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Paleo Challenge: mission accomplished!

March 27, 2011
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Thirty days of eating like a caveman have come and gone (with the exception of using utensils).

When we started the Paleo challenge back in February, I assumed that on day 31 I would be jamming cookies and pasta down my throat as soon as the clock struck midnight.  This was hardly the case.

Keith and I tossed around a few ideas on how we would celebrate the occasion, and were convinced that we would dive face first into pizza or something else we had been ‘deprived of’ for thirty days.  Surprisingly, the urge just wasn’t strong enough.

I was perfectly satisfied with a salmon cake and fruit for breakfast, then fish with veggies for lunch.  Our real ‘treat’ was a trip to Chipotle where I ‘indulged’ in a massive…rice bowl (bor-ing).   Yep.  The first non-Paleo food item I put in my mouth was plain ol’ RICE.  I licked the bowl clean but it was with mixed emotions.  There was a sense of pride because I opted for something healthy even though I was free (no cheese, sour cream or nachos).  That was coupled by disappointment because my first ‘cheat meal’ was hardly as exciting as I dreamt it would be.

Yet, the day was not done.  Nor was the celebration.  So when we got home I rounded up the ingredients for a Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake – a healthier alternative to your average Betty Crocker cake.  It saved the day and you will love me for this recipe (which is a variation of the one I linked to here), when I post it in a few days.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

Back to the 30-day challenge….

Being limited to Paleo foods for a month was a heck of a lot easier than I anticipated.  I was rarely hungry (thanks to the protein) and rarely craved anything sweet (thanks to the low carbohydrates).   We did encounter a few situations that required unrelenting willpower.  For one, we attended a one-year old’s birthday party and had to turn down a homemade, decadent, chocolate banana cake.  On St. Paddy’s Day, I had to retreat to my desk while co-workers enjoyed green beer, pizza and mint ice cream smoothies in the office kitchen.  The key is to avoid situations like these at all costs.  Depending on your individual strength, you made need to lock yourself indoors and live like a hermit for 30-days.  We cooked A LOT and found a bunch of recipes that kept things interesting with the same old protein and veggies.

My eats:

About half way through the challenge I started documenting everything that I ate or drank.  People seem to be interested in what we’re eating everyday, so I posted my Food Journal here for the last few weeks and days following the challenge.

Paleo 30-Day Challenge – Food Journal

A few things you’ll notice:

  • I’m a true grazer, taking bites of something every few hours
  • I eat WAY too many nuts (they are good for you but not in excess!)
  • Reference to a few great dishes for which the recipes will follow
  • Odd combinations of foods at odd hours of the day

My cheats:

  • A handful of sweet potato fries
  • Glass of red wine (on 6 occasions)
  • Agave (damn that Pseudo-Paleo Pumpkin Pie!)
  • Rice (attempting to strip rice out of hand rolls got a little labour intensive while eating sushi…not to mention embarrasing)
  • A tiny bite of cake during the last weekend of the diet (it was for our wedding – how could I say no?!)

My deets:

I wish I could tell you that this 30-day challenge completely changed my life and I had a moving story to share.  But I can’t.  I noticed changes/improvements, but they were not as impressive as others you read about.  Reason being, the diet was fairly similar to how I’d already been eating with just a few additional omissions (grains and legumes).   Here’s what I noticed:

  • Overall, we just felt good (good energy, good health, good digestion, etc)
  • Better and deeper sleep (although, that might have something to do with CrossFit and the morning workouts)
  • Flatter tummy (very little bloating)
  • Improved digestion (I won’t get into the details here)
  • Subdued hunger – you feel fuller longer (there were times when I had no appetite and was satisfied with much smaller meals)
  • Improved skin (for many years, my complexion had a yellow-ish undertone, which my family so kindly points out every time I see them.  I’ve been informed that I look healthier and my ‘jaundice’ is gone).
  • Keith had zero headaches and also lost a few inches (we didn’t measure him day 1 but it’s quite obvious)
  • Leaner and more toned (this is also partly a product of CrossFit).  Below are my measurements before and after.

I can’t believe I’m posting this for all to see, but I think it’s worth sharing.

The countdown may be over but I’m not ready to say farewell to the Paleo diet.  Based on the research I’ve seen, I’m convinced that the Paleo lifestyle is one we want to follow for optimal health and disease prevention.  On a personal level, it addresses some of my own health issues (i.e. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and minimizes the risk of family health problems (i.e. thyroid dysfunction, diabetes).  Knowing what I know now and how it could impact my health, I need to be more diligent with what I eat and how I exercise.

Will I follow this 100% of time?  I wish I could say “yes”, but I’m human…and I live for food.  My father is a pretty smart guy and he always says, “everything in moderation”.  So I will have pasta at Nonna’s, enjoy a few drinks with the girls, and say “I do” with a big slice of wedding cake.  But I will also strive to eat the best foods majority of the time.  Following the 80/20 rule is more realistic (80% being the healthy stuff).

If you’re sick of hearing the “P” word, I apologize. You’re going to see and hear a lot more “Paleo” from me in the posts to come.  I’ve only got my feet wet.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2011 9:31 pm

    awesome info!! its very motivating to hear form someone who tried it and succeeded. i think ill give it a try!! i definitely hope u post more on it!

  2. Stevedave permalink
    March 31, 2011 10:15 am

    Yes, if you are going to do try this diet again (or stay on it) and we happen to go to a sushi place, we will have to get separate tables!

  3. Jaclyn Kissel permalink
    March 30, 2011 6:54 am

    Danielle,

    I love that you are so honest regarding your 31 day Paleo diet challenge. Its great to hear the pros and cons.

    I just think if you eat well, you think well and you move well…ohh and you may act a little nicer too because you feel better (you know say thank you when someone holds the door open for you).

    By the way I just went to Chipotle (we never go out for dinner) it was pretty darn good.

  4. March 29, 2011 8:21 pm

    Love the Paleo side of life, I am almost four weeks into it myself. I like it so much I really don’t care to go back to any other way of eating! Like you were saying similarly. I have the occasional cheats but nothing major, and have lost a bit of weight but nothing major either (don’t really need to). I want to start up Crossfit to improve my strength though! Are you looking into that at all or already doing it??

    • April 1, 2011 1:10 pm

      Hi Erica – Welcome aboard!

      I made the mistake of taking a little break post the 30-day challenge and realized that having the permission to eat ANYTHING after the diet can be detrimental, and send ya right back to square one. I’ve been pretty good with the exception of my birthday and a few non-Paleo snacks at family functions. In the end, you’ve gotta live. So the 80/20 approach is just fine with me…at least in this point in my life.

      As for Crossfit…I’ve been doing it for 4 months and LOVE it. I highly recommend starting out with the Bootcamp which will give you a good flavour for what to expect. I’m only going 3 days a week and complimenting that with a few walks/days at the gym. You’ve gotta try it! Be prepared to feel uncomfortable, be pushed to extremes and surprise yourself with how far you can go.

Trackbacks

  1. Paleo Recipe Sardines « My Paleo Diet Blog
  2. Gotta try this Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! « Me. Myself. and Food.
  3. Gotta try this Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! « Me. Myself. And Food

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