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Ah the things I hear about the Paleo diet. Things like how we go around clubbing meat and eating solely meat all day (I eat more veggies than meat…) . And how we all don't eat any carbs whatsoever (many of us include a moderate amount of carbs like sweet potatoes, fruit, squash, etc. We just don't go overboard eating hardly anything but carbs like you would if you ate grain-filled cereal for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and pasta with a side of garlic bread for dinner, aka my pre-Paleo diet. So yes, in comparison it is low carb).
But the one thing that I hear and truly GET is “starting the Paleo diet just would be too hard”. Yep, totally understand that sentiment. I've been there.
Let's look at why: You have to prepare/cook the majority of your meals, have to give up foods that are considered integral to our society, and have at the very least a more difficult time socializing over food with friends and families. Going onto something like this isn't a decision to be taken lightly.
To fully commit to the Paleo diet you need to suspend all beliefs that have been drilled into your head, like that fat will make you fat, that chronic exercise (things like running at a hard pace 4-5x or more a week) is good for you, and that “heart healthy whole grains” are necessary for survival. Changing your beliefs might not be the hard part though. The truly hard, difficult, crazy part that everyone (including me) seems to have the hardest time with is giving up something you love. We love our food and there's no doubt about it, giving something up is HARD!
For me, the idea of giving up the gooey center of a warm crusty baguette and the flaky buttery crust of a pie was enough to send me into a tizzy when thinking of going Paleo. I eventually had to give these up permanently after getting my Celiac diagnosis last year, but you know what? It's really not that bad. First of all I feel so incredibly different (like so much better) that I almost view those items as poison now. I'd actually rather touch some scary household chemical with my bare hands than touch a loaf of french bread. And there are so many Paleo alternatives to things now that yeah, don't taste exactly like the original, but after a brief adjustment period taste amazingly good to me.
My advice to someone thinking about going Paleo is this:
- Start by using baby steps where you just change out one or two of your regular items for a Paleo item each week. So for example, instead of buying some grain-filled muffins from Starbucks to eat for breakfast, make a huge double batch of Paleo muffins one day, freeze, and defrost one each time you need one. Or instead of making pasta for dinner try making sweet potato noodles. Each week try to incorporate more into your routine until you finally are completely Paleo.
- Or if you have the time, energy, and motivation, start cold turkey. I really think by starting something REALLY restrictive, like the Autoimmune Protocol or a Whole 30 you can start healing faster, learn what you really react to, and then when you start reintroducing foods you feel like you have SO many choices. Paleo suddenly seems not at all restrictive. But you can also just go 100% Paleo all at once too and get a ton out of it health-wise.
- And realize that if you cheat, it's normal. It took me several years of eating this way before I stopped cheating. Every day is a new day, no need to beat yourself up when you take a misstep. (try hynotherapy too for things you cheat often with)
I asked some of my blogger friends to share why they went grain-free and what was the hardest part for them. I hope by us all sharing our stories you will understand how it IS doable and that if you are in the midst of trying and feeling hopeless that you aren't alone! And comment below about what you had the hardest time with or are having a hard time thinking about giving up.
From Erin Carter of Pure and Simple Nourishment: “I finally broke down and started the SCD diet a little over 4 years ago after suffering for years with diarrhea prone IBS. I had exhausted all the avenues I could think of in both the traditional and alternative medicine worlds and was desperate for relief. Well, 4 years later my symptoms are so much better and I have transitioned to more of a paleo style of eating. Initially the hardest food to part with was my morning bowl of oatmeal. I used to love that stuff! It was (and still can be) extremely challenging eating out or going to social functions where there is food. I often bring my own meal that I know is safe, or research the restaurant ahead of time to be sure I can find something that fits within my restrictions. Now that my friends and family are used to my “special diet” it's not the huge deal it once was, but food outings with strangers can still be a struggle. In the end it is totally worth it though. Your health is too important to take for granted. Even if others don't believe in what you are doing, it is important to do what works for you.”
From Kelly Smith of The Nourishing Home: “When I discovered that I had to go gluten-free, I remember feeling devastated that I would have to give up many of the family-favorite recipes and traditions of my past. It really felt like I was losing part of myself, not just foods that I enjoyed, but foods that represented memories and traditions that were important to me and my family. The beautiful thing I discovered was that you don't have to let go of your favorite recipes and traditions, you just have to take time to reinvent them. Although it can feel so overwhelming and isolating at first to be GF, by taking a little time to learn this new way of cooking and baking, you truly can create GF recipes that the whole family can enjoy and that will enable you to carry on your cherished family traditions.”
From Meg Staples of Veggie Staples: “I was an ice cream fiend. Pizza was so hard too! We got pizza out every Friday when I was a kid bc it was the only eating out my parents could afford!When I gave up gluten & dairy, my stomach issues cleared up & the dark circles under my eyes I'd had since I was a child completely cleared up. Just a few reasons I'll never go back!”
From Chloe Breczinski of How We Flourish: “I've struggled with minor health concerns for years, and after trying many different remedies, I eventually found GAPS to be the most successful and the most sustainable for me. I love the food and the healing I've seen, but I was not prepared for how much social interaction revolves around food. It is hard to go out with friends or visit family. I haven't eaten a meal with my in laws in 3 months because I can't trust the food they serve. The good news is that I can always bring my own meals to things, and the food is delicious for anybody if they are willing to try it.”
From Mark Castle of Paleo Castle: “My biggie was carb-flu. I went cold turkey and kicked out all carbs, then started exercising a lot. For two weeks I was exhausted and head-achey. Since then I've started eating way more white potato and sweet potato, mostly when I'm exercising, and I'm all good.”
From Julie Quates (see her Instagram account here): “Moving to a paleo/real foods diet was a complete 180 shift for me. The first 27 years of my life had been spent eating junk and fast food. I was on a constant yo-yo diet from a very young age and addicted to Diet Coke. For me, giving up sodas was really difficult. I was addicted to the caffeine high and drank them throughout the day just to keep my energy up. Little did I know that I was slowly poisoning myself and destroying my bodies ability to self-regulate. I found that with the introduction of actual food instead of food like products I was able to push through the withdrawal symptoms and find real satisfaction with my diet.”
I used to think I could never do paleo. I was too addicted to sugar and fast food, and I was incredible stubborn and picky with food. However, once I finally got fat and sick enough, I made the gradual change to gluten free and then to paleo.
I just shared my before and after photos on my recent blog post. It’s not a before and after post though. Rather, my goal was to show people that anyone can change their diet. I had crazy bad eating habits before I got sick enough to want to change. If you need encouragement or you don’t think you can go paleo, check out my article here where I admit to 5 embarrassing habits I had pre-paleo.