Disclaimer: I am not a paleo lifestyle expert, and I have absolutely no formal training in diet, nutrition, or exercise. But if you’re considering starting to follow a paleo lifestyle, I’ve been where you are. The tips offered here are solely based on my experiences over the last four months.
Start by being prepared for what you’re getting yourself into. It’s about setting yourself up for success. In my case, that meant reading The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf and Practical Paleo by Dianne Sanfillipo. They’ll give you the reasoning behind paleo and provide a lot of background nutritional info along with a month of recipes and schedules to make your transition easier.
When you start reading, also start (if you haven’t already) cutting back on your dairy and grains. It’ll make that 30-day challenge so much easier. Changing your entire nutritional habits overnight? I can’t speak to that one. I’d already cut out white starches and most dairy when I did my challenge. I was surprised by how easy it was to give up all the “good stuff” at once.
Oh, and on that… there’s no RIGHT day to start your challenge, really. Something is always going to come up during your first 30 days. But if I can survive two corporate events and a wedding (aka family food fest 2012), you can survive whatever falls into your life. Besides, it gives you a chance to learn on the fly how to adjust your new lifestyle to big life events. They won’t stop just because you started a new nutritional life.
Start simple. Don’t go overboard. Be prepared to follow a paleo plan as strictly as possible for 30 days. But don’t think you have to go out on Day 1 (or Day -1) and invest in everything it takes to revamp your kitchen. Buy what you need for a week and pick up the rest over time. I went a little overboard on my prep weekend, following a Week 1 grocery list to the letter. I’m just glad I didn’t let the costs intimidate me. The next week, I only had to pick up fresh veggies, and all at once, my budget was back in line.
Now, set yourself up for success. I rarely cooked when I started following paleo. Not because I was bad at it. Just because I didn’t make time for it in my life. Now, I cook several different things on Thursday nights and Sundays, and have food ready to grab and go the rest of the week.
Ease yourself into cooking. Basics you already know how to make will take you far. For example: Grilled or baked chicken can be reheated and served with steamed vegetables, sliced over salads, diced to put into lettuce wraps. But it all starts with basic meat-over-fire. Make a big pot of spaghetti sauce and put some, in smaller portions, into the freezer for later use. Invest in portion-ware to take to work. Hard boil some eggs for quick protein. If you feel like it, make yourself a pot of chicken soup (no noodles) or tomato (with coconut milk instead of cream).
Okay, now I’m getting carried away. I’ll stop here and pick it up tomorrow with what I’ve learned about restaurants, sleeping, and dealing with friends, family, and coworkers.