I first latched onto paleo by accident, last year. I was eating healthily, trying to shape up by only eating all natural things; a meat, fruit, veg, whole grains and the like, when whilst bored one night I stumbled across a how-to-guide for the paleo diet (diet in the "these are the things I put in my mouth", not the "lose weight by only eating lemongrass and drinking cod liver oil" sense of the word). It turned out I had been doing most of it already, and had been seeing some reasonable results. There were a few areas I could tighten up to be strictly paleo though. So, thinking "in for a penny, in for a pound", I made the changes, and started seeing accelerated progress in both my fat loss and muscle gain. Other notable effects were better sleep, more energy, and a less bloated appearance.
Making the switch from the standard western diet to paleo can, however, give you a couple of withdrawal symptoms initially. In personal experience, this mainly stems from dropping fructose (sugar). Fructose is currently on a par with sex offenders with regards to reputation. If you're a sex offender; no that doesn't mean you guys are making a comeback. Fructose is just that vilified. The withdrawal symptoms range from just feeling a bit fuzzy and lethargic, to headaches and nausea. This persists for between 24 and 72 hours. I tend to get a headache which persists for about 36 hours. After this period however, I feel far better than I did before. I notice a big drop in cravings, irritability due to hunger (hangriness), and a general elevation of mood.
When starting out with paleo for the first time, it's easy to get the feeling that your choices are extremely limited. They're not. Your choices are simply different to what you previously went for. There are thousands of great paleo food blogs and recipe databases on the web, which show how delicious it really is. You'll find yourself asking the question "is it paleo" a lot too. Assuming you've read up a bit on paleo before starting, most of these questions can be answered yourself. If it's a grey area, you can either go for it, and see if it affects your body at all (after all, that's why you're doing it), or pop it into google quickly. Many also recommend the app "Paleo.io", available for about a dollar on the App Store and Google Play.
Now, this post was intended to detail what happens when I switch from the western diet to paleo, but it would be remiss not to include a short summary of how to be a good little troglodyte:
- Eat whole, unprocessed, nutrient rich foods.
- Prioritise grass fed meats, organic eggs, and wild-caught seafood
- Eat vegetables. A lot of vegetables. Imagine you're a vegetarian, make a meal, and then add meat.
- Enjoy fruit, nuts, and seeds as an occasional snack. Berries are low sugar and high in good stuff, and flavour!
- Listen to your body over everything else. I'm just a chubby guy sat in front of a laptop. You know you better.
- Eat foods that will cause inflammation, screw up your guts, or change your body working how it should.
- Consume foods like grains, sugar, most legumes etc. Trust me, you'll feel better and your body will thank you.
- Get all righteous and chew people's ears off if they don't follow the same dietary approach.
Some of you hawk eyed people will have noticed I haven't included dairy in either the Dos or the Don'ts. Dairy is something that is based on the individual. Try cutting it out for a couple of weeks, and then reintroduce it gradually, seeing how your body reacts to it. Prioritize full-fat, grass fed, fermented & organic dairy products. Even when I'm being unhealthy, I do rather like using unsweetened almond milk as opposed to regular milk. Try it out.
nomnompaleo's Michelle Tam has a great 101 guide that I can recommend here.
UPDATE: For a list of good paleo foods, and intake recommendations, check out the paleogrubs.com guide here
All the best,