What Happened When I Ate Paleo for 30 Days

I’m definitely late in posting this since the challenge was finished in the middle of February. That did allow me to go back to eating the old foods during my last weeks of half marathon training and it’s an interesting perspective I now have.

healthy eating paleo challenge

What was the challenge?

The 30 day Crossfit and Paleo challenge was just that – 30 days of strict paleo eating, food journaling, Crossfit workouts, mobility exercises, and sleeping well. Thirty days, cold turkey, of no added sugars or grains or legumes. I jokingly called it the “no” diet. I think paleo gets a  bad rap because it’s a “fad diet” and those all tend to disappear in due time. I think the premise behind it is solid – eliminate things that are known to cause inflammation in your gut. Eating and meal planning was the most difficult part. On top of that was exercise of all kinds – Crossfit, running, walking, rowing and mobility – and tracked our sleep patterns.

I felt like I lived on the scale, weighing in every other morning or so and I was frustrated. The weight wasn’t shifting. Was this really working? Did I feel better from the change of diet? Not really? So what was actually happening in my body during this process?

During the challenge

Here were my baseline numbers:

  • Lean Pounds: 109.8
  • Body Fat: 34.1%
  • 500 meter row time: 2:19
  • Burpee total in three minutes: 33
  • 5 minute AMRAP (5 pushups, 10 squats, 15 leg lifts): 4 + 15 sets
  • Plank hold time: 1:12

I lost my mind and cheated one day with buttery roles from Texas Roadhouse. Not gonna lie, they were delicious. I wouldn’t say I did great with eating paleo. There were days when I just couldn’t figure things out so I resorted to a dry salad. There were days where I was just miserable because I felt like I was eating the same things over and over again. There were days when I felt great because we were converting our favorites into something we could eat. At the end of this I can honest say that eating paleo is difficult.

The majority of my workouts consisted of runs since I was on the tail end of my half marathon training. I had a few Crossfit workouts mixed in there along with the 25,000 meter rowing challenge. This was on par with my normal workout routine.

30 Day Paleo Challenge Results

We went in for the body fat retest and I was positive there wasn’t going to be any change in my weight or body fat. Here are those results:

  • Lean Pounds: 112 – Up 2.2 pounds
  • Body Fat: 32.5% – Down 1.6%
  • 500 meter row time: 2:02 – Shaved off 17 seconds
  • Burpee total in three minutes: 41 – 8 more burpees 
  • 5 minute AMRAP (5 pushups, 10 squats, 15 leg lifts): 5 sets – 15 more reps
  • Plank hold time: 1:36 – Held 24 more seconds

 30 Days Post Paleo

As I mentioned, once the challenge was over and the weigh-in was final I carb-loaded like I’ve never seen carbs before. I did have a half marathon in a week, after all! Turns out, there’s something to this diet. Once I started eating grains again, things I used to eat on a regular basis, my gut didn’t want to cooperate. I was bloated. I had gas. Stomach pain. Diarrhea. My Crohn’s Disease came out in full force. I had a small glass of chocolate milk – it completely did me in! One month later and I’m still having issues. I’m exhausted all the time.

Looking back I can see the changes it did for me. They weren’t things I was really expecting and they were so subtle that I didn’t even notice. But going back to the old ways was eye-opening.

So guess who’s going to back to a version of a primal diet? This gal. I’m not going to go strict paleo as before because I really think I need more carbs to keep running. (My training runs were brutal!) It’s going to require some testing and changes so stay tuned to see how it goes.

Photo Credit: Healthy Eating! by atache

Fat isn’t the Problem

It’s Valentine’s Day and like most folks I’m enjoying a sugar high. It’s an even bigger high because I’ve been eating paleo for the past thirty days. I may not sleep tonight. But I’ll have a paleo update soon because the results of my experience are very interesting and also support this article.

I came across this article on the Washington Post and I found it really interesting. They have charted sugar and fat consumption by country around the world. I would have expected to see the United States high for both. The first glaring chart in this article supports that theory. The US is highest on the list and one of the most, if not THE MOST, obese country in the world.

where people eat the most sugar and fat

As you did deeper into the data, however, the numbers get really interesting.

Here in the United States, the average person consumes more than 126 grams of sugar per day, which is slightly more than three 12-ounce cans of Coca-Cola. That’s more than twice the average sugar intake of all 54 countries observed by Euromonitor.

Americans eat a lot of sugar. The problem is that they don’t even realize it. When we started our paleo challenge, it was really hard to find foods that didn’t have some form of added sugar – things I would never have guessed like canned vegetables and uncured bacon. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

Forward to fat consumption. Surprise here – the United States isn’t even in the top 15 for most fat consumption! The top five: Belgium, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, and Sweden. Now, let’s compare obesity rates. This data is from “The World Fatbook” provided by the CIA.

  • 1. United States: 74.60%
  • 83. Belgium: 22.10%
  • 59. Germany: 25.10%
  • 77. Finland: 23%
  • 103. Netherlands: 18.80%
  • 104. Sweden: 18.60%

Those consumers of fat don’t appear to have an obesity epidemic. Germany has the higher obesity rate of those top five, but they also consume higher sugar amounts than the rest. At 25% though, it’s still impressive.

I know there are a lot of factors that aren’t considered here, and I’m definitely not a scientist or expert by any means, but based on these numbers alone, fat is not the problem. Sugar is the problem. The real problem is soda and hidden sugars in all the processed and preserved foods we consume.

I’m not pushing paleo. I’m not pushing diets or Whole30 or any of those other “lifestyle changes” being thrown around these days. I do, however, think that if we can go back to eating food we prepare ourselves, we’ll see a big change in the obesity rates of this country.

I’ll go back to my binge chocolate eating now.

 

Persistence

I was involved in an SEO (search engine optimization) chat today with a lot of industry folks and I asked one of the big talking heads what he thought was the one characteristic that enabled him to be successful. His response surprised me – empathy. It was a welcomes response in an industry where egos and big heads tend to get in the way.

It’s something so simple in concept but so incredibly difficult to master. Sometimes sympathy is the last thing people need but empathy is sometimes hard to come by. I say this as a Crohn’s patient that gets a lot of sympathy, and not always the good kind.

definition of persistence

I tweeted his response and got a different but equally interesting response: persistence. I love this. It’s elbow grease. It’s gritted teeth. It’s fire. I’ve always said running is just about putting one foot in front of the other. Just keep moving forward and you’ll be fine.

When I was first started running, it was a challenge. Picking up both feet and shuffling forward, slowly but surely. Pushing through the pain, the burn, the agony at times. I wondered often why I was doing this to myself. At that time I was training for a half marathon with Team Challenge. My motivation then was completing my first half marathon and supporting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. Thinking of all those amazing things kept my feet moving forward.

Fast forward three years and I still support this amazing cause but I have a different kind of challenge. The running is easy. It’s the mental game that’s tough. It’s continuing to run when you aren’t training for a race, when you aren’t trying to lose weight, when you just want to eat cookies and watch New Girl. When you’ve already put in a mile, it’s tough to put in three more. (This is why I found very long out and backs, by the way)

I hear a lot of my friends say, I don’t know how you run that far. I usually respond with, “I don’t know how you run that short.” It takes a couple of miles to find my groove, to start feeling amazing, to feel like I can run forever. Once you get over that hump, the world becomes your oyster to explore.

It’s that feeling at mile 2.3 that keeps me going. That’s what I hold on to. That stress melting, scenery peeking, legs aren’t hurting any more grand ole time. I promise – once you find it, and can replicate it, you’ll never look at running the same way again.

Photo credit: Justin Leibow via Unsplash

One Week of Paleo – The Good, Bad and Ugly

I’m seven days in to this Transformation 30 challenge. I haven’t died and it’s actually been easier than I thought. The first few days were difficult. I felt like I was just eating the same thing every day. I had to get used to reading food labels and asking lots of questions. Within a couple of days I felt like I could at least make decisions without having to carry a paper around with a bunch of foods I’m not allowed to eat. I’m convinced people thought I was crazy.

7 days of paleo

What’s different after eating paleo for seven days?

The Good

I lost six pounds in a week. SIX POUNDS! I think under normal circumstances that would be highly frowned upon but I was eating between 1300 and 1600 calories every day. Never was I hungry that I didn’t eat a meal or a snack. There was no starvation. No excessive exercise. No pills. No gimmicks. I just had better foods that weren’t loaded with carbs or sugar.

I’ve {almost} stopped craving sugar 10 times a day. I haven’t noticed the ones around lunch time in a couple of days. The ones I normally have after dinner are still there. But I’m thinking this is more of a habit than a craving. I didn’t throw out all the bad stuff before starting this challenge, frankly because that’s a lot of money to throw in the trash. Today when I was putting something away in the pantry I saw candy and immediately thought that I should eat that. It wasn’t because I was hungry or because I was wanting it. It’s just a habit that if I see something sweet, I eat it.

The Bad

One of the things I CAN”T stand to do is eat the same thing over and over. I can’t even repeat dinners in the same week, or even two weeks. And I hate leftovers. I was nervous that we were going to be eating the same thing every day.

I was scouring recipe sites looking for ways to eat paleo until one day I realized that I’m going about this all wrong. I don’t necessarily need to change what I eat, I just need to change how I prepare it. Back to square one but off to a much better start. We made a delicious stew, crockpot enchiladas, tacos, and even “brownies.” If we can keep this up, we should be able to make it for the challenge.

The Ugly

When I’ve mentioned this challenge to folks I’ve had several similar responses, “no one PRs eating paleo.” I didn’t give it much thought, especially since I’m far from an elite athlete. But today, I’m beginning to wonder if they were right. I had a 5K race today – the Polar Bear at Wash Park. I’ve been seeing amazing times on my watch for the past couple of weeks – my best 5K and 5 mile times were posted in my last few training runs. Even the crappy one on ice wasn’t half bad.

Today was terrible. I had nothing in the tank after mile two. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “walking is just controlled falling.” That’s exactly how I felt today. I shuffled one foot on front of the other and did my best to not stop and walk. I finished in 33:58, more than 30 seconds behind my best time but way worse than the training run where I posted just over 31 minutes three weeks ago. On top of that, I had to add four miles after the 5K to get in my seven mile training run for the Disney Princess half. Brutal.

I can’t say definitively if this week of carb-less and sugar-less eating is the only reason I did bad or just part of it. I have several longer training runs this week that I have to blast through so we’ll see how those go.

5 Things I Learned from Day 1 of Paleo

paleo_food_pyramidI did something crazy. I signed up for my Crossfit gym’s Transformation 30 challenge. 30 days of Paleo eating and righting all my wrongs. Well, at least the eating wrongs. Thankfully they understand people can’t handle dramatic change so they offered a sliding scale. While I can have dairy (nom nom cheese) I can’t have sugar, grains, legumes, etc. I realized this was going to be difficult, especially for two people that go to the grocery store every single day because we can’t meal plan.

I bit the bullet and planned the meals for week 1, using a combination of recipes from these highly recommended Paleo sites and trying to modify recipes we love to meet our needs. The challenge started on Monday. I’m one day down. 29 to go. If I yell, trust me when I say it’s my stomach doing all the talking.

5 Things I Learned From Day 1 of Paleo

1. Everything has sugar!

I’ve kind of known this I chose to admit it. Granted, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of articles online that talk about the omnipresence of sugar. Since I hadn’t been looking for it, except for the cookies and brownies and candy bars and ice cream…where was I? Oh right, because I wasn’t looking for sugar I didn’t realize it was in things like bacon, canned tomatoes, diced chiles. EVERYTHING. We can’t get away from it. I’m still on the hunt for sugar free bacon. I’ve had Applegate recommended so now it’s just a matter of finding that brand.

2. It can be cheap.

Yes, if you want to do Paleo right and find grass-finished meets and pasture-raised poultry, it’s going to run you a pretty penny. However, the rest of the diet can be relatively cheap. Supplement your meat with plenty of veggies to offset the cost. Most vegetables are less than $1.00 per serving and some, like potatoes, are usually less than $0.50 per serving. The easiest way to ensure you’re finding the cheapest vegetables is to purchase in-season. It may vary by region but the USDA published this list of vegetables by season.

3. Sugar cravings suck.

Like really suck. After lunch today that’s all I could think about. The plates of buckeyes on the table in our company kitchen definitely didn’t help. At all. It’s going to take some a lot of willpower. My first solid meal was probably laced in sugar (just kidding, my mom and dad were way better parents than that) so I’ve a ways to go to stop thinking about sweets.

4. Almost anything can be converted to Paleo.

After struggling for an hour to meal plan, I realized there had to be a better way. I told everyone I talked to today about this challenge (success comes in numbers, right?) and through those conversations I realized that with a little ingenuity and creativity, we can turn almost any meal into something that is paleo-friendly.

5. You don’t have to give up everything.

We were handed a list of everything we can’t eat. It was a long list, a long list of many things I LOVE. Like grains. And sugar. Mmm, bread. It was discouraging. I understand the need to eat better and I’m glad I’m using this challenge as a way to figure that out. However, I’ve never been the kind of person to just give up things I love. And I just happen to love all the wrong things when it comes to my diet. After flipping through several recipe sites I realized that I don’t have to give up the things I love, I just have to change my mindset.

What is Paleo?

I’ve had quite a few folks ask me two questions: first, what is the big deal with the paleo diet and two, what does paleo actually mean?

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert.

I found an excellent infographic resource from Primal Bites that I think will answer your questions. She also had the awesome real food pyramid at the beginning of this post. Check out that post and if you still have questions, Google can probably help. Otherwise, feel free to stop back by and I’ll probably have a few more updates on this whole challenge.

1 2 3 24