Congratulations! You’ve taken your first steps towards clean eating!
The hardest part of any new adventure is knowing where to start.
Fortunately for you, I know firsthand how difficult getting started can be. For more information on how Messy Masterpiece started following a Paleo diet, check out the Messy Masterpiece Bio page. But before you go, let’s learn more about what “paleo” actually means.
What is the Paleo Diet
Essentially, the paleo diet is the nutrient dense diet of our ancestors. Otherwise known as primal, hunter gatherer, or the Wahl protocol, paleo focuses on feeding our bodies with God-created ingredients.
Think of it like a car. If you were to put diesel into a gasoline tank, would your car run? Maybe…for a short bit. However eventually, your car would start to have all sorts of problems because a gasoline vehicle is not meant to run on diesel.
Food can be represented in the same way. If we use the wrong fuel to run our bodies, we will not perform at optimum levels and eventually we will start to have health problems. Nutrient deficiencies, diabetes, thyroid disease, ADHD, and MS are just a few examples of health conditions that have shown improvement after following a clean eating diet, such as paleo.
To Eat, Or Not To Eat?
Now that you know a little bit about paleo, let’s dive deeper into what you can, and can not, eat.
- Processed Food
- Artificial Colors, Sweeteners, or Flavors
- Refined Vegetable Oils
If you’re like me, the “NO” list of paleo foods can appear daunting at first. The switch from a typical Western diet to paleo is a drastic one since most modern diets thrive off the “NO” list.
However, the most important thing to remember when starting out, is that the word “diet” is deceiving. The key to benefiting from eating paleo, is to adapt it as a “lifestyle” not a “diet” since diets are often temporary.
Remember, you’re trying to detox your body of chemicals and foods that are harming you. Then, fill up on all the good stuff that will boost your healthy and enable you to thrive.
- Starchy Vegetables
- Fruits (except berries)
- Sugar Alcohols
- Honey, Maple, or Other Natural Sweeteners
The foods on the limited list are technically paleo approved, but in larger quantities (or with certain health conditions) can still have ill effects on your body. I unfortunately learned this one the hard way.
I love to bake. So imagine my excitement when I discovered paleo friendly desserts that tasted just like the real deal. I went wild with joy!
After a few weeks, my body started acting up. My energy plummeted, I was bloated all the time, and I started gaining weight.
When I sat down to figure out what had changed, the answer was obvious. I was overdoing the splurges, even though they were technically allowed. Just goes to prove, “everything in moderation.”
- Fresh Meat
- Leafy Greens
- Nuts and Seeds
- Avocado or Olive Oils
As previously stated, the intention of the paleo diet is to revert back to the hunter gatherer diet our bodies were created for. This means fresh meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils are all good options. The less “human intervention”, the better
When I say “human intervention”, I mean food and food sources altered by GMO, artificial flavors, artificial sweeteners, artificial colorings, hormones, antibiotics, and much more.
These “interventions” started in the mid-late 1800s and have been rapidly evolving ever since. They are bad for your body function and terribly addicting! Because of this, eating clean can be quite the challenge.
Variations Of Paleo
The most confusing part of starting my paleo diet, was the wide range of information that’s out there. As it turns out, “paleo” is actually a vast term used to describe many things. Related terms you may hear are the Mediterranean diet, the autoimmune protocol (AIP), Wahls protocol, Keto, and the Atkins diet.
Keto, Atkins, and Mediterranean
If your goal is to eat low carb foods for weight loss, then of course starchy veggies are not your friend. The high carbs will break you out of ketosis and lower your energy. This diet is most commonly known as Keto.
he difference between Keto and Paleo is that Keto requires a very low carb count as well as allows dairy. Similarly, the Atkins and Mediterranean diets follow a low carb count, but allow certain grains. Since neither dairy, nor grains, are allowed in Paleo, these diets can be thought of more like cousins instead of siblings to Paleo.
Learn more about Keto, Atkins, and Mediterranean diets.
Wahl’s Protocol and AIP
The Wahls protocol and AIP diets are truly “paleo.” Both diets eliminate all the foods on the Paleo “NO” list as well as a few more. The focus of these diets is health. The goal is to pack your diet full of nutrients and eliminate any food or chemicals that cause inflammation or reactions in your body.
These diets are even stricter than paleo, as each diet has an elimination phase. This phase restricts you to a very short list of items for a designated period of time. The goal is to flush any inflammation or reactions out of your system before adding foods back in.
Once you start adding foods back in slowly, you will be able to track how your body feels and which foods are causing the most problems. This allows you to only eat the foods your body accepts and will improve, and potentially even reverse, certain disease symptoms.
Learn more about the Wahls protocol and AIP diet.
Which One Is Right For Me?
The bottom line is that you need to let your body lead the way. Knowing which foods agree with you and which foods cause you trouble is the most important step you can take. Keeping a food journal with a symptom tracker will make this process so much easier. Also, be sure to take the time to write down your goals. Knowing whether you are eating for weight loss or for disease improvement will help dictate which direction you need to go.
What Can I Expect When Starting Out?
The first few weeks of Paleo will be the hardest. During this time, your body may experience detox symptoms. For a lot of people, this can be discouraging because you are eating to feel better, not worse, right?
You might have increased headaches, bowel changes, and flu like symptoms. this period usually doesn’t last very long. Check out the article Dreaded Detox on Paleo Plan for more information about the detox period.
In addition to the physical adjustment period, there will be a financial adjustment period as well. You probably don’t have pantry shelves full of almond flour or arrowroot starch and your fridge may not be packed full of fresh meats and veggies either. Eating paleo is slightly more expensive then the modern Western diet, but the greatest expense will be in the early weeks as you transition and build up your supply.
My tip is to not go cold turkey and throw away all your existing food. Eat what you have so you’re not throwing all your money down the drain. Then, as you ease into your new lifestyle, start buying more paleo items each time you shop. This will help you not spend a fortune right away as well as allow your body time to acclimate better. Set a goal timeframe to be 100% Paleo and work your way towards it.
After your body, and finances, have acclimated, you can start to enjoy the benefits. You will have more energy, less cravings, better mood, sleep better, improved health condition symptoms, and lose inflammation and water weight. All your hard work will start paying off!
The Paleo diet can seem overwhelming at first. There will be a period of transition where you won’t have a pantry and fridge stocked with paleo ingredients.
You will also have to try several recipes before you know what you like and don’t like. I lived on meat and veggie hashes for the first six months because that is the only food I liked. It took a while, but eventually I started to adjust and enjoy a wider variety of foods. Give yourself grace and try some of my favorite Paleo recipes to get started.
Also remember, you are human. you will have cheat days and fails. In fact, between the recent holidays and the hustle bustle of everyday life, I’ve fallen off the wagon a time or two. It’s ok. Don’t give up. This is a long-term plan not a short-term solution. Pick yourself back up and get right back at it.
Start small. Go slow. It will get better. It IS worth it! You got this!