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Transitioning To A Paleo Diet

Learn some of the common pitfalls of transitioning to a Paleo diet.


Common Issues Transitioning To Paleo

Imagine this: You stop eating all food that comes in a package... you cook/prepare all your meals at home...  you buy fresh ingredients at the farmer's market and grocery store in your area.

Then you eat those ingredients at home after preparing them over 2 or 3 meals each day. You avoid all restaurant food. All snacks. All soda. All alcohol. All grains. 

How do you think you'd feel?

Pretty good, right?

Well, that might not be the case... initially, at least.

Food is a drug, and like any drug, there is a hormonal responses in your body when you ingest it.

If you stop eating the foods you regularly eat, your body might respond with a kind of "detox." This detox is your body dealing with the absence of the food—and their carbs, proteins, and fats—it's used to getting.

Since each person is different, each body is going to respond differently to the removal of certain foods.

Typically, the worse your diet is, the harder your body is going to take it when you cut out the sugars and grains and other inflammatory foods your body is used to getting.

That being said, most of us have at least one not-so-healthy food addiction. Maybe for you it's binging on Ben and Jerry's every weekend. Or maybe you love those huge sugar-filled Frappes at Starbucks. If you are like me, you might eat wayyyy too much dark chocolate. And so on.

Whatever it is, the chemical components of these foods that keep you coming back for more are the ones that are going to kick your beeeehind when you try to cut them out of your diet.

(Scientists suggest that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Yelp.)

Food is a drug. Plain and simple.

When you eat food, you trigger a hormonal response in your body, just like when you pop a pill.

Thinking of food as a drug is a great way to start thinking about your food. Then, hopefully, you can start seeing your food habits for what they are; obsessive, addictive, neurotic, guilt and shame-inducing, habitual, and so on.

So, what happens when a hard drug addict goes cold turkey? 


And for the hardest addicts, withdrawal can kill.

Of course, quitting junk food cold turkey isn't going to kill you, but it will produce withdrawal-like effects that you need to be prepared for if you want to win the battle against your body.

Here are a few of the common things you'll face when moving from junk food to a clean Real Food diet.

#1 A lack of Those quick spikes of energy from carbs

If you eat a lot of carbohydrates, your going to have higher-than-average blood glucose and insulin levels, both of which perpetuate snacking and eating more carbohydrates.

This chronic snacking combined with your chronically elevated blood sugar levels become a state your body is used to. So when you try to go without eating carbs or without snacking for any extended period of time, you're body is likely to respond by feeling nauseous, tired and cranky.

This carb-fueled state is sometimes referred to as a carb-burning metabolism.

When you move to a lower carb, higher fat diet, your metabolism switches from a carb-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism.

After awhile, you develop a fat-adapted metabolism. 

This transition is often the hardest part of transitioning to a Real Food eating style.

If you are a heavy carb eater and/or a snacker, this process is going to be extra difficult for you because your body is used to the constant supply of food and the carbs.

When you move from more frequent eating to less frequent eating, or from more carbs to less carbs, you're almost always going to feel crappy for a few days, maybe even a week or two. That's the bad news.

The good news is, it will pass if you ride it out.

Then, when you break the snack/carb cycle, you'll feel better and get better results all around—and if weight loss if your goal, you'll be on your way to burning off the fat.

You will no longer be a slave to food; you'll be able to skip meals when you want, and you'll rarely get the same kind of nagging hunger you used to.

It can be life-changing.

A tip: When you start feeling your body craving some carbs/calories, eat protein or fat instead.

fat is not bad for you

#2 Not eating enough fat - being scared of eating healthy fat

This one's especially hard for people that have tried following conventional nutrition advice... especially the "low fat" kind of advice.

Even though there is now mountains of research dispelling the "lipid hypothesis" myth, the mainstream media—and the masses—have yet to catch up (big surprise).

What you have to do is this: You have to replace carbs with clean fat.

Plain and simple.

If you don't, you will fall victim to #1 on this list.

You also might run the risk of under-consuming calories, which is not a healthy and sustainable way of losing weight.

The best way to eat more fat is to add healthy fat to each meal. Treat fat like a side dish the same way you treat your veggies.

Here are some of my favorite side fat sources:

  • Coconut in all forms - I especially like coconut flesh
  • Melted pastured butter
  • Nut/Seed butters - Be careful with these though as they are high in omega-6s
  • Olive oil
  • Wild MCT oil
  • Raw or Wild Sweet Nibs

#3 Feeling the need to be perfect, then slipping, and going in the opposite direction. 

This one is psychological. And if you are cognizant of this trap, you'll be better prepared to deal with it when it sneaks up on you.

The first law of food and nutrition is this: you aren't going to be perfect... no one is perfect... and being perfect isn't the point.

When you slip on your plan and give in to those cookies or ice cream or bagels or whatever awesome food you love that isn't good for you, accept the mistake and focus your energy on the next thing you are going to do to get back on track, like going for a walk or making sure that your next meal is on point.

It's really as simple as that. (And as hard.)

Don't fall into the negative spiral thinking that people do when they start making excuses for themselves, like "I'll start tomorrow," or  "Today is already shot, so I might as well go all in."

That's the kind of thinking that'll keep you eating crap the rest of your life.

Don't lie to yourself. Be honest and do what it takes. 

#4 Not giving it time and letting it take its course.

Following a new eating plan is a process, and often a difficult one because we are creatures of habit and our bodies are used to doing what it usually does.

Your body is a pro at maintaining the status quo. The thing is, your job in the health and fitness game is breaking the status quo.

Breaking habits are a mental and physical battle.

Your mind is going to crave the "reward" you get when you give in to temptation, and so is your body.

In fact, for some, breaking food habits is the hardest thing they'll ever do.

No wonder so few people do it...

Listen, I've been doing a Real Food Paleo style diet for years now and I still screw up on a regular basis. Some weeks, I eat out more than I should. Other weeks I might eat well but my sweet tooth seems to be getting the upper hand and so I'm downing dark chocolate bars like nobody's business.

So what do I do? Should I get angry at myself? Should I scold and punish myself?

Nada. That doesn't work.

Instead of wallowing over a thing I can't change (the past), I view my "slacking" as a sign I need to correct my course and get back to my plan.

So I do. Then each passing day, week, month and year, my habits will slowly deteriorate until i get to the point of reset again. And each time I'm getting a bit better and pushing the reset back a bit longer.

What it comes down to is this: No matter where you are at on your health journey, you're going to go through ups and downs. And the key to survive this treacherous journey is to be patient and focus on the next step.

If you are just starting out, give your body and mind the extra time and leeway it needs to adjust. Respect the process. Understand it's not about perfection, it's about progress.

And most important of all, don't expect quick results!

I've seen some clients go months before losing a single pound even after completely changing their lifestyle.

On a final note, never compare yourself to others. Your results are never going to be the same as anyone else's. Your only competition is your self.

To Sum Up

Transitioning to a Paleo diet takes time, patience and a ton of trial and error.

Avoid the many traps by focusing on the next step instead of obsessing over the last step.

colin stuckert CEO Wild Foods