Top 10 Things I’ve Learned After a Year on The Paleo Diet1) Fat is not the enemy- I used to be the queen of low-fat, no-fat, and fat-free foods. I have learned that REAL FOODS, even with fat on them, are not bad for you. Almond butter has 17g fat in 2tbsp, almond milk has around 3g fat per serving, grass-fed beef and organic eggs have fat as well; all of these fats have BENEFIT and are good for you when eaten in the right quantities.
2) Portions matter- Understanding point #1 is useless unless you educate yourself on HOW MUCH to eat. Fats are healthy, so are proteins, and carbohydrates found in real foods. However, you must learn and remember how much of each your body needs. Knowing that you are consuming a healthy fat does not give you license to eat it endlessly. Eat real foods. Eat the right amount.
3) I don’t miss bread!!!!- This is a HUUUUUGE one for me as I have always loved bread. I have found replacements for all of the typical places where grain used to fit into my life. Instead of sandwich bread or a hamburger bun, use LETTUCE! Yes, you read that right, lettuce. If you use all the right trimmings and flavours in your burger, you won’t miss the bread. Trust me.
4) Like-minded people make all the difference- When I began the Paleo Diet, I didn’t have the good fortune of being surrounded by people who did the same. It was downright torturous. It has made ALLLLLL the difference to spend time with people who eat (and live) similarly to the way I do. My wonderful partner Jen believes in the Paleo Lifestyle and together we have researched and experimented with Paleo cooking and it has been tremendously enjoyable. My friends will always offer a few Paleo-friendly options when they have a dinner party or brunch. Now, a year later, the non-Paleo items don’t bother me but the feeling of inclusion makes all the difference.
5) The Paleo Diet and the Paleo Lifestyle aren’t exactly the same thing- When I began this whole thing, I was hyper focused on what qualified as Paleo or non-Paleo. I drove myself crazy in less than a week. I had the good fortune of reading an article that managed to give me some clarity… The gist of the article was that “being Paleo” was about eating whole, real foods that benefit the body as well as living an active lifestyle and being mindful of one’s consumption. I realized that living a Paleo Lifestyle meant a lot more than just eating meat and veggies. It meant discovering new recipes and restaurants, meeting new people who share the philosophy (see point #4), incorporating activity and exercise into each day, getting enough SLEEP (!!!!!!) to allow the body to refuel and grow, managing stress in a healthy way… the list goes on and on. I truly believe that the folks who live the Paleo Lifestyle are the folks who see the most benefit and appreciation from eating a Paleo Diet.
6) Cheating happens…and BOY does it teach a lesson- During my first 40 days of Paleo, I stuck to my guns 100%. But over the course of a year, there have been a handful of times that I have “cheated” by eating/drinking something non-Paleo. A few of these times have been because the Lebanese side of me yearns for hummus, pita bread, zataar pies, kibbeh, and all the other YUMMY homemade dishes I grew up on. Other times, I’ve been stuck in a situation where there is literally nothing that’s totally Paleo-friendly. For me, the “side effects” of cheating have been everything from nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and just generally feeling NOT GOOD. Every time I have “cheated” I am reminded that my body does NOT like gluten, wheat, grains, dairy, and legumes. As much as I love the taste of some of the foods, my body bucks the digestion process and I pay for it the next day.
7) The change in my health speaks for itself- My cholesterol is the LOWEST it has ever been, and that includes the 6 years I spent on Lipitor.
8) I am so much more aware of what’s in the food I eat- I have become more invested than ever in understanding what goes in to the food I eat. In fact, probably less than 15% of the food/drinks in our home even HAVE labels. By that I mean, the bulk of our shopping is fresh produce- veggies and fruit- as well as meat and seafood directly from the Whole Foods butcher/fish counter. I’ve cut out ANYTHING (food or otherwise) with artificial flavours, colours, etc. I am so much more aware of the journey my food has taken from its source to my table.
9) I am a better athlete- Last year I participated in my first season of triathlons, completing several sprints and an Olympic distance at the end of the season. Living the Paleo Lifestyle made me shed the bloat and fat from the dairy and grains, and allowed me to gain lean muscle mass that has kept me around 5lbs lighter and SO much stronger.
10) My body is the best gauge- My body tells me when something I do to it, or put into it is good or bad. The Paleo Diet has given me clear skin, healthy hair, great energy and my digestive tract is perfect. I have learned to listen to my body and it has been saying some wonderful things this past year.
*Note: The Paleo Diet, just like everything else, is NOT for everyone…. there are people who may fare better on a different diet or food regimen and that is okay. My opinions and experiences are just that- mine. However, I will say this: eating food that is unprocessed, unmodified, whole, real, and from this Earth will always serve every human better.