I started Paleo on Monday July 30, 2012. Yes, I remember the date. You probably noticed I did a post on Elana’s Paleo Breakfast Bread. I was experimenting with Paleo recipes before I started Paleo. My boyfriend has been Paleo since March and I enjoy trying out new recipes that we can both have. My main motivation for trying out Paleo was because I wanted to see if I would feel less tired, have less pimples and become extremely disciplined with preparing meals. I also wanted to try a diet that would have me cut out soy, dairy and wheat again as my elimination diet had mixed results with these three categories.
The BF does crossfit and has been doing it for well over a year now. It’s very common for people who do crossfit to eat Paleo. I haven’t tried crossfit yet, but I did go to one of his classes and observed. Brutal. I was pretty intimidated by crossfit and blown away by everyone. One day, I’ll get my butt in there to try it out.
Anyways, I have been lucky to hear and see firsthand how great he feels when he sticks to eating Paleo and how bad he feels when he goes off it. Compared to my hypoallergenic diet in 2010, it was a lot less restrictive in terms of the veggies/fruits I have to give up . However, it requires giving up all grains and legumes. *gulp* ALL GRAINS. I don’t have legumes that much (except for SOY – Soy Sauce) so I wasn’t SO bummed about it. All grains…yes, even rice. Hmm.. I had significantly reduced my grains since the beginning of the year so it shouldn’t feel too challenging. I did that because I wanted to make more room on my plate for leafy greens and veggies, something I knew I needed to eat more of and so I wouldn’t feel so tired after eating it. Don’t we all need more greens and veggies? But eliminating all grains makes it tough to have baked goods and pizza/pasta/rice/noodles – My favourite foods when eating out. Heck, it’s what weekends are about! lol!
Initially, my intention was to start Paleo when my birthday celebrations were over, then it became after I get back from New York. The week I got back, I couldn’t bring myself to start anything new although I did miss home cooked food. I decided to stop making excuses, life was only going to get more hectic. The weekend after we got back, I grocery shopped and meal planned for my first week of Paleo.
I also decided that I wanted the first 3 weeks to be completely strict Paleo so that I could detox my system from what I was cutting out of my diet (all grains, all dairy, all legumes, processed foods, fried foods, potatoes or other starches except sweet potatoes,). That leaves meat, seafood, fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. I’ll be fine.
It was a great test of discipline, time management and organization. I didn’t eat out with anyone for the first two weeks. Every meal was home made. I always had leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day and I didn’t get sick of anything. The more I cooked, the more excited I got about my next meal. Eating paleo encouraged me to rotate my sources of protein, increase my vegetable intake and become extremely diligent about meal planning and execution. Something I struggle with. I’m good at making meal plans, sticking with them is a different story.
I learned that I can cook 4 days a week and have leftovers for the next day. There were times when I would cook vegetables one day to eat with protein the day before but that was fine. I also found myself excited to plan out the week’s meals. I would sort of wing it on the weekend but always made sure that I had enough veggies and protein on hand to whip something up.
I also became better at packing snacks. I started eating an early dinner on days I work out… On Tuesdays that would mean eating dinner (or just sweet potatoes) around 4:00pm, running at 6pm, then eating a snack around 7pm (between my run and exercise class) then eating protein and veggies after my workout around 10pm. Of course this isn’t ideal, but we do what we gotta do and we make it work. it works for me!
In my first week, I didn’t use any sweet potatoes and found myself feeling tired/hungry before a workout. My boyfriend recommended I eat sweet potatoes before I exercise and it was a great tip. It made me feel more full and energetic and not heavy when I worked out. I was previously exercising on an empty stomach because I would find if I ate after 5:30pm for a 8pm class I would get a stomach ache or really feel my food jumping around while exercising. That’s very distracting and annoying and I imagine bad for digestion.
Everyone has different stories on how their transition from non-paleo to paleo was. Some people have had diarrhea, stomach aches, headaches, dizziness, etc. I didn’t experience any of that. I only felt hungrier during the first week. In the second week, I noticed I was eating more often 2-4 snacks a day along with 3 meals and felt more satiated and energetic.
To summarize, there were many benefits I got out of the Paleo Diet
- experimenting with quick simple recipes and making up my own (SO MUCH fun!)
- rotating my protein (eating more red meat – something I previously didn’t have much of a taste for except for ground flavoured meat – like hamburgers or dumplings). I use to just stick mostly with fish, chicken and pork.
- eating more veggies and fruits (when you take grains off your plate, you make more room for greens)
- a leaner, lighter body. I saw a noticeable physical difference and people have told me as well. I lost about 9-10 lbs.
- My skin has been very clear – in 2 months, I’ve noticed I didn’t get any pimples
- I wake up before my alarm
- less cravings and less headaches
I broke my 3 week strict Paleo diet when I went to the wedding I mentioned in the How to Bake Tender Salmon post. I felt like I could keep eating everything on my plate. That was the first time I had dairy, wheat and sugar in 3 weeks and my senses were getting overwhelmed. The week after, we celebrated a birthday and I had 2 slices of banana chocolate cake (I love banana chocolate!!). I got a very bad headache and was dizzy the rest of the day. Man!! Cheating sucks. Was it the sugar? the wheat? the dairy? hmm..Back to Paleo.
I’m not an expert on Paleo, heck I’m still reading The Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain. I tried Paleo because I wanted to see how my gut would feel when I eliminated soy, wheat and dairy again. I will admit I missed wheat and rice, the two grains I have when I eat out most of the time, but when my 3 weeks were up and I ate these things, I found that my body felt heavier after bread but rice was fine. I didn’t miss the heavy feeling.
For now, I limit my paleo cheats to a few times a week and in the big scheme of things, it’s no biggie. I’ve started experimenting with baked goods, so I will have something sweet to incorporate in my meal rotation.
The most challenging part of being on this diet might just be when I find myself explaining to others why I’m on it. As with any other diet, I didn’t want to come off like I’m lecturing or sounding like I’m an expert, because I’m not, I’m just speaking from my experience and what I’ve read. The kindest thing that someone can say to me would be “That’s great that you found a diet that you enjoy”, but it’s rare that it’s as simple as that. Usually people will say “It sounds hard”. As with most things, it’s not as hard as you think, it just depends on how much you want it and how committed you are.
Note: When I initially wrote this post, it was 09/26/2012, I was eating mostly paleo. However, a couple weeks ago, I went off the diet and stopped tracking my meals because I was dining out and catching up with friends and wanted to take a break from it all. I’ve decided to publish this post anyways, so someone might find it interesting if they are contemplating going Paleo. I find that when I was eating strict Paleo, I was eating more veggies and meat than I had before and although I didn’t initially think I could feel satiated the way I do when I eat grains, I found that I very quickly did. And so, when I would eat out and have grains (i.e. Thai food, Chinese food, Indian food), I found I could eat lots of rice or noodles and still not be as full because the meal would contain far less vegetables and meat than I had grown accustomed to eating with Paleo. I definitely feel much better when I was on Paleo.
I had pizza this past week as part of a Thanksgiving Potluck at work. The last time I had it was in New York in July. Crazy. I don’t remember going this long without for a while. That’s how much I love me some bread, cheese and tomato sauce. 🙂
Have you gone Paleo? What was your experience like?