What is paleo?

Until January, I had no idea what paleo was. So, if you're thinking, "What is all of this hype about, and how do I even pronounce 'paleo'?" don't worry. That's where I was. I used to see posts of food with a caption that included something like #paleofriendly and #cleaneating but never knew what it meant. Honestly, I couldn't even figure out what language "paleo" was. So, here's my quick synopsis of what paleo is, to me.

Source: leanitup.com via Google
 The paleo diet is a modern approach to returning back to the diets of our ancestors. It's the "caveman diet." Trust me, my friends have called me a "hunter-gatherer"; so endearing. Cavemen's diets did not include the processed foods that are flooding grocery stores today. Trust me when I say, I know the processed stuff is delicious. But, it's a reality that our bodies didn't always consume things like lactose and gluten which is why so many of us have allergies to these sorts of foods.

So, the paleo diet focuses on the fresh and natural foods that carry essential nutrients. Basically, it cuts gluten, grains, legumes, soy and dairy our of your diet. A paleo person eats meat, fruit, vegetables, nuts (which does NOT include peanuts) and seeds. So, no rice, quinoa, bread, baked goods, cheese, milk, etc.

Another key to the success of converting to paleo is working out. You should try to do something every day, whether it's a run, spin class, 50 crunches of some sort, push-ups, squats, etc. As you should anyways, drinking water is especially important and will keep your metabolism going while hydrating your body. It makes you feel full, too. Try to drink about 64 oz. of water each day.

Basically, you are changing your body from depending on carbs (sugars, starches, gluten) to depending and using healthy, natural fats (avocado, nuts, coconut). The first few days are easy, and then it slows down through the 4th or 5th day. You may feel lethargic or really hungry for a day or two. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and drink water. Once you get through those hard days, you will see a major turn-around. You will have more energy, feel lighter, less dietary side effects (gas, bloating, indigestion, etc.) and feel better in general.  After the third or fourth week, you won't think of it as a "diet" so much as just the way you eat. And, that is a great feeling!

If you're convinced, here is a great website for starters to have an idea/map of what your daily intake should look like. Once you get the hang of it, try to stick to three meals and one snack each day. Congratulations on making one of the best decisions for your heath!

Weight Loss: Let's talk about the elephant in the room - losing weight. That is usually one of the main motivators for people starting diets like paleo. And, it will happen! One of the most important things to keep in mind is that it's a process. Your body needs time to adjust.  Quick tips on weighing yourself:
  • Weigh yourself in the morning BEFORE you eat/drink anything.
    • Your weight fluctuates probably between 3 and 5 pounds per day, so the morning will give you the most accurate sense of your weight. Weighing yourself at night can be very discouraging.
  • Focus more on how you feel rather than what the scale says.
  • Don't weigh yourself every day. 
    • One of the best things I started doing when I started paleo was weighing myself once every week. Wednesday's are "weigh day" for me. And, it's gotten to the point where I look forward to Wednesday morning.
When converting to paleo, almonds and coconut become your lifelines. There are SO many products made out of them...
  • Almond flour (used for baking and breading)
  • Almond milk
  • Almond butter
  • Coconut milk
  • Coconut oil (used for EVERYTHING!)
  • Coconut flour (used for baking and breading)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut aminos
Seriously, I feel like Forrest Gump with shrimp right now. Some imperative and health-conscious substitutions I have found are:
  • Coconut oil for olive or vegetable oil; although, olive oil is allowed, in moderation.
  • Almond milk for dairy milk; Coconut milk is completely fine too. I just find that almond milk is a better substitute for cooking/baking. It doesn't have as strong of a flavor as the coconut milk does.
  • Turkey bacon for pork bacon (less fat; Pork bacon is technically allowed.)
  • Ground turkey for ground beef (less fat; Beef is technically allowed.)
  • Sweet potatoes for other potatoes (Idaho, red, Yukon, etc.) 
  • Coconut aminos for soy sauce 
  • Sea salt for iodized salt 
  • Sunflower butter or almond butter for peanut butter
Whole 30 - Whole 30 is basically a more strict version of paleo which completely cuts out alcohol - no vanilla extract or wine (drinking or cooking) -  and all sweeteners, including honey. Date puree can be substituted in paleo recipes for honey, and vanilla powder can be used for vanilla extract. I don't have much information on Whole 30 because I have not done it, but I will post adaptations when I can.

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