Making the choice to start the Paleo diet is a smart move. You are on track for a leaner, healthier future. You have probably done some research and now understand the main idea. Perhaps you have even made a list of foods that you can and can’t eat or maybe a meal plan for a few days. Before you go any further, think about how you will really start and the lifestyle changes involved. Getting this transition period right is the key to being successful.
You might wonder why you need a transition period at all, why not just jump in and go full on Paleo from the start? Some people do this successfully. However, depending on your current situation, there is probably a better way. The problem with diving straight in for many is that it is just too big of a change.
All this is basically because of habits and behaviour. You may have read that it can be difficult to change how we behave. You can see this all the time all around us. Look at how many people you know who have destructive habits that they repeat day after day. Think about how many people start diets. They are perfect for a few days or even weeks and then it all comes crashing down as they reach for the donuts.
You need to bear this in mind when approaching the Paleo diet. If you already eat a very healthy diet you can probably make the change with no real issues. But if you follow a typical western diet, this will be a major change. The things that will be tough to give up are sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial flavourings. These three things are so universally present in our food that we have forgotten what food tastes like without them. Eating vegetables without them is just so alien to our over-stimulated taste buds that we might initially think that they are tasteless. It is like someone who drinks coffee all day. The caffeine doesn’t give them a buzz anymore. Cut down to one cup a day and suddenly you can feel it.
The second reason that it is difficult to cut these sorts of things out is that they are genuinely addictive in the same way as drugs. If you stop eating sugar from one day to the next, you will get withdrawal symptoms. Expect headaches and irritability.
So what do you do? Think transition. Most smart advocates of the Paleo diet are encouraging people to ease into things. Don’t go from one extreme to another. Gradually reduce poor food choices one at a time whilst replacing them with a healthy Paleo alternative. This needs to be done over a period of weeks and not just days.
The first thing to reduce is sugar. As previously mentioned, just dropping sugar is hard. The easier path is replacing it. A word of warning. Don’t reach for artificial sweeteners. You are just replacing one set of problems with another. The natural alternative to sugar is raw honey. Use this when you crave sweetness, but even here it is important to reduce quantities. Eventually, you get to a point where you will really appreciate the sweetness of organic fruit and won’t need the sugar hit that has become a drug.
The same is true for flavouring. There are literally hundreds of ways of naturally making food taste great using herbs and spices. The chemicals you may have been using up to now are just there to make low-quality food taste better and last longer on the shelf.
Transitioning slowly into the Paleo diet is a sure-fire way of getting it to work. Just think, you have spent years or even decades eating badly, putting on weight and losing your sense of taste. Can you really expect it to change back overnight? The sheer pleasure that you can get from food once you have been weaned off sugar and chemicals makes it all worthwhile.