The Paleo Challenge is over…now what?
It is official! The week we have been waiting for…the end of our 6 week Paleo Challenge! The biggest question I have been getting (outside of, “who do you think won”), is what to do now that the challenge is over. I hope to give you a few things to think about and keep in mind as you continue your road to better overall health and fitness from this point forward. I want to start off by congratulating each and every one of you that completed this journey with us. The results I have seen in the gym are amazing, and I love the confidence I see shining through on many faces. I have no doubt that the measurements we take, and baselines we retest this week, will show significant changes for all of us. Along with this, I am pretty sure most of you have your first big cheat meal already planned out in your head. Enjoy the food that you have been craving, but please keep in mind the following five ideas:
- Reintroduce foods back to your diet slowly: I know it is so incredibly tempting the minute the challenge is over and measurements are made to go on a “food binge.” Donuts and lattes for breakfast, pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner. I will warn you if that is the plan, plan to have some digestive issues immediately following every meal. Your body is now running the way that it was designed to, and putting everything back into your body at once will throw your system into confusion. If you really want to see what foods you have trouble with and what you don’t, than reintroduce things slowly. If dairy is something you miss terribly than start there. Test your body out and see if you react to it, or have any negative effects from it at all. From personal experience this is the one that got me on my first paleo challenge. I grew to love how I felt and performed on paleo but really missed my skinny vanilla lattes. As soon as my measurements were taken I went and got the biggest one I could find. It tasted amazing…..but I had a pretty adverse reaction to it. My intestines were miserable and my joints were achy. I discovered it wasn’t really worth the cheat. You can do the same thing with grains, alcohol, and sugar. Reintroduce them slowly and see what your body tells you. From there you can decide what’s worth the cheat and what’s not.
- Food is not a reward: This is quite honestly a hard one for me. I am bad about telling people, “you deserve it,” when they reward themselves with food. Comments we make to ourselves are, “I had a bad day, so I deserve this glass of wine,” or “I had a week worth of amazing workouts so I deserve this pizza.” Yes, on the occasion, a glass of wine or a slice of pizza will not kill you, but at the end of the day eat it because you have been craving it, not because it is a reward. Try to find other ways to reward/comfort yourself outside the realm of food. Having a bad day…skip the ice cream bowl and walk into the gym for an hour sweat session instead. Got a job promotion and new pr’s in the gym… skip the celebration drinks, and go buy yourself some workout apparel instead. Feeling stressed… get out of the fridge and meet up with some friends, or take a walk. The point here is to find other ways to handle life situations other than turning to the kitchen.
- Find an accountability partner: The paleo challenge works so well because we have an entire group of people relying on each other to get through. The thought is, “if he can not cheat, so can I,” or “I want the same results as her.” When the challenge is over we lose a little bit of that accountability. We should all be accountable to ourselves first and foremost since it is our own personal health we are dealing with. Having someone to do it with you is always an added benefit. For example, most of you in the gym know Bethany and Monica. They have a wonderful friendship and I was so impressed when I first met them that they had already been doing paleo and held each other accountable. That is amazing. They can call each other for recipe ideas, or when they want to dive headfirst into the nearest bag of chocolate and bottle of wine. Those systems help. If you have a significant other ask them to help you continue to make healthy choices. Talk to people in the gym who are choosing to remain close to paleo and use them as well. If nothing else ask Jason or I to help you remain on this lifestyle choice. Jason can be a pretty intimidating accountability partner…..(:
- Find a “happy place” with paleo: I call it a, “happy place,” some call it a “sane place,” and still others like to put percentages behind it. You will hear a lot of people say, “I am about 85% paleo.” What does this mean you may ask? Well, they have found that they love how they feel on paleo, and want to remain feeling that way, but once or twice a week they may have something small to get it out of their system or keep them sane. This is honestly the best way to go. There are people out there who can stay 100% strict and have the determination and will power of steel to say no to any temptation. Those people inspire me greatly, and if that is you that I am describing, than by all means please stick with this. It is the single best gift you can give yourself in terms of overall health and longevity. For most though, an occasional cheat is okay and gives you the willpower to keep this lifestyle up. Always though indulge in moderation, and than keep to a plan to go straight back to paleo choices the very next meal. Don’t get caught up in Friday night cheat meals, that turn into all day Saturday and Sunday binges. You put far too much effort into the past six weeks to do that to your body. Remember that you will eat again and this is not a gorge fest. Choose one or two foods that you really like (I would highly recommend keeping it gluten free), and ENJOY them. It isn’t necessary to never again taste chocolate, sushi (with rice), cheese, wine, etc. Just keep it SANE and truly focus on the entire experience (that means NO television, computer or multi-tasking while you are eating). Sit down – smell, taste, and ENJOY the food. There is no need to eat it as fast as you can (no one is going to steal it – PROMISE), or to eat every single bite even if you are stuffed or no longer enjoying it.
- Keep in mind the hard work and effort that you put into this challenge. Look at the changes in your body, your more consistent energy levels, and your performance in the gym. Make yourself a goal board if you can, or post old pictures of yourself before this even started to keep you from over indulging. Imagine if you find your happy place and devote the rest of your life to this journey! The rewards will be immeasurable. Keep it up Northlake, I am proud of all of you!