Implementing Paleolithic Nutrition (For Myself)

November 11, 2011 in Categories: by

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If you’re reading more than one of the many great sources of information on paleolithic nutrition, you’ve probably noticed something:  there isn’t one uniform recommendation for how to implement this diet.  But, this is a good thing!  You get to customize your choices to reflect your needs, your tastes, and your goals.  I am still playing with my own implementation, but I have learned some very important aspects of this diet (at least for me) in my short time experimenting.  I want to share my own experiences here, in case they help you decide how you will implement paleo for yourself.

As I mentioned before, it was health issues more than desired weight loss that brought me to paleolithic nutrition.  I realize now that even though I was successful in losing weight with the low carb diets I tried before, I wasn’t successful at dealing with high baseline inflammation in my body and my insulin sensitivity was terrible.  This is also why my first implementation of paleolithic nutrition needed adjustment.

My initial transition to paleo was actually really easy.  I went cold turkey and started eating a strict paleo diet (including only a little heavy cream in my coffee and some butter in my cooking and also allowing for the gray area foods of nuts and nightshades).  I didn’t feel terrible at all (and many people feel low energy for 1-4 weeks due to a shift in their metabolism).  In fact, I had more energy, lost some weight, and was able to go off the Irritable Bowel Syndrome medication that I had been on for twelve years within the first two weeks!  My acid reflux disappeared and the only migraine I had was the morning after my one and only cheat (some 60% chocolate with milk ingredients right before bed).  I decided then that I LOVE this way of eating and resolved never to eat grains again.

 But not all the health conditions that I knew could be addressed by a paleo diet resolved.  Specifically, I was still having issues with asthma and lichen psoriasis, which was still spreading!  And, after the initial spurt of weight loss, my weight stabilized again.  As I dug deeper, I discovered that the continuation of these health issues could be attributed to a few remaining bad habits.  I snacked constantly all day until a big meal at supper instead of eating three distinct meals (under the long held misnomer that eating frequent small meals is better for you.  It isn’t!!).  I also ate relatively soon before bed (terrible habit for weight loss and sleep quality).  I relied heavily on nuts as a convenient food to satisfy those snacky cravings (so I was consuming too many omega-6 fatty acids) and I was eating alot of fruit to satisfy those sweet cravings (the fructose content was making me feel hungrier!).

So after the first month of strict paleo, I made more changes to really address cortisol levels, insulin sensitivity and leptin regulation.  I started eating three BIG meals a day.  No more evening snacks.  I eat a variety of veggies at every meal.  I limit nuts to a small serving once or twice a week (and eat more coconut instead).  I limit fruit to 1-2 servings a day.  I limit my coffee to one large cup in the morning.  I go to bed half an hour earlier.  I increased my vitamin D3 and started taking magnesium and zinc supplements.  I was more mindful to balance omega-3 to omega-6 intake.  And this is where my body had an adjustment period.  Actually, THIS WAS HARD!  It took me over a week of trying every day to not snack and to limit caffeine before I actually succeeded.  I felt awful for at least another week.  I felt stuffed after eating such big meals but then hungry an hour later.  I chewed my fingernails practically to my knuckles.  And then, it all clicked and I felt great!  I felt EVEN MORE ENERGETIC!  I stopped feeling so hungry all the time.  I started taking more enjoyment out of those big meals.  My asthma stopped acting up.  My psoriasis started to resolve.  My sleep quality improved.  I started losing weight again.  I started making milestones in yoga class.  Everything started coming together.

My plan is to just keep this up for a few months, maybe with some paleo baking through the holidays.  When I know that everything is in place, that my body is as lean as it should be, that my health is great, THEN I will play with adding back in some more fruit, nuts etc.

My take home message is that there is a transition period for most people.  How tough and how long depends on how you ate before and how you are trying to implement paleolithic nutrition for yourself.  And you can continue to adjust how/when/what you eat until you achieve those goals of better health.  You WILL get through it and the prize at the end is AWESOME!

Comments

Wow, this sounds like me!!! I am so grateful to have found your blog. I initially started with giving up wheat/gluten. Felt great, lost some weight…then, nada! I was eating a lot of nuts and cheese. So, now I have decided to go 100% paleo. ONe coffee in the morning like you, no cheese, only a little fruit and need to start taking my supplements again. I actually gained weight again…..I was so upset. I suspect thyroid/adrenal fatigue, so am getting tested, but in the meantime am so far enjoying my new eating lifestyle. I have given up wine too :(, I am allergic to it, so it’s not even enjoyable anymore. But feeling great and having a metabolism that works again is the most important! Thanks!

I still feel like a work-in-progress. Since writing this post, I have also given up nightshades and egg whites. There’s so many different ways to implement this way of eating and living, which is why it works for so many people! Good luck with everything!

Can You give Me some ideas on what a days menu looks like for You??? I was a Veg for 20 yrs, then 13 more as a Vegan, been eating some chicken and fish for the last years and a half and gluten free also, now switching to strict AutoImmune Paleo after much much research!!!. just introduced My body to hamburger patties lol……… I was happy making almond flour pancakes/bread and then more research and they have to go along with eggs??? yikes!!!!
I think I got this but without the use of eggs it gets extremely limiting!!!

HAve a look at my 21-day sugar detox posts from January. I posted photos of all my meals for 3 week. Add a little more fruit and more starchy vegetables for a typically AIP menu.

I thought I could NEVER give up sweetener in my coffee, but after a week, I now prefer my coffee with just half and half. I have been using splenda for years (like 25?) so if I can be happy without it in my morning coffee fix, it feels like a true miracle. Give yourself one week without, and see what your tastebuds do. This is my “cheat” area in this diet, I just can’t go without coffee, and it allows me to follow paleo in all other ways.

I tried drinking coffee straight black, and even tried using coconut fat cream – all with no success. I use either half-n-half or heavy whipping cream in my coffee now.

I am on a low carb, paleo / primal plan working towards paleo / primal. Mainly due to being Type 2 Diabetic.

Question: Why is cheese not allowed? Why eggs?

I put about a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil in my coffee and then pulse in the blender for 10 seconds or so. It’s very yummy! But if you tolerate heavy cream (a better choice than half-n-half), go for it!

Cheese is not “allowed” for two reasons: first, it can contribute to a leaky gut due to the large proline content of casein and the presence of protease inhibitors; and second, because it is insulinogenic and causes spikes in blood sugar and insulin disproportional to the amount of carbohydrates present.

Eggs are fine as long as you don’t have an autoimmune disease.

I hope this helps!

I believe that raw grass-fed dairy is probably one of the most variable foods in terms of individual tolerance. I typically recommend cutting out all dairy for a month and then trying to add some back in and see how it affects you.

Sarah,
Thank you so much for this website. This is a very informative blog post. I’ve been off the wagon for a few weeks… but this post definitely addresses the very same mistakes I have made when trying to be Paleo (too much fruit and too many nuts, eating all day long, eating right before bed.)

I wanted to ask you if you have any specifics about how you addressed your psoriasis issues. 4 months after the birth of my third child, I have more psoriasis issues than ever (scalp). I cannot use the medication because it might be transmitted with breastfeeding. I have eschewed nightshades from my diet… but, I need to cut out sugars and wheat.

It’s just so difficult when the rest of my family is not on board, and the stuff is laying around all the time!

But I will do it… my question is, are there any specifics to what or how you have eaten that have resolved your psoriasis issues?
Thank you so much,
A

It is very common for autoimmune diseases like psoriasis to flare after giving birth (because they are typically suppressed during pregnancy). Mine got worse when my youngest night-weaned too. This is what I had to do to resolve my psoriasis and lichen planus: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2012/05/modifying-paleo-for-autoimmune.html

I know it’s really tough and I have a hard time with all the nut and egg based foods that are constantly around my house. I find that having some special treats for me really help, like frozen fruit, a little dark chocolate (which I seem to tolerate), and I also make sure to eat big meals so that I’m not hungry. I know this probably isn’t possible with a 4-month old, but getting enough sleep is also critical in my ability to resist tempting foods.

I hope this helps!

Thank you Sarah. What a wonderful service you provide to people here!

The Autoimmune Protocol diet seems so difficult , but I guess that anything worthwhile is worth fighting for! I’m having a hard time giving up even sugar and wheat, right now. Every day I try, and fail. Argh,

Thanks again,
Alexis

I have suffered from migraines for years and have been on daily preventives for over 10 years. Since giving birth to my son, I feel like I am even more sensitive to foods than before. I cut out all migraine trigger foods and that has made a huge difference for me with my migraines. I was having some joint and skin issues and decided to cut out gluten. I do not feel any better. I even did cut out all grains and did not feel any better. I am still allowing myself some dairy. I feel like I am sick all the time and am additionally stil fighting off the migraines. Do I need to go really strict? Do I need to cut out sweet potatoes and all dairy? Maybe I am wrong, but it seems like I felt better when eating gluten…..Or at last rice and things…thanks holly

I suspected gluten intolerance on and off for years before I went paleo. I was ever really sure if I felt better or not. Cutting out gluten and diary at the same time is I think what worked so magically for me.

I started Paleo the middle of September (I do eat a little bit of cheese and heavy cream). I felt better almost immediately. More energy, more alert (less brain fog)… The weight has been coming off very slowly, but it is coming off. My next step, for the new year is to clean my eating up a bit more. I do have Hashimotos disease. I’ve been eating too many eggs and nuts & I really want to get my gut healed. So I am going to wean myself off of eggs, nuts and dairy and go without all of them for at least a month. I have your new book on my Amazon with list, and can’t wait to get it!

Hi!
I just discovered your blog. I have been intrigued by this abstract “paleo diet” thing for several months, and have began to implement it into my and my families daily life. It is a little confusing and slow-going right now. I have been large all of my life. I have fibromyalgia and am about 160 lbs overweight. I have high blood sugar issues. I have lost weight before on the low-carb diet. I needed to find a way to curb the fibro pain so that I can be stronger and more active. I needed to find a way to find my energy, that does not involve high doses of cafeine. My son has always been a very picky eater. He does not like vegetables. He is extremely picky about textures. He also has sensitivity to additives and dyes. I have worked very hard to try and create a diet that contains less junk that he will actually eat. Now with this switch to paleo, I am facing the challenge all over again. But it needs to happen. My son is a tall 8 yr old, who plays sports, and is healthy, but he now weighs over 90 lbs. Despite my efforts I can see him following the path I did. Fighting to stay in some kind of control over his nutrition and weight, and losing the battle.

I am currently replacing the food in our kitchen, as we run out, with a more paleo friendly alternative. I have spent many hours making and re-making paleo recipes for bread, tortillas, and crackers, only to have my little guy take one bite and balk at the texture.

I am not completely cutting out cheese, as this is one of his stables and his only source of calcium.

Despite the struggles of finding things he will eat (especially in his packed lunches. Yikes!) my son is cooperating the best he can and I can see an improvement in his eating habits already.

I have not needed my coffee at all, since starting this transition. Coffee was my go-to fix for energy and to reduce pain and inflamation. I feel so much better in general, despite horrific cravings for bread and chips. My poor husband says he is completely on board and will eat whatever I cook, as long as he doesn’t actually need to think about what’s going in his mouth.I’m sure he will soon start asking about biscuits, mashed potatoes, and spaghetti. :)

I’m not sure why I am sharing all of this, but your posts ave all been subjects that I can really relate too. Plus, I feel I could really use somr help with understanding and managing a paleo lifestyle.

You may want to look into the AIP (due to the fibromyalgia). You can read about the AIP here: http://www.thepaleomom.com/autoimmunity/the-autoimmune-protocol Have you looked at Sarah’s “kid staples” recipe section? http://www.thepaleomom.com/category/recipes/kid-staples/snacks-kid-staples You may also want to join our new The Paleo Approach Community group on Facebook and ask for support there. The group has over 4,000 members, you can request to join here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TPACommunity/ — Tamar (Sarah’s assistant)

I just listened to your interview on UW with Sean Croxton and came to your site. Great interview and great site.
I have R. Arthritis (no meds, always refused) Have eaten sensible Paleo/PHD for over a year now. Read many books/blogs, listen to interviews and am just becoming a little confused about the importance of our metabolic rate – something I had misunderstood the importance of before.
I love your scientific background and approach and would really appreciate an article/s on your take/research on metabolic rate. I mention because I heard Matt Stone’s presentation at a summit recently (which led to Ray Peat’s work) on the importance of a healthy metabolic rate to optimize all functions and that basically we have to get that right.
Having a low body temperature, low pulse rate, sensitivity to cold indicates too low a metabolism (not producing energy efficiently) and so our thyroid/hormonal system is screwed up. Their approach is to check temperature and pulse, ensure carbohydrate intake is not too low, increase salt, sleep and avoid stressful exercise and eat plenty and often so that the body which has fallen into starvation mode will get a kick start and relax into normal function.
This makes a lot of sense to me as I may have fallen into eating to low carb and am experiencing hypothyroid symptoms of more than normal hair loss, feeling cold and disturbed and waking in the middle of the night. I had also been eating 3 meals per day within 8hr period (easily) drinking lots of water and so feel that I may have induced this state myself unintentionally.
Please could you give me your opinion which I would value highly
Thank you so much
Lynne

All of that advice is in line with what I have read about adrenal and thyroid imbalance, and you can find more on lifestyle in posts like this one: http://www.thepaleomom.com/2011/12/what-is-paleolithic-lifestyle.html. Sarah does not have any posts addressing metabolism specifically, but she does mention it in these posts: http://www.thepaleomom.com/tag/metabolism. We also recommend the autoimmune protocol for all autoimmune patients: http://www.thepaleomom.com/autoimmunity/the-autoimmune-protocol. – Christina, Sarah’s assistant

Thank you so much for reply and informative links Christina. Really appreciate.
It’s all in the detail – Sarah explains everything so well.

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