say F*ck it and eat the entire box or gallon and figure you can start all over again come monday.
One slip up is a downward spiral. You may dwell on imperfection in other areas of your life as well (cough) (cough) this is me (cough).
You often think to yourself, “If I just had more willpower…” That’s all I need.
Sista Shoulda: You know exactly what you should be doing but you just don’t do it for some reason. You might also dial it in for a couple of days but soon after the wheels fall off and your back to old habits.
You might often say to yourself or others “I should be doing this…” or ” “I know I’m suppose to…” in other areas of your life.
The Blamer: It’s always someone else’s fault why your nutrition plan got jacked up. There’s always a special event like your Boss’s, sisters, brothers, son’s bar mitzvah and you had no other choice.
There is always a family outing, your spouse makes it difficult, or you have to keep certain foods in the house because of the kids.
Emotional Eddy: Nutrition might be pretty good until work stress, a rough day, or even an exciting event comes up. All of a sudden you have chocolate all over your face, cheeto fingers, and are double fisting a big gulp.
Often the fact that you let your emotions get the best of you and ruin your nutrition can make you feel worse, fire up the emotions again and BOOM! The cycle repeats itself.
The Know It All: It’s your way or the highway. You’re not getting the results you’d like to see with your current approach but you refuse to listen to the advice of anyone else or simply refuse to admit that you might need help.
You may even know exactly what to do in order to achieve success but refuse to do it unless you are the one that comes up with the idea.
The Ignorer: You know something needs to change, you want to change, but in order to do so, the shit needs to hit the fan. A trip to the doc’s office with some bad news or seeing an old picture of what use to be a fit and athletic you.
You may be the person that often goes with the flow and just falls in line, just trying to fit in and not stand out too much.
The Busy Bee: Your busy life doesn’t allow for enough time in the day to prepare healthy meals. You often opt for something quick and instant.
We often make ourselves busier than we actually are. Gut check time, how are you really spending your day? There’s plenty of time to get healthy if you make it a priority.
I shouldn’t be sending you away from this blog but how about prepping those meals right now?
The Dieting Veteran: You’re always on a diet. You jump from one to another because “it’s not working for you.” You’re constantly hungry, maybe a little moody, and your energy also might be sluggish.
Carby Mcgee: You’re having energy crashes between 2 and 4PM, you go from full to hungry really quickly, and you can’t live without bread, and always seem to need coffee.
You’re blood sugar might be out of whack. Limit the coffee to 1 cup of black per day and never after noon. Keep those carbohydrates to green leafy veggies most often and get in plenty of healthy fat with each meal to stabilize that blood sugar and energy.
JakeandLindsay Sherbert via Compfight
Where to go from here
Both paths to Paleo will work but it really comes down to knowing yourself.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet.
1. You’ve been able to go cold turkey before with other things
2. You don’t have a super busy schedule
3. You are doing it with a group, have accountability, and a support system
4. You are very clear about what it is you need to do
5. You absolutely have no patience what-so-ever
Build the habit:
1. You struggle with willpower, commitment, and consistency
2. You’re very new to the Paleo style of eating
3. You are trying this on your own and might not have as much outside support
4. You have patience and understand your health is a long-term investment
5. You have a busy schedule and only having to worry about one thing at a time just sounds nice 🙂
Want to go All-In? Check out a great resource like Chris Kressers Personal Paleo Code
Looking to build the habit? Download the Limitless 13 steps to perfect Paleo and practice one of the habits per week for the next 13 weeks.
What kind of dieter are you? Post to comments below or give me a shout.