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If you missed my introductory post on what Paleo is, check it out HERE.
So you’ve decided to “go Paleo.” Now what? Do you jump “all in” or do you gradually get used to it? My suggestion is: do whatever fits your personality and life better. Some people need to be all in, all at once. They need to completely cut ties with their old life and start afresh. Other people, myself included, need to make baby steps before they begin running a marathon.
When I first discovered the Paleo way of eating (through the book The Dietary Cure for Acne by Dr. Loren Cordain), I initially jumped in completely. I was a rule-follower. I wanted to do it “perfectly,” no exceptions, with the if-I-don’t-follow-the-rules-it’s-wrong mindset. So I cut out all grains, refined sugar, dairy, legumes, and even white potatoes. But doing that all at the same time was not sustainable for me. I needed to figure out a way to implement healthy habits in a realistic, bite-sized way (no pun intended).
So I decided to start out just gluten-free and dairy-free. I already recognized lactose intolerance problems, so dairy elimination was not hard. Once I figured out that I was gluten intolerant (after two days of refraining), that wasn’t so hard either. I allowed myself to eat gluten-free grains, and I kept my refined sugar intake to a minimum. Sometimes I would eat beans, but my stomach would be uncomfortable. I also learned that being Paleo does not necessarily equal being low-carb. It just depends on your body. (See this article by Chris Kresser HERE.)
I personally started off eliminating a couple things, and made my journey from there. Some people like to start with a 30-day challenge; but for others, even that is too much. Listen to your body. Do you run to the bathroom after eating ice cream? Do you feel bloated after eating bread or beans? Do your joints ache after eating sugar? Keeping a food journal is very helpful, and knowing your food sensitivities will give you a good starting point.
Are you someone who, blessedly, doesn’t have food intolerances? My suggestion would be to start with the big culprit of many chronic problems: gluten. The books Grain Brain and Wheat Belly are quite informative about the issues with gluten and wheat. After eliminating this compound, you may find that you actually did feel badly before – you just figured it was normal! (I write that coming from personal experience.)
In your research, you will find that living a Paleo lifestyle is less about rules and regulations (and certainly NOT about counting calories!) and more about tailoring a template to fit your individual needs. Also, if you’re wrestling with eliminating certain foods, instead focus on all the wonderful, nutritious, delicious food you CAN and SHOULD eat! Think about how beneficial those positive food choices will be for your body and your life! Having that mindset is key in any endeavor that involves change.