OA Contributor Beth Buczynski is going paleo for 30 days! This is the final installment in a short blog series following the challenges and benefits of clean eating according to the paleo diet.
I did it! Thirty days (well 31 really) of eating according to the paleo diet. An entire month without dairy, pasta, or beer--foods I thought I couldn't live without just a short while ago. Thirty days without processed or artificial sugars, grains, or low-quality fats, things that are so ubiquitous it may seem impossible to eliminate them and still eat complete meals...but it's not. Overall, I can honestly say it's been an awesome experience, one that I'm keen to continue--though perhaps not as strictly--in the months moving forward.
In just four weeks I was able to regain control of my weight, appearance, and general health by doing nothing but eating. OK, yes, I exercised around three days a week, but nothing crazy intense. No hours of agonizing weight lifting or running. I just went to 45 minute kickboxing classes and occassionally went for a walk. I didn't starve, count calories, or worry that much about portion size. I just ate delicious paleo food, and my body responded in a positive way.
I also regained an appreciation for food--for how real food looks and feels and tastes. I now have mad respect for coconuts and the spaghetti squash. I'm no longer addicted to the salt shaker because my body has detoxed enough to allow me to taste things as they really are. And they taste good.
Last Minute Paleo FAQs
Doesn't all that meat give you high choleIsterol? I'll admit, I'm still youngish, so high cholesterol never really occured to me as a risk of eating paleo. However, if you're interested in the paloe diet and high cholesterol is or has been a concern, you might think it's not for you. The short answer is, yes, paleo can increase cholesterol. But contrary to what we've been taught in the past, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for your body. In fact, surpressing cholesterol with pharmaceuticals is actually much more dangerous than slightly increasing your red meat intake.
Can I be a paleo vegetarian? My initial reaction to this question is "not really." The way I executed this diet over the past month would not have been possible without meat. Could you make it more fish and poultry-heavy if you didn't like pork or beef? Maybe, but I just don't see how it could be done without at least some animal products. That being said, there are some who disagree. If you're willing to put the time into finding non-animal sources of protein and/or if your body doesn't need to eliminate dairy altogether, it may be possible.
Isn't it expensive to eat all that local/organic/grass-fed/unrefined food? The quality of food you eat is very important on the paleo diet. It doesn't make sense to eliminate grain and toxins from your diet, only to eat cheap animal products that have been stuffed full of grain and toxins. Eating locally, seasonally, and as much pastured product as possible is key to success. Yes, it can be expensive, but it's not TOO expensive. Yes, I spend way more on meat, eggs, and vegetables than I did previously. On the flip side, I spend NOTHING on dairy, grain, or processed food now (which really adds up when you think about the quality of product you're getting in return). It will take some extra time and money to stock your pantry with the fats, seasonings, and other complimentary foods necessary to make a wide variety of meals, but that's only if you want lots of vareity. And, it's been said before, but I'd rather spend the money on good food, instead of paying for doctors, medicines, and expensive gym memberships trying to correct the damage done by cheap food. And if you're smart with your choices, it's possible to feed your whole family this way while saving money.
Favorite Paleo Resources
As I mentioned in previous posts, my main guide during this 30 Days of Paleo was "Practical Paleo" by Diane Sanfillipo. Contrary to popular belief, "Practical Paleo" is not a cookbook, it's a nutritional guide to the whys and hows of eating paleo. It also just happens to have a couple dozen awesome recipes and 30-day meal plans that can ease your transition.
I've also found Instagram to be an amazing resource when it comes to being connected to the paleo community and getting inspiration for new meals (after all, you don't want to be chained to a cookbook forever, right?). Simply search #paleo on Instagram, and you'll be introduced to some of the most successful paleo eaters, bloggers, and authors. If you've already got an account, I recommend following @paleomg, @paleoteen, @paleoparents, @primallyinspired, @aliwentpaleo, @primalbliss, and @againstallgrain. You will learn a lot just by looking at their food and reading the comments.
The best part! I'm thrilled with the way I look and feel after 30 days of paleo. I achieved results that escaped me during 6 months of working out and "trying" to eat right. They are the biggest reasons why I want to continue the paleo lifestyle now that the month-long challenge is over.
Weight: I lost another two pounds in the final week! That brings total weight loss during this month to 8 pounds, just 2 pounds shy of my goal. My arms, waist, and legs are all visibly smaller, and I feel MUCH more comfortable in my own skin. More please.
Skin: Almost no breakouts in these final days. Back, arms, and chest are completely clear of blemishes. Skin on the back of my arms is smoother than it has been in years. (A paleo friend told me that weird, red-bumpy arm skin is thought to be the result of a lack of good fats in your diet (or a dietary issue that prevents you from properly absorbing fat).
Gut: Signs of progress here! I also read something encouraging on Paleo Diet Lifestyle: "Gut Sense goes into detail...and explains how our colon becomes addicted after a while to all the fiber and that it will take some time and adaptation on a regular, more natural diet, for the stools to become regular and smooth without the heavy fiber load." So, I'm going to stop stressing about it and give my gut some more time to become adjusted to this new way of eating. Since I'm not in pain or suffering any other ill effects that I know of, I'll just let things sort themselves out.
All images © Beth Buczynski