I can tell you where it STARTS... strip out all the crap from your diet and let your body heal and recover from whatever effects those foods may be provoking. What, exactly, does that mean? Super strict, no cheat, by-the-book Paleo for the next 30 days. Cut all the foods that could be kicking you in the crotch without you even knowing it for the next 30 days, and see how that feels. (To be clear – this is NOT a “30 Day Challenge”. This is so much bigger than that. And it's not really even about cheating. I kind of tricked you there. I'm not sorry. Read on, please.)
First and foremost, it will change your life. I cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact. This. Will. Change. Your. Life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. It could, quite possibly, change the emotional relationship you have with food, and with your body. It has the potential to change the way you eat for the rest of your life. I know this because I did it, and it changed my life, and it changed the way I eat on a very permanent basis.
I promised you some cheat-tips, so here's how this ties in. The only way you are going to know if something is having a negative effect on how you look, feel or perform is to take it out for a while, then try it again with a fresh perspective. Think of it this way – if you’re allergic to pollen, and you are exposed to pollen every day, that means every day your nose is a little stuffy and your head is a little achy. You probably don’t even realize how crappy you feel, because a stuffy nose and achy head is just normal. Now, take a vacation somewhere pollen-free. Allow your body to experience a month without that irritant. Then… come home. Imagine how aware you would be of your allergy then. Your first few days back, you would be miserably in tune with how your allergy is affecting your everyday life.
Same concept here. Dairy, gluten, lectins and alkaloids may be provoking a similar autoimmune response in your body today – and you don’t even know it. Certain sugary foods may send you running for the nearest candy bowl, while others may satisfy you with just a small amount. So take a vacation from those food groups. Give your body a break, and then, if you so choose, come back to them with a fresh perspective. You’ll be able to immediately see if – and how – they really do impact how you look, feel and perform.
There are other reasons for doing a super strict 30 day Paleo program. For one, there’s an excellent chance that this little adventure will jump start fat loss. And I’ve seen really good results, especially in women, of body shapes changing just by eliminating these foods. Does your stomach look flat in the morning and chubby by day’s end? Try cutting dairy. You’d be surprised how an irritated digestive tract can manifest into a muffin-top over those low rider jeans in just a matter of hours.
So what does strict Paleo mean? You'll get a different answer depending on who you ask, but this is the plan I followed back in April.
- Eat real food – meat*, eggs, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruit, oils (like EVOO or coconut). Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they're fresh and natural.
- Do not eat dairy. This includes butter, cheese (hard and soft), yogurt (even Greek) and milk (including cream in your coffee**).
- Do not eat grains. This includes bread, rice, pasta, corn (I count corn as a grain), oatmeal, and all of those gluten-free pseudo-grains. That's not real food, right?
- Do not eat legumes. This includes beans of all kinds, lentils, and peanuts. (No peanut butter, kids.)
- Do not eat sugars*** of any kind, real or artificial. No maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, Truvia, Stevia, etc.
- Do not eat processed foods. This includes protein shakes, processed bars (like Zone bars), dairy-free creamers, etc.
- Do not drink alcohol, in any form.
- If you have serious inflammation issues like arthritis, you may want to consider avoiding nightshades for 30 days as well.
**I drank coffee in moderate amounts. Since I was drinking it black, I really didn’t want that much anyway. If you really want to go hard core and reset your body’s tolerance to caffeine, skip the coffee for the 30 day period as well.
***I used reason when avoiding sugars. For example, my Sunbutter includes some cane juice, which means there are 3g of sugar in each serving. Since it’s such a fantastic fat source and the only other ingredient is sunflower seeds, I was okay with that.
So now that you have the basic plan, you need to know how to implement it. I’ll help you.
Start now. Today. This minute. Count out thirty days, go immediately to your grocery store and stock up on things you can eat, and begin. Cold turkey, just start. It’s the only way to do it. Give yourself excuses, reasons to put it off, and you may never begin. Do it now.
The only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days. Anything less and you are selling yourself, and your results, short. You may start to see and feel improvements within just a few days, but according to Robb and Matt, the healing process takes significantly longer. And... no cheating. Just ONE cheat could irritate your digestive tract, promote an inflammatory response, upend your insulin sensitivity and send you running for the nearest Dunkin Donuts. It will ruin the effect of the “reset button” you are trying to push. This isn’t me being a hard-ass, or insisting that you tough it out to prove to yourself you can do it. This is a fact – the only way this will work is if you give it the full thirty days, no cheating.
Right here. Come to my house, sign up for the month and then post back here as often as you like. I’ll provide the forum, every Monday and Friday, for the next 30 days. Post your progress, your results, share good recipes, ask questions. Tell us how good you look, how much better you feel, how much energy you have. Inspire each other. Support each other. Fist bumps all around for those of you who finish out the full 30 days. Right here, right now. Let’s do this.
Here comes the tough love. This is for those of you who are considering taking on this life-changing month, but aren’t sure you can actually pull it off, cheat free, for a full 30 days. This is for the people who have tried this before, but who “slipped” or “fell off the wagon” or “just HAD to eat (fill in food here) because of this (fill in event here)”. This is for you.
- It’s not that effing hard. (Yes, I wanted to throw an f-bomb in there.) Don’t you dare tell me this is hard. Giving up heroin is hard. Drinking your coffee black is. Not. Hard. Substituting Sunday morning French toast in favor of a giant omelet and side of crispy bacon is not hard. Eating fresh, delicious fruits and vegetables every day is not hard. So I don’t want to hear one single complaint. You won’t get any coddling from me on this one, you won’t get any sympathy for your “struggles”, and you won’t get any second chances. Not in my house. It’s thirty days, and it’s for the most important cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime. So shut up and do it.
- Don’t tell me you “slipped”. Unless you physically tripped and your face landed in a box of Krispy Kremes, you DID NOT SLIP. You made a choice to eat something of poor quality. It’s always a choice, so do not phrase it as if you had an accident. You make a poor choice, even once, you’re out. You don’t get to re-start, you don’t get to keep posting. Commit here, 100%, for the full 30 days, or go somewhere else.
- Don’t lie to me. Don’t even try.
- You never, ever, ever HAVE to eat anything you don’t want to eat. You’re all big boys and girls. Toughen up. Learn to say no. Learn to stick up for yourself. Just because it’s your Mom’s birthday, or your best friend’s wedding, or your company outing does not mean you “have” to eat crappy food. It’s always a choice, and I would hope that you stopped succumbing to peer pressure in 7th grade.
- This does require a bit of effort, people. If you’re cutting grains and dairy for the first time, you have to replace those calories with something. You have to make sure you’re eating enough, that your vitamins and nutrients are balanced, that you’re getting enough protein, fat and carbohydrates. Don’t expect me to fill in the blanks for you. Figure it out. There are a ton of good resources out there. I’ll list some in my next post, to get you started. But take responsibility for your own plan. Improved health, fitness and performance doesn’t happen just because you’re now taking a pass on chocolate milk.
So there you have it – my thoughts on changing your life in 30 days. If just one person makes this happen – just one – this entire four page post will be well worth my time and energy. It’s that important. I believe in it that much. It changed my life, and I want it to change yours too.
Post questions to comments so I can answer them for everyone. Post your commitment, if you’re up for it. Just make sure you re-read the Tough Love portion again before you sign up. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.