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Todays post was inspired by my conversations over the last couple of weeks. Lots of questions like, “Is____ paleo?” or “What do I do about_____?” or comments like “_______ has been a lot harder than I thought.”  Most of the answers to these issues can be addressed by remembering 3 key concepts. Understand these 3 things before you get started and remind yourself along the way and eating and living Paleo will be a lot easier.

1. YOU ARE NOT ON A DIET!!

If you are one of those chronic dieters like I was, this is a hard mind-set to shake.  The trouble with the “diet mind” is that you always feel deprived. Even when you decide to “cheat” (I hate that word by the way) you still feel deprived because you feel so guilty about it afterwards that you can’t even enjoy it! Worse is the “calorie-calculator mind” calculating how many miles you have to run to “pay for” that cupcake you just ate.

The “diet mind” is always thinking about what it can’t have instead of what it can have.  What it really should be thinking, is, “What REAL food do I want most right now?”

If you are starting this with the end of this diet already in mind, I promise you will fail.  Did you get that? It put it in bold for a reason. This will turn into just another failed attempt to reach whatever goal you are not really all that committed to. That might sound harsh, but wanting to lose 20 lbs and wanting to change the quality of your whole life are two very different things.  Wanting to lose 20 lbs is a superficial goal. I do not mean that in a judgmental way. If losing 20 lbs is a goal, then great, but let’s get there the right way. I mean superficial from the standpoint of what motivates your decisions. The consequence of not sticking with it is still carrying those 20 lbs around. This is a state of being you are familiar with. You may not like it, but it is familiar.  Changing the quality of your life is much deeper and it usually comes about when you have no other choice because something has made your current state of being unacceptable.

So, you’re not on a diet!

  • No counting calories or carbs or fat.
  • Eat until you are not hungry anymore.
  • Eat enough fat to maintain energy. Healthy sources of fat are your friend.
  • Think in terms of treat rather than cheat.  We all deserve a treat when we need one.
  • Eat food you enjoy! Don’t eat something you hate just because it is good for you. There are lots of other yummy choices that are just as good for you.
  • Be flexible when out with friends.  Make the best choice available to you and don’t panic. It is what you eat most of the time that makes the difference, not what you eat once in a while.

If you have to ask if something is paleo, consider why you are asking. Consider your motivation for wanting to eat it. Is it because you think it is good for you, or because you are craving it? Either way is fine but again, you are not on a diet. Make your choices based on what is the best choice for you at the time. From now on you are reminding yourself (everyday if you have to) that you are not on a diet. You are on a path, a path to awesome!!! So what food do you need to take with you on this adventure? When you think about these real, whole delicious foods as the rations of the awesome then you begin to not even crave the junky stuff. The junky stuff put you on the path to less than awesome in the first place

2. BE PREPARED!!

If eating and living Paleo is a big change from how you were eating and living in the past you cannot do this without preparation. At least not without undue stress, obstacles and extra costs. Think about your lifestyle. When and how do you eat most often? How often do you cook vs. eat out? When are you most likely to crave something you know is just bad for you? Is that craving usually sweet or salty? How busy is your lifestyle and how can you make healthier adjustments?

One big mistake I see is when people refuse to purge the garbage from the pantry or fridge that are known issues for them. Or wanting to eat through all the garbage before you start because it seems like a waste. STOP! It’s CRAP! Eating it is just as wasteful to your body. Throw it out and replace it with yummier healthier options.

Cooking and eating at home more often will immediately make this transition easier. You have more control over the quality of what you eat and hidden toxins are less likely to find their way onto your plate. Not to mention your options really are unlimited. If you take the time to grocery shop and have lots of Paleo ingredients on hand, finding something yummy to eat is pretty easy. If you are not an accomplished cook or just don’t enjoy cooking, keep it simple. Grill up a great piece of meat, fish or fowl with your favorite veggie and a salad. Voila! Or use cooking or learning how to cook as a way to be adventurous and try something new. There are tons of Paleo recipe sites to dig into and enjoy!

If your lifestyle forces you to eat out a lot like mine does, spend time educating yourself.  Understanding which restaurants have a menu that is easy to paleo-fy will make eating out easier and more fun.  My career requires that I eat out on a daily basis so I have gotten pretty good at this. When I am eating out the first thing I do is look for what I can eat. I steer clear of all pastas and sandwiches. To me those are poison sections of the menu. I look for large entrée salads or for entrée dishes that I can Paleo-fy by requesting no cheese or subbing sides of pasta or potatoes for extra veggies, etc.

So, be prepared:

  • Clean out the garbage! Purge the crappy foods especially if they are a weakness for you.
  • Go grocery shopping and surround yourself in paleo goodness.
  • Cook enough to eat twice!  This makes cooking less arduous when you know you get two meals out of it.
  • If you know you have a busy week, plan accordingly. Cook ahead and organize easy to grab snacks like pre-sliced fruits and veggies, hard-boiled eggs, nuts &seeds mixes, jerky, Larabars etc.  There are also lots of Paleo snacks you can buy online like Caveman Cookies, Steve’s Original Granola bars and Paleo kits and Paleo Treats.
  • Don’t be afraid to eat out and request some changes to your dish.
  • Let your loved ones know your plans! A major change like this is always easier when you have support. Which leads me to number 3.

3. EXPECT CHALLENGES! 

A change like this is huge! For some this is scary, for others it is exciting, but expect challenges. Challenges can come from within you or from outside forces.

If these challenges come from within you they usually take shape in two different ways. The first one is physiological. Some people have a hard time making the change especially if they are making a dramatic change to their macro nutrient ratios. This is particularly true if you are going from a high carbohydrate based diet to a lower one.  Some make this change very easily and others struggle with energy levels at first. The vast majority of Americans eat entirely too many carbohydrates, especially refined ones. When your body is used to burning these refined carbs for fuel, it can take a few weeks for it to learn how to burn fat for fuel. This is why I always recommend making sure you are eating enough and that you have a healthy form of fat at every meal. Also, do not expect that your experience with this change will be like the experience others have had. You are uniquely you. Listen to your body for guidance as long as it is not telling you that it must have a cupcake to make it through the day.

For some the challenge is psychological or emotional. For many, food has been a form of comfort or reward. I know many who turn to comfort foods when feeling sad, stressed out, anxious or hormonal. This is where a new frame of mind is needed. Switching from thinking of junk food as a reward to wholesome food as a reward is a tough one to make. So don’t beat yourself up if that craving for chocolate chip cookie dough creeps in there. Most of us get that craving for something junky, for me it goes back to past biases. For example, I think back to when my kids were little and I used food as a bribe to elicit the behavior I wanted from them. Ice Cream or a cookie became a reward for good behavior. I WANT TO KICK MYSELF FOR THAT! I also remember back to high school and being upset about any number of things that seemed monumental at the time and finding solace in a bowl of ice cream or a bag of potato chips.

I needed to retrain my idea of comfort and reward. I still want a treat to comfort myself to this day, but I try to make my treats paleo friendly like paleo cookies, paleo ice cream, paleo chocolates. All of which I have recipes for on this site. But I have also learned to console or reward myself with a long hot bubble bath, a massage, a guilty pleasure on TV or in a book, a long overdue phone call with a best friend or, when I have the money, a shopping trip. Now, there are some of us that psychologically or emotionally need a little more help than this. I cannot express enough the importance of finding someone to talk to if this becomes your biggest obstacle. A support group, a health coach, a social worker or psychologist can do absolute wonders. We all have the power to heal ourselves from the inside out; the food we eat is just one big part of it.

The last challenge will absolutely come from others. I guarantee you will run into resistance from people you don’t know well, as well as those you are closest too. This can be very hard, especially if it is in your own home. I get a lot of questions about how to handle a husband or wife who is not supportive of this change and how to handle it. Resistance from acquaintances is a nuisance but once you are out of the situation it is not a big deal. More often than not, as long as you refrain from being preachy and judgmental about other people’s choices, most people will be relatively supportive and will probably ask you a lot of questions. You will no doubt get the standard argument about why saturated fat is bad and how whole grains and beans are a must-have in every healthy diet…..blah, blah, blah. You know the truth. You know how awesome you have begun to feel. Once these changes in your diet begin to effect how you look and feel to the outside world, all these arguments will die off, believe me.

The toughest is resistance from those you love. If this happens to you or is happening to you please know you are not alone.  My biggest challenge was my kids.  A lot of what I was asking them to try was really bizarre for them. A lot of what I wanted them to give up is what they grew up eating. Forcing the change on others rarely works. Compromise is key.  I only stock my home with food I feel comfortable with. They have access to crap at friend’s houses and at school. I do keep treats at home that are at least organic and gluten-free, etc. When it comes to dinner I try to provide something that I know they will like. I often make some sort of protein with veggies and a salad then I will add in potatoes or something as well. Or I will make taco meat and make mine as a salad and I will let them use tortillas. However they have begun to use lettuce to make lettuce wraps because I made it an available option and now they like it!   I refuse to cook 2 meals. If they do not get enough of what they like to eat at dinner they are free to scrounge up something additional to eat on their own.

Sometimes that lack of support isn’t just from a reluctance to change what they eat. Sometimes this becomes a very emotional thing for them too. That makes sense doesn’t it? You are asking someone you love to make a change they may not want to make for your sake. That is a huge favor to ask. Be understanding. I have also learned you cannot help those that do not want to be helped. Even though you KNOW these dietary changes you have made will help someone you love suffering from a health issue, if they do not want to change you can’t make them; not without sacrificing a part of your relationship.

Remember most people are still convinced that the old paradigm is the paradigm for a reason and believe that their doctor understands nutrition better than you do. While this belief should be true, many of us finally know that this is not in fact true at all.

Sometimes it’s not just about the emotional attachment to food but to the attachment to the old you. I had one reader whose husband became very threatened by the fact that she was losing weight and looking great. He became very insecure that he wouldn’t be good enough for her anymore and began to sabotage her efforts and became almost mean. This was obviously a crack in their relationship that she had to work on for the sake of the relationship and for the sake of maintaining her newfound health.

I am not saying that these challenges will happen to you. For many this transition really is pretty easy, but I want you to be aware that they exist and these are just a few of the most common I have had experience with.

Any life change is going to feel dramatic, but isn’t the point? After about 3 years of eating this way, a year of writing MomGonePaleo.com and finishing nutritional school, I have learned a few things and will continue to learn more. So…..

  • Get out of that “diet brain”! You are on the path to awesome!
  • Being prepared to be awesome is half the battle to set yourself up for success.
  • Expect Challenges. Don’t let the challenge derail you from your path. If you can’t force your way through it, there is always a way around it.

Until Next Time,

 

~ Laura, MGP

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6 Responses to “3 Things to Remember When Starting Paleo”

  1. The diet mind-set has been the hardest for me to break, sometimes I stilly into that thinking. These points are definitely ones that I would agree with, being prepared is probably the most important for me. Great post!

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Jesse!

      Thank you for reading and your comment! I think it helps people to know many of us run into these obstacles. The only way to make a change permanent is to keep at it. And when something goes wrong, that’s ok. Stuff goes wrong all the time it’s how we react to the challenge that matters! Keep at it Jesse and keep spreading the word!

  2. Sarah says:

    Hey! This is awesome! I really enjoyed reading this article! Very great points to remember as I am just getting started on the Paleo journey. My only problem was the font on my computer was hard to read. I copied it, put it in microsoft word and then had a much easier time reading it. But Thanks again so much for this post! Great info!

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hey Sarah! Thank you so much for reading! and thanks for your feedback about the font. I’ll take a look at changing it to one that is easier to read. I am happy you enjoyed the post and hopefully found it helpful.

      ~ Laura

  3. Jen says:

    Thanks for a great post and a great site!
    I read a book by Dr. Cordain a couple years and tried going paleo but I failed pretty quickly. While there many reasons why I failed at the time- some touched on here- one of the biggest obstacles for me to change was getting mired in the details and trying to be perfectly paleo. Finding (and affording!) grass fed beef, organic, free range, or whatever became so overwhelming. This time around, it helped me a lot to use a KISS approach- Keep It Simple Stupid! In other words, I’ve started with foods and meals I’m already familiar with and just cut out any grain and dairy (I’ve always hated legumes so thats not a problem!). If the beef I buy is not grass-fed, thats ok for now, its still better than that bowl of spegetti or microwave frozen pizza! Little by little I’m learning how to replace things with higher quality options, and where I can buy them at reasonable prices; its also fun finding out that so many of those offending but delicious things can be made at home- like almond butter or paleo mayo! Its been 3 weeks so far and I’ve lost 12 lbs, which never hurts the motivation faction and sense of accomplishment ;), but best of all, I feel better than I ever remember feeling before!

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Jen!

      I totally agree with your approach to starting Paleo. Understanding how to improve choices in a way that is sustainable for right now that you can build on later is a great way to start without getting completely overwhelmed. Keep it up!!~ Laura

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