It’s no secret I came across the Paleo way of eating completely by accident. That accident, however, totally changed my life and without it I’m sure I’d still be the 300 pound, extremely unhealthy and unhappy person I was prior. I would still be eating all the grains, having pain in my joints and increasing my jean size each year.
When I first started removing the processed foods from my daily diet, I had no idea what I was doing really. I had never truly dieted before and even at 300 pounds I knew I didn’t want to start either. This blog was far from being a baby idea in my brain and I really thought soy was a health food. I came across Paleo after completing my first round of Whole30.
I felt so good, and knew I had so much work to do in the way of changing my habits (i.e. binge eating and emotional relationship with food). After all, I’d been in this cycle for years since childhood. Even from a young age I struggled with childhood obesity and emotional eating, 30 days wasn’t gonna cut it. I started looking for something similar by searching things like “unprocessed natural food diet”, “no calorie counting real food diet” and “whole food recipes” and realized what I was looking for had a name.
I’ll say it again. I really had no idea what I was doing in the grand scheme of things. But I know whatever it was was working better for me than what I was doing previously. So I dedicated myself to learning and committing to it.
Through the months that followed I gained a lot of nutrition knowledge, lost a lot of weight and made a few mistakes along the way. Many of them helped me to learn more, understand myself better and make adjustments to my new way of eating when necessary. But, that being said, some of the mistakes are ones I (and you) could easily have avoided.
1. Not Eating Enough Fats
Being born to a mother who grew up when low-fat and fat-free was all the rage, I naturally inherited the same idea too. Growing up, our milk was skim, our butter wasn’t real and our cookie packages had a large fat free stamp on the packaging. So when I started only eating real food it was a huge adjustment to be eating so many fats and frankly, it made me worried.
As I started to realize that I’m eating a ton of food each day and getting hungrier than I should, I started to add in more healthy fats. I added half an avocado to my breakfasts, dressed my salads in healthy oils, opted for nuts or the other half of the avocado later in the day and stopped being so concerned with only using minimal amounts of animal fats, ghee or oil when cooking my meals.
I learned pretty quickly that I should have been doing this all along. I felt GREAT, had so much energy and was *gasp* still losing weight. If you’re not getting enough healthy fats you may be feeling hungry again soon after eating, experiencing low energy levels or an inability to concentrate – AKA brain fog. Try upping your intake of healthy fats throughout the day.
Check out my list of favorite Paleo resources for fore science-y information!
2. I Didn’t Get Support
I didn’t tell anyone I was doing this when I started out. You know how some people are like, really, really into telling anyone who will listen about their new diet? Yeah, I was exactly the opposite. I avoided the topic like the plague. I was extremely embarrassed of the state of my current health, and in my mind I thought if I told people they would secretly be thinking, “Ummm good idea. You probably should have done this a long time ago.” Between that, and not wanting everyone I told to know if I failed when I didn’t actually follow through with it, I decided to just keep it to myself.
And I did. It wasn’t until everyone started commenting on my weight loss that it became public knowledge that I was eating differently. While it worked out okay for me, keeping quiet was definitely a mistake I made that first year.
I wish now that I would have had people I could count on for support when I needed it. Having people in your corner to cheer you on, encourage you or even to vent to would have made making the adjustment from eating what every other person is eating (the S.A.D., Standard American Diet) to going against the grain (literally) and doing a total 180. I know now that if I would have mentioned it to my friends and family, many of them would have even joined me – which would have really helped back then when it was all so new and challenging.
Getting support in any lifestyle change is so crucial. Reach out to someone you trust, join some Facebook groups or hop on Instagram to find a community to lift you up. Starting my Instagram was the best thing I’ve done for myself. The love, community and friendships that have come out of that are just unbelievably positive.
3. Too Much Dried Fruit
Through the first year of eating Paleo, I had to get real honest with myself about the foods that were still problematic for my binge eating, emotional eating and bad habits. Even if the food choices were Paleo. For a while during that first year, I totally used the, “it’s Paleo so it’s okay” excuse and ignored the fact that I’m eating this dried mango by the pound.
Your body processes sugar from dried fruit differently when it’s consumed without the water content of normal fruit. And, you can quickly and easily consume WAY more dried fruit in a sitting than you’d be able to eat if it was a whole fruit. I mean, can you eat 5 mangos or apples in one sitting? Probably not. But in dried fruit you sure can.
Also, because this isn’t just about the nutritional value or lack of when it comes to dried fruit, and it’s also about substituting one habit for another – your brain doesn’t differentiate between cravings being a Paleo choice or not. I used to have a habit of eating peanut butter right out of the jar standing in the kitchen. That habit didn’t go away because I started eating Paleo. I just ended up using almond butter in the same exact manner.
So long story short, the mistake here is that I made the choice to ignore the foods that we’re mentally healthy for me even though the fell into the Paleo template. Paleo is just that, a template. To avoid making this mistake, honor yourself first and Paleo rules second. If you eat a pound and a half of Paleo breaded and fried BBQ chicken wings without thinking or stopping, don’t tell yourself it’s fine because it’s Paleo. The dried mango lesson applies to you too.
4. Being Too All or Nothing & Not Doing A Real Reintroduction
I’m a very all or nothing person in general. So when I saw the results that eating unprocessed foods based on just meats, veggies and fruit was having on my health and happiness, I doubled down on it. Hard. Because I was super duper strict Paleo girl, I never did a real reintroduction to find out which foods truly didn’t agree with my body. I knew that this was working and why rock the boat, right?
Well, I should have experimented and played around a bit with having things like gluten free items and high quality cheese if for nothing else but to just know for sure that those things are foods I could or couldn’t eat if I wanted to every once in a while.
Because I didn’t do that, I was wrapped up in being 100% Paleo, 100% of the time. While that really helped me a) get healthy and b) change my food habits, it also gave me a whole different set of habits that might not have been the most balanced. I went from being totally out of control with my eating at 300 pounds, to loving the control I had with my eating and not letting anything interfere.
I wish I would have taken a little bit of time during that first year to develop a mindful balance and tailored the Paleo template to work for me. After all, the Paleo template is a set of guidelines, not a strict rule book. I’d suggest really taking your time, making adjustmenets and making Paleo work for you, not the other way around!
5. Avoiding Social Engagements
While this was both a positive thing, and only kind of a mistake I made, I do wish I would have put myself in situations where I would have had to come up with strategies and solutions to deal with social engagements. Instead, I avoided all temptation and in the process isolated myself a bit that first year. Unless I could control the situation, I wasn’t going. Which, in hindsight, was okay for me because going to the bar and thinking I’d make a good choice would probably not have been a good idea back then. I’ve since come up with lots of strategies, tools and best practices on how to eat out and not be a total recluse because I eat so differently than the normal American.
That being said, if you’re finding yourself avoiding family things, I’d start small (aka, don’t go to a favorite pizza joint where everyone will be having beers and pizza until 2 am) and start with people you know really well and are comfortable with. From there you’ll start getting comfortable with how to explain what you’re doing to people, work on making adjustments to your order at a restaurant and begin learning how to deal with uncomfortable conversations with food pushers (ya know, the people who won’t let you out of their sight until you just have the caramel double chocolate brownies they made special for you!) at family events.
It gets easier with practice, and now that I’ve had lots of it, I can navigate these social engagements with ease, but I wish I would have started learning and practicing them sooner!
Overall, these “mistakes” could also be looked at as learning experiences and yours will be different than mine. Looking back, I know I could have done things differently or “better”, but they all served a purpose into helping me learn more about myself, about Paleo and healthy eating habits in general.