I will do my best to explain why I am eating strictly Paleo for 60 days. Many people question it, and sometimes I think people judge it without trying it. The worst comments I have heard have been "C'mon, have some cake. Live a little" and "this all or nothing extreme diet can't be healthy".
My Crossfit box does nutrition challenges every few months. With the latest challenge starting right after the holidays, and right at the beginning of the New Year, I decided to fully commit.
After more than 2 years of successful dieting, I had begun to indulge too often. I was tired of dieting and felt I "deserved" a break.
The additional splurges started to increase gradually, and there was always a temptation wherever I was
dessert, vacations, parties, birthdays, holidays, and the list goes on. I didn't gain much weight, but I stopped losing weight -- 10 pounds short of my goal.
My goal is to reach my ultimate goal weight of 136lbs. (I weighed in at 150lbs at the start of the challenge on January 7th). My secondary goal is to be able to do strict pull-ups, and with 14 fewer pounds, I will be almost there!
Another aspect of Paleo challenges I find really beneficial is that it is always eye-opening to really study food labels. Almost all of the food in regular grocery stores is packed with sugars, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, preservatives, and other chemicals. See this article explaining why these ingredients are bad for your health and this article on the negative health effects associated with hydrogenated oil. We all know that trans-fat and corn syrup are for bad us, but I know that I did not realize how it is in literally everything.
For example, take a look at the ingredients a popular brand of snack bars. Can you spot the unhealthy ingredients?
I used to eat these kinds of granola bars in my lunches and as an after school snack when I was a kid.
Now, I have learned how to make my own.
I simply mix some dried apricots and dates, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and a teaspoon of coconut oil in a food processor. I add cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. It's all natural and tastes better than the manufactured kind. The homemade version probably has as many calories as the packaged kind, but no artificial sugars, oils, and chemicals. I will take these with me when I go on my business trip this week to avoid buying snacks at the airport.
(Ignore the dog. He was just letting me know that they smell good enough to steal).
Here's another example. Recently I spend time reading the labels of salsa, tomato sauce, and ketchup. I could not find one brand in our regular grocery store chain that did not contain added sugar.
Eating 100% Paleo forces me to consider what is a natural food (could be hunted or gathered) and what is an artificial food (manufactured). It also has helped me learn where to buy healthy food (Wholefoods!) and how to cook and makes things taste good (spices!).
Now, yes it is hard to give up certain foods completely for 60 days. No ice cream, no pasta, no crackers, no bread, no chocolate, no alcohol, etc. After the first week though, I feel great. I sleep better. I am more alert and awake. I'm more energetic, and I just feel fit overall.
When people question the "severity" of the diet, it is often the same people that eat the "traditional" American diet of cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and pasta for dinner. I don't judge these people - I ate like this for 26 years. It was all I knew. That was the food advertised on TV, found in the grocery store, and all my family and friends ate the same way. It has taken a lot of reading and research as well as finding other like-minded people to finally understand what is a truly healthy food and what is just advertised as a healthy food. After all, grocery stores chains and the corresponding packaged foods that sit on the shelves for months, have only been around for about 100 years. This is a very short percentage of time in the evolution of humans and food.