This all depends where you are health-wise and your personality–do you do better adopting a new habit by going cold turkey or incrementally? There’s no right way. Certainly if your health issues demand you change your diet, then probably cold turkey is the only way to go for the nutrition aspect of the lifestyle. Bite that off and tackle it first and then maybe incorporate other aspects of the lifestyle as you’re able.
If you’re only interested in losing weight, you can go slower if that’s your style. I went cold turkey on the food changeover–and it worked for me. I was able to start seeing and feeling immediate results, which motivated me to dig deeper into the lifestyle. But others got intimidated or overwhelmed and ended up dropping it altogether. I read about one who each month implemented a new change. First it was no grains. Then by the next month she’d figured out all the challenges and had made it a part of her regular life and so she was ready for the next new habit: giving up processed sugars and artificial sweeteners, etc. It worked great for her and she stuck with it, adding a new one each month.
One thing to keep in mind as you embark on this is that there are many folks out there with competing advice even in the Paleo/Primal community so it can be easy to get confused and discouraged. Remember that this is YOUR journey and you alone can judge how your body reacts to certain foods. So if you’ve given up dairy for a month and then add it back in and you have no reactions, then great! Incorporate it back into your food (as long as you’re still avoiding chemicals and toxins). Some folks can get quite dogmatic about the lifestyle, but don’t let them make you question what is working for you.
So you want to start?
Since I’m a writer, I’m going to frame this from that perspective most of the time. Remember when you took up writing? You just dived in, right? Or if, like me, you were a little insecure and unsure, you bought some craft books to help a little. Either way, we just started doing it because we enjoyed it. As we kept going along, we got more passionate about it and so wanted to learn more craft. So we took classes and read more craft books, fine-tuning our voice and approach. Sometimes it got overwhelming as we realized all we didn’t know. Sometimes that insecurity could cripple us. Or so could the conflicting advice/feedback. We’re constantly having to evaluate what feels right to us and our writing. Same thing here. Read some of the leading blogs and books, but don’t get all caught up in the minutiae–just start. If you’re going cold turkey, cut out all grains (including corn), legumes (including peanuts), dairy, processed food (including industrial and seed oils) and processed sweeteners. Or tackle each new one each month. Either way, set a goal and do it, just like you do with writing.
As you go along and gain more confidence and feel better, you’ll feel the urge to learn more and fine-tune. That’s when you can get all nerdy and troll the blogs and medical reviews (if you want) to adjust your eating to what works for you. But just as you probably struggle with in writing, don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged. As I said earlier, there’s lots of conflicting advice out there. Find one or two sources you trust and refer back to them when you have doubts about something, or need more info. For me, my sounding-board source is Mark Sisson–if in my wanderings I get all worried about something new I learned, I go to his website and see if he’s talked about it too, and he usually has. And, like writing, go with your gut. Sometimes literally 🙂
- If you’re into going cold turkey for immediate results, try Mark Sisson’s 21-day challenge. In fact, I’d recommend 21 days as a minimum. There’s also the Whole 30 challenge. Keep in mind that these are super-strict for that length of time, not because they’re saying ‘this is how you should eat all the time,’ but rather to reset your relationship to food, get rid of cravings, and find out what foods mess with you. After the challenge, then you reintroduce foods one at a time and monitor how your body reacts. It’s all about finding out what foods you can handle. Think of it like a starting template and then you can work from there.
- This blog post “Top 5 Paleo Mistakes Newbies Make” has some good tips. At first I didn’t like the word ‘mistake’ in the title, because I worried it would be a dogmatic, there-is-only-one-way-to-do-this post, but it’s not at all. Just some good things to keep in mind as you start this journey.
- Even if you’re taking it a step at a time, clean out your pantry for that particular item. It’s a lot easier to resist temptation if the temptation’s not handy. Here’s some tips on how to primalize your pantry.
- Start now scouring garage sales for mason jars and glass storage containers and bakeware. You’ll start to buy things more in bulk and it makes it easier to organize if they’re stored this way. Plus you’ll start learning how plastic food storage can leach toxins and you’ll get all freaked and spend too much money at box stores for glass containers (ahem, like I did!)