This topic is something that I know everyone struggles with at one point or another. The reason why I want to write about it is simply because there are so many reasons why the paleo diet is easy to stick to. I am going to do my best to try and list some of the most effective ways to stay on track. I will include some things I personally do, as well as some things I know I should do but still struggle with.
1) Give yourself a chance!
This is the thing I am most passionate about because I feel it is the most important. I believe that most diets fail simply because they are doomed from the start. You can’t just wake up one day and say “I’m going to eat paleo now”. There is no way that will work. When you spend decades eating a certain way, you can’t just immediately change that. You absolutely need to PLAN. You need to RESEARCH. You need to know exactly what you are going to be eating, and why you will be eating that way. If you wake up on Day 1 of your diet and you don’t really know what you should be eating, then how are you going to succeed? There are 2 things you should do that relate to planning.
a) Go through your cupboards and throw out EVERYTHING that isn’t paleo (or whatever diet you are starting). I mean everything, from popcorn to diet coke. The simple fact is that if the food isn’t available, you can’t eat it. This was actually really liberating for me. It forced me to search for the right type of snack. Now… you have to make sure that those good snacks are actually in your cupboard, so that leads me to the next point.
-This will be painful but well worth it-
b) Make a list of the types of food that are allowed, and then take that list and find some simple recipes to make for your first week. When I did this, I knew that based on those recipes, I would have enough meals and snacks to last me through my first work week. That made sure that I wouldn’t have to rely on buying lunch, which is almost an inevitable way to screw up you diet during the early phase. Find foods that you will love! Use the damn internet to search for recipes that are simple and delicious. I have a list of easy and quick paleo recipes that I can make in a pinch, and I rely on those to get me through the days when I don’t feel like trying something new. As for snacks… you absolutely cannot forget about them. Make sure you have good paleo snack choices. I believe that snacking can be the downfall of a diet, but you need to think of snacks as an important part of your diet just like your meals. So when you have the munchies and you are looking in your cupboard for a fix… you need to have healthy stuff to turn to.
2) Tell your friends and family what you are doing. This is really important for two reasons. First, it automatically provides you with a network of people to support and motivate you. If you make sure everyone you live with and hang out with is aware of what you are doing, then they will try their best to ensure you stay on track. This is especially important for the people you live with. Second, it makes your life easier because you won’t have to constantly justify your food choices to people who don’t know why you are eating this way. Why did you order a burger with no bun? Why are you only eating sausage and veggies at the party instead of chips and dip? If your friends and family are aware of your diet, they will hopefully make it easier on you by just leaving it be. Because let’s be honest. The paleo diet is strange to most people.
-They will learn to adapt to your diet, I promise-
3) Have a goal. This relates to fitness as much as it relates to diet. When I try to convince people to start eating paleo, I tell them to give it at least 2 to 4 weeks before they decide to keep it or trash it. This can be your first goal. Try paleo for 2 weeks without cheating, and then make a new goal. Making a lifestyle change for 2 weeks should be quite attainable for most people. And once you get to 2 weeks, you can make a new goal like keeping your carbs under 50 grams a day. You can even make you goal about cheat meals, like only cheating once a week. The point is that goals provide you with something concrete to strive for, and when you achieve your goals it really helps keep you on track. This leads to my two next tips:
4) Pay attention to small victories. As I have mentioned before, any lifestyle change has to be viewed as long-term. It’s never a perfect upward climb. There are going to be detours and bumps in the road. But as long as you are generally heading in the right direction, then you are winning. So pay attention to your small victories. Did you eat perfectly for 2 days? 3 days? A week? Did you say “no” to dessert at your favourite restaurant? (cheesecake cafe by the way… IMPOSSIBLE to say no to cheesecake there). These are all little things that can keep you motivated. So don’t ignore them!
5) Allow yourself to cheat. A diet will never be sustainable if you don’t allow yourself to indulge once in a while. I know a guy who lost about 150 pounds in around two years. I asked him what his cheat meals consisted of, and he told me that he hasn’t had a single cheat meal. Not a chicken wing… not a piece of chocolate… nothing. His cheat meal consisted of an orange. What!? I seriously did not believe him, but he swore he was telling me the truth. So I guess he is the exception to the rule. Anyways, my point is that you need to have some cheesecake every so often. When most people start a diet, they think about what they CAN’T eat. But if you flip that over and start to think about what you CAN eat (bacon, butter, steak… and the odd cheat meal)… the diet will seem much more attractive. And it will be sustainable.
-Some cheat meals are better than others-
6) Don’t let a couple of bad days derail your diet. You have to be realistic. Life happens. You are going to be at parties and dinners and baby showers. There are bad foods literally everywhere you turn. Inevitably, you are going to have some bad days where you eat bread and cookies. But just because you ate a tub of ice cream while watching Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t mean you failed. All it means is that you had some extra sugar and calories for one day. Big deal! Just get back on track tomorrow and don’t let it get you down.
7) Have some rules that you never break. For me, the rule that I never break is the wheat rule. I stay away from bread and pasta and baked goods at all costs (okay okay I have had bread about three times since October, and have had pastries a few times too… but no one is perfect). This helps me feel better about cheating because even though I may eat some chili that has beans in it, at least I didn’t have any wheat.
8) Realize that some diets just aren’t for everyone. My sister is a perfect example, because she just doesn’t like many of the types of meat that paleo calls for. Amanda just can’t stomach eggs every single morning. So regardless of what the paleo diet suggests, there might be a large part of the diet that just doesn’t agree with you. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. I personally refuse to give up cheese, which is technically not allowed on the paleo diet. So I have decided to modify the diet to suit my needs. And there may be other reasons you need to modify the diet. But that doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. All it means is that you need to listen to your body and make tweaks to suit your needs.
9) Augment your diet with exercise. I know I don’t have to tell you why this is important. And although I feel that diet is 80% of the battle, that means exercise is the other 20%. When I first started paleo, I felt amazing after about two weeks. But once I got my ass back to the gym, I felt a million times better. You are going to have more energy, so why would you not get to the gym too?
All I am saying is that there are lots of things you can do to put yourself in the best possible position for success when starting a new diet. So do what works for you. And remember: it’s not a race, and it’s not a fad. It’s your whole life.
“You may not be there yet, but you are closer than you were yesterday”