I know, so many people hear or read the word paleo and just think of some overly beefed up caveman-esque dude or chick who's obsessed with crossfit, and eats raw meat & sweet potatoes all day. Or some of you might just think of Tarzan (ahem Davina! haha). While it's true that Tarzan WAS in fact paleo (or so we can assume) and many people who eat and follow Paleo are pretty fit and HOT, that mold doesn't exaclty apply to everyone in the world of paleo.
Paleo has gotten so much mixed press over the years and there is honestly so much misinformation out there about it! Whether you're reading this just to learn more about Paleo or you're thinking of transitioning over to following paleo, my biggest recommendation is that you go into this with an open mind! And if you're planning to transition to a paleo lifestyle, or even if you're just kind of interested in paleo as a 30 day challenge, then I recommend you start by following some of the amazing people in the paleo community to get some foodie inspo and see just HOW doable it is to eat paleo on a daily basis! Plus follow me of course - thepaleoballerina - Some of my recommendations of accounts to follow on IG/FB and their blogs are listed below at the end of this post!
And yes, it really is a "Paleo community"! my brother always laughs at me when I say "paleo community" like it's a cult following or something. Don't get me wrong, some people take the whole thing WAY too far IMO but seriously for the most part it's just a bunch of people who believe that when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle choices, Paleo is the way to go!
When I first heard about paleo my response was "I could never do that. That sounds literally impossible and crazy. Like what the hell do you eat if you're not eating GRAINS? Only meat and veggies? I love eating a lot of meat, but that sounds impossible, plus I don't want to give up my bread and pasta". But I kept it in my mind because there was this whole thing about eating as much meat as I wanted to, and I liked that.
About 6 months prior I had done the master cleanse and realized that there was a connection between my skin issues and the food I was eating. I had already given up my precious dairy after that first round of the master cleanse so I wasn't eating cheese, or creamy sauces, or ice cream, or any of the things I held so dear. I never even thought I could survive without CHEESE or ice cream. Now I was supposed to think about giving up BREAD AND PASTA also!? BLASPHEMY!
But I did another round of the master cleanse and during an evening that I was particularly hungry while cleansing, I started writing out menus for when I could eat again and I decided to look into this whole paleo madness. My first search pulled up Elana's Pantry and a recipe for paleo banana bread and regular paleo bread, both made with almond flour. SAY WHAT!? Almond flour is a thing? That's bread!? I can eat bread on this paleo thing!? Maybe I can do this after all, I'm going to give it a try! Once I realized that I could make healthy paleo versions of the foods I loved and didn't want to part with I was sold. Easiest "diet" ever! That was in August of 2013 and I have been paleo ever since!
Now there are about a million different shades of paleo. I honeslty think that's why I love it so much and why it's become a sustainable way to eat for me while maintaining optimal health.
on paper the "rules" of paleo sound strict, but nutrition including paleo is NOT a one size fits all model so it's important to individualize your eating plan.
There are some people who take the rigidity too far, and there also is a real benefit to strictly following the "rules" for periods at a time - like a Whole 30. But more on that later.
Now all of the above is not to say that you wouldn't benefit from a super strict 100% paleo or Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) lifestyle, because absolutely anyone would benefit from it. But, for the average person living in the age of twitter, snapchat, and reality TV, eating 100% strict paleo 24/7 is virtually impossible, and for most there is really just no reason to sacrifice their happiness for stress of eating so strictly. But again if you're managing or healing a condition (like acne, pcos, psoriasis, diabetes, migraines, etc etc) then it might be not only beneficial to follow the rules rigidly, it might be almost necessary.
However way you spin it though Paleo is not meant to be dogmatic and it is not meant to control your life. EVER. It's about finding a way to make paleo work for YOU and your unique life. I really like to concentrate more on the individual when it comes to diet, and most importantly just eating REAL FOOD. Processed crap is just never acceptable. It's one thing to decide to have some raw organic cheese on occasion, or some sushi, it's another entirely to randomly chow down on a sleeve Oreos or a Big Mac! It's important to understand the WHY's behind each paleo "rule" and to learn the big difference between eating the cheese, or eating the Oreos... Always weigh the pros and cons relative to you in your own life, but be smart about it. If not eating those Oreos is going to send your life into a tailspin where you're stressed and can't sleep, and obsessing, and going into that disordered eating mindset, then by all means, eat the damn Oreos.
I WOULD like to say though - please at least choose GLUTEN FREE OREOS! I only say this because gluten is a bitch and the effects of a gluten exposure can last for MONTHS. Like literally those damn gluten proteins can linger in there for 4 months after the fact. That's why for ME I will def have some froyo, GF or paleo cookies, rice, or cheese here and there, BUT if I have gluten it is always 100% BY ACCIDENT - we call this getting "glutened" and it's no fun.
Regardless, the extra stress of avoiding those GF Oreos is not worth it. Stress wreaks HAVOC on your hormones and those bad boys regulate how you store fat, your fertility, your mood and personality, and so much more! Just remember, this is meant to be a long term sustainable way to LIVE. Hence it being a paleo LIFESTYLE! It spans much further beyond just the food you put into your mouth. It is about choosing to live your life differently. Not some short term crash diet. Now that I've hopefully cleared up some of the common misconceptions and assumptions you may have had about paleo, I want to mention that with a focus on eating REAL FOOD there is an opportunity to really truly heal yourself naturally from the inside out.
Depending on what your background is, or the biggest challenge that you're working to overcome by transitioning to paleo, I typically recommend trying a Paleo Whole 30, AIP Whole 30, or just 30 days of strict paleo as an elimination diet to see how your body responds. With time you'll learn to listen to your body and know what you can and cannot tolerate. If you're not trying to "heal" anything specific then you can do a more moderate transition where you substitute foods you're already eating with paleo versions like paleo breads, paleo ice creams, etc. I'd like to mention that you can't heal years of damage in 30 days, but it's a great starting point to move forward from! For those of you who are new to paleo, let me do some basic explaining.
There are a lot of AMAZING experts on these subjects and I would never attempt to live up to their standards of explination, but consider this the "Paleo for Dummies" or Spark Notes version of the Paleo lifestyle!
SO, WHAT IS THIS PALEO THING?
Paleo (pay-lee-oh) refers to the Paleolithic era and the age of our cavemen ancestors who were hunters and gatherers. Some refer to it as the caveman diet, primal diet, or an ancestral diet. Essentially the idea behind it is that our bodies evolved to digest the foods we were eating as hunter gatherers, before the agricultural revolution, and did not evolve to eat the shit that we do on the SAD (Standard American Diet).
Now that's great and all but again we ARE living in a modern world where McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell are on every corner and being healthy is considered picky, annoying, and unnecessary. Life just isn't as simple as it once was. But that doesn't mean that we can't learn and take a hint from our ancestors! Here is a super simplified version of what NOT to eat while following paleo:
Standard Paleo no no's:
- Dairy ( ice cream, cheese-including raw, yogurt, sour cream, froyo, milk etc)
- Grains (wheat, barley, spelt, buckwheat, quinoa, rice, amaranth etc)
- Legumes (chickpeas, peas, peanuts, beans - all varieties except green beans- etc)
- Soy (soy lecithin, soy milk, tofu, soybean oil, soy sauce, edamame, etc)
- Sugar (especially processed white or brown sugar)
- Fillers & Additives (any ingredient you can't pronounce or don't know what it is)
- Processed Foods (fast foods, cookies, crackers, anything "instant" etc)
- Damaged fats/oils (sunflower seed oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil, safflower oil etc)Click HERE for my favorite guide on oils! Print it and put it up in your kitchen!
AIP (Autoimmune Protocol for those with autoimmune conditions) Paleo no no's in addition to the list above:
- Eggs (specifically egg whites)
- Nuts & Seeds (sunbutter, almond butter, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, etc)
- Nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, all varieties of peppers, eggplant etc)
- Alcohol (especially gluten containing alcohol like beer and drinks that are high in sugar)
Okay so those lists look a little intense I know, so let me show you what you CAN eat!
Also to take a closer look into the madness behind the government regulated food pyramid, read this awesome article HERE all about the BS that is fed to us about how we "should" eat!
SO this is really where the fun part begins and that's customizing this to fit you and your needs. Yes there is a huge list of foods that we come in contact with on a daily basis that we are NOT supposed to eat, but hey everyone's body works differently! SO after a 30 day elimination diet, you can start trying to introduce foods back into your diet and pay close attention to any detail big or small that happens within your body. You must eat that ONE food item at all three meals for at least one day. Did you get gassy? Did you get any pimples? Maybe you instantly felt a little yucky after eating that egg? These are all pretty good signs that whatever you reintroduced did not agree with your body! There's more to this but this here post is not the time or the place!
Now there's also the fact that your bodies are changing. As we eat for optimum health and heal our guts and hormones, a lot of times we can successfully reintroduce foods that we couldn't even imagine tolerating before! But this is also not always the case. For instance, I know that cannot tolerate dairy. But I do sometimes indulge with organic raw dairy or some ice cream, but I do so knowing it will lead to a breakout of some sort. I must admit though at this point if I just have a little dairy I don't always break out. The LONGER you follow this healthy lifestyle the more you body heals and becomes resilient! Also some people tolerate dairy just fine, so if it works for you then by all means, reintroduce it and keep healthy versions of it present in your diet! Again - QUALITY matters here!
While I can't tolerate industrial seed oils AT ALL, and mostly can't tolerate dairy or soy without some sort of reaction, I CAN tolerate some legumes like peas, and peanuts on occasion (though they make me bloat and give me gas if I eat too much) and I tolerate gluten free grains like rice just fine. However, I don't go out of my way to eat them. I do drink a Vegan gluten free superfood protein shake called Shakeology every day that sources it's protein from gluten free grains like rice, amaranth, pea, and quinoa, and my body loves it, I have had no issues whatsoever!! Quite the opposite in fact! I can even tolerate whey protein now without breaking out which is awesome! Hellooo cafe latte flavor!
Besides my shakeo, I don't consume gluten free grains unless I'm going out for a treat of sushi, the super occasional gluten free bread or bun, or a gluten free treat! Again, not things that should be eaten daily, but in moderation they are a-okay and for me my body does just fine with them. It has taken me a long time to figure out what I can and cannot tolerate, and honestly I'm still figuring it out! I experiment with new things and I have my own gray areas when it comes to AIP, because my body responds so well when I follow it, but I find it to be too restrictive for me to do consistently.
But I do mostly avoid nightshades, I try to extremely limit my nut and seed intake, and I go through periods of egg elimination as well. It's all about balance and paying close attention to what your body is telling you. The fine tuning comes in time, you just have to decide, and commit to taking that first step to get the ball rolling!
I do want to mention that eating something gluten free does NOT mean it's healthy! So many gluten free products on the shelves these days have so many gross ingredients in them that I pick it up and start to read it, then I almost instantly put it back down. Get in the habit of reading the ingredients of everything you eat. Know what you're putting into your body and don't leave it to chance! Of course concentrate on getting real, whole foods into every single meal, but almost everything comes in a package with a label these days, so don't be fooled by labels and false advertisements! Always always always read the ingredients for yourself!
It's so important to educate yourself on pesky hidden ingredients and especially always watch out for things like sugar, and damaged oils in packaged foods! Plus my biggest rule of thumb: if you can't pronounce it then don't eat it! Also follow me on social media, I post about my fav clean, healthy, paleo friendly brands and products all the time!
Speaking of following....
Now on to my favorite people in paleo without whom I would literally have none of the knowledge or experience that I have today! For direct links to my favorite paleo products please refer to my Products page!
Diane Sanfilippo - My favorite and practical resource for ALL things paleo and also awesome motivation and business tips! I linked two of her books on my resources page (Practical Paleo, and 21 Day Sugar Detox) that are game changers, and if you're into podcasts she has TWO amazing ones, The Balanced Bites Podcast that she co-hosts with Liz Wolfe (listed below) and also the Build a Badass Business Podcast! Plus amazing recipes
Liz Wolfe aka Real Food Liz - This woman has taught me almost everything I know about natural skincare and she's made me laugh in the process! I secretly wish that I was her, or I would settle for being her best friend! Her Purely Primal Skincare Guide made me believe that I could heal myself naturally and I learned so much from that ebook! I also linked her book Eat the Yolks on my resource page, it's another must read for paleo and laughs!
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom - Author of The Paleo Approach (linked on the resource page) she is the AIP queen! I have learned SO MUCH about the science and WHY's behind what our bodies do and everything paleo. She explains everything in a tangible manor and has written amazing blog posts on the importance of sleep, exercise, and just the real nitty gritty stuff when it comes to the lifestyle side of paleo and especially AIP. So much amazing knowledge and info here! When I teach people about paleo I honestly link to her website the most often!
Robb Wolf - Yet another paleo guru who has and shares so much knowledge on his site!
Chris Kresser - Also like Robb and everyone else mentioned above, a total real food guru and he has an awesome podcast called Revolution Health Radio.
There are a ton more out there, and honestly too many for me to write descriptions for at the present moment. I will try to update this with more detailed information at a later date!
Still feeling overwhelmed or confused? I can help!
I do take 1:1 coaching clients if you're looking to work with a mentor and want a fully customized plan created just for you! You are 90% more likely to succeed with a coach or mentor by your side instead of trying to do it alone! I have created a program that is going to help you find that missing link and get your health back on track! If you are READY to take charge and see what a healthy lifestyle can do for you then click HERE to apply for a free 45min Discovery Call with me! I only take 5 clients PER MONTH and I want to make sure we will work well together so it is imperative that you complete the application even if you're my bestie! I will ALSO send you my free 5 day quick start meal plan once I receive your application!
Until next time! <3
xoxo - Harmony