One 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!