Have you ever taken stock of your life and realised you eat the same things day-in, day-out, almost scared of trying new things because of your lack of nutrition knowledge? You sit in a rut, having the same porridge for breakfast, the same roasted veggies and pulses for lunch, and only slightly mixing it up for dinner? That has been my experience at least for the last 12 months, until April 2017, when I decided to go Paleo and switch up my diet.
Now, a disclaimer – I don’t think that the Paleo lifestyle (or diet, whichever you want to call it) is a magic bullet cure to make you lose weight and gain muscle, no matter how many articles on the subject I read online. No, instead I think that it’s a great tool for learning about good nutrition and balancing the good with the bad in a way that works for you. Although it has limits and “rules” to follow, these are all based on good principles, and by following these I have learnt a lot about how to make the most of the food that I eat, and to enjoy the treats more when I have them.
To give you a rundown of the Paleo diet, it’s based on the principle that the Palaeolithic man had a much lower body fat, higher muscle percentage, and that they suffered from a lot fewer food-related ills than the modern man. It suggests that we return to eating in a similar fashion to how man ate before agriculture – a high protein and fat content, with only naturally occurring sugars and no farmed grains or carbohydrates. Basically: meat is on the menu – bonus points if it is grass-fed – as is wild-caught seafood and eggs, plenty of vegetables and fruits, and nuts and seeds. Legumes (including chickpeas, beans and peanuts) and grains like wheat are not to be eaten and, for most Paleo followers, neither is dairy. Sweet potatoes are preferable to white potatoes, and although sugar is okay in naturally occurring sources such as maple syrup and honey, refined sugar is normally to be avoided.
It seems like a lot of restrictions, right? Yes and no. If you are used to eating a highly processed diet with plenty of fast food and fries, then maybe it is difficult. However, I mainly ate a clean and unprocessed diet before, that was just full of things like legumes, oats and peanuts. I suffered from really bad gas and bloating, especially at night, and as I mentioned I wasn’t comfortable with the habits I’d got myself into. So, I made the switch very suddenly at the beginning of one university term and I haven’t looked back!
The first thing to go was my peanut butter habit, which I have subbed for almond butter and other nuts and berries. Milk has been swapped for almond or hazelnut milk, and yogurt is out. Storemade jams have been replaced by homemade chia-seed jam, and breakfasts have been switched up with chia-seed puddings and homemade smoothies. I’ve found that I eat more vegetables and seeds and nuts now than ever before – something I used to shy away from because of their high carb content, but have learnt to embrace after realising that there aren’t too many other places to get carbs from! I love baked sweet potato, with either a sweet or savoury topping, and have even experimented with paleo baking (recipes to be coming in later blog posts).
Is it easy all the time? No. That’s a simple question with a simple answer, but nothing is ever simple all the time and you just have to embrace it. My parents don’t particularly agree with my diet choices, and it can be hard to find things which are paleo-friendly if I go out to eat with my friends. I am also a runner and need to find plenty of carb-sources in order to power me through 50-mile weeks with strength training and climbing as well. But I’m happy, I think I’ve found a balance and a lifestyle that works for me. This blog is here for me to track my path through this new way of living, and I will be updating every couple of days with either my thoughts (like this post), a new recipe, or a weekly round-up of my workouts!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram (@primallyimperfect) to get updates on new blog posts, and to track my progress 😊