Step-by-step guide to get started on the Paleo diet
Ready? Follow these simple and easy steps to get started on the Paleo diet. Some people just dive right in but proper preparation can help you be more successful with your 4-week Paleo challenge.
The preparation mode highlights the steps necessary to set you up for success; the action mode explains how to stay focused; and the evaluation mode helps you assess your progress and decide what you want to do after your 28-day Paleo challenge.
1. Set a start date
2. Find support
- Decide if you want to get started tomorrow, next weekend or at the beginning of next month… but don’t wait too long or your motivation might go down…!
- Download this calendar and add the date you intend to get started!
3. Take a good before picture
- Would a friend, spouse, family member or colleague be willing to join you on your Paleo challenge so you can support each other?
- If there isn’t anyone in your entourage, you can find support on various online communities, from a health coach or from the Paleo dietitian. (my services)
4. Get familiar with the Paleo diet5. Clean your kitchen
- Take a picture of yourself, ideally wearing as little clothes as possible, to have something to compare yourself to after your 28-day Paleo challenge.
- Take your initial body measurements and weigh yourself.
- Consult your doctor for approval and have a full blood work done (blood sugars, TG, HDL, LDL particle size, CRP, blood pressure...).
- Write down your current health problems and symptoms (fatigue, bloating, depression) to get a full before picture of where you are starting at. Use this downloadable PDF questionnaire (p.2) to make things easier.
- Get rid of all non-Paleo food. If you don’t like the idea of wasting food, give it to charitable organizations, friends, family members or colleagues… but think about it! Do you really want to give unhealthy foods to your loved ones?
- Don’t feel bad about throwing away these food, you’re starting on a new path!
- Another option is to pack all of these foods in a big box, secure it with plenty of adhesive tape and put in a difficult-to-reach location for the duration of yoru challenge!
1. Stock up on healthy Paleo food
2. Keep track and stay accountable3. Hide the scale!
- Go grocery shopping, visit the farmers market or join a CSA program!
- Bring the Paleo food list with you to remember what foods you should stock up on.
4. Stick to your plan for 4 weeks!Evaluation mode
- Seriously! Hide it well enough that you are not tempted to step on it during the whole 28 days your Paleo challenge lasts. The weight on the scale doesn’t tell the whole story and big changes that can’t be measured on the scale may be happening inside your body. Be patient!
- Focus on how you feel. Keep track of your energy levels, mood and symptoms in your journal.
1. It is time for your after picture!
2. Do a food challenge (optional)
- Put on the same clothes you had on for your before picture and compare!
- Take your body measurements and weight yourself if you wish to do so.
- Go to the doctor again to have another blood work done to compare your results!
- Complete the post-Paleo challenge health questionnaire (p.2) and compare with what you had written down 4 weeks ago.
3. What’s next?
- If you are not sure whether the Paleo diet really “did” something, you can try a food challenge. Eliminating grains, legumes, sugar, dairy and high omega-6 processed foods for 28 days is like pushing the “reset” button of your body. The Paleo dietitian can help you figure out what went wrong. (my services)
- If you wish to do so, reintroduce grains, dairy or other non-Paleo foods back into your diet. Be careful! Introduce these foods only 1 at a time and allow at least 3 to 4 days before your different non-Paleo food trials.
- Keep a journal to note any symptoms and help you decide whether or not your body can handle these foods.
- Assess whether the Paleo challenged helped you get healthier, maintain your current health status or get worse:
- If things got worse, ask yourself some questions? Were you serious enough when doing your Paleo challenge? Did you cheat once in a while? Or maybe you did your best, but some of the foods you ate contained ingredients you should have avoided? For example, most sausages contain gluten. Read labels carefully! A little bit of grain, gluten or dairy here and there, if you are sensitive to these foods, can hinder your progress. If you swear you did everything right, maybe you did not include enough fats in your diet? Or not enough carbs from tubers and fruits? The Paleo diet is not a one-size-fits-all approach and it needs to be tweaked. Ask the Paleo dietitan for help.
- If things stayed the same and you haven’t noticed any improvements, it may just mean that your body needs a bit more time. After all, it took you many years to get you where you are and it may take more than 1 month to undo the damages. You can either stick to the plan a bit longer or try doing food challenges (see step 2 above) to confirm whether or not you really tolerate non-Paleo foods. If you can tolerate these foods, lucky you! However, most people that thought the Paleo diet was not “working” for them find that their health is not the same once they reintroduced grains, gluten, soy, peanut or sugar. See for yourself.
More info from the Paleo dietitian:
- If things improved, both in the way you feel and the way you look, why not stick to the plan knowing that it works well for you? You can tweak your diet by following an elimination/provocation protocol (more to come about this).
- Share your results by signing up for the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry (an international assembly of people who have tried a carbohydrate-restricted or paleo diet to lose weight or improve their health)
- Repeat if necessary! Whenever you feel like sugar, grains or other non-Paleo foods are making their way back into your diet or that your health is declining, just do another 4-week Paleo challenge to get back on track! If it worked the first time, it will work again!
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