Paleo Diet Mistakes
11 Huge Mistakes People Make When Starting the Paleo Diet. Plus, How to Avoid Them
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
August 7th, 2019
I’m so excited to bring you this post because I’ve seen firsthand that what we eat has a powerful connection to our overall health. Many people who have turned to Paleo have lost weight, enhanced their health, and improved their performance. At the end of the day, it’s a lifestyle change.
Once people experience these amazing benefits, they usually never go back to the way they used to eat!
Having said that, I’ve also seen people struggle with this transition. Those people end up not getting the results they hoped for. Unexpected challenges and difficulties always come with any change, but especially with dietary changes that have become habitual over a lifetime.
In an effort to make this change as easy as possible for you and get you adapted to this better way of eating, I want you to be aware of the common difficulties people experience. This is so you can have a plan of action to avoid them. But first, I’m going to give you a quick explanation of the Paleo diet.
What Is the Paleo Diet?
The Paleo diet is a way of eating just as nature intended and includes real, whole foods. It’s named after our Paleolithic ancestors' way of eating. Back in the caveman days, people didn’t have modern agriculture to rely on for food. These ancient hunter-gatherers ate what was available to them, which of course, included no processed foods.
A Paleo diet reduces systemic inflammation and oxidative stress.1 As you may know, systemic inflammation is involved in a multitude of disease processes. Reducing inflammation is key to unlocking the shackles keeping you in a state of chronic disease. Oxidative stress is a disruption in the balance of free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Unfortunately, this leads to tissue damage and an inability to detoxify.
A Paleo diet heals and helps many diseases including:
- Autoimmune disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Irritable bowel disease
- Celiac disease
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Heart disease
What Do You Eat on the Paleo Diet?
There’s no reason to be intimidated by the Paleo diet. It’s so easy to overthink what you can and cannot eat, but the truth is it’s really quite simple. In short, if it’s processed, don’t eat it. Also, avoid grains, dairy, and legumes.
A glimpse of things you can enjoy on the Paleo diet includes:
- Lean, organic, free-range meats
- A variety of herbs and spices
- Nuts and seeds (in moderation)
- Healthy fats
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
11 Mistakes People Make When Starting the Paleo Diet
Not Having Fun
It’s easy to end up eating the same thing every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We’ve all been there. Stuck in a rut, and throwing your arms up in frustration saying, “What the heck am I supposed to eat?” or “This is boring!” A lot of us resist change because it’s uncomfortable to try something new.
Well, I have news for you! There’s a whole world of delicious meats, veggies, herbs, and spices out there waiting for you to explore. Begin trying some new foods, and before you know it you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
I tell you what, when my wife and I started eating this way, our idea of fixing dinner was making a bowl of cereal or throwing a sandwich together. Needless to say, it took some time to learn to cook and some courage to try new foods. I’ve noticed that people who get bored or frustrated easily with this way of eating also have a hard time cooking and shopping for food.
The problem is not the kitchen, cooking, or shopping. The true problem lies in one’s thoughts on food. Be aware of when the voice in your head wants to label something a problem. Recognize this negative thinking for what it is – the old you. The old you wants to stick your feet firmly into the sand because it’s within your comfort zone. But this prevents you from moving forward.
So here’s what I recommend. Try not to react or identify with this voice. Remember what you’re doing here – you’re doing something amazing for yourself. Ultimately, you’re improving your health and wellbeing. In order to make this work, in the long run, it has to be an enjoyable experience for you. For me, this meant starting small and working up to the point of enjoying meal preparation. Now, I look forward to whipping up a colorful, mouthwatering meal.
2. Eating Too Many Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are amazing! However, they’re also hard to stop eating for most people. I’m one of those people. I can hardly stop eating nuts – it’s nearly impossible. I could eat two pounds in one sitting and not breathe while I’m doing it. When people say they haven’t done well on a Paleo type diet, many times we see them eating too many nuts and seeds.
There are a few problems with nuts and seeds you should be aware of, including:
- Nuts and seeds are extremely high in omega 6 fat, which can be fairly inflammatory to the body – especially when you eat too many of them.2
- Nuts and seeds also have some gut irritation potential because of high levels of lectin load and phytic acid.3
- Nuts and seeds are very calorically dense, and while we don’t want you thinking of counting calories, it’s still a factor to consider with weight loss or improving health.
I definitely recommend taking it easy on the nuts and seeds. Think of using them more as a condiment rather than habitually going for handful after handful. Another thing I suggest is to prepare the nuts and seeds properly by soaking and dehydrating them. This reduces gut-irritating properties and maximizes nutrient value.
3. Eating Too Much Fruit
This one is so common. The sugar found in fruit is still sugar – and sugar is one of the biggest problems in terms of making you sick and overweight. Far too often people end up having bananas and mangos for breakfast, peaches and pineapples for lunch, and strawberries for dinner. The truth is you won’t get the results you’re looking for while eating all that sugar. You’ll consistently spike your insulin and put your body into fat-storing mode – that’s not a good place to be.
Most people are extremely addicted to sugar but don’t realize it. It’s very hard to step away from it, yet if your goal is improving health or losing weight, then you are going to stop the high fruit consumption. I suggest eating fruit in moderation. Try pairing fruit with a quality protein source and fat, as this prevents your body from producing too much insulin. It’s all about managing insulin through controlling your blood sugar.
Stick with fruits that aren’t so full of sugar such as:
4. Not Getting Enough Sleep
A lot of people drastically underestimate the importance of a good night’s rest. Did you know just one night of sleep deprivation makes you insulin resistant?4 But what does this mean for you? It means your body goes into fat-storing mode. Making those pesky pounds even harder to lose.
You could be eating a perfect, real-food, Paleo type diet and doing everything right. But if you aren’t getting adequate sleep, it could put a stop to helping you lose weight as well as make you sick. Sleep is such a big deal!
When I’m talking about quality sleep, I’m not talking about six to seven hours of sleep. I’m talking about eight to ten hours of uninterrupted sleep in a pitch-black room. Or as close as you can get to these ideal conditions. Some nights will be easier than others. The key is to try your best to create a quality sleeping environment.
A few tips to get you a better night’s rest include:
- Avoiding screens (computer, TV, phone) for one to two hours before sleeping
- Doing an activity you find relaxing before bed (bath, massage, meditation)
- Keeping a dark, quiet, cool room
- Getting to bed at a consistent time each night
- Avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evenings
5. Resistance to Changing Your Ways
So let’s be honest, at some point you’ll need to eat outside of your own kitchen where the foods aren’t carefully chosen to fit within the guidelines of your diet. You’re going to need to be able to eat with your family, friends, or co-workers. You may need to decline a certain food or you may get asked questions about what you’re eating and why.
I notice that people who eat a typical, unhealthy American diet have a tendency to say something in reference to the way you’re eating like, “oh man, that really sucks,” “I feel sorry for you,” or “I could never do that.” Upon hearing this, you may also start to think these thoughts in your head by saying things like, “yeah, this does suck” or “why am I even doing this?”
Sadly, this only gets worse. I’ve had people crying out for help telling the world about how bad they have it now that they can’t have soda, sugar, and white bread. Or worse, you may convince yourself you can’t take it any longer and start shoveling the Twinkies or Doritos in your mouth.
I believe it’s important to recognize this for what it is, which is resistance that wants to keep you stuck. It’s the same resistance that has everyone else stuck and fearful of moving forward and making positive changes happen. This resistance keeps so many stuck in a cycle of being overweight, unhealthy, and a frequent flyer at the doctor’s office. Practice challenging this resistance, whether it’s coming from external or internal voices – you’re stronger than you think.
6. Not Cleaning out the Pantry
A word of caution: You have to get rid of what is holding you down. If your pantry is still full of processed and refined food, then it’s inevitable – you’re going to end up eating it. We’ve all been there. It’s all too easy to find yourself in front of the fridge reaching for the ice cream.
How does this happen? Food manufacturers spend a fortune creating food that tastes amazing and is addictive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re very good at it!
I strongly suggest getting rid of the junk in your house. Throw it away or give it away, just do what needs to be done to stay on track. The truth is that sometimes will power just simply isn’t enough. If the temptation is there, chances are you’ll eat it purely out of habit.
I find that sometimes we can feel bad about not committing to something and feel like it’s all our fault. But operating on autopilot plays a large role in people’s perceived failures. If you normally eat ice cream in front of the television at night, try changing a part of that routine. Maybe eat a plate of fresh veggies or a small bowl of berries while you watch your favorite show. Small changes really add up to big payoffs over time.
7. Not Focusing on Quality
It’s so important you give serious consideration to the quality of the food you’re eating. Avoid meats like fast food chicken nuggets, gas station jerky, and factory-farmed meats. Many types of meat are loaded with chemicals, have a poor fatty acid profile, were raised on grains, and are loaded with sugar.
Purchase foods that have the following characteristics:
- Eat food that’s as near as possible to its original state.
- Make sure whatever you are buying doesn’t have sugar hidden somewhere in the ingredients.
- Look on the back of every label. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or don’t know what it is, then don’t eat that food.
- The best choice is to eat real food that doesn’t have a label, as close to nature as possible.
I realize not everyone can get grass-fed, organic, wild-caught, and free-range meat. Not only that, but access to organic veggies and fruits may be limited because of proximity and cost issues. The takeaway here is to not stress about every little thing you eat but to do the best you can – whatever that means for you.
8. Too Much Stress
You know those people who are always wound up, on the go, in a hurry, be here, be there, got to do this, must do that? These people are missing the boat! More importantly, is this person you? Either case, we must recognize that we live in an extremely fast-paced world that can sometimes take us over.
Know this: Nothing is more important than your inner space and your peace. Want to know the best part? You’re the one who controls it. Ask yourself frequently if there is an ease and lightness in what you are doing? This doesn’t mean you can’t work fast or effectively. Sometimes it’s not what you do but rather how you do it. Take some peace periods during the day, watch the clouds go by, listen to some birds chirp, and feel the breeze. Doesn’t that feel nice?
There are many more important things in life to consider than your busy “to do list.” I have a challenge for you. If someone comes to you and they’re feeling panicked and stressed, see if you can try calming them by not reacting to them. This doesn’t mean not listening to them. It’s actually quite the opposite.
Give them your fullest attention but remain completely still, free of any unnecessary tension. Breath through your belly, relax your shoulders, let go of straining your forehead, and just totally relax. You’ll be like a Jedi knight when you notice them becoming calmer. Bring that type of energy into every space of your life. Be calm in a world of chaos. This is huge and has everything to do with your health and well-being. This is because chronic stress affects virtually every system in your body.5
9. Getting on the Scale
Many people have a habit of getting on the scale every day. The mind chatter goes something like this: “I wonder how much I lost today?” “Oh no, I didn’t lose any weight today so this must not be working”; “Should I stop?”; or “What am I doing wrong?”
In the background, there is a hurricane of fear. Believe it or not, this causes further stress and puts you in a constant state of worry. Your body thinks it’s under attack as it senses the threat your mind is perceiving. Sadly, fear and stress can make you sick and prevent you from losing weight.
Let go of the mindset that your progress is measured by a number. This is because you are not a number. You are a living organism that needs proper nourishment in the same way a flower needs good water, clean soil, and sun.
Create positive thoughts in your mind and trust the process. Have a vision of where you want to be, but don’t get attached to any outcome. Focus on being patient and embracing this journey. You can do it!
10. Not Eating Enough Food
I’ve found many people have it ingrained in their heads that when they begin a new diet, it’s all about eating less food, mainly fewer calories. Frankly, this isn’t about eating less food. It’s about eating until you’re satisfied. I tell you what though, this happens much easier when you start to incorporate quality protein and traditional fats.
Again, this goes back to the weight loss mindset of conventional thinking, which is that your health and looks are a measurement of your weight. And further, i I eat less then I’ll lose more weight. Needless to say, this way of living isn’t sustainable.
Focus on eating until you’re satisfied. Remember, this is a lifestyle and you don’t want to be starving the rest of your life. That’s why it’s important to listen to your body and give it what it wants. The more you can enjoy your meals and look forward to them, the easier the transition will be.
11. Not Eating Enough Fat
Nearly everyone who has been living on the Standard American Diet uses sugar as a primary fuel source. Eating a Paleo diet dramatically reduces your intake of sugar. This means sugar is no longer an abundant source of energy. Instead, your body becomes adapted to burning fat as a primary fuel source which is the body’s preferred source of energy.
Conventional thinking, however, has conditioned the public into thinking fat is the enemy. As a result, people tend to go very light on the fat. But that’s not going to work here because you’ll quickly crash and feel tired all the time. You can be liberal with the fat and enjoy some coconut oil, butter, ghee, and palm oil. I promise you’ll thrive, and your body will thank you for it.
So What’s the Takeaway Here?
In a nutshell, eating a Paleo diet has done amazing things for my health and well-being. This is why I’m so certain this way of eating will do the same for you. Just don’t forget you may have some roadblocks trying to prevent you from getting the good health you deserve. This is normal, but what counts is your ability to stay the path. You can do it!
For more information on the benefits of the Paleo diet, check out these articles:
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