Top 10 Ways to Make your Paleo Transition Easier

I get a lot of questions- through email, friends, and sometimes random strangers on the street asking me all sorts of things about Paleo. (Really!! It is the weirdest thing to be recognized by strangers.) The most common question is what to expect when you first go Paleo, which I’ve detailed in this post here, but the second most common question is people asking how they can make the transition easier for themselves. So here goes, my Top 10 Ways to Make Your Paleo Transition Easier, in blog post format:

1. Educate Yourself...

  • One of the worst mistakes I have seen is people deciding to try out the Paleo diet without any real background information about the lifestyle change. There is a lot to tackle here, but the first is really understanding that Paleo is not just a diet; it’s a lifestyle change in its most basic form. Nothing is worse than deciding impulsively that you are going to eliminate some of your favorite foods and dietary staples without knowing why. I have seen this many times, especially since celebrities, like Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, and Matthew McConaughey known for their sex-appeal openly started admitting that they went Paleo.
  • Before starting, do your homework, and ask yourself lots of questions:  What can you eat? What can’t you eat? Why? How is the Paleo diet different from other diets? What are the mechanisms of the diet and how does it benefit your physiology? Are there any health conditions you may have that could interfere with the diet? Are there medical contraindications? Are there conditions that the diet may help remediate? What is the difference between a Paleo diet and a primal-based diet? Why do some people on Paleo eat white rice and potatoes but others don’t? What’s the difference between grain-free and gluten-free? Why does it even matter?
  • What are the agricultural politics surrounding food production, food policy, GMOs, and bills passed through Congress?  Who were the silent corporate sponsors of the FDA’s food pyramid and food plate? Who funded the research for the “Heart Healthy” diet?
  • All these questions, and more, are incredibly important. Not only does it give you a basis for making this change in your life, but the more information you know, the more likely you are to stick to your initial commitment.

2. ...and then Educate Others

  • I can’t tell you how many times I have been at a party or gathering and someone has made a snide comment about gluten and fad diets or Paleo, cavemen, and loincloths. (P.S. It wasn’t funny the first time.)
  • I’ve realized that people often guise curiosity with poor humor. They will often deflect your lifestyle change because they don’t want you to judge their life. That’s fine, I get it, but I have also realized that providing education to those around you results in increased understanding: you’re not just doing this because it’s a fad, you are trying your hardest to make a positive change in your own life. If anything, providing education will at least bring some acceptance to your choice to go against the status quo, a hard task for anything, diet or not.

3. Do It for the Right Reasons (your health)

  • Often, people start down the Paleo path to lose weight. (Myself included!) However, if you are truly just doing this for weight loss, there are many, many different ways to do so, which are easier and less expensive. 
  • If you choose to follow a diet to boost your health, increase vitality, be around longer for your family, or help with some chronic health condition, then you are approaching this Paleo lifestyle change from an angle that makes it easier to stick to it. Improved health and quality of life is a much better motivator then fitting into those skinny jeans, and will win every time when you rationalize.

4. Get a support system in place

  • You can’t transition to Paleo alone. You will need someone to talk to, if only to vent, commiserate, or empathize with. I highly suggest trying out Paleo with a friend or your partner. Not only will you be able to talk to someone going through the same thing, but you can hold one another accountable.
  • If having someone in person isn’t an option, I highly suggest participating in some primal forums. It will give you a place to voice your feelings, questions, and journey.

5. Prep your kitchen

  • Having a diet with a room (your kitchen) full of things you can’t eat is absurd. Talk about setting yourself up for failure! Throw away or donate the foods you can no longer eat. Stock your fridge or pantry with healthy, compliant options that you like. Nothing is worse than trying to conquer a new diet and forcing yourself to eat foods you never really cared for. Don’t like broccoli? No problem! Go for the veggies you actually like, and get rid of that idea that you need to eat all the things you hate. There’s no time for that.

6. Prep your food

  • One or two days before you make the big switch, do some food prep. Trust me, when you are ravenous and exhausted after the dreaded “Paleo flu” the last thing you will want to do is prepare food. Having something you only need to reheat will make a world of difference, and will make you more apt to stick to the change.

7. Make an initial commitment, create better goals

  • Setting ambiguous goals like: “I will lose 50 pounds” or “I will be happier at work” never work. Why? Because there isn’t any accountability, and these goals simply aren’t measurable. Better goals would be: “I will lose 1 lb./week in 2015 to be 50 pounds lighter within one year”, or “I will schedule a meeting with my boss to discuss a promotion within the next 3 months”. These goals are measurable, and thus, naturally attainable.
  • Likewise, the same concept goes for Paleo. Instead of saying “I will go on the Paleo diet”, try “I will follow a Paleo lifestyle for one month”. Setting an initial commitment of one month is much less daunting than committing to a lifetime of giving up the foods you love. Stick to it for a period of time you are comfortable with, then take the time to reflect upon what worked, what didn’t work, and what to do moving forward.

8. Don’t go hungry

  • What’s the best way to ruin your diet? Starve yourself for so long that the mere whiff of an open bag of Doritos prompts you to go on an all-night binge.Eating real food had led me to some of the most delicious meals I have ever had, and always fills me up so much to where I don’t even give those Doritos a second thought.
  • However, to get there, you need to get over the initial Paleo hump, and allow your body to become more stable and adjusted. Your cravings and headaches will eventually go away, but always make sure you feel satiated. Fill up on healthy, real foods. Nothing is worse than going hungry for days in world where food is literally around every corner.

9. Don’t have a black and white approach

  • This little tidbit can be generalized to so many areas in life. The world is not black and white. Just because you had that bagel 2 weeks into your “perfect” diet, and you were doing so good, does not mean that you might as well throw in the towel, and go get a baker’s dozen from around the corner. It doesn’t mean that all is lost. We live in a sea of grey, so get over it and don’t use that one slip-up to feel that all is lost. You are not failure.

10.Get rid of your deprivation mindset

  • This one is hard. Following a primal lifestyle means that you can’t have grains, can’t have dairy, can’t have alcohol, can’t have sugar, can’t have gluten, can’t have bread, can’t have cake, can’t have French fries, can’t have cheese, can’t have wine, can’t have hot dogs. Can’t can’t can’t can’t can’t. This is all true, but that doesn’t mean that Paleo cake, Paleo bread, or even a cold glass of vanilla almond milk is out of the question. There are so many foods you can have, it just takes more effort to get there.
  • Focus on the things you can have: more energy, decreased acne, increased mental clarity, increased productivity, better focus, better sleep, weight-loss, avoidance of lifestyle diseases, increased vitality, fitting into your favorite pair of jeans. The things you can have far outweigh the things you can’t, no matter how you look at it. 

Top 12 things to Expect When Going Paleo

Hey readers, guess what? I’ve been Paleo for a full year now! Can you believe it??? I can’t. Time flies, really, but I’ve had so many changes in my life that have come from taking on a healthier lifestyle. Case in point:

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 

From left to right: taken just before starting Paleo, 6 months into Paleo, and almost 1 year of Paleo. 


I get asked all the time what its like to be Paleo, and what it was like to first start Paleo. All. The. Time. Friends, coworkers, and random strangers- I kid you not- approach me, text me, email me, about what its like. This happens so often, that I’ve decided to write more helpful posts about being and making the transition over to Paleo. So today, as part of a series of posts celebrating my one-year Paleoversary, I’m going to share a post on what to expect when you first turn Paleo. Here’s my top 12, in no particular order:  


1. Initially you will probably feel sick.

Everyone who has been Paleo for a few months raves about their energy levels, their mental clarity, their better sleep, increased productivity, etc. All these benefits are absolutely true, but the first few weeks are really horrible.  Personally, I felt like I had the “Paleo Flu” for 3 solid weeks, but once I was through that, I felt great, and continued to feel great. You just need to stick it out.

2. I felt constantly hungry at first

I could never eat enough the first week I went Paleo. The first two days I felt fantastic, and then I remember clearly waking up day 3 and feeling like I had a bad hangover. I was nauseous and ravenous at the same time, and the things that would quell my hunger were foods that were too rich back then for my sensitive stomach: almond butter, avocados, steak. Vegetables wouldn’t do a thing for me, but slowly, I started to become satiated by vegetable-based meals, something that I had never experienced before.

3. Its not all about bacon.

I know I’ve said this before, but I really think I need to say it again. Paleo emphasizes the elimination of known inflammatory foods (dairy, grains, gluten, sugar, starches), and promotes a vegetable-based diet with lots healthy fats and proteins to promote health and decrease illness. I am not positive why the logo for Paleo became bacon. Yes, Paleo allows bacon, but so do other diets. The majority of Paleo recipes don’t even involve bacon, but somehow the catchphrase for Paleo has become “you can eat all the bacon you want”. That’s just not true, you still need to be mindful about eating too much of anything, including bacon.

4. Traveling is really hard

Just try finding Paleo food in an airport. It is getting a little better in some airports (For example, Terminal 1 in D.C.’s Reagan has a whole new organic and natural foods stand, Austin and Tampa have convenience stores with a couple natural options. Houston has a restaurant in American Airline’s terminal that has gluten-free, organic, vegetable-filled pizzas.). Unfortunately, almost everything in most airport restaurants contains some form of added sugar, grain, dairy, or soy. Finding meat that is grass-fed is nearly impossible. When I have flown in the past, I have broken down and eaten anything I wanted, but then immediately regretted it. Now, I travel with snacks on hand: hardboiled eggs, nuts, Larabars, dehydrated vegetables, kale chips, and my Tuesday Oatmeal.

5. People are either curious or judgmental

I’ve noticed that once you decide to follow a Paleo or primal-based lifestyle, most people think that you are judging them for their conventional or non-Paleo diet choices. When friends have approached me on this subject, I explain to them that I am making the best decision for myself, and I do not think that my choices are meant to be followed by everyone. I reassure that I think everyone needs to make their own decisions for themselves, as diet choices are actually quite cultural and experiential. In my own story, there are many factors that have prompted me to choose this lifestyle (More herehere, and here), but and I understand that everyone’s dietary choices are their own. I also explain to people that I am not 100% Paleo all the time. Sometimes I just really want a sugary, frosting, and sprinkle topped cupcake. For some reason, this weakness reassures people that I am still empathetically human.

6. The Paleo community is incredibly supportive

Have a question about something Paleo related that you can’t find? The resources, chat rooms, and articles on Mark’s Daily Apple and The Bulletproof Executive are both fantastic. Want to learn new information? Check out the podcasts The Fat Burning Man, Primal Blueprint Podcast,  The Bulletproof Executive Podcast, or Balanced Bites. They range from easy to understand to extremely technical. All a great source of information, and are especially great to listen to if you have a work commute.

7. You will be going to the grocery store all the time

Since Paleo emphasizes a lot of vegetables, and vegetables without pesticides or preservatives nonetheless, they don’t last as long as something like, say, a box of crackers. Organic produce doesn’t last as long since it is not treated, so your vegetables have a high probability of going bad in a week or less. To extend the time of your goodies, you can buy from a famer’s market: if the product comes directly from the farm to you, there is less time that your lovingly-grown produce would be sitting on the shelf at your grocery store, meaning more time for you to hold onto your purchase before it goes bad.

8. Ketosis is the gold star, but is not easy

Paleo emphasizes cycling in and out of ketosis, a fancy way of saying that your body has been primed to run on fat stores rather than immediate food intake. There are many benefits of ketosis. For example, that hangry feeling if you don’t eat according to your schedule? That doesn’t happen in ketosis. When your body needs energy, ketosis allows your body to access fat stores, which allows stabilization of things like energy, mood, insulin levels, and hunger levels. Ketosis also allows your body to finally eat that extra layer of fat around your stomach, thighs, or butt. This is wonderful, but ketosis is hard to obtain. In order to reach ketosis, you need to decrease carb intake, as this mechanism prompts your body to look for energy in fat rather than sugar. (Your body breaks down carbs to glucose, which raises insulin levels.) If the sugar, or carbs, is readily available, your body will never look for fat initially; our bodies are lazy like that. When you’re trying to get into ketosis, it is really hard at first, especially if you’re a woman, but it does get easier. Just give yourself some time.

9. Do your research

If you decide to try out Paleo, do your research first. Know good websites for recipes, look at the role between food allergens, inflammation, and degenerative diseases. Understand how your body processes nutrients, and really try to understand the differences between grain-free, gluten-free, and low carb. Look for examples of people that love Paleo and people that hate Paleo. Understand how Paleo can affect things like relationships, moods, finances, and sleep schedules. Research what items you may be able to buy in bulk to cut costs, and try to truly understand how Paleo is a lifestyle change more so than just a diet. Doing all this research ensures that you have a solid basis for why you have made the decisions that you have when you decide to go Paleo. This will come in handy when you are struggling with not eating a roll from the breadbasket when out at your favorite restaurant: you will understand that you are not just practicing deprivation, but rather, you are embracing a healthy lifestyle choice that has implications past the first course. Having reasons and deep knowledge as to why you are doing Paleo only increases that you will stay true to your decision in the long term, but will also support you mentally and emotionally when you feel deprived.

10. Pick an approach that is best for you

So you love everything you have found out and researched about Paleo, but discover that you just can’t do it. That’s ok! Modify it to what makes you the best, healthiest version of you. Everyone is different, you know yourself best. An informed decision is never the wrong one, as long as you are acting with fidelity to yourself.

11. Do it with someone.

There is nothing like teamwork and companionship, especially when making a big lifestyle change. Having someone to talk to and confer with is invaluable.

12. Its worth it.

As hard and as time-consuming as Paleo can be, it is so worth it. I hear from people all the time that they feel amazing, they no longer feel sick, or they never realized how bad they were feeling before because they’ve never felt so good now.  Paleo is so intimating at first, but you will get the hang of it. Saying no to certain foods will soon be a habit, not a decision. Cooking and meal prep will get easier and faster. Feeling awesome will become habitual instead of something that only happens on certain days. Oh, and looking awesome? That will never get old.

Who can resist a diet where you can eat  these guys

Who can resist a diet where you can eat these guys