Until I met my partner my relationship with food was not that great, I have always liked to cook, but my feeling toward food and eating were not exactly healthy. When we met, I quickly realised that food and eating were a very important part of my partner’s life; his love of food helped me find the way to his heart (thank you apple and rhubarb crumble). Before I knew it, his way of thinking about food rubbed off on me, and I started to look forward to sitting down to a meal. Before long I had gone from eating one meal a day to having three meals a day.
When we met my partner had already had a go at following the paleo diet, liked it but found it was not entirely sustainable if you were the only person in the house doing it. Three years ago we reached a point of needing a change around our lifestyle; my partner floated the option of going paleo, and after some research, we embraced the change and started our transition.
Transitioning took some effort and with the small step approach we became strict paleo – no more bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or milk. In the beginning, we both felt great physically and mentally, more energy, better sleep each night and massive changes to body shape. After a while I realised that strict paleo was not going to be sustainable for me, I was struggling to eat enough to fuel myself each day and my physical performance at the gym was starting to suffer. Paleo had given us the tools to change how and what we ate, but in the longer term, it did not seem like a permanent option.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing Paleo, far from it, I think it is amazing. For the first time in decades, thousands of people are paying attention to what they eat; they are looking at the back of food packets and asking why a loaf of bread has 11 ingredients when a homemade one has only five. Paleo is opening the eyes of people all over the world to a new way of living, for that I am very thankful for the paleo diet.
I think what many people do is fall into the traditional diet trap; we have been conditioned to follow a diet for a period to reach a particular goal, once there we revert to our former habits then wonder why we gain weight and feel awful again. I think we need to make people realise the difference between a diet and paleo because they are not the same thing. Paleo is about making a lifestyle change; I feel comfortable with saying this because it means changing more than what you put in your mouth. You have to modify the way you look at food, how you shop, where you shop, where you eat when you go out on date night and what you can order at a restaurant. Above all Paleo is an exercise in self-control, it takes a while, but if you stick with it, you reach a point where you happily refuse the piece of chocolate cake at the office morning tea because you know what it will do to you and how it will make you feel in the end.
With this in mind I think that paleo is the first step on a food journey, most people I know who have taken the paleo step on this journey end up in one of two destinations;
Option one – back where they started.
Having tried paleo they think it is great, follow it strictly and tell everyone how great it is. After about six weeks they give in to temptation, I find that most fall off the waggon for McDonald's or Burger King. Having given into temptation once they consider the diet broken or too hard to follow, they never go back to paleo and start looking for the next life changing diet.
Option two – following a customised Paleo style diet that meets their individual needs.
Having tried paleo they think it is great, follow it strictly and tell everyone how great it is. After about six weeks, they start to feel temptation for those bad foods. Instead of falling off the waggon, they hit the internet, find a paleo version of something naughty, and set off to find the ingredients and make it. Having moved on from the clear and strict paleo guidelines, they find alternatives that allow them to have something naughty while stopping before they fall off the waggon. The options give them a new set of tools and new steps on their food journey.
Option two is where we ended up, it has been a journey of trial and error, I can admit that I have had some epic fails in the kitchen over the last few years, but I have stuck with it. My interest and enjoyment of being in the kitchen and cooking have meant that our family food journey has continued for the last three years, we have a homemade meal every night that is as clean as it can be, even the treats are healthy and sugar-free.
As I look around there seems to be a growing trend around real food, clean food, paleo meals, more people are taking the first step toward changing their lifestyle, and thanks to its current popularity, paleo is showing people the way. If you want to make a change you need to understand and recognise that to make Paleo work for you long term; it may need to be customised to suit your needs and fit into your life. Access to resources that offer alternatives are a must and can help equip you to make permanent changes to your life for the better.
To help you on your journey here are a few of the things that have helped me on mine
Remove temptation – once you have made the transition, take away the potential for temptation, throw away the sweets and snacks in the back of the cupboard, you know the ones I mean, you will not need them and having them around means you are more likely to fall off the waggon
Check menus online – before you eat out look at the menu online, if you know what is on offer you can decide if it is the right place to eat. I have found that checking the menu means I can choose a meal before we head out, this reduces my chances of getting something I know I shouldn’t.
Be prepared – snacks are your friend, taking snacks with you is a good plan and reduces the likelihood of that trip to the diary for a bag of chips or bar of chocolate.
Figure out what works for you – use paleo as a guide, if you cannot follow it exactly then don’t. Customise elements to best suit your needs, swap out things that don’t work for things that do.