Participating in a ‘paleo’ challenge can have many benefits, and for those of you who have committed to a period of strict ‘paleo’, you have hopefully experienced…
• 4 to 6 weeks towards a healthier you (better sleep, increased energy, and specific physical improvements)
• An opportunity to break old habits and establish new ones
• A reduction in cravings for sugar and processed foods
• A path towards hormonal and metabolic balance
• And an awareness of our food supply and how to make better choices
But, when the challenge is over, what do you do? Where do you go from here?
You may want to methodically test non-paleo foods:
First and foremost, you’ve worked really hard to make quality changes in your health. So, PLEASE don’t run out and gorge yourself on all the foods you’ve eliminated over the last month or two! For one, your body may be very upset with you. But more importantly, it will make it impossible to decipher your particular sensitivities. Following a ‘paleo’ challenge is an ideal time to see how specific foods effect you. If you go out to eat and order hummus dip as an appetizer and then have pizza with the works as your main course, you’ll have no idea whether it’s the beans, grains, or dairy that may irritate you. Use a systematic approach such as this:
1. Pick a food that you are curious about.
I think for many the first ends up being dairy. High quality, organic, grass-fed dairy (raw or less processed) is one grey area of ‘primal’ eating. Some proponents of primal living feel it is okay to include in moderation if well tolerated. But, many find they simply don’t tolerate it well. If you are wondering how your body responds and you love a little cream in your coffee or cheese now and then, this would be a good first experiment. Let’s use this as our example.
2. Continue to eat paleo-friendly foods throughout the day, but add a serving of your “test” food to each meal.
Maybe you choose a high quality (full-fat, organic) yogurt to your breakfast, a slice of cheese to your turkey roll-up at lunch and a scoop of quality ice cream after dinner. Give yourself a few days before making ANY other changes. It can take up to 72 hours for symptoms to present themselves.
3. Pay attention to how you feel.
Notice any bloating, GI distress or pain, skin clarity, fatigue, energy changes, disrupted sleep, headaches, congestion, etc.
4. After one food category, choose another and follow the same guidelines. Be methodical.
5. Following any experimentation, use your results to decide what foods are worth keeping in your meal plan from time to time and which are off the list for good.
NOTE: Remember that just because you may be able to “tolerate” a particular food, it doesn’t mean that food is necessarily a “healthy” option. Read up, gather your self-experimentation evidence, consider your personal goals and then make an informed decision that works for you.
You may want to continue on:
If you have no desire to “test” certain foods and you’ve made significant progress during your challenge, then by all means continue on! Why change anything? If you feel good and are happy with the direction you are moving in, then keep it up! If you feel you’ve made a few positive improvements, but have a ways to go, give yourself more time. It can take many people 60 – 90 days before the “SWITCH” from carb-burner to fat-burner takes place, or before hormonal balance improves. 30 days is not a long time in the big picture – keep charging.
Try a “Zone-Paleo” approach:
If you feel good with ‘paleo’ foods, but are looking for improved performance or more insight into macronutrient proportions, this method may be up your alley. It may take more leg-work in the initial stage as it involves weighing and measuring all of your foods to get a feel for portions, but many people have found great benefit to such an approach.
Maybe you really like the paleo-style, but you are ready to tweak things to meet specific needs. Now’s a good time to reevaluate. You may need to adjust your carbohydrate intake, reduce your fruit consumption, experiment with different pre- and post-workout foods or lay-off the mounds of almonds. Maybe you’ve identified some irritating foods, but your GI system still has rome for improvement.
Spread the wealth and get your family on board:
Learn some new techniques for shopping, cooking and encouraging a paleo way of eating for your whole family. Keep it fun and positive. Stay tuned for more tips to come at Primal Peak.
Wherever you are with your journey right now, I want you to remind yourself that ‘paleo’ eating is not a DIET. It shouldn’t be viewed as a crash “challenge” or quick cleanse. It is a way of eating that should be SUSTAINABLE. It’s not about cutting calories, starving yourself or denying your body. Although, you may have to go through a period of what feels like sacrifice while you make the transition. But, in the big picture eating ‘primal’/’paleo’ is about quality food choices that best support the function of your body. What foods and lifestyle habits make you feel your best and perform your best? That’s what you need to ask yourself.
‘Paleo’ is also not about PERFECTION verses FAILURE. It’s a life-long process of making the best choices you can in a given situation. It’s a journey of continued learning, tweaking, checking in with yourself and adjusting. Remember the effort and hard work you’ve put in so far. You are on a good path, keep it up!
Which food looks more nutritious? This…
Share your Paleo Challenge to Everyday Life transition tips below. What suggestions can you offer others?