My Paleo Experiment Comes To End…Or Does It?

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Today I end my Paleo Challenge, but in reality, I've pretty much ate that way for the last two years.

Today I end my Paleo Challenge, but in reality, I’ve pretty much ate that way for the last two years.

Today marks the end of my Paleo Challenge. While the first couple of weeks were bumpy (not because of the paleo diet!) I think I finished strong. I also learned that paleo really isn’t that different from my normal diet. This week, I ate what I regularly eat and it was consistent with paleo. Hmmm… maybe this isn’t the end.

Here are some random thoughts on this little challenge.

I pretty much do a paleo diet anyway.
Despite my frustrations with food costs and some early cravings, it was relatively easy to transition to paleo after going low carb two years ago. I made just a handful of changes this month  — like cooking with ghee and coconut oil – which I plan to keep doing after the challenge ends today.

Yes, you can eat tubers and stay low carb!
When starting paleo, I couldn’t come to grips with my love of tubers — sweet potatoes, potatoes, yams, and turnips.  I’ve completely cut them out of my diet for the last couple of years. The sugar and carb count are simply too high. It wasn’t easy because I had to deal with conflicting paradigms: I wasn’t eating tubers (low carb paradigm), and yet my trainer told me to eat sweet potatoes on my weight lifting days (calorie burning exercise paradigm). She reasoned, correctly, that carbs offer great energy for my body. I followed her advice, just once, and felt guilty. It felt so decadent to eat that sweet, creamy goodness.

This month, I ate more sweet potatoes than I can remember eating in such a short amount of time. For the first couple of weeks I think I overdid it on the tuber front. Going forward, I’ll keep them in my diet, but eat them in moderation – just a few times a month.

Despite what Paleo experts say, continue to track your food.
Because weight loss is my goal, not tracking on paleo was problematic (most sites tell you there’s no need to track).

I decided to do a little test. For 3 days during the week I didn’t plug my food into My Fitness Pal or track my PointsPlus. I still wrote down what I ate (tracking without numbers).  Then I tracked for 3 days. On days I didn’t know the numbers, I ate closer to 100g of carbs a day. On tracked days, I ate between 20-75g.

I still ate healthy on paleo, tracking or no tracking. But I think I made better choices on days when I tracked. When tracking, I was much more mindful of what I’m eating (choosing roasted veggies over yams, for example), and I tended to go for more greens.  On my “non-tracking” days, I reached for natural foods with lots of sugars and starches (tubers, carrots, onions) or snacked more on nuts and seeds.  None of those are bad choices, eaten in moderation. But moderation didn’t happen without tracking.

Beware of nuts and seeds.
Almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts are the devil!

Actually, having them in the house in large quantities turned into a problem for me. They were just too easy to get into. Yes, I kept to my 2 snacks a day plan. But instead of including fruits or veggies, there were days where this unholy trio was the only thing I snacked on.  For steady, low carb weight loss, we really do need to limit them. I did that this week, so we’ll see if it makes a difference when I weight in on Saturday.

Skip the high cost foods.
This really messed with me for the first couple of weeks. Grass-fed, free-range, wild caught, organic – all words that mean expensive as hell. I’ve come across too many paleo sites with the purist attitude: “If you don’t eat clean, you’re not doing paleo.” Hogwash! A regular, $1.99/lbs. boneless chicken breast is just fine until you hit the lottery.

Best advice for starting paleo!
Unfortunately, I only discovered Authority Nutrition about 2 weeks into my paleo challenge. They have the best paleo outline I’ve found.  They understand forcing paleo purity on newbs doesn’t work. They do a great job at keeping it simple. It’s now a go-to site when I have questions about my low carb lifestyle.

Final weight loss on paleo:
I walked into paleo thinking it would be an easy transition because I’m already low carb. And it was. But I needed better planning up front. I loved the recipes in The Paleo Primer, and I plan to make more of those recipes going forward.  But I overdid it, as I often do when I try something new.  I didn’t just make one or two recipes in a week. How about 8 or 10?

Yeah, I overdid it. I think the combo of meals I made — many of them sweeter than I’m used to cooking — triggered serious cravings. See what happens when you don’t plan?

On February 1, I weighed 223 pounds. While I won’t know my final weight loss for the month until tomorrow, as of today I weigh 222.8. That’s a 0.2-pound loss.

In January, pre-paleo challenge, I’d lost 17.2 pounds.

To someone only looking at numbers on the scale, they might think my challenge failed miserably. I don’t see it that way.

My lack of planning up front and my craving for foods I’d previously banned slowed my weight loss. It wasn’t the paleo diet. It was me. The truth is, I was essentially eating paleo in January — minus February’s tubers and massive amount of nuts.

I think I began the challenge when my head wasn’t in the game. I’d just crossed the century mark in my weight loss, and I’d drastically cut back my exercise due to injury.  I really needed to take time to think about my next set of goals and enjoy a big victory. Instead, I jumped right into a Paleo Challenge. And so, unconsciously, my mind decided to disengage for a while.

Normally when I start a challenge, I plan it out, look for ways to improve what I’m doing and just have fun with it. This time around, it felt like more of a chore – at least for the first couple of weeks. There were things I knew I was doing wrong, but I didn’t correct myself. Clearly I’d checked out.

Usually when I have these mental breaks, exercise helps me to refocus. Talk about a perfect storm! I take a mental break while my exercise is severely restricted. My first two weeks of paleo had no chance.

Well, my head’s back in the game. And I plan to mix in the things I liked from this challenge into my ongoing weight loss journey.  Weight loss isn’t a straight line, and nutrition science is far from perfect. The best I can do is figure out what works best for me and keep moving forward.

4 thoughts on “My Paleo Experiment Comes To End…Or Does It?

  1. Well done for getting your head back in the weight loss mindset – I’m reassured to see that I’m not the only one who’s been struggling on this front over the last couple of weeks. I’m going to try to absorb some of your positivity and motivation 🙂

  2. Pingback: Weekly Weigh-In: Down 3.4 Pounds | Dot to Trot

  3. I absolutely love that MyPlate picture – Hilarious!

    Congrats on making it through paleo and getting something out of it. Kind of cool that you were already mostly doing it previously.

    Agreed about sunflower seeds – I have a hard time stopping eating them but they are just so good! Not exactly related, but have you tried the kind covered in chocolate/candy coating? Crazy addictive.

    Pistachios are my fav. 🙂

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