The Unconventional Guide to Adopting a Paleo Lifestyle
While I was in Barnes and Noble last weekend I notice that there were an influx of diet books scattered throughout the center portion of the store. It makes sense with all the New Year crash dieting going on. What I thought was more interesting was that some of these were Paleo dieting books, which, until recently hasn’t been accepted by the mainstream as well as a low fat or even the low carb type of diet approach.
This got me thinking about my slow and unconventional approach making it to the Paleo lifestyle. So, if you want to start to get lean, feel better, have more strength and vitality, you could go the traditional route by buying a good Paleo book (some recommended below), read some Paleo blogs, listen to a Paleo podcast, and turn into a caveman. Or, you could follow my long, winding path that has gotten me to a Paleo lifestyle.
What we are moving toward
A Paleo lifestyle is rather simple and straight forward. There is a lot of literature out there of what is good and what is bad for you when it comes to eating, but it comes down to a few simple things:
- Eat quality, preferably grass-fed, meat
- Eat fresh vegatables
- Stay away from legumes and dairy as much as possible
- Lay off the processed sugar
- Don’t eat grains, don’t consume wheat gluten, and lay off of industrial seed oils
- Move around, lift heavy things, walk every day
Though it seems simple, this type of lifestyle can be tough to get to.
Trial and error
My first foray into a low carb diet was eating Atkins about 6 years ago. I ate meat, veggies, cheese, and fats. I also started exercising three times a week. It worked. I lost around 30 pounds in all of 3 or 4 months and started to get some muscles and energy back.
This was a great first step. It showed me that I could actually lose weight and start to get lean if I wanted to, that my genes weren’t “destined” to make me fat, and that I could keep the weight off if I followed a diet.
At the time I still thought that whole grains and grains in general were OK for me and that I just needed to lay off of them until I reached an acceptable weight to resume eating them. Little did I know is that the whole grains were the things that were keeping me fat, as they opened my up to eating more and more starches as my body craved them more.
Needless to say, when I slowly put grains back into my diet I slowly started eating more of them, and slowly started to gain weight. It was all a downhill progression from there taking me back to junk foods, fast food, sweets, and the like.
It’s important to remember that we are all human and that we can’t do everything perfectly at first. It took several attempts at a diet until I finally could keep it going. Once I found the Paleo lifestyle and decided to eat to live rather than live to eat, I haven’t had a problem falling off the diet wagon and am closer than I have ever been to my ideal weight.
The next thing is that you have to get active to live the Paleo lifestyle. The nice part about this is that there is no “set regimen” when it comes to exercising. You can make it up as you go, just as long as you are active.
I tend to walk for about an hour a day and do body weight exercises 3 to 4 times a week, but this isn’t even a hard and fast rule. Plus, I go in and out of the doing the body weight exercises. But, as long as you are moving for at least an hour a day that should be fine. I’m not talking about running the rat-race on the treadmill, I mean you can walk, hike, do pushups, pullups, whatever, for a total of an hour a day.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This is the reason that most everyone fails and decides to give-up on the Paleo approach. Most humans tend to be all or nothing creatures and if something doesn’t work or we screw something up just a little bit, we might as well not do it at all. I know that this is the case for me.
So what if you snuck a candybar after dinner or had a few french fries? Just keep moving forward in the Paleo lifestyle. You are bound to make mistakes in this new way of life. No need to be too hard on yourself.
Follow the 80/20 principal
The Pareto principal has been around for a while and if you are a productivity nerd then you have definitely heard of it. But, Mark Sisson, of Mark’s Daily Apple fame, has taken this and applied it to the Paleo approach. He believes that if you follow the lifestyle 80% of the time, or do the 80% of the lifestyle that is the most important, that you will succeed without being hard on yourself.
I’d say there are some things that you need to follow to the ‘T’, like avoiding gluten at all costs as well as the industrial seed oils, but the other things can are malleable; like eating strictly grass-fed beef or no potatoes or rice.
Get and stay inspired
Below are the three things that introduced me to the Paleo lifestyle and kept me inspired when the going got tough:
- Mark’s Daily Apple and his book The Primal Blueprint
- Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution
- Angela Coppola’s podcast, Latest in Paleo
So how do you make it to the Paleo lifestyle? Through trial and error, getting active, not being too hard on yourself, following the 80/20 principal, and getting inspired. Looking back, I wouldn’t have liked to get to to my Paleo lifestyle in any other way, and frankly, the traditional “buy-this-book-and-follow-this-plan-forever” kind of way probably wouldn’t have stayed with me long term.
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