How To Start The Paleo Diet

by CavemanGreg on September 13, 2011

switching to the paleo dietOne of the beautiful things about Google analytics  is that it tells me what people are searching for to find my site. Most bloggers only focus on the big keywords like “Paleo Diet”. I would have never thought to focus on the keyword “How to Start the Paleo Diet” but last week a handful of people visited my site through this search query. So, to not only please the Google gods in search of more free traffic, but to also give you give you some useful information and tips, here is how you can start the Paleo Diet.

Your first step in starting the Paleo Diet should be awareness. I’m assuming you have some sense of what it is about or else you wouldn’t be reading this, but whether you are a complete newbie or a novice who has been on it for a week, it never hurts to learn more about it. I’ve got a Paleo Diet section on this site devoted to the what, how, and why’s of the Caveman diet. Check out other great sites like www.paleodiet.com , www.marksdailyapple.com , www.cavemanpower.com, or www.robbwolf.com to name a few. Buy some books from the Amazon store. Real books are invaluable resources you can flip open to the index and find answers to a lot of your questions. You can also carry them with you for times you don’t have internet access. For advanced questions, check out www.paleohacks.com and use the search box. People post all kinds of crazy questions on this forum, and chances are it’s a question you have that has already been answered by several fellow paleoites. Join some local paleo groups on facebook, meetup.com, or other social networking sites.

After you have a pretty good idea of what the Paleo Diet is, ( it is so simple, it shouldn’t take long) the next step is to actually start it. Just do it. That’s it. Chances are you already eat a lot of paleo stuff. Just keep eating it. Eliminating the non-paleo foods seems to be the hard part. People just can’t fathom living without bread, dairy, sodas, snacks, etc. Just remember that humans not only lived without processed foods for 99% of our species’ existence, but we thrived without them!  Here are some ways people usually begin the Paleo Diet:

1. Pantry raid. Not many paleo foods can be stored in a pantry anyways. Go through the pantry and get rid of every single processed food you have. Rice, beans, bread, cereals, pasta, potato chips, candy, sodas, cake mixes, sugar. If the product is unopened and still usable, donate it to the local  food bank. If not, you have two options here  A) throw it all away or maybe leave it outside for the critters. B) have yourself a “Mardi Gras” feast for a few days and stuff yourself silly with all this crap to get rid of it. If you go this route, hopefully you will feel so miserable from eating nothing but junk that you won’t want to think about junk food for a few weeks anyways.

2. Detox. Some people prefer to start new endeavors with an abrupt transition rather than ease into it. Out with the old, in with the new! A good way to do this with Paleo is do some kind of detox program. There are hundreds of them out there. A popular one I’ve used is the master cleanse  consuming only water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper anywhere from a day to a week.  This is just an idea, not a recommendation or endorsement. If you are the kind of person who needs to hit the reset every now and then, this might be something to consider.

3. Gradual transition. If you aren’t one for shock and awe or doing things cold turkey, this route may be your best bet. Over the course of about a month, gradually phase out your processed food eating habits and replace them with wholesome natural foods in line with the Paleo Diet. A good way to incorporate this is to not buy any processed foods when you go shopping. Chances are you already have something processed in the pantry like rice or pasta. This way you’ll still have some crutches to fall back on if need be, but you’ll be building the habit of only shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store so that by the time your grains run dry, hopefully you won’t think to buy them next time you go shopping. I personally don’t think this is the best way to start, but if it works for you, go for it.

4. Cold Turkey-this goes hand in hand with the pantry raid, except there is no option to gorge on the junk food. Make the decision to go Paleo, and stick to it.

5. Diet Plan. Think Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers, except with real food, and really tasty! I have a whole section dedicated to Diet Plans that are strictly Paleo or close enough to Paleo that I would recommend them. Easy to track and follow accountability is the name of the game. If you need a little extra motivation or hand holding (there is nothing wrong with this), then go with a Diet Plan. A coach will tell you exactly what to eat, when, where, what  to buy, and give other pointers necessary to complete the program successfully. This is likely going to be the most expensive way to start the Paleo Diet, but it might also be the most effective since you have a “coach” to walk you through the process. As an alternative, seek out a friend or family member that is already Paleo or is willing to give it a try and agree to be accountability partners for each other. Having the support of loved ones is very helpful if you have weak willpower or insecurities.

 

Alright, so these are probably the five most common ways to start the Paleo Diet that I know about. There are plenty of other ideas floating around on all the resources I list above. So, what if you’ve successfully made the switch to Paleo but find yourself eating and cooking the same things over and over again and start to get tired of this routine? It’s a very common rut. I found myself in it, and even today I still find myself straying into this no man’s land. Once you get tired of your meals, don’t be surprised if those old grain cravings kick in. Pizza? Pancakes? Biscuits? Candy? Don’t give in unless you think satisfying the urge is the only way you can get past it. Instead, grab a Paleo Cookbook or Recipe book. Again,  I have a full section on this site dedicated to these resources. You will be hard pressed to find such high quality information in consolidated format that not only gives you great ideas for meals, but doesn’t really require any advanced cooking skills or tools and doesn’t take that much time to prepare. Just about all of the ingredients can be sourced at your local supermarket too. Whether you feel confident in your ability to stick with the diet but just need meal ideas, or you’re no so confident but feel easy to make great tasting recipes would really aid you in your primal journey, give some serious consideration to investing in a good Paleo Cookbook.

Some things to expect:

Whichever method you choose to utilize, you will likely experience what most every convert goes through. Call it the detox period, the slump, withdrawal symptoms, the energy loss, or whatever, but for a period of 2-3 weeks following your switch to the Paleo diet, you will feel tired, weak, and not very productive. Your body has come to rely on sugars and starches for energy, and you’ve just taken all that away. All of sudden, your body has to re-learn how to use nature’s most efficient energy source:fat. Stay strong during these tough times. Fight the urge for sweets and caffeine. If you must, drink some herbal teas to help keep you going. Do not be tempted when someone brings in donuts to work, or you go to lunch with coworkers and they all order sandwiches with tasty looking bread. Try to avoid eating out.

After this two week period, you should notice something really cool begin to happen. Your energy returns, and not only that, it stays more constant throughout the day. You don’t feel as hungry or as often as you used to. Hopefully, your cravings for processed foods diminish and, after realizing what you have been missing out on all this time, you only want to eat higher quality foods. You only want to eat REAL FOODS. Welcome to the new you. Welcome to embracing your inner caveman!

 

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Delicious Paleo Meals September 24, 2011 at 9:46 am

Thank you so much for posting this very informative blog. Indeed i am gonna embrace the caveman within me.

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Marissa April 10, 2012 at 10:05 am

Thank you so much for the information! I googles “How to Start the Paleo Diet” and was more than happy to find your website! I’ll be sure to keep checking back for some great tips..

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Paleo Cookbooks April 15, 2012 at 11:22 am

I love the tip about raiding the pantry. That’s the best advice you can give anyone who’s starting a new diet. Chances are, if it’s not around, you won’t be tempted to eat, so just get rid of it! Thanks for the great advice!

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Kathleen April 16, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I want to thank you for providing this resource, but I feel I have to correct you on one point:
Weight Watchers IS real food. They do have branded products available for sale, but UNlike JennyCraig or NutraSystem, no member is ever required to eat any of them. I lost 103 pounds on Weight Watchers and only bought their products twice. Other than that, I have been eating real food the entire time.
In fact, most of the members I know used the packaged Weight Watcher products only as a way to help them transition out of their old habits of eating junk most of the day. Once they became accustomed to choosing healthier options on their own, they realized they could do well without them.

The entire program is built on learning how to eat real food suitable to your lifestyle, and then learning how to adjust your lifestyle to choose healthier foods. There is even a sub section to Weight Watchers that eliminates almost all processed foods and encourages whole, healthy choices. The food list is similar to Paleo except that it does allow nonfat dairy, and natural carbs like beans and potatoes (bread is not completely forbidden, but it is both limited and discouraged).
A few months ago I switched to this version of the plan (called simply filling), and have found increased energy and decreased food-specific cravings. It has made me more interested in the Paleo lifestyle.

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jezika steves September 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm

It’s my first time to read about paleo diet. It intrigued me a lot! I keep post on my blog the benefits of eating whole grain. But when I read about the bad things about eating grains, it made me think what I have been doing is not right. If it’s ok with you I would like to link you on my blog http://fitnesspink.blogspot.com/. I might change the name of my blog to pink cave girl. Nice articles.

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CavemanGreg September 15, 2012 at 6:03 pm

i’ll take all the free PR I can get. thanks1!

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Tina September 22, 2012 at 4:26 am

Hi,
I started the Paleo diet one week ago and I have already lost 4 kilos. It warries me because I’m 1,65 m tall and I weighted 52kg, now I weigh 48kg. I feel very week and hungry all the time. I also started having trouble sleeping, which I have never experienced in my life.
Could you explain what is happening to me and what should I do?

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Richard October 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

The links on this page don’t work.

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CavemanGreg October 12, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Richard, thanks. all fixed.

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Molly November 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm

So, I’ve started the detox…simply cutting out processed foods. I’m exhausted, feeling weak with no energy. How long does this last? You said about two weeks? Do you let your body “rest” during this time if you feel so tired? I run typically 3-4x a week & do other things on at least 2 other days. I am exhausted & don’t want to run tomorrow. Is that ok?

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CavemanGreg November 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

hey Molly,
for most it is in the 2-3 week range. Some may take a little longer. Rest is well advised. If you don’t have the energy to workout, then don’t do it. Give your body the time it needs to adjust. Good luck.
Greg

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Molly November 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Greg! I think sometimes I need affirmation that it’s ok not to run/workout. I’m hoping I’m not alone with that. I was feeling pretty crummy yesterday & I had a bunch of carbs (crackers & pizza) that I haven’t had for a while. This morning I woke up very hungry & with a headache. Can the body start to adapt so quickly to not having certain items?

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Cici November 20, 2012 at 12:02 am

Thank you so much for posting about the detox period. I have tried Primal Living before but felt so gross in the detox period I did not think it was good for me. I guess I have a lot of junk in me haha thanks again

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Viry December 9, 2012 at 2:33 pm

I will be starting this diet on Monday with a friend so I can stick to it and I’m also very excite to be doing this. I know it wont be so easy but I’m gonna try very hard to follow your tips. Thank you so much!

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Nicole December 29, 2012 at 7:45 pm

I am starting my Paleo endeavour in the New Year! I am very excited, and have bookmarked your site. Thanks for all the work you put into it!

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Frannie December 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

My sister has been on Paleo eating program for about a year and half.. She works out daily and is feeling amazing.. I hope I can follow in her footsteps and get my body on the right food track and the body weight off. So glad you have this website.. it is very helpful.. Thanks for being so helpful.. we will talk again..
oh, HAPPY NEW YEAR.. 2012 was okay… but 2013 will be GREAT!!!!
Eat, Drink & Be Merry… :) Frannie

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CavemanGreg January 2, 2013 at 7:57 pm

You’re welcome. I agree, 2013 will be GREAT. happy new year to you!

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the freak January 9, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Hey guys im on day 10 and the same feeling super weak muscles ache and no energy, i do crossfit from my garage and even though im tierd and weak during the daywhen i train i feel like im so much more fueled to exercise and i perform much better, however today at college i had an energy drink and a bag of sweets as i was exausted, any advise on how to overcome these bout of tierdness and muscle aches?

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CavemanGreg January 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Sometimes you just have to tough it out and be patient, esp. if you were eating lots of processed carbs previously. I would suggest, to ease the “pain”, lots of extra sleep, like 2-3 more hours than normal, and tea, especially yerba mate if you like it. Hang in there!

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Shelly January 15, 2013 at 11:28 pm

My story is a little long, but I will try to condense it so as not to bored everyone. Basically, my youngest child who will shortly turn 5, has always had stomach issues. She spit up nonstop as a baby, to the point no one wanted to hold her…….. EVER. About a year and a half ago, she suddenly gained lots of weight (she is 47″ and 60lbs) and I noticed her stomach was always bloated and she needed Mirilax on a daily basis to have regular bowel habits. She would complain she couldn’t take a deep breath, and, being a nurse, I immediately thought she was sick. On top of this, she has always had behavior issues, to the point I was actually contemplating medication. Finding that I was receiving no help from her pediatrician (he thinks I am overreacting), I began doing my own research. I chose to go GFCF after reading several articles on the benefits on behavior. It seemed to be the answer initially, but I have not witnessed the results I was hoping for. All of this research led me to rethink my family’s diet, and I have made the decision to go Paleo, all of us. The problem is that I have cleaned out my cabinets, gotten rid of everything except meats, fruits, veggies, and nuts, but my daughter refuses to eat at all with the choices we have. I’ve read that children will adjust because they would rather eat food they don’t enjoy versus going hungry. I feel like a horrible mom trying out this tough love method, but I really want to give it a go for at least 3 months to monitor for improvements in us all. What I need is someone who would be willing to either provide me with easy to fix meals (I am a nurse and work long hours) or point me in the direction of a great website for Paleo families with small children and easy, budget friendly recipes for picky eaters. I am hoping to not only lose the last 30lbs I need to, but also help my daughter to become healthy and set her on a healthy path for life. In case you haven’t noticed, I am clueless, but completely support this way of living. HELP!!!!

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CavemanGreg January 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Shelly,
i would recommend two books for you that touch on this subject.
1. Everday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
2. Practical Paleo Diane by Sanfilippo

Sounds like you might have to find some paleo substitutes of the foods your kids miss in order to ease them into it. I am actually no expert in this field since I don’t have kids, but take a look at these books.
best,
Greg

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Kimberly February 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Try this website as it is an entire family with small children:
http://paleoparents.com/
Good luck.

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Tiffany February 3, 2013 at 9:44 am

Ok I have been doing the paleo and havent seem any results, I feel very frustrated and ready to give, I want to lose 40lbs by May, I work 3x a week for an hour a day, I just dont know what I am doing.

Please help me, and is there a community so we can talk about this on a regular basis.

HELP!!!!

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CavemanGreg February 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I don’t have a “community” built into my site, but there are several others out there. One of the biggest is paleohacks.com. Another is http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/forum.php
type in “paleo forum” and see what comes up. Best, Greg

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Brooke February 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Hi! I personally have not started the paleo diet or lifestyle but I have a really good friend who is currently living the paleo life and within a yr he dropped over 100lbs!!! I want to do this so bad but i will be honest, I’m scared! I tried to give up caffeine once and ended up having a headache for over a month. It scares me what might happen if I gave up all of it!!! Plus I also have a husband who would not be very supportive. Do you have any advice? I know you said 2-3 weeks or longer but do you have anything to make headaches go away that go with the paleo lifestyle?

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CavemanGreg February 7, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hey Brooke,
You don’t have to give up caffeine. Coffee and tea can actually be beneficial for you, but the key is moderation. If you are currently over “moderation” (about 2 cups a day), then I suggest trying to wean yourself down. For example, let’s say you drink 8 cups a day, maybe take 2 weeks to bring that down to 7, then another 2 to bring it down to 6, so on and so forth. When you make the switch to Paleo, you should begin to feel better after the break in period. As for getting your husband on board, that is tricky. Honest communication will be important. Also, preparing meals that are paleo but that he still enjoys will go a long way. I’m not an expert in this field, so I suggest seeking advice from other paleo sources. Paleo Cookbooks published an article a while back on this topic, see if you can find it. I will look for it too.
Best,
Greg

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Adrian Jordan April 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

I’m a little confused. I’ve bought this book called perfect health diet that is kind of Paleo but it includes rice. Have i gone up a blind alley? Great post and many thanks. Adrian

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CavemanGreg June 4, 2013 at 10:21 am

I don’t think rice is the end of the world, but one can definitely do without it. It is pretty high glycemic. Occasionally I enjoy some sushi rolls, but not all the time.

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healthy recipes May 27, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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Patti Schuller May 31, 2013 at 5:41 am

Hi there- I am almost 58 and have had Fibro for 5 yrs. now, spinal surgery, gall bladder removal and double knee replacements- all of this in the past 5 yrs. My weight has exploded to 280lbs and I am about 5’6″ now. I am going Paleo tomorrow 5/31/13. I have tried almost every diet out there excluding Paleo and Gastric bypass. I often get very ill within 2 wks of dieting (no carbs/sugars)- Do you have any suggestions to help me get over that hump and continue to push through? I don’t want to end up being a quitter- I have a phenomenal garden and raise my own meat-pig, chicken, ducks, rabbits. I am set but need encouragement- Maybe just a kick in the Patooty-My fear is the 2-3 wk hump stage- thanks for any advise

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CavemanGreg June 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

that hump can be tough. Everyone has different will power. Try hard to realize the long term benefits you will receive from subduing short term pleasures like bread/candy. Seek the encouragement of loved ones. I’ll be the first to throw some good vibes your way! Physically, get lots of rest. Drink plenty of fluids. Have some strong tea and coffee on standby. Eat lots of “vitality” foods. These are things like Kale, blueberries, other greens, salmon, etc. Best of luck! Greg

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Johnny O June 17, 2013 at 11:59 am

I’ve been 100% paleo for 12 weeks now and still have fatigue. I actually started off with more energy, then later experienced the fatigue… weird huh?

I’m doing minimal excercise, but am active with walking, sprinting/chasing kids during play, coaching baseball.

Just wondering why after 12 weeks the fatigues still and if lack of steady excercise is the culprit.

Thanks!

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CavemanGreg June 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Sounds like there could be some other issues at play. Do you get plenty of sleep? Do you have a stressful job? Keep in mind every body is different and adjusts differently to the diet.

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paleo diet menu August 6, 2013 at 3:32 am

I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is
written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty.

You’re incredible! Thanks!

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Pat August 23, 2013 at 6:39 am

So glad I found your site and this well-written article on starting. The last paragraphs were most important as they deal with the fatigue in the first 2 weeks of starting. I’m just ending up my first week and am soooo tired. Now I know this will be short-lived and feel I can deal with this a week or so longer. I never considered giving up because I’ve already experienced so many positives eating Paleo, mainly zero tummy issues which were commonplace eating grains and apparently dairy as well. I have to admit dairy is my big miss as I’ve done low carb the last few years so not missing bread and pasta as anything new. I did find some great almond milk – Trader’s Joe’s refrigerated brand and that makes me happy. Cheese – help me on that.

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Mike Donelly September 21, 2013 at 6:05 am

I see a lot of people here with fatigue long after it should be gone. I think it’s important to point out that the main concept behind Paleo is to eat “real” foods. Many people are deliberately avoiding carbohydrates and that is a bad thing. If you don’t eat carbs at all your body is forced to exclusively burn fat for energy. It’s thought this is hard on the liver, so it’s not the best strategy.

Personally I occasionally eat sweetcorn which is a grain and is forbidden on the diet but it seems to do me no harm. It’s not a trigger food like potatoes which you cannot stop eating once you start. Avoiding such trigger foods is the key.

If you need carbs because you are going to exercise you should consume some. Surviving on fat alone will make you less energetic. Higher carb permitted foods include tomatoes and carrots, but sometimes they are not enough if you are going to do an intensive workout.

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josie October 12, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Hi, i was struggling on losing weight for years now. However i do admit being not consistent in doing workouts or following a strict diet. But this article made me wanna do it. I gonna give it a try. Will get back to you for the results. Thank you so much. By the way im taking myself a picture today and planning to take another one after a month. Hope to see results! :)

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K H October 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

What about eating sweet potatoes or bananas if I feel weak? From what I have read, good fats and carbs are essential to the body. Avocado oils, coconut oils, olive oils should be consumed daily. I would think that someone who runs, or does arobics should consume these type of foods daily? If you don’t exercise a lot cut back on those items.

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CavemanGreg December 8, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I eat quite a bit of sweet potatoes and maybe 4-5 bananas a week. They are both good for those that need a little extra carbs. I consume fats like they are going out of style!

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Leah December 8, 2013 at 11:02 am

Starters shouldnt assume there will be a fatigue factor. Its not a given. Many never experience it. I never did. What I noticed right away was a cleaner feeling energy. Like it was more pure. I felt brighter. BTW, I never did give up coffee. About 2 cups a day or the milk and scant sugar in it. Not recommedned but an allowance i chose.

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CavemanGreg December 8, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Thanks for pointing this out. I think coffee is fine, in moderation. I just use heavy cream in mine!

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PaleoAnna January 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Is black coffee allowed in first 2wks? Thx.

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CavemanGreg March 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm

a cup a day isn’t a huge deal.

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Patty March 12, 2014 at 9:04 am

I have been researching the paleo diet for about a week now and have come upon something called Whole30. Would you recommend this prior to going Paleo or should I just jump in and do Paleo without a whole 30 detox?

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CavemanGreg March 12, 2014 at 10:20 pm

I didn’t know much about until now, and I haven’t done it, so I can’t give a full endorsement for it, but having read the intro and what it is about makes me think it would a good way to start. Like I said in the post, if you are someone who does better with accountability, I bet this would be the ticket.

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