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.