An update: This post was originally written in 2013. Since that time, I tried Paleo a heck of a lot more and began to completely love the way it made me feel. I did some tweaking, of course (I’m convinced I didn’t eat enough carbs in my first 30-day trial, thus making me feel like crap).
These days, I eat about a mostly Whole Foods (or “paleo”, as per popular lexicon) diet now, and have for a couple years. That said, I still love me a
cheat treat. Favorites include: pizza, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream from a dairy-filled cow.
This is, obviously, a pretty different conclusion than what you might imagine happened after the end of this blog post. But, well, life is like that, and sometimes you are 100% wrong about something. In this case, this way of eating is for me, and my 2013 self just didn’t know it yet;)
Last month, I did a long-planned thirty day experiment on the Paleo diet (also known as the “Whole 30” diet) – meaning I eliminated all grains, dairy, sugar and legumes from my diet for one month in order to cleanse and improve my overall health. It was a huge challenge for me, one of my goals for 2013, and something I’m just plain thrilled to have behind me. As with all challenges, it didn’t come without some lessons learned.
In thinking about the process of radically changing one area of my life (in this case my diet), I thought about the key things that the month taught me.
Here are a few of the key things I learned about myself in the process.
1. I am disciplined when I went to be
This wasn’t the first time I learned this, of course, but it was a nice reminder. Not having run a marathon in over four years, I sometimes wonder how much I can really challenge myself physically when push comes to shove. Doing such a difficult (for me) food diet was a great reminder of what I can do. Every time my husband commented on how impressed he was that I wasn’t eating nachos/ice cream/milk in my tea, I grinned. Wide.
2. Hard things can be worth it
The experience taught me, like other challenges before have taught me, that hard things can be worth it when you are doing them for a particular aim. For me, I had great hopes of health improvement on the diet, and that fact alone kept me singularly focused on completing the month of challenging food choices.
3. Sometimes everyone is wrong
It’s hard for me to say this, but I didn’t become swayed by the Paleo diet. And boy, did I want to be. I had read so many books extolling its virtues to the high heavens that I was already envisioning the ways I would shout its name from the rooftops. One month later, that’s not what I’m doing. Yes, I lost weight (no, I wasn’t trying to, but yes, they say most people do). Yes, I experienced some alleviation of digestive issues.
Unfortunately, though, I can also hands-down say that I have never been more exhausted and irritable in my life. I read the forums about why that might be so (some people eating Paleo just need more carbs like sweet potatoes in their lives, for example), but ultimately the overwhelming sense of how I felt (not great) made me come away from the whole experience exhausted at a) how much I had to think about about food all month, and b) being exhausted. I wanted to love it, I really did. But I didn’t. Although I’m sure my eating habits will be altered going forward as a result, I’m not quite sure how that will play out over time just yet.
Overwhelmingly, it was a tough month, and not a very fun month. I didn’t like constantly having to plan each and every meal, constantly fretting about eating out at friend’s houses or restaurants and what on earth I would be able to eat while there, and constantly eating only hard boiled eggs and cut veggies when traveling. (Yes, I know seasoned Paleos do this far better than I did, but I’m just sharing how it was for me.) So now, with a tough month behind me, it’s time to eat some nachos.