The Paleo diet, that’s the super-restrictive, you-can’t-eat-anything diet.
The Caveman diet, where you eat only caveman food like raw meat.
I’ve heard it a bajillion times…sorry Michelle, those cupcakes aren’t paleo. Or, you can’t eat anything here, can you? Or, cavemen didn’t eat pizza, huh? Or, Paleo people are crazy fanatics. I don’t want to stop shaving my legs, let my personal hygiene go out the window, and wear a tin foil hat.
Woah…easy there, y’all.
Luckily, over the past two years, I’ve learned to not be embarrassed or ashamed by how I eat. If you’re whipping out a baked sweet potato from your purse on an airplane, baby carrots at a Tennessee football game, or hard-boiled eggs in your classroom, you can’t have any shame about that (yes, I’ve done all of those things. And yes, my students immediately told me my room smelled like farts. Too bad, kiddos, just deal with it).
The reason it is so easy for me to care less what other people think of my food choices is because I know how transformative they are for my health and fitness goals. I started my Paleo journey around summer 2014 (I can’t pinpoint one day or week where I started since it has been a slow process). At that point, I was already dabbling with being gluten-free yet still fueling myself on lots of processed protein bars, yogurt, cereals and granolas, and diet drinks. I was teaching two, sometimes three, cardio classes A DAY and was NOT the leanest I have ever been.
Upon moving to Corsicana, my food options and fitness options suddenly went from everything I could ever want and then some (Dallas=Paleo heaven) to not so much (btw, I am NOT knockin Corsicana! It actually helped me in my journey). Eating out, buying already made ‘health’ foods, and attending twelve fitness classes a week suddenly became impossible in my new home. More and more, I had to get creative with my food and fitness; I started making things from scratch (thus cutting out more processed foods), playing with Crossfit-style workouts on my own, cut out dairy (my skin doesn’t react well to it, even high-quality grassfed stuff), and making myself intentionally eat more. My results? Well, just take a sip of the Koolaid, y’all, and be open-minded about Paleo for a moment.
10 benefits of going paleo
1. No more HANGER (hungry anger)- I feel fuller longer, more satiated, and can go longer periods (like 8 hours if needed) without eating and I don’t turn into a crazy beast.
2. No more headaches- I used to get them if I didn’t eat every three-four hours. Now that my blood sugar is more regulated, there’s no sugar spikes and crashes.
3. No more sugar cravings- These used to be REAL bad. From cookie dough and froyo to dried fruit and other ‘healthy’ treats, I’d find a way to satisfy it. But it was like I was controlled by these cravings daily. Now, I rarely want dessert and don’t even feel tempted by cake, cookies, or candy. It’s like my taste buds changed and processed sugar doesn’t taste right. Even foods with artificial sugar taste wrong to me. Now confession, every night I do eat a few dark chocolate walnuts or almonds and a few dried figs or dates. I also have a glass of wine of two or a cocktail about once a week. This is a choice I make in order to keep a balanced approach to food.
4. Improved body composition- I didn’t see this one at first since I look at myself in the mirror daily. It was my hubs who enthusiastically pointed out to me that my body was changing. By eating cleaner, my body stored less fat and put on leaner muscle. Sweet.
5. Improved sleep- It is so much easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Plus, I wake-up feeling refreshed and not groggy at all. I don’t even need coffee, but I enjoy the ritual of it.
6. Effortless weight loss- Without meaning to, I lost about six pounds (when you are 5'2'', that's pretty good stuff). I didn’t track my calories, measure out portions, or feel neurotic about food. Now, I have a much more balanced approach to food, too. I still LOVE food- learning about it, shopping for it, and preparing it. I have a much better outlook on nutrition now.
7. Improved digestion- Sorry to talk about my bathroom habits for a second BUT you all deal with it (if you don't, we've got a problem). I used to have uncomfortable bloating and gas pain on a daily basis. Now I rarely have any digestive issues. That's all the detail I'm sharing on this one.
8. Clearer skin- While this is still not perfect thanks to my genetics, it has gotten much better. My breakouts now are completely hormone-related and have seemed to isolate to just my jawline (thanks, hormones!).
9. More energy- After work, when most teachers are feeling wiped out from a hectic day filled with boogers and tattling and are ready to hit up the vending machine, I’m ready to go to the gym, to teach Zumba, or go on a jog. No 4 p.m. crash, just solid energy up to bedtime.
10. Improved immunity- Sick days? What are those? Sure I still get occasional colds (hello, I work around hundreds of hug-friendly little people all day), but my seasonal allergies have improved a ton. And my sick days are now used for doctor's appointments rather than actual days at home feeling yucky.
Wow, Michelle, that sounds like a dream! But I just don’t think Paleo is for me. It sounds so intense, and I just don’t have the discipline for it. Now before you stop listening, take a gander at my advice. You may be interested in taking a sip of the Paleo Koolaid. Or at least entertain the idea of it.
5 easy steps to go paleo today
1. Take Baby Steps
Can I back up and point out that this process has been OVER two years for me? I did not dive into Paleo. I started with cutting out gluten, then moved onto processed sugar and fake sugar, next went the beans/legumes, and finally I’ve most recently cut dairy. This is a lifestyle, not a 21-day challenge. Take it slow.
2. Rethink Your Plate
I often get asked if I’m a vegetarian or vegan cause I’m packin so many vegetables on my plate. No, I thoroughly enjoy almost all forms of meat-based protein and eat them daily. Let's toss out that Food Pyramid mentality (or My Plate if you’re up on your friendly governmental nutrition standards…don’t even get me started). I aim for half of it covered in vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter starchy carbohydrate (yes, you still eat carbs) like fruit, sweet potato, spaghetti squash, or plantains.
3. Don’t Fear Fat
Thanks to the FDA’s demonization of fat in the 90’s, a lot of us out there still believe eating fat=we get fat. LIES! Eating trans fats (deep fried foods, commercially baked goods, pre-made frostings, even pancake/waffle mixes) will make you sick and fat. However, I eat more fat now than I have in my entire life. And it’s awesome. Coconut oil, avocado, nuts, bacon, steak, and eggs are all apart of my weekly diet. I try to have some form of fat at every meal. I’ve found it is the secret to keeping me feeling full and satisfied.
4. Get Rid of Gluten
I’m an East Tennessean, y’all. We love fried okra, biscuits, pie, cornbread, cobbler, fried chicken, and so many more glutinous foods. While I do still indulge in a homemade biscuit or my mom’s fried okra a few times a year (I do NOT have celiac so I don’t react to gluten like many of my Paleo companions out there), I avoid it as much as possible. Plus, I’ve found ways to still enjoy brownies, pies, cornbread, and even fried okra without gluten. My tummy, digestion, and jeans thank me for skipping the gluten.
5. The Dairy Dilemma
This is where a lot of people in the Paleo community can’t quiet agree, and I say who cares? So if your dairy is coming from a quality source (grass-fed cows that are happy, minimal added junk like sugar, preservatives, hormones, and artificial stuff), I don’t really have a huge problem with it from a nutrition stand point. Unfortunately, it makes me break out and is super irritating to a lot of y’all out there (you may not know it). I experimented with pulling it out for a few weeks and then put it back in. My body freaked out a bit (digestive distress, acne, bloating) when I introduced it again, and it still does if I go overboard on a cheese plate. I occasionally cook with grass-fed butter and ghee (clarified butter) and seem to do better with goat milk products (I don’t think I could live without goat cheese). I do recommend you try going without it for a few weeks and just see what happens. What have you got to lose?
On a daily basis, I aim for 85:15 with my Paleoness. So, the majority of my day is meat, veggies, eggs, nuts, and a pinch of fruit (still a source of sugar), I still like to think I have a little wiggle room if I want to eat a few chips with queso or have a margarita. It’s not a religion nor is it a diet. It truly is a lifestyle. You have to find your own balance and how to handle birthday parties, airports, restaurants, and family vacations.
1. Go back to my list of benefits. If JUST ONE of those sounds appealing to you, then proceed to step 2. If you are happy with your sleep, body composition, energy levels, skin, digestion, and immune system, then you rock on with ya bad self.
2. Go back to my list of steps. Pick ONE that you think sounds manageable this week.
3. Leave me a comment (or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know what you are going to try out this week. If I hear from enough of you lovely people, I can be sure to steer my recipe posts in your direction in the next few weeks. If you have more questions about anything, let me know, too. I’d LOVE to be able to check in on you however I can and encourage you in your journey. I’m here to support YOU to become a healthier, happier you.
Healthy Happy Texan
I'm a Foodie, Fitness Instructor, and Follower of Christ. Add a passion for teaching others, dark chocolate, bacon, and dogs -- and that's me in a box.
Come on, let's live a little!