I Survived My First 2 Weeks on the Paleo Diet
Exactly 2 weeks ago, I started my 28-Day Transformation Challenge. And I’m still alive to tell about it. *Gasp!*
Essentially, the challenge is about adopting a paleo lifestyle for 28 days, while incorporating daily exercise, fish oil and self-reflections. In other words, I have only eaten meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and oils made from olive and coconut for the past 15 days (yes, it feels like a lot longer). The good news is I’m still alive and kicking. No bread. No pizza. No cereal. No Clif Bars. No sandwiches for lunch. No dessert after dinner. None of my favorite things.
Yes, it is possible. It has been hard, but not in the ways I necessarily thought it would be. For those of you who have heard a lot of people talking about paleo living or are considering doing it yourself, here are some thoughts from me after the first 2 weeks. I’ll share with you again how it is going at the end of the challenge.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is being in social settings. Going out to dinner and finding something that fits within the parameters of the challenge and paleo diet is very difficult. Everything seems to be cooked in butter or canola oil, which are both no-nos on the diet, and there are often so many added ingredients or preservatives in everything. Going to parties at friends’ houses is even more challenging, because you have the extra layer of guilt that you can’t eat much of what they’ve cooked (due to sugar, grains, and dairy being used in their dishes).
Checking out menus ahead of time and finding restaurants that cater to gluten-free and paleo diets is helpful, as is bringing dishes that you can eat when going to parties and get-togethers. Instead of munching on chips and dip at a friend’s football party this past weekend, I brought fresh salsa and guacamole with carrots and sliced cucumbers to dip it in. I also brought some date and almond balls for dessert. The worst was being at my book club a week ago and eating a plate of broccoli while everyone else ate lasagna and rolls. It was pure torture.
Have I felt any different?
Not really. Not yet. After the first week I definitely noticed a change in my weight, which I assume is from losing excess water weight. The second week, however, I started eating too much dried fruit to overcompensate my munchies for snacks and carbs, which has taken a toll on my stomach and how I feel overall. I’m going to be cutting back on the dried fruit the next two weeks and sticking to the basics. I do feel strong though. I am proud of the will power I’ve shown to not give in anything, and I love that I haven’t eaten anything fake or processed. Just knowing that makes a difference: Strong mind, strong body.
Have I had the same energy levels during exercise as I did pre-paleo?
On some days I have, on other days I haven’t. I haven’t quite figured out the right fueling mix for before, during and after exercise just yet on this diet. I just finished reading The Paleo Diet for Athletes this week which I’ll share more about soon, and I think that will really help me. I like their philosophy that in the windows around exercise, you can be more liberal with the rules by adding sports drinks and gels (and other carbs you may not normally be able to consume on a paleo diet). Learning more about this and experimenting with some new things will help me better master this.
For breakfast, I’ve been enjoying a banana smoothie made with 1 frozen banana, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a teaspoon of vanilla. You could add a little flaxseed or almond butter too. Eating that with a piece of chicken sausage or nitrate/nitrite-free bacon has been really satisfying.
For dinner, I have made lettuce wraps by sautéing lean beef with vegetables and spices and wrapping it up in Bibb lettuce, with fresh salsa and avocado/guacamole on top for a different twist on tacos. Scallops and shrimp on top of pureed cauliflower and a side of vegetables continues to be one of my favorite meals to make. The cauliflower makes you feel like you’re having mashed potatoes. I also tried spaghetti squash for the first time with this faux spaghetti and meatball recipe. Very satisfying.
What is the key to success?
Planning. Lunch is by far the hardest meal to prepare for. By cooking several chicken breasts on Sunday night that you can eat during the week, boiling eggs and making a big salad that can be used for a few days for lunch, you create much more satisfying meals that don’t make you feel deprived. But it takes extra time that most of us don’t feel like we have. Even breakfast takes time. You can no longer grab a granola bar and yogurt. You have to cut up fruit, scramble eggs, blend a smoothie, etc. It is definitely doable; you just have to commit to the planning to make it worth it for YOU.
What is the biggest surprise about the diet?
I’m not craving the grain-based carbs like bread and crackers as much as I thought I would. I am (or was) addicted to bread and sugar. I love all things related to crackers and crunch. I love sandwiches. And if I was on a deserted island and could only bring one food with me, it would probably be Mellow Mushroom pizza. It hasn’t been as hard to find foods that are satisfying without all that. I’m hoping that will only continue to get easier.
What are my go-to snacks?
- A banana with almond butter
- A mix of pistachios, almonds and raisins
- Blackberries with shredded coconut on top
- An egg with a piece of fruit
Will I keep doing this after the 28-day challenge is over?
Yes, I am going to try. However, I will allow myself some cheat days. I figure if 90 percent of my diet follows the paleo lifestyle and 10 percent allows real life in – dinner parties at friends’ houses, enjoying a meal at a favorite restaurant, a dessert to celebrate something special – then I think I’ll be doing pretty well. I’ve never been a fanatic about anything when it comes to food. I think this will be the same way. Disciplined balance.
Have you tried the paleo diet? How did you feel after the first 2 weeks? What are your favorite paleo recipes?