The Paleo Program

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, I’ve tried a lot of different diets.  I’ve tried South Beach, Nutrisystem, counting calories, high protein, Weight Watchers, etc. I lost weight with almost all of them, some more weight than others, and it all came back.

One of the reasons I gained it back was because I was still thinking of diets as a “temporary” thing. This was a practice I was doing “just until I got down some pounds,” then I could go back to my “normal” eating habits.

Another reason I think these diets didn’t work for me was that they were “artificial” eating routines. I was doing things counting points, counting calories, reading labels or eating pre-made food out of a box. After I reached my goal weight, I was supposed to “transition” to normal healthy eating habits. The only things that were really teaching me anything were reading labels and counting calories. I’m not knocking those diets. I lost weight on them, but truthfully, I got really tired of color coded diet food and am I supposed to count points forever?

I know there’s not a lot of difference between counting points and counting calories, but reading labels and counting calories I learned to be more aware of what I was eating. Paying attention to calories and what was in the food I was buying taught me that there are some things I really didn’t want to eat (trans fat) or just too many calories for the couple of bites it took to eat them. It taught me some healthier habits, but bottom line: in order to lose weight, I needed to change the way I eat. Permanently.

After watching a few episodes of TLC’s My 600 lb Life, I decided on the Paleo diet. Really, it is the Paleo Lifestyle. The philosophy, in a nutshell, is that humans have not evolved since Paleolithic Man, and so we should eat what they eat. They were hunters & gatherers, not growers, so that means I had to change what I eat. The biggest and hardest change: NO GRAINS! I was practically in shock. The other foods on the not Paleo list: no refined sugar, no legumes, no chocolate, no potatoes, and most say no dairy (it’s a gray area). Since a lot of people have problems processing theses foods, or straight out allergies to them, proponents of the Paleo Lifestyle conclude that we were not meant to eat these foods.

So, after reading up on the Paleo diet, I began changing my diet. (I can recommend Living Paleo for Dummies.). The first to go was refined sugar. I know a lot of people have trouble giving up sugar, but I was already eating a lot of sugar-free foods. The bigger problem is Paleo excludes all artificial sweeteners, even stevia, which I really don’t like. I was able to knock out sugar and the artificial sweeteners for everything but drinks. I cut back on a lot of those  over time. So, when I go out, it’s a lot of unsweetened ice tea.

The next to go were potatoes. They were pretty much in the “sugar” category. I didn’t eat a lot of potatoes to start with. Potato chips were one of those luxury high fat, high calorie foods I rarely ate. Cutting out potatoes was easier than sugar, since I didn’t have “potato” substitutes like I did with sugar.

The biggest change was grains and grain products. I love bread, pasta, cereal, granola, rice, corn, popcorn, hummus, oatmeal. I am a dyed in the wool carb-a-holic thanks to grains. I can’t think of a grain product I don’t like.  It’s easier for me to ignore a candy bar or ice cream than it is for me to ignore a plain dinner roll. That meant giving up most of the staples on my regular diet and replacing them with things that are Paleo approved, like vegetables.

Honestly, I tried being vegetarian once. It was a miserable failure, because I really don’t like vegetables much. Now, I’m eating more vegetables than I did as a vegetarian, and I am okay with it. I eat the vegetables I like, which is a lot of broccoli, beets, butter lettuce, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Still, it’s not been easy.

As for dairy, I decided to do minimal dairy: Greek yogurt and milk/ cream for my coffee. I avoid cheese and other dairy products as much as possible. I’m not lactose intolerant, but yogurt is high protein and I can get it nonfat, unsweetened. As for my coffee, I can do unsweetened, but I can’t do it black. So between limiting my coffee and yogurt, I can keep the dairy to a minimum.

Ideally on the Paleo program, I should be choosing proteins like ocean caught fish, grass-fed meats and free range eggs. I choose those when I can find them and afford them, but realistically they are expensive, so I make the best choices I can with meats, fish and eggs.

Fruits and nuts (NOT peanuts) are on the Paleo approved list so there are lots of alternatives for munchy healthy snacks! I made my own “trail mix.”

The Paleo Lifestyle isn’t just about a “diet.”  It’s about cutting out processed prepackaged foods and getting enough fresh air, sunlight and exercise. It’s about keeping stress to a minimum and making healthy choices. One of the things I like best about it is that it’s not a “weight loss diet;” it’s a lifestyle diet. This is a way of eating and living that I am doing now and I am enjoying it. I feel better, healthier and this is a practice I intend to keep in my life.

The Paleo Lifestyle is thought of as a weight loss diet because when people first start on it, they lose weight. People lose weight on it because a lot of the high calorie foods they were eating before are cut out of their new diet: they stop eating pasta and start eating cauliflower. They end up losing weight. Like with any diet, in order to lose weight, we have to eat at a calories deficit: burning more calories than we take in. So that means eating less and exercising more. For me, my weight loss has come from a combination of healthier eating and exercising choices through the Paleo Lifestyle and counting calories on an app (I recommend My Fitness Pal).

The Paleo Lifestyle is about living healthy and taking care of yourself the best way you can. It is not for everyone but it works for me and it’s something I can see myself doing for a long time. Even better, it’s not about never having bread again; it’s about maybe having bread on occasion. (They advocate the 80-20 rule). I, as a bread-a-holic, have to be careful since I’m losing weight.

Although my primary goal in choosing this diet is to lose weight, I feel so much better eating the Paleo approved foods that this is finally a lifestyle change I can feel good about making permanent.

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