“Am I doing this right?” It’s a common question I hear from Paleo people all the time!
To go along with my upcoming cookbook—the one that comes out in just a bit over 8 weeks!—I created a companion bonus ebook called The Performance Paleo Cookbook Fitness & Nutrition Guide to help you figure out if you’re doing Paleo right!
The best part? If you pre-order the cookbook before November 31, 2014 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, I’ll send you the Fitness & Nutrition Guide as way of saying thank you. I’m so incredibly grateful for all your support, and pre-ordering helps us know how many books to make. (Plus, you also save 25% off the regular price which is pretty sweet.)
What’s in the Fitness & Nutrition Guide? It’s over 30 pages of great information about how to use the recipes in the book, plus a whole ton of other killer stuff like:
understanding how to eat Paleo for performance
what to eat and how to build a plate
how to approach pre- and post workout
sound training advice
how to get amazing sleep and reduce stress
practical tips for cooking
common Paleo pitfalls to avoid and
tons of awesome resources including my favorite products & discounts!
It’s like a mashup between my nutrition seminars and a miniature version of The Paleo Athlete all rolled into one, and it’s the perfect companion to the cookbook.
When it comes to the quest for healthier eating, there are two ways to approach things: quality and quantity, and what’s become abundantly clear to me in this Paleo world is that we have a problem with macros. And blocks. And points. And whatever other made-up-system is used to count and measure food.
The problem with macros (or blocks or points) is multi-faceted and let me just say that it’s possible to do any “diet” or food paradigm poorly. Putting your hand in a bottomless jar of Paleo cookies is no better than snort-laughing and eye-rolling at the thought of vegan cheese on top of a tofurkey sandwich.
The 1st Problem with Macros: Quantity does not equal quality.
Not all foods are created equal. An apple’s better than a Snickers (like, duh) but the problem with macros is that simply counting them doesn’t mean the protein, carbs and fat you’re eating are optimal or even health-promoting. Buttery spread is not better than butter. (If you need more convincing, read Eat the Yolks.) Beans are not better than sweet potato. (Those gorgeous tubers have more micronutrition bang for the carb buck.) And isolated pea protein is not better than a steak from a grass-fed cow. (The amount of processing matters, yo.)
I get it. I used to do Weight Watchers-ish (counting without going to meetings) back in the early 2000s. Tallying up my “points” was a way for me to feel in control—and unbeknownst to me at the time, severely restrict calories—but damned if I didn’t look forward to my Skinny Cow ice cream sammies, my I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray and all kinds of other processed crap. So while I met my daily points, I did it in a way that was pretty horrifying looking back as 2014 Me.
Even if you’re within your macro totals, my question is: Are a majority of the foods you’re selecting whole and unprocessed? Nutrient dense? Anti-inflammatory? Do they promote a healthy hormonal balance? Stable energy levels? Good body composition? Slow and steady fat loss?
If the answers are yes, cool. If you’re meeting your macros or blocks or calories or whosy-whats-its with pints of Ben & Jerry’s and Lean Cuisines, then Houston, we have a problem. (And, you’ve come to the right place to start making positive changes.) 2000 calories of chips does not provide what 2000 calories of quality meat, fresh produce and healthy fats does. For the bajillionth time: Not all foods (or edible things) are created equal.
The 2nd Problem with Macros: Are you still hungry? Yeah, I thought so.
Even if your ducks are in a row with regard to the quality issue, I have to ask: Are you still hungry?
Honestly. Is the amount of food you’re eating leaving you satisfied and nourished, or do you suffer from constant hunger (or even worse, hanger), worrying about when your next meal is or if you’re going to go to bed hungry? In all seriousness, a little hunger now and then is fine, but when it’s your normal state of being, something’s broken.
Mild caloric restriction for the purposes of shifting body composition, whether you meet it through macropointcalories or just eating a little bit less *of the right foods*, should still not leave you with perpetually gnawing hunger.
If you’re not trying to shift body composition but you’re concerned that you need to keep tracking things, continuing to count long-term and ignore your body’s own hard-wired signals of hunger and satiety is doing you a disservice. You’re an adult who shouldn’t have to be chained to a spreadsheet, a food scale, an app or a website to track every morsel that passes your lips.
Ask yourself if your current plan is leaving you not just fed but nourished. Are you surviving or thriving? Even if your numbers are perfect, are you really healthier?
The 3rd Problem with Macros: It Robs Your Freedom
Tracking and counting have their place (like creating a food journal for a nutrition coach or getting rid of portion distortion), but doing it for weeks, months and years on end is not a way to live.
Planning and cooking meals with care, having body composition goals (muscle gain / fat loss) and steering the boat toward food quality is one thing. Let’s call that dedication. Worrying about food, not eating out because you can’t count your macros or figure out blocks and generally feeling like you’re beholden to the numbers is another thing. Let’s call that dysfunction. Even when the intention is good, in practice, things can quickly spiral out of control and leave you disempowered to make the real choices about food that will put you in a truly healthy place—both physically and mentally.
What to Do?
Before sending all the IIFYM folks my way, know that if you’re focusing on food quality in addition to quantifying, you’re doing okay regarding problem #1. But. BUT. You may still be struggling with #2 and / or #3.
Ask yourself the following:
Why am I counting macropointblocks?
Am I trying to make some distinct changes in body composition or am I just after overall health?
Am I truly nourishing my body?
Am I shoving poor food choices into a shiny looking macropointblock counting system?
Does this behavior cause me stress?
Am I really in touch with feelings of hunger and satiety?
Do I put a premium on food quality?
Only you can know if the answers are telling you to step away from counting macros and blocks and points.
Whatever congratulatory gesture you can think of, I’m going to dole it out because YOU FINISHED YOUR WHOLE30! (Either that or you’re about to finish soon, so revisit this post when you’re through.)
No doubt, you learned something about yourself through this process since it’s a learning tool upon which to make some informed decisions about what your eating might look like going forward into this thing we call life. And yes, you must go forward. You see, it can be tempting to want to stay Whole30 for a long time because it makes the decision-making around food easier. It’s almost like making food choices a little less sexy because you can just default to Whole30 guidelines to do it for you. (Other people, however, have noooo problem jumping back into crappy old eating patterns.)
What’s the best strategy? It’s impossible for me to tell you because, simply put, I’m not you, but I think you’d agree the answer lies somewhere in between these polar opposites. Living by Whole30 rules for the rest of your life sounds pretty unrealistic, as does throwing away everything you’ve learned about yourself and eating processed, nutrient-poor foods for every meal. As Dallas & Melissa put it:
“You can’t – and shouldn’t – live within the strict parameters of the Whole30 forever. Yep, at some point… you’ve gotta take the training wheels off the bike.”
What about reintroducing foods you may want to start eating again? First, if you don’t want to add a food back into your diet, there’s nothing saying you have to. If you feel great without gluten or dandy without dairy, you are free to avoid it as you see fit. But. (And there’s always a but.)
Don’t do that thing where you get so excited about Day 31 that you go on an epic binge of all the foods you’ve wanted to eat for the past month. You know…that thing of where a slice of pizza becomes *a* pizza with some soda and a piece of chocolate cake and then some ice cream. If you end up with a sore gut, you won’t necessarily know which food caused your tummy to play Twister. Click to read more about how to reintroduce foods after your Whole30.
As much as I’d like to throw you an actual party, it’d be hard to cram everyone in the same room, so here’s how we’ll celebrate your successes:
#1 Wave your flag!
Click to save this awesome banner and put it on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram! Be proud. You’ve earned the right to brag a little! To pin, click here. Or to save, right click and choose “Save Image As”.
#2 Share your story!
In the comments below, tell us how it went—the good, the bad and even the ugly. What did you learn about yourself? For example, maybe you didn’t realize how much dairy was affecting the clarity of your skin or how hangry you always got at 3 p.m. What did you lose? Body fat, that nagging knee pain or points off your blood pressure, for example. What did you gain? Maybe it was self-confidence or an appreciation of the natural sweetness in foods.
#3 Start a ripple!
As tempting as it may feel right now to start mailing your loved ones their own copies ofIt Starts With Food—I did that with my mom…it didn’t go so well!—or doing a drive-by and posting Whole30 stuff to their Facebook walls, sometimes your good intentions may backfire. (Loved ones are the hardest to convince to do _________ better.) What you can do is be supportive of someone who comes to you asking for advice or help; start your own blog chronicling your Whole30 story; or buy a loaner copy of the book so when folks do come asking, you can lend a text out.
#4 A sweet giveaway!
I’ll be choosing one lucky reader at random to receive a free copy of my eBook, The Paleo Athlete (a $24.99 value)! You must leave a comment for #2 above (Share your story!), and I’ll select a winner by 11:59 p.m. PST on Monday, February 3, 2014.
Congrats to Bridget! She was selected at random to win a copy of my eBook. Thanks, everyone, for sharing and keep your stories coming in!
Let’s get this party started! Remember to comment below.
How To Instantly Love Yourself More In 3 Simple Steps
1) Walk into your bathroom.
2) Bend down and pick up your scale.
3) Proceed to the nearest trash bin, and chuck it in.
I’m not joking.
Throwing my bathroom scale away was one of the single best things I’ve ever done for my health and my self-esteem, and it’s my honest belief that you should do the same.
How It Started
Growing up, I’d always been some variation of chubby, chunky or “big-boned”—quite possibly the worst euphemism ever invented. Naturally, when I was about 14, I decided I should be 125 pounds for the rest of my life. Totally reasonable. (Not.) And so began 15 years or so of obsession about my weight. I look back at pictures of myself then and there were plenty that show a normal-sized me, but I only remember fixating on the fact that the scale didn’t read 125. Ever. Sickening as it may sound, I let the scale dictate how I felt about myself for a long time.
Then, I found Paleo four years ago, and while I was eating healthier than I ever had, I continued to fixate on the scale. My daily routine was down pat: Wake up, don’t drink anything, use the bathroom (#1 and #2), and only then was it okay to weigh myself. You can only imagine how dismayed I was when my weight actually started going up.
The Tipping Point
And then, I had enough. I realized I felt healthier than I had in years even though I weighed more.
My energy was stable all day long. My moods were nowhere near as volatile. My skin cleared up. I was stronger than ever. I enjoyed eating such nutritious food and for the first time in my life, wasn’t focused on calories. And, I was performing well as an athlete.
What the hell was I so bothered about? So what if I weighed more? I got so fed up with how much time and mental energy I’d wasted on chasing some arbitrary number on the scale, and I was ignoring all the signs of how much healthier I actually was. Would I actually be happier if I got down to that number I set for myself when I was 14? Could I get there and still be as healthy? I decided the answer to both was “no.”
So in 2011, I threw my bathroom scale away. Forever.
And Then, I Gained
When I tossed out my scale, I continued to gain.
I gained a love of self that I’d never had before because for the first time, I wasn’t using my weight to measure my self-worth.
I gained more mental energy to devote to the things that really mattered, like helping other people and being a better friend.
I gained confidence in myself, that I had more to celebrate about my life than achieving a number on a scale. (Because, even if I got to 125, would I be happier or healthier?!)
But, Isn’t Weight an Important Indicator of Health?
Yes and no.
Carrying an excess of body fat and not having much lean muscle mass—generally termed poor body composition—is obviously not ideal for health. Chances are, if you’re reading this and you’re at an unhealthy weight, you’re acutely aware of it, even if you haven’t set foot on a scale. How your clothes fit, how you look in the mirror, blood markers of disease and how you feel both physically and mentally are all very powerful indicators of health other than bodyweight.
Said another way, it’s possible to be thin and unhealthy, so bodyweight isn’t the only way to tell if something’s gone wrong.
Perhaps the “ideal” weight you’re pursuing was given to you by someone else—such as a doctor, from a BMI chart or even chosen by you at a time in your life when you weren’t actually ideally healthy. (I wasn’t done with puberty yet when I chose 125 pounds so of course I was going to get bigger and heavier. It sounds so irrational now, looking back.) How productive is it to fixate on weight then, ignoring the other signs?
When I went Paleo, ate more nutritious food and started weight training, I lost fat while increasing muscle mass. Simply put, I got heavier even though I was a bit leaner. Bodyweight can be a deceiving thing.
My Challenge To You
If weighing yourself makes you apprehensive, causes you stress or enables you to fixate or obsess, that psychological stress is subtracting from your health.
Take a long, hard look at whether weighing yourself is adding to or detracting from your quality of life. Your worth as a person is not quantifiable by numbers on a scale: It can’t measure your kindness or how much you enrich the lives of others. It can’t tell how funny, intelligent or talented you are. It can’t tell you how good a person you are. It can’t show how much you are loved.
All the scale dispays is how much your mass is affected by the force we call gravity. End of story.
My challenge to you is to get rid of your scale completely, right now. Focus on other ways to measure your health. (Here’s a fantastic list of what to look for from Whole9.) Be kinder and more accepting of yourself and your unique gifts, because you’re pretty freaking awesome, imperfections and all.
[This is the second in a three-part series about my experiences living, eating, cooking and blogging about Paleo in my past four months abroad. Click here for Part One.]
Americans are lucky when it comes to Paleo. Not only does the movement really have its roots here, but Paleo-friendly products such as coconut oil / butter, coconut aminos and grass-fed meats seem to be increasingly easy to find in mainstream markets. Even many of Paleo’s most well-known books and cookbooks have a North American slant to them. That’s not a criticism; it’s just the way it is. Luckily, though, things seem to be changing. In Part Two, I’m bringing you some of my best advice for staying Paleo with short-term travel. (Long-term travel will be covered in Part Three).
During my four month stay in Scotland, I was lucky enough to take two short trips: London-Paris and Munich-Salzburg. Lump that together with a trip to Southeast Asia in 2011 and extended travel to spots all around the Western coast of North America, and I’ve got a decent number of trips under my belt, all of them while I’ve been Paleo. I don’t have the most-stamped passport on the block, but I’ve learned some pretty important lessons from my short trips along the way.
Paleo Travel Lesson #1: Airports are nutrition deserts.
It’s usually far easier to get Paleo-friendly food when you get to your destination than when you’re in transit. Airports, train stations and truck stops are notoriously terrible for having healthy options. If you aren’t going to sweat the food once you arrive, seriously think about what you’re going to eat while en route. Sometimes (though reader experience may prove otherwise), you can get through airport security with homemade, well-packed food in your carry on. When I left San Diego for Scotland, I brought lots of snacks: cut veggies and fruit, jerky and even hard-boiled eggs. (I ate when the meal was served so I didn’t offend them with any “smells”.)
Some folks report TSA throwing their food away, and I honestly think there’s no real standard on this, which is really frustrating. If that’s not an option and you’re going on an international flight, many airlines allow you to request special meals in advance of your departure. (I know British Airways, for example, has a gluten-free meal option which I’ve had several times. It’s not the best, but it’s better than the gluten-bomb dinner everyone else gets.) If you’re flying domestic, you may need to make a concession and get whatever looks like the least of all the evil airport food: usually a salad with some meat on it.
Paleo Travel Lesson #2: Do your homework.
A little pre-planning and research on food options before you depart is never a bad idea. Know what typical local food options are for the country / region you’re going to and what you’re going to be faced with so you’re not surprised. When I went to Bali, I wasn’t at all shocked to see virtually no beef on any menu; I looked into food ahead of time and learned that the Balinese, being mostly HIndu, don’t eat cows.
Is it a faux pas to ask for menu substitutions? Are there public markets you can sample local specialities in? What’s going to be seasonal and fresh at the time of year you visit? These are all things to think about.
Paleo Travel Lesson #3: Bring snacks.
Bring enough snacky bits to get you through the unexpected. Maybe your tour group is stuck in traffic or it’s miles before the next available food. Fruit and nut bars and homemade jerky aren’t ideal, but they go a long way to quiet your rumbly gut when faced with no food for hours. On my trip to Bali, I made about two dozen homemade jerky packs by using a small vacuum sealer. They came in handy more than once. No time to make something like that? Check out options from Primal Pacs or Epic Bars.
Paleo Travel Lesson #4: If you’re on business, scope out the area for future trips.
Will your hotel have a fridge? Will you have a car? What’s available at local markets? If you’re traveling for business and expect to come back to the area again, it may be worth your while to see what’s nearby for subsequent trips.
Paleo Travel Lesson #5: Decide what’s negotiable.
This is perhaps the most valuable lesson I’ve learned. Food is a HUGE part of a travel adventure. So much of the cultural experience of a vacation is had through its food. Smooth French wine. Heady Indian spices. Creamy Italian gelato. If it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip, seriously think if it’s going to make your trip more or less enjoyable to be strict Paleo. If you end up only eating jerky packs on your honeymoon to Tahiti, that sounds über-sad. This is where knowing yourself is really important. If you’re Celiac or milk wrecks your stomach but you’re okay with white rice, then maybe that’s where you can be lenient. Don’t put yourself in a world of hurt, but don’t miss out on the experience of your vacation, either. You can always go back to being strict when you get back to real life.
When I went to Paris and sat on the back steps of the Chateau de Versailles under bluebird skies and a warm sun, having a bite of crispy baguette during our picnic lunch just seemed right. (Yes, I paid for it later with a sore tummy, but it was worth it because the food was part of the experience that made that day magical.) Here in Scotland, I had the chance to try haggis and black pudding which aren’t Paleo because they contain oats. I ate them anyway, and they were surprisingly delicious. Then, I went back to my normal eating routine.
You may disagree and / or have a reason why you absolutely couldn’t ever eat XYZ but just consider if being really strict with Paleo will enhance or take away from your experience.
Paleo Travel Lesson #6: Avoid paralysis by analysis.
Out to eat at a fabulous restaurant in a international city but all you can think of is whether the meal was cooked in vegetable oil or not?
Yes, Paleo has guidelines to help improve your health but when you feel you can’t order off the menu because the food is cooked in some unknown oil or might have iodized salt, you’re missing the point. When you’re on that trip of a lifetime, don’t sweat the small stuff. You’ll be back home soon enough where you can control those sorts of things. It’ll make your trip much more enjoyable to relax a bit.
Stay tuned for Part Three where I’ll delve into longer-term travel tips for Paleo.
Take a second and put your hand up in the air…virtual high five coming your way from me. You’re now in Week 4 of your Whole30, and the home stretch is near! Twenty-one days of clean-eating and introspection. (You’re remembering to think about what you’re learning about yourself, right?!)
Hang in there and keep doing the good work you’ve been doing, and don’t give into that tiny voice that may be whispering, “Ah, you’ve already done most of it. You could totally quit now!”
Why You Should Squash That Voice
In my mind, giving up on Day 22 because you feel great doesn’t mean you’re a failure…it means you haven’t given yourself maximum opportunity to LEARN NEW HABITS. If you’re sleeping better, have more mental clarity and are a happier person, fantastic. But the better food choices that got you there—particularly if it’s a 180° departure from your past behavior—really need time to sink in. Practicing good habits is key, and even a week longer will make a big difference.
And What About The Scale?…
Hopefully, this whole time, you haven’t been weighing yourself—there are so many other ways to measure how your health has improved. But, from personal experience, I can understand if you’re anxious to jump on and see if the number has budged. Why is the scale so tempting? It’s a number, easy to quantify. But for some of us, our entire self-worth hangs on that three digit number. (That’s one of the reasons I tossed my scale out for good.)
No matter what happens weight-wise, don’t lose sight of all the OTHER good things that have happened in these 30 days. And just so you can start preparing for what to do on Day 31, here is a link from Whole30 on reintroduction. You definitely don’t want to spend your Day 31 in a world of hurt and really lose the chance to learn which foods many not play nice with your insides.
Need some inspiration to finish Week 4 super-strong?
There was a day in the not-so-distant past when it was nearly impossible to find grass-fed meat at supermarket and the selection of organic produce was quite small. My, how things have changed, but with the increased access to higher-quality food (a good thing) has come a lot of confusion (NOT a good thing). I’ve even heard people say Paleo is only for the “elite” which really perplexes me because this is the way our great-grandparents ate—and most of them weren’t high-falutin’ folk who only shopped at Whole Foods and dined on the finest grass-fed steaks.
We’ll start by busting a few myths. Then, I’ll describe three general Paleo budget levels. Finally, we’ll end up with 15 practical tips to stretch your dollar.
Myth Busting Time!
Paleo on a Budget Myth #1: You can only eat the best [insert food here] when you eat Paleo.
False. First of all, there are no Ten Commandments of Paleo. Yes, there’s a basic template (no grains, legumes, dairy, artificial sugar, etc.), but it’s there to help you get started. There are no Paleo police to show up at your door and confiscate all your conventionally grown bananas or non-cage free eggs. Don’t use this myth as the reason why you reach for Doritos instead of a non-organic apple.
Yes, buying foods that are grown in a more sustainable, conscientious and ethical way is a great thing to shoot for if you can afford it, but don’t throw the grass-fed steak out with the bathwater. More on that later.
Paleo on a Budget Myth #2: Meat is too expensive compared with grains.
While this might be true in terms of actual dollars, it couldn’t be more false from nutrition standpoint. Gram for gram, meat and produce are far more nutrient-dense than grains or legumes. If you’re interested in side-by-side comparisons, I’ll indulge you:
A five-pound bag of wheat flour may be cheaper, but it’s not as nutritious as typical Paleo foods.
Paleo on a Budget Myth #3: Even if I eat better food, I’ll still end up with health problems in the future.
Well, nobody can purport to know exactly how your future health will play out, but there is mounting evidence for the idea the role of diet in age-related diseases and some cancers (see this study and this study). These epigenetic studies indicate that it’s possible to change the expression of our genes with environmental factors like food. (This concept may be best summed up by the saying, “Genetics loads the gun but environment pulls the trigger.)
Eat better now, enjoy fewer age-related diseases in the future? Seems completely possible.
Paleo Budget Levels*
The Bare-Bones Minimalist
Times may be very tough and the dollars you have available for food are truly stretched thin. You can only focus on the barest of Paleo standards, and that’s totally okay! Your priority list should include eating meat and eggs, veggies, fruits and healthy fats. Focusing your dollars here—and away from processed foods and nutrient-poor foods—is far more beneficial than eating donuts and soda. Don’t stress about grass-fed and pasture-raised meats; instead, buy leaner cuts, trim the fat before cooking and drain the fat after cooking. You may do well with making some expensive pre-made foods from scratch, such as probiotic-rich sauerkraut and even homemade ghee.
Bare-Bones Minimalists shouldn’t stress if their Paleo friends tell them they’re doing it wrong because they don’t buy the highest-quality [insert food here].
The Comfortable Consumer
You have a modest food budget though it’s certainly not unlimited. You may be able to make some investments in certain areas of your shopping such as grass-fed meat for fatty cuts, free-range eggs or some organic produce (the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List can help you make choices). Some popular (though not really cheap) ingredients such as coconut aminos, nut flours or commercially prepared fermented foods may make their way into your cart. Shopping at a farmer’s market in your area is a real possibility. You may be able to capitalize on your dollar by doing things like buying coconut oil in large containers or participating in a cow share.
Comfortable Consumers may have the means to get a bit more invested in the “fancier” side of real food, and they spend some of their extra food dollars on higher-quality purchases.
The Gourmet Guru
You’ve reached budgetary nirvana! You’re able to purchase the best quality for all meats, produce and healthy fats. Paleo speciality foods and baking ingredients—often pricey additions to the average cart—may be on your list. Perhaps you’re a member of your local CSA or you’re on a first name basis with the local butcher. It’s likely you’re well-versed in the definitions and advantages of pastured, grass-fed, free-range, wild-caught foods and more. Dining out is probably more common for you.
Gourmet Gurus are likely to be pointed out by the media as examples of why Paleo is “elite” (when in fact they don’t make up a majority of Paleo eaters).
*Please keep in mind these are very wide generalizations. Which one is right? All of them.
Join a cow- or pig-share. You chip in to buy a large quantity of meat, and the price is often cheaper per pound than the grocery store. You’ll need a large amount of freezer space.
If you absolutely cannot get by without staple foods, steer clear of gluten and dairy but perhaps add in less problematic foods such as white rice or white potato. I don’t recommend this from an optimal-nutrition standpoint, but if you’re struggling financially, it’s an option.
Now that you’ve got some experience under your belt, it’s time to chat about what the upcoming week is likely to bring. (Of course, you truly are a unique snowflake, so individual experiences may vary.)
By this point, you should over everyone’s favorite, the Carb Flu, and on to some of the more pleasant effects of this nutritional reset: more energy, better sleep, a better relationship with food and perhaps even some changes in body composition. It’s been my experience that the beginning of Week 3 tends to come in gently and, in some cases, ends on a much unexpected note.
You see, it’s not unheard of for folks to fall off the rails, particularly at the end of Week 3. And for some reason, Day 18 seems to be a really common number. What the heck is going on? Why would you make it past the halfway point and then give in?
For some reason, they tend to start acting up during this week, remnants of bad habits past which try to convince you that you’d be so much better off with just a smidge of that cake or just one glass of wine. The solution? Tell your brain to shut up. Seriously. Whole9 often says if you’re not hungry enough to eat steamed fish and broccoli, youaren’t really hungry…you’re experiencing a craving. Most cravings pass within just a few minutes, so find a way to distract yourself until it passes.
And then, there’s sabotage via boredom.
My own theory on why this happens goes sort of like this:
Week 1: “Look at this huge challenge ahead of me! It’s game on, self!” Everything is new, and you’re on the lookout for any food saboteurs, ready to squash them in a moment.
Week 2: “Heck yeah! I’m finally feeling better. This is AWESOME.” You start to enjoy the benefits of kicking crappy food and eating habits to the curb. You’re thinking, “I’m going to ride this wave to Day 30.”
Week 3: “Scrambled eggs for breakfast and grilled chicken for lunch? Again?” If you’re not careful, your wave riding can turn into a wipe out. Boredom and complacency, in combination with cravings, can ruin your clean streak if you’re caught unaware.
There’s also a tendency to think, “I feel better so I can just stop and keep feeling good even if I go back to old ways.” In many cases, you may not start to feel all the positive effects until you’re IN Week 3 so don’t give up. Why? If your gut really needs some intense healing, it may take longer.
What to do?
Don’t get caught by boredom. Mix it up and make some new recipes (suggestions for that below). Buy some new ingredients that you’ve never used or try going out to eat. (I suggest you check out the menu at home and have a plan for making some modifications to your order.) With a little awareness, you can sail smoothly into Week 4.
Here are some awesome resources in case you need some inspiration:
I was going to call this post “Jacked and Nerdy” but, you know, that would make it a bit harder for search engines to find. If I had to describe this book in one sentence it would be:
“A practical account of how to eat, perform and dominate whilst putting the most nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods in your mouth as you can.”
Or “Eat. Perform. Dominate.”
If you’d have told me that in 2013, I’d write a book I’d have laughed you out of your chair. But when I sit and think about it, there’s just no other way it was supposed to happen. It’s like my worlds, the things I’m most experienced in and passionate about—nutrition, athletics and performance—smashed into one project.
It didn’t start off this way—as writing projects have a tendency to do. All I wanted to do was to write a little ebook about how to eat Paleo if you’re an athlete. Sounds simple. Riiiiiiight. The more I wrote, the more I thought about all the things I wish I’d known when I first started Paleo back in the olden days. (That’s 2010.) Competing—whether it was youth soccer or high school track, racing my mountain bike for the first time, running a marathon, dabbling in tris or doing CrossFit and weightlifting—has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. There’s something about sport that’s exhilarating and challenging and wonderful—even when it’s all going wrong and you’re drooling on yourself.
My introduction to Paleo was The Paleo Diet for Athletes, and though the foundation was laid back then, as I continued competing and eating this way, I started to feel like there was something I could offer the community: my personal experiences in the trenches of competition, combined with the science to understand the rationale behind Paleo and a focus on practical application. You see, I don’t think everyone wants the dogmatic, super-detailed, scientific stuff. It’s very possible you want to know what to do, when to do it and how. Bing bang boom.
One thing that motivated me was the number of times I’ve heard, “You can’t be Paleo and be an athlete.” I’ve seen this quote from the 2013 CrossFit Games about 20 times in various articles and it frankly boils my blood because the legitimacy of this nutrition approach died a little that day. If the athletes were asked, “Who focuses their nutrition around plenty of protein, enough carbs to keep fueled and fat to stay satiated with little to no processed food,” I’m willing to bet nearly every hand would have gone up. This is why labels—though a necessary evil—can really suck. Sitting out there behind computer screens are athletes who’ve completely dismissed Paleo because of that quote.
In a way, I don’t blame them. Paleo’s become a word that’s confusing because its meaning isn’t standard across the board. Most folks I know aren’t strict to the degree originally fleshed out by Cordain, and rightly so. While this template works for some, it’s frankly too restrictive for others. Need to fix your broken metabolism or heal your leaking gut? Your Paleo should look different from an athlete in training. At some point, folks got their wires crossed, thinking that Paleo athletes should ALL be low carb—because some people out there in the world can do low carb Paleo long-term and not pop. And they worked out hard and got really lean and jacked. And then they started getting chubbier. And slower. And weaker. And they hated training. So they thought, “Paleo’s whack, man!” (Said in my best voice El Duderino voice.)
But I’m here to tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. You can eat whole, nutrient-dense foods and perform like a badass without popping pills and mixing powders or eating like a rabbit.
Real food is powerful, nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory. Don’t believe me? I put 15 kilograms on my back squat while taking no whey protein or creatine or boost juice or whatever people call their secret sauce these days. Just whole sources of protein, carbs and healthy fats. I’ve done long training days and races on the bike with clean fuel, too. It can be done. I’m also not blind to the fact that because of the superhuman demands you may put on yourself with training, you may decide that things like whey protein powder or waxy maize starch or white rice work for you. If those are the concessions you make, then so be it but it’s time to be honest about the fact that these aren’t better than real food…they’re just more convenient.
If you’re looking for a balanced approach to fueling, you’re curious about how to apply Paleo to your sport, or you’re a Paleo athlete already but you’re wondering how to tweak your nutrition for better performance (while not sacrificing your health), The Paleo Athleteis for you.
You’re about to embark on the second week of the Whole30, and my sincerest hope is that you’re doing well. Likely, you’re over some of the Week 1 jitters and nerves and you’re getting a bit more comfy wrapping your brain around this whole thing. You may be hitting a groove with meal preparation and just overall be feeling more settled.
Things may not be all roses, though.
It’s possible you’re still experiencing a case of Carb Flu: The foggy, fatigued, light-headed, irritable feeling that comes along with cleaning up your diet. It’s completely normal. Why? If you’ve been eating a crappy diet before—likely one with a large quantity of processed carbs—your body has relied on that cheap, easy sugar for energy. (Mid-afternoon energy slumps in your pre-Whole30 are a big indicator of that.) Now, though, you’re challenging your body to rely on your fat stores for fuel and that is not something your body goes along with willingly at first.
There is hope!
Trust that—if you’re sticking to the plan—it should pass within day 7-10. (Of course, some of you may be different. Perhaps you had no real symptoms or it lasted a shorter amount of time.) What to do?
Treat yourself extra-nicely. Make some extra time for R & R.
Don’t have any lofty expectations for your workouts.
Eat *all* the food you should be. Quite often, trying to cut back on food can make it worse.
Make sure you’re sleeping enough.
Once it passes—and it will—the good stuff will happen: energy on an even keel, mental clarity, stability in your mood, better sleep. Just stick with it!
Here are some awesome resources in case you need some inspiration:
Happy Whole30 Day 1! Today we start a month of eating cleaner, sleeping like a champ and maybe (hopefully) reducing a bit of the stress in our lives. You didn’t think Whole30 was just about what you put in your pie hole, did you?! More on that in an upcoming post, but let’s just say this: if you’re eating cleaner but sleeping 5 hours a night and stressed to the point that you’re miserable, you still may not feel great at the end of January.
I wanted to check in with you today and share some thoughts on what it’s normal to feel like as you embark on your Whole30. The short answer: there is no norm. We all experience the Whole30 from our own unique perspectives. Here are some possibilities.
It’s quite likely you may be feeling some interesting emotions today: apprehension, excitement, dread or resolve. Or maybe a mixture of those. Or maybe one I didn’t list. Or maybe nothing—though ambivalence to this sort of program seems rare. When you make the commitment to doing something better FOR YOU, it can be a big thing, but make no mistake, we all respond to these situations differently.
For some of you, this may be your first Whole30—or heck, even your first attempt at cleaning up your diet. For others—myself included—you’ve done several, and somehow it’s just not as intimidating. Some of you are relatively healthy while others are quite sick, trying to gain some control over metabolic disorders, autoimmune conditions or food addictions. Serious stuff, right? Perhaps your family supports you or is even doing it with you, or maybe you’re the Lone Ranger in your household. Maybe you’re even getting flack from friends or loved ones. (That’s the worst. Really? Giving me crap because I want to eat better?! << You may have had that thought already.)
These things you may be feeling…they’re not the easiest to deal with. They take courage. But out of courage and challenge come the most meaningful rewards. Low-hanging fruit is just never as sweet.
So what to do if you find yourself faced with a whirling dervish of emotions, particularly during this first few days? Identify, experience, and then let them go. And then, change your thoughts. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m giving up so many of my favorite foods,” replace it with, “When I let go of old ways, I make way for new (BETTER) possibilities.” Maybe you’ll feel better physically, sleep better, be more calm and less stressed! Remember, you’re making space for learning about yourself in these 30 days if you remain courageous and steel your resolve.
So, here’s to Day 1…I raise my glass of sparkling water with lime and an olive (a la Melissa Joulwan) to you and your success.
Now, some logistics:
In addition to new recipes, I’ll be posting from time to time throughout the month about the Whole30 experience. I welcome your comments below, so don’t be shy. Keep checking the blog often (if you want new posts automatically sent to your inbox so you don’t miss anything, you can sign up for those here. It’s free.)
If you’re fuh-reaking out about what to cook this week, click here to check out this ace Week 1 Food Plan and Week 2 Food Plan that Melissa Joulwan’s made just for you! Also, Rach from Meatified has collected 30 Days of Whole30 Dinners here. And in case you need more good eats, Mel J. has pulled together 30 MORE recipes from top bloggers like Nom Nom Paleo, The Domestic Man, Paleo Parents and little ol’ me!
And finally, I’m wishing you an outstanding New Year from the waiting area at Heathrow Airport in London. Headed back to the States after four months away. All I can say is “snacks on a plane!” I’m ready for Whole30, too!
[This is the first in a three-part series about my experiences living, eating, cooking and blogging about Paleo in my past four months abroad.]
I’ve started this post about the Paleo travel lessons I’ve learned from my time abroad about 37 times in my head, and each time I press the mental delete key back to the start. How to sum up the past four months of life in a different country, travel to new places and the approach of my return back home? It’s been quite the ride, and my emotions are as mixed, as one could imagine. How to make this a teachable moment? Present you with my view of how easy (er, or not) it is to eat Paleo when you don’t live in the US.
This map blows. my. mind. It’s the countries which have sent traffic to the blog here in the past six months. Okay, so there’s a bit of a blank spot in central Africa, but other than that, we’re not doing too shabby! It’s absolutely humbling. (Hi to my one fan in French Guiana!) Needless to say, Paleo is huge in the US and slowly trickling out around the globe. It’s easier to do in some places than others, and my experiences living in Scotland for the past four months have given me great perspective on the matter. Simply put, being in the US makes Paleo really easy.
Why the heck am I in Scotland in the first place? Love of haggis or golf or kilts or whisky? No, just actual love. My better half is Scottish, and we’ve spent the past year and a half traveling between the two countries. (In case you’re wondering, yes, he has a kilt. Only wears it for special occasions, though.)
When I became a full-time blogger / author, I realized I had the chance to fulfill some travel dreams at the same time. I landed in Scotland at the end of August, have had some great adventures, spent time with him, worked my arse off and picked up some snazzy Scottish lingo all at the same time. (“Go on yersel’, Hen!” being just one of them.) New things are on the horizon—my upcoming book and the Whole Athlete seminar series with Whole9 just to name a few—and I’m preparing to fly back to America on January 1. (Quite the poetic date, but I did it for the cheap airfare.)
In the past four months, I’ve seen London, Paris, Munich and Salzburg, and my food experiences were diverse. Here in Scotland, it’s been relatively easy to maintain Paleo and find enough inspiration to give you a steady stream of new and interesting recipes. (The lack of daylight, however, has been a challenge. Northern Europe…great for vampires, not so much for food photographers.) Suffice it to say, there have been lessons learned in all this travel.
While I can’t claim to know everything there is to know about eating clean in every country on the map, I’m going to share some universal tips and advice that will get you through many scenarios; even though the UK isn’t Cambodia and the US isn’t Russia (if you catch my drift) there’s still a lot to pass on. In Parts 2 and 3, I’ll be sharing some of my best practices for short- and long-term travel as a Paleo-eater. Stay tuned!
Join me for another Stupid Easy Paleo edition of the Whole30®, starting January 1, 2014! Plus, get my brand spankin’ new FREE guide by clicking here: Stupid Easy Paleo Guide to Clean-Eating Challenges. It’s 14 pages of awesome information and tips to help you plan your next Whole30 or clean-eating challenge.
The New Year is almost upon us, and if you’re ready to push the nutrition reset button, I’m doing it as well. I’d love for you to join me on the blog as I post up Whole30-friendly recipes and share some of my best tips and advice for you—because knowing others are out there doing it with you makes it so much easier. Instead of rehashing the post I did in the summer (click here for the link: The Stupid Easy Paleo Whole30) I thought I’d answer some frequently asked questions for you! P.S. If you want to join in and are new to Whole30, I highly recommend reading It Starts with Food by Dallas & Melissa Hartwig before you start. It’ll give you the foundation you need to move forward with context and confidence. (Where to get it: It Starts with Food in print or It Starts with Food for Kindle.)
Whole30 Question #1: What the heck is it?
Put simply, it’s a 30-day squeaky clean nutritional reset. That’s the best way I can describe it. The program was founded by Dallas and Melissa from Whole9 and is, in my words, a learning tool. Some people use it for the first time to discover any food sensitivities they may have; others use it as a way to clean up their diet if they’ve—ahem—gotten a bit far from the type of eating that makes them feel the best.
Basically, eliminate grains, legumes, dairy, added sugar and alcohol for 30 days. After that, reintroduce any foods you want, just in a systematic way. (On day 31, don’t eat an entire pizza with a few beers…you won’t know if your gut gurgling is from the crust, the cheese or the gluten in the beer.)
But more than just cutting out certain foods, it’s a learning tool, a way to look more introspectively at how what you eat really affects you—physically, mentally and emotionally.
Whole30 Question #2: What do I have to do to join?
Throughout the 30 days, I’ll be posting only Whole30-friendly recipes on the blog…nothing with any off plan ingredients. That way, you know you can always come here to find healthy inspiration. Leave a comment below telling us (me and all the other readers) that you’re on board because we’re all in this together for support. Don’t be shy about any questions that pop up along the way! Leave them here or on my Facebook page. And, it’s 100% free to follow along!
Whole30 Question #3: What makes you qualified to do this? Are you officially affiliated with Whole30?
A lot and yes. I did my first Whole30 in June of 2011, and it was without a doubt, the key to me stuffing my sugar addiction (you can read about that here). I won’t say that within 30 days I was “cured”, but what it did give me was the knowledge that I could break free of the endless cycle of wanting sugar all the time. I learned that it was possible to stop being so sugar addicted. It’s always been a work in progress since then, but life would be much different for me had I not done it.
This will be my fifth Whole30—I’ve ended up doing one about every six months just as a tune up—and I’ve been a Whole9 Envoy helping spread the word about this phenomenal program for the past two years. (I met Dallas and Melissa in 2011 at a Whole30 seminar in Oregon and got up the moxy to say if they ever needed help with anything, I was their girl. The rest is history.) We’ve worked together online quite a bit in the past.
More recently, we formed a partnership to pilot a new nutrition workshop called The Whole Athlete focusing on health and performance. We’ll be coming to cities across the US in early 2014. Currently on the schedule: Philly on January 4, Kansas City (KS) on January 11 and Monrovia (CA) on January 18. Click here to register or to find out more: Whole Athlete Seminar Dates.
And don’t worry, I told them about doing another Whole30 here on the blog. They said it was cool with them.
Whole30 Question #4: Do you have any resources to help get me started?
1: Get a copy of It Starts with Food. It’s really easy to read, and it’ll set clear guidelines for you. (Plus it has a ton of tasty recipes from Mel Joulwan of Well Fed and Well Fed 2.) No time or dinero to get one? You can read about the program on the Whole9 website here. Not sure if you should get the book? Check out my review here: 5 Reasons to Read It Starts with Food.
2: I’ve tagged every recipe from the blog that’s Whole30-friendly (over 100 to date) for easy searching. You can find the complete list by clicking here: Stupid Easy Paleo Whole30 Recipes List. The other easy way to find it is by going to the homepage menu and clicking Resources > Whole30. Easy peasy.
5: Other awesome bloggers who’ve written about Whole30: Nom Nom Paleo and The Clothes Make the Girl just to name a couple rockstars! Click on their blog names for kickass Whole30 posts, including recipes. Mel’s got another newly updated post here: 30 Reasons to Whole30 with lots of good stuff AND her Week 1 Meal Plan with yummies like her famous Chocolate Chili and Sunshine Sauce!
7: The Whole30 forum. A free forum dedicated to all topics Whole30-related. Click here to join.
8: Squeaky Clean Paleo by Karen Sorenson. A cookbook with 100+ really clean recipes…on sale right now! (Save 27%). Click here to find out more.
Whole30 Question #5: What if I can’t start on January 1?
No biggie, just start when you can!
Whole30 Question #6: What if I don’t think I can do all 30 days?
Make up your mind. Right now. Do this for you. If you need a kick in the pants to cool it from how lax your food’s gotten lately, this’ll do it. If you’re just starting out and are ready to see how food affects you—for better or worse—this’ll do it to. There will always be a [insert special event here] that keeps you from getting on board. Don’t let that same excuse keep stopping you.
…aka “How to Stay Sane but Still Eat Healthy at the Most Tempting Time of the Year”.
…aka “How to Not End Up Like Buddy the Elf.”
From Thanksgiving dinner with the relatives to your office holiday party, candy cane booby traps seem to be everywhere this time of year. I’m bringing you some of my best tips to survive the holiday season with your health intact so you won’t need a New Year’s resolution of losing weight…again.
Without further adieu, here are my top 10 tips for staying paleo and surviving the holidays:
#1 If possible, host a gathering or dinner at your place.
Yes, this usually makes tons of extra work for you, but by hosting, you’ll have more control over the food offered. Chances are, folks won’t really even notice you’re not offering lots of grain-heavy choices, so don’t make a big deal about how you’ve banished bread. I’ve made a few paleo Thanksgiving dinners, and everyone walked away happy and full.
#2 Station yourself near the veggies.
If I’m out at a party, I home in on the veggies and meat options and properly set myself up with a plateful. Shrimp cocktail? You bet. Fresh veggies and fruit? Yup. It may not be as sexy as those holiday cookies, but you won’t end up with a sugar hangover the next day.
#3 Have a booze alternative.
If you’ve decided to forgo alcohol, have a substitute drink. That way, at the office or gym party, you can mingle and still have something sparkly in your hand while you’re socializing. One of my favorites is a Mediterranean Fizz from Mel of The Clothes Make the Girl…it’s sparkling water with a lime and olive garnish. For another option, check out my Easy Paleo Mocktails.
#4 If going to a party where you’re unsure of the food situation, eat at home first.
Sounds simple enough but I’ve been to enough parties where the main food options were sandwiches and gluten surprises of unknown origin that if I’m unsure about it, I eat at home before I go. Nothing’s worse than going hungry at a party then arriving home really late, starving. If you show up and there are options, cool…you can pick and choose and fill your belly up with stuff that’s not going to wreck you.
#5 Be prepared for travel.
Holiday season is prime time for travel to visit family and friends, but long hours in transit plus limited options in airports and truck stop convenience stores often lead to impulse eating. I’ve consumed my bodyweight in nuts on many a long trip because I wasn’t prepared. Stash paleo-friendly snacks in your bag if you’re going on a plane (click here for one of my favorites). If you’re going by car, consider bringing a cooler so you can nosh while on the go. Check out these posts from Popular Paleo and Whole9 for paleo foods that travel well.
#6 Don’t start a clean-eating challenge during the holidays.
This one’s tough. Some folks take on 30 day paleo challenges over the holidays in an attempt to “be good” because there’s a structure in place that they’re committed to. While it sounds great in theory, I don’t recommend it. It’s one thing to make paleo versions of your favorite holiday foods but when you’re ultra restrictive around this time of year, there’s always the significant chance of going 180 in the other direction because the pressure and temptations are so high. Falling off the wagon big time is even more likely at this time of year because you need to exercise willpower virtually everywhere you go. Just like a muscle, willpower gets exhausted from overuse, too. From personal experience and what I’ve learned with clients and readers, save your 30 day challenges for after the holidays.
#7 Schedule time to be active and exercise.
Even if it’s a short walk or a workout at home, with time off around the holidays, it’s easy to fall into a rut. You don’t have to hammer yourself, but make time each day to get outdoors or get a sweat on. You’ll keep your energy up and prevent some of the doldrums that seem arrive with the winter season.
#8 Get the bat signal ready.
When temptations arise, have someone you can send a bat signal in the sky to. It could be a work buddy, a trusted friend or a family member. Staring down a tray of Christmas cookies? Send a text or phone a friend. The buddy system works wonders.
#9 Resist the urge to be a paleo zealot.
If you’re loving paleo and all the great stuff it’s done for you – better sleep, more energy, fat loss, etc. – it’s so tempting to want to. Tell. EVERYONE. When’s a better time than having a captive audience at a holiday get together?! (I’m being facetious…this is a terrible time). As much as you want to tell Aunt Mary why her dinner roll causes gut permeability or your Uncle George about the blood sugar spike he’ll get after eating that slice of fruitcake, it’s probably not the time or place. Course, if someone asks all about the fabulous changes they’ve noticed in you, you may want to strategically talk about what you’ve been doing (like, “I eat plenty of meat, veggies and healthy fat”). Focusing on the positive always helps. Take it from me, discussing the downsides of grains at a holiday family party when it’s unsolicited often goes over poorly.
#10 Know where you can cut corners.
I’m assuming you’ve already done a strict 30 days of paleo (like a Whole30 or similar) at some point in your journey, right?! (wink wink) You should have a good idea of which foods you can be lax about and which are an absolute no-go. If gluten makes your guts tie into knots but dairy usually doesn’t bother you too much, you’ll know to studiously avoid the cookies while maybe having some holiday eggnog. If you’re out and you want to indulge a bit, pick a choice that won’t wreck you for days.
If there’s a super special treat that your mom only makes for Christmas and it’d fill you with joy to have it, I’d argue that’s where you could / should / would give in. A bag of red and green M & Ms every day through December 31 just isn’t special.
What’s your best tip for clean eating during the holidays?
You want to eat clean for maximum performance, but are you getting the right nutrition at the right time?
Figuring out when, what and how much to eat post-workout can get pretty confusing to say the least. Let’s talk timing first.
You should consume your post-workout (PWO) meal as soon as physically possible after you’ve finished training. Make sure you high five the rest of your workout crew and let your heart rate come down a bit first, but get your PWO nutrition going as soon as you can.
Bottom line: for best results, get your PWO meal in your belly no later than 15-30 minutes after your training’s done. Sure, you can lag and eat it later, but you won’t be taking advantage of that much talked about “window” when you’re most insulin-sensitive.
Now, what to eat.
Your PWO is best centered around protein and with carbs added in for high-intensity athletes (like CrossFitters) and endurance athletes. For power athletes, it may vary daily depending upon whether you’re cycling your carbs or not, and that’s something you’ll need to play with. Fat doesn’t belong in the PWO meal because it slows digestion which is counterproductive right after training.
Whole, lean sources of protein – think meat, fish and egg whites – are always better than protein supplements because they represent a more complete, nutrient-dense source. However, whey or egg white protein may be useful because of convenience. Test it out to see what you can tolerate or not.
For carbs, you’ll want to think about starchy veggies such as sweet potato or hard squash as your go-to source with fruit and other starches (think white rice, white potato or tapioca) as alternatives. Just a note: fruit contains the sugar fructose which preferentially replaces glycogen in the liver, NOT the muscles. Your muscle glycogen tank is empty after hard training. Fill it up! As far as other starches, my personal preference is to usually avoid them because they just aren’t as nutrient dense, but if you’ve got good body composition and are insulin-sensitive, they may be worth experimenting with.
And now how much. Quantities will vary depending on your size but a general recommendation is 50-100 grams of carbs and 30-60 grams of protein (~4-8 oz of lean meat).
Eat your PWO no later than 15-30 min after your training session.
PWO should contain protein and carbs (unless you’re a power athlete who is cycling carbs).
General guidelines are 50-100 grams of carbs; 30-60 grams of protein.
And one last thing, your post-workout meal is not a substitute for the next meal of the day!
NEW! Print out this handy PDF summary to hang on your fridge or post up in your gym.