Andrew asked me after my November strict paleo challenge in aid of Movember to write a few words of wisdom for all of you approaching 40 days of good clean eating.
I had great results from being paleo for that month: no colds, weight loss, some training improvements (I didn’t get that jet-pack turbo charge improvement many people talk about….possibly psychosomatic?) but mostly it was fun to try and I did feel great at the end of the month even if my social life had suffered.
Prep as far as I’m concerned takes two forms: mental and logistical so lets run through a few top tips:
1) Don’t drink the kool-aid. Paleo is a framework for eating (i like to call it dairy/gluten/processed free!) – not a diet or religion, and one size does not fit all. It also isn’t the key to world peace and the end of all dietary issues for everyone. Everyone has an opinion on what you should eat – but you’ll figure out whats best for you through trial and error. Some paleo science is dodgy, some things make sense. Just give it a try and keep the proselytising to a minimum.
2) FRUIT AND NUTS: what to do??? Now, I’m looking at all you turbo-charged Rx-WOD ripping boys out there – please don’t worry about how many nuts and pieces of fruit you eat. Chances are you have an awesome metabolism and will struggle to consume the amount of calories you need if you limit these two key ‘bulkers’ in the paleo diet.
If you are like me, and did paleo to trim some inches, 2 pieces of fruit a day and a handful of nuts max is good guidance. But don’t be too strict with yourself. If your colleagues are eating birthday cake – have some dried mango! Its important you feel like you get treats sometimes too.
3) Get ready to cook. A lot. The key to paleo enjoyable is making a lot of things yourself. My first week I ate out and had a shitty steak with wilted salad while my friends ate lasagna and sticky toffee pudding around me. Stay in. Cook. Bring your lunch. Research recipes and blogs to keep the food you eat interesting, engaging and healthy. If you never cook at all, take the week before the challenge to practice cooking for yourself to ensure the sudden transition combined with a sugar detox doesn’t leave you in a sobbing, hunger pile on your kitchen floor.
4) Accept that your social life will change. I wasn’t drinking at all – so I spent a lot of nights in to avoid temptation and harassment. Suddenly I had more hobbies! I wrote music, I trebled the amount of yoga I was doing on top of crossfit, I watched DVDs and I started knitting. Having a paleo buddy (hey Kirsty!) can help as at least you aren’t alone.
1) Get yourself some meat. There is the Athleat meat delivery boxes, early morning visits to Smithfield market to buy in bulk or Markymarket if you don’t want to get up early – all options to fill your freezer with many meal options.
2) Find a good and cheap local fruit and veg shop. I would travel halfway across London regularly to go to Newington Green Fruit and Veg – Its worth it. They are open 8am to 10pm 7 days a week and have the freshest, cheapest and most diverse selection of fruit, veg and nuts in London. Set yourself a challenge to try a new vegetable every week – whether its kohlrabi, that weird fractal cauliflower or fresh artichokes.
3) Get thee some Tupperware. You are now that person who leaves the house armed with veggies in boxes. Get used to it.
4) Get a slowcooker! This is one I didn’t figure out until way too late. If you want to be paleo without breaking the bank, but struggle to give ‘off cuts’ the slow cooking they need to be tender and delicious during the week – use your slow cooker! I would put casseroles on before I went to bed (chicken, tomatoes, capers, olives, anchovies, garlic, olive oil, oregano being a classic), spoon it into Tupperware in the morning and boom! I would also put things in the dish at night and store it in the fridge, then pop the bowl in the slow cooker, turn it on when I left for work on low so I’d have a lovely meal waiting at home when I came in post training. I got really smug about this. Try to avoid that part.
5) Figure out what condiments are ok. It was a surprise to me that I could cook with mine according to many paleo recipes – and that a touch a soy sauce wasn’t actually going to derail my progress. I made my own ketchup and salad dressings, and there are tonnes of paleo recipes out there for condiments. Oh, and just FYI – peanuts and cashews aren’t paleo. Learned that after a week of peanut butter for breakfast.