K has been following the paleo diet for almost two weeks now. It’s amazing the psychological impact it’s had on me as well: I don’t want to cheat on my diet because I know how hard she’s working to stick to it, and how difficult it is for her.
To sum up briefly, here are the things she’s found easiest and most difficult about switching from a regular diet to paleo.
The easier parts:
– Eating more protein. As Paleo Leap says in this great article about paleo and protein, “healthy animal fats are the backbone of a paleo eating plan”. Although paleo isn’t meant to be a protein free-for-all (you really shouldn’t be eating steak for breakfast, lunch and supper), it’s also pretty hard to overdo it – your body simply starts to reject it, and you’ll feel pretty nauseated.
– Eating breakfast. K has never been one for breakfast and getting her to eat anything before midday has always been a struggle. But because she switched to paleo at the same time that she started working out pretty hard, she realised that she’d need something in her belly in the morning. I make her fruit smoothies every morning, using bananas, strawberries, pineapple, plain yoghurt and a dash of apple juice. I know that there’s no protein in it but it’s a start for someone who’s always shunned the idea of a morning meal!
– Eating more fruit. Fruit is extremely healthy and I feel it’s a very useful ‘bridge’ between a standard carby diet and a paleo one. K often went entire days without eating any fruit, which means she was missing out on important vitamins and minerals. I’m so glad she’s including more of it in her diet.
The harder parts:
– Snack foods. Snacking on the paleo diet takes a fair amount of planning, which is ironic considering that a snack is usually eaten fairly spontaneously. There’s no grabbing a sandwich or having a bowl of popcorn between meals, which I know is hard for her. Most paleo snacks are protein-based, so I make sure that she always has things like biltong, fruit, hummus or yoghurt on hand (she’s still doing some dairy, but mainly yoghurt – no cheese).
– Cravings. It’s difficult to give up comforting carbs in one fell swoop – but that’s what she’s done. She’s had the pizza cravings, the curry-and-rice cravings, and the eclair cake cravings. It’s normal, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. That said, she hasn’t succumbed to any of them.
– Bypassing the bread basket. We attended a fancy-shmancy event last Saturday that was packed to the rafters with Cape Town’s glam set – rich, blonde, tanned and skinny. When they brought the bread basket around, K really struggled to resist, and eventually succeeded by telling herself, “I’m not a prisoner; I don’t need bread!” She later commented that, were it any other event, the bread would’ve been demolished in minutes – but of course, these ladies and gents weren’t in the least bit interested!
– Set menus. At the same event, we were presented with a set menu with three options each for starters and mains. Because K is quite a fussy eater, even the meals that were paleo-compliant weren’t particularly appealing to her. The moral is, if you’re a fussy eater and you’re doing paleo, try to cook all your own meals. In fact, fussy or not, you should try to do this. It’s simply the healthiest way to eat.
– Not eating eggs. K will eat eggs on occasion – but usually when they’re accompanied by toast, hidden in pancakes or turned into omelettes. I eat boiled eggs daily, and I find them an easy breakfast and a handy snack. Plus they’re also a great source of protein if you don’t feel like cooking. Not eating boiled eggs does make things a little harder, but it’s not impossible to navigate.
– Alcohol. On strict paleo, all booze should be avoided, but some fervent followers will allow dry wines or certain spirits – neither of which really appeal to K.
So how is she making it stick?
Considering the harder bits far outweigh the easier ones, how does she stick to it? Well, the 30-day goal is really spurring her own (though secretly, I’ll admit that I’m hoping that some of the paleo principles stick long after that – after all, processed carbs are not good for anyone). She’s also signed up to do the Impi Challenge in October, and she’s knows she needs to be fully committed to her workout plan and her diet if she’s going to get through it successfully.
Of course, K and I are not doing paleo as strictly as we could be – although I, simply by virtue of my IBD and food intolerances, am probably far closer to it. If you are interested in following the diet, here’s a handy list of all the things you should eat and shouldn’t eat on paleo.