So you've taken the plunge and decided to commit to clean eating- congratulations! Your life will be changed in a so many wonderful ways and we couldn't be more excited for you because of that.
What's that? You actually don't feel too hot? You feel hangry and cranky and have a headache, you don't know what to eat, you miss bagels, you want to eat all the things but you can't, what are you even allowed to drink, you don't think this is going so well and can you stop now, please, but you really don't want to? Relax! We've got you covered. Here are some of the most common speed bumps people hit when making a big dietary change. Let's see if we can work this out for you!
1. YOU'RE HUNGRY ALL THE TIME. This could be caused by a few things, but we've found that most often it's because you simply aren't eating enough, or more specifically, you're not eating enough fat and protein! Cutting out a couple food groups at once can make some people feel like they've got very little to choose from, and therefore they struggle with creating meals and snacks. This is a normal adjustment and can be fixed a few ways: Be sure every meal has ample protein and fat, as the combo will keep you satisfied for hours. (Try starting your day with 4 eggs instead of 2, for example, and add a half of an avocado on top). Also, always, always ALWAYS keep good "fast food" with you (in your desk, in your purse, in your car, in your gym bag, etc.), whether that's an Epic Bar, a banana, a bag of almonds, beef jerky, or whatever your favorite snack is- Just always have something you can reach for when you start to get hungry. And try your best to have that snack contain lots of protein and fat.
2. YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO EAT. Like we mentioned above, cutting out a couple foods groups at once can be a challenge. It can take some time to adjust to your new diet and in the meantime you might be feeling like you've got no options. But it's just not the case! You've got TONS of food to choose from that will nourish your body. Invest in a couple great cookbooks, spend some time on Pinterest, check out our list of resources, peruse your local farmer's market, follow some Paleo folks on Instagram to see what they are eating (check out the folks we follow), and get inspired! Invite some friends over to help you cook and enjoy preparing your food. Experiment with foods you've never tried before, and try new methods. Try taking a photo of one meal every day to post on your social media, as it will encourage you to be a little creative with what you're preparing. Have fun with your food! Before you know it you will see that your options are endless (and delicious!).
3. YOU DON'T HAVE TIME TO PREPARE MEALS. This is something we hear a lot, and for good reason. Eating real food means eating food that you prepare from scratch almost all the time. If you aren't used to cooking every meal from scratch every single day, this can be an enormous adjustment. By the time most people get home from work or the gym or errands or a combination thereof, the last thing they want to do is slave away in the kitchen. But we're here to tell you that there is a way around this, and even have dinner on the table in under 20 minutes! How? Meal prep. This is absolutely paramount if you've got a busy schedule and rarely have the time to cook. Spend a portion of a designated day each week prepping your food for the week (schedule it with yourself, put it on your calendar, whatever it takes to make sure you dedicate that time!). And let's be honest: While it is occasionally fun to play around with in-depth or exotic recipes, meal prep does not need to be so complex. Clean and chop your veggies so they can be tossed into a pan or salad easily. Cook up some protein: Grill some chicken, sautee some ground beef, hard boil a dozen eggs. Make any sauces you use frequently: mayo, salad dressings, etc. This way, you have all the fixings for meals and snacks at your finger tips for days to come, and you can mix and match everything as you see fit. And whenever you're preparing dinner, always make extra! Bring the leftovers to work for lunch the next day, or even have them for breakfast! Your fridge should always have leftovers of some kind in it, and that will save you in a pinch. Keep frozen veggies and proteins in the freezer for when you don't have anything left in the fridge. Buy some kitchen essentials to make meal prep easier: crock pot, cutting board, knives, a large pot, and a large pan.
4. YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO NAVIGATE SOCIAL SETTINGS. You're supposed to go this wedding / work lunch / dinner with your in-laws / BBQ / birthday party, but you're panicking because you don't know how to do that and stay on track at the same time? Believe it or not, there are a couple easy ways to handle these situations with grace and tact, to stay true to your personal health goals, and enjoy yourself at the same time. Offering to make or bring something to a dinner or party is a surefire way to know that there will be Paleo-friendly options for you there. If you are at a restaurant (or even a wedding), you can kindly and discreetly let your server know that you have food sensitivities to gluten, dairy and sugar, and you will likely be met with either a special gluten free menu or other available options. If you are a guest in someone's home, you can explain to them that you are experimenting cutting a few things out of your diet at the moment, or tell them that you've recently discovered you're sensitive to a few food groups. You can always work your way around the plate, eating what you can, and if all else fails, you can feign a little stomachache or oncoming cold that is preventing you from enjoying their food. This one may be tough, but remember that your health and personal goals are more important than how someone may feel about your actions around food! It is not your responsibility to worry about how someone may feel or be affected by you making healthy food choices. If you feel like there's a good chance you are going to be up a creek at your event, always eat before you leave the house, and again, always, always have a snack or two of some sort with you. As far as drinking goes, stick with silver tequila with soda and limes, or wines. (Check out our comprehensive drinking while Paleopost for more info on this!). And remember, it's more than ok to let go and enjoy yourself every once in a while, too!
5. YOU'RE STILL HAVING CRAVINGS AND FEELING CRAPPY. This could be happening for a few reasons. One reason is that you are still in the withdrawal phase; Depending on what your diet looked like before you went Paleo, you could be withdrawing for a few weeks! It can really take some time to get some of those toxins out of your system, and allow your body to adjust to it's new nutrition. (Most of us come from having eaten some form of bread or grain every. single. day. of our lives. This can take a while to adjust to!). Headaches, fatigue, and general ickiness can all be part of the withdrawal/adjustment phase. But stick with it, girl. The other side of that is absolute gold! You'll feel your best soon, just keep pushing through. Another reason you could still be having cravings or feeling less than great is that you are still eating some gluten, sugar or dairy on a regular basis. These three foods can take weeks to clear out from your body (gluten can take up to 3 weeks on it's own!), so even if you're eating them in tiny amounts on your "treat days", they might be holding you back. Eating clean all week but having a regular Sunday night pasta dinner/pizza/whathaveyou will not yield you the results you might be hoping for. Your gut will stay irritated, nutrients won't be absorbing properly, and you'll likely be a little bloated through the entire week, and therefore working against every effort you're putting in. Eating sugar begets sugar cravings, period. When you give yourself a few weeks of forming new (sugar free) food habits, you'll find you don't crave sugar at all, or at least not to the extent that you did before (we promise, this is actually possible!). Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, etc.) can cause headaches and all sorts of issues on their own, including continuing you to crave sugar- They play mean tricks on your body! And did you know that the lactose in dairy can even trigger sugar cravings all by itself? For these reasons, we strongly recommend you ditch all three of these triggers in entirety, for at least 2 or 3 weeks. While that doesn't mean that you can never have bread or a doughnut ever again, it does mean that if you want to see and feel the results of your tenacious efforts and get closer to optimum health, you have simply got to commit to avoiding these foods, period. (See our post on 80/20, and finding your own balance with this). To help your body detox faster, make sure to drink a lot of water, eat lots of fresh leafy greens, and try drinking some dandelion root tea at night.
6. YOU'RE FEELING GREAT EXCEPT YOU'RE CONSTANTLY BLOATED/GASSY. When we dramatically change the types of food we are eating (increasing our consumption of vegetables and protein in particular), sometimes our digestive system has a hard time because it is lacking certain enzymes that are required to digest these foods. They are missing from our gut because we didn't need them for so long (because we were eating crap) and our body just quit producing them. Don't worry, as you continue to eat these new foods your body will start to once agin produce those digestive enzymes you need. Give it some time. In the meantime though, you can support your digestive system by consuming fermented vegetables (sauerkraut- great on salads!), taking a dairy free/gluten free probiotic supplement, taking papaya enzyme, and drinking 8oz of water with 2 tbsp raw apple cider vinegar before big meals. Your gut will settle in a week or two, we promise!
7. YOU HAVE UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Lastly, you might just be expecting a little too much too soon. (It's worth also referring back to #5 here: If you are not actually following the Paleo template with consistency and commitment, you will not be getting the results you hoped for). For some people, making big dietary shifts like this will yield dramatic results quickly. For others it will be a slow process, but progress nonetheless. There are lots of factors to consider in how it will all effect you, like what your diet was like before making the switch, how active you are, how healthy your gut is, if you've got any autoimmune conditions, etc. It's important to remember why eating this way is what you chose to do: It will bring you health; it heals your gut, makes your skin glow, gives you energy, removes toxins, and gives you vitality. If you are focused on just wanting to fit into your old "skinny jeans" and aren't getting there fast enough, then we really recommend you spend some time thinking about your real goals and why you want to achieve them. If you follow the Paleo template, you will get healthier and leaner, but it's not a process that can be rushed (this is not a get-skinny-quick weight loss regimen! It's a lifestyle, after all). Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Enjoy the process.
BOTTOM LINE: Making huge, fundamental changes in how we eat can take some time to adjust to. Stick with it. Be prepared. Get committed. And watch yourself thrive.