We are coming up to 2 years after discovering the Primal/Paleo lifestyle. You can read my first post on it here.
Have we been strict for 2 years? Definitely not. The whole pregnancy thing kinda threw a wrench in it for me, and as much as I tried, I couldn't look at meat without wanting to throw up. Mix in some vacations too, and we enjoyed our Gyro bread in Greece, and our ColdStone ice cream in Florida.
But, it has taught us a thing or two in the past couple years, so I wanted to share those insights. Overall, we still physically feel better when we live a Primal/Paleo lifestyle, which drives us to continue to do so.
1. Don't talk about it, unless someone asks you
This one is hard. When you feel strongly about something, you want to share it! But, people do not want to hear you get up on your soapbox and preach to them about your life choices. If you make the decision to go Primal/Paleo, you will get a lot of opposing comments like, "Are you going to go hunt your food?" "That's not healthy" and "Caveman didn't enjoy coffee" so if you aren't ready for the sarcasm, then keep it to yourself.
That being said, when you find people that are interested, it's great to be a source of information to help them. We've helped several friends take the plunge, and shared recipes, tips, and tricks. It's always great to share in the success.
2. Primal/Paleo is all about eating Nutrient-Dense Food
At the end of the day, this lifestyle is about eating varied foods that are good for your body's chemical makeup. There's always a better choice to make, and if you can make those choices 80% of the time, you will be better off for it.
It's easy to get into the groove of, "This is paleo, so I can eat it." And only eating nuts all day. Even though it's paleo, it's not healthy. We've found that because of this lifestyle, we've tried more new and different foods, especially vegetables. Two years ago, we never bought Brussels sprouts, and now they are a weekly vegetable in our house.
3. Cutting out processed foods is half the battle
At the end of the day, if we cut out processed foods and ate whole foods, we would all be better for it. During my pregnancy, it was hard at first to "not be paleo" anymore, but in reality, staying away from processed foods is still helping (keeping to the 80/20 rule - those Cadbury eggs get me every year).
4. There's always a better choice
You always have a better choice - and there's always a lesser evil, even if it is still "evil." Every day counts, and small choices add up.
5. Meal plan and prep as much as possible
This one is key for us. Weeks that we meal plan, shop, and prep are great. Weeks that we never get around to it are tough - usually involve Chipotle or gluten-free pizza from Roman Candle a couple times.
I use this Meal Planner to help us stay organized. We've also found that we waste less food this way, and spend less money. I also recommend that you make a big batch or double one day, so the next day you can eat leftovers.
6. There's so much more to it than food
Living Primal/Paleo is more than just food - it's about being good to yourself mentally and physically. That means getting outside, exercising, getting some sun, dropping technology, and appreciating life's little joys. Here are the 10 principles that Mark's Daily Apple outlines:
- Eat lots of animals, insects and plants
- Move around a lot at a slow pace
- Lift heavy things
- Run really fast once in a while
- Get lots of sleep
- Get some sunlight everyday
- Avoid trauma
- Avoid poisonous things
- Use your mind
7. There will always be extremists
In any lifestyle you encounter, there will always be people that are extremists - and comparing yourself to them will do no good. It's great that some people can live Paleo 100% of the time, but I know that's not for me. Holding yourself to unrealistic expectations can create anxiety and a sense of failure. Instead you need to....
8. Find your healthy balance
Do your reading and then make a plan that works for YOU and no one else. Throughout life, this could change, as it did for me during pregnancy. It took me a while to mentally get over the fact that I couldn't stay "Primal/Paleo" but I've figured out what works for me right now. I'm not married to a certain way after baby is born, either - I'm going to wait and see what works, and what feels right. Which leads me to my next point:
9. Don't judge other people and their choices
This one is hard, because I've definitely been judged for some of the choices we've made. And, I'll admit that I have secretly judged other people for their choices. At the end of the day, it's THEIR CHOICE. So leave it be.
10. Be nice to yourself and embrace your own choices
If you decide to go down this path, be nice to yourself! Primal/Paleo is about improving your body, and that includes your mental health. If you are hard on yourself, creating more stress, it will only make things worse. That being said, when you slide, own it, and then hop right back on.
I'm in no way an expert, nor am I strict. But these are some of the things I've learned along the way, so I hope they help if you are looking to go down this path!