Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to teach a paleo for beginners class. And I had an absolute blast. I’ve probably mentioned it a few times on this blog, but I used to be a history teacher. And it felt so good to be teaching again.
But there was one more thing that I didn’t have time to teach in class, something that I thought was important enough to share on here. When it comes to switching to paleo, especially when I did the Whole30, I realized that the majority of my issues with sticking to it came from inside my own head.
1. Peer pressure. Is it really there? Aren’t you stronger than that?
When I first told people at my office I was doing the Whole30, the boys gave me a hard time. There were a few times that I came to work to a donut sitting on my desk and the guys laughing in the other room. But after I continued to calmly move the donut away, the jokes stopped. Now when we go out as a group, they always ask. “wait, is there something Rachel can eat here?” As Jake told me once, if you take your diet seriously, others will too.
Now I could have given in. I could have said “well I don’t want people to give me a hard time.” But we’re all adults here. I’m sure the jokes could have stopped even sooner if I just said, “that’s not funny.” If you’re having a hard time eating paleo while everyone else isn’t, that’s on you, not your friends. Put your big girl/boy panties on and put your foot down.
2. Social engagements aren’t fun anymore
Which brings me to number 2. It can be frustrating feeling like you aren’t part of the group. Even I admit that the times I stray from paleo are typically when I’m eating with friends. It’s hard to say no to the desserts that everyone else is eating or when the office buys lunch for everyone but it’s pizza. But then I remember again, this isn’t middle school. If you aren’t eating the pizza, people might ask, but in the end, no one cares.
If you know you’re going to a party where there will be cakes or ice cream, bring a Lara Bar with you. Or plan a special meal waiting for you when you get home. Make it something you really love and enjoy eating. And if you’re doing the Whole30 and can’t drink, offer to be the designated driver. Trust me, your friends will be grateful.
3. It feels impossible to find a restaurant you can eat at
When I did the Whole30 in January, I decided I wanted to be super strict when going out to eat. I didn’t order anything cooked because I didn’t want to risk that it was cooked in vegetable oil. Now I pick my battles. If I go out to eat, I know that I probably won’t find a perfectly paleo meal. But if you’re doing the Whole30, it can feel frustrating going out to eat.
So does this mean you give up? No. Invite your friends over to your place for dinner and cook a great meal that’s 100% in your control to be paleo. Show off your new skills in the kitchen, show your friends how delicious paleo foods can be, and feel confident that you’re sticking to your diet. Who knows, you might even start a new tradition.
4. Don’t obsess over your food
Having said that, if you do eat something that isn’t paleo, don’t obsess over it. Move on. The first time I did the Whole30, I thought it was far to restrictive. I became obsessed with foods I couldn’t eat. I remember putting Sriracha on my eggs, only to read the ingredient list later and realizing there was sugar in it. I felt like a failure.
But I wasn’t. I was learning. If you think of paleo as being restrictive, it will be. But if you think of it as eliminating the foods that hurt you and concentrate on the foods you can eat, you will realize just how great it is. Also remember that stress can do far more damage than that tiny bit of sugar you just ate.
5. Don’t obsess over your body’s reaction
And finally, speaking of stress, my biggest issue when I first switched to paleo was obsessing over every little bump and squeak my body made. When I first did the Whole30, I had horrible acid reflux the first two weeks. If I had read “It Starts With Food” back then, I would have know this was normal and would go away. But instead I was convinced paleo must be a terrible way to eat.
Even when I did the Whole30 in January, I was so frustrated that I didn’t lose any weight. I had to take a step back to realize I gained something far better. That my fibromyalgia and asthma had more or less disappeared. Take notes on how your body reactions, but stick with it until the end before you judge.
If you are just starting out on your paleo journey, feel free to reach out to me through the comments below or my email. I might not have the answers, but I can at least help point you in the right direction. If paleo isn’t for you but you enjoy reading my blog, know that these tips can really apply to any diet.