Monday, August 1, 2011

10 Steps to Help You Succeed on the Primal/Paleo Diet

Are you thinking about trying the Paleo or Primal Diet and aren’t sure where to begin or think it is too difficult? Here are 10 simple steps that help my tribe (friends and family) succeed at this lifestyle:
  1.  80/20 Rule: Remember ladies and gentlemen, this is a lifestyle. If someone at the office brings in non-paleo treats for Friday, have one. Having only one is the trick to this rule. As long as you are following the Primal lifestyle 80% of the time your body will be able to handle a vice occasionally. The tabloids are always digging at the celebrities for their diet secrets (a post on celebrity diets later), but the reality of it is moderation. So feel free to go out for Italian on Friday night! Just don’t go overboard by eating the complementary bread if you are going to have a heavy pasta dish followed by a decadent dessert. Eat the vice you desire the most and forgo the rest – you may even find something on the menu more delicious that you may never have ordered pre-paleo!
  2.  Listen to your body: This is the most empowering rule. If you are hungry, eat. If you are not hungry, don’t eat. If you are tired, sleep. If you are bored, go play! Sound simple? It is! This step gives you the power to do what you want; you just have to listen to your body to know what you truly desire. :)
  3. Your Mindset: This is what weeds out the yo-yo dieters, the ill-informed, and anyone not serious about fully committing to this lifestyle. You have to be mentally prepared to be on this diet. My girlfriends and I were not when we first started and we failed miserably. Paleo/Primal isn’t a quick weight loss program. It is a lifestyle. You must consciously choose to eat low carb, exercise, and expect others to pressure you to give in. Food tip: Think about what you can eat and not about what you can’t. Does your office receptionist has a candy jar overflowing with goodies? Ask yourself, “ Are you hungry or do you just want the sweet comfort?” Chances are you aren’t hungry. It’s amazing if you just think to yourself, “Do I really need that junk?”  Rather than “I can’t have that candy.” It gives you back the power over your pre-paleo cravings.
  4. Don’t rely heavily on the bathroom scale: Are you one of those people that check the scale 3+/daily when you are on a diet? I was. Then I did some research. The scale isn’t the best tool to measure our health. The article from Everyday Paleo shows you 2 photos of the same woman at the same weight - however her body is completely transformed from one picture to the other. Remember weight is broken down into water, muscle, fat, oh and we have some organs in there too – so don’t get hung up on the scale! Do before and after pictures (I will post some so I’m not a hypocrite). Take before and after measurements of your waste, arms, thighs, etc. Get your body fat percentage checked out (at the doctor/gym). Have you dropped in clothing size? I’d say that is a better measurement than a number on a scale!
  5. Build a tribe/community: Research has shown that people are more likely to stick to a diet if they have a buddy support system. Friends are there for you when the going gets rough and to help keep you on track (and vice versa). Accountability is key for many people, which is a large component of Weight Watchers. Going up in front of a large group of people to get weighed every week is very motivating. So get a friend, spouse, sibling, or offspring on the Paleo/Primal bandwagon and start a healthy tribe. Remember to celebrate your success!
  6. Read Primal/Paleo resources online: These will provide you with inspiration, knowledge (good for combating conventional wisdom), motivation, entertainment, and recipes to help you be successful. I regularly visit Mark’s Daily Apple, Everyday Paleo, Elana’s Pantry, ModernPaleo, The Primal Parent and Girl Gone Primal.
  7. Start a Journal or Blog: Like this one! It can be as simple as a food diary, a blog on your Paleo journey, or whatever strikes your fancy. Those that write about their progress, failures, ideas, and success are more likely to continue their new lifestyle. Again, accountability comes into play. Who wants to write about their failures? No one – that’s why writing it down makes it more difficult to fail. Have you bought a journal or started registering for a blog yet?
  8. Find/Buy Primal/Paleo Cookbooks: It is difficult to begin a new way of cooking if you have no recipes to go off of! I highly recommend The Everyday Paleo Cookbook, any of Elana’s Pantry cookbooks, and Mark Sisson’s cookbooks. Whenever I don’t know what to get at the store or I’m in a rut, I sit down with a cup of coffee and go through my Paleo/Primal Cookbooks. Not only does it give me a game plan at the store/market, it inspires me to try new things, experiment with my own recipes, and keeps you on track with your diet = success.
  9. Get plenty of rest: This step is vital to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle and is the one that probably doesn’t get followed as much as we would like. Our lives are jam packed – with a full-time job (sometimes more than one job), caring for the kids or pets, keeping the house in order, holidays, family functions, etc. What do we cut back on when life is so busy? Our sleep. Our bodies need 7-8 hours of sleep every night to receive these benefits: release of human growth hormone (cell regeneration), enhance memory and creativity, boost your mood and athletic performance, handle stress better, not to mention you’ll have increased energy to tackle your busy schedule!
  10. Don’t want to exercise? Then don’t, play!: We all have days where we are boggled down and that trip to the gym seems like mission impossible. Well, here is a lifestyle you don’t have to reach a certain amount of hours of “gym time.” Need to work in some sort of activity to feel like you did something physical? Try to get a walk in over your lunch break, take the dog for a walk (has to be done anyway), play with your children or pets (chase, hide-n-seek, soccer, basketball, etc. This depends on ages and your particular situation). Careful, you may even have fun. Every week I follow the Primal Blueprint:  

I walk/rest/play 4 days a week, do strength training for 2 days, and finish up with 1 day of sprints. It doesn’t even feel like I’m on an exercise routine because it is so simple, fast, fun, and it works. Did I just sound like an infomercial? Sorry for that, but I don’t know how else to get across how great of a lifestyle this is!

These 10 steps help me stay on track and not give into temptation. As I was writing these, I realized how simple they sounded – you just need to have the right prospective and you can do anything!