Joined: Apr 11
Posted: 30 May 2013, 12:11
Awesome! I'll try to answer as best I can. Of course, there are people writing books on this stuff (although writing a book doesn't make you right) and I have no authority on this subject, but I have sifted through a lot of material in the past couple years, so maybe I can help distill some of that for you.
When I think about what advice to give, I notice that a lot of my thoughts are kind of contradictory: I think that leaning into paleo can be a great way of making a long-term lifestyle change and not letting it become a fad diet for you, but at the same time, doing a 30-day all-out trial can give you a greater sense of accomplishment, show more distinct differences in how you feel on and off the diet, and allow you to systematically test the effects of certain food groups like dairy.
I think that the best plan is to take the strategy that sounds the most appealing to you, the one that will make you feel like: yeah! I'm going 30 days 100 % paleo and I'm on a role! or like: yeah - I am making small gradual changes to my lifestyle that I know I can keep and build on forever!
In effect, I think I used a combination of both of those things. At several points in the past couple years, I have done a 30 or 60 day super strict regimen. But on the other hand, for the ~6 months before November 2012 (since I have been overall consistently primal) I was paleo during the week. That helped me ease into it, in a way. But I didn't really make much physical progress during that time (at least that I could notice), it was more a mental preparation.
Whatever you do, just resolve to move FORWARD. The particulars of your diet will and should evolve as you go, and you don't have to figure it all out at once, but take steps that are definitively in the right direction.
Here are several things you can do to make this process easier and to focus on the big things:
- the single most valuable part of the paleo template, to me, is getting rid of processed/refined foods. You can be "paleo" and eat supermarket bacon every day, but don't do that! Try to eat ONLY (or allllmost only) real food. Build a good definition for yourself as to what qualifies as real food (because it's partially obvious but not totally obvious): you might focus on veggies, meats, and fruits and try to minimize everything else. You might avoid anything that comes in a box or packaging. There are different ways to spin it, but pick something that is clear in your mind so that when you need to make decisions about what to buy or eat, you can judge it quickly and confidently.
- see the big picture, but set yourself up for "small wins." For me, a long-term goal has been learning how to do a pull-up (I've been working on it for two years and I'm ALMOST there!), but an unexpected small win was being able to do perfect push-ups. Naturally, the ultimate long-term goal for me is feeling and looking great and slim and fit, but - even though I started at a TOTALLY healthy weight - that can take a LONG time. I think a great strategy is to set yourself up for long-term big-change success, but then stick your head in the sand, to some extent, while you execute your plan. Make a plan, stick to it, and then forget about it and move on with your life. Check in periodically (on the order of every month or couple months) to monitor progress, modify your strategy, and then repeat.
- related to the last point: use small steps to gradually modify your "identity." For instance, I have never been athletic. Since young adulthood, I have occasionally tried to workout in some way but I didn't enjoy it and felt awkward. When I started a more concerted weight-lifting regimen about a year and a half ago (and had the help of my boyfriend, who has always been an athlete and super-organized/consistent person), the most important thing about it was that I was consistent. Even six months in, I looked back and thought "wow, I used to hate going to the gym, but now I am 'someone who works out.' I feel like a doofus in the gym sometimes, but I know I belong here, and I am way more happy to get up early and go work out because I enjoy and value being able to identify myself as 'someone who works out.'" There are lots of different options for what type of activities/workouts to do to get the best results and different tricks or things that can make it easier to make progress, which are all important, but I think the most important thing is your identity. Change your identity (with easy, small steps, over time), and the sky is the limit.
- Also, lifting weights is awesome because it gives you a measure of progress. There are lots of times when I would still have a poor body image, and one thing I could hold on to is the undeniable fact that I am stronger than I used to be. Other measurements of progress are good too: waist/hip measurements (not too often), body composition measurements (calipers or whatever), basic blood panels. All of these measurements are flawed and you shouldn't invest too much in any of them, but just having data and being able to monitor progress is a generally good thing.
- You can make adhering the a paleo lifestyle as convenient or inconvenient as you wish. I will all depend on your preferences, your budget, your time constraints... so you need to find what works for you. For me, I love to cook and spend time on food and fitness, but I also save time by making large meals (especially lunches) and keeping them frozen or in the fridge in tupperware during the week. Sturdy food contains can be a life-saver! I recommend getting a big, inexpensive set of containers of different sizes with snappable lids (or mason jars with tight-fitting lids). This makes life so much easier. Oh, also, fresh produce will last WAY longer in good, sealable storage containers than it will in a bag or something. I don't have time to shop for food multiple times a week, so this makes it possible for me to eat veggies all the time.
Ok, enough of that, this is getting long (it was getting long five paragraphs ago...) You requested an example of meals, so let me give you that. I also suffer from major low-energy issues, so this might actually be helpful for you (keep in mind that none of this stuff is set in stone, this is just the schedule I am on right now):
Breakfast: coffee with a 1/2 tbs raw grassfed milk butter and and 1/2 tbs coconut oil. On the weekends, I'll usually eat a real breakfast with eggs, spinach, onions, etc. This is the newest part of my diet - I have never been a regular coffee drinker, and I have eaten a real breakfast every day for years, but I am so far finding that it helps me stay focused at work and gives me energy during the day, and I don't really miss breakfast... just something to play with.
Lunch: the perfect salad: mixed greens with roasted zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, and toasted pumpkin seeds (all roasted with a little olive oil in a pretty hot oven (400 F) until brown) with a balsamic vinaigrette (just throw together a nice dijon mustard, traditional balsamic vinegar, and a little olive oil). So this salad, usually with a little piece of meat (a small hamburger patty, a piece of chicken breast, meatballs). Lunches I make all at once on sunday and then keep things frozen/in the fridge so I can just heat them up. This is where tupperware becomes important.
Snack: I try to not snack, but if I feel a desire to, I will have something like raw cauliflower cut up with some olive oil and salt or homemade beef jerky (it's super easy, check it out).
Dinner: a sexy piece of meat and some sauteed veggies. I try to get all of my food organic/grass-fed/pasture raised/free-range/local/super-pretentious, so to not break the bank, I focus on the cheapest cuts of high quality meat I can find. I still spend a lot of my income on food, but to me, it's totally worth it. So dinner will be something like lamb shank, pork chops, skirt steak, short ribs, chicken, something with liver, salmon or shellfish, and the veggie will be kale, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, mustard greens, brussels sprouts etc. For the meat, I will either braise it or pan sear it, depending on the cut. Braising is an AMAZING way of making some meats that would otherwise being pretty uninspiring. Just try braising a lamb shank in red wine, beef bone broth, with some tomatoes, garlic, shallots and onion on a low heat for a long time... amazing. I have a simple piece of advice with veggies: if you cook pretty much any vegetable in olive oil and salt until it gets a little brown, it will be delicious.
For my boyfriend and I, eating like this costs about $200 a week, with us buying about half of our food at a farmer's market and half at Whole Foods, almost all organic/grass-fed/pasture raised/you-know-the-deal stuff. Is it the cheapest way to live? No. But it's delicious, healthy, and entirely worth it, in my opinion. If you were determined, you could probably do it for $125-150 a week with the same quality ingredients, if you cut out all of the more decorative things we get (more complicated dishes will have some random ingredients like a nice cheese or something that you don't really NEED, but it makes life more interesting).
Hope this helps. Now it looks like I've written my own book! I'm happy to answer any other questions you might have.