The Paleo diet, aka the “caveman” diet, sounds…interesting… This diet is nicknamed the caveman diet because you literally eat like a caveman – veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, and fish. Cavemen didn’t have access to any processed foods, grain products or dairy. Doesn’t sound that difficult, right? We do have infinite access to all the foods cavemen had access to, so where’s the challenge? The challenge is that we have been eating so much bread, dairy, and processed foods that when we cut ourselves off from them completely it is like a drug addict entering rehab.
Anyone who is looking for a lifestyle change should challenge themselves with the paleo diet. Start by deciding how you want to ease yourself into it. What is going to be the most difficult food to give up – grains, dairy or junk food? If you are used to having a bagel for breakfast, replace that with a small amount of healthy grains like a ¼ of a cup of oatmeal with raisins, walnuts, and cinnamon. Eventually cutting out the oatmeal and replacing it with a vegetable omelet will be the next step. Not sure you can go without your daily yogurt? Try making a smoothie with almond milk – I use 1 banana, 1 cup of almond milk, and 1 cup of frozen fruit (usually mango or mixed berries). It has the same consistency as a yogurt smoothie and is just as tasty! An important part of easing into the paleo diet is planning. Plan what you are going to ear (for both snacks and meals) in advance so you don’t panic out of hunger and eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Also, do plenty of research (you will find countless recipes online and there are tons of apps for your phone) so you know what you should and shouldn’t eat. Notice I didn’t say “can” and “can’t” eat…
I don’t know about you but if I tell myself I can’t eat a donut, I’ll want to eat 3 of them and then I’ll cave and eat at least 1. If I tell myself I shouldn’t eat a donut, I won’t and that’s the end of it. This is why we need to ease ourselves into eating paleo. It’s a huge lifestyle change. If we completely cut ourselves off from grains and dairy our bodies will go into shock and we’ll probably just freak out. The only food we should completely stop consuming is processed foods/candy/chips/cookies…all that good stuff because we shouldn’t be eating a lot of it anyway. Giving ourselves wiggle room as we begin a paleo lifestyle is essential in continuing our paleo journey, whether it be for 30 days or an entire year. There is a method called the “80/20” which consists of eating strict paleo 80% of the time and earing whatever you want for 20% (aka a “cheat meal”). I recommend using this method or a similar one to keep yourself on track and motivated to keep eating paleo.
There are several reasons to go paleo. I wanted to try it to see how it would affect my body physically during crossfit and its physical appearance. I can’t lie, I was nervous in the beginning to give up grains and dairy. I thought I needed the grains in order to have enough energy for crossfit and I didn’t want to give up dairy completely because females need to get their calcium for strong bones. Turns out, almond milk has double the calcium of regular milk (unsweetened vanilla almond milk is super delicious and tastes really good in iced coffee). Although I miss eating a peach chobani everyday, I’ve been doing okay without them. Bread though…I miss you even more than peach chobani. Grains are a go-to food in our culture – sandwiches, pasta, bagels – I didn’t realize how many grains I was eating an a daily basis before. I attempted a couple days in the beginning of my paleo journey with no grains whatsoever. I could feel the withdrawal from grains in experiencing lightheadedness, nausea, and haziness. I decided to start eating a ¼ of a cup of oatmeal in the mornings and that has seemed to help with the lightheadedness. Otherwise I have been eating mostly paleo – fruits, veggies, nuts, meats, and fish. I swapped peanut butter for almond butter, milk for almond milk, orange juice for water with lemon, and granola bars for raisins and almonds.
Changing my diet and lifestyle has been somewhat challenging but I feel more naturally energized. With the proper research and dedication, anyone can ease themselves into the paleo diet. This is a great blog to read to educate yourself on eating paleo (it also further explains the 80/20 method): http://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/2010/10/04/the-beginners-guide-to-the-paleo-diet/
Just don’t forget to give yourself that wiggle room and have a donut once in a while.