This is Part 2 of a three-part series on The Paleo Diet. Click here to read Part 1.
Day 1 of our 30-day Paleo challenge is about to begin…and we have no idea what we’re in store for. What did this mean though, what were we actually allowed to and not allowed to consume? Here’s what we could eat: lean meat, fish, chicken, nuts and seeds (except cashews), vegetables (except legumes), and fruit. We could season our food with spices and that was it.
Here’s what we couldn’t eat: dairy (I’m not a big fan of it anyway), grains, pastas, breads, refined sugar, anything processed, alcohol (some people say tequila’s ok), caffeine (there’s a black coffee argument as well), and everything else that didn’t fit into the “what we could eat” category.
Needless to say, our diets were going to change dramatically. Eric and I thought up to this point that “we ate well”, we were roommates at the time. We cooked 2 meals a day at home and ate lunch at local organic delis. We didn’t eat a lot of grains or dairy to begin with, but we didn’t realize how large of a wormhole we were about to crawl into.
We have now done this challenge 4 additional times and are continually shocked by the results that we see. However, before we get there, let’s talk about the breakdown of the month. These seem to be fairly universal experiences for everyone who’s given the diet a try.
Week 1 – Excitement over trying something new quickly leads to headaches, insomnia, gastro-intestinal disturbances, loose stools, mood swings and the like. Week 1 is not a lot of fun.
Week 2 – Ok, now we’re into it, the withdrawal symptoms are slowly subsiding and portions are being created that don’t leave you ravenous throughout the day. For most people, the benefits may be showing up slightly with some weight loss and inflammatory issues (arthritis, bursitis, chronic pain, chronic injury) begin to show signs of subsiding.
Week 3 – You feel good. At this point the momentum shifts and the thought of ice cream is not as wonderful as it once was. That good feeling is something that most people haven’t felt in a long time and the renewed energy that it brings just might lead into some nutritional arrogance! This is the week you start judging people who eat pasta for lunch. Don’t worry, it happens.
Week 4 – You feel great! By now you’ve got some favorite meals down, you know how to cook them and even look forward to them. Your taste spectrum has shifted away from the overly sweet taste of refined sugar and to you; an apple with some almond butter is pure heaven. At this point you swear that you’ll never eat processed foods or grains again nor will you ever have a glass of wine as long as you live.
The end of the month is always fantastic, with some of the observations that we’ve seen being:
- Average weight loss between 5-18 pounds (some lost up to 40 pounds by continuing on)
- Inflammatory issues such as asthma, body pain, arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis, most things that end in “itis” resolve themselves
- Increased vision to the point of needing multiple prescription changes throughout the month.
- Gum tissue growing back to the pleasant surprise of a local dentist
- Dramatic performance increases with both endurance and pure strength workouts (Usually as people who are already in good shape get lighter, they get weaker, the opposite happened for us.)
Those are pretty dramatic results for people who, in my opinion train harder and eat more cleanly than the vast majority of the general public. Personally, I have always been lean and didn’t see any weight loss after the first week or so. However, what I felt I had never felt before. I felt great! I felt healthy, and had more energy and was sleeping through the night better. I felt amazing and wanted to continue on eating this way.
Unfortunately for me and for a lot of people, the day that our 30 day challenge ended, I consumed something akin to a large pizza, a small tray of lasagna, a bag of jelly beans, 2 pints of ice cream, and a six pack of beer. It was one of the most glorious days of my life. Until around 3am.
That’s when my stomach decided to wrap itself into a fisherman’s knot, and then do some back flips, only to proceed to letting me know what labor feels like. The next day was spent lying on the couch holding my stomach while trying to figure out my head was under six feet of jello. There are hangovers and then there are food hangovers and this one was a doozey.
Did 1 day of debauchery and indulge do me in? And if not, how did I learn to make eating this way a part of my life? Check back tomorrow to see!
Traver H. Boehm L.Ac, Dipl. O.M. co-founded CrossFit Pacific Coast in addition to being a partner at Alki Wellness, both in Santa Barbara CA. Traver is a Strength & Conditioning Coach and performance nutrition specialist as well as being a Licensed Acupuncturist by both the State of California and National Board. When not speaking or writing on the topics of fitness, wellness and nutrition, he can be found surfing, kickboxing and learning Brazilian Jiujitsu.
Photo: Be Food Smart