It’s that time of year! It’s so predictable. Americans have officially established a final holiday tradition–and it seems participation is almost obligatory. To close out the season, we vow to clean up the diet as soon as that ball drops. It’s become faddish–especially in the functional fitness community–to regularly schedule a “Whole 30″ or a no-cheats paleo/primal eating challenge.
The jumping-off point can be a place of dread or anticipation. Take heart! Hitting the reset-button will be easier by establishing a new frame of mind. The rewards of a clean diet are worth the trouble.
Our 10 tips for pulling off a successful paleo or primal eating challenge:
1. Stay calm. It’s not that hard. Don’t focus on restricted foods, and don’t think about weight loss. This is not about weight loss alone. Remember the objectives: reset sugar sensitivity, establish true hunger signals, and achieve optimal nourishment for overall wellness. Do some research, start with the “why”, and solidify personal goals.
2. Be thankful. Isn’t it wonderful to have the ability to enjoy so many clean food options? We live in a time where we have access to any fresh food we desire–there is no lack of variety. This is a time to get creative, a little adventurous, and have fun with it.
3. Get some Tylenol…especially if this is your first time. Don’t try to do the cold turkey thing without ammunition! My first 30-day challenge was…well, challenging. I was shocked to have withdrawal detox headaches for the first week while my body readjusted to a normal, balanced, carb/protein/fat ratio. I was THAT hooked on sugar–to the point that I experienced physical pain. Ridiculous.
4. Minimize the coffee habit. Grazing on coffee all day (even black) has been shown to keep blood sugar elevated, thereby throwing off true hunger signals. Allow good food to do its work by energizing and replenishing the body. Afraid of residual headaches? See #3. Can’t give it up? Opt for decaf past noon. The aroma of coffee brewing is energizing in itself.
5. Be prepared. This will be extra work. Real food is not prepared or processed in advance. Be smart about prepping ahead: chop all your veggies for the week, portion things out ahead of time, and have portable snacks readily available. The freezer is the new pantry. It is possible to grab-and-go, and still eat clean.
6. Double batch everything. It is so convenient to have food on-hand for later. Whenever it’s time to get out the knives and food processors and pots and pans, go ahead and double it up. Freeze a whole batch for a dinner next week, or portion out servings for breakfasts and lunches. Don’t be afraid of leftover curry chicken for breakfast! This will help you out of the “eggs again” rut and keep you from resorting to old cereal habits.
7. Keep it simple. Pick a few tried-and-true recipes, and stick to those. Heck, there is nothing wrong with cycling through a set selection over the course of the month. I could eat these 7 over and over, and really not feel bored: Butter Chicken, Pastelon (over sweet potatoes), Lamb Meatballs, Kheema, Fresh Roast Chicken, Pulled Pork, Paleo Pad Thai. These are fast, flavorful, and they go far.
8. Don’t go hungry. It’s the fastest route to discouragement…and forgetting the point. No one feels stronger, faster or more motivated after eating a 3 oz steamed chicken breast and a cup of broccoli. Eat healthy fat at every meal/snack for true satiety: avocado, nut butters, coconut, plenty of healthy oils…every time. It’s all about balance.
9. Sugar doesn’t love you back. Don’t lament it that much. Good food works to improve health: to replenish, rebuild, and repair. Crummy, glucose-spiking food works in the opposite manner, and the body must work hard (on the cellular, hormonal level) to compensate for the toll it takes on us. Put a stake in the ground and don’t look back.
10. Relationships are more important than food. (Romans 14.)
Bonne Santé! We hope 2014 overflows with refreshing times, laughter, and a renewed resolve to work hard in all areas of life!
Leigh and Heather