So you’re thinking about starting a Paleo diet. After all, why else would you be reading this article? But where to begin? Let’s start with a simple definition:
1. a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.
Now that we’ve defined the term, here are a few good-to-know tips that will help you on your journey to a healthier, more energetic lifestyle.
First, the tough part. Giving up cheese! Cheese is like peanut butter to me… I can eat it ALL day. Giving up cheese is going to be the worst part of your new lifestyle. Not being able to have a late night pizza after a long day or a fun night will feel like the ultimate struggle. So how will you get through it? Prep, prep, prep!
Make sure you have paleo friendly food readily available for you throughout the day. There is nothing worse than feeling like you are starving and then having to go out to lunch with your coworkers or family. A Five Guys burger and fries always sounds like a good idea at the moment. But if you prepare in advance, it’s much easier to make the right decision.
So before you start your new paleo lifestyle, go ahead and look at the menus of places you typically go out to eat with friends, family or coworkers. Look for your paleo options. Having a strategy for navigating these social situations will increase your likelihood of sticking with your new found lifestyle. Maybe compile a list of emergency places and food options for when you really don’t feel like meal prepping. For example, look up your paleo fast food options at Chipotle.
I suggest starting your paleo journey with a trip to the grocery store after a large meal. Look for things that are on the paleo list and buy things that appeal to you. Don’t go overboard and buy a lot of foods you have never tried. Leave the rhubarb alone for now and add some veggies you already eat. Buy lots of foods with proteins and fats. This will be your main energy source.
While you’re perusing the grocery store, don’t be scared of fats! Since you body is going to be cutting out the sugars, you will be getting the majority of your energy from proteins and fats. This will include meats and nuts. These will be the main source of energy so buy the stuff you like. When it is 2am and you get a craving for something, hopefully you have planned out some foods that sounds appealing. Believe me, cooking salmon at 2 in the morning is not the most convenient way to stay paleo. The more you prep, the less likely you are to relapse, or feel constricted by the diet.
Now, you’ve gone to the grocery store, loaded up on healthy proteins and fats, and you’re ready to begin. Great job!
Here is what you can expect your mind and body to feel like in your first week of going paleo.
You may experience fatigue and low energy, maybe even mood swings. This is happening because you are switching from getting your energy from higher glycemic foods (think sugars) to a lower glycemic food bases (think veggies, proteins, fats). It’s been a part of your lifestyle for so long. Afterall, sugar typically accounts for an estimated 14.1 percent of total energy intake. (1) So basically your body is going to be craving sugars and sweets because that is what you have been getting your “fix” from.
If you’re really struggling here, supplement more protein. (2)
Take heart and don’t give up.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter what changes you make to your diet, your body will always have to make adjustments to absorb and metabolize the energy you are putting into it. Your body is going to find a new way to get energy from the new nutrient source. Depending on the severity of changes, this process can take a few days or a few months. For the paleo lifestyle, the typical adjustment period is 3-8 days. In this period, your body is starting to cleanse itself of the toxic foods and drinks you have been eating and adjust to a clean more wholesome source of energy. This will start to improve all facets of your body. Other than it being strontly dependent on depression and other mood disorders (3), this detoxing process can also improve acne!
Think about it this way: you have been taking it easy on your body. You have been feeding it simple easy things like breads and sugar filled foods. These things are easy for your body to breakdown and turn into energy. Soon your body is going to have to adjust and work a little bit harder to extract its energy from a variety of complex, more nutritious sources. Once your body gets use to this new energy sources, it will become easy for your body to absorb and output energy. It will feel efficient and fantastic. No more cravings and a new clarity.
Also keep in mind that your palate will start to change over time. With less simple sugars in your diet, you will start to taste things in new and different ways. It’s amazing what cucumbers will taste like to you a month into the process.
And most importantly, don’t forget about the many benefits of resolving those pesky digestive issues you’ve been dealing with the past year.
Finally, you need to know that making mistakes part of the process.
The key is to not be too hard or rigid on yourself. View yourself with compassion and ambition. Remember why you started paleo in the first place. Think of the happier, more energetic life you will have. When you do slip up and forget to ask for no sour cream, brush it off and move on. Dont dwell on the mistake or use it as an excuse to go off the rails. Acknowledge the moment and keep stepping forward.
This is an exciting time for you. Soon you will feel the best you ever have. More energy, mentally sharper, less lethargic and a great zest for life. I’m excited for you!