9 WAYS TO FAIL AT PALEO
2 years ago, I went strictly paleo for 10 weeks. I lost a few kgs, looked healthier, felt better and all was fine and dandy.
Of course, strict Paleo is a pretty tough lifestyle to maintain, so I decided to take 1 week off before continuing. My 1 week turned into 1 year, then another, and next thing I knew I was back at square one: chubby, unhealthy, unhappy.
I tried again and again to get back into it but just couldn’t, despite the fact that I’d proven I could do it before. So here are the reasons why I failed. Let’s learn from my mistakes and get it right this time.
If you’re following Paleo you will at some point have heard the adage: “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail.” Not being prepared is the number one reason why we break our diets. If you don’t have healthy food in your house, you’ll grab unhealthy food from elsewhere.
Plan your dinners for 3 -4 nights in a row. (A full week is harder to plan because of unforseen circumstances.) Plan to re-use fresh ingredients that might go off quickly to avoid wasting food and money. For example, if I’m cooking Bacon and Spinach Ravioli on Tuesday, I’ll use the rest of the spinach for a Spinach Breakfast Nest on Wednesday.
Don’t prepare your food.
You guys, it’s time to use all those tupperwares you stole from the office. Make big meals like soups and curries, portion them into the tupperwares and shove them in the freezer. Let this become your new favourite fast food outlet.
Side note: if you’re investing in new tupperwares, grab square ones instead of round ones as they’ll be easier to pack into your freezer. Think tetris.
Don’t prepare your mind.
Don’t confuse preparing food for being prepared. If you’re new to paleo, you will have to prepare your mind too. Cutting carbs, sugar and dairy is a massive exercise in self-control. It helps to know what to expect when you first turn paleo, so here’s a little breakdown of the common physical effects for your first month of paleo.
Week 1: This week is in your head. You need to adjust, learn to cook ingredients you might not be comfortable with, learn to read intimidating ingredient labels, and worst of all, get over your cravings. Cravings suck. But it’s only 1 week. Man up. You’ll survive.
Week 2: This is where the detox symptoms are starting to kick in and you might suffer from a bit of Low-Carb Flu. It’s not infectious, but it feels like normal flu. You can expect nausea, light-headedness, fatigue, headaches, and all those lovely fluey things. Drink lots of water! It’ll help flush the toxins from your body. And if you’re really struggling, eat some paleo-friendly carbs like sweet potato to ease the withdrawals, but keep it to a minimum.
Week 3: You’re getting into the swing of things. You now have a reportoire of recipes you can refer to and your detox symptoms are coming to an end. Push through the last stretch. This is the worst place to fall off the wagon.
Week 4: Congrats! You made it. You’ve been eating paleo for about a month now. You look great, feel great, and you can be really proud of yourself. You are an unstoppable force of good health and energy. You are Rocky Balboa. You are the best.
Week 5: Now that the train is moving, don’t fall off it. If you’re not into sticking with Paleo long term, that’s cool man, but take it slow. Reintroduce non-Paleo foods slowly and one food group at a time. Reintroduce a little bit of dairy, see how you feel. A week later, reintroduce carbs. Let your body adjust slowly and find out which foods make you feel good and which don’t.
Dwell on what you can’t have.
Thinking about what you’re not allowed to eat causes frustration and brings out physical cravings that aren’t even really there. Focus on what you can eat. Consider ingredients that are allowed, then write lists of possible recipes and combinations for them.
This will be helpful to have on hand for those evenings when you need to throw a quick something together. For example, if you’ve got some sweet potato and a random tin of tuna, you can make a batch of Paleo Fish Cakes.
Be super strict.
I first went Paleo during a turbulent time in my life and I went super strict to compensate and help me feel in control. Unfortunately, the stricter you are, the more likely you are to fail.
Learn to allow yourself the right kind of treats. If you’re craving cheese, have a slice, but don’t have a lasagne-for-4 on your own. (That happened ONE time.) Allow yourself small cheats so that you can avoid the big ones.
Find rewards that aren’t food-related. If you’ve had a really succesful week, go get a massage or do a face mask.
When you fuck up, which you inevitably will, don’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t get out of the car mid-trip just because you went over a speed bump.
Don’t drink water.
Your body is roughly 75% water. So, when you’re not getting enough in, you’re not functioning at your best. Drinking more water can clear your skin, improve digestion, combat those horrid detox symptoms and even help depression.
The rough guide is that for every 30kg, you should drink 1 litre of water. So if you weigh 90kg, you need to drink 3 litres per day.
Tea (without milk) can count toward your daily water intake, but coffee cancels it out because of the high caffeine levels. So for every cup of coffee, you should add 1 more cup of water.
You’ll pee a lot, but you’ll get used to it.
You can’t out exercise a bad diet, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to exercise at all. For women, your weight loss depends around 90% on diet, 10% exercise. For men, it changes to around 70% diet, 30% exercise.
When you first start paleo, you might feel a bit fatigued (see point 3) so keep exercise to smaller amounts and build up as you go. Soon you’ll have the energy and the fitness to do that run you’ve been working towards.
You’re spending all this time eating right and exercising on top of your normal work day and responsibilities. Who has time to sleep?
Make the time. We need at least 7 hours per night. Sleep is when you rest your body and brain, giving them time to repair, recover and rebuild. This is especially important for those trying to build muscle. In very un-scientific terms, when you exercise, your muscle tears and when you sleep, your body repairs the spaces between the tears, making your muscles grow.
If you struggle to fall asleep, check out this article for some great tips.
Don’t ask for help.
You’ll find that when you start your journey to better health, there will be a million and one people who feel the need to give you advice and send you pinterest quotes about believing in yourself and feeling blessed. That’s cool.
But if you want real help, ask. And when in doubt, ask a professional!
I’m not a dietician, I’m not a doctor, and I’m not even a real chef. I can’t tell you what your calorie intake should be or which foods don’t work for your body. But I can share the things that worked for me and what I’ve learned along my way.
Believe everything you hear on the internet.
The information from this post alone is overwhelming, so take it as it comes and learn as you go. The journey is your own. Your body is your own. Your health is your own. Make like Sinatra and do it your way.
If you enjoyed this article and want to read a bit more on the topic, this one is a goodie.