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On Going Paleo: Thirty Days Later

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Well guys, it's been thirty days. I definitely haven't been perfect--I strayed on purpose a few times and sometimes I even messed up by accident. But it's time for me to come out. I've now been Paleo for a month and these are the facts:

1. I've almost completely lost the ten pounds I gained when I moved to Charlottesville and I've barely lifted a finger yet.
2. My temperamental skin barely ever breaks out anymore. If it does, it's because I found myself in some dairy or gluten.
3. The bald spot that's found a home on the back of my head (I have Alopecia Areata) has already begun growing in.

If you aren't familiar with the premise of the Paleo diet, this is sort of it in a nutshell: No grains. No dairy. No sugar. No beans. No peanuts? There are a couple things that confuse me and I'm still trying to figure out what works. For some reason, it's easy for me to think of it like this: You're like a vegan, but you're gluten intolerant, eat meat instead of soy and you don't like rice. What I know for sure is that you must eat fruit, lots of vegetables, and meat. Seriously, I eat bacon several times a week. That's probably way more bacon than anyone really needs, but you get my point.

Lately I've been thinking about that cereal commercial where the two women are talking and Woman 1 says "Wow, have you lost weight? You look amazing!" And Woman 2 is like, "You bet I did!" And Woman 1 is all, "What's your secret, girl?" and then Woman 2 is like "Whole grains!" Well, I want to make a Paleo version where Woman 2 just says "MEAT!" instead.

Going Paleo isn't just about losing weight. I have lost weight with this diet, but the word "diet" is not used in a way that's supposed to suggest some kind of weight loss program. Yes, if you go Paleo, you're probably going to lose weight. But you're also going to feel better. I've been feeling ambiguously ill for more than three years now, and my symptoms have almost completely subsided already. I no longer feel sick when I eat. I no longer get dizzy. I no longer wake up in a fog and count down the hours until I can get back in bed. I no longer vomit randomly and violently. Then there are the awesome hair and skin improvements. Life is pretty awesome this way. 

So, while I'm ecstatic about returning to my normal weight, I'm also feeling better and stronger than I can ever remember feeling, I'm excited to get back into my running and start adding some weights to my exercise plan, and I generally feel like I can wake up every morning and take on the day.

You can also have dark chocolate, red wine, and tequila. I mean, what else do you need?

If you're still with me, I've included some bits of advice that I wish I had on Day 1 of this adventure. 
  • Don't freak out about the rules--just do your best. Some Paleos drink milk. Some eat yogurt. Some say bacon is bad. You're going to lose it if you try to do it perfectly. Figure out what's most important to you, what your goals are, what makes you feel sick, and always listen to your body.
  • There's always some food item that you think you just can't live without. I thought I would never be able to know happiness without sourdough toast or brie cheese in my life. My advice to you is to just try anyway. Because guess what? You aren't going to die if you can't have it anymore. I haven't had a piece of bread in a whole damn month, and I feel incredibly satisfied with my life. Here's something to think about: If I can wake up every morning and go to work and set up an entire pastry case of freshly baked scones and croissants, then I think that you can get up every morning and not buy one.
  • If you actually do feel like you might die if you can't have what you're craving, get yourself a small serving of it. If you've been doing Paleo right, chances are that you're going to end up feeling really sick if you have a bit of cheese or a donut or whatever it is that you want, and I think that negative reinforcement sometimes works when you're trying to figure out what's important to you and your future diet. So get all bloated and feel sick and don't beat yourself up about it, and promise yourself that next time you'll try harder not to feed yourself so much crap.
  • Figure out some new food habits and stick with them. I've always been a latte drinker, and it was really hard to transition to black coffee. I loved my lattes! I realized that it was the taste of espresso I was missing more than the milk, and so I make myself a double shot almost every day. I put just a splash of hot water in to dilute it. A month ago that would have sounded so boring to me, but now it's actually a part of my morning that I look forward to every day.
  • Find a friend to do this with. My mom is awesome and I'd be really lost without her sometimes. Rob is also amazing because he isn't completely into it, but he eats what I make without complaint, and he is constantly reading articles about Paleo and doing all this research to help me learn new things about my diet. That's another thing--read as much as you can. It's easier to adopt this lifestyle if you understand why exactly it makes sense.
  • Plan ahead--don't let yourself get hungry. If you're out and about or you're at work, you need to make sure you're bringing yourself a snack or you'll be able to get something to eat that's not going to ruin your whole day. If you get hungry while you're out, it's usually really hard to find something to eat. You basically can't eat anything that comes from a package, so it's not like you can just stop at a gas station and grab some crackers. I like bringing a bag of carrots or grapes, or a couple slices of turkey with me when I go to work in the morning. Hard boiled eggs are sort of awesome because they're easy to make and you can easily bring them with you for breakfast or a snack. Just make sure you're planning ahead so you don't end up torturing yourself when the only thing around you is a McDonald's or a Dunkin Donuts.
  • If you don't like to cook, you have to learn to do it anyway. This diet is impossible if you only eat out.
Got it? Good! Because I have some recipes that I've been waiting to share!

Let me know if you have any questions or are confused by something I said. 
For this post I'll respond to all comments/questions below, in the comment section instead of through email. 


  1. This sounds so great! I love that you can eat all of that (I'm quite a big fan of meat) and still feel healthier/lose weight.
    I have two quick questions for you: Did you find that it was harder to shop/more expensive to shop for food? Or cheaper?
    Do you count calories at all? Or kind of eat when you're hungry and just go from there?

  2. Hi Sarah!

    1. It's easier to shop because you can literally just walk around the outside of the store and never venture into the aisles. But yes, it's more expensive. Meat is pricier anyway, and you need to be buying grass-fed, better quality stuff.

    BUT, I just read something that pointed out that processed foods are priced based on advertising/packaging, where meats and veggies are priced based on quality. Basically, you get what you pay for.

    2. I don't count calories AT ALL. I think that's actually something that's discouraged. So, I eat when I'm hungry. I also find that I'm not hungry as much as I used to be. I used to put away a whole box of Cheeze-Its and still be starving, but I never feel that way anymore.

  3. I have a few friends who've tried Paleo. Some stuck to it very easily and others really struggled. I'm fascinated by it but I crave carbs and milk like none other. I think it'd be hard for me to stick to something that restricted those.

  4. I thought it would be hard to go without carbs and milk, too, and it was. But once you get it out of your system, you really don't crave it anymore as much as you thought you would. The great thing about this diet is that the more you stick to it, the easier it gets.

  5. Megan, you have done a really good job at explaining this. I am impressed. I think the important thing to remember is to really do it for 30 days as you did and it really does get easier. Now, for me, it is the only way I want to eat. Mom

  6. well you look great!! I love meat, this could be for me! haha!

  7. Good job Meginz. I'm glad you are feeling good, and you look better than your already good looking self.

    When we spoke the last time I saw you, I shared some similar feelings about the changes I made to my diet; how I eliminated some long-standing issues like daily heartburn, but with the ability to keep some high-caloric-if-not-disgusting foods in my repertoire.
    Certainly not the same guidelines of Paleo, but similar goals and results. I'd also mostly eliminated milk from my diet as a by-product of taking out most of the desserts (Entenmanns). Talking to Rob about this, and now reading your take . . . I might keep it out on purpose.

    Keep kicking ass, it sure does feel good to feel good!

  8. Thanks, Mom! Love you <3

    Gentri--Thanks! You should try it. I don't think I'll ever go back.

    Oh hi Rob Wieck! I'm glad you're feeling better, too. I'm convinced that milk might be trying to kill us all. Just kidding! (Not really.) I keep thinking about that time I got "food poisoning" after that taco salad, when really my body was probably just freaking out about the cheese/corn/peanut oil mixture of despair. Hope you're doing well! See you soon? RUMOR HAS IT

  9. well obviously, i love this post. i think all your initial reactions to the first 30 days of a paleo diet are totally and completely normal. it definitely is hard, but you're right on when you say that you have to plan ahead. i always try to double or triple recipes when i'm cooking so i have lunch and dinner for the next day ready. that way instead of cooking for every meal, i only have to cook for every other meal. anyway, congrats on making it this far!!


  10. I just started Paleo along with intermittent fasting on Jan. 1 and I've lost 5lbs already.

    The hardest part for me has been the cooking, I don't like it. But, I deal with it because, like you said, I feel so much better.


  11. Do you have to take any calcium supplements or vitamins because of the change in diet? Or maybe all of the fruits and veggies make up for it?

    Is there a website or book you recommend on Paleo?

    Thanks for all the insight!

  12. It sounds pretty good, but wow-- I don't know if I could go without pasta, bread and cheese. Props for making it work!! :)

  13. My husband and I just started paleo again a few days ago! We did it for a few months, then kind of fell off the wagon, but we are back! I find we actually save money while on paleo because we eat out so much less. It is a lot cheaper to cook up some grass fed beef with asparagus and a spinach salad than go out for two $12 burgers and a couple of beers, that is for sure!

    P.s. I also have a slightly thinning hair spot on my right temple (only noticeable if my hair is in a tight ponytail). I feel like it might have started about a year ago. I am only 27! Maybe paleo will help with this like it did for you? Fingers crossed!

    Stay Primal! :)

  14. Welcome to paleo.
    I've been living the pale/low carb lifestyle for the past 22 months. I have lost 145 pounds. My energy level is through the roof and I feel great. I've got another 15 pounds to go.
    What FREEDOM we enjoy when we live this lifestyle.

  15. Good for you! I think any time you begin a change like this there are going to be ups and downs. Do you find it to be less or more expensive shopping for the types of food you now eat? I'm definitely curious of this lifestyle, but I feel like I would have to slowly get into it. Can't wait to see some of your recipes :)

  16. Shani--That's great! I'm not so into fasting, but I've read a few things about it making sense with Paleo.

    Michelle--I already take calcium and vitamin D because I was low to begin with, and I also take a multivitamin, but dark leafy greens are full of it!

    The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf is a good place to start if you want to read something!

    Elyse--I think you're right. I go out to eat way less than I used to and if I do, I usually just get a salad anyway.

    dmoffett--That's amazing! Congratulations.

    Erica--Shopping can be more expensive but like Elyse said, you kind of offset that with how rarely you go out to eat.

    I've found that easing my way into it was a lot harder than just jumping into it, but that could be just me!

  17. I just tagged you in my blogspot. Check it out! http://eatenjoylive.blogspot.com

  18. A diet that involves eating bacon? I think I could give up bread for that :) Great month! Good job!

  19. This sounds really interesting! I'm going to do some more reading on this topic I think.

    I'd really like to try it out, but I have a chronic disease, so I don't know if eliminating things like milk and grains would be safe/healthy for me. Will ask my specialist before I try, I think, just in case.

    Thanks for the idea though. :)

  20. well done! it is hard to give up things you love. mine are hot tamales. and pizza. i am one week clean. it sucks. but i know it is for the best...

  21. Where are the recipes?

  22. Anonymous--the first one is coming tomorrow!

  23. You are so pretty! Absolutely loving the bangs darling. I had heard about paleo but i never really knew what it was exactly... thanks for sharing! :)

  24. I have decided to go Paleo....i love your blog, and i am a follower. stop by mine sometime :)


  25. Megan! I'm wondering which book/whose blog you go to first for paleo guidelines. I've read a few different books, and you're right, everyone seems to do it differently. I've been loosely following some version of paleo for about a year, and I feel pretty darn great. But I still get dizzy and feel sick sometimes – eggs don't like me. Soo this long-winded comment is to (1) ask you where you go for inspiration, and (2) see if you have any suggestions for egg-free paleo breakfasts.

  26. I wish I had seen this post before going Paleo in October. I was super strict at first and totally beat myself up about straying from the path- then totally lax (too lax!) about eating gluten, dairy, and sugar at work- and now have found my personal way. The best thing for me about weight loss on Paleo is that, like yours, it was totally effortless, but it also happened so gradually and naturally that it seemed like I just woke up one morning and my pants were hanging off me. I had noticed that I was feeling better, but for once my focus was not on losing weight- it just happened!

  27. I randomly found your blog by googling AA and Paleo. My hair stopped falling out (after losing about 75%) and started to grow back after I went Paleo. It's been 4 months since I had to shave my head and "start over", and my hair is ALL back! People don't believe that my diet has anything to do with it. I just wish my fellow AA-sufferers would at least give it a try!

    1. Jac that is awesome! Thank you so much for writing--you made my day! It is truly amazing!

  28. I know this post is (almost exactly) a year old, but I just found it... after going Paleo at the beginning of this year! It's only been 3 days, but I can already feel the effects! After reading your post, I'm excited for the days to come! :)

  29. Decided to stalk your paleo posts. This one has a whole new meaning to me! 25 more days and I'll be writing my own version :)

  30. I love Paleo. Especially when it means making breakfast. I've never felt so full and satisfied before.

    Bonnie Rose
    The Compass Rose


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