The Paleo Diet – I made it!

Today is February 1st and that means I’ve completed one of my New Years resolutions: endure The Paleo Diet for the whole month of January!

The past month has been a journey and a learning experience. I reevaluated my eating habits and took a close look at the food I was putting in my body. I also had to shift a lot of my priorities. Before The Paleo Diet, I was frequently “too busy” to pack a lunch for work, then I’d get stuck eating fast food, which wasn’t good for my health or bank account. I’ve packed a lunch for 20 out of the past 22 shifts I’ve worked in the month of January! That’s a huge change from before! For the two lunches I didn’t pack, I had the Jimmy Johns “Unwich” and Subway (I kept the meat and veggies and tossed the flat bread).

Here is a short week-by-week break down of my experience:

Week 1: This was the most challenging week because I was so unorganized. I should have done my grocery shopping for the week and had some snacks and meals prepared, but instead I was scrambling. This was also the most challenging week because my body was adjusting to a low carb and no refined sugar diet. I dealt with some lightheadedness but it always seemed to go away if I ate a snack. Maybe that was my body’s way of detoxing?

Week 2: In week 2 I started to notice the beginning of positive changes. The lightheadedness had gone away and I was gaining a ton of energy. I also felt more alert and experienced less brain fog. I started to try new and different foods and really have fun with the Paleo recipes.

Week 3: This is the week that I started to notice a little bit of weight loss. The jeans that were once a little snug suddenly fit better. I also felt more organized when it came to preparing snacks and meals.

Week 4: By this time, eating Paleo almost felt like second nature. Suddenly trips to the grocery store didn’t feel so limited. Walking through the produce department I found myself thinking, “Oh! I should pick up this for this recipe!” I stopped thinking about the foods I couldn’t have and more about the foods I could. Overall, I felt great.

Here are some reflections on the past month:

The Paleo Diet and weight-loss

I didn’t go into The Paleo Diet with a goal to lose weight. My goal was to “reset” my body by cutting out processed foods and refined sugar. I figured that if I were to lose weight, it would just be a natural occurrence because I was replacing high-caloric foods with fruits and vegetables. Well, I did lose weight, and actually a little more than I would’ve liked to! I am down 8 lbs since December 31st. It’s kind of amazing because when you do The Paleo Diet you aren’t counting calories or skipping snacks or meals. I never felt exceptionally “hungry” during The Paleo Diet because I was able to eat as much as I pleased as long as the foods were within the Paleo guidelines (meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and healthy fats and oils). I was losing 2 lbs per week, which is still considered a “healthy” rate of losing weight, but I would actually like to gain back a few pounds now.

If you are thinking of doing The Paleo Diet for weight-loss, I think this may be one of the more tolerable diet regimens to use because of the no calorie counting, snack skipping, etc… When you’re hungry, you eat :). If you need an energy boost, you eat. Food starts to feel like fuel.

The Paleo Diet and cravings

Have you ever wanted to lose a few pounds before summer or a big event and thought, “I’ll just cut out sweets and fast food for a couple weeks and that will do the trick,” then suddenly all you can think about is how amazing a large chocolate chip cookie dough concrete mixer from Culvers would be? That was always my craving ;). Those cravings were intense.

I had cravings while doing The Paleo Diet, but they weren’t as intense as past cravings, and I think I know why.

When you have a diet that is high in protein, your cravings are much easier to control because your appetite is suppressed. Protein keeps you fuller longer.

One thing I missed while doing The Paleo Diet was chocolate. But my craving for it was more of an “Oh, I miss the taste,” and not as much of a “Give me the keys, I’m going to go get a Ghirardelli bar!!” 😉

In the past when I was eating low fat and high carb, I always felt hungry and dealt with terrible cravings. When I flipped my eating to high (healthy) fat/protein and low carb, I felt fuller longer and the cravings were more tolerable. It was an interesting and unexpected paradox.

Cutting out processed foods, refined sugar, dairy, and grains was challenging, but because I was consuming a lot of protein, it wasn’t unbearable.

The Paleo Diet and energy

My favorite and biggest change after starting Paleo was the increase in energy! My energy has felt higher and more stable throughout the past month. I used to experience a dip in energy around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. most days. Since starting Paleo, that has pretty much been eliminated.

The Paleo Diet and complexion

Toward the end of The Paleo Diet I noticed my complexion had become more clear. I’m not sure if it was taking out dairy, grains, or processed foods that helped, but a clearer complexion was also a nice perk!

The Paleo Diet and anxiety

I’ve struggled with anxiety and panic attacks since grade school and was curious to see if a diet change would make a difference. My doctor told me that anxiety is caused by an overactive nervous system. That would explain the feeling of nervousness that comes out of nowhere (and often for no apparent reason). Hormones that are produced by the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands affect the nervous system. What has an impact on hormone levels? Food. Caffeine and high amounts of sugar affect your hormone levels, thus stimulating the nervous system.

Since I’ve drastically cut down on sugar, caffeine, and bread (which your body converts to glucose, aka sugar), my anxiety has been much more manageable. It hasn’t been completely eliminated, but it’s so much easier to deal with now. I had a string of panic attacks from October through December but have not had one since changing my diet in January. Its been nothing short of wonderful.

Conclusion

I’m happy I tried The Paleo Diet challenge. I plan on moving forward with a lot of my new eating habits, such as: adding more protein to my diet, eating a higher amount of fruits and vegetables, and limiting my consumption of refined sugar and processed foods.

I’ve also decided to limit the amount of grains and bread I consume. After cutting them out, I feel they weren’t benefiting me as much as I thought they were. I don’t think they’re detrimental to health, but I don’t think they “add” to me feeling my best. I’m surprised to say that I’ve felt better without them.

As far as dairy goes, it’s in the same boat as grains and bread.

In the future I would like my diet to look like this:

Lots of: Meat, seafood, vegetables, and fruits

In moderation: Legumes, gluten-free grain like quinoa, dark chocolate

Limited: Processed foods, grains, dairy, refined sugar

So this wouldn’t be a Paleo post without a few recipes! My last finale recipe was a turkey and shrimp burger slider with a baked sweet potato “bun.”

I got one pound of ground turkey breast, a half pound of cooked shrimp (which I chopped up), two eggs, and mixed them all together. I also added chopped green onions, garlic salt, pepper, and cayenne to the mix. You shape these into little patties and cook them on the stove over medium heat.

I also baked some sweet potato slices to use as buns and added some spinach leaves. I did not come up with this recipe on my own. I found it on Instagram.

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I also made some Paleo pumpkin spice cookies. I’m so happy these turned out! They had a great flavor (more so than other Paleo baked goods I’ve made). These contain: almond flour, coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, sea salt, maple syrup, pumpkin puree, one egg, and vanilla.

The full recipe can be found at: http://www.againstallgrain.com/2012/10/09/pumpkin-spice-cookies-with-vanilla-cinnamon-icing/

There is also a recipe for Paleo vanilla icing to go on top of these. I skipped the icing and just added some cut up dates to the cookies and thought they were great.

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Last but not least, I made Paleo lemon poppy seed muffins. These. Were. Awesome. Even Kevin asked me if they were really Paleo :). He thought I bought a box of muffin mix from the grocery store.

This recipe produced super moist, fluffy muffins. They are absolutely dairy, grain, gluten, and added sugar free. The ingredients are: coconut flour, eggs, vanilla, coconut oil, lemons (juiced), honey, baking soda, lemon zest, and poppy seeds.

Here is the full recipe: http://www.delightedmomma.com/2012/10/flourless-lemon-poppyseed-muffins-paleo.html?m=1

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This is going to sound funny but I had mixed emotions when I was eating my last dinner of The Paleo Diet challenge. I felt proud and accomplished but a little sad it was ending at the same time. I had so much fun blogging over the past month and being able to share every trial and tribulation with you. I’ll definitely continue blogging but it won’t be as Paleo focused now.

Here’s the last meal of The Paleo Diet challenge I packed for dinner at work. My work dinners turned from frequently getting fast food to something entirely different :).

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Thank you so much for reading! Please feel free to share comments or questions if there was anything I missed. Keep checking back for new blog posts and thanks again! 🙂

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