If you follow my blog, you know that I competed in a Paleo Challenge back in January 2011 with the rest of my CrossFit box. I was pretty darn strict with myself: No sugars of any sort (even honey), no grains at all, and no dairy products of any sort. I was very happy with the results. I lost body fat, gained muscle, have more energy, enjoy clear skin, have no more stomach troubles, and just generally feel great when I eat Paleo. It is pretty amazing. My body definitely became leaner and my muscle definition increased considerably. I even got my six pack back! And my strength kept up pretty well, so I continued to see gains in my weightlifting and improvements in my CrossFit WODs. But, the biggest benefit is how I feel. I always knew that I had issues with dairy and had reduced it considerably in my diet. But now I know that I also have issues with wheat. When I finished the challenge, I had some celebration meals that weekend that included grains and dairy. Ouch. I felt lousy for 2-3 days after that. So, I’m staying Paleo and for the best reason of all: I simply feel great when I eat Paleo and avoid grains, dairy, and sugars. It’s pretty easy to avoid those foods now and I don’t feel like I’m denying myself anything. Because it doesn’t matter how good something tastes, if you feel lousy afterwards.
The key to a successful change in your diet or “foodstyle”, as I prefer to call it, is that you have to end up with something that is sustainable, day in and day out. Well, I just celebrated my 1 year anniversary of this Paleo/Primal lifestyle and I’m still going strong. It is indeed a lifestyle and has simply become the way I eat now.
At a very basic level, eating Paleo means:
- Lean proteins such as grass-fed meat (ideally), free range fowl, and wild-caught fish (steak, cuts of beef, lean hamburger, chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, etc. for those of us on a tighter budget).
- Seasonal fruits and vegetables (eat all the veggies you want), but no white potatoes or legumes. It is ok to eat sweet potatoes in moderation (I love them).
- Healthy fats such as nuts (no peanuts though, since they are actually a legume), seeds, avocado, olive oil, and coconut oil
- NO grains, sugars, or dairy products. None. Nada. Zilch.
It may initially sound restrictive, but you actually end up eating a lot! It’s just that you are eating really healthy foods instead of wasting your time (and calories) with junk carbs, sugars, and bad fats. I’m still amazed by how much I eat now and can’t gain a pound, because I’m working out hard with CrossFit and eating healthier foods. Traditional diets where you restrict your intake seem even more ridiculous once you discover this way of living. I never count calories or worry about how much food I’m eating. Never.
I understand that you might be skeptical and you should be. There are so many fad diets and false promises out there. But, I highly recommend that you at least read more about it and then decide. Robb Wolf has a great FAQ on what the Paleo diet is all about. His Quick Start Guide is very helpful (PDF format). Mark Sisson has a great site that talks about the Primal way of eating, which is similar to Paleo, but a little more relaxed. He talks about the differences between Paleo and Primal here.
You don’t need to commit to Paleo 100% right away. Do something like the Paleo Challenge that I did. Go Paleo for at least 8-9 weeks to allow your system to reset and normalize. It does take a few weeks to get over old cravings and get into the rhythm of shopping, cooking, and eating Paleo. Once you’ve really given it a fair shake, then you can decide if you want to continue. If you are like everyone that I know who has tried it, I bet you will find out that you feel better than you ever have in your adult life. If not, then feel free to back to eating bread and cheese! 😉